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I’ve been working a lot with Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) lately, getting it to integrate with ASP.NET, and I found that while understanding the concept of a workflow was pretty easy, getting over the technical hump of what workflow means with respect to WF and how to use it was pretty difficult.

What I really found while searching for resources was that there’s a lot out there about “how to use XYZ in situation ABC” but there’s nothing that explains to me what XYZ is or what its significance is in relation to the stack.

To that end, I decided to start writing some short posts that just explain what each of the major pieces of WF are and what their significance is. Maybe helpful, maybe not. I’m calling it “Two Minute WF” because I want to give a pretty high-level, easy to understand explanation that you can read through in a couple of minutes, get it, and move on. No major code samples, no in-depth discussions of the bare-metal tech, just a quick hit on what these things are. Maybe if I get through the major components I’ll continue the series by adding more examples. Maybe it’ll get to that “in-depth” level at some point, but I’d wager you can already find that content out on the web if you search.

Available Two Minute WF topics:

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In this Two Minute WF, I’ll tell you about the types of workflows you can run in Windows Workflow Foundation.

Out of the box, you get two types of workflow:

  • Sequential workflow
  • State machine workflow

A sequential workflow runs a lot like a flow chart and its design-time experience reflects that. (Yes, I realize that’s technically inaccurate, but from a conceptual perspective, that’s pretty much it.) Usually sequential workflows run in services or other automated processes that don’t require user interaction.

A state machine workflow is exactly what it sounds like - a state machine. You define the set of states the workflow can be in and the valid set of transitions between the states. The actions that occur in each state determine which transition to take to move to the next state. When integrating with ASP.NET, you’ll be looking at state machine workflows.

Both workflow types can be modified (within certain limits) on the fly to be dynamic and both can communicate with external services, listen for events, or evaluate rules to determine their flows. Both use the same set of activities (actions - like “if/else,” “execute code,” etc.) to perform their internal work. (I’ll do a different Two Minute WF post on activities.)

Visual Studio 2008 comes with templates that let you very easily create console applications that host either of these workflow types so you can experiment with them and decide which type is right for your application.

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A couple of weeks back we had some birds move into the walls of the house.

See, we’ve got two dormers on the front of the house and just under the eave overhang on each side of the dormers where the dormer meets the main roof (so four places), the builder didn’t actually finish the siding… so there were four places wide open for small creatures to move in. Apparently this is very common, at least in this area.

Anyway, I was working in one of the rooms upstairs and I heard this scratching noise. Going outside and looking up, I could see all sorts of nest-makings coming down the roof out of the hole in the siding.

I ended up having to call a guy and he came in, got all the bird stuff out of the walls, and blocked up all the holes with metal screen. I’d have done it myself, but our roof has a really steep pitch and, frankly, I am not a handy person and have no idea what I’m doing. I’ll pay someone else to risk their neck and do it right any day of the week.

If you ever get in that situation and you’re in the Portland, OR area, well… first, I’m sorry, because that sucks. Second, the guy I called was Ed Belding from Evergreen Pest Management - (503) 925-9752. Great service, reasonable prices, and he does more than just birds. Give him a call, he’ll hook you up.

Now to address the bathtub that’s started a spiderweb crack upstairs…

Titanium "One
Ring"My wedding ring is a titanium version of the One Ring from Lord of the Rings. I like it quite a bit, but it was a real pain to get - the only place you could find them was this German web site which seems to have disappeared since we bought it. Plus, the black finish is beautiful but it scratches given a little effort so you have to be careful. (Metal doorknobs can be problematic if they turn hard, for example, so you have to be pretty mindful of what you’re doing.) Sort of lame considering I was going for nigh-indestructible.

Anyway, in the event I have to re-order, I found a couple of options. Boone Titanium Rings has a good general selection and will let you submit custom artwork to create your own laser-etched titanium ring. Now, that’s cool and all, but I think the one I’ll go with will be a tungsten carbide diamond-etched “One Ring” from Forever Metals.

Tungsten carbide "One Ring" from Forever

I admit a lot of ignorance when it comes to jewelery and metals and such, so I didn’t really fully understand the differences between hardness and durability between titanium and tungsten carbide. There’s an educational page on the Forever Metals site that explains tungsten carbide and its benefits. Things like “scratch-proof” and “four times harder than titanium” show up there, which makes it perfect for me.

Of course, Jenn got all worried about what happens in an emergency and the doctors can’t get the ring off your finger so they have to cut off the finger instead. I thought I was already hosed with the titanium ring, but apparently you can cut titanium with almost any tool that will cut steel, including a Dremel. As for tungsten carbide, Forever Metals claims:

Tungsten carbide ring can be removed by a medical professional. Rings made of extremely hard materials, like tungsten carbide or ceramic, can only be removed by cracking them into pieces with standard vice grip style locking pliers. Standard ring cutters will not work.

So I’m not screwed and shouldn’t lose a finger as long as the medical professional helping me has a pair of vice grips. I have to assume the medical field has figured this one out. Or maybe I should get one of those MedicAlert bracelets that says, “Don’t cut off my finger, just get some channel locks.”

[Soundtrack]]( Friday, Jenn and I went to see the new traveling Cirque du Soleil show, Corteo.


I’ve seen several of the Cirque shows:

Each show has its own feel and I have liked all of them. Mystère holds a special place in my heart for being the first Cirque show I ever saw.  struck me with its size and story. Dralion had a very original style. All of that given, across shows you will generally see some acts reused. The hand-to-hand, amazing as it is, shows up a couple of times. The aerial straps, beautiful to watch, also show up in a few places. Not so in Corteo.

Corteo felt so fresh, so new, that I couldn’t help but leave the show feeling happy and invigorated. Everything was so amazing, so crazy, so cool, I’d have to say Corteo is my favorite of all the shows I’ve seen. It was easily worth the price of admission and I’d see it again in a heartbeat.

I had never seen any of the acts before (with the exception of the aerial straps, which still felt very new) and it included one of my favorite acts, “Crystal Glasses and Tibetan Bowls,” a sampling of which you can catch on the Cirque TV show, Solstrom. I liked them all, but if I had to choose, I think I liked the chandeliers and the helium dance the best.

If Corteo comes to your city, go, and feel alive again.