# Saturday, April 18, 2020

SotWeedFactorEbenezer Cooke was an 17th-18th century English poet, who traveled briefly to Maryland as a young man; then returned later in life to take possession of his inherited estates in the British colony. In 1708, Cooke published "The Sot-Weed Factor, or A Voyage to Maryland, A Satyr" - a poem based on his travels.

All the above is true.
 
In 1960, John Barth published The Sot-Weed Factor - a novel of Ebenezer Cooke's life. Almost all of this book originated in the imagination of Mr. Barth.

The "Eben" Cooke of Barth's novel is forced to leave England in the 17th century when he falls in love with a prostitute and is confronted by her pimp for non-payment. He sails for Maryland to take over a family estate there. Upon arrival, Governor Charles Calvert appoints him Poet Laureate of Maryland.

During the years after his exodus from England, a comedy of errors causes him to lose his estate, his family, his friends, and the woman he loves. At the beginning of the novel, Cooke is arrogant and cowardly, but those are not the faults that cause his misfortunes. Often, others take advantage of him because of his naivety.  By the end of this bildungsroman, Cooke's numerous misadventures have transformed him into a mature and honorable man.

The story itself is written to sound like a 17th century novel. The author frequently employs words like forsooth, anon, and suchwise to transport the reader to colonial times. It is farcical and satirical and funny and sad. It is a complicated plot, but so many of the seemingly extraneous stories introduced early return to prove relevant to Cooke's life.

The events of the story consist of a string of coincidences so unlikely that they border on the absurd. Many characters are not who they seem - particularly Eben's tutor Henry Burlingame, who crosses paths with Eben multiple times wearing a different disguise almost every time. Cooke is captured by pirates and by Native Americans during his quests to regain his estate and to find his lost love. While pursuing his quests, Eben is determined to maintain his virginity, despite numerous temptations. But this is not only the story of Ebenezer's quest. It is also Burlingame's quest for his identity and the Native Americans' quest for vengeance on the invading Europeans and the New World's quest for an identity.

Unlike some long, complicated novels I've read recently, I had no trouble keeping track of all the characters in this story.

The Sot-Weed Factor is an enjoyable story for anyone who craves an adventure.

Saturday, April 18, 2020 9:30:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 13, 2020

Episode 604

Sarah Lean on Adjusting to the Pandemic

As a Microsoft Cloud Advocate, Sarah Lean used to travel around the world speaking to IT professionals. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced her to accomplish her goals while staying at home. She talks about the adjustments she has made.

Monday, April 13, 2020 9:04:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, April 11, 2020

LovingHenry Green's Loving opens with "Once Upon a day..." and closes with "...and lived happily ever after", but it is not a fairy tale.

The novel takes place in the castle home of the rich Tenant family, but the story focuses on the servants.

It is the middle of World War II and the butler has just passed away. Footman Charley Raunce is promoted to butler, so the Tenants stop calling him "Albert" (which wasn't his name anyway) and start calling him Mr. Raunce. The position goes to his head and some of the other servants resent him for it, but it does not deter Edith the maid from falling in love with him.

Then the servants catch one of the Tenants in an adulterous act and Mrs. Tenant loses a valuable ring and the servants are left alone in the house for days and the ring is found and people argue and they laugh and they gossip and they fall in love.

"Loving" is just a story about ordinary life among a particular class of people in a particular place and time. Nothing much happens. The War rages throughout Europe, but not in neutral Ireland. Instead of action, we get a lot of dialogue and a peek into personalities and prejudices (everyone seems to dislike and distrust the Irish and the Catholics) and lonely people craving affection and the tension between the ruling class and serving class.

It is a small story, but it's a good one.

While not a fairy tale and not the classic that some claim, I enjoyed Mr. Green's novel.

Saturday, April 11, 2020 9:50:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, April 9, 2020

GCast 81:

Spring Boot Quick Start

Learn how to quickly generate a Java application based on the Spring Boot framework.

GCast | Java | Screencast | Video
Thursday, April 9, 2020 9:02:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 6, 2020

Episode 603

Brent Stineman on Remote Recording

Brent Stineman talks about an internal podcast he produces for Microsoft and the challenges of interviewing people hundreds or thousands of miles away from him.

Monday, April 6, 2020 9:03:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, April 5, 2020

4/5
Today I am grateful my ankle is now healed after I twisted it last week.

4/4
Today I am grateful for the singing and cheering and flashing lights every evening in my neighborhood

4/3
Today I am grateful for a lunchtime virtual meeting yesterday with old friends and to Jeff for inviting me.

4/2
Today I am grateful I have started interviewing people for my show again.

4/1
Today I am grateful that Donald Trump is an honest, humble man, who puts the interests of our country above his own profits and insecurities and that he is totally not a racist.

3/31
Today I am grateful to all the teachers who put their health at risk going to a crowded classroom full of potentially sick kids every day and have quickly shifted to online teaching when it became necessary.

3/30
Today I am grateful for a virtual lunch with Nick, Tim, Adriana, and Nathale yesterday.

3/29
Today I am grateful to successfully complete a project with a customer last week.

3/28
Today I am grateful to Stephen for giving me a Postmates credit.

3/27
Today I am grateful for an online chat yesterday with David, Kevin, Joel, and Richard that included lots of puns and laughter.

3/26
Today I am grateful to be a guest on Jeffrey's live Twitch stream yesterday.

3/25
Today I am grateful to all the health care workers who are working even harder than usual this year and putting themselves at greater risk to help us.

3/24
Today I am grateful to Carl for playing his guitar and singing from his living room every night for those of us listening all over the world.

3/23
Today I am grateful I was able to set up 2 wireless old printers, 2 old PCs, and a scanner this weekend.

3/22
Today I am grateful to try a food delivery service for the first time.

3/21
Today I am grateful to those who trust me enough to tell me their problems.

3/20
Today I am grateful for spring and the hope that it brings.

3/19
Today I am grateful for a hot bath before going to bed last night.

3/18
Today I am grateful that I'm used to working from home.

3/17
Today I a m grateful for good health care.

3/15
Today I am grateful that I had plenty of toilet paper at home when the madness struck.

3/14
Today I am grateful for dinner last night with Rob and George and their families.

3/13
Today I am grateful to have a working printer in my home for the first time in years.

3/12
Today I am grateful to Adam for picking me up at the hospital and driving me home yesterday.

3/11
Today I am grateful to attend a Windy City Bulls G-League game last night for the first time.

3/10
Today I am grateful for birthday gifts that arrived in the mail last week.

3/9
Today I am grateful for a third straight Big10 championship

3/8
Today I am grateful to speak at the Global Integration Boot Camp yesterday

3/7
Today I am grateful to see They Might Be Giants in concert last night.

3/6
Today I am grateful to work at Microsoft.

3/5
Today I am grateful to Tim for taking me out for an excellent Italian dinner for my birthday last night.

3/4
Today I am grateful for tacos.

3/3
Today I am grateful for books

3/2
Today I am grateful for all the birthday wishes yesterday - particularly those that included an extra kind message.

Sunday, April 5, 2020 2:30:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, April 4, 2020

GoodbyeToBerlinAuthor Christopher Isherwood lived in Berlin, Germany in the early 1930s. In 1939, he published a fictionalized collection of short stories about his life during that time.

This collection - published as Goodbye to Berlin - is often packaged with Isherwood's earlier semiautobiographical novel Mr. Norris Changes Trains as a single volume under the title: The Berlin Stories. But unlike the earlier novel, the Goodbye narrator explicitly identifies himself by name. And the latter novel has much more depth than Norris. Whether we are hearing about two gay men in a doomed relationship or a struggling working-class family living in a condemned attic or a wealthy Jewish family under attack from fascists, the reader understands the people with whom we interact. They are real to us.

The stories sometimes cross one another's timelines, but each concerns Isherwood's relationship with a person or group of persons.

The most interesting character is Sally Bowles - a charming gold-digger who tries to sleep her way to a successful acting career. Christopher develops a fondness for her and a friendship, despite his jealousy of her many lovers.  This story inspired the popular musical "Cabaret" in which Liza Minelli starred as Sally.

In the final chapter, the author leaves Berlin to escape the brutality of the new regime, and the changes to the atmosphere, culture, and safety of the city he loves. But many of the other characters say "Goodbye" to this city throughout the novel - they either depart suddenly to travel abroad or they disappear mysteriously.

Goodbye to Berlin shines as a study of human relationships and the ways we interact with one another and communicate day to day. It shines as a commentary on the roles of men and women in society. And it shines as a study of the oppression experienced by Jews and other minorities during the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany.

The author put it best when he wrote:

"It is strange how people seem to belong to places — especially to places where they were not born…"

Isherwood belonged to Berlin - but it is a Berlin that ceased to exist after he left.

Saturday, April 4, 2020 9:18:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, April 2, 2020

GCast 80:

Conditional Logic in Power Automate

This video shows how to add conditional logic to a Microsoft Power Automate workflow.

Thursday, April 2, 2020 11:01:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, March 28, 2020

MrNorrisChangesTrainsOn a train heading to Berlin, two English expatriates strike up a conversation that later evolves into a friendship. William Bradshaw and Arthur Norris spend many days and evenings together over the coming months - dining out, visiting at home, and patronizing a local brothel.

Norris is the title character of Christopher Isherwood's 1935 novel Mr. Norris Changes Trains, which was published as The Last of Mr. Norris in the United States.

Norris is eccentric and charming and there is something untrustworthy about him. He is broke but leads an extravagant lifestyle; he claims to be in the "import-export" business but is vague about what exactly he imports and exports; and his wealth is suddenly increased after a mysterious business trip to Paris. Norris is also vain (he regularly wears makeup and a wig); and a sexual deviant (he pays a prostitute to beat and humiliate him); He has a combative relationship with his servant Schmidt and the two spar frequently and hold one another in contempt.

Norris's many flaws complicate his life, but they do not discourage William's friendship.

Isherwood paints a picture of 1930s as the Weimar Republic comes to an end and the Nazis and Communists vie for power. He brings together an interesting set of characters, most of whom seem to be insincere and dishonest. William (a surrogate for the author) narrates the novel, but interjects very little of himself into the story, which focuses on Mr. Norris and his flaws.

There isn't a lot of action in this book; but the characters and the dialogue make it worthwhile. We see the frivolity of high society and we see relationships damaged and repaired and we see the political conflicts in the days before the rise of Hitler and the start of the Second World War.

When Norris persuades William to help him with a mysterious business venture, his dishonesty is exposed.

In his later years, Isherwood dismissed this novel as too shallow. I don't dismiss it. It works well for its length and Isherwood can be forgiven for not predicting the Nazi atrocities when he wrote this story in the 1930s; and for not revealing his own sexuality in the narrator.

Mr. Norris Changes Trains is not a classic but is a good story with good characters.

Saturday, March 28, 2020 8:26:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 26, 2020

GCast 79:

Creating a Workflow from Scratch in Power Automate

This video shows how to create a workflow in Microsoft Power Automate without starting from a template.

Thursday, March 26, 2020 7:51:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)