Tuesday 8 May 2012

Collaborate2012 - The Travelogue

I’m useless at getting my blogs done in a timely manner and as my friend Floyd says  There are plenty of travelogues of "I did this and I attended that and we ate here" regarding Collab” and not to be left out here is mine.

The Speaking, UKOUG, ACE Director and Fujitsu roles are covered in the next few blogs.
I travelled to Las Vegas on British Airways which is new for me, I was a Star Alliance person but with the sale of BMI I am now BA. On its own the flight was fine but I knew 4 people travelling that day and both men on different flights got upgrades and the two girls didn’t. I have a theory that women travelling on their own never get adhoc upgrades but that’s a debate for another time.

I like the travel time, I get so much done on flights, my inbox gets emptied and sometimes I even get caught up on my blogs, but what I do hate is queues. Queues for immigration were in the news all week, and especially for Heathrow, but on my return it was pretty good, mine was almost instant but on entering the USA in Las Vegas the non USA queue was very long. However time passed quite quickly once we discovered the celebrity in queue, Prof Brian Cox was in town and he was no better off than us. I tweeted this but didn’t realise he wasn’t that famous outside of the UK. I don’t understand why - he is gorgeous. I never realised he also worked for CERN, they are one of the casestudies in my 42 Real Life Examples presentation. Anyway he was directly behind me in the queue and being very British I commented on the length of it and how hot it was. He didn’t say much; perhaps he was too busy thinking intelligent things?

The first evening I wandered around the venue. I hate Vegas you cannot go anywhere without walking through casinos, and I finally find the short cuts on the last day.

Sunday evening was the welcome parties and the first issue I have with Collaborate in action. Collaborate is three user groups in one conference, IOUG, QUEST and OAUG; but apart from the opening keynote and the main party, everything is separate. You can attend most sessions regardless of who you registered with, but that is where it ends. For instance if you remember I was originally turned down by OAUG and was speaking for QUEST so my registration was with them. Then I was asked to speak at an OAUG session with the UX team, and I lifted myself above my first thoughts and agreed, so I was an OAUG speaker. I attended the IOUG welcome party, a very modest affair but more about that in a moment, then I walked past the OAUG welcome party that was held in the Aquarium and I tried to explain to the girl on the door but she wouldn’t listen to me and quite rudely said ‘You are registered with QUEST, your party is outside’, I was with a friend and was horrified and embarrassed; I was so sure I would be welcome. I was not the only cross-event speaker, because that is what it is, three events. All it needed was for a ribbon saying OAUG speaker I could have added to my registration badge. There are ribbons for everything else.

The reason I went to the IOUG welcome event was because they were giving their annual Ken Jacobs award to Mark Townsend, who was their Oracle Board member. However Mark had died suddenly the previous week and the party became a tribute to Mark. His friends reminisced and we raised a drink or two to him. I had the privilege of knowing Mark and spending time with him in his native New Zealand last November on the APAC OTN tour. He had just visited his mum, and my thoughts over his sudden death are for her and his family; no one at any age is meant to bury their own child.
The opening keynote was Captain Mark Kelly, Commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Final Mission and husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He talked passionately about how his life changed after her shooting, and the battle for all their family for her recovery. I wonder how much his thoughts on himself have changed, before the shotting, she was 'His Wife', now he is 'Her Husband'. One story he told was how his wife had had perseverede to converse with Stephen Hawkins, and told Mark he needed to learn patience, now he feels that was her telling him in their past about how to handle her struggle to communicate as she recovers. He also talked about his ambition and his drive to be an astronaut; he was not a natural genius or leader he had to work at it. American sessions start really early and I am really pleased I made the effort to get to this, it was inspiring.
The Party night was a 80s night and I went to town. I really dressed up for the occasion. The early 80s were my single days and I loved the idea, but I think the fact I was handing out the free drink tickets went to my head, or perhaps it was just the drink. However although I needed friends to help me back to the elevators I was almost recovered enough to start the next day early at 6am for a call with the UK. This again is another problem with being in the US, you still have to do the day job and although I don’t mind, it is a small price to pay for being allowed the time to attend, 5 mornings of 6am calls and 2 hours of email does eventually catch up.
After the conference finished I had the chance to go to dinner with Alex Nuijten and his family who had travelled over from Holland. That was the highlight of my week, the children are so well behaved and love trying out their English. It was also one of the funniest events as well. We were waiting at the train stop that goes between the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor, when my friend George Trujillo from IOUG arrived with a few others. He gave me a hug and said it was so bad we hadn’t had the chance to catch up properly. ‘I can’t chat I am late already’ he said as he rushed by. Alex’s wife started to laugh and pointed out he was waiting for the same train as us; where was he rushing to?
I had the Friday free (after the UK catch up), had breakfast with great friends from Quest and then went to see the Bodies exhibition in the Luxor Hotel. I have wanted to see this for a while; I was fascinated with the process of how they preserved the bodies. It didn’t freak me out at all, and it was incredibly interesting. However I can’t help wondering if the people who gave their bodies to medical research knew they would become circus exhibits with people paying for the privilege?

I was lucky on the flight home and had a row of three seats to myself, so blogging was forgotten and I took the opportunity to catch up on the sleep. As I said the re-entry into Heathrow was ok, but I still had a 4 hour layover till my Belfast flight and finally getting home at 9pm Saturday.

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