# Monday, January 7, 2019

Episode 545

Isaac Bayoh on How Technology Impacts Developing Countries

Isaac Bayoh grew up in west Africa and continues to work with NGOs in his home country of Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire). He has seen firsthand the effect that technology has on developing countries.

Monday, January 7, 2019 9:09:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, January 6, 2019

1/6
Today I am grateful to face 2019 with optimism.

1/5
Today I am grateful for books.

1/4
Today I am grateful to anyone who reads my blog or watches my videos.

1/3
Today I am grateful for Chicago style pizza.

1/2
Today I am grateful for a 2-week vacation.

1/1
Today I am grateful to Dan for tickets to an excellent Brian Regan show last night.

12/31

12/30
Today I am grateful for the first snow of the winter.

12/29
Today I am grateful to Tim for coming over and helping me with some heavy lifting yesterday.

12/28
Today I am grateful to return to my personal trainer after a long break.

12/27
Today I am grateful to spend a few days relaxing in Austin, TX.

12/26
Today I am grateful for an unexpected encounter with Ryan and Jade last night in Austin.

12/25
Today I am grateful that God sent his only son to save us.

12/24
Today I am grateful for lunch with Jeff and Chrissy yesterday.

12/23
Today I am grateful for a late-night walk through downtown Austin.

12/22
Today I am grateful to hang around the Magnificent Mile yesterday afternoon.

12/21
Today I am grateful for a new sports coat.

12/20
Today I am grateful to start my vacation.

12/19
Today I am grateful to attend my first Loyola home basketball game last night with Tim.

12/18
Today I am grateful to attend a community meeting last night with developers and government officials to discuss major changes in my neighborhood.

12/17
Today I am grateful for bike-riding weather in the second half of December.

12/16
Today I am grateful to see a performance by the Young People's Company at Piven Theatre yesterday.

12/15
Today I am grateful to have Nick visit for a few days.

12/14
Today I am grateful tacos last night with my boys.

12/13
Today I am grateful for all the kind words and thoughts and prayers yesterday.

12/12
Today I am grateful to spend time in California with my cousins.

12/11
Today I am grateful to say goodbye to my cousin Sharon.

12/10
Today I am grateful to attend a 49ers game yesterday at Levi's Stadium with John.

12/9
Today I am grateful for:
-Lunch with Sara yesterday
-Dinner and live music with Gail last night

12/8
Today I am grateful for online music.

12/7
Today I am grateful for a successful AI hackathon in Milwaukee this week.

12/6
Today I am grateful for my first visit to Fiserv Forum for a Bucks game last night.

12/5
Today I am grateful for dinner last night in Milwaukee with Hattan, Geisa, and Isaac.

12/4
Today I am grateful to avoid the snowstorm on my drive yesterday.

12/3
Today I am grateful to see an excellent concert last night by the Joey DeFrancesco Trio at Jazz Showcase.

Sunday, January 6, 2019 5:29:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, January 5, 2019

New Home

2018 began with a big change and an expensive one. In January, I bought a condominium in the South Loop, making a homeowner for the first time in over 3 years. The condo isn't large or fancy, but it has a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline and wake up every morning to this.

New Job

The next big change of 2018 came at mid-year. Microsoft, my employer, had a reorganization.My old job - helping professors at top computer science schools teach cloud computing to their students - was eliminated. I was assigned a new role in which I was to work with engineers at various companies and help them build cloud solutions. In July, I was assigned to work with four companies and I began to build relationships with the technical folks at those companies. But because my company embraces change, we had another reorganization in December and I was assigned to work with different companies. So far, it has been good: I have learned a lot and I have worked in a number of new industries. It took some time to adjust to this role, but it was a familiar one, as it recalled my years as a technical consultant. I still miss the days of speaking at conferences and working with the developer community.

Travels

I continued to travel in 2018. I returned to Romania and Canada and made my first visit to Norway and England. I also visited Mackinac Island, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Dorr County, WI for the first time. I made many of visits to Seattle, Austin, Toronto, Champaign throughout the year.

One highlight of the year came at the Imagine Cup Finals, where a team from the Toronto area - smartArm - were named world champions. I was excited or their success because I had mentored them at a hackathon at the University of Toronto early in the year and encouraged them to participate in the worldwide student competition.

Family

Tim continued working as an IT consultant in the Chicago area. It has been great having him nearby and seeing him so often. Weary of his long daily commute to the suburbs, he began looking for other opportunities and he received two job offers in December.

Nick is in his second season as a basketball coach at Williams College in Massachusetts. He was promoted to top assistant this summer.

Much of my family got together this summer in Ellicott City, MD for a family reunion. Cousins from around the country met to share stories and hugs for a few days. It was a reprise of a similar event at the same location in 2002.

My cousin Sharon passed away in December after a long battle with cancer. We have been close since we were young and her death was difficult; but I was fortunate to be able to see her several times this year, including the days before her death. I will always be grateful that I arrived in California in time to say "Goodbye" to her. She died a few hours after I flew home.

Books

I accelerated my reading during 2018. My purchase of a Kindle e-reader helped, as did a subscription to Audible. I could listen to books on my bike rides and read from my Kindle on long plane rides. As a result, my pace accelerated the second half of the year and I finished 2018 with a total of 47 books read. After years of effort, I even completed reading NPR’s list of the Top 100 science fiction and fantasy books.

Health

I was blessed with good health last year. A return trip to the dermatologist revealed that I was cancer-free, following my surgery to remove basal cells from my temple. Despite my travel schedule, I kept up a regular gym schedule while I was at home and I even worked with a personal trainer. A back injury interrupted this in November, but I've recovered and I'm back on track with my exercise regimen.

I did a lot of bike riding this year. It was good exercise and a great way to explore Chicago, which I am still learning. I rode almost every day I was home in the summer, working up to rides of about 20 miles by the end of the summer.  A warmer than usual fall and winter allowed me to continue riding late into the year.

Blogging

2018 was my 11th year of blogging and I published more posts (209) than any other year. In fact, this shattered my old record of 155, set in 2009 and 2012. In November, I accomplished something for the first time - publishing a new post every day of the calendar month.

I continued recording my Technology and Friends show in which I interview technologists on camera. Due to a change in policy at Microsoft Channel 9, I migrated the show to YouTube. This transition caused me to miss my weekly cadence for the first time in years, as I skipped my usual Monday episodes in February and March. Still, I published 45 episodes during the year, including #544 on December 31.

I also re-booted GCast - a show featuring educational technical screencasts. I had recorded a few episodes years ago, but it had been long enough that I decided to begin again at Episode #1 this year. I released 28 episodes during the 2018.

Sports

I continued my quest to see a game in every the stadium / arena of each team in the 4 major North American sports. I checked the following 12 teams off my list this year:

  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Texas Rangers
  • Washington Nationals
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Dallas Stars
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • San Jose Sharks

The Bucks and Red Wings were return visits, because each recently built a new arena. If you are keeping score, I still have 44 to go (8 MLB; 10 NBA; 13 NHL; 13 NFL)

Concerts

Chicago is a great place to see live music and I took advantage this year. Below are some of the concerts I attended in 2018

  • JD Souther
  • Steve Earle
  • C.J. Chenier
  • Average White Band
  • Freddy Cole
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • Billy Joel
  • Stereophonics
  • Jeff Lorber Fusion
  • Joey DeFrancesco

2019

I am optimistic about this coming year. I have two major goals: to learn as much as I can; and to take all my vacation, so I don’t end up forfeiting some, like I always do.

Saturday, January 5, 2019 9:49:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, January 4, 2019

I remember when I first discovered the list. I read the headline: "Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books" and thought about all the science fiction and fantasy I read in my youth. Surely, I've read most of these, I thought.

Not even close.

I don't recall the exact number, but I know I had read less than 20. I had never even heard of many books on the list.

Still, I was determined. So I rolled up my sleeves, entered the book titles into a spreadsheet, and headed to my local public library, resolved to read every book on the list.

Upon closer inspection, I faced a bigger hurdle than I initially realized. The list did not contain 100 books. Many of the "books" were actually multi-volume series: Lord of the Rings is 3 volumes; Dune is 5; A Song of Ice and Fire is 5 large books and still growing; Wheel of Time is 14 volumes and each book averages 850 pages! In total, there were over 300 books in this list.

I did not want to commit to every single book in every series, so I resolved to read at least the first book in each series and to continue a series only if it interested me.

That was 7 years ago.

Last month, I finished The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, completing my goal. I have now read at least one book in each series of the list and I completed all but 10 of the series. I even went back and re-read many of the novels that I had read during my youth, such as Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, and Frankenstein.

The list was compiled by conducting a poll of NPR listeners; and, as with all polls, this list is subjective and is limited by those who choose to participate and the time at which it is taken.

It's difficult to argue with the top 5-10. All are classics and very few lists of this sort would deny the impact and quality of any of these. 

But some will quibble because their favourite book or series was left out.

Notably absent are Bram Stoker's Dracula", The Narnia Chronicles (although C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy was included), The Hobbit (although The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion made the cut), the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games series, and any works by H.P. Lovecraft.

This was my first time reading some authors of whom I had heard (Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, and others) and many authors with which I was completely unfamiliar (Neal Stephenson, Max Brooks, Peter S Beagle, Joe Haldeman, and others)

For the most part, I greatly enjoyed these books. I took the time to review many of them afterward.

I gave the highest ratings to the following books:

  • Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle
  • The Once and Future King by TH White
  • The Belgariad by David Eddings
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The only book I disliked was Kushiel's Dart.

Here are some of my observations after finishing this reading.

There is more variety in science fiction than in fantasy. Most fantasy novels are coming-of-age stories.

A few themes were repeated in multiple novels on the list.

The Arthurian Legend is recounted in the following:

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Once and Future King by TH White
  • The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
  • The Space trilogy by CS Lewis
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

Time Travel is a primary topic in each of these stories:

  • The Time Machine by HG Wells
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

and is at least part of the following stories:

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  • The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Three novels dealt with the end of the World

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
  • Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Vampires are major characters in I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Sunshine by Robin McKinley and are mentioned in the Discworld series

Most authors appeared only once on the list but 16 appeared multiple times and a few (Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, and Ray Bradbury) appeared 4 times. Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein each had 3 books on the list. 11 authors were listed twice.

Two Graphic Novels made the list: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; and The Sandman by Neil Gaiman.

I found it interesting that every book on the list was originally published in English, except the two by Jules Verne: Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I chalk this up to the fact that an American radio network conducted the survey.

If you would like to read my detailed opinions on the books, I have posted reviews for many of them at goodreads.com 

If you are ambitious, below is the complete list:

Rank Title Author Books In Series Books I Read Year Read
1 The Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien 3 3 1985
2 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams 5 5 1985
3 Ender's Game Orson Scott Card 1 1 2013
4 The Dune Chronicles Frank Herbert 5 5 1988
5 A Song of Ice and Fire George RR Martin 5 5 2012
6 1984 George Orwell 1 1 1982/2018
7 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury 1 1 1977
8 The Foundation Trilogy Isaac Asimov 3 3 1985
9 Brave New World Aldous Huxley 1 1 1986
10 American Gods Neil Gaiman 1 1 2012
11 The Princess Bride William Goldman 1 1 2017
12 The Wheel of Time Robert Jordan 14 1 2012
13 Animal Farm George Orwell 1 1 1986
14 Neuromancer William Gibson 1 1 2012
15 Watchmen Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons 1 1 1990
16 I, Robot Isaac Asimov 1 1 1981
17 Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein 1 1 2010/2018
18 The Kingkiller Chronicles Patrick Rothfuss 3 1 2012
19 Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut 1 1 2012
20 Frankenstein Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 1 1 1976
21 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Pilip K.Dick 1 1 2011
22 The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood 1 1 2013
23 The Dark Tower Stephen King 8 8 2013
oo 2001: A Space Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke 1 1 1978
25 The Stand Stephen King 1 1 2016
26 Snow Crash Neal Stephenson 1 1 2013
27 The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury 1 1 1976
28 Cat's Cradle Kurt Vonnegut 1 1 2012
29 The Sandman Neil Gaiman 10 10 2015
30 A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess 1 1 1990
31 Starship Troopers Robert Heinlein 1 1 2000
32 Watership Down Richard Adams 1 1 2012
33 Dragonflight Anne McCaffrey 1 1 2012
34 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Robert Heinlein 1 1 2012
35 A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller Jr. 1 1 2012
36 The Time Machine HG Wells 1 1 1977
37 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne 1 1 1975
38 Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes 1 1 2011
39 The War of the Worlds HG Wells 1 1 1975
40 The Amber Chronicles Roger Zelazny 10 10 2014
41 The Belgariad David Eddings 5 5 2017
42 The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley 1 1 2014
43 The Mistborn Trilogy Brandon Sanderson 3 3 2012
44 Ringworld Larry Niven 1 1 2014
45 The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K LeGuin 1 1 1986
46 The Silmarillion JRR Tolkien 1 1 1988
47 The Once and Future King TH White 4 4 2016
48 Neverwhere Neil Gaiman 1 1 2015
49 Childhood's End Arthur C. Clarke 1 1 1977
50 Contact Carl Sagan 1 1 2011
51 Hyperion Dan Simmons 1 1 2013
52 Stardust Neil Gaiman 1 1 2017
53 Cryptonomicon Neal Stephenson 1 1 2013
54 World War Z Max Brooks 1 1 2013
55 The Last Unicorn Peter S Beagle 1 1 2017
56 The Forever War Joe Haldeman 1 1 2014
57 Small Gods Terry Pratchett 1 1 2015
58 The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Stephen R Donaldson 3 3 2014
59 The Vorkosigan Saga Lois McMaster Bujold 23 10 2016
60 Going Postal Terry Pratchett 1 1 2014
61 Mote in God's Eye Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 1 1 2013
62 The Sword of Truth Terry Goodkind 12 1 2018
63 The Road Cormac McCarthy 1 1 2012
64 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Susanna Clarke 1 1 2014
65 I Am Legend Richard Matheson 1 1 2014
66 The Riftwar Saga Raymond E. Feist 3 3 2018
67 The Sword of Shananara Terry Brooks 3 3 2017
68 Conan the Barbarian Robert E Howard 3 3 2016
69 The Farseer Trilogy Robin Hobb 3 3 2017
70 The Time Traveler's Wife Audry Niffenegger 1 1 2005/2018
71 The Way of Kings Brandon Sanderson 1 1 2018
72 Journey to the Center of the Earth Jules Verne 1 1 1976
73 The Legend of Drizzt Series RA Salvatore 24 1 2017
74 Old Man's War John Scalzi 1 1 2014
75 The Diamond Age Neal Stephenson 1 1 2015
76 Rendezvous with Rama Arthur C. Clarke 1 1 1990
77 The Kushiel's Legacy Series Jacqueline Carey 9 1 2017
78 The Dispossessed Ursula K LeGuin 1 1 2017
79 Something Wicked This Way Comes Ray Bradbury 1 1 2017
80 Wicked Gregory Maguire 1 1 2006
81 The Malazan Book of the Fallen series Steven Erikson 10 1 2018
82 The Eyre Affair Jasper Fforde 1 1 2017
83 The Culture series Iain Banks 10 1 2018
84 The Crystal Cave Mary Stewart 3 3 2018
85 Anathem Neal Stephenson 1 1 2016
86 The Codex Alera Series Jim Butcher 6 1 2017
87 The Book of the New Sun Gene Wolfe 4 4 2018
88 The Thrawn Trilogy Timothy Zahn 3 3 2014
89 The Outlander series Diana Gabaldon 7 1 2017
90 The Elric Saga Michael Moorcock 6 6 1990
91 The Illustrated Man Ray Bradbury 1 1 2016
92 Sunshine Robin McKinley 1 1 2017
93 A Fire Upon the Deep Vernor Vinge 1 1 2015
94 The Caves of Steel Isaac Asimov 1 1 1988
95 The Mars trilogy Kim Stanley Robinson 3 3 2014
96 Lucifer's Hammer Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 1 1 2015
97 Doomsday Book Connie Willis 1 1 2015
98 Perdido Street Station China Mieville 1 1 2017
99 The Xanth series Piers Anthony 40 1 2018
100 The Space trilogy CS Lewis 3 3 2013
Friday, January 4, 2019 9:23:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, January 3, 2019

GCast 29:

Introducing Cognitive Services and Computer Vision

Microsoft Cognitive Services allow you to take advantage of Machine Learning without all the complexities of Machine Learning. In this video, I introduce Cognitive Services by showing how to use Computer Vision to analyze an image, automatically detecting properties of that image.

Thursday, January 3, 2019 12:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The-Adventures-of-Augie-March-by-Saul-Bellow

Augie March is an unlikely and unassuming hero in an American saga.

Born of a working-class simple-minded single mother in depression-era Chicago during the Great Depression, Augie struggles to rise above his lot in life.

Saul Bellow chronicles his struggles in The Adventures of Augie March.

Augie March begins his way in the world as a small-time criminal - stealing books,

Self-described as "an American, Chicago born", Augie often drifts through life, finding work where he can and seeking love where he can. His adventures often occur because he follows others: He falls in love with a girl who takes him to Mexico to finalize her divorce and train an eagle; he accompanies a friend on a trip to smuggle workers into the US from Canada, but they become stranded when the police discover the friend is driving a stolen car.

But, Augie progresses. He travels the world and experiences life and meets a lot of people. He takes on a number of jobs: Running errands for a corrupt businessman; recruiting workers to a labor union; buying and selling on the European black market; eagle trainer; even a stint in the US Navy; 

Our hero's great hindrance is his desire to do the right thing. For example, his engagement to a rich girl is derailed when he helps a friend escape an abusive relationship and recover from a botched abortion. Augie's fiancé and her family refuse to believe he is not sleeping with the girl he is helping. He knows this will happen, but he does what he believes is right.


chaos.
It's sometimes hard to tell where the story is going. There are so many characters and so much happens that the reader can't always see what is important. March seems to just travel through life experiencing his adventures, with little or no theme running through them all. He tries, and he fails, and he tries again - in his careers and in his romances. Repeatedly, he deals with the chaos that is life and moves on.

But I see Augie's life as a pursuit of the American Dream, which is bold in its reach, but limited in its explicit goals.  March is more self-aware than most, seeing his weaknesses and strengths and he never stops growing. And he never stops trying to move forward. And he never stops dreaming.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019 5:46:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 31, 2018

Episode 544

Elizabeth Graham on Azure Logic Apps

Microsoft Global Black Belt Elizabeth Graham describes Azure Logic Apps and how to use them to solve integration and workflow projects.

Monday, December 31, 2018 9:06:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# 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:

QnAMaker

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)