Thursday, May 11, 2006

Letter from Scandinavia and the Baltics

I write to you from Tallinn, Estonia, Room 1818 of the Radisson SAS looking out over the Old City, as the sun sinks over the Baltic Sea. Very nice....

I am on a whirlwind sweep through Scandinavia, doing Best Practice PL/SQL seminars for Oracle Corporation in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Riga and Tallinn (Estonia). Then I have two days off and head over to London to give a two day, "Best of PL/SQL" training, followed by two days in Prague (same seminar) – both also for Oracle. I stay an extra day in Prague to see at least a little of this city, and finally after a bit less than two weeks I head back to Chicago. It is the longest I will have been away from family and home for years, and I don't much like that....

Interest in PL/SQL in northern Europe remains strong; attendance at these seminars exceeds any I have done in these countries in recent years. In Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo and Riga, I presented to a combined audience 340 developers and DBAs!

I had a bit of a rough start, though. I boarded the 10 PM SAS flite to Copenhagen on Saturday night and expected to fall asleep immediately. After an hour or so, I realized that sleep wasn't coming because I was feeling sick. Turns out, I had caught a stomach flu. Not the most delightful way to travel 8 hours over the Atlantic. Well, two days and zero solid foods later, I am feeling fine, eating and exercising as usual. Whew. Glad that is put behind me.

I wasn't sure what telephone service back to the US from the former Soviet Union would be like, so I decided to finally sign up for Skype service. I bought myself a PC headset, and one for my somewhat technophobic wife, Veva. I installed the software on each of our computers and tested it before we left. It works great! I have since called her each night (her mid-day) through my laptop. Incredible technology. The sound quality is astounding, both computer to computer and using SkypeOut, which allows me to call her cell phone at a ridiculously low cost. And I just in the airBaltic magazine that Skype was developed largely by four Estonians. Perhaps I will run into them in Tallinn....

Another big step for me on this trip is that I finally broke down and bought an MP3 player. First, I tried the Sony Bean. I love its compact form, but its one-line screen (yes, that is not a typo. Just one visible line of text at a time) was beyond the capabilities of this middle-aged programmer. So I traded that for a Creative Zen Microphoto. 8GB capacity and a slide bar that I still have lots of trouble with, but is at least manageable. I loaded up some 50 CDs, added Shure e3c noise canceling headphones, and I was so ready to liven up by hours at the airport and on planes (I am, after all, traveling on nine different airplanes in 10 days) with my favorite music.

But then reality set in: I don't really like having anything stuffed into my ears or even covering them (those Bose noise cancelling headphones work very well, too, but they make my head ache). So I haven't been using my wonderful gadgets at all....I now plan to return them all when I get back to Chicago. Ah well....at least I have managed to load up my music collection on my computer. I find that I am perfectly satisfied to play my music through the relatively "tinny" speakers of my Thinkpad T42. Listening to Clapton's Unplugged right now.

By the way: for those who are not able to attend my lectures in Scandinavia, you can still download and check out the presentation by clicking here.

2 comments:

Berg said...

Wow, Mr. world Traveller!

We missed you at IOUG, what happened?

Steven Feuerstein said...

Ah, yes, IOUG....that was most unfortunate. I had a bit of a family crisis over the weekend before IOUG and I very sadly had to cancel my trip. We've gotten things sorted out, though, so I will definitely make it to ODTUG! Thanks for asking....