This week was a real roller-coaster of ups and downs… in more ways than one.
I have been attending Microsoft TechEd for the past five years, and this year’s conference brought me back to where it all began for me… Orlando, Florida. The Orange County Convention Center is not the worst of them – although in a building that size it can take even the best of us some time to get our bearings! The show was great, the people were great, and the information was incredible. I learned a lot, met some great folks, and do not regret for one minute coming down to the show.
Monday evening after the opening cocktails (which they always do on the show floor) I went back to one of the hotels and played poker with some friends and colleagues. It was a nice time, and I am glad I only had a salad despite the terribly unhealthy menu options available to me. It was probably the only night I was good with my diet.
Throughout Monday and Tuesday I was stressed because I was hosting a modest get-together for all Canadian attendees. Of course not all of them came, but it would have been easier to know just how many people were going to come. In the end we had nearly fifty people attend, and we all had a great time. We took over half of the sports bar in the Renaissance Hotel from 5:30 to 8:00, and talked technology, hockey, family, friends, and of course business. We compared stories; we talked about everything we could.
I made a toast to Graham Jones, a longtime user group leader from Vancouver, who when I first decided to start MITPro in Montreal was already a longtime veteran UG leader. Graham announced his retirement last month, and has hosted his last event. I was honoured to present at the penultimate event under his leadership, and thanked him for his long time service, and for honouring me with his friendship and wisdom.
After the Canadian party I headed out to the Microsoft Learning party at Howl at the Moon. It was a blast – I spent most of the time outside on the patio drinking and smoking cigars with a group of friends with whom I do not have the pleasure of seeing very often, but when we do get together we have a great time. Brian Blum, Carnegie Johnson and a few others (you know who you are ;)) started at the restaurant next door then made our way over the Howl… Great to see them all!
Wednesday was the Springboard (Windows Community) party, and I arrived in a foul mood. I just didn’t appreciate sitting on a bus for nearly an hour (as the driver got lost) then show up 45 minutes late. The lineup for the buffet was ridiculous, and after speaking with a few key people three of us decided to leave and head back to one of the MVP parties at D&B. It was smaller and a lot more fun, and without the hoity-toity ‘even at our invite-only party we are going to have a roped off VIP section’ of the previous one.
The one good thing about the Springboard Party, I should mention, is that I found out that Sean Kearney, a long-time dear friend, became a grandfather. He is only a few years older than I am, but some people start early. May Dimitri live to be 120!!
After the MVP party I went back to one of the hotel bars with a friend and talked until we realized it was 1am, and I made my way back to my own hotel – I had an early start to the next day!
Thursday evening was the closing party, and I nearly blew it off to go to Tampa. I am really glad that I didn’t, because Universal Studios Orlando is a lot of fun, and I hung out with Sean Kearney, David Trupkin, Skand Mittal, and Nikhil Balagopalan. Sean is an MVP, the others work with the Windows and MDOP teams at Microsoft. None of them were strangers. They even convinced me to go on a few of the rides (which I generally hate), starting with a Doom ride which took us hundreds of feet straight up then shook us like a ketchup bottle. I never understood the appeal. The Spiderman ride was incredibly cool though, with 3D effects that were absolutely amazing! The Pterodon ride in Jurassic Park was… well, a bit of a letdown. It was fun I guess, taking us on a winding course over the park. I skipped out on the other Jurassic Park ride because my knee was really bothering me, and I am not sure what from. When I say bothering me, I mean I was limping in agony. Weird.
We met up with a few other friends for the Harry Potter ride at Hogwarts, and had a great time in line with Erdal Ozkaya and his clan, as well as Ali Parker, Liz Bennett, and company. I was pissed when they told me I couldn’t do the ride – with all the weight I have lost, I guess I am still too fat for Hogwarts.
Possibly the best ride we did was the Dudley Doo-right water ride. We all got soaked, but it was a blast. The five of us in a log boat going up and down. WOOHOO! I love the water!
Today (Friday) I woke up to terrible news. Eriq Neale, a longtime Microsoft MVP, passed away. He has been battling cancer and we all knew it was going to happen, but that does not make waking up to the news a lot easier. I have known Eriq for years, and got on the phone immediately with a couple of other friends who I know are much closer with Eriq. Most of the people I would have called are still on the cruise following Jeff Middleton’s conference. I will speak with them all in the next few days. Rest in Peace Eriq. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife.
Erdal Ozkaya and his family picked me up from my hotel this morning and we went to Downtown Disney. It is an incredible place to be sure, and a license to print money for the Disney Corporation! We had lunch at T-Rex (an amazing experience!) where I was good and had a lightly glazed piece of salmon. We then went around some of the shops, and I bought Gilad a giant Mickey Mouse stuffed animal and Mickey ears with his name embroidered on the back. I love being able to make my kids happy… Gilad is still easier than Aaron – he sees Mickey, he’s happy.
I have work to do this afternoon, but tonight I am heading to Tampa with David Trupkin for dinner at the best steakhouse in North America – Bern’s. I have been salivating thinking about it for months, and it is tonight. We could only get a reservation for 10:30pm (which is ridiculously late!) but I’ll sleep on the plane in the morning… which has already been upgraded to Business Class on account of my knee.
All in all the social side of Orlando and TechEd have been great. I’ll talk about the technology stuff another time!