Connect 2017: The Really Good

February 28, 2017

[Note: I was going to create one post on Connect 2017, but have decided it would be better to break it into sections. This is Part One.]

This was the first year I have attended Connect that I did not attend any sessions that dealt with IBM Notes and IBM Domino. Well, other than the forced sessions, such as the Opening General Session and the Technical Session. It’s not that I don’t want to know what’s coming, it’s that in my current role, I am focusing primarily on IBM Connections. So, if you were expecting something from me on IBM Notes and IBM Domino, this is not the place.

But, I will say this: Last year my team upgraded our Domino 8.5.3 environment to Domino 9.0.1 Social Edition, removed 95% of the IBM Notes clients in the environment by moving users to iNotes, and the remaining 5% of the clients are running IBM Notes 9. Applications? What can be moved to other platforms is nearly complete. What wasn’t moved in the first phase, will be moved, probably this year. Unlike a lot of places, we are using IBM Domino for (strictly) mail. And it’s all on-premises.

That said, I was very impressed with Connect 2017 as a person with an IBM Connections focus.

The Really Good:

  • Catching up with my friends in the IBM stack. This is arguably one of of the few conferences where I can see and talk with most of the people I consider “friend” in this space. Because it is the one large, international conference for all things IBM Notes/Domino, Sametime, Connections, and so on, it will attract the most people from around the world. Regardless of the name or location, they will be at this event. This year, it did not disappoint in this regard. Most of the people were here and it was a great week to talk to them in person.
  • If you haven’t, or don’t, travel internationally, this is the place to talk to your non-USA friends about world views. Sure, it’s a technology conference, however since I have known a lot of these people for quite some time, I do not hesitate to ask about Brexit, the current political climate in their home countries, or in the USA. It is a great way to experience the world from other perspectives. And as I respect them and their views, it broadens my view of the USA and the world.
  • There was a plethora of Connections sessions from which to choose. In fact, on Wednesday, I was double and triple booked during certain time slots. This caused me a lot of stress. Too many sessions, too little time. And no repeats.
  • Wednesday was the best day of the week. Many of the Customer Stories were presented on this day and they were excellent. There is nothing like seeing how other people overcame obstacles, integrated other business applications into Connections, on boarded new Connections users, and increased adoption, to get your enthusiasm to increase. There was furious note taking happening. Also, I introduced myself to several speakers, hoping to parlay the introduction into a more informative conversation in the next several months.
  • Also on Wednesday, there was an onslaught of Connections Pink sessions (see point #1, above). It helped that I was privy to a special meeting with Jason Gary, so I was able to miss several of those sessions, as I heard everything I hoped to hear, directly from him.
  • The Product Showcase was primarily focused on IBM Connections Business Partners and IBM Connections 3rd party applications and extensions. It was perfectly suited to someone like me. After working with Connections for several years, it’s nice to go into the Product Showcase knowing exactly what you want to learn more about as it pertains to your installation and culture. I think I was an “easy sell” to several vendors.
  • While there was a lot of walking within Moscone Center, it was primarily confined to the second floor.
  • The Opening General Session was a nice mix of customer stories, demos, music, and more. It seemed to flow very nicely from one thing to the next. I know that many were ecstatic that IBM Notes and IBM Domino were mentioned, especially concerning IBM’s continued support of the platform. For the nuts and bolts of that support, you had to attend several sessions dedicated to the roadmaps. I was missing from those sessions.
  • The featured speaker, Dr. Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing, was an excellent choice. Appearing toward the end of the of Opening General Session, she wove what we had seen and heard, specifically Watson, Watson Workspace, and cognitive, into our current lives and choices. It was enthralling.
  • The Technical Keynote, hosted by Ed Brill, was just what we needed to see and hear. Chris Crummey led the demonstrations and, as expected, did an exceptional job using “real world” examples using real people and real situations, not some made up company with made up problems.
  • The Closing General Session, as usual, recapped the week. However, as is IBM’s custom, their featured speaker, Eric  Whitacre, a classical music composer, was outstanding. Ever since I witnessed Benjamin Zander in Orlando, I absolutely love music themed Closing General Sessions. I suppose it reminds me what I already know, I need to see more orchestras. While I love rock (the harder and more angry, the better), it is classical music that affects me emotionally. I think we all should seek out art that affects the emotions. Eric’s story was spectacular. But, as the session closed, there was no announcement of Connect 2018. No dates, no location. What 2018 will bring for this conference seems to be . . . unknown.

Wednesday was “Pink Day” at Connect, and in response to that, here is a photo of Jason Gary for your enjoyment or amusement:

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I think that Jason must use the same bespoke tailor as Mat Newman.


Seven Years Later, Another Graduation

January 22, 2017

Graduation day, 20 January 2017, Kilo Company and Oscar Company. This is, IMHO, the greatest graduation ceremony I have ever witnessed. And I’ve seen it twice.

Every time I think about it, I get something in my eyes. Strange.

Graduation takes place on Peatross Parade Deck, one of the largest parade decks I’ve ever seen. Graduation begins with the Parris Island Marine Corps band entering. Then, the Parade Adjunct marks the right flank of the formation and the two graduating companies enter the deck, marching in unison, platoon flags waving in the breeze. It is an incredible sight.

usmc-graduation_paradedeck

I hope that this panorama of the parade deck, with 599 men and women that are the United States Marine Corps newest members, helps you see just how large the parade deck is.

It was during the Commanding Officers Remarks that something got in my eyes. He’s talking about honor, courage, and commitment. Then he says, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine,” and asks for all Marines in attendance to stand and be recognized. Up goes Number One Son. I’m working on getting “dust” out of my eyes.

I had to laugh to myself after thinking about this. Every other graduation ceremony you might attend wants to honor all veterans in attendance. Not here. They only want to honor Marines. Sorry, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Army veterans.

After the Remarks, the Marines pass in review, which is another spectacular sight.

Then, they retire the guidons, present awards to the high shooters and high scorers in combined personal fitness, the band plays the Marines’ Hymn, and then there is the Final Dismissal.

Now, another rush to greet the new Marines, take more photos, and meet some of friends he’s made during the 13 weeks of boot camp.

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 Number One Son with his cousin, his new brother.

After congratulating him, it was time to head back north. But first, a special stop. What Number One Son called “a tradition.”

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To all, this looks like just another Wendy’s. To my family, this is the Wendy’s where we stopped with Number One Son, after his graduation and he had his first civilian meal in 13 weeks. It’s at Highway 17 and I-95 in Jasper, SC. To quote my blog post from 2010:

On the way home, we stopped at Wendy’s for lunch, with our Marine. What did he eat?

  • A Triple Baconator, small fry, and a Mr. Pibb.
  • Sweet and Spicy Asian Boneless Wings, small fry, and a lemonade.
  • Coffee Toffee Twisted Frosty

Quite an amazing sight.

This time, it was just a Double Baconator, medium fry, and a soda.

My mother now has all of her grandchildren in uniform: two Marines, a soldier, and a (auxiliary) policeman. I think that is simply amazing and I am extremely proud of them all. Although, as I said back in 2010, “proud” is a word that doesn’t seem to appropriately describe how I feel about them.

I cannot say that I will not return to MCRD Parris Island for a third visit. Of course, it will be with Number One Son in tow. And, hopefully, with Number Two Son. Our family now has a proud tradition of men in uniform after a generation without any.

By the way, graduation ceremonies at MCRD Parris Island are open to the public. If you ever find yourself in the area, please take the time to witness a graduation ceremony. Here are all of the dates for 2017. It will only take you a few hours of your time (depending on whether you also decide to see some of the sights on the base). As I keep telling you, it is truly the best graduation ceremony you will ever witness. Honest.

Semper Fi!

Link:

Number One Son: Marine


Seven Years Later, A Return to MCRD Parris Island

January 22, 2017

Nearly seven years ago, I traveled to Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, SC, for Number One Son’s graduation from boot camp and into the US Marine Corps. Neither he nor I ever thought that we would return.

But we did. Here is what I shared with you seven years ago.

This time, it was for my nephew’s graduation. An interesting tidbit; he graduated from the same recruit battalion and platoon as Number One Son.

19 January, we arrived at MCRD Parris Island for Family Day. The festivities started at the (civilian) God awful time of 7AM for the recruit’s motivational run. This is pretty much just a show for the families, and is a fairly short run, by USMC standards. But it is the first opportunity to see your recruit, even if it is a fleeting moment. At about 9:30AM, we all gather in the All Weather Training Facility. It is here that we watch a film which condenses 13 weeks of training into about 20 minutes. Then, after an interminable wait (remember, the military hardly ever starts anything on time), the recruits enter the facility where we are introduced to the Drill Instructors, reminded of Family Day rules, and on-base liberty begins.

Chaos reigns while family and recruits seek each other out in the massive crowd where laughing, crying, and hugging is everywhere you look.

Our recruit now takes us on a tour of MCRD. First stop, his barracks. His brand new barracks.

usmc-familyday-newbarracks

Kind of looks like a college dormitory, doesn’t it? Let’s take a look inside.

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Looks like pretty much every “dorm” you’ve seen, right? Neat and tidy, everything in its place.

They even have showers, sinks, toilets and urinals in their “dorm.” And when they are standing at the urinals, they are reminded to check their stream to make sure that they are drinking enough water with this handy chart:

usmc-hydration

 

Number One Son and I took a good look around the barracks, as this is not the same one that housed him during his time at MCRD. We made a mental note to find his old barracks.

After the visit to the barracks, we headed to Marine Corps Exchange, which has everything a Marine needs (insignia, clothes, boots, and so on) and everything visitors need (souvenirs, beer, alcohol, gifts, food, and so on). Number One Son picked up some Challenge Coins and I bought a new license plate frame.

Number One Son and I remembered that his old barracks was behind the Marine Corps Exchange, so we went looking for it while the others walked to the Visitors Center, as lunch was being delivered to us.

We found his old barracks:

usmc-oldbarracks

And his old parade deck:

usmc-oldparadedeck

Number One Son was not happy. “Do you know how much time I spent on that parade deck? Now look at it.” He was, IMHO, really upset. I suppose the equivalent would be discovering that your childhood home had been torn down.

On our way to meet up with the rest of the family, we talked with an Army veteran that is working in a civilian role on MCRD. He and Number One Son had a really nice chat about where they’d been, what they’d done. I think that the little conversation lifted Number One Son’s spirits. Plus, for me, it was extremely cool to listen to two vets talk about their experiences.

After an excellent lunch (thanks Laurie), it was time for a few pictures.

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A new Marine and an alumni (say hello to Number One Son).

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And one of just the new Marine, my nephew:

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More touring of MCRD followed, before the Marine had to report to the parade deck to practice their graduation ceremony.

usmc-familyday6

The sand pit. This is where “Individual Training (IT)” takes place. From what Number One Son told me, you don’t want to be in the pit. I trust his judgement. It’s also the only place where the Drill Instructors cannot touch you. But even with that limitation, recruits do feel their wrath.

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The Yellow Footprints. When the new recruits disembark from the bus, in the dead of the night, they are required to stand on a set of footprints. This begins their welcome into the Marine Corps.

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New recruits. Notice the high visibility belts they are wearing. That immediately signals to all that these men have just arrived at MCRD. And, according to Number One Son, signals to all to keep an eye on them during the first week at MCRD, as this is when they are most apt to have issues.

Next time, graduation and fast food.

 

 


Breakfast with Monkey

January 17, 2017

I forgot to add one other anecdote concerning the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, which culminated on Day Five.

Throughout the adventure, Monkey was with me. In fact, most of the pictures I took, Monkey was in them. Like this one:

whitefish_1

I think it was during a meal break, probably Day Three, when my co-adventurers wanted to know why Monkey gets to look at all of the sights but never gets to eat.

It was a good question. I think the answer is “I forget to bring him into the restaurant.”

Day Five, we’ve just loaded up the bikes for the ride home. A quick look at Google Maps pointed me to a local breakfast restaurant (it was very good, a bit pricey, but very good). After we arrived, I remembered that Monkey could use breakfast, too. After all, he’d been with us the entire time and had yet to eat.

I brought Monkey into the restaurant and propped him up on the table with us.

As the waitress was taking our orders, I jokingly ordered an orange juice for our stuffed friend.

It wasn’t taken as joke.

breakfast_monkey

And it wasn’t free, either.

Which was fine, because our little mascot was very thirsty!

I wonder if he can order off of the “Children’s Menu?”


Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Five

January 13, 2017

Here it is, the last day on the tour. We aren’t exactly happy when we mount up in the morning, knowing that this will be the last day we ride on the Circle Tour. After five days, and talking about just saying “Eff it, let’s keep riding,” we head south and east. Not a lot of things to report, as it is all highway as we head home.

Day Five:

day5

See? All highway. While we were rocking the Ohio Turnpike at 70+ mph, it was still awful boring. Thanks to my bluetooth headset, at least I have some music to lessen the boredom.

Total miles: 337

After switching the bike off, one last picture to remind me of the trip:

odometer

Five days seems like a lot, but trust me, the trip was too short. We decided that in 2017, we are going back to the Upper Peninsula. This time, since we’ve ridden some amazing roads on the way to the UP, we’re going to ride I-75 north, to minimize travel time, and spend more time exploring the east, central, and western parts of the UP. Perhaps make Newberry, MI, the base town for exploration of the central and eastern areas. Then, find a town in the western part, and explore that area. There’s so much to see and do, this seems to be the best method to properly ride the UP.

What We Learned:

  1. Gas stations, and towns, are few and far between. Be smart, gas up when the opportunity arises. Or, even smarter, map out the gas stations along your route.
  2. The Upper Peninsula has spectacular sights and vistas. Once you’re here, you’ll want to spend more time exploring than you’ve budgeted. A return trip is most certainly in your future plans.
  3. To go with the gas stations point, above, there are long distances between the places you want to visit. I hope you have a comfortable saddle. If not, spend the money. Your ass will thank you. Also, you may want to do some longer trips to prepare yourself.
  4. Gas stations are few and far between.
  5. Just because your GPS or Google Maps tells you that there is a town just up the road, there may not be a gas station. Small towns are norm in the UP.
  6. Don’t count on your GPS, Google Maps, or having cellular coverage in all areas of the UP. Bring an actual map with you.
  7. Everyone we met, with the exception of a few (Newberry hotel operator, customers in a bar in Iron Mountain) were gracious and happy to talk to us, happy to provide directions, and very happy to recommend dining options. You’ll make some new friends in the UP.
  8. If you’re looking for souvenirs, like patches, pins, and stickers, the small stores that you see along your route is where you’ll find them. As a bonus, you’ll be supporting local businesses. And, the staff is used to seeing and interacting with bikers.
  9. The SS Badger is an excellent, relaxing way to avoid Chicago traffic. Remember to bring your tie downs. And since it is a part of US 10, it “could” count into your mileage. We didn’t count it, but you could. 🙂
  10. We averaged 377 miles a day.
  11. Gasoline averaged $2.48/gallon.

endofearth

Links:

Lake Michigan Circle Tour – No Reservations and Day One

Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Two

Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Three

Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Four

Bonus Link:

As it happens, RoadRunner magazine has an article on riding the Upper Peninsula. Take a look for more professional photographs (no monkeys) and text.

RoadRunner Magazine – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: Northern Exposure


Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Four

January 13, 2017

The sadness begins, as we know that we are heading home, the Upper Peninsula already a (great) memory. We now have a destination that does not wait for those that are tardy, a ferry crossing of Lake Michigan, so that we do not have to ride through Chicago and all that entails when you are on two wheels.

Day Four:

day4

As you can see from the route, it isn’t all that spectacular. However, we did make one memorable stop, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI.

lambeau1

lambeau2

Monkey does the “Lambeau Leap.” I laugh every time I watch this video.

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Monkey found himself a girlfriend.

A quick look at the time and all shenanigans ceased; we have a ferry to catch. Off to Manitowoc, WI, for the boat ride across Lake Michigan.

The SS Badger

This is a proper ferry, not like the ones that take you to Kelleys Island or Put-in-Bay.

We made it with about 40 minutes to spare. Motorcycles park in a special queue, as they will be among the first to get on the ship. Do not forget your tie downs, they do not supply them for you. After securing our bikes, we had 4-1/2 hours to eat, explore the ship, and simply relax before it arrives in Ludington, MI. The ship is actually a part of Route 10, which is really cool.  Also, it’s a 72 mile ride across the lake. Much like cruise ships, this one has a cafeteria, a movie theater, a cruise director (who runs the games and other entertainment), and, if you want an upgrade, private cabins. We opted to find our comfort where ever we could (cheaper). Not quite to midway, we all agreed that while this was a wonderful method of travel, we would’ve preferred to be on our bikes. Basically, it meant “nap time.”

ssbadger1

 

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Where I had to go to get this picture, it nearly cost me getting the bike on the ship. Much to the amusement of my biker “friends.”

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CJ relaxes on deck.

Once we off loaded in Ludington, we headed south for our last overnight stay in Michigan, in Muskegon. Once we unloaded our bikes, we went in search of dinner. As it happened, this was the first meal we would have at a chain restaurant. All of our other meals were eaten at local establishments. Without my knowledge and much to my chagrin, Doug told our waitress that it was my birthday. After finishing our meals, here comes the waitress, dragging what is best described as a saddle mounted to a saw horse. They coerced me into sitting on the damn thing, placed a cowboy hat on my head, announced to the restaurant that it was my birthday, and proceeded to regale me with the “Happy Birthday Song.” Much to my “friend’s” delight and amusement, I was totally embarrassed.

And that’s another reason why I travel with bourbon in my luggage.

Total miles: 261

 


Lake Michigan Circle Tour – No Reservations

January 11, 2017

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a few months. Okay, it’s been five months. Specifically, since the last week of August, 2016. Better late than never. This will be the first in a series concerning an excellent ride (mostly) around Lake Michigan.

The riders:

theteam-michigan

(left to right, me (with Monkey), CJ, and Doug)

The tools:

  • EatSleepRide – Probably the premier, free, motorcycle GPS app. Recorded progress, share location with others (like those watching our progress from afar), also has CrashLight, which will text someone, or 911, if your mobile phone detects that the bike has crashed.
  • Waze – Route GPS, updated by the crowd, provided best routes, police locations, and more.
  • Google Maps – When Waze wasn’t doing a very good job. It’s always good to have a backup GPS.
  • The Weather Channel App – You’re on a motorcycle, you need to know the weather.
  • Sena 10S Bluetooth Headset – Handsfree, motorcycle helmet bluetooth headset. Allowed me to follow along with Waze’s directions as well as listen to music. First time using a headset, now I can’t imagine travelling without one. Easy installation, easy setup, paired quickly with my iPhone.

Preparation:

This was not an Arctic Circle run and we wanted to be as flexible with our time as possible. We roughed out the route, the stops, and the deadlines (ferry’s do not wait for those that are tardy). Plus, we didn’t want to be beholden to specific overnight stops. Thus, we spent all of three hours planning the tour. At first, we were simply to circle Lake Michigan. But after our first, and only meeting, we all read more about the tour and were sidetracked by what we read about the southern shore of Lake Superior. From that, we knew that we really wanted to see Copper Harbor, Michigan. In the end, the plan was to ride the western shore of Lake Michigan, until we crossed the Mackinac Bridge. At that point, we would head northwest to the southern shore of Lake Superior and ride that to Copper Harbor. We made no reservations at any hotel, we were going to ride until we decided it was time to locate suitable overnight accommodations.

In addition to the above, we spent a lot of time on the website, Lake Michigan Circle Tour. A great resource for the route as well as things to see and do along the route. Finally, I bought and brought along three additional items. Weather proof maps of Michigan and Wisconsin (again, on a motorcycle, you need backups and items that can be subjected to water) and the book, Ride Michigan. The book was extremely useful to determine what would could see and the best motorcycle routes to take along the way.

Day One:

mi_day1

We met at Cracker Barrel, in Sheffield, OH, for breakfast. Afterwards, we rode the turnpike into Indiana, then turned north into Michigan, Sturgis, MI, specifically, for lunch. If you ask yourself “why Sturgis?” then you aren’t a biker in the United States.

sturgismi

This turned out to be a most fortuitous stop. Using Google Maps, I found a highly rated, local restaurant, Boundary Waters Kitchen and Bar. We just happened to parked out bikes in front of a barber shop. Since three bikes can cause an auditory commotion in a tight area, the owner of the barber shop came out and greeted us. As it turns out, he is biker and had just returned from a trip to the Upper Peninsula. And he had photos, real photos, in a book, to show us. We had a great time talking to him and he provided us with a lot of excellent tips and places we needed to stop and see.

During lunch, he came into the restaurant with a list of things we should see. That was really cool.

A little ways outside of Sturgis, it started to rain. A very light rain. We didn’t stop to gear up, just rode through it.

Then we hit the east coast of Lake Michigan and turned our bikes north. We stopped for gas, and rest, but didn’t stop to see anything, as we were headed to Ludington, MI for our first overnight stop. Rode into town, hit Lake Michigan, and, as luck would have it, a hotel on Lake Michigan had room for us. Ludington is also the town where you can catch the ferry across Lake Michigan. We’ll see Ludington again in a few days.

Total miles: 405