I started by journey to Birmingham by leaving work at 1130 and getting to the airport in time to have a quiet lunch with my wife before going through security. It’s a short flight to Birmingham, about 1.5 hours, uneventful. The plan was to meet up with Heather Sullivan from Idera about 3 pm and talk shop while waiting on Allen Kinsel to arrive about 5:30. Flights out of Houston seemed to all run late, Heather arriving about 4 pm, and Allen targeting 8 pm. The speaker dinner was scheduled for 6 pm so we left, leaving Allen to find his own way into town – sorry Allen!
It’s maybe a 30 minute drive to the hotel and the dinner was just down the street. Most days. On this particular Friday it was a 2 hour drive. It turned out that tractor-trailer was blocking most 2 lanes about a half mile from the hotel. Move one car length, stop. Repeat. For most of 2 hours. Not fun. No obvious alternate routes and it looked like they were full as well.
Off to the speaker dinner at Petrocelli’s, about 20 or 25 there, nice leisurely meal and discussion including a bit on Hadoop! I think I arrived about 6:30 pm, left about 10 pm.
Couple thoughts on the trip in general. One is that Birmingham is just a nice area to visit. Rolling hills, trees, grass. The drive on the interstate is mercifully free of billboards. It’s just relaxing. The other is that I stayed at the Hyatt Place (second time at this one in Birmingham) and it’s a good concept for me. The rooms are large,large plasma TV (unused on this trip),and they have a small bar/lounge/breakfast area that is less like a bar and more like a living room. Good place to meet and talk, and they have 24 hour service.
Saturday we left for the event about 7:30, maybe 3-4 mile drive. It’s held at Jefferson State College, also a beautiful facility, and as close to perfect as you can get for a SQLSaturday. Good parking, large and configurable rooms, good traffic flow, good placement of sponsors. Check-in was easy, and Allen & I camped out at the PASS table.
“PASS table” sounds good, but really what we had was some small brochures and some pens. No sign, no table throw. The brochures include a note about “exclusive social media tools”, a sad reference to the finally dead PASSPort project. The challenge of staffing the table is that usually all the local volunteers are running the event, and often there is no table. In this case we were there, but it wasn’t very effective. I should have asked for more stuff, but I tend to focus on the trip and the presentation. Definitely work to do there.
The morning was spent with Allen & I at the PASS table, mixed in with me stepping over to the Idera table a few times when it was busy to help stamp cards and say hello. Lunch was Jason’s Deli – just hard to beat, and after lunch I did two presentations, the first on statistics and the second on professional development plans. Both went ok, but the PD session always engages people, and I had a number of follow up conversations about the content. Good to deliver something that people find useful, that changes how they see a problem.
After lunch was more networking and discussion with Geoff Hiten and Aaron Nelson, and many more as they wandered by. About 3:30 we drove up the street for some iced tea, then back to talk some more and write up notes, finishing the day around 6 pm with the end of day raffle – lots of prizes.
The after party was ok. Local bar/restaurant, but it was hot and the service was slow. The talk was good though, and we stayed until about 8:30, going back to the hotel to resume work, then John Baldwin (the SQLSat event leader) joined us and we talked about SQL and community and work until close to midnight. Long day, but a good one.
I’m writing this at the airport as I wait on the flight. It was a good trip. The Birmingham team does a great job and always makes me feel welcome. It was also the first time at an event as an Idera ACE, and that went well too. I’ll write more about that separately as there are a few interesting parts to that.