The second full day at the Arizona Biltmore was even more packed than yesterday. Up at the crack of dawn, well 7:30am and off to breakfast.
The morning session was hosted by Nick Donofrio, who is retiring this year. This being his last CTRE was something of an emotional time as he has been quite an influence on many of the technical great and good in the company. So this was the start of a goodbye from Nick, though as he pointed out he is not really going anywhere.
We then had two guest speakers. The first was Dr Zahi Hawass. He is the "real life Indiana Jones" from Egypt. He has a fantastic passion and enthusiasm for archeaolgy and history. He presented a set of photos, but in fact it was his delivery and story telling that captivated the audience. I have seen him a good few times on TV including the live events in the valley of the kings. He explained some great pieces of detective work from both traditional methods and blending with CAT scanners and a DNA lab he now has.
It was interesting to hear a person with a passion for something for so long speak about it. It was also interesting the semi relunctant fame, but loving it really, that he alluded to. Clearly he is a public figure with some mad internet true stories about secret tunnels leading from his office bathroom to the great pyramids where they say he hides finds for later.
Our second speaker and performer was Angelique Kidjo. As a multiple grammy award winning musical perfomer of "world music" she and her band did a fantastic set with a mixture of songs and of monologue from Kidjo about her life and her wish to make good thigns happen for her native country of Benin and for the african continent. She even got a room full of IBMers singing along with her. She is very hard to ignore and as a UN ambassador she is clearly having the influence she wants. Her foundation Batonga is the focus of much of this passion, mainly to improve Africa through the education of women.
After that rousing start to the morning we all headed out for lunch and then to the afternoon activites.
We headed out on a inflatable raft drifting down the salt river
It was pretty relaxing really, we say all sorts of wildlife (as we were the first raft down in raft number 13). Horses, Bald Eagles and some locals having a swim.
On coming back from the trip we sat and drink beer in the sun with Andy, Kath and Daz hearing tales of their trip.
Then it was off to put on the suit and tie for the gala evening. In the massive ballroom we all had allocated tables and an allocated exec. The warm up act was a guy doing some brilliant musical impressions, singing all the parts of we are the world. He was very very good. I really like impressionist acts, but I think everyone enjoyed it.
Then was the slighlty more official bye bye to Nick. He was presented with a poster of him running, but done as a photo mosaic of all the attendee photos. We were on the table next doo to Nick's right at the front and you could tell he really was moved by it all. It also meant I got atleast to chake his hand and thank him for his influence on me and us all. Its cool we are all going to be hanging on his wall somewhere watching on.
The evening then kicked off big time (after a fantastic meal of scallops, beef and baked alaska + wine) when the guest act turned up. Lean Rimes came on stage and did a fantastic set. I am not a massive country and western fan, though I have heard a lot of it. she is atleast a bit more contempary. Though any live music of this sort if bound to be good. I know we really enjoyed this gig.
A good night was had by all, we returned to the room to find we had a pewter photo frame in the style of Frank Lloyd-Wrights work at the Bilmore hotel.
The next day was departure day, but before the 10 hour overnight flight back we went out and about with Andy and Kath to Scottsdale's old town. On the way we saw a very unusual ornament on the back of a truck
We got home ok, though jet lag coming back is never pleasant. I did get a chance to both write this, uplaid some photos to flickr the full set is here if you are interested
I also put a load of video together of the Hummer tour from the previous post. It includes at around 1 min 44 the snake wrangling.