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Prague, Czech Republic October 25, 2010

Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
3 comments

Although the seminar in Munich only had a relatively small attendance (12 in total), it was a great bunch and went off rather well (Martin Decker in this blog piece certainly seemed to enjoy it).

Next stop on my little whirlwind tour of Europe is Prague in the Czech Republic, where I’ve had two fantastic days exploring this wonderful city. I was going to suggest that Prague might just be the secret little gem of Europe but considering the hordes of tourists from all over the world packing the streets and squares, I’m not too sure it really is much of a secret anymore. I love the history that’s associated with so many European cities and Prague has just about as much rich history and amazing architecture as any other European city I’ve visited. Prague was lucky in that unlike many other European cities (Munich being a perfect example), it remained relatively unscathed following WW II and so many of its rich treasures are still here with us to enjoy today. There are just stunning buildings and streets to see everywhere in the city.

I’ve done nothing but walk and walk and walk among the lovely cobbled streets and pathways and taken so many photographs that it’ll take me hours to go through them all. I’ve seen so much that I barely know where to begin except perhaps to briefly outline my top 5 highlights:

1)  The Old Town Square that is on par as one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever visited. With its amazing Old Town Hall and Clock Tower on one side (climbing to the top of the tower is an absolute must for a perfect view of the city as is waiting for the clock bells to chime on the hour), with the hugely impressive Church of Our Lady before Tyn on the other side (the twin spires are just something else), with the imposing Church of St. Nicholas in another corner while the rest of the square is just surrounded by colourful and decorative buildings, it really is a special place. In the evening, all lit up, it takes on yet another dimension.

2) Charles Bridge with its cobbled street and wonderful historic statues along both sides, it’s fantastic towers on each end, its interesting markets and stalls and of course with its stunning views of the Vltara River and the city of Prague on both banks, is without a doubt one of the most wonderful bridges anywhere. I would have crossed it about 10 times in total and never once grew tired of it.

3) Nerudova Street in the Little Quarter of Prague is not only extremely scenic but it’s also absolutely chocka block full of interest with each building. It’s a bit of a climb as it winds its way up towards Prague Castle but it’s well worth the effort as the views are stunning and the buildings full of character. Many of them have an identification symbol above the door (such as a lamb, lobster, scales, etc) which were used to identify the house before street numbers were brought in. Lots of tourist shops, crafts stalls, restaurants to keep one occupied as well. At the base of the street is St. Nicholas Church, well worth a visit if only to see it’s incredible domed ceiling. One thing with Prague is that nothing is free and if you’re allowed within a church at all, there is usually a small charge. I certainly don’t have a problem with paying and helping with the upkeep of these magnificent buildings (you also get charged to use most public toilets, which with a few beers and chilly conditions, can soon become a very good investment as well !!).

4) Prague Castle is perhaps the most dominant feature in Prague as it looks down from the top of the hill onto the rest of the city but what a view it is. I do kinda feel sorry for the ceremonial military guards as they stand still and stoney faced while protecting the various castle entrances, with hordes of tourist pulling faces and trying to get their photo taken with them. I can only imagine the temptation to stick their bayonet up the arse of an annoying tourist must be difficult to control at times !! The castle itself has heaps of things to see but it’s the central St. Vitus’s Cathedral that is an absolute must see with parts dating all the way back to 1344 when work first began. It’s simply an architectural masterpiece in the Gothic style, with its flying buttresses and gargoyles on the outside and its beautiful vaulting, decorations, statues and stained-glassed windows on the inside. Best of all, Prague castle has a public toilet that many people miss and don’t know about !!

5) Hard Rock Cafe where they have a guitar signed by all the members of Radiohead. Perfect photo opportunity :)

Without any doubt, Prague is one of the most stunning and beautiful cities in all of Europe. If it ever was a secret, the secret is well and truly out now !! Tomorrow, it’s the start of my indexing seminar but I’ll certainly be paying the Old Town another visit before I leave Prague.

Munich, Germany (Mr Blue Sky) October 21, 2010

Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
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I’ve been lucky enough to have a spare day before presenting a seminar to explore the beautiful city of Munich here in not so sunny Germany. I’ve never been to Munich before and my previous knowledge of the city basically consisted of it having a pretty decent football team or two and the location where Jeff Lyne and ELO recorded a number of their better known albums.

Coming from Australia where even old episodes of Neighbours are treated as national treasures, the thing I love about Europe generally is the incredible sense of history lurking around every corner. Munich is no different although sadly much was lost and destroyed during WW II, however much has now been restored back to its previous glory. Coming from Australia, the thing about Europe I don’t like quite so much is the weather and it’s been a fun old day with driving monsoonal rain one minute and sunshine the next (although I must say the rainy minutes do seem to last a little longer than the sunny ones). There was even some hail and a touch of snow in the air as well.

The subway dropped me off at Marienplatz, the historic centre of Munich and the surround buildings are just fantastic. Perhaps most impressive of all is the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) with its chiming clock, which reminds me a little of the lovely buildings in The Grand Place in Brussels. Nearby is St. Peter’s Church and a climb to the top of the huge tower was the perfect way to see all of Munich and to get my bearings. Close by is the charming Old Town hall with its fantastic cone towers and also worth checking out are the neighbouring markets with its array of great foods and wines. I can only imagine what a nice place it must be during the summer months. I then headed down to the Isar River, passing the Isar Gates as for some weird reason I really like seeing water, be it a river, lake or ocean.

I then headed back to the centre and up north to check out the impressive Baroque Theatine Church (I also love checking out these amazing huge European churches). Really beautiful, especially inside with its incredible dome ceiling and engravings. Passing through the Hofgarden (Royal Garden), I had a good look the impressive National Theatre before spending some time out of the rain in the Munich Residence. Wow, the treasures at the Treasury are really something but the highlight for me was the splendor and sheer opulence of all the rooms and corridors of this previous home of the Wittelsbach dynasty. Hard to describe really except to say lots of gold, lots of lovely paintings and furniture and murals and more art. Really is worth a visit, especially the spectacular Antiquarium.

I then made my way west, first visiting the huge Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), perhaps one of Munich’s more famous buildings. Again, inside is something else with its German gothic art. Next I had a look at Burgersaal, the church made famous by Rupert Mayer before making it to the Karlsplatz. It’s was during a pee stop at the McDonald’s here where to my surprise, I discovered a wall full of David Bowie images dating back to his Scary Monsters period. The photo opportunity was not lost :) Speaking of music, I also popped into the Saturn store close by where I found a number of CDs I’ve been after, including ELO’s “Out of the Blue” which has been out of print for ages, but was actually originally recorded in Munich back in the mid 70′s. Must have been fate.

Finally, I headed south, passing through lovely cobbled streets and numerous quaint little buildings and shops and nearly missing the impressive Asamkirche (Asam Church) hidden away between the shops. It’s actually quite tiny but feels so much larger thanks to its dark shades and exquisite carvings, paintings and statues (perhaps too many skulls for my liking !!), although the dark weather may have added to the atmosphere. After reaching the Sendlinger Gates, I had reached the four corners of the Old Town of Munich, which wasn’t a bad effort for one day.

Dinner consisted of a few excellent German beers (I can only remember a Lowenbrau and a Franziskaner), a really nice meatloaf type something that’s meant to be a Bavarian speciality and an Apple strudel (of course). It was then a quick subway trip back to the hotel to write all this down before I forget it all and to get ready for the seminar tomorrow.

What can I say, it was a really full, fun, wet day but I feel as if I know Munich quite a bit better than I did before !!

Zurich and Paris: Nice Way To Spend A Week November 10, 2009

Posted by Richard Foote in Richard's Musings, Travel.
6 comments

I’ve just returned from a bit of whirlwind visit to Europe, teaching my Index Internals Seminar in two lovely cities, Zurich in Switzerland and Paris in France.

Coming from Australia, everything is relatively new with nearly anything over a 100 years old regarded as historically significant. I therefore love visiting European cities which are so rich in history and where you can walk past buildings regarded as “new” but actually built before Australia was even discovered by the Europeans.

I’ve been to Switzerland before but never to Zurich, so I was keen to spend my free day there doing what I enjoy doing best when visiting a city for the first time, just walking and exploring. I was really lucky in that the weather on my free day was next to perfect, clear and sunny, whereas it rained on all the other days I was in Switzerland.

I started my walk from the impressive “Zurich Hauptbahnhof” (Railway Station) which is actually a lovely old building in its own right. I then made my way down the picturesque Limmat, past wonderful buildings such as St. Peter’s Church with what is considered the largest clock face in Europe, Fraumunster Church which has some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I’ve ever seen, the huge 700-800 year old Grossmunster Cathedral and the elegant Opera House.

After walking around the shores of Zurich Lake for a while, I decided to take a cruise where I just sat on the top of the ferry-boat, soaking up the sun and all the amazing views, including the massive Alps looming on the horizon. Zurich Lake certainly puts Canberra’s own little Lake Burley Griffin to shame although I can cycle around Burley Griffin during my lunchtime, not sure I could do the same around Zurich Lake. I then just walked and walked throughout the “old town” district, exploring all the lovely old buildings with their bay windows and balconies and all the narrow alleyways, squares and little market places. I of course bought some Swiss chocolates for the folks back at home.

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As it grew dark, Zurich lit up and all the lovely old buildings shone with a new brilliance. The only incident I had of note was on the train back to the hotel, when the train inspector upon checking my ticket gave me a shocked look, full of disdain as I was inadvertently sitting in the first class carriage !! I was led like a naughty boy to where I belonged with all the other second class citizens. The seminar on the following days went really well with an excellent class of folk (pun of course fully intended).

Later in the week, I went to Paris to present my second seminar. Paris is a city I had previously visited, many years ago as the first destination of my honeymoon. So I had to be careful not to have too good a time, else there might be a few problems awaiting me back at home :) Again I was really fortunately, having a perfect sunny day on my free day while it rained on every other day of my visit. I decided to basically walk from the Eiffel Tower to Notre-Dame Cathedral while crossing every single bridge on the Seine in between. Paris is absolutely one of my favourite cities in the world, it’s such a unique and special place. The walk was fantastic (I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t done it), with just so much to see and enjoy along the way. And boy are there a lot of bridges (I think I counted 14 bridges along the way), but none as impressive as the grand Pont Alexandre III.

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Apart from seeing the Eiffel Tower at the start, I spent time at the charming Place de la Concorde, spent a few hours at the incredible d’Orsay Museum (incredible if you’re like me and love Impressionist Paintings by masters such as Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir), went past the one and only Louvre Museum and then onto Saint Louis Island and the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral where I spent some time just marvelling at the place.

I decided to walk all the way back, but this time exploring primarily the north bank with its shops, restaurants and sites such as Saint-Jacques Tower and Place Vendome. As it got dark, I finally made it up to the Avenue Des Champs Elysees and the famous Arc De Triomphe. To finish what was a fantastic day, I then walked all the way across back to where I had begun and the Eiffel Tower at night, so I could see it in all it’s lit-up glory and ambience, with its search beams circling the clear evening skies.

The only problem I had was being continually hassled again and again by people who kept saying I had just dropped a “golden ring” (I guess in the hope I would buy it as some sort of bargain). There must obviously be a good market for shower curtain rings in Paris …

The seminar was again great with a good crowd asking some really good questions. Everyone was very patient as I tried to not talk too fast for those whom English was a little rusty. For those that know me, talking slowly is not a skill that comes easily to me :)

I had a great time but thankfully, that’s all my travel over with for the forseeable future. Next year I will definitely reduce my travel commitments, spending much more time at home. Which of course also means perhaps spending more time on this blog as well :)

Malaysia and Tall Buildings September 7, 2009

Posted by Richard Foote in Richard's Musings, Travel.
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Canberra is not only the capital of Australia, a fact not particularly well known outside our shores, but it’s also one of the most fabulous cities in the world in which to live. This last fact is not particularly well known within Australia either ;)

It’s a beautiful, peaceful city that offers a wonderful standard of living, with generally lovely weather wrapped within four distinct seasons. Yes, the winters can be a little cool and the summers a touch warm, but having lived in Manchester, England for quite a number of years, the weather isn’t too far from perfect most of the year round.

Another “charm” with Canberra is that it isn’t a big city “Metropolis” with large crowds, big traffic problems and tall buildings. In fact, because of Canberra’s strict building restrictions,  the tallest actual building in Canberra is the somewhat unimpressive Lovett Tower, at just 26 stories and 93 metres in height.

When I visit a “big” city, I therefore get easily impressed by tall buildings and usually walk around staring upwards, walking into passersby and lightposts on a continual basis. I love New York for example and can spend the whole day just walking the streets, staring up at all the fantastic tall buildings.

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for the first time, presenting my Index Internals seminar. I only had a few days but I made sure I had time to walk around and have a good look at the very impressive and oh so tall Petronas Twin Towers. At an incredible 88 floors and at almost 453 metres, they’re the tallest twin towers in the world and were the tallest buildings until surpassed by the Taipei 101 in 2004.

 

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What’s so spectacular though is the skybridge that connects the two buildings on the 41 and 42 floors. It just seems to hang there suspended in the middle, with what looks like a few fragile legs holding the bridge in place. Although impressive during the day, the buildings seem to sparkle to life in the evenings as the buildings light up in spectacular fashion, like a pair of huge exotic Christmas trees.

I resisted the temptation however to actually go up the towers. Having been up the World Trade Centre in New York, I still get a little nervous about such things.

Shopaholics would also I’m sure be impressed by the 6 levels of shopping available in the massive Suria Shopping Centre, at the bottom of the Petronas Twin Towers. Fortunately, I already had all the David Bowie albums on offer and resisted the temptation to spend too much ;) I particularly loved this view of the towers from within the shopping centre:

 

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I had a great time during my brief visit, ate some “interesting” food and met some lovely folks during the seminar. Kuala Lumpur is well worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

Monterey and ODTUG Kaleidoscope 2009 Review June 30, 2009

Posted by Richard Foote in Kaleidoscope, Oracle ACE Director, Richard's Musings, Travel.
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I’ve just recently returned from a really enjoyable trip to the USA to attend an Oracle ACE Director briefing at Redwood Shores and the ODTUG Kaleidoscope Conference in Monterey, CA.

During the week, I had the opportunity to finally meet some of the other Oracle ACE Directors such as Tim Hall, Mark Rittman, Lucus Jellema, Lonneke Dikmans, Mike van Alst, Husnu Sensoy, Debra Lilley and Harshad Oak to name but a few. I also had a great time hanging out with fellow Aussies Chris Muir and Marcel Kratochvil, sharing many a beer and bottle of red wine. A highlight was sitting outside one balmy evening, drinking one of Marcel’s expensive reds with Chris and Tim Hall, whist discussing the bizzare topic of body hair !! During the week, it was announced Chris had been awarded the Oracle ACE Director of the Year, a much deserved honour and Marcel got the opportunity to spread his dislike of having Foreign Keys in the database to anyone who would (and would not) listen. 

I also got to meet the infamous Stanley as well. Life can be strange at times …

The ACE Director briefing was a very long day. I can’t say too much until tomorrow’s big Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g Global Launch

 

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How many Oracle ACE Directors do you recognise (and can you spot me) ;)

The ODTUG Kaleidoscope Conference was excellent, a really well run event, held in the lovely surroundings of the Hyatt Hotel complex in beautiful Monterey, California. As usual with these types of events, the quality of the presentations varied considerably. Some of the highlights included an excellent presentation by Bryn Llewellyn on “Doing SQL from PL/SQL: Best and Worst Practices” and some really interesting presentations by Toons Koppelaars on the importance of “Fat Databases: A layered Approach” and on “Semantic Query Optimization”. Lowlights included a truly awful, error riddled presentation by Burleson on so-called Oracle 11g SQL Tuning Secrets. I was warned beforehand, I should have known better and listened …

 

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Also had time to explore Monterey and check out some of its attractions. It’s a really scenic part of the world and it was great to escape the Canberra winter for a couple of weeks. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must visit, one of the most impressive I’ve ever visited and I’ve seen quite a few around the world. The Kelp Forest display with its school of Sardines was just superb as were the jelly fish tanks. 

 

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Fisherman’s Wharf was worth checking out with it’s old wooden buildings as was Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck. However, probably the highlight for me was the Whale watching cruise where I along with Chris, Marcel and Debra Lilley were all lucky enough to see two Humpback Whales. What an incredible experience, although I almost (but not quite) nearly saw my breakfast again in the choppy conditions. The smell of the Humpback whale’s plume (something akin to a mixture of rotting broccoli and rotting fish) had me gagging again but I managed to just hang on. If you ever get the chance, do it, but pick a mild calm day if possible.

Finally, I also had the very great pleasure in meeting members of the hard working OTN team responsible for administrating the Oracle ACE program (Justin Kestelyn : follow link for photos, Todd Trichler, Vikki Lira and Lillian Buziak). Thanks guys for all your wonderful work and support in organising such a wonderful event for all the Oracle ACEes.

 

Back to the CBO and indexes in the next few days.

Sunshine Coast Queensland (Good Day Sunshine) February 5, 2009

Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
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Just recently returned from two glorious, relaxing, sun soaked weeks in the paradise that is Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

We often go to the Gold Coast but decided this year to stay at Mooloolaba instead, about an hour’s drive north of Brisbane on the quieter Sunshine Coast. As you can see from the photo, the views from the hotel were fantastic.

Two weeks with no work, no Oracle, no laptop, no phone, no cooking and no TV (except the Australian Open tennis).

Two weeks of swimming and sun-baking by the pool, body surfing and walks along the beach (where the water temperature as a very nice 26 C), fishing, cocktails, eating out at fantastic restaurants each evening, cold beers on the balcony, reading (Roger Moore’s biography “My Word Is My Bond” and Peter F. Hamilton’s “The Naked God“) exploring Steve Erwin’s Australia Zoo and the famous Glasshouse Mountains, more cold beers on the balcony and of course sleeping in each morning !!

 

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OK, so it may not have been the biggest of fish :)

We were very lucky with the weather, with lots of sun (of course), only the occasional afternoon storm and with mild temperatures in the late 20s, early 30s Celsius while back home and in much of Australia, temperatures were a somewhat uncomfortable 40 degrees plus during much of our stay.

If you’ve never been before and want to visit a truely beautiful part of the world, I would highly recommend checking out the Sunshine Coast.

I was really getting used to it all but now it’s back to work, cooking, 38 C days and what to write next on the blog :(

The European Cannon Is Here (Station To Station) November 25, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
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I’ve recently returned from a very full on, action-packed 3 week tour of Europe (although it took an additional 36 hours for my luggage to return as well).

After traveling for 30 hours, I finally arrived at my first destination, Helsinki to present at the Finland Oracle User Group Conference. Taken out to dinner that evening by the charming Heli Helskyaho for a Lapland feast that included Smoked Reindeer, Bear Meat Balls and plenty of strong Finnish liqueur in my own personal Kuksa Cup. I recovered in time to present at the conference the next day in the wonderful “Mirror Room” at the Kamp Hotel, definitely the most impressive venue I’ve ever presented at. Feedback after the presentation suggested it was well received and I had the pleasure of attending the fabulous Finland User Group anniversary dinner afterwards.

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I was then off to Denmark to attend the Miracle 8th Anniversary Party. A big thank-you to Mogens and Annette for their hospitality, supply of Miracle Beer and a loooonnnng, entertaining party.

Next stop Brussels, for the first of my Index Internals Seminar. But first, I had the opportunity to explore this beautiful city with its narrow cobbled streets and historic buildings. The Grand Place was just stunning, definitely one of the most beautiful man-made places to visit. I just stood there for an hour or so just soaking in all the history. Went to see the Manneken Pis of course and just had a great time walking around and looking at all the wonderful old buildings. The seminar went really well although sadly the venue itself was definitely the worst I’ve come across, a small training room stuffed with far too many people, looking at the presentation via too few monitors with the worst coffee imaginable on offer (yes coffee is important).

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Unfortunately, the cold European weather and far too little sleep due to jet lag was catching up with me and by the time I left Brussels to return to Helsinki for the next seminar, I had a really bad cold and high fever to contend with. I woke up the first morning on the seminar in Helsinki feeling like death warmed up and all I wanted to do was stay curled up in bed. However, duty called and I managed to drag myself to the seminar venue. It was a much more appropriate venue, a large presentation room with a big screen display and quite decent coffee on offer (most important). Managed to get through the seminar successfully even though my voice just about disappeared by the end. After a few hot saunas each evening, I began to feel well enough to explore the city of Helsinki and do a little early Christmas shopping.

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Next stop, Dusseldorf in Germany. Here the seminar venue was at the same hotel where I was staying so it made life nice and easy. Had a free day to explore the old part of town and had a great time just walking around checking out Dusseldorf. Highlights included walking along the Rhine, going up the Seattle like Dusseldorf Rhine Tower for some great views of the city, down along the picturesque Konigsallee moat and through the charming Marktplatz. The seminar itself went really well with the 40+ attendees having a good time in the plush surroundings of the Linder Congress hotel. In a first, taught the last session whist drinking a German beer in hand, a gift from one of the attendees !!

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Final destination was Turkey and the amazing city of Istanbul. Will never forget the taxi ride to the hotel, with a sea of buildings, wave after wave, on hill after hill as far as the eye can see, with various Mosque towers sprinkled throughout. It’s probably the most crowded city I’ve ever visited, with a population of about 1/2 that of all of Australia. The seminar was again held at a really nice venue with it’s own facility to order your own custom coffee (hey like I said, it’s important !!). The attendees were again a real nice bunch and a big thank-you to Tonguc Yilmaz who showed me around town and took me for a lovely traditional Turkish dinner and a fabulous, strong strong Turkish coffee.

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After nearly 3 weeks on the road, it was great to finally see lovely Sydney harbour through the window of the plane and returned home to sunny Canberra. Perhaps next time, I might even be lucky enough to arrive at the same time as my luggage !!

A big thank-you to all the 100+ attendees who managed to get to one of the seminars and made them such a success, will eventually get to all your emails I promise !!

Seattle (Smells Like Teen Spirit) August 1, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
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A couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of presenting at the OracleDays 2008 Conference as organised by the Puget Sound Oracle User Group and so visited the beautiful city of Seattle for the first time.  Unfortunately, my body clock takes a while to get re-adjusted and I literally spent most of my time “Sleepless In Seattle” however I had a great time regardless.

July is just the perfect time to visit with the weather nothing but superb with lots of sun and the temperatures in the mid to high 20s Celsius. Not a drop of rain in sight (I’m beginning to forget what rain looks like). I’m an Australian and I still managed to get a touch of sunburn during my visit !!

Seattle is a very scenic city, with the waters of Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound providing a lovely setting. However it was the impressive presence of Mount Rainier on the horizon that kept taking my attention. At 4,392m, it’s just about 2 times as high as Australia mainland’s highest mountain so looking at 2 Kosciusko mountains on top each other was just an awesome sight. I just loved the little clouds that were forever hovering over it.

During free time, I tried to fit as much tourist activities as I could cram in. Naturally, I had to visit the Space Needle, the futuristic looking tower that features so prominently on the Seattle skyline. Built for the 1962 World Fair, it’s a great way to see the lovely views of Seattle and the surrounding area

As a music lover, I popped in afterwards into the nearby Experience Music Project (EMP), a celebration of American popular music which has lots of really interesting things to see. Jimi Hendrix, one of the inspirations for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, is heavily featured with a great collection of Hendrix memorabilia and documentaries. The “tower” of guitars is something to see as is the building itself, which from various angles looks like some kind of huge alien arse. Yes, I have a warped view on things …

I also strongly recommend a cruise of the harbour for a different view of the city, either via a ride on a state ferry or one of the many cruise ships. I hopped on board an Argosy Cruise for an hour cruise with commentary of the harbour and enjoyed the sun, a nice beer and the beautiful views from the top deck.

The waterfront offers lots of things to do. The “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop” is worth a visit, full of weird and wacky things including shrunken human skulls. For a great lunch, I highly recommend Elliot’s Oyster House Seafood restaurant for a great selection of, you guessed it, oysters. I love US salads and I had a great house salad (and beer of course) here.

The Seattle Aquarium is certainly well worth a visit. Lot’s to see and do although for me seeing the largest octopus I’ve ever seen was certainly the highlight. Lots of tanks with lots fish, many unique to that part of the world. The huge underwater dome was really impressive with all sorts of amazing fish swimming all round (and over) you. The Sea Otters were damn cute as well !!

Another must do in Seattle is the famous “Underground Tour” where you get yet another unique view of the city, this time from one floor below the current level of the city. Seattle has an amazing history, originally built using the plentiful wood materials on what was basically swamplands, the city was rebuild after the great fire of 1889 finally using (fire-proof) bricks and a full level higher to help solve all the drainage issues. Raising an entire city to be a floor higher is an amazing feat and the underground tour gives an entertaining view of what life used to be like in Seattle 100 or so years ago.

If you love books and bookshops as much as I do, then the Elliot Bay Book Shop is a must. Located in the older Pioneer Square area of town, it’s a rare book shop that has both character and of course lots and lots of great books. My excess luggage costs increased significantly due directly to my visit !! For example, it’s not often I find a book on David Bowie I don’t already own (I have over 50).

In all, Seattle is well worth a visit if you get the chance, although after speaking to many of the locals, summer when Seattle is at its “rainless” best, is certainly the time to go.

Many many thanks go to Daniel and Helen for being such fantastic hosts.

Time For A Catch Up … July 23, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Music, Travel.
6 comments

Well, it’s certainly been a hectic time these past few weeks so I thought it might be time to catch up on a few things.

I’ve just returned from attending and presenting at the Oracle Days 2008 Conference held by the Puget Sound Oracle User Group in Seattle, USA (well Bellevue actually). I had a great time, met some really nice people, caught up with a few old faces and generally had a ball. The conference had some great presentations and deserved a much better turn out although I suspect the beautiful weather made many people consider outdoor activities. My presentations were well attended and received great feedback so I was really pleased with my personal contributions. I would strongly recommend people check out this event when it’s held again next year. Thanks to Daniel Morgan and the gang for looking after me so incredibly well and to Tom Kyte for teaching me the difference between a torch and a flashlight !!

The results are in for the Oracle Mix nominated presentations for this year’s Oracle OpenWorld and my Indexing Secrets presentation has been selected, finally coming in at Number 7. I’m still not sure I can get to OpenWorld this year as finances are somewhat tight at the moment but fingers crossed, I can somehow get myself across the Pacific Ocean again this year and do this presentation for those of you attending. Still working on that one, here’s hoping …

Enrollments for my Index Internals Seminar “Australian Tour” in September are going well. Currently I’m featured on the Australian Oracle University home page so that dreadful photo can now be seen all over the place. There are still places available but don’t leave it too late …

David Bowie has released probably one of his finest concerts on CD this week, David Bowie Live Santa Monica ’72:

I remember when I first bought this concert featuring David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust during his first US tour in 1972 on a bootleg many many years ago. I loved it then and I love it now with some great packaging and a nice clean sound. David Bowie at his absolute best !! Been listening to it ever since I got back from the US.

Finally, a big thank you to all those who made comments and suggestions for the blog moving forward. Will definitely try and incorporate as many of them as I can in the coming weeks, months, years :)

OT: Stockholm and Utrecht June 17, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
18 comments

 

I’ve just recently returned from a very hectic but enjoyable visit to Sweden and The Netherlands to do some training for Oracle University. I had two great classes and met a whole bunch of really nice people so a big thank you to all who attended and made me feel so welcome.

Stockholm is a really beautiful city that reminds me somewhat of Sydney with it’s magnificent harbour. However, as with most cities in Europe, it’s the history and amazing architecture of the place that made it a real joy to simply walk around and explore. The highlight for me though was visiting the Vasa Museum and seeing first hand the incredibly well preserved wreak of the massive but doomed Vasa, which sank in the harbour on it’s maiden voyage in 1628. Hidden for centuries, it was only rediscovered in the 1950′s and can now be seen in almost all her glory at the museum. Amazing. The highlight for the Swedes during my visit was no doubt beating Greece in Euro 2008 and it was fun being in the crowd and watching the match on a large outdoor screen.

 

 

Utrecht in the Netherlands was another lovely city to visit. You know the place has some history when the so-called “New” canal was built in the 1400s. Being Australian, anything older than a hundred years is deemed antique here so I soak up history whenever I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity. With it’s narrow cobbled streets and picturesque canals, it was another great place to simply walk around and enjoy. Being a keen cyclist, this was certainly my kind of town with people on bikes just everywhere and interestingly, I saw very few overweight locals. I must have that lucky touch as during my visit, the Dutch beat France 4-1 in Euro 2008. If any country is interested, there’s still time for my services if required, although perhaps not so for the host countries.

Will get back to writing about indexes and the such once my body stops wanting to sleep by midday …

OT: Darwin – Australian Northern Territory March 5, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
4 comments

Just returned last night from a brief work related visit to the city of Darwin, Capital of the Australian Northern Territory.

For those of you that don’t know Australia very well, Darwin is located in the middle of the very top end of Australia. It basically has two types of weather, hot and wet or hot and dry. Sometimes it might be hot and a little overcast and sometimes it’s hot and slightly windy. But always hot.

In fact a big news item while I was up there was someone had built a chimney on their house. Now this may not sound particularly news worthy but it’s actually believed to be the only house in Darwin with a chimney !! Another major story was a somewhat famous woman who had previously survived a rather vicious Crocodile attack a few years ago had just been killed by a poisonous snake. Yes, the local wildlife can be a bit of an issue up there in Darwin …

I actually really like the place. It’s nice and relaxed and people generally have a very easy and friendly attitude. But the heat man. I went for an hour run one evening and I would have lost about 5kgs in sweat, easy. No wonder Darwin is regarded as the beer drinking capital of the world, with an average beer consumption of some 230 litres per person. Another reason I like the place ;)

I managed to grab a free hour to feed the fish at Doctor’s Gully. Basically all these wild fish turn up at high tide and get a free hand feed. Milkfish, Mullet, Bream, Catfish, Cod, Mangrove Jack, Rays, you name it, all turn up in massive numbers and just eat out of your hand. No, you’re not allow to catch them !!

I had dinner at the Char Restaurant on my last night there, where I basically had the nicest, most perfect steak, ever. I would visit Darwin just to eat there again. Highly recommended.

If any Oracle DBA out there is looking for a change of scenery, I was told that Darwin is really short of quality Oracle DBAs at the moment. I believe the pay may not be the best but the fishing is great !! If anyone is interested (must be an Aussie I’m afraid), drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with someone.

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