This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

IOUG-A Live! 2005 - Day Two, evening

Tuesday evening consisted of a lot of hitting. Hitting the wall of exhaustion. Hitting the last session. Hitting the beer at the party. Hitting on the cute waitress. Being hit by her burly waiter boyfriend. Okay, the last two didn’t happen (a fact which I stress because my wife is always the first to read these essays).

When we last left off, I was about to head off to the last session of Tuesday, “New Oracle Features for Developers” delivered by TUSC’s Tony Catalano. Say what you will about TUSC (and don’t think I didn’t hear what you were saying about them, when you thought no one was listening), they do good presentations, and this was no exception. I had seen this particular presentation before, but as we at my company have upgraded to version 10g since the last time, the whole thing has taken on a much more practical, much less theoretical feel to it. Plus, in a world of DBAs, it was very nice to be in a session dedicated to my kind, the developers, those who actually WORK for a living. I mean, let’s face it, the DBAs may set up and manage the database, but if we didn’t fill it, it’d be pretty useless. (Don’t mind me. I’m surrounded by THEM. It’s hard not to get a little insecure and lash out.)

Oh, and I won a TUSC t-shirt, an achievement at an Oracle User Conference comparable to breathing in a lungful of air and saying I “won” some oxygen. I mean, I appreciate the shirt and all, but really, I can’t remember going to an Oracle conference (and I’ve been to quite a few) where I didn’t come home with quite a few new t-shirts, and there’s always a TUSC shirt in the bunch. Then again, if they read this one, I can pretty much guarantee that NEXT year, I’ll be the one conference attendee who goes home without one.

Following Tony’s presentation, it was time to head upstairs to the main conference hall for drinks, more fried greasy (but oh so yummy!) appetizers, then dinner. Little mushroom quiches, some kind of deep fried chicken ‘n’ cheese balls, and I think there were one or two other munchies as well, but those two were my downfall. By the time they seated us for dinner, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going to put it, fat tummy or no. I stood around conversing with Paul and Pradeep, the developer and DBA from my company who had attended with me this year, asking how (as first timers) they were enjoying the conference. I mention this only so that you’ll know who “we” is throughout the rest of this essay (as though this were some burning oversight which, if not mentioned, would ruin your enjoyment of the rest of the piece).

While seated at the table waiting politely(*) for dinner to be served, Stan Yellott walked up behind me, a fairly startling occurrence. Stan is never a small man, but when he’s standing just behind you and you are seated, he’s positively monstrous. I recall slurring out some drunken joke about the last time I’d stood underneath something which towered above me so, a few days later someone crashed a plane into it.

(*I heard that snicker from those of you who know me. I can be polite. I just choose not to be.)

Dinner consisted of salad, rolls, wine, more wine, and finally a plate of highly out-of-focus food. It was delicious, but the cooks at the Swan and Dolphin simply must work on their presentation. Two of everything, sort of weaving around with each other, not a bit of it distinct or in focus. However, to the best of my recollection, the plate contained a piece of beef tenderloin with gravy, a piece of chicken, two carrot sticks (which I ate) and two asparagus spears (which I did not) and a small pile of mashed potatoes. Other than the asparagus (which I regard as a cruel joke played upon humans by our creator) it was all delicious, once I could corral it to the corner of my plate and make it stop swirling, so I could get a fork into it.

The whole meal was topped off by a dessert that I’m not sure how to describe. You’ve read enough about my big gut to get a sense that I rarely turn down something to eat, particularly something sweet, but this was not to my liking at all. It seemed to be a sort of super-light cheesecake with strawberry sauce. Not to insult the chefs, but you have to understand, I grew up in the New York City area, and to me, if cheesecake isn’t heavy enough to plug a hole in your car tire in an emergency, it’s simply not cheesecake. Cheesecake should harden your arteries merely by being in the same county. It should require at least two large bakers to lift out of the oven. There should be a very real risk that if you were to insult the wrong person, you might find your feet encased in one, as you are thrown into the river.

This cheesecake on the other hand felt like something you might use to stucco your ceiling if you never outgrew the 70s disco era. This was the Styrofoam of cheesecake. The balsa wood. The helium balloon. For the first time ever in my life, I said “No” to dessert. It was a strange feeling. Perhaps this is what self control feels like.

Dinner completed, it was time to head over to Disney’s Pleasure Island. I was a little bit nervous about writing this section of the essay, because of course it’s well known that what goes on at Pleasure Island STAYS at Pleasure Island. But then I remembered that that’s not THIS Pleasure Island but a club in Manhattan that… well, of course I’ve never been to, but, um, this friend of mine went, and he told me about it.

So anyway, over to Pleasure Island we went and, in typical IOUG-A Live! fashion, it began to rain just as we left the convention center, got progressively harder the entire time we were at PI, and then tapered off as we were walking to the car, having decided to give up for the night, stopping completely by the time we reached our hotel room. I don’t know why the IOUG insists on forgetting to order the NICE weather for outside parties. This was a lot of fun, but really, how much could it cost to slip the weather man a few bucks to have it be nice out?

Regardless, the attraction of Pleasure Island is largely night clubs. There’s an R&B dance club, a 70s disco dance club (bring your stucco dessert!), a contemporary dance club, a “rock ‘n’ roll beach club” and a top-40 dance club. If you’ve never been out dancing, there are two things these clubs have in common, the dancing and an ambient volume high enough to be detected on other planets. I don’t know if you’ve read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, but I’m fairly sure Disaster Area was playing in one of the clubs.

I am not a dance person. I was not blessed with natural grace and dexterity in the sense that I’ve been known to trip over medium pile carpeting. This left me with two main options for my Pleasure Island experience. The Comedy Warehouse (an improv comedy club) and the Adventurer’s Club, described by someone at the Comedy Warehouse as “more wacky and zany”. The Comedy Warehouse was fun (we attended two shows), although it suffered from the same problems most regular improv shows do: It felt like the improv was merely a surface thing over a very structured standard show. Kind of like if I were to bake a cake from a box mix, then throw a couple of strawberries on the top and claim that it was “my own recipe”. (Have you noticed that most of my analogies are food related? Does this really surprise anyone?) Nevertheless, the strawberries didn’t come with this particular show, and they did make it tasty, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

In between the two improv shows we went to the Adventurer’s Club, which was more scripted, but sort of a show which takes place in the audience. Ostensibly, you’re being shown around this exclusive club, introduced to all of the secret handshakes, and then made a member of the club. Since the players were interacting with the audience (rather than up on a stage) there was certainly an improvisational aspect to it, and on the whole I enjoyed it quite a lot, although frankly I was surprised at the level of sexual innuendo, this being Disney and all. Perhaps, as my co-workers were trying to tell me, I really WAS the only one asked to surrender his personal bits for the duration of his stay.

In the end, Paul, Pradeep and I had a pretty good time, finally making our way back to our hotel rooms to a late bedtime. And as they have just (as I wrote that last sentence) knocked on my door asking if I’d like to join them for breakfast, that’s it for this installment.

Tomorrow (actually later today): Day three. Yet more sessions, more information and the conclusion of the conference… all with the objective eyes only way too much beer and partying the night before bring to a day.

Copyright © May 3, 2005 by Liam Johnson.


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