LAOTN Tour (Southern Leg) : Arrived in Santiago, Chile…

I’m now in the hotel in Santiago, Chile.

The flights were fine. I landed in Paris with just enough time to walk to the departure gate and board my next flight. The Air France boarding was a bit chaotic, and once again there was no vegetarian food. With many airlines, booking a special meal seems to be very hit or miss. It’s not like I’m going to starve though, so never mind. 🙂

For some reason, unknown to me, I got a Business Class flight out, so the 14.5 hour flight from Paris to Santiago wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. I’m cattle-class for the rest of the flights, including the 11+ hour flight home from Sao Paulo.

The weather in Santiago is more like the UK weather than the UK is at the moment. I arrived to about 10 degrees and fog. I was walking round in a t-shirt an it felt nice after the last couple of weeks at home. I’m not great with the heat. 🙂

Unfortunately, Jonathan Lewis has had to cancel his trip due to a problem with his ear, that’s prevented him from flying, so I’ve got an extra session tomorrow to fill in one of the gaps. Hopefully, he’ll be doing some web sessions later in the tour.

I think I’m going to run through my talks now, hit the gym and try to get some sleep before the tour begins in earnest tomorrow.



LAOTN Tour (Southern Leg) Preparation Complete…

Tomorrow is going to be a very tough day. I’ve got work as normal, including one of my fortnightly Tuesday presentations. From work I dash home, get changed, pick up my stuff and it’s off to the airport. I get a quick flight to Paris, then it’s a 14.5 hour flight to Santiago, Chile. That’s the starting point for the southern leg of the LAOTN tour this year. I can only hope I break the habit of a lifetime and actually get some sleep on the plane. If not I’m going to be like Day of the Dead when I get there.

I went out at the weekend and bought a load of cheap polo shirts, so I’m going to look pretty much identical on every day of the tour. 🙂 When I was in Bulgaria, Tom Kyte gave me some packing advice, involving rolling stuff up to reduce creases, so I’m not packing a travel iron. I’ve just finished my packing using that method, so if I look like a bag of creases on this tour I will be giving him a kicking at OOW2013. 🙂

The weather forecast looks a bit cooler than it was on last year’s northern leg, but the humidity is high, so even though I’ve packed more than enough stuff to get through the whole trip I’m sure I will get half way through and need to hit the hotel laundry service.

I’m now feeling totally wired. Five countries in 10 days, with very long flights at the start and end is quite a daunting prospect. I know I’m going to enjoy it, but I’m feeling a little nervous/scared at the moment. I’m sure when I get on to the Santiago flight I’ll chill out, but until then I’m just going to be panicking about what I’ve forgotten to pack and about my connection in Paris…



OTN Tour of Latin America: Wrap-up…

The OTN Tour of Latin America is over for me. Several brave souls continue on to the second leg in about a week. For those playing catch-up on my little adventure, you can read the posts here:

These OTN tours are a great experience and I would advise anyone who gets the chance to take part in a tour to do it, but keep in mind the following points:

  • These tours require a massive investment of time. This tour has taken about 17 days in total for me. For some of the speakers this meant taking annual leave. For others it meant unpaid leave. Not everyone is able to commit this amount of time and potential lost earnings.
  • The conference agendas were rather fluid for the days preceeding the conferences. In some cases, people were dropped off the agenda entirely, only to reappear the day of the conference. It can be a little unnerving arriving at a country, not knowing if you even have a slot to present.
  • The breakdown of the audiences varies quite widely. It’s worth having a few spare presentations prepped before you start the tour. On several occasions we switched presentations around when it became apparent what we planned to present was not suitable for the audience. I started the tour with 2 presentations. I came home with 4.5. You’ve got to be flexible when you do this stuff.
  • We didn’t always know where conferences were taking place before we got to the country. We quickly got into the habit focusing only on the next country, rather than worrying too far in advance.
  • You spend a lot of your own money on these tours. The Oracle ACE program generously provides for the travel and hotel room bills. Some local user groups pay for social events in the evening, which is greatly appreciated, but there are still many other costs that come out of your own pocket. Paying for visas, exit taxes associated with some countries, subsistence costs and things like laundry services all come out of your own pocket. It’s a mere fraction of what you would have to pay to fund the whole tour yourself, but you should be aware it’s not a free ride.
  • It’s hard work. For the whole of this trip I was constantly tired. I feel like I need a holiday now to get over it.
  • There seems to be some misconception that we get paid to do these tours. We definitely do not!

So now I’ve scared you off talking part, I guess I should to tell you why you really need to get involved:

  • Some of the speakers on the tour I have met before, some I knew via the internet and some were new to me. It is surprising how much of a bond you can develop in such a short time. I’m not the type of person that is quick to consider someone a friend, but there are people I’ve only known for a few days who I now consider my friends. I don’t know if I will ever see them again and that makes me sad, but I will definitely not forget them.
  • There are great Oracle communities around the world that us English speakers never get to experience. This is one way to bridge that gap.
  • It’s a very humbling experience to know that most of the attendees are listening to you present in their second or third language. Even more so when they have the guts to approach you to talk about the content of your presentation. It kinda makes you ashamed to be a lazy Brit who only speaks English… Badly…
  • Above all, it’s a really fun experience.

I need to mention a few people for their sterling work in getting me through the tour:

  • Sheeri Cabral for translation services and general organisation skills. I just piggy backed on her (and Debra’s) flight plans, hotel bookings and relied on her Spanish to get me through assorted airports and shops etc.
  • Debra Lilley for being a little island of (near) sanity on the occasions when I was starting to lose the will to go on.
  • Tom Kyte. Watching you present reminds me I must try harder. It was nice to see you out at the social events too. It’s been a few years since you’ve knocked around with us. 🙂
  • Melanie Caffrey. You are a scream and I suspect we would have seen less of Tom at the social events if you hadn’t been around. 🙂
  • Graham Wood. I know we are a similar age, but if you don’t mind I would like you to adopt me. You can be my Oracle dad… 🙂
  • Sergio Tribst. Where do I start with you dude? Quite possibly the most consistently amusing person on the tour. A top bloke!
  • Noel Portugal. What a cool guy. Such a pity you only came to the first couple of events. Hopefully we can meet up at another event so you can  find out how annoying I can be…
  • Shay Shmeltzer for juggling worthy of the Cirque du Soleil.
  • Joel Pérez and Ronal Vargas for my Spanish lessons. Sorry I’m such a terrible student.
  • Plinio Aribizu. Yeah.. init! 🙂
  • All the other speakers I chatted too.
  • All the attendees for coming and listening to my sessions.
  • All the conference organizers for making the events a success and keeping us entertained.
  • The Oracle ACE program and Francisco for making this happen.

Enough of the mutual appreciation society… 🙂 Next time…



OTN Tour of Latin America: Costa Rica…

In my previous post I mentioned feeling like a class traitor by paying for someone to do my washing. Well it gets worse. Sheeri and I (but not Debra) got a random upgrade to business class for the 1 hour flight from Honduras to San Jose, Costa Rica. I think that was the first time I’ve ever flown business. So much room. Seats wide enough to fit my ample butt. Tray cleared as soon as you’ve finished eating… A little taste of the good life, before I go back to coach for my big trip home. 🙂

We got to San Jose in the afternoon and spent a little time by the hotel pool. Not being a sun lover, I spent that time sitting fully dressed on a sun lounger with a towel over my head.

In the evening we got a taxi to a local place to get some food. Unfortunately, we were dropped off at a location favoured by tourists, which gave us a choice of chain restaurants from every location in the world except Costa Rica. I wasn’t particularly proud that the first food I ate in Costa Rica came from an Outback Steakhouse. Added to that, it was extortionately expensive…

The next day was conference day. We arrived and were assigned individual helpers for the day, which was a nice touch. All the attendees were together for the introduction speech, then split up for the 5 conference tracks. My first session was in the main auditorium after the introduction speech, so I had to watch the packed room empty, leaving a few brave souls. 🙂 I tried to do before (awake) and after (sleeping) photos at the start of the session, but some of the acting left a lot to be desired. Check out Graham Wood’s “excited face” in the first shot.

He does a pretty good impression of sleeping in the second too…

I got some questions at the end of the session. One of the attendees sent this photo of me leaning forward while listening to a question.

I’ve leave it for you to decide what the caption should be. 🙂

Later, I went along to Graham’s session on ASH, which I’d seen before, but was worth watching again. The room was full, so I gave up my seat for one of the paying attendees (it seemed only fair) . As the presentation continued, the room got increasingly hot. By the end I thought I was going to keel over. 🙂

A little while later it was my second session. This one was in a smaller room, but pulled a bigger crowd, so people were standing up at the back and sitting on the floor. Being up close and personal with the audience is much better for me. I just feel like I connect better. After this presentation it dawned on me that it was the end of the tour, which came with very mixed emotions.

In the evening we went out to a place serving Costa Rican food, which was much cheaper than the tourist stuff we ate the day before. The lack of alcohol caused some discent amongst the ranks, but everyone survived. 🙂

Some of the gang are off out for a Jungle tour today, but unfortunately it is time for me to fly home, so I’m missing out on seeing yet another country. I must come back and do it properly next time. 🙂

Big thanks to Ronald Vargas for organising this leg of the tour and thanks to the Oracle ACE program for making this happen.



PS. When I get home I will write a wrap-up post to summarise the whole LA OTN Tour experience.

PPS. More photos here.

OTN Tour of Latin America: Honduras…

I mentioned the trip to Honduras at the end of my previous post. We landed in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with no dramas. A couple of guys from the University were there to meet us, which was a nice touch.

When getting foreign currency from an ATM, I would suggest you ignore anything Debra Lilley tells you to do. Her expert advice lead me to draw out the equivalent of $10 US, rather than the $100 US I planned to get. We couldn’t even pay for our food. 🙂

When we got to the hotel, the first thing I did was throw a whole bunch of clothes into the hotel laundry service. Paying someone to do my washing made me feel a bit like a class traitor, but my previous abortive attempts at drying wet clothes in my hotel room left me with little choice. Having your boxer shorts returned individually wrapped in cellophane bags is quite funny, but paying $57 US for the privilege is not. At least I don’t smell like wet dog anymore… 🙂

Apart from the washing service, Honduras seems to be a pretty cheap place from a UK/US tourist perspective. On the first evening we went out to eat at a local place, scouted out by Melanie Caffrey, which was really cool. The bill for the group (about 10 people), including drinks and a tip came to about $110 US.

The following day it was conference time. We were all shipped to the University in a minibus, where we settled in for the day (10:00-19:00). The audience was a little tricky, since it was predominantly IT students, who weren’t necessarily Oracle focussed. Thanks to the expert tuition of Joel Perez and Ronald Vargas, I was able to introduce myself in Spanish, which was a good ice breaker. You don’t want to know how much time they spent coaching Debra and I at dinner the night before. Joel came to my presentation and videoed my attempt at Spanish. When I get the URL I’ll post it here. 🙂

People were very shy about asking questions in front of the whole group, but after both presentations I got some 1-to-1 questions. It’s always nice when that happens.

The next day Debra, Sheeri and I took a whistle-stop tour of Tegucigalpa using a taxi. The driver only spoke Spanish, so it was up to Sheeri, our translator extraordinaire, to organize everything. It was a brief tour, but really enjoyable. Having a day off flying and presenting was a blessing. I was starting to feel like I was losing the plot, but I feel much better now.

You can see some photos from Honduras here.

Big thanks to Jonathan and the rest of the Honduras gang for looking after us and the speaker gift, and thanks to the Oracle ACE Director program for helping to make this happen.

In a couple of hours we will be flying to Costa Rica, which is the last stop before I return to Birmingham.



PS. Drivers in Honduras like to use their horns a lot. I think the horn must be pressed every 3 seconds or the car stalls… 🙂

Virtualization Presentation…

Last year I wrote a post about how I was being driven crazy by silly things people try to do with virtualization. That spawned the idea to do an “introduction to virtualization” style presentation.

When I posted my abstracts for the OTN Tour of Central America I accidentally included the abstract for this presentation. It wasn’t until I was already on the road and reading through a conference agenda that I noticed this and had one of those “oh sh*t!” moments. 🙂 Since I had already put down a bunch of ideas for the presentation, I decided to write it, rather than ask for a change to the agenda. I’ve now presented this session a few times…

Over the years I’ve had several discussions with other presenters about the content of slides and I’ve now come to the conclusion that I should have an article associated with each presentation I give, kinda like a whitepaper. This frees me from feeling like I have to cram my slides with too much information, but still leaves the attendees with something they can look back on later, that has a more consistent message than a few bullet points.

The article that goes with this virtualization presentation is now available here:

I’ve purposely tried to keep it very light and devoid of technical information or vendor-specific bias. It’s meant to be the kind of thing you can present to a newbie, or non-technical manager, to try and cut through some of the mysticism associated with virtualization.



OTN Tour of Latin America: Guatemala (Continued)…

We arrived in Guatemala at night, went straight to the airport and parked ourselves in the hotel bar for a few minutes before bed. Seeing armed guards in front of the hotel restaurant was more than a little unnerving. On one hand, having the guards should make you feel safer, but on the other hand, the fact they may be necessary is a little scary…

In the morning it was straight off to the conference. Things started off with keynotes by Tom Kyte and Graham Wood, then the room got split into three for the regular presentations. I was speaking in the first time slot and got a good turn out of people. My demos worked and everything went well. Next up was a filmed interview, then I went to the speaker room to try and play catch-up with my online stuff. From this mornings post you will see how well that went. I spent half of my time laughing. 🙂

Later on I went to Graham Wood’s talk on the problems associated with badly managed connection pools. If you get the chance to watch, it is well worth it. The live demonstration clearly shows how badly large numbers of physical connections affect database performance. Think 1-10 database connections per CPU core. Any more and you are probably setting yourself up for a world of hurt.

During my second session there was a technical hitch, causing the projector to cut out intermittantly. Fiddling with the projector ate away at my time, making it a struggle to finish without rushing.

The last session of the day was a keynote by Tom Kyte. I got my 15 seconds of fame when one of his slides was a screen grab of one of my blog posts. Believe it or not, amongst all the book and film reviews he managed to find a post where I was saying something that sounded resonably intelligent. Who’da thunk it?

In the evening we got taken out to dinner by the user group. I ate far too much melted cheese, which left me feeling full and very happy. I also drank two different bottles of local beer. For a non-drinker, this is becoming far too frequent on this tour. When in Guatemala, do as the Guatemalans…

Early the next day we all piled into taxis and headed to the airport. Spending two nights and a total of about 36 hours in Guatemala didn’t leave any time to look around, but the people were really friendly and I had a really great time.

We flew to Honduras on a small plane. One third of the passengers were on the ACE Tour. I did a head count. 🙂

On arrival I threw pretty much all my clothes into the hotel laundry service. I wanted to do it in Guatemala, but we were there for such a short time I got worried they might not get back to me before we had to leave.

Thanks to Carlos and everyone in Guatemala, the country of eternal spring, and to the ACE program for making this happen!



PS. Very few photos posted here.

OTN Tour of Latin America: Guatemala…

The Guatemala event is over. I will write a proper post about it on the plane tomorrow, but I just wanted to share three photos from the speakers room.

To set the scene, Graham Wood and Debra Lilley are on my left and Tom Kyte is on my right. Debra was describing something that happened earlier in the week and I just completely lost it. I was laughing so hard, tears were streaming down my face. These tours are tiring and really hard work, but they are also extremely good fun!



OTN Tour of Latin America: Trinidad & Tobago…

We arrived at Trinidad & Tobago in the evening and it was hot and humid. I decided to wash some clothes in the hotel room sink, which was a mistake. It was so humid that even after about 36 hours my clothes were still damp and smelled a bit like wet dog when I packed them. Asking around it sounds like Guatemala will be just as humid, so I might have to use a hotel laundry service to get my clothes clean. 🙂

The timetable was such that I really didn’t get to see anything of Trinidad & Tobago. The whole of the first day was taken up with the conference. It was a single track event, so every presentation was to the whole audience. I was the first speaker, so I did a quick poll of the audience and decided to switch from my intended presentation to a more general one, so as not to alienate all but 5 of the audience. 🙂

The previous events were using translation services, so I had been constantly trying to speak slower. Presenting to an English speaking audience should have made it easier, but I found myself rushing a little. You gotta laugh. I’m never satisfied. 🙂

When the event was over a few of us went next door to the Hyatt Hotel and sat on the terrace chatting for a couple of hours. I had a Hyatt Sunrise and a Toasted Almond Joy, both of which were very sweet and a little alcoholic. 🙂 Sheeri and I had agreed to present at a separate event the following day, so we were discussing the event with Loren (the organiser). When I heard the audience was made up of students I decided none of my presentations were suitable, so it was back to the hotel to write something new. I got most of the outline done before bed and (almost) finished it in the morning. I spoke to Debra Lilley at breakfast and she gave me a couple of ideas, which I added when I got to the event.

I like to rehearse my presentations a lot, so doing an on-the-fly presentation like this was pretty scary for me. I was really pleased with the way it went. I feel like it flowed well and the response from the audience was good. If anything, I feel like it went better than my presentation from the previous day. During the presentation I made some comments about documenting code and systems, so when I finished Loren asked if I could do a short presentation about documentation. I figured “in for a penny, in for a pound”, so while Sheeri was presenting I wrote some slides. As soon as Sheeri was finished I did a 20 minute spot on documentation. Two unplanned presentations in one day is about as much as my tiny brain could cope with. 🙂

Soon after our sessions were done, we got a taxi to the airport for our flights to Guatemala. The crammed timetable meant all I really saw of Trinidad & Tobago was:

  • The airport.
  • The Hilton hotel.
  • The government building hosting the two events.
  • The terrace of the Hyatt hotel.
  • The scenes on the two fridge magnets I bought at the airport.
  • A guy selling coconuts from a cart near a park (thanks to Debra for reminding me 🙂 ).

I’m not sure I can count this as a visit to the carribean. It’s a bit like saying you’ve been to a country when all you’ve done is a wait at an airport for a connecting flight. 🙂

The timetable for Guatamala suggests it’s going to be a similar story there. Such is life!

Thanks to Loren and the gang for organising the event and of course, thanks to the Oracle ACE program for making it all happen.



PS. I’m looking forward to getting some sleep. I’ve kinda forgotten what it’s like…

PPS. I don’t have many photos, but what I have are here.

OTN Tour of Latin America 2012: Quito, Ecuador…

Getting to Ecuador from Colombia was really quick and easy. I think the flight time from Cali was about 45 minutes. 🙂 We arrived late in the day, so it was bed and straight to the conference.

We had a little car trouble on the way to the venue, so we were a little late. Fortunately my laptop was ready to plug in and go, so that’s what I did. I think the translators got an easier time during this conference, because I got the speed of my presentations about right. Both talks went well and I got to speak to a lot of people between sessions. I also got to do an interview for the user group and a local computer magazine. I was famous for 15 seconds in Quito. 🙂

On the evening we went for a tour of Quito. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera, so I just have a few very bad shots from my phone. I’m sure you’ll see some great shots from other people on the tour though.

The following day we took a trip to see a volcano crater, a big market and the equator.

Being inside the crater of a volcano (even an extinct one) is a strange experience…

The trip to the equator was a real bonus. It’s odd to think how happy it made me to stand on this line.

I even got a bit over-excited and did a couple of tricks.

I’ve made some of the photos available, including some I “borrowed” from other people on the tour. 🙂

Once again, a very big thank you to Paola, the tour organisers and the ACED program for making this trip happen. Latin America is definitely a great place to visit!

In a few minutes I’m off to catch a flight to the next location. It would be really nice to get some sleep some time soon! 🙂



Update: I just found this video interview from this event. It makes me laugh. I’m trying so hard to speak slowly and clearly I can see myself straining, then visible relaxing at the end of each sentence. 🙂