# Monday, 30 October 2017
Monday, 30 October 2017 09:21:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 23 October 2017
Monday, 23 October 2017 11:15:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 19 October 2017

Ethan of Athos is one of the few books set in Lois McMaster Bujold’s universe of Miles Vorkosigan that does not feature an appearance by Miles or any member of his family.

The story begins on Athos - a planet populated solely by males, because they banned females generations ago. The men of Athos reproduce by importing ovaries and cultivating babies in birth chambers. Dr. Ethan Urquhart examines a new shipment of ovaries and discovers that they are useless - some damaged and some from animals.

Much to Ethan's chagrin, the Athos government assigns him to travel off planet and find out what happened to their original shipment. This distresses Ethan, who has been conditioned all his life to be repulsed at the thought of women.

Of course, Ethan finds himself the target of a murder attempt and he is rescued by a female assassin - Elli Quinn. Together, Ethan and Quinn track down the reason the shipment was stolen and replaced.

The story has action and intrigue, but also some messages about culture. Athos holds deep prejudices against women; and others in the galaxy hold prejudices against Athos for their homosexual lifestyles. To succeed, Ethan must overcome his prejudices and work with Quinn.

While not one of Bujold's best novels, I still enjoyed Ethan of Athos.

Thursday, 19 October 2017 18:40:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 16 October 2017
Monday, 16 October 2017 09:44:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 11 October 2017

CetagandaMile Vorkosigan and his cousin Ivan of the Barrayar Empire attends the funeral of the empress of the rival Cetagandan Empire.

Shortly after landing, they are attacked by a Cetagandan servant and wrestle away a mysterious artifact. When the servant turns up dead shortly afterward, Miles and Ivan must figure out who is behind the murder, the theft of the artifact, why is the artifact so valuable, and the political plot they ultimately uncover.

Like all of Lois McMaster Bujold's novels, Cetaganda" combines action, political intrigue, and character development.  This one is primarily a detective story with Miles and Ivan uncovering clues that help them uncover the answers to the questions above.

This novel introduces the Cetagandans and provides details about their culture. It was written later than other stories that feature this race/empire and I'm told it helps to better understand their motivations.

Bujold has a talent for building rich characters and adding layers in each novel. In this story, we get a deeper look inside the mind of the carefree, womanizing Ivan and see the reaction of Miles, who is less smooth and less attractive due to his diminished size and birth defects. It's easy to cheer for Miles the underdog, despite the privileges being born to royalty.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 10:42:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Miles Vorkosigan is young and intelligent, but deformed and undersized, thanks to a failed assassination attempt on his mother a few months before his birth. He has the added pressure of being the son of the legendary Lord Admiral Aral Vorkosigan - one of the great military strategists of the Barrayaran Empire.

After graduating from Barrayaran Service Academy, Miles enters military service - first on an isolated frozen island under a corrupt commander, where he is falsely accused of treason. After clearing his name, he is given a security assignment far from Barrayar, where he is again framed - this time for murder. While trying to escape, he runs into the Emperor Gregor - only slightly older than Miles - who has run away to escape his responsibilities. Together, Miles and Gregor must prevent Cavilo - a femme fatal, who will kill, betray, and/or seduce anyone to gain power. She seeks to throw the empire into chaos and make herself empress. Amazingly, she has aligned herself with Miles's old corrupt commanding officer. Miles seeks the help of the Dendarii mercenaries with whom he worked under the alias of Admiral Naismith in The Warrior's Apprentice

The Vor Game advances the story of young Miles, who is an unlikely hero, thanks to his physical handicaps. Bujold establishes Miles's issues with following authority, which gets him into trouble; but also with his headstrong ways, which sometimes gets him out of trouble. We also get our first look into what makes Emperor Gregor tick.


Bujold does a very good job of mixing action, political intrigue, and character development into her stories. There are a few too many coincidences, as Miles keeps running into people from his past while at the far edge of the galaxy; but one can forgive this because the story is engaging, and the coincidences help to move it forward.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 09:29:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 09 October 2017
Monday, 09 October 2017 10:22:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 08 October 2017

SwordOfShannarShea Ohmsford was living a quiet life, running a farm with his brother Flick. Shea knew he was adopted, but when the tall stranger Allanon shows up, he learns that he is half-elf and the last living member of the legendary Shannara family.

Allanon convinces the brother that their land is danger from The Warlock Lord - an evil wizard, who seeks the power of the legendary sword of Shannara; so, the three of them set out on a quest to find the sword. Along the way, they are joined by men and elves and attacked by gnomes, trolls, and black flying monsters known as "skull bearers". They are separated during their journey, but continue their mission to thwart the Warlock Lord.

This is the story of The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. If it sounds familiar, it is because Brooks acknowledges J.R.R. Tolkien as one of his influences.

Comparison's with the Lord of the Rings are inevitable: A disparate group, consisting of men, elves, and dwarves travel across a mystical land to seek a powerful magic relic, preventing the evil wizard from acquiring it first. There is even a crazy gnome with a startling resemblance to Gollum.

If you can get past Brooks's obvious "inspiration" for his plot, he does tell a pretty good story. The narrative is more traditional than Tolkien's and more appropriate for the simpler story. I enjoyed it.

Sunday, 08 October 2017 10:00:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 07 October 2017

TheChurch02This week, I went to The Church on Friday night.

In this context, The Church is the Australian rock band and they were performing at Park West in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

It turns out that The Church has had a long career beyond their 1988 "Starfish" album - the CD my brother gave me decades ago that I played repeatedly in the 80s and 90s. "Starfish" was their most popular album, but they were almost a dozen songs into their set before playing the first song from this album - "North South East & West".

TheChurch01They filled the night with music from the early 1980s (lead singer Steve Kilbey joked that he was 2 years old when he wrote one of the songs) and from their latest album ("Man Woman Life Death Infinity", which was released today). In almost 4 decades, the band has released dozens of albums and they drew on many of them tonight They alternated between straight-ahead post-punk rockers and the ethereal music for which they are most well-known.

TheChurch03For me, the high point was hearing "Under the Milky Way". It was like a visit from an old friend and the emotion of the harmonies and acoustic guitar still speak to me after all these years.

My first visit to Park West was an enjoyable one. It was a good night to visit The Church. ie


Saturday, 07 October 2017 06:56:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, 06 October 2017

The following articles walk the user through creating an ASP.NET application; storing source control history in a Visual Studio Team Services project Git repository; and automatically deploying to an Azure web app whenever code changes are pushed to the repository.

Creating a Team Project in Azure

Creating an ASP.NET Web Project and Storing code in a VSTS Git Repository

Configuring Automatic Deployment from VSTS to an Azure Web App

ALM | Visual Studio | VSTS | Web
Friday, 06 October 2017 10:23:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)