# Wednesday, 18 January 2017

I began 2016 with a big change. After more than 18 months living in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago, I moved to the South Loop. I liked Old Town, but I felt it was time for a change and I wanted to experience a different part of the city. I chose the South Loop because it is close to my office; because it was a neighborhood I did not yet know well; and because I liked the apartment I found. I moved into a high rise in late January and I really like it - especially the view of the city from my balcony.

I spent a good part of 2016 on the road - much of that travel in my car.

I made numerous to Champaign, IL, working with professors at the University of Illinois, organizing workshops, and guest lecturing.

I drove to Minneapolis and to Lexington, KY and to Columbus, OH and to Appleton, WI and to Bloomington, IN. There weren't many parts of the Midwest I did not drive to.

One trip took me from Chicago to Columbus, OH to Detroit to ann arbor to East Lansing to Appleton, WI to Milwaukee. On another, I drove from Chicago to Champaign to St. Louis; then flew to Austin, TX before returning to St. Louis and driving home. But the most tiring trip was when I flew to Sydney, Australia for 3 days to speak at the NDC conference. It took me 2 full days to get there and I ended up spending 24 hours in Vancouver and sleeping on an airport couch thanks to a mistake by United Airlines. When I returned to the US, I drove from Chicago to Wisconsin Dells for another conference; then up to Minneapolis for still another. The year began with a trip to Sandusky, OH to celebrate the 10th year of CodeMash and it ended with a drive back to Michigan to spend Christmas with my family.

It was often tiring, but I'm glad I did it. I got to speak at some amazing conferences and met some amazing people and visited some amazing places. In Australia, I spoke at the prestigious NDC conference for the first time; and to have dinner with my sister-in-law and niece, who live near Sydney.

In May, I visited Romania to speak at IT Camp for the third year in a row. This is becoming one of my favourite conferences. On this visit, I decided to spend a few days in Bucharest prior to the conference. It was an eye-opening experience as Bucharest is a formerly great city that is still trying to recover from the damage caused by Nicolae Ceaușescu and his misuse of public funds.

Overall, it was a satisfying year professionally. When I got enough sleep, I enjoyed it immensely. And when I did not, I tried to schedule an off day or a couple late mornings to catch up on sleep.

Personally, this year was also very good.

I'm continuing to work on improving my health. I hired a personal trainer and have been working out regularly. My heavy travel schedule made it difficult for me to eat well, so I gained some weight in the fall but I've already begun to lose it again. I found a new doctor in the South Loop and scheduled and "annual" physical - something I had ignored for a long time. I scheduled 2 sleep studies and I am now the proud owner of a cpap machine which promises to help me to sleep more efficiently.

My 2 boys (now 2 grown men) continue to make me proud. Nick accepted a job as Director of Basketball Operations Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville and Tim will graduate from Indiana University with a degree in Informatics.

I had a number of visitors stay with me this year, including my sons, Rowena and Sabrina (my brother Dan’s wife and daughter), my friend J from Grand Rapids, my college friend Randy, and my friends Adam and Szofia from Budapest. Other friends (Dave from Florida, Sven from Alabama, Gary and Patricia from Kentucky, and others I cannot remember today) made time to meet up with me while they were in town.

I met a lot of new people in 2016. Most treated me well and a few treated me very well. I met a nice girl a few months ago, and that relationship is going very well.

I made an effort to rekindle my passion for live music and theater, taking advantage of the numerous venues in Chicago. I saw a few plays, including “Stomp”, “The SpongeBob Musical”. and “C.S. Lewis: The Most Reluctant Convert”. I saw some old favourites in concert, including Steely Dan, Stanley Clarke, and Gary Numan. Chicago has an impressive list of theaters – large and small – and I'm trying to take advantage of this.

I continued my efforts to keep a positive attitude by starting each morning thinking of something for which I am grateful and posting that thought on social media. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, I now also record a video of this thought and post it to Instagram.

Technology and Friends - my online TV Show - continues to go strong as I passed 450 episodes in 2016. I expect to air show #500 this year!

2016 began with a big change as I changed my home base, but I spent much of the year working on things I started in 2015. Only harder.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:11:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 16 January 2017
# Monday, 09 January 2017
Monday, 09 January 2017 13:12:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, 06 January 2017

The Illustrated Man despised the tattoos that covered his body. In the daytime, they were beautiful works of art; but at night, they came to life and told stories that predicted the future. And they always predicted a bleak future.

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury is a collection of the stories told by the pictures on the circus refugee's body - 18 dark tales of science fiction and horror.

Bradbury frames the collection by narrating an encounter with the Illustrated Man along a deserted road and relaying the stories acted out by the animated tattoos.

Some of the stories take place on Mars - the site of Bradbury's most famous short story collection - but do not necessarily share continuity with his "Martian Chronicles" stories.

The stories have no common thread, but they are all dark and many explore how man's psyche deals with his place in the universe.

In "Kaleidoscope", the doomed crew of a crippled space ship reflects on their lives as they float to their deaths. The last survivor laments that there is no way he can perform a good act to make up for his "terrible and empty life".

In "The Other Foot", a future Mars is colonized entirely by black people. When Earth is destroyed by nuclear war, spaceships filled with white people arrive, asking to be allowed on Mars, acknowledging the oppression they perpetuated that caused the blacks to flee in the first place.

"Marionettes, Inc" could be a Twilight Zone script. A company will sell you a robotic replica of yourself, so you can escape your responsibilities without your family knowing. Predictably, it all goes horribly wrong for the customers.

The edition I read included the origin story of The Illustrated Man (some editions omit this story), which is the tragic tale of a carnival worker who tries to salvage his marriage and his job by accepting an offer to be completely tattooed by an old witch.

This collection is a good introduction to Ray Bradbury and a good read for those who already enjoy his writings.

Friday, 06 January 2017 16:18:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, 04 January 2017

Will and Jim were 13 years old when the circus marched into their small town in the middle of an October night.

But there is something wrong with this circus and its creepy proprietor, the tattooed Mr. Dark. The Merry-Go-Round has the power to change a rider's age: The rider ages if they ride it in the forward direction and becomes younger if they ride it backwards. One catch: Riding the merry-go-round binds the rider to Mr. Dark's servitude forever.

Both boys are anxious to grow up and are tempted to take the magical ride. Adventurous Jim insists on trying, but cautious Will holds him back. When Mr. Dark learns that they know his secret, he and his minions attempt to capture the boys and their families.

What ensues is a battle of good against evil in a dark horror fantasy novel. Will's father - tempted to ride the merry-go-round backward - joins with the boys to battle the evil carny. The 3 of them battle for their souls and the souls of the townsfolk.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a coming of age story in small-town America; It is a classic horror fantasy novel; and it is an adventure story. 

I loved it.

Wednesday, 04 January 2017 01:01:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 02 January 2017
Monday, 02 January 2017 09:02:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, 01 January 2017

1/1
Today I am grateful to all those who touched my life in 2016. Yes, all of them.

12/31
Today I am grateful for an amazing 2016!

12/30
Today I am grateful for my new electric toothbrush.

12/29
Today I am grateful for all the fresh food that is now in my refrigerator.

12/28
Today I am grateful
-to spend a few days with my family in Michigan
-for my first visit to the Four Winds Casino last night.

12/27
Today I am grateful for:
-The hospitality of Diane and Pat this week
-Dinner last night with Ken -A drink from Paul at The New Parthenon
-Visits yesterday to the homes of my brother, my sister, and my mother

12/26
Today I am grateful to spend Christmas Day with my family.

12/24
Today I am grateful for an excellent dinner last night at a Turkish restaurant in Roscoe Village.

12/23
Today I am grateful that last week's painfully cold weather has abated.

12/22
Today I am grateful to spend much of yesterday afternoon with Nick and to see the SIUE - Marquette basketball game last night.

12/21
Today I am grateful for
-a basketball game at UIC last night
-my second sleep study and my new cpap machine

12/20
Today I am grateful for Christmas presents from Emilija.

12/19
Today I am grateful I get to watch TV shows after they already aired.

12/18
Today I am grateful to see a performance of Stomp last night at the Broadway Playhouse Theater.

12/17
Today I am grateful for free, self-paced, online courses.

12/16
Today I am grateful that I still get to give away stuff that other people paid for.

12/15
Today I am grateful to deliver my final technical presentation of 2016 last night.

12/14
Today I am grateful for 2 user groups in1 day, including a chance to speak at a new one.

12/13
Today I am grateful that I can learn so much, sitting at my laptop in my living room.

12/12
Today I am grateful for my new winter coat.

12/11
Today I am grateful for pad thai last night in Lincoln Square.

12/10
Today I am grateful to see Stanley Clarke in concert last night.

12/9
Today I am grateful for the soreness in my upper body, thanks to yesterday's training session.

12/8
Today I am grateful to attend the Chicago User Group Holiday Party last night.

12/7
Today I am grateful that, after attending for years, I was finally the featured speaker at the Chicago JavaScript meetup last night.

12/6
Today I am grateful that I finished my final work trip of 2016 yesterday.

12/5
Today I am grateful to J. Tower for returning my socks to me.

Sunday, 01 January 2017 20:16:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, 31 December 2016

Aral and Corelia Verkosigan have just married and returned to Aral's home planet of Barrayar. They are looking forward to Aral's retirement and to raising a family. But the Emperor is dying and Aral is forced back into service as Imperial Regent until the heir to the throne - 5-year-old Gregor - comes of age.

They quickly find themselves trapped in the political machinations of the Barrayaran Empire and of those scheming to gain power vacated by the dying Emperor.

Shortly after Aral's appointment as Regent, a failed assassination attempt leaves Cordelia's unborn child severely injured and in danger of dying.

And then, a group of Barrayaran noblemen attempt a coup.

Barrayar is Lois McMaster Bujold's sequel to her first novel - Shards of Honor. It concludes the story of Cordelia - former adversary and now wife of Aral Verkosigan. At the end of the story, Miles Verkosigan is born. Miles is the character upon which much of this series of books revolves.

But for now, we focus on Miles's mother Cordelia - a woman caught in a revolution that she did not plan for. She is the strong female hero often lacking in science fiction stories. And Bujold builds her character well - from her distress at her new environment to her fight to save the life of her unborn handicapped son to her role in battling the traitors trying to usurp power for themselves. We see her as a full person complete with weaknesses to soften her and the strength to overcome those weaknesses.

But the novel isn't just about character development. A Civil War, multiple assassination attempts, and a quest to rescue a princess provide plenty of action.

Barrayar is an excellent follow-up to Shards of Honor.

Saturday, 31 December 2016 16:02:58 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 26 December 2016
Monday, 26 December 2016 10:48:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A friend recently emailed me to say he accepted a job leading the Microsoft practice of a consulting company that doesn’t work much with Microsoft technologies. As part of his job, he is expected to evangelize the practice and technologies. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone do this, so I’m sharing my response below.

Congratulations on the new job! It sounds like you are on the right track.

User groups are a great way to connect with the local developer community. They are good for finding customers, but better for recruiting talent. Consider sponsoring. Also, encourage your team to speak at user groups and code camps. This builds credibility and name recognition.

The lunchtime sessions to teach technology sound great. Consider having a long session once a month and inviting the public.

You are smart to focus on Azure. Azure is a big part of Microsoft’s future and, because Azure supports so many open source and competing technologies, it will fit in well with existing projects and existing customers. Key parts of Azure that appeal to non-Microsoft technologists are:

  • Web Apps that support Java, node, Python, and other languages
  • Mobile Apps provide a back-end for Android or iPhone apps
  • Linux VMs on Azure (about a third of all Azure VMs run Linux)
  • HD Insight Big Data Analysis based on Hadoop open source supports any data type (and you can code in Python)
  • Azure Machine Learning supports any data type (and you can code in Python)

There are others, but this is a good start.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 15:03:23 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)