# Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Diamond Age takes place primarily in a future Shanghai, where governments have been replaced by "phyles" or "claves", bound more by culture than by geographic borders; and where nanotechnology dominates everyday life, providing everything from weapons that can kill a man from the inside to food synthesis to a book that can create a story tailored to its owner.

One such book - A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer is stolen - first by John Percival Hackworth, who plans to give it to his daughter Fiona; then by Harv, a tough street kid, who gives the book to his younger sister Nell. Nell grows up with the Primer, which tells her stories of Princess Nell, a fantasy version of Nell who travels through mythical lands on quest after quest. Princess Nell's story parallels that of the real-life Nell and she begins to think of the Primer and the "ractor" who reads the story aloud as a surrogate mother to replace Nell's own neglectful mother. As Nell grows older and runs away from her mother and her mother's abusive boyfriends she seeks comfort in the Primer.

Along with the stories of Nell and Princess Nell, The Diamond Age weaves the story of the unfortunate Hackworth, who seeks to retrieve the book he lost and discover the secret for which it was made.

The Diamond Age book explores technologies role in society and the importance of human interaction, even in a world with advanced technologies. There are many copies of the Primer being consumed by many young girls; but Nell benefits from hers more than other girls do because hers is read by a real-live (if anonymous) ractor and the two connect because of this.

While not as clever or exciting as Stephenson's earlier novel - the excellent Snow Crash - The Diamond Age is a very good story and paints an intriguing picture of a society and the people in it.

There are many characters and sub-plots in The Diamond Age and Stephenson weaves them together brilliantly. In the end, they all come together in a climax that was a bit more confusing than I would have liked; but the journey to that point made this novel worthwhile.

Sunday, 15 February 2015 11:33:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, 14 February 2015

I can't believe I missed this, but last week marked the 6-year anniversary of Technology and Friends - the weekly show in which I interview smart people about technology. On February 6, 2009, I released an interview with John Kellar in which we talked about how to interview technologists on-camera.

Since that time, I have released 353 episodes - an average of more than one per week.

I started this show because I admired what other podcasters were doing and because I thought it would be fun and because I wanted an excuse to talk with great technologists (I was a bit more shy 6 years ago than I am today).
The show has been more successful than I imagined. I have had some outstanding guests - some famous; some obscure and I have loved doing it. I meet people from across the country who tell me that they know me from my show.

Thank you to all the guests and thank you to all those who have taken the time to watch Technology and Friends over the years.

You can view the latest episodes at TechnologyAndFriends.com.

I look forward to another 6 years.

Saturday, 14 February 2015 20:06:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 09 February 2015
Monday, 09 February 2015 20:40:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, 04 February 2015

What would happen if scientists discovered a giant comet entering our solar system and headed in the general direction of Earth? What if that comet actually collided with Earth? How would we react to the possibility and to the catastrophic events?

This is the premise of Purnell and Niven's Lucifer's Hammer.

The comet is named “Hamner-Brown” - in part for Tim Hamner, the millionaire / amateur astronomer who discovered it. But the public quickly applies new nicknames such as "Hammer of God" and "Lucifer's Hammer". The day the comet finally strikes Earth is forever known as "Hammerfall". The Hammer strikes suddenly with an unmatched fury, launching tidal waves, massive floods, and months of cloud cover and rain. Millions are killed in a matter of hours and nearly all the infrastructure holding together modern civilization is destroyed. The San Joaquin Valley becomes the San Joaquin Sea; the state of Texas is wiped out by a tidal wave thousands of feet high; earthquakes destroy major metropolitan areas all over the world; hurricanes decimate the US planes states; and the city of Washington - along with the US government - is destroyed.

The main story of Lucifer's Hammer takes place mostly in central California and follows the lives of a few people with good intentions trying to survive the aftermath of Hammerfall. But survival is difficult because most of the world goes very crazy, very quickly. Within hours, looters are invading homes, stealing food and liquor and killing anyone in their way; within weeks some groups have turned to cannibalism for survival.

Local leaders establish a new martial law in some cities, while paramilitary groups roam the lands between the cities stealing and terrifying anyone they find.

Lucifer's Hammer book kept me engaged throughout. I could not wait to see what would happen next. From the study of the earthbound comet to the panic of the strike to the sudden change in lif for literally everyone the story moves forward with urgency. The characters are transformed by the disaster and we follow them through love triangles and survival in the wilderness and an attempt to quickly adapt to the new world. We meet Harvey ??? a documentary filmmaker, who struggles to make himself useful after Hammerful; and ??? the mailman, who faithfully continues to deliver the mail, even after he loses his truck and is attacked by bandits. And Sentaro Jelison (???), who organizes a mountain town - The Stronghold - into a sanctuary with himself as commander-in-cheif; and ???, a black militant who views Hammerfall as a chance for him and his black brothers to finally gain the power they deserve. And Hamner himself, no longer a millionaire playboy but now a household name for his role in the comet's discovery.

The climax of the story features a battle between the protagonists at The Stronghold fighting off an invasion by The New Brotherhood - marauding cannibals intent on destroying all people and civilization in their path.

Although the chances against a giant comet hitting Earth are literally astronomical, this novel depicts a believable version of events that would happen if such a catastrophe occurred.

I was finished with this book before I knew it.

Wednesday, 04 February 2015 14:27:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, 03 February 2015

I’ve scheduled a lot of public events in February and March. I’ll be traveling around the Midwest delivering full-day Web Camps and Dev Camps; I’m giving my first conference keynote (at the ITECS conference in Ft. Wayne, IN); I’ll be visiting a few college colleges; and I’ll continue to attend and present at local user groups. Later in the sprint, I’m flying to Europe to speak again IT Camp –Romania and, for the first time, at Dev Sum in Sweden.

Admission to nearly all of these events is open to the public and either free or very inexpensive. I hope you can make it to one or more of them.

Date Topic Event Location
2/3/2015 Web Development Web Camp Downers Grove, IL
2/6/2015 Effective Data Visualization University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH
2/12/2015 Web Development Web Camp Indianapolis
2/12/2015 The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Services Indiana University Bloomington, IN
2/17/2015 Web Development Web Camp Overland Park, KS
2/20/2015 Web Development Web Camp Nashville, TN
2/21/2015 The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Services Indiana Tech ITECS conference Ft Wayne, IN
2/21/2015 Keynote: Your Dev Community and You Indiana Tech ITECS conference Ft Wayne, IN
2/25/2015 Web Development Web Camp Edina, MN
3/3/2015 Web Development Web Camp Miami, FL
3/10/2015 Web Development Web Camp Austin, TX
3/12/2015 TBD Houston .NET User Group Houston, TX
3/12/2015 Web Development Web Camp Houston, TX
3/13/2015 Azure and cloud computing Cloud Dev Camp Houston, TX
3/24/2015 Web Development Web Camp Waukesha, WI
3/26/2015 Web Development Web Camp Chicago, IL
3/27/2015 App Studio Development US MVP Open Days Malvern, PA
4/7/2015 Cloud Dev Camp Microsoft Overland Park, KS
5/14/2015 TBD Chicago Coder Conference Chicago, IL
5/21/2015 TBD IT Camp Cluj-Napoca, Romania
5/25/2015 Effective Data Visualization Dev Sum Stockholm, Sweden
Tuesday, 03 February 2015 14:26:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 02 February 2015
Monday, 02 February 2015 15:31:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, 01 February 2015

2/1
Today I am grateful to finally sign the papers to put my house on the market.

1/31
Today I am grateful for my house being as clean as it has been in 10 years.

1/30
Today I am grateful for meeting up with friends from my high school last night.

1/29
Today I am grateful I've been able to make it to the gym for 6 straight days.

1/28
Today I am grateful to my teammates who answered all my questions yesterday.

1/27
Today I am grateful I crossed off a bunch of items from my To Do List yesterday.

1/26
Today I am grateful I organized the contents of a large stack of boxes in my house yesterday.

1/25
Today I am grateful for 4 miles on the elliptical yesterday - the most I've done in a very long time.

1/24
Today I am grateful for an exciting Mavericks-Bulls game last night in Dallas.

1/23
Today I am grateful to Brian Sherwin for delivering half the Web Camp sessions yesterday.

1/22
Today I am grateful for Texas barbecue last night.

1/21
Today I am grateful for new carpeting in my house.

1/20
Today I am grateful to Bill Wagner for all his help with yesterday's Web Camp.

1/19
Today I am grateful to Patrick, Susan, and Jordan, who helped me move furniture last night.

1/18
Today I am grateful for a drink with the #MHacks organizers and sponsors before heading home last night.

1/17
Today I am grateful for all the students excited to learn about and try Azure yesterday.

1/16
Today I am grateful for a break in this cold weather.

1/15
Today I am grateful for financial stability.

1/14
Today I am grateful to the large crowd at Wisconsin .NET User Group, who stayed engaged even while I was having Internet issues.

1/13
Today I am grateful to: -Marc of LA Fitness, who kicked my ass yesterday at my first Personal Trainer session. -Those who stayed for my Azure presentation last night, even though many of them missed the National Championship game kickoff.

1/12
Today I am grateful I didn't have to drive in the snow yesterday.

1/11
Today I am grateful for coffee with Claire yesterday.

1/10
Today I am grateful to Brian Prince and the organizers of #CodeMash for another excellent conference.

1/9
Today I am grateful for a full room at our workshop yesterday and dinner with my team last night.

1/7
Today I am grateful for the first day of a conference when I get to see people I haven't seen in months.

1/6
Today I am grateful for dinner with friends at Kalahari last night.

1/5
Today I am grateful I was able to put in my best workout in months yesterday.

Sunday, 01 February 2015 20:45:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Microsoft has scheduled a series of free Web Camps in cities across the country. These 1-day events provide instructions and demos to help attendees learn about web development.

Topics include:

  • ASP.NET
  • Visual Studio tooling
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Web API
  • Single Page Applications
  • SignalR

The events are free and include breakfast and lunch. Microsoft is even giving away a $100 gift card to one random attendee in each city.

Below are the dates and cities that have been scheduled so far. I’ll be handling most of those in the Central Region.

Place Date
Detroit (Southfield) 1/19/2015
Dallas (Irving) 1/22/2015
New York 1/23/2015
Chicago (Downers Grove) 2/3/2015
Pittsburgh 2/10/2015
Denver 2/12/2015
Indianapolis 2/12/2015
Cambridge 2/12/2015
Kansas City (Overland Park) 2/17/2015
Atlanta (Alpharetta) 2/17/2015
Seattle (Bellevue) 2/19/2015
Nashville (Franklin) 2/20/2015
Minneapolis (Edina) 2/25/2015
Miami 3/3/2015
Irvine 3/5/2015
Austin 3/10/2015
Houston 3/12/2015
Los Angeles 3/13/2015
Philadelphia (Malvern) 3/19/2015
Sunnyvale 3/24/2015
Chicago 3/26/2015
St. Louis 3/31/2015
Tampa 3/31/2015
Charlotte 4/2/2015
Seattle (Bellevue) 4/7/2015
Atlanta (Alpharetta) 4/7/2015
Reston 4/10/2015
Columbus 4/14/2015
Cambridge 4/14/2015
San Diego 4/16/2015
New York 4/16/2015
Milwaukee (Waukesha) 4/21/2015
Tempe 4/23/2015

Visit http://aka.ms/msftwebcamps to find more information, including a a link to each city’s event and instructions on registration.

Space is limited so register today!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015 14:01:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 26 January 2015
Monday, 26 January 2015 17:54:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, 25 January 2015

Richard Mayhew was a nobody.

He worked a dead-end job in London and his fiancé walked all over him. Everyone walked all over him.

Door was the daughter of an aristocrat from a mysterious parallel world beneath London. She had the ability to create and open portals to wherever she wanted to go.

One day, Richard encountered Door, bleeding and bruised lying in a London alley. To the frustration of his fiancée, Richard decided to take her to his flat to keep her safe and to heal. This act of kindness set in motion the events that overturned Richard's life. Soon, 2 cutthroat thugs came looking for Door and threatening Richard. The next day, everyone in Richard's life had forgotten that he ever existed. Before long, his work desk was moved and his apartment was rented to strangers.

Hoping to regain his life, Richard followed Door into London Below - a mysterious world, invisible to most Londoners and populated by the outcasts of the city above.  he found Door and helped her on her quest, while evading the cutthroats on their trail. Along the way they encountered a fallen angel, a trained assassin, an invisible roaming marketplace, a haunted bridge draped in inky, deadly blackness, and a host of unusual characters.

In Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman builds a believable world of rejects and outcasts and makes them sympathetic to the reader. The story moves quickly and easily from mystery to action. The characters are rich and quirky and interesting - at times ridiculous; at times, terrifying. Gaiman's narrative is full of wit, while continuing to advance the story.

The reader feels the pain of Richard as he moves from being figuratively lost in the "real" world of London to being literally lost in the mysterious London Below. 

Fans of clever writing and adventure stories will enjoy Neverwhere.

Sunday, 25 January 2015 01:25:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)