I’m at the Microsoft BI Conference in Seattle and thought it might be worthwhile trying to keep a blog of all the hot news at it unfolds. My record in this area isn’t great – I only managed part one of two parts when I tried to blog about the 3-peaks walk in 2007 so the chances of seeing another blog on this subject are about the same as seeing James Pipe in Houston in a strong wind.
My day started badly. At 0440 the phone rang. There are only two possible thoughts when the phone rings at that time. The first one is “where am I”, which lasts until the second ring. Then you switch to “who’s dead?”
I was actually due to get up anyway to get ready for an 0515 taxi to the airport. The phone showed “international” in the caller display so I ignored it, figuring it was someone trying to sell me something to enhance specific parts of my anatomy…but they did leave a message, which disturbingly, when I rang back was from KLM telling me that my flight from Manchester to Amsterdam had been cancelled and they’d reassigned me to a Delta flight leaving at lunch time with a one hour connection in JFK on the way to a 2200 arrival in Seattle.
Now, I don’t now if you’ve had the misfortune to try and make a short connection at JFK, but there are a lot of planets that have to come into alignment before you can get even close. Assuming your flight is actually on time and they get the luggage off in time you still have to get through customs without having to settle down for the usual three year encampment in a refugee village at the homeland security queue and make it through the terminal to your connecting flight.
Helpfully, the lady from KLM didn’t leave a contact number so I had to unpack my laptop, boot it up and scour their website for a useful looking number. By the time I’d got through the automated enquiry system, spoken to someone human and convinced them to move me onto a Leeds Bradford Flight which would still make my original connection in Amsterdam, my taxi was waiting outside and I had to run out into the street in the rain wearing only a pair of underpants find out if the driver could go to Leeds Bradford airport rather than Manchester. It was 0520 on a Sunday morning. Does this kind of stuff happen to anyone else or is it just me?
There is something quite demoralising about getting on a plane in a wet, grey, cold city; spending 14 hours crunched up in a seat at the back, then getting off in a wet, grey, cold city.
This is the first time I’d flown Northwest and I was in seat 38G – an aisle seat at least but so far towards the back that I had to cross an international date line to get to it. On top of that, or rather underneath it, there was some sort of metal box which must have been integral to the operation of the aircraft as I put a significant amount of effort into trying to move it, without success. The result was that I could stretch my right leg out into the aisle but my left was scrunched up underneath me. After six hours, pain had been replaced by numbness but when we landed after 10 and a half hours, I found that my left leg was 3 inches shorter than my right, which made the sprint to the homeland security refugee camp painful for me and disturbing for those I hobbled past.
Washington StateTrade & Convention Center doesn’t look to have changed much at all. I took a walk up there to register and to check out the welcome reception full of optimism since the brochure in my hotel room promised “millions of dollars worth of improvements”, and it’s been about five years since I was last here. Well, the T-shirt shop in the lobby is still there, looking like it would be more at home in Blackpool – who buys anything there? In fact nothing appeared to have changed at all including the army of elderly women that they get to police these events. These girls make Dad’s Army look like a bunch of pre-pubescent youths. I’m sure I actually recognised some of them from the last conference I was at here, but many of them seemed close to death 5 years ago. Perhaps they are actually undead and the only way to get a job with them is to sacrifice a DBA at every Microsoft conference that takes place there and drink his blood. Anyone missing any DBA’s?
Registration was easy and the welcome reception offered free beer which helps. The clientele were the usual set of uber-geeks huddled round in circles excitedly discussing technology. What was particularly disturbing on this occasion was that there were people there filming it. Has the world gone mad? Who in their right mind is going to watch a feature length documentary of overweight geeks chatting to each other about SQL Server? It would be some kind of snuff-movie-in-reverse whereby anyone unfortunate enough to watch it would be so bored that they would be unable to get out of their seat and eventually die as their neural functions shut down at the sheer horror of it all.
I avoided the cameras and made my way to the Microsoft store. It’s a bit like the T-Shirt shop downstairs in that I wonder who does their clothes shopping here to keep it going. Who wears Microsoft embroidered denim shirts? They break fashion rules in about 8 dimensions. If it’s you, please let me know, my brother-in-law is a doctor and he might be able to refer you to someone who can help.
I nearly fell over in the bookshop – there it was, glistening in a shiny white cover in front of me – I suspended disbelief for a moment to run my hand across its polished dust jacket. Wow. “Data Modelling for Developers”. It was an understandably short book and I resisted the urge to open it, satisfying myself that all it could possibly contain were a instructions on how to start SQL Server Management Studio, documentation of the CREATE TABLE script and an appendix picturing the developers’ top 100 all time favourite do-nuts.
I did consider buying Kimball’s book to tape to the sole of my left shoe to even up my leg-length but eventually decided against it on the grounds of cost. For the record, they were also displaying Inmon’s DW2.0 book – I would say “selling” but of course this is a Microsoft conference so the chances of anyone buying it is remote to say the least. Several people seemed to be displaying burns just from touching it.
Back in the welcome reception, the vampires were serving the food which appeared to have gone through Wonka-Vision on the way to the dining table. The combination of nibble-sized bites, small plates, free beer and the single long table stretched out in the middle of the room with the food groups repeated along its length was asking for trouble.
It took over 10,000 scientists from 100 countries, 25 years and 3.2 billion Euros for CERN to construct the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. They could have saved their money and come to this conference. As the Developers got the scent of food they moved in towards the table and filled up their plates – however being unable to get enough food to satisfy their hunger, they kept refilling as the next group of miniature Alaskan crab cakes came by, eventually looping back on the other side of the table for a second pass. As more Developers joined the procession, the loop had to speed up, giving each person had less time to select their favourite nibble, meaning they had to spend longer looping round the table at ever increasing velocities. It was fascinating for a while until the appearance of a group of hungry DBA’s inthe reception area making for the food table. I didn’t want to stick around when they joined the line – although it would have been nice to take the credit for the discovery of the Higgs boson, I didn’t want to be there if the collision caused the creation of a black hole, the explosion of a room full of overweight technologists and ultimately the end of the world.