Tuesday, April 06, 1999

Thunder Down Under

Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

G'day mates! I just got back from a trip to the land "down under", and let me tell you - there are some extremely excited FileMaker folks there.

Before I get to the details - let me apologize for the length of time that has elapsed since my last column. Between my newly minted Oracle skills and a whirlwind travel schedule, I allowed outside distractions (like keeping the lights on!) distract me from updating this homespun rant. I pledge to keep the updates coming on a more timely schedule in the future.

As I was saying, my wife, Brenda, and I just completed a two week adventure to the lovely land down under. After an extremely trying plane trip (3 movies, 4 sitcoms, 2 meals, 3 snacks and 14 hours) we arrived (at MIDNIGHT) to find out that the hotel was not expecting us for another three days. In typical Aussie customer service-driven fashion they leaped tall building in a single bound to accommodate us. We were granted a room with a hot shower (a GOD SEND) and a comfortable bed (chocolate mints on the pillows).

After sleeping a whopping five hours, my wife and I awoke to the full moon splendor of Darling Harbour (yes, I know - but that's how THEY spell it!). We walked out of the plush hotel (Park Plaza) across the street to the newly remodeled harbor boardwalk for a preliminary look-see. We were greeted by over 150 young people exiting a nightclub (quite sober - drinking WATER) at 6:00am and we instantly fell in love with the beautiful, tranquil city of Sydney. We walked around for about an hour, then had an "interesting" breakfast at a local eatery. When we asked for coffee, we were assaulted (in a nice way) by the dozens of choices ("short black, tall black, short white, capuccino, capuccino with milk, etc., etc., etc.). Being the Aussie "newbie", I asked for "just plain coffee". I received a nice steaming mug of... well... mud. I mean this coffee could strip paint! Normally a black coffee drinker, I doused my beverage in fresh cream and sugar (in neato pixie-stick-like packaging), and even then I was bouncing off the walls.

Being the consummate "tourista" we proceeded to the Sydney opera house, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the trendy boutique neighborhood "The Rocks", finally settling at the FABULOUS bay side restaurant "The Oyster Bar." We enjoyed a Lobster Salad (I mean fresh-off-the-boat 1/2 a Lobster and some salad) with an exquisite bottle of Australian white wine, a beer, coffee and dessert (about $50US), returned to the hotel and crashed.

We were met my by our most gracious FMI representative (Steve McManus) at the airport at 6:15 am and were on the plane to Melbourne at 7:00am. We arrived in Melbourne and were whisked away via hired car (a taxi with no sign on top) to our hotel (the All Seasons Premier Grand Hotel). I put my bags down, and caught another taxi to a customer meeting (with our friends at "Customers for Life" in Cantebury). From there it was back to the hotel for a quick in-room rehearsal and then off to the Melbourne FSA meeting at yet another BEAUTIFUL hotel in downtown Melbourne (the Rockmans Regency Hotel).

WOW. What a meeting! Let me tell you - these FSA members were dressed for success. FMI provided pre dinner cocktails (VERY nice touch!) in the hotel lobby bar and the INCREDIBLE PR team from Kinetics Pty Ltd (THANK YOU Jody Lennon and Matina "don't call me Matilda" Mrakovcic) set up our computers and arranged all the last-minute details that combined to make the evening a terrific success. There were over 30 hard-core FMP developers in attendance and we all had a very nice time.

After the meeting it was back into a taxi, back to the hotel (around midnight), and up the next morning for two FileMaker Inc Conferences at the Melbourne Convention Center. As I awoke at 5:30am in preparation for a 7:00 am rehearsal, I was met in the lobby by the tireless Steve McManus as well as the ever-ready Aussie Webmaster Steve McDonnell. These guys were FRESH and READY to go. I mean, my gosh, you would think they had 10 hours sleep...

We did two seminars in Melbourne - one at 9:00am, and one at 2:00pm. I was only one tiny part of the team - there were four presenters in all. I talked about ODBC connectivity (using my G3 PowerBook I imported data from an Oracle 8 Enterprise database and Excel to create a mail merge letter, and showed some graphic tips and tricks), I was followed by Steve McDonnell who showed off FileMaker to Web connectivity (using Instant Publishing and HomePage 3.0 - truly an INSPIRING DEMO!), followed by a "tea" break (coffee, tea, and cookies... ummm... I mean "biscuits"), then the trainer extrodinare Ardsley McNeilly and the talented CD-to-FMP team from Debrany's in Singapore.

After returning to the hotel at 7:00pm we took a taxi to the airport for the 8:15pm flight back to Sydney. Wednesday night I did a seminar at the Apple Headquarters in Sydney along with the presentation team - and fell into bed at 10:00pm on Wednesday night. I was at the Powerhouse Museum at 8:15am (I was supposed to be there at 7:00am but I had a BAD sore throat and head cold) only to find out that the AV completely screwed up (couldn't project the computers to the screen). Thanks to Jodi Lennon and her team from Kinetics Pty Ltd (AGAIN!) they had a cab waiting to get a projector from a local dealer (along with a technician) and got us back on track - all before the 9:00am deadline.

After a rip-roaring two seminar sessions (ending at 5:30pm), we got in yet another taxi, and went to yet another beautiful hotel (the Park Hyatt Hotel) for the Sydney FSA meeting. These folks are FIRED UP about FileMaker! I met a lot of fun, interesting, and TALENTED developers who were (and are) true FileMaker fanatics. We had a wonderful pre-meeting cocktail hour, followed by yet another great presentation by Jodi Lennon and Steve McManus. Then it was my turn.

In typical style, I was a bit BRASH (I know, it's hard to believe), but I hope the presentation was relevant. Many thanks to Bob, Charmaine, and Patrick of BCP Distribution (the outfit that fulfills all the FileMaker orders in the Pacific Rim) - you were all incredibly good sports and I thank you for the great conversation and your incredible hospitality. At the end of my Robin Williams inspired diatribe, Steve McManus was kind enough to present me with an EXTREMELY COOL FileMaker watch. Needless to say, I was AGAIN completely blown away by the kindness, hospitality, and excitement from both my hosts and the FSA members. After a quick nightcap at the Marriott bar next door it was back to the hotel and a good night's sleep.

The next day (Friday), I wasn't feeling my best, but Brenda and I "managed" to have a great lunch at a local pub (don't order a burger with "the lot" or they'll put an EGG on your burger!!) and then explored a local casino. Las Vegas - look out! This air-conditioned mecca (which is why we even bothered in the first place) is very much like Las Vegas - except you have to pay for drinks (even when gambling) and the slot machines (called "Pokies") are DIFFICULT to figure out (even for a programmer!) - we had a great time. Brenda even won $350 AU! Cool!

From there, we were the guests of Steve McManus (and family - including dog "Buddy") and I was fortunate enough to be part of the crew for the final yacht race of the season (Steve is a HUGE sailing fan). WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! Two minutes of hell (when we "tacked" into the wind, or put up the big "kite" sail) and ten to fifteen minutes of heaven (sailing between the course pylons).We came in 4th (out of 32 boats) and FIRST in Steve's club - which was good enough to earn him the club championship! Boy, what a FANTASTIC experience!

As soon as we got back to the dock, Steve and I jumped into the car and met our wives at the "Footies" (Football or "Rugby" as my Aussie friends refer to it). Now, I must tell you - this is a no-holds-barred ballroom BRAWL! This makes the NFL look like a game for WOMEN. Basically - you get 6 "downs" and there are NO TIMEOUTS or breaks. Once you get tackled (and I mean TACKLED! - there was literally blood flowing from heads, knees, lips and arms!) you immediately pass the ball to a team mate and they then get their asses kicked, and so on and so on. What we call a "touchdown" is not as easy. You have to PLANT the ball in the endzone - no plant, no "TRY" (touchdown). WOW.

The beers were COLD and the pies (like Swanson Pot Pies - just no tins) were HOT, and the action was great. The only wrinkle was that the entire event was sponsored by Pepsi - and in typical YANK fashion - they overdid the sponsorship bit (i.e the sky divers at half time and the Pepsi cheerleaders with painted-on uniforms and a Pepsi logo on their asses...).

On Sunday we went on a "Bushwalk".. and I thought it would be a nice nature walk of a mile or so... but NO! It was a LONG walk (took 4 1/2 hours!!) and I was bushed. On Monday morning Brenda and I flew to Coolangatta (an hour north of Sydney) on the Gold Coast of Australia. Steve and his wife (name concealed to protect the innocent) graciously lent their timeshare condo to Brenda and I for the week. WOW!! Now I can't tell you the exact place we stayed (I'm under strict non-disclosure for fear that everyone in the WORLD would mob the place), but I CAN tell you that the bay we overlooked was FABULOUS. The water was 78 degrees and crystal clear. The surf was 4 to 5 feet and was excellent. I can also report that the food, surf, wine, local beers and Steve's EXTREMELY tolerant and FUN friends were without question the HIGHLIGHTS of the trip.

In conclusion, if you haven't been - GO TO AUSTRALIA - it's lovely! To my new mates down under - good onya and thanks for a fair dinkum time!

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