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The Dragonbone Chair re-read – Part One – Simon Mooncalf

It has been a long time since I re-read a book, and I do not remember since college re-reading one in this fashion, where I actually am going back over chapters to find details after I’ve re-read them. Will it help me to remember the points and plots of the story when Tad Williams new series The Last King of Osten Ard comes out in the future? Time will tell.

Word of warning: This re-read post is LONG (about 4,500 words). This means the next post is going to take a bit. I haven’t studied a fiction book like this since I studied my 6502 Assembly language book (which was published about the same time as this one, and was mostly fiction).

The introductory post is here, if you are interested.

This first book is 766 pages – paperback. Part  One: Simon Mooncalf goes to page 218.

A note on the obvious: if you have not read the book, since this describes said book…here there be spoilers! And color commentary is in color (mostly in this color).

Foreword – an excerpt from the book The Life and Reign of King John Presbyter, by Morgenes Ercestres. The book becomes more important as the story progresses (that much I remember) but the excerpt speaks of the mad priest Nisses.

Some who have read Nisses heretical work claim that it contains all the secrets of Osten Ard, from this land’s murky past to the shadows of things unborn.

Chapter 1: The Grasshopper and The King – Simon, a 14 year old kitchen helper, is often daydreaming and hiding from Rachel, the “dragon” of the kitchen. He is well described as a mooncalf who dreams a lot of magic and war, which makes him late for errands and chores…an interesting beginning for the hero of these books. He does enjoy being sent to Morgenes. These first few chapters are set in the Hayholt, a castle also called Asu’a, which was its old Sithi name. Much of the knock on this book/series has been that it starts slow. But upon re-read, a lot is revealed and/or foreshadowed in the first few chapters.

King John, who has united and rules over a large part of the land, and is rumored to have killed a dragon, is old, and is dying. This is the only chapter that shows King John alive, reminiscing on his life with Towser, his court jester, whom he gives his sword Bright Nail for safe keeping. He asks that it be given to his son and heir Elias; his other son, Josua, is deemed “a cynic, a meloncholic…a queer one, my younger – most especially since…since he lost his hand.”


Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 9.08.52 PM

REVIEW: Simple Qigong for Health: Enhanced Edition with video

Simple QigonAs a developer of enhanced eBooks, I notice it is easy to use too much media (an overabundance of non-germane videos, audio or pictures), or to not put it in the right places. The enhanced eBook medium should live up to its name: enhance the book and the reading/learning experience, not take it over.

The material in this book (Simple Qigong Exercises for Health: The Eight Pieces of Brocade) has been around for quite some time. Dr. Yang’s first edition was in 1988, his second in 1997. The enhanced version (available for iBooks, meaning it runs on iPads, iPhones and Macs) extends that material with the right amount of video and audio examples.

The contents of this version are the same as the recent 3rd edition printing, and follow Dr. Yang’s norms for structuring his books: Chapter 1 provides a general introduction to history, Qi and Qigong, the history of the Eight Pieces of Brocade, and information on Qigong Theory and Training. Chapter 2 goes deeper into training theory. Chapter 3 and 4 are the walkthroughs and descriptions of the Sitting and Standing versions of the Eight Pieces of Brocade. In all chapters, as he does in his other books, Dr. Yang presents the original Chinese descriptions, and offers translations for better understanding. Some of the Qigong information in the first chapters of this book are similar to his other qigong books, but repetition helps with memory.

“Remember that the most important thing in the training is not the forms themselves, but rather the theory and principle of each form, which constitute the root. Once you understand these, you will be able to use your wisdom mind (yi, 意) to lead the qi to circulate and bring you to health. Therefore, when you practice you should try to understand the poetry or the “secret words.” They have been passed down for hundreds of years and are the root of the practice. Because of cultural and language differences, it is very difficult to translate into English all of the meaning of the Chinese. We will try to keep as close as possible to the Chinese and hope that you are able to get not just the meaning, but also the taste of the original.” (pg 145)

This enhanced editions includes 23 video demonstrations, and additional still photos where appropriate. The videos were of high enough digital quality to watch them on a variety of devices (tried them on iPad air, on Mac, and on Apple TV through AirPlay with no noticeable drop in video quality).

This enhanced eBook version provides Dr. Yang’s straightforward explanations and translations of the material with demonstrations of each of the sitting and standing pieces. There are some intricacies that a student might miss just reading from a book; with the videos (and audio) demonstrations the pieces are made clearer and easier to follow. The multimedia examples on the second and third sitting pieces were particularly helpful, as they helped me to pick up a couple of things I was missing (Dr. Yang really clomps his teeth together; I was just closing my mouth!)

A screenshot from the enhanced eBook is below.

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This enhanced edition also provides (as all enhanced editions should) hot linked table of contents and index.

Though a student should almost always try to find an appropriate teacher (in my humble opinion), this enhanced edition is an excellent learning tool.

Full disclosure: I have attended two Qigong seminars with Dr. Yang and have read several of his books before going through this enhanced eBook. I have reviewed several of his books on my website and I am a fan of his fact-over-mystery teaching style. I was provided this enhanced eBook as a review copy.


My old copies

Tad Williams is Ruining my Calm

Life is too short for re-reads.

Do the math. If your good reading-and-comprehension (yes, some of you hear Cheech and Chong’s voices in your heads) years range from age 10 to 80, and you read 50 books a year, you get 3,500 books to read in your lifetime. If you are more prolific, like my wife who sometimes hits 100 a year, you’ll get 7,000.

There are a couple of million books published each year worldwide, and a couple of hundred thousand now in the U.S. (according to this article).

Like most people, I read a lot of books for work.

So, one is REALLY only going to read a very small fraction of the great and enjoyable fiction writing that exists in the world.

What a depressing thought. Yet another great motivator for extending one’s life! Ray Kurzweil, where are you when we need you?

When I hear of people re-reading books, or when I see my son do it, I shudder, visualizing the imaginary hourglass of book reading time trickling above their head. Well, okay, not really, but you know what I mean. Re-reading books multiple times? Really? Perish the thought.

So it is with GREAT damage to my zen and foundation of thought that I embark on a re-read of Tad Williams’ classic series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. For those that haven’t read or heard of this series, read Daniel Kaszor’s article in the National Post, that talks about this series as an inspiration to George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (known as Game of Thrones to HBOers) and as starting the wave of American fantasy. (Also, if interested, there is an article about a Tad Williams’ hosted book signing of Martin where Martin discussed this series as inspiration).

I can rationalize my re-read, as most people probably rationalize re-reads:

  • Williams is coming out with a sequel of books (supposedly a trilogy but with Tad…probably four books) that extends the story of Osten Ard. He is not one to normally do this, hopping genres with the best of them and rarely franchising his characters and plots.
  • I enjoyed these books immensely when I read them.
  • Though I remember enjoying them, for the life of me I can’t remember them. This isn’t a kick on the books, I don’t remember a lot of things; possibly brain full of other things or Alzheimer’s but probably CRS (Can’t Remember Sh!t). Of course, I remember basic pieces, but I don’t remember the feel of the story. I could get the basic facts from cliff notes/Wiki, or wait and determine if Williams does what he usually does, what all authors of door-stop sized tomes should do (put a “what has happened before” at the beginning of the book; take notes please, George).
  • To see if these novels stand the test of time. Fortunately or unfortunately, our heads (mine at least) are filled with visuals from Lord of the Rings movies and Game of Thrones HBO shows, replacing the mental images of Tolkein and Martin’s books. How will Memory, Sorrow and Thorn appear in my mind, 25 years later?

So, against my better judgement, I’m embarking on a re-read.

This is a big commitment. Look how thick this paperback door-stoppers are!

  • The Dragonbone Chair: 766 pages
  • Stone of Farewell: 727 pages
  • To Green Angel Tower, Part I: 796 pages
  • To Green Angel Tower, Part II (because you can still call it a trilogy if the fourth book is just Part II): 796 pages

That’s just over 3,000 pages worth of commitment. I may finish before I turn 60 in eight years.

I’d like to time it so that I finish right when the first book in The Last King of Osten Ard is released. But who knows when that might be. As a backup against my poor memory, I’ll take notes and share them with any poor souls who are in the same predicament.

Looking forward to saying hello again to Simon (at least I remember his name!).

To read the first re-read section, click here – The Dragonbone Chair Part One – Simon calf

These re-read posts and other essays have been collected into an eBook with additional essays, available by clicking on the image below.

MobileprovisionProfile Screenshot

What time does an Apple provisioning profile expire?

For those of you that do not get the challenges of living in the Apple Developer world, a bit of background: To deploy an iOS app outside of the Apple App Store, either as a “beta” with an Ad-Hoc Distribution profile, or as an Enterprise with an Apple Enterprise Developer account, a Apple Provisioning Profile is required. This profile is built on Apple’s Developer Web site and requires a developer certificate (“trust” the developer!), a list of devices (up to 100) or the domain of the Enterprise (depending on whether this is for Ad-Hoc or Enterprise Distribution), and an app ID. This information is used to generate the provisioning profile, which is distributed along with the app to identify which devices are allowed to utilize the app.

For reasons only known to Apple, provisioning profiles, even Enterprise Provisioning profiles, expire once a year. Perhaps this is Apple’s way of ensuring that Enterprise’s keep up with their $299 annual fee to keep their Enterprise Developer License.

Recently, Apple extended the time validity of the certificates generated under the Enterprise Developer License to three years. But the profiles all still expire after one year.

This has spawned a huge marketplace for MDM (Mobile Device Management) solutions, used to help deploy (or redeploy, in the case of an expired profile) apps in an Enterprise.

It is easy to see what day a profile expires (it is visible on the device under Settings/General/Profiles, generates pop-up warning on the device, and it visible in your Apple Developer account page). But, because of a last minute customer call, we needed to know when would it really expire. This customer did not have an MDM solution, and, though we had built into our app and forced upgrade functionality, if the profile expires, the app stops working.

This is obviously a major issue with Enterprises deploying Apple apps internally. When given enough warning, it can be handled, even without an MDM.

Apple Provisioning ProfileBut, given less than 24 hours notice, what we really needed to know was not only the data, but the time the profile would expire.

When you build a profile, you need to get it into XCode (the Apple IDE) to use it. This can be done from XCode, or you can download the profile as a file, then double click on it and open it in XCode.

In other words, the profile (shown to the right) is just a file. It is in the format of a “plist file”, a properties list file.

Since we were trying to determine what time the profile expired, and we could not find that information anywhere, we decided to look into the file. We opened it with a simple text editor (right click, select “Open With” and select your favorite editor.

Most of it was quite easy to read, as plist files are XML. You can tell it is a plist file as it starts with this information:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC “-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN” “http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd”>
<plist version=”1.0″>

The file contains the developer certificate, which is a long character string that looks like garbage. But after that data string, there is more information, including the follow nugget we had been looking for:


Not only the date, but the time (in GMT, or Zulu time).

Hope this helps anyone else who has the need to look for the same information. Obviously, the best practice is to avoid waiting until the last minute. But if you do, it is good to know how much time you have.


We Survived the Fort Collins Bicycle Breweries Tour

A tour of several Fort Collins breweries (13 as of this writing)? On bicycles you say?

It wasn’t a bike like the one in the photo (that is for next time), but this is a great trip for anyone interested in a leisurely bike ride on some excellent trails. And beer. Lots of beer.

Thanks to Sue and Lee for putting it together.

Did I mention that we had some beer?

A few statistics:

7 out of 13 breweries visited: FCB (The Fort Collins Brewery), New Belgium, ODell, FunkWerks, CooperSmith’s, Pateros Creek, and Equinox (on Sunday). The ones we missed (or saved for next time) were Black Bottle Brewery, Freedom’s Edge, Horse & Dragon, 1933 Brewing, C.B. and Potts. We also missed Anheiser-Busch…on purpose.

We did hit one distillery, which we all agreed was a mistake. The whiskey was good, but the mixing with beer…not so much.

23 beers logged on UnTappd (see below).

We logged many miles ridden, a couple of spills (Mimi’s was the worst! Ouch!) and one trick dismount/remount to impress my wife.

Trails to get there


The map above is an excerpt from the huge map of the trail system in and around Fort Collins, which has many trails for us to try on the next trip. Click on the map above and it will take you to the web site with the larger map.

Audrey and I had not been on bicycles for many many years. We did a short ride in Denver the day before we headed to Fort Collins just to get back in the saddle, and it was a good thing we did. Lee had mapped out a great ride for us to get from our hotel (the Hilton off of Prospect, on the map near where is says “Lilac Park”) down to Spring Creek Trail over to Poudre Trail and up to our first brewery, Fort Collins Brewery.

It was a great day, a great scenic trail ride along side a small stream for a good part of the way on Spring Creek trail, and past a few parks. There were lots of riders out.

As we got to the intersection of Poudre Trail, which goes along the Pourdre River, we noticed several people coming back. Some told us the trail was underwater, but being intrepid and in need of beer, we carried on. What’s a little water?

It was a lot of water. The snow melt had made the trail impassable. There were signs closing the trail as it went south, and that part was obviously under several feet of rushing water. We were able to go north a bit from the intersection of Spring Creek Trail and Poudre trail, and though we could see the other side of the trail, it would have been a nice wade (not ride) through at least waist high water to get there.

Nice Day to ride along Spring Creek Trail

Sue thinks about an attempt – Arrow shows trail resuming out of the water

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

click on the image for more info and to support this blog

Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


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