TechEd 2010 wrapup

Executive summary: man, it felt good to be back home. Not literally, of course; I grew up in Houma, which is very unlike New Orleans in most ways, and I haven’t lived in Louisiana for more than 20 years. Though I’ve never lived in New Orleans, I’ve visited it many times and in many different circumstances: going to my dad’s office in the CBD, honeymooning there with my wife, working frantically to finish sessions at MGB when I was first starting 3Sharp, and playing the tourist when going to visit family. The goodness came from being surrounded by the familiar sense of community and place that I think everyone has to some degree, and having that familiarity complemented by the company of some of my very best friends.

I arrived on Monday afternoon. At around 4pm, it was 95° and solid overcast, with probably 80% humidity. In other words, it was a typical June afternoon. After a quick cab ride from the airport, I dropped off my stuff at the Courtyard by Marriott on St Charles Avenue. By happy coincidence, this was right across the street from the Pearl, a restaurant where I ate lunch with my dad pretty much every time I went to visit his office. I picked this hotel because it was inexpensive and because Marriott is running a great promotion, but I was delighted to see such a memorable (to me, anyway) landmark right off the bat. (The hotel was excellent, by the way: clean, comfortable, safe, and convenient.)

I took a few minutes to drop off my stuff, then walked over to the convention center to register and get my TechEd badge. It was a pleasant walk despite the heat and humidity, and once I got registered I spent a few minutes walking around the show floor, where I met up with a gaggle of Windows IT Pro Magazine folks. After a brisk walk back to the hotel, I cleaned up a bit before walking over to Brennan’s Palace Café for dinner.

As you might expect from a restaurant run by a member of the Brennan family, the food was superb. I had an excellent piece of pecan-crusted redfish, a bit of crabmeat cheesecake, and some excellent BBQ shrimp. The crowning touch: bananas Foster, something I hadn’t had in years. The only drawback was that service was, shall we say, leisurely– we sat down about 8pm and didn’t finish dessert until about 11:30! I was sorry that dinner took so long, as there was a separate Exchange Roundtable event that I also wanted to attend.

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Tuesday morning I’d set up a group breakfast at Café Beignet on Royal, just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Several Exchange MVPs and assorted other folks showed up; I finally got to meet Jeff Guillet and Tino Donderwinkel in person. Then it was time to walk over to the MVP NDA sessions organized by our most excellent MVP team. While I can’t talk about the specifics of the sessions, I can say that there are some pretty nifty things coming later this year from the Exchange and Communications Server teams– and I’m not just talking about the things they’ve already announced. (Fascinating thing I learned during lunch: dell.com is powered by SharePoint!)

For dinner, I joined fellow MVPs Jason Sherry and Pat Richard at Coop’s Place, right near Central Grocery (another favorite spot of mine). I’d never been there before, but I’ll be there again. The gumbo was OK, but the red beans, rice, and sausage I had was outstanding! I ate until I couldn’t eat any more. Fortunately, that coincided with my plate being empty.

We then walked over to the Aquarium of the Americas for the “community influencer” party. Don’t get me wrong. I love aquariums, and I really love this particular aquarium. However, it was odd being there without the huge crowds I associate with places like this and this. The community-influencer parties are always a bit of a crap shoot because you never know exactly who will show up; I spotted a few other folks I knew but didn’t stay long. Instead I went back to the hotel, wrote my UPDATE column, and watch the hated Lakers beat the Celtics in game 3.

Wednesday, my final day, dawned early; I met Jim McBee for breakfast and we… wait for it… went to an actual TechEd session. I won’t say which one, except that I was very disappointed with it. The speaker wasn’t a very good presenter, his demos didn’t work, he finished more than 30 minutes early, and the part of the presentation that I stayed for was pretty much recycled from the Exchange documentation. Rather than subject ourselves to any further risk of stupidification, we took off for the National World War II Museum.

Wow. I could have spent all day there. We started with Beyond All Boundaries, a movie summarizing World War II in 48 minutes. It moved me to tears several times, not just because of the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought for the Allies but for the needless waste, death, and destruction suffered by civilians on both sides. I never knew that nearly 20 million Chinese died during World War II, nor that the UK suffered more deaths than the US did (and proportionately their losses compared to ours were even greater). We didn’t have time to go through the entire museum because Jim and I both had other engagements, but I will make it a point to go back next time I’m in New Orleans.

In the afternoon, I shot two video interviews with Paul Thurrott: one on Windows Phone 7 and one on Exchange 2010 and Communications Server “14”. This was especially cool because– despite having worked together at Windows IT Pro for years— we’d never met in the flesh. The interviews were fun to do, and I’ll post a link to them once the video folks are done with them.

After that, the trip home was pretty much anti-climactic (except that my cab got buzzed by an F-15 on full burner when we drove past the end of the active runway). Just the way I like it! Tomorrow it’s back to work.

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