A new .NET User Group is born. Say hello to ZamDevs

By James at August 14, 2009 07:22
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One the things I do that really gets me going is finding ways to get people enthused and excited about technology – figuring out what they need, how to get it to them, and then stepping back to see what happens.

Last year, my great friend, Lynn Langit asked if I would be interested in helping to start a new user group. Lynn spends her off time doing volunteer work in Zambia (Africa), and had been working with a small group of developers who wanted to start meeting on a regular basis. So, she put me touch with the leader, Mwansa Lumpa to see what I could do to help.

We talked for a bit via Skype, and I helped him get both a Sitefinity and DiscountASP.NET account setup, and I started collecting swag and books and stuff to send to him.

As the way it is, with busy schedules and such, we kind of lost track of what each of us was doing and how we had been. This morning I received this email.

Subject: ZamDev – The Zambia Developer’s Group

Hi All,

I am really excited as I am writing this email. Great things are and will be happening!!!!

We now have this great opportunity to kick start this group on a high. Its been long over due, and if you are as enthusiastic about having a group that is concerned about your profession as I am, you would have been frustrated by the lack of communication from the group that promises so much - and trust me, we will live up to that.

But now we are back, and we are going to make this a lot more different to all the professional groups that are out there.

So what do we have: Anton Delsink and Lynn Langit - Some of you might have heard these guys speak at Microsoft TechEds(www.teched.com) and many other techy events, but now they are here and for free to speak to all of us on some exciting new developments e.t.c. Now thats just the icing on the cake, because the real cake will be the debut of our long awaited group.

When??? on Thursday, the 20th of August 2009. Time: 18:00hrs. Venue: Villa 47. Millenium Village. Long Acres.

We hope to see you there. You will definitely learn a lot and have a great time. Come to the first ever meeting and you will know all about ZamDevs

You are encouraged to invite many many more people to this group! Snacks will be provided, and there will be free give-aways!!!!!!

Mwansa Lumpa

Interim ZamDev Coordinator

PS: You are encouraged to forward this email to your colleagues and workmates.

Way to go Mwansa! Congratulations.

Time to smile,


Route 66 – Our latest road trip

By James at August 04, 2009 04:22
Filed Under: Life in General, Non-Technical

With work, family, volunteerism, side jobs, and all the stuff which leads to an incredibly rich life, Carmina and I don’t get a lot of alone time. So we decided when we got married to take a road trip, by ourselves every wedding anniversary, alternating who got to choose where we went. This year was my turn and I decided we should take the road less traveled and follow Route 66. Carmina’s friends worked really hard to convince her it would be hot and boring, but I won out. I think Carmina had the time of her life. She keeps talking about our adventure, and has already started planning our next trip along Route 66 – this time with more people – and better planning to see more sights.

First day, Thursday July 30 – Beaumont, CA to Kingman, AZ. Leaving around 6 pm.

We got out of the house and on the road at 8:30 pm. Just a bit of a delay, but since the majority of our life revolves around herding cats, it was understandable. I love driving through the desert at night,Route 66 so took the reigns and drove for the first three or so hours. Carmina traded with me somewhere in the desert and took us into Kingman.

We had decided, both to be thrifty and enjoy the ride, to only stay in the less-than-well-known places to stay. First night was at the Knight’s Inn. It was a cute little motel, similar to what you might see in a movie.  It included a lumpy mattress, rock hard pillows, an air conditioner straining to cool the air, and when we walked out in the morning, a dead cockroach on the steps. Oh well, at least the serial killers had decided to take the night off.

Second day, Friday July 31 – Kingman, AZ to Holbrook, AZ.

Carmina found on the map the Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, AZ. A chance to go underground in an area we've never been and where no one knows us? Hot damn! Sign us up! Of course we decided that would be our first stop.

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  King’s Inn, Kingman, AZ
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Nuthin but the best for Kingman PD Hills outside of Kingman One of the many tourist attractions

What was supposed to be a 60 minute drive ended up about 2 1/2 hours to get to the caverns. With so many things to see, we made a few stops along the way, the first being Hackberry, AZ.

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Hackberry General Store The Wagon Queen Family Truckster A few people just didn’t make it
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A local resident More beautiful scenery

The countryside is beautiful, and interestingly enough, there is not as much traffic as I had thought there would be. Apparently T-Rex and Velociraptors ranged during this era, so there are a lot of symbols, signs and actual sculptures around. We finally came across the Grand Canyon Caverns and made our way in. This spot is privately owned, so there is a bit of kitch associated with it. But they have done a great job in maintaining the premises and the tour guides are fun and informative. Ron was our guide, an old hippie, and while it was obvious his patter was well practiced, his references to pop culture made Carmina and I giggle.

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Grand Canyon Cavern Inn Into the cavern “Popcorn” Leftover fallout shelter supplies

The rest of the day was devoted to driving along the road to see the sights, just taking our time to relax, and to make a final stop for the day at Meteor Crater. I was surprised to see brand new Burma Shave signs along the road, and had a good time explaining them to Carmina. The next “big” town we came across was Seligman. Since it was after 12 pm, we decided to stop and eat at none other than the Road Kill Cafe. umm… yummy. The food was great, the atmosphere was terrific with giant stuffed animal heads all over, and Carmina got her first taste of drinking tea out of a giant mason jar.

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Umm..purty Burma Shave Where we ate More purtyness

I had been worried the weather would have been horribly hot. What I hadn’t stopped to figure was the area we were driving in was between 6000 and 8000 feet in elevation. The climate was cool and comfortable, at sometimes with a nice wind, and occasionally we had rain and thunderstorms. The next town we came to was Williams. Heading into town we came across the town cemetery and just had to stop and wander through. A cemetery with headstones nestled in the woods is one thing you just have to see. It was obvious there were two sections – the drab, dull area for the white folks, and the bright colorful area for everyone else.

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Williams Cemetery The welcome sign at the Red Garter B & B

We finally made it to Meteor Crater about 4:00pm, and it is an amazing sight driving up to it. The crater is about 3 1/2 miles in circumference, 1 mile in diameter and 600-700 feet deep. NASA trained the Apollo astronauts in the crater and a lot of science has been done examining the crater and surrounding area.

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Driving up to the rim Shots looking into the crater The impact area at the bottom.

Another little stop we had wanted to make was to the Homol’ovi ruins. After Meteor Crater we made our way about 20 miles further and followed the signs. The area was very beautiful, but we couldn’t find any ruins. It wasn’t until later we discovered we had been standing on them all along.

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Standing on ancient ruins. Doh! Dangerous. Keep away James looking for a short cut

One of the Eagles first hits was “Takin’ it easy”. “I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona…” Meteor Crater has an informational AM radio station and during the broadcast, it mentions “going to the corner in Winslow and taking a picture with the ‘girl in the flatbed Ford’”. Seeing as we were only about 10 miles from Winslow, we just couldn’t pass it up.

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The two of us making history I think I need a haircut The flatbed Ford
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Two beams from the World Trade Center Another antique More roadside Americana

We made it to our destination for the day, Holbrook, Arizona. The motel was much nicer than Kingman, so we cleaned up, went out to eat, found provisions for the next day – along with pre-made margaritas – then, headed back to the room for some much needed rest.

Third day, Saturday August 1 – Holbrook, AZ to ?

When I was a kid, we took a vacation to the Petrified Forest and it was one of the places I wanted to show Carmina. The park is about 30 miles from Holbrook so we got up early to head out. 100_0303 Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed when we saw the Wigwam Motel on the way out of town, and realized we could have stayed there instead of a basic motel room. Oh well, next time.

Carmina had never seen petrified wood before, and we stopped off at one of the many “Petrified Wood Company”s in the area. We found some pretty nice pieces to bring home, and fortunately the cashier told us to declare them to the ranger when entering the National Park. After seeing the smallish pieces at the store Carmina was fascinated with the huge trees in the park. And I had a great time showing her around.

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So, we had pretty much driven to where we had planned to go, and it was only 11:30 am. I had heard of Canyon de Chelly (“Shay”), but had never been. Asking the park ranger how long it would take we decided to head out. Driving through the Painted Desert and the rest of the Petrified Forest was amazing. I don’t know if I did it as a kid, but this time is something I will remember. Carmina commented on how it looked like “God said, I have this brush, let’s see what it will look like.”

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Driving through the park are various turn outs and points of interest, one of which is Newspaper Rocks, a place where Anasazi hieroglyphics are on the rock faces. We stopped and started walking to the area, about a five minute stroll. Carmina ran up ahead and we got separated by a pushy old dude and his fake plastic wife. He was more interested in talking about gambling on his cell phone, and his comment to his phone companion was priceless. “Hmpf… these rocks don’t look anything like newspapers.”

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The Newspaper Rocks

Before President Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway bill, Route 66 was the main road from Chicago to Los Angeles. Imagine the adventure of 100_0330driving through the desert in the 1930’s not knowing what was ahead, or what to expect. Apparently many people tried just that, and when their car broke down, all they could do was leave it by the side of the road. This car is an actual stopping point inside the park. And just outside the park, along Interstate 40, we saw another abandoned car, of the same vintage. I wish I could’ve taken a picture of that one as well.

Continuing on through the Painted Desert was incredible. We stopped along many places to take pictures of the spectacular views.

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Leaving the Painted Desert we travelled North on State Hwy 191 through the Navajo Nation. More gorgeous views of high desert with junipers, scrub, thunderheads, and the occasional rain storm. As this is reservation land, there are no fences along the road, and we were greeted many times by horses grazing on the shoulder. All of the ranches have typical buildings with a Navajo Hogan as well. We arrived at Canyon de Chelly National Monument and decided to take the southern rim tour.

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Carmina checking out a Navajo Hogan Canyon de Chelly

The Anaszi built homes in the sides of the cliffs, and this is one of the main reasons I wanted to go with Carmina to this area. Along with seeing these dwellings, the majesty of the canyon is both breathtaking and mystical. At one stop, Spider Rock, I started focusing on the spire, and began to feel as if I was floating. People still live and farm in the bottom of the canyon, right next to their ancestral areas. Something which both Carmina I found interesting and something which I doubt would be seen here in Southern California.

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Cliff dwellings Spider Rock

100_0358At the last stop we met a young Navajo, Marc Begay, who was painting Navajo symbols on pieces of flagstone. He showed us one and we decided to purchase it for $10.  He asked us where we were from, and had no idea of where Southern California is, as he has spent his entire life in the canyon. He was proud to tell us he would be receiving his tour guide card in November and invited us back so he could give us a native’s point of view tour of the canyon. So, this was the farthest we would travel on this trip, and we can’t wait to go back.

Saturday August 1 – 4:30 pm to Sunday August 2 – 3:30 am

We decided to just head home. What a drive that was. 606 miles. Whew. But crawling into our own bed, worth it.

All of our pictures are here. Our map points are here. Comments, as always, are welcome.

Time to dream.


About the author

James James is a five time and current Microsoft MVP in Client App Development, a Telerik Insider, a past Director on the INETA North America Board, a husband and dad, and has been developing software since the early days of Laser Discs and HyperCard stacks. As the Founder and President of the Inland Empire .NET User's Group, he has fondly watched it grow from a twice-a-month, early Saturday morning group of five in 2003, to a robust and rambunctious gathering of all types and sizes of .NET developers.

James loves to dig deep into the latest cutting edge technologies - sometimes with spectacular disasters - and spread the word about the latest and greatest bits, getting people excited about developing web sites and applications on the .NET platform, and using the best tools for the job. He tries to blog as often as he can, but usually gets distracted by EF, LINQ, MVC, ASP, SQL, XML, and most other types of acronyms. To keep calm James plays a mean Djembe and tries to practice his violin. You can follow him on twitter at @latringo.

And as usual, the comments, suggestions, writings and rants are my own, and really shouldn't reflect the opinions of my employer. That is, unless it really does.

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