# Monday, August 15, 2016
Monday, August 15, 2016 10:10:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Tuesday, August 9, 2016 1:14:51 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, August 7, 2016

Today I am grateful for a walk along Loyola Beach last night.

Today I am grateful for dinner with Emilija last night.

Today I am grateful for 3 days in Sydney, Australia - my first visit since 1998.

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at and attend #ndcsydney.

Today I am grateful for a cruise around Sydney Harbor last night.

Today I am grateful for dinner last night with Rowena and Sabrina at a revolving restaurant at the top of the Sydney Tower.

Today I am grateful for
-a day in Vancouver for the first time in years
-finally arriving in Sydney after many delays.

Today I am grateful to participate in a successful Nodebots Day yesterday in Chicago.

Today I am grateful to spend much of this week learning Xamarin.

Today I am grateful for the party last night hosted by CJUG, ChiPy, and ChicagoRuby that extended well past its scheduled time.

Today is the birthday of my friend William Fink, who passed away in December. Today I am grateful that I had the opportunity to visit him and become closer to him in the last months of his life, when we both knew he was dying. And I am grateful for the lessons he taught me about facing tragedy with courage and dignity. Happy birthday Bill. Rest in peace, my friend.

Today I am grateful to dine in Chicago's Greektown yesterday for the first time.

Today I am grateful for lunch and coffee yesterday with Sven and Ebony.

Today I am grateful to see "C.S. Lewis On Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert" at the Mercury Theater yesterday.

Today I am grateful for:
-Breakfast yesterday with Debbie and Diane
-A visit with my mother yesterday.
-A quick trip to my brother Doug's Pawn Shop
-An afternoon with Megan
-A stranger who stopped to help me yesterday evening
-An unscheduled dinner and outdoor concert in East Lansing, MI last night
-Arriving safely home, following a few days in Michigan and a long drive home.

Today I am grateful for:
-Drinks with Ondrej, Godfrey, and Ed last ngiht
-The hospitality of Debbie and her family
-A great crowd at the Troy .NET User Group last night.

Today I am grateful for:
-My first time back at #MIGANG this year
-The hospitality and kindness of Ondrej and his family.

Today I am grateful to go to a movie theater last night - my first visit this year. (I saw Ghostbusters)

Today I am grateful for:
-A Cubs game at Wrigley yesterday
-A weekend with my boys

Today I am grateful for
-An evening at the IO Theater in Old Town.
-Taking Nick and Adriana to their first-ever improv show.

Today I am grateful for dinner and drinks last night with Nick, Tim, and Adriana.

Today I am grateful to have Tim Giard in town for a few days.

Today I am grateful for:
-2 days at a resort in Orlando
-drinks with Joe and Chris
-presenting in front of a new audience
-help on my Angular project from John

Today I am grateful for fireworks outside my room last night.

Today I am grateful to make it safely to Orlando.

Today I am grateful I was able to get my laptop working again this morning.

Today I am grateful for my first time at the Taste of Chicago.

Today I am grateful for a good night sleep for the first time in weeks.

Today I am grateful to those who take the time to tell me they enjoyed one of my presentations.

Today I am grateful for coffee with Chris yesterday.

Today I am grateful for lunch yesterday with my new teammates.

Today I am grateful for a weekend in Lexington, KY.

Today I am grateful to celebrate the marriage of Christopher and Katie last night.

Sunday, August 7, 2016 1:11:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In The Stand, Stephen King tackles the question: What would become of society if nearly all of the people disappeared within a few weeks.

At the beginning of the novel a biological weapon leaks from a quarantined military base and people begin to get very ill very quickly. The U.S. government tries to cover up its error and the weapon it created - often through violent means - but within 2 months, over 99% of the world's population is dead.

In America, the survivors group together - drawn by visions in their dreams. Some travel to Boulder, CO to join with 108-year-old Mother Abigail and some go to Las Vegas, NV to follow the the mysterious Randall Flagg. Mother Abigail has a good heart and talks of love for one another;  Randall Flagg is a malevolent wizard who delights in the chaos created by this epidemic.

Along the way to Boulder and Las Vegas and the final confrontation between the two camps, King explores a myriad of characters and their journey to either the light side or dark side. Even many who end up in Boulder with Abigail are tempted by the dark wizard Flagg. The characters are rich and their back stories before the disaster help us to understand their actions after.

I loved the evolution of characters: Larry Underwood was a self-absorbed and irresponsible rock star before the plague, but found himself willing to sacrifice himself for those he loved after the tragedy; Trash Can Man and Nadine Cross cannot avoid the blackness of their souls and where their destiny takes them, but they still find a way to partially redeem their lives.

It's not surprising that many King fans list this as their favourite novel. King pits good against evil; God against the Devil; chaos against order; and the collapse of civilization against attempts to rebuild it. The climax is a long time coming, but the payoff is excellent.  I've read over a dozen of King's books and this is now my favourite.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 2:14:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 1, 2016
Monday, August 1, 2016 2:20:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 25, 2016
Monday, July 25, 2016 9:10:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Recently, I was interviewed by Matthew Groves for his Cross Cutting Concerns podcast. We talked about Machine Learning in general and Microsoft Cognitive Services in particular. You can listen to the interview here or in the embedded link below:

Or better yet, subscribe to this podcast!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 7:31:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 18, 2016
Monday, July 18, 2016 6:51:39 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 11, 2016
Monday, July 11, 2016 11:14:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, July 10, 2016

The legend of King Arthur is so familiar to most of us that it is surprising to find a fresh re-telling of this story - particularly one as clever as T.H. White's The Once and Future King.

White recounts the life Arthur from his education as a boy by the string wizard Merlin to his rise to the throne, where he conquers England and attempts to use his power to bring a new age of peace and chivalry to his downfall at the hands of his enemies - particularly his son Mordred.

The story spans 4 books - The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, the Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle In The Wind. Originally, White planned a fifth book - The Book Merlyn, but he did not finish this before his death and many of the stories from this book found their way into the other volumes. The story is told chronologically and follows Arthur and his closest friends and enemies throughout his life. Each book stands on its own but is best read as an entire series, in order. (The Book of Merlyn is optional reading.)

White often omits details of Arthur's story, referring the reader to Sir Thomas Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur". Instead, White focuses on the characters' thoughts and feelings and motivations. How did Merlin's training of the boy Arthur affect King Arthur's philosophy during his reign? What were psychological damaged was caused Lancelot when he was drugged and tricked into losing his virginity? Why does Mordred hate his father and plot revenge?

The books become darker as the series advances; The Sword in the Stone is a lighthearted story featuring bumbling knights and anthropomorphic animals; while the final 2 books focus on the cost of human sin and weakness.

Through it all, White maintains his wit and keeps the characters fresh and alive.

I recommend this series for any fan of the Arthurian Legend.

My notes on the individual books are below.

The Sword in the Stone

A fun story of the youth of King Arthur, when he went by the unflattering nickname "The Wort" and served at the castle of Sir Ector, doing the bidding of Ector's son Kay, until he met the wizard Merlin in the forest and convinced Ector to hire Merlin as his tutor.

Much of Merlin's tutelage consisted of turning the Wort into various animals and allowing him to interact with other animals, learning their ways and their values. We will see these lessons put into practice when Arthur later rises to become King of England.

The Queen of Air and Darkness

Arthur battles King Lot to gain control of Britain and decides to form his famous Knights of the Round Table, who will promote and enforce chivalry in his new kingdom. We are also introduced to Arthur's half-sister Morgause (the "queen" of the book's title), who plots to seduce Arthur through witchcraft and give birth to Mordred, leading to Arthur's destruction.

Although this book is short and contains less action than others in the series, its introduction of key characters and concepts make it an important book in the series.

The Ill-Made Knight

This volume follows Sir Lancelot - his arrival at Camelot and friendship with King Arthur; his affair with Arthur's wife - Queen Guinever; his wanderings in search of both the Holy Grail and redemption for betraying his friend's trust; and his return to Camelot and his battles with his own conscience.

Lancelot is universally regarded as the greatest knight in the world and he believes that his power comes from his purity. But when he loses that purity (he betrays his friend's trust and also fathers Gallahad out of wedlock), he loses not only his power, but his self-confidence and, for a while, his senses.

Candle in the Wind

The climax of the story in which Arthur's rivals (led by Mordred) convince Arthur to try and execute his wife for adultery and to go to war with Lancelot. Arthur's adherence to his law is tested against his love and loyalty to his wife and best friend.

The Book of Merlyn

Unpolished and incomplete, but published after White's death. Merlyn returns to Camelot when Arthur is an old man. He takes Arthur back to some of the animals who had originally taught him lessons of justice, peace, and war and Arthur begins to find meaning in his life, which he had suspected was wasted. Some of these stories found their way into The Sword in the Stone.

Sunday, July 10, 2016 8:18:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)