Taking a break in Thailand...

I've been working with Sanjay Shetty (Mumbai, India) and Colt Kwong (Hong Kong, ROC) for quite some time now planning the launch of INETA ( in the Asia-Pacific region. We're holding a 2-day User Group Leader Summit in Bangkok April 29th and 30th, bringing together some 30 people from across the region. Having never been to Thailand before, I took advantage of this opportunity to explore a little. So, I got to Bangkok -- and left (first time I had the chance to spend the weekend in L.A. I left to go diving at Catalina Island, can you spot the emerging trend? :)).

I've just spent the past 4.5 days in Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. It has been an incredible experience. I did the required tourist things (see some temples, get a massage, shop shop shop, eat eat eat...), but the high point, and the reason I came up here, was to go trekking in the mountain jungle. It really was the experience of a lifetime. The incredible part was just being there. It was butally hot, and a few in our group were having heat problems, but I was OK. Mist shrouded mountains, waterfalls... it was an idylic setting right out of a movie.

Day 1, our group got together and left the city. I got lucky, it was a great group of people. We ate at some wall-less shack two hours out that had water running down the tin roof (that was their air conditioning). We then drove some more, until we got to the elephant place (farm? ranch?). We rode elephants through the jungle, which was pretty cool. Did you know that elephants like to sneeze on themselves, presumably to cool off? I didn't. Some do so more than others, one poor woman almost needed rain gear. After that we hiked for a few hours, then got to a beautiful (and VERY welcome!) waterfall where we jumped in and cooled off. We then carried on, and spent the night in a Karen hilltribe village. We slept in a hut (under mosquito nets, natch), and ate villager food, which was very good. The village had no electricity, and was very remote. It was really interesting to see their lifestyles, and I have some great photos.

Day 2 we hiked some more, passing through some scattered settlements and isolated homes (a "home" can be a bamboo platform on stilts with a thatched roof and no -- or few -- walls). The school was interesting, they had a TV (solar powered), the only one I saw on the whole trek. We passed through lots of rice paddies (dry now, until the rains start in a month or two). We got to a waterfall which had a little "outpost", some enterprising locals who had brought ice in by motorcyle, and had cold beer. I supported them by paying their rather steep price (USD$1 for a cold beer, in the jungle in the middle of nowhere!). We rested a bit, then hiked on. We had lunch in some tiny village (excellent food once again). We then went bamboo rafting down the Wang river, which was a let-down due to low water lever (maybe it's me, that happened with Kayaking in New Mexico last year too). The damn raft kept running aground on rocks, just like in New Mexico. But, at least it was cooler. It was also a nice experience, passing under tenuous-at-best foot bridges, round a bend to see elephants, etc...

This has been a magical experience, one that you'd never get if you didn't venture beyond the confines of your hotel. So, I spent 3 nights in a five star hotel in downtown Chiang Mai, and one night sleeping in a hut in the jungle. When I look back, I prefered the hut and the experiences associated with it: the camraderie, the scenery, and the glimpses into a lifestyle so very far removed from my everyday modern life.

I'm already planning to come back, to do a 7-day trek, or maybe head further north to Chiang Rai or even Laos.

Now I'm off to hustle-bustle-polluted-crowded Bangkok, where I will connect to the Internet for the first time in a week (really dreading the backlog that must be waiting for me), and will have to rejoin the real world and get back to work. Vacation's over. I'm doing Powerpoints on the plane :(


[non-technical] Adventure in the Life of Brian

So in preparation for going trekking in the mountains of northern Thailand, I bought some new trail shoes, and took them for a test drive today. I did a 10 mile solo endurance hike, carrying excess weight (on purpose), with major elevation changes.

I was about a half mile from the car (on the way back) when I got to a part of the trail that was cut into a hill. The hill on the left had a small 2 foot drop down to the trail, and there was a bush growing at the top of it. It was a not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, 75 degree, perfect southern California day. I was walking along (I think I may have been whistling), when all of a sudden there was a burst of motion in front of me and a 4 foot rattlesnake dropped off the hill (or out of the bush, not sure which, it was too fast and unexpected) and landed one stride in front of me. He (I'm assuming male) was not very happy, nor would I be if I just fell out of a bush. I looked at him and he glared back at me. The rattle was going furiously. He was coiled, and though I'm not an expert, he looked ready to strike. All the while I had this forward motion, and when my foot came down it would have me stepping on him. Almost a whole second had passed by this point. Before I could process what was happening and make some logical decision about course of action, my body, driven no doubt by some deep-seated tribal/species memory about bad snake experiences, somehow launched itself backwards and upwards at a precise 45 degree angle, directly away from the snake. Then I came down hard (fortunately all electronics were in my front pockets!). So now I'm lying on the ground, possibly with a broken tailbone, while this incredibly angry looking poisonous reptile is making threatening noises at me. Not the ideal fight-or-flight position. An eternity (another second) passes as we continue to stare at each other. I notice his rattle is small, but his head is huge. Does that mean bigger fangs and more venom? Other random thoughts like this bounce around my head, as I start to wonder that the heck I can do (this is still in the same second). He then slithers off to the right of the trail. Elapsed time must have been approx 3 seconds, but with a full-on adrenaline rush, it felt like an hour.

I can’t see him now, but I have to walk past that part of the trail to get back. I threw a few things in that direction, then very quickly walk past, my heart still racing.

I do a lot of stuff outside in rattlesnake areas (mountain biking, hiking, desert camping). The first 4.5 years I lived in SoCal I saw one rattlesnake the whole time, despite the fact that I was ALWAYS looking for them and wanted to see one. Now I’ve seen 3 more in the wild in just the past 2 weeks. I’m done. Having an angry one within 3 feet or so is just too close for comfort. I know it’s rare for people to die from rattlesnake bites, and that they really don’t want to bite anything they can’t swallow, and I actually did have a snake bite kit with me, but, that’s one life experience I’d like to do without.


BizTalk Server 2004 Launches, look out world!

Allright, I get it now, a blog is something that you update every month, right? :)

So, did you all notice how the sky seems a bit bluer this week? That's because BizTalk Server 2004 launched last Tuesday. There's a huge amount of buzz... I have a Dice profile that normally picks up one BizTalk listing a day. Last Saturday there were 9 (!). There's a series of webcasts available now at MSDN, if you're interested in seeing more then check them out. This is VERY significant technology, and the future is looking very bright indeed. I am now fully eating/breathing/sleeping in this BizTalk world. The Boston conference appearance last week was a success, my contribution to the book is almost done (YEAH!!!!), and it should be out around TechEd if everyone else gets their parts done.

I'm also now juggling multiple BizTalk projects for Neudesic (my day job, and a go-to partner for BizTalk). We're kicking butt, having fun, and helping customers solve real business problems with BizTalk. Lastly, I'll be speaking at TechEd-US on BizTalk Server 2004 and Web services.

And... I am now a Microsoft MVP for (you guessed it!) BizTalk Server.

Is that enough BizTalk for you :) There's actually more brewing that I can't talk about yet. So, how can I cram 36 hours into a day? I could be so much more productive.


Web services conference.... done!

The Web services conference last week worked perfectly. We had 18 speakers from across the country, and the event sold out. This was the most successful event the San Diego Software Industry Council has put on since the downturn. Everyone did great, the caliber of the presenters and panelists was awesome.

We'll do this again sometime, once I forget how much effort I had to put into it. I got a nice plaque and lots of recognition/kudos out of it, but next time, I'd trade some of that for more help orchestrating things and making it happen.

Now I can settle back into my normal routine of over-work, with no public speaking till month-end.


User group meeting last night, Web services conference closing in...

Jason Beres (of INETA and Infragistics fame) came an spoke at the San Diego .NET User Group.

Always willing to make huge, selfless sacrifices for the good of the community, Jason left the winter wonderland of New Jersey to make the trek to San Diego.

It was a great presentation. The first part was on Tablet PC from a developers persepctive. I didn't want to stop him because the presentation was so interesting, but had to shut him down so we could take a quick break and he could do Whidbey. I rec'd so much positive response from mebers about the Tablet PC presentation, it was great content and subject matter, and very well delivered. We bolted out of there at 9:00 and made it to the airport in record time. I got call from him 45 minutes later saying his flight had been canceled due to bad weather back east, so he was force to endure another night in San Diego. Poor guy :)

So, here we are the day before the big San Diego Software Industry Council Web services event I'm chairing. It looksw like it will be a HUGE success. I've put together a program of 17 speakers and panelists from all over the country (even the cold parts!), and from companies like IBM/MSFT/BEA and Computer Associates. I think we sold out this morning.

I'll be delivering my first public (non-client) BizTalk 2004 presentation. Am I ready? Not a chance. I'm about half way there, and stressing pretty good.

Will I be ready? Sure (I hope).

Aside from that presentation and M/C-ing the event, I also get to moderate the IBM/MSFT/BEA/CA closing panel. I did one of these about 1.5 years ago, and it was a lovefest, no casualties or mud whatsoever. We'll see how this one goes. Is that a rift I see in the standards process over WS-Eventing and WS-Notification? Could it be? Nahhh....

Stay tuned dear reader to see how this ends...


Busy busy busy

Yikes. I have a lot going on over the next couple of months. In addition to several writing commitments and being at the early stages of a complex and interesting “Microsoft Poster Child” project through Neudesic, and my INETA responsibilities, I have:

1. Conference chair, plus moderating the IBM/MSFT/BEA panel and maybe other panels, plus doing a presentation on BizTalk 2004 Orchestration and Web services
San Diego Software Industry Council Web Services Conference
Jan 29th, UCSD Supercomputer Center

2. Speaking at my own San Diego .NET User Group (I only actually present there every 2 years) presenting an Intro to BizTalk 2004
San Diego, Feb 24th

3. Speaking at the Edge 2004 conference presenting BizTalk 2004 and Web Services
Boston, Feb 26th

Julie Lerman, also of INETA, will be there too:

So, I'm fully focused on BizTalk 2004, and am "hitting the speaker circuit". I've done this before:

- Approx 1990, when I started doing some strange stuff called "Object-Oriented Programming" (yes, in DOS-based Clipper, and I wrote a commercial class library!)
- About 4 years or so ago, when there was this new thing that some of us were getting excited about. It was called "XML", perhaps you've heard of it by now? :)
- A couple of years ago, when SOAP V 0.7 (or was it .1?) was circulating in draft form, which of course led to Web Services.

Man, I wish I could call it like this in Vegas! It also bodes VERY well for the future of BizTalk Server 2004...


Special User Group meeting

A couple of weeks ago I found out that my buddy Andrew Filev (from Saint Petersburg Russia) was going to be in the area, so I persuaded him to come down to San Diego (never a hard thing to do) and speak to the user group. So, last Wednesday, we called a special meeting just for him, which is the first time in the history of the group that we've done such a thing.

We had ~50 folks, and Andrew's re-factoring talk went over very well. A good time was had by all (before, during and after the meeting). He also drew out strong support from the area's Russian community... :-)

Thanks Andrew, you ROCK!