OTN APAC 2014 : The Journey to Perth

It was a pretty uneventful morning. I did my normal trick of checking everything was turned off, then checking again, just in case… šŸ™‚

I breezed through baggage drop-off and security in record time, barely breaking stride.

We were a little late getting on the plane and stared taxiing out to the runway before everyone was seated. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. The first flight was somewhere between 6.5-7 hours long, followed by a 2+ hour stopover in Dubai. There was one minor incident when a woman had a hissy-fit at the stewardess, which resulted in her reporting the stewardess to the purser. A little while later, I went and found the purser and told her what I saw as a witness of the event. Basically, the stewardess was really nice and the passenger was being a stupid miserable old cow. Nuff said.

The second flight from Dubai to Perth was about 10.5 hours. No real dramas, and amazingly for me I actually got some sleep. I probably slept about 3 hours in total, made up of a few minutes here and there.

I arrived in Perth at about 17:45, having told folks here I would be arriving at about 14:00. I really don’t know what is wrong with me and travelling. šŸ™‚ I got through passport control and customs with no worries, then got a taxi to the hotel. Once I was connected to the wifi I had to deal with nearly 2 days worth of emails in one go. It always amuses me how it feels likeĀ one long day for me, but 2 days for the rest of the world.

There was a dinner in the evening, but I was frazzled, so I ended up going to bed at about 22:00 local time and waking up this morning at 04:00. I’m supposed to be going out swimming in the sea this morning, but I’m hoping Connor and Bjoern are hungover and change their minds…

So the madness starts today. Wish me luck!

Cheers

Tim…

OTN APAC Tour 2014 : It’s Nearly Here!

airplane-flying-through-clouds-smallIn a little less than a week I start the OTN APAC Tour. This is where I’m going to be…

  • Perth, Australia :Ā November 6-7
  • Shanghai, China :Ā November 9
  • Tokyo, Japan :Ā November 11-13
  • Beijing, China :Ā November 14-15
  • Bangkok, Thailand :Ā November 17
  • Auckland, New Zealand :Ā November 19-21

Just looking at that list is scary. When I look atĀ the flight schedule I feel positively nauseous. I think I’m in Bangkok for aboutĀ 24 hours. It’s sleep, conference, fly. šŸ™‚

After all these years you would think I would be used to it, but every time I plan a tour I go through the same sequence of events.

  • Someone asks me if I want to do the tour.
  • I say yes and agree to do all the dates.
  • They ask me if I am sure, because doing the whole tour is a bit stupid as it’s a killer and takes up a lot of time.
  • I say, no problem. It will be fine.Ā I don’t like cherry-picking events as it makes meĀ feel guilty, like I’m doing it for a holiday or something.
  • Everything is provisionally agreed.
  • I realise the magnitude of what I’ve agreed to and secretly hope I don’t get approval.
  • Approval comes through.
  • Mad panic for visas, flights and hotel bookings etc.
  • The tour starts and it’s madness for X number of days. On several occasions I will want to throw in the towel and get on a plane home, but someone else on the tour will provide sufficient counselling to keep me just on the right side of sane.
  • Tour finishes and although I’ve enjoyed it, I promise myself I will never do it again.

With less than a week to go, I booked the last of my hotels this morning, so you can tell what stage I’m at now… šŸ™‚

I was reflecting on this last night and I think I know the reason I agree to these silly schedules. When I was a kid, only the “posh” kids did foreign holidays. You would come back from the summer break and people would talk about eating pasta on holiday and it seemed rather exotic.Ā Somewhere in the back of my head I am still that kid andĀ I don’t really believe any of these trips will ever happen, so I agree to anything. šŸ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

 

 

OTN APAC Tour 2014

As well as losing the ACED OpenWorldĀ confirmation email, it turns out my website/mailbox move also caused me to lose the email about being accepted on the OTN APAC Tour 2014. I saw a tweet this morning saying that I was on the agenda for the NZOUG event and checked with Francisco to see what was going on. That’s when I found out that yet another important email had gone missing… šŸ™‚

The good news is I had already agreed the time off work, so everything is good for the tour.

  • Perth, Australia :Ā November 6-7
  • Shanghai, China :Ā November 9
  • Tokyo, Japan :Ā November 11-13
  • Beijing, China :Ā November 14-15
  • Bangkok, Thailand :Ā November 17
  • Auckland, New Zealand :Ā November 19-21

After the OTN Yathra Tour 2014, which was 7 cities in 14 days, I told myself I was too old to do all this tour stuff… So much for that idea… šŸ™‚

Although it’s a 6 event tour, the first and last events are pretty much like being at home for me. I’ve been to the AUSOUG and NZOUG events a few times, so it will be good to meet up with everyone again… It will be my second time in Beijing, and I’ve seen the traffic in India now, so I’m hoping I will cope better with the roads in China this time. šŸ™‚ Shanghai, Tokyo and Bangkok are all new to me, so it will be interesting to see howĀ I cope with them…

As always before one of these tours, I am a complete mix of excitement, fear and general panic! šŸ™‚

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Cheers

Tim…

APAC OTN Tour 2013

Just a quick plug for an upcoming OTN tour, that I’m not on this year.

  • Auckland, New Zealand : 8th November (agenda)
  • Perth, Australia : 12th-13th November (agenda)
  • Tokyo, Japan : 13th-15th November
  • Beijing, China : 17th-18th November
  • Guangzou, China : 19th November

I attended the OTN Asia Pacific Tour in 2011, which included some of these locations. Hopefully I will get to do it again in the near future. šŸ™‚

Like any conferences, these events are all about the attendees, so the more people that turn up and the more vocal the attendees, the better the events are.

I’ve seen the agendas for the Auckland and Perth events and they look cool. I hope everyone has a good time!

Cheers

Tim…

OTN APAC Tour: NZOUG Day 1 & 2

The evening before the NZOUG conference was a bit chaotic. There was still no resolution to the Qantas fiasco and I was starting to believe I would have to cancel my sessions in Perth and try to fly home from Auckland. I tried to switch my flights, but everything was sold out.

By the next morning the Qantas strike seemed to be over, but there were reports of delays and disruption, so I was still not sure if I would make it to Perth.

NZOUG Day 1:

I was just about to start my first session (Clonedb) when there was a fire alarm. Fortunately it was resolved pretty quickly and I was able to get things back on track. From there is was straight on to do my second session (Edition-Based Redefinition), with no fire alarms this time. Both my sessions seemed to go down well. I got some good questions in each session, which is always cool, and some more later in the day and at the evening event.

I spent a little time chatting to some of the guys on the Quest stand and the guys from the DBVisit stand.

My first session of the day as an attendee was Graham Wood’s Exadata session. I saw this session for the first time a few years ago when it was known as the “Terabyte Hour”. With the hardware refreshes and a few software tweaks that have happened since then it now only takes about 18 minutes to complete the demo, so the name has changed. šŸ™‚ My comment to Graham at the end of the session was, “Much as I hate to admit it, it’s really impressive.”

That pretty much took me to the end of the presentations on the first day.

Chris Muir told me to check my emails as my flights had been sorted out. Sure enough, when I checked Lillian Buziak from the OTN team had contacted Oracle Travel and fixed everything for me. She is a total miracle worker. If I was younger and more attractive (and she wasn’t already married) she would be mine, oh yes, she would be mine…

In the evening we all went to the conference dinner. The theme was “Murder Mystery”, which involved a few poor souls getting selected to be made a fool of in front to the rest of the audience. Unfortunately, I was one of the fools in question, along with Chris Muir, Debra Lilley, Bambi and a couple of guys. The compere and the ghost of the victim (my wife, murdered on her wedding day) lead us through various “role playing scenarios” to determine who was the murderer. The final decision for the murderer came down to me (the husband) and the chef, with the chef being voted the winner/loser/murderer. It was all very confusing, fun and embaressing, all roled in to one. šŸ™‚

The whole event seemed to go down really well with the audience, who had plenty of comments (and photos). I have a feeling this is going to haunt (no punn intended) me for a long time.

NZOUG Day 2:

This was cut very short for me. My new Perth flight was arranged for 14:10, so I had to leave the conference at 11:00. I still got time to chat to a few people, mostly about the previous evenings events, and check out Ronald Bradford‘s session on the top 9 issues people have with mySQL databases. I’ve been a casual user of mySQL for years, but never really spent much time looking at it in any depth. I learned quite a bit from this session. Maybe I’ll spend a little more time playing with it in future.

Assuming the rest of the conference carried on the way it started, I would say it was a big success.

Perth:

The flight to Perth was pretty straight forward and I got to the apartment with no dramas. I took a walk over to the conference venue, which is significantly further than I thought. It took be about 60 minutes to walk it at a pace, with no bag in the (relatively speaking) cool evening air. I’m not sure what it will be like in the summer sun.

At 06:00 this morning I went out for a run along the river, then made myself look like a freak by doing sprints on the way back. Nothing like the sight of a fat sweaty bloke panting like a dog to turn heads. The locals were out in force, walking, running and doing boot camps on the banks of the river. Even at that time is was very sunny. I think it would be damn near lethal to try it at midday. The flies and mossies were out in force. If nothing else the swatting and endless ticks you develop when they fly round your face and ears helps you burn more calories. šŸ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

OTN APAC Tour: Beijing, China (update)

Following on from my previous post, once the OTN APAC event was over I managed to see some of the sights of Beijing and the surrounding area, including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. I’ve uploaded some photos here, but it seems my photography skills are getting worse, not better. I’m ashamed to say these are the better photos. Let’s not discuss the ones I’ve not bothered to upload. šŸ™‚

I have a few suggestions for any travellers to China:

  • Do not consider driving yourself. The traffic is crazy! I’ve never seen anything like it before. I experienced several “we’re all going to die” moments in every trip I took. Probably the worst was when two lorries moved together with our minibus between them. If our driver had not sped up in time, I’m quite convinced the ACE program would have lost several members. As you may have already read, some of the ACEs were in a crash, but came out of it unharmed. I was only able to wear a seat belt on one journey because all but one of the vehicles either had no belts, or belts but nowhere to plug them in. This takes a lot of getting used to.
  • If you have any sort of respiratory issues, it’s probably best to avoid Beijing completely. The pollution is very bad. It quickly makes you feel like you’ve smoked 40 cigarettes for breakfast. Even at the Great Wall (50+km from the city) it is still really bad.
  • Make sure you have printed copies of the Chinese names for any locations you want to visit. Having an English address is pretty much useless. Even with the Chinese addresses, it was often very difficult, especially if the print was small.
  • Don’t rely on any cloud services for your journey. You need local copies of everything and any apps you want to work with should have full offline functionality. Why? The Great Firewall of China is very effective at blocking a variety of services. Most Google services were trashed. Gmail wasĀ intermittently offlineĀ and I was never able to access attachments. Google Docs essentially doesn’t exist. Google Reader would work for about 5 minutes at a time, then fail bigtime. Most annoyingly, I was unable to use Google to search for anything. šŸ™ I was able to search with Bing, but I could only see results in Chinese. Even when I switched to English, I still got results in Chinese. Like I said, be very well prepared because searching for information is not easy. I’m sure there are ways to cope if you are clued up, but I was a little naive and went with very little preparation as far as logistics were concerned.
  • Take money with you. I was able to get cash advances from my credit cards, but the ATM failed to get cash from any of my bank accounts.

I’m now stationed at my friends house about 40 minutes from Auckland. There are cows in the garden, including 6 new calves which are pretty funny, and two pre-school children who are pretty funny too. Although I’m very much a towny at heart, I must admit the change in pace and air quality is very welcome. Last week I was talking about Oracle and this week I’ve chopping down some trees, cleared some scrub and pretended (very badly) to be a farmer. I’ve nearly mastered saying, “Get off my land!”, or as the Kiwi’s say it, “Gt ff my lnd aye!” I’m trying to introduce vowels to the natives, but with the exception of the word “aye” that is added to the end of every sentence, vowels seem to be lost forever. šŸ™‚

In a few days I will transplant to Auckland and start the NZOUG conference.

Cheers

Tim…

APAC OTN Tour: Beijing, China

My flights to China were rather uneventful. The Birmingham to Dubai leg was delayed by an hour due to fog in Dubai. I had a 4 hour connection in Dubai originally, so the delay was no big deal.

Arriving in Beijing was a littleĀ unnerving. I misplaced the Chinese version of the hotel address, but had the English version. Finding someone to translate it proved very difficult and as it turned out they translated it incorrectly. Fortunately I found a cached version of the address on my iPad, so that saved by bacon. The second hitch was that I couldn’t get cash with by debit cards. Just a flat-out refusal from any ATM in China. Arrrggghhh! Fortunately, I was able to get cash advances using my credit card. I’m going to pay through the nose for it, but at least I can survive.

Today is the first day of the conference and I had a morning slot. For the English speakers, we had one screen showing our slides in English and one showing the Chinese translation. I was asked to speak more slowly than usual (kinda difficult for me) and as a result I had to reduce the content somewhat. I did a run through last night to make sure my timing was OK with this adjustment.

The conference has a single track, so you get a room full of peopleĀ from different technical areas. This is always a littleĀ unnervingĀ as you worry about the relevance of your material to audience. Here are a couple of photos of the audience I took while I was setting up.

Ā 

Everything seemed to go OK. I hope they understood my accent. šŸ™‚

With a bit of luck I will get to see some of Beijing over the next couple of days. I’m behing the Great Firewall of China, so some sites (Facebook and Twitter) are blocked completely and many other sites (like Gmail and any other Google related services) seem to come and go. For the time being my blog seems active. If I lose access to it I will update things once I get to New Zealand.

Cheers

Tim…