# Thursday, December 27, 2018

GCast 28:

Natural Language Processing with LUIS

Learn how to use Microsoft Language Understanding Information Service (LUIS) to build models that provide Natural Language Processing (NLP) for your application.

Thursday, December 27, 2018 9:53:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 24, 2018

Episode 543

Alex Mang on Azure Durable Functions

Alex Mang describes Azure Durable Functions and some real-world examples of how he uses them.

Monday, December 24, 2018 9:42:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, December 20, 2018

GCast 27:


Learn how to use QnA Maker to create a bot that automatically answers questions.

Azure | Bots | GCast | Screencast
Thursday, December 20, 2018 9:26:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The world of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is a dangerous one. The continent of Roshar on the planet Roshar is filled with perils. Violent "highstorms" destroy nearly everything in their path; giant carnivorous crustaceans roam the chasms; the Parshendi and the Alethi races have been at war for as long as anyone can remember with no victory in sight for either side; and godlike creatures battle each other every few thousand years to decide the fate of the planet.

The Alethi-Parshendi wars take place on the Shattered Planes - a vast series of high plateaus separated by deep chasms. Enslaved "bridgemen" push giant bridges between the plateaus in order for armies to advance and attack. These bridgemen also serve the purpose of drawing enemy fire away from the armies, keeping their survival rate close to zero.

On top of this is the caste system, which decrees at birth the fate of each person - from slave to king. There exist about a dozen specific castes, but they are grouped into two broad categories, based on eye color. The light-eyes are clearly at the top and dark-eyes are decidedly below.

But Roshar also has some marvels. The storms generate a mystical force called "stormlight" that can be captured in stones and other objects and can be harnessed by those with the power to do so. Powerful shardblades can cut through nearly anything and armor made of shardplate can protect the wearer from nearly any attack; soulcasters are devices that allow masters to transmute one object or substance into another; and spren - creatures made of light, who sometimes come to the aid of humans.

The book switches points of view between several characters. The most important are:

Kaladin, son of a physician, who goes to war to protect his younger brother. But ends up sold into slavery as a bridgeman - the most expendable people in the army. He begins to acquire powers from stormlight and learn how to use those powers to help his fellow bridgemen.

Shallan Davar, who apprentices herself to the heretic scholar Jasnah Kholin in an attempt to steal her soulcaster.

Dalinar Kholin, a decorated warrior, an honorable man, and the uncle of a king. Dalinar sees visions of ancient gods and begins to question the wisdom of the endless war waged by his countrymen.

By far, the most interesting story is Kaladin's. He progresses from idealist to cynic to reluctant super hero and it is all done with perfect plausibility. Kaladin miraculously survives every danger he faces, but often those closest to him perishes. Despite this, the other bridgemen rally around him and he eventually inspires and unites these dregs of society.

Few of the stories overlap in this book, but we expect them to do so as the series progresses.

As he has done before, Brandon Sanderson does a masterful job of building a world in which to place his characters and stories. In fact, the first two-thirds of this book spends much of its time setting the scene for the final third.

At over 1000 pages, this is an intimidating book - particularly when you consider it is part 1 of a proposed 10-volume series (three volumes have been published as of this writing) It took me nearly a year to finish it as other patrons kept requesting it

But it was worth the time and effort. I loved the characters and the world and the plausibility of the world Sanderson creates. Sanderson doesn't simply allow magic to exist - he provides a source to that magic and a partial explanation of its uses and limits.

The Way of Kings not a perfect book. The story is long and the action is sometimes separated by hundreds of pages of character development. But it never suffers from the flowery language that often bogs down high fantasy stories

There is much to think about in this book. But one of Kaladin's men put it best when Kaladin asked the meaning of a story:

"It means what you want it to mean," Hoid said. "The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think , but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2018 9:38:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 17, 2018

Episode 542

Jim Wooley on Static Analyzers and Roslyn

Microsoft MVP Jim Wooley describes how to use Roslyn to create your own static analyzers to verify the quality of your code.

Monday, December 17, 2018 9:48:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, December 16, 2018

AppointmentInSamarraAppointment in Samarra by John O'Hara takes place over a 72-hour period in the small eastern Pennsylvania town of Gibbsville.

But three days is all it takes for Julian English to destroy everything good in his life.

Julian had it made. He was born into a wealthy family; he owned a car dealer that was successful even during the great depression; and he had a beautiful, faithful wife, who loved him.

But he drank. And one night, at a party, he grew tired of listening to loudmouth boor Harry Reilly and threw a drink in his face.  Julian quickly regretted his actions. Harry was an influential man in Gibbsville and Julian owed him money; but rather than correct the situation, Julian hurtles down a path of self-destruction for the next 3 days, alienating himself from the rest of society, burning bridges in his life, and spiraling quickly downward until he reaches a breaking point.

Appointment is an excellent look at America of the 1930s. It shows us the social castes, the gossip, the overt racism, and life inside a bubble that is small town America.

O'Hara does a masterful job of building the characters of this town and the dynamics between them.  He gives us a backstory about Julian's wife, so we understand why he is lucky to have her and a fool to risk losing her. We learn about Julian's family and the pressure his father places on him, so we understand why he sometimes feels useless and helpless.

Interestingly, none of Julian's acts of self-destruction are described in the book. We hear about them later as characters discuss what happened. Sometimes, it's unclear exactly what Julian did. For example, his wife sees him leave a night club with the girlfriend of a local mobster; then later finds Julian passed out drunk in his car. Did he commit adultery? It probably doesn't matter, as that was clearly his intent. And he is now in trouble with both his wife and the mob.

This is a book that got better as it went along. As the story progresses, Julian's downfall seems inevitable. But I could not look away. Appointment in Samarra is an American tragedy that is well worth watching.

Sunday, December 16, 2018 7:56:16 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, December 13, 2018

GCast 26:

Creating a Chatbot in the Azure Portal

In this video, I show how to create, deploy, and edit a chatbot completely within your web browser using the Azure Portal. You can event download the source code and edit it in Visual Studio, if you wish.

Thursday, December 13, 2018 9:19:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, December 12, 2018

_Sharon2Sharon Spry was one of the finest people I've known.

She had a gift for understanding and relating and empathizing with others. She had a bright mind and a wonderful smile. She had a sense of humor that allowed her to laugh at the world and to laugh at herself and sometimes to laugh at her troubles.

She was someone I called when I was feeling down. She never failed to cheer me up.

She was someone I called to share good news. It always made me feel better.

She was always interested in what I was doing and always asking about my immediate family.

I was at her wedding where my 5-year-old son Timmy (now a grown man known as "Tim") served as a ring bearer.

Whenever I visited San Francisco, I made a point to visit her family. I stayed at their house many times.

_Sharon1She came to visit me on multiple occasions and we got together at places away from our homes.

A few years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and was in and out of chemotherapy and other treatments. I’ve forgotten where the cancer started; but, by the end of this year, it had spread throughout her entire body.

I will always admire the courage with which she faced this disease. She was always open and honest about her chances and what she was going through. She didn’t ask for pity, but she didn’t hide anything or downplay the seriousness from the rest of us.

Sharon passed away last night at the age of 55. The cancer she battled the last few years finally overcame her.

She leaves behind a husband and two young children.

She was my cousin and my friend.

And I miss her.

Sharon (1) Sharon (3) Sharon (4)
Sharon (5) Sharon (6) Sharon (7)
Sharon (9) Sharon (10) Sharon (11)
Sharon (12) Sharon (13) Sharon (14)
Wednesday, December 12, 2018 9:41:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, December 11, 2018

StOursChurch-1When I was a boy, my grandmother wrote down the names of my male ancestors. This began with my father, who was preceded by my grandfather (her husband), my great grandfather (her father-in-law) and so on. Years later, I wondered why she did not provide similar for her own ancestors, but this question did not occur to me at that time.

She told the story of two brothers who married two sisters, then emigrated from France to Quebec. They settled in a small town called "St. Ours". One of the brothers was Francois Giard. Francois had a son named R.F. Giard, who had a son named Francois, who had a son named Philip, who had a son named Normand, who had a son named David, who is writing this story now.

StOursChurch-2Since hearing about St. Ours, it has always been a dream of mine to visit there. I was in Montreal for work a few weeks ago and a map of the area revealed that I was only an hour from St. Ours.

So on the final day of the workshop, I hopped in my rental car and drove East.

I arrived just before sunset. St. Ours sits on the Richelieu River, so I had to take a ferry to reach it. The town is tiny. It cannot have grown much in the last two centuries.

CemeteryI first found the church and was surprised not to find a cemetery next to it. The cemetery was a block away and the sun had set by the time I arrived. It wasn't large and many of the headstones were well over a century old. I walked around the darkness, feeling the chill of the night air and using my phone's flashlight to read the names carved into marble.  I could not find any Giards, but I did find a number of Girards and Girouards.

After a few photos, I made my way to a coffee shop on the outskirts of town, where I chatted with the lone employee in a combination of his broken English and my broken French.

GirouardI did not stay in St. Ours long enough to verify it was the home of my ancestors or find records of either of the Francois Giards or their descendent. But I stayed long enough to feel a connection. And, until I return, that is enough.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018 9:49:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 10, 2018

Episode 541

JD Marymee on Blockchain

JD Marymee describes the fundamentals of Blockchain and gives examples of how his customers are using it.

Monday, December 10, 2018 9:03:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)