Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day 2 at CTRE in the desert, mummys, drums, rafts and country and western

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.
Honour Board
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.
Nick D goodbye poster
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.
Lean Rimmes
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
Truck with attachments
Scottsdale old town
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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Full Day at the cool award trip in Arizona - Defying Limits

This first full day of CTRE after a night of relaxed reception last night started with an early breakfast, seemingly too early but what can you do!
We then had a 4 hour morning session. The main speaker was Frans Johansson author of the medici effect. A great presenter, I was sort of taking notes mentally in the delivery. His main point is that real ideas and innovation comes from diverse and apparently unrelated teams. Much of what he said was preaching to the converted. The theme being defying limits.
I already had by defacing my badge with my moo sticker.

Pimp my badge
Then we had SJP (the IBM chairman/CEO) pop along and give a more financial related pitch. It was a good one, he was as per usual relaxed and natural on stage. Threw in a good few jokes as well.
Next was all the new fellows, then some extra awards of 20-30k awards to people for cool things and patents.
It was a good sport to guess what them music they played for each award. e.g. telecoms people they played "hanging on the telephone" and automative "Cars" by Gary Newman.
Then it was the afternoon activities after a very very quick lunch.
For us a hummer ride in the Arizona desert.

We were on with a few other people, Daz, Andy Bravery and fellow metaverser Paul Moody.
This was very cool, mainly because our driver was from a race car driving family aswell as having some good tales to tell and being a very in control driver off road.
Tonight is off for a quiet meal, its our 13th wedding anniversary on this 13th of may. Seems to have been pretty lucky so far.
What has been cool has seeing so many faces and names I have heard of or interacted with in some way. IBM Fellows and VP's all over the place.
As with all these things there are people who really should be here too, but there are about 500 IBMers from the technical community here. Whilst this clearly is a jolly I hope that its something other people will see as a good thing, we get to swap ideas and put faces to names, spread the word and get more people aspiring to stuff like this.
The main message was to just do what we all do already, ignore the rubbish, the pointless processes etc. Just try things and it will pay off in the end. So I feel I am here with a load of slightly rogue operators, kindred spirits. Which is a good thing.

Of course the one thing that really annoyed me was that in the relaxing room they have some sweets and soda's etc.
However I was disappointed at this.

what! i asked you to take out the blue m&m's
Now on my rock and roll rider I specifically asked for the blue m&m's to be removed! dont they know who I am !

Monday, May 12, 2008

Arizona, yes I am here in Real Life

yes its me, originally uploaded by epredator.

I am on a work award trip at the moment. Its the fabulous Arizona Biltmore Spa and resort in Phoenix. This morning we went and had breakfast sat in the warm sun and took a walk around taking lots of photos I was just using my mini pentax camera, but wish I had brought a bigger camera to get those magical shots that I know are lurking.
The next few days are a mix of work gatherings, and some recreational activities. Sounds quite packed.