OUTC18

Finally back home from the OUTC18 conference which took place in Anaheim this year. This is now the third OUTC that I have attended and I continue to come back impressed. Getting to meet and discuss not only colleagues from other schools, but also the development and support staff is very beneficial.

The flight over wasn’t too bad. I did feel quite lousy for a good part of Sunday after the flight which unfortunately is the norm for me with travel. But, I was able to get close to normal after a In-N-Out Burger courtesty of OmniUpdate at their welcoming/registration. So within a few hours I did check off a big to-do from my California list within the first few hours. Not too shabby.

Monday had some solid sessions. The opening keynote and panel discussion were interesting. Learned about some new offerings from OmniUpdate and also got some insights as to where some folk think things are going.

I also took part in a Feedback meeting with members of the OmniUpdate development team and a colleague from Dartmouth. It was nice that the OmniUpdate folks took the time to learn about our longterm goals and how they may be able to address them in the future. I did appreciate their time.

Later that evening OmniUpdate had invited us to dinner in Disney California Adventure and we had a few hours to walk around the park. I didn’t go on any rides as there really wasn’t much time, but walking around and taking everything in was pretty interesting. Radiator Springs from the Cars movie really stood out as well as A Bug’s Life were interesting too.

Day two I presented early in the morning. I felt pretty tired and lousy as I just hadn’t adjusted to the travel, time zone shift and the lack of sleep. I don’t feel as though my presentation went very well, and was through my slides in about 15 minutes (for a 45 minute presentation). However, we went over the allotted time with some excellent questions and answers. It was great to be able to give advice to other schools looking to successfully migrate in a similar manner as we did recently.

The Tackling Quality Control with XSL had some excellent suggestions that we will certainly look into, and Turn OU Campus into a Marketing Machine really got me excited to try out Google Optimize. Both those sessions really stood out to me as something we could certainly benefit from.

I did enjoy the workshops more this year than in years past. I’m not sure if they were better or if I was just better prepared with a couple years under my belt. I certainly learned a lot and am eager to share with the team.

Wednesday night was the Hackathon. Even though I was on the winning team last year, none of my teammates were to be found as this year’s OUTC. So I asked a random guy who was sitting alone if we wanted to team up with me. Our team was formed.

We bounced around a few ideas, but thought that leveraging the Google Vision API (which is amazingly powerful) to suggest or apply alt tags to images would be pretty amazing. If you feed the Google Vision API and image it will analyze it and suggest what it thinks the image is. We testing a dog photo out. Not only did it respond that is was a dog, but it also responded that it was a golden retriever. We were sold.

With only a few hours to work with, we split up the tasks and went right to work. Ryan was developing the Gadget that we would use within OU Campus and I went to work on the Google Vision API portion.

While we realized that we weren’t going to be able to complete the task by the deadline, we did focus on getting the core functionality done, so that we could demo the power of what we thought we were only by leveraging that particular API.

The 7 or 8 teams gave their short presentation then the judges left the room to pick a winner. While they were gone, I was pretty sure that the team that developed the file lock would win, with maybe the Insights project.

The judges returned and after a group drumroll announced that the Google Vision team had won. Both my partner and I sat there looking around for several seconds. We both assumed that they had announced another team as we winner. We were truly shocked and not prepared for that. It was an extremely fun time and felt pretty great to be able to win the Hackathon again.

All in all it was a very beneficial conference, and one that I was very glad to attend. While I wasn’t as impressed with Anaheim as I have been with San Diego or LA, it was still a pretty amazing adventure and the weather was perfect (even though I was indoors for almost all of it). Great and very useful time.

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Crazy Stormy Kayaking Adventure

I signed up for a L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools Full-Moon Kayak Tour. I’ve never kayaked before, and they provide all the equipment, teach you what to do, etc. It was great, I was really impressed with the guides, equipment, and overall thoroughness.

I went over there with Stacey and all was going well. We happened to get blue kayaks that were the Manatee model. I know nothing about kayaks, but I do know that I like manatees. So I was excited.

When I first got in the the water I was a little wobbly, but you do get the hang of it pretty quickly. I think I was trying to go a bit too fast at first, but once I settled down things went much smoother.

The lake where the took us was really nice. There was a winding part called “the Amazon” which was really cool. Having to maneuver in the tight quarters is a little tricky to start, but you do master it after a few tries. We were given glow bracelets that we clipped to our life jackets and headlamps which were very useful once it began to get dark.

On the way back from the halfway point I looked up and said, “the sky looks angry”. I wasn’t the only one who noticed this and the guides hurried to get us back asap. The speed of the storm was intense. Within seconds the winds kicked up big time, of course mostly gusting against our path.

It was really intense. Guides were yelling to one another on where and when we should leave the water. All I know is that it sure is amazing how much better and faster people can paddle when they have to get the hell out of a scary storm!

The way back was rough. I kept looking back to make sure I wasn’t losing Stacey, but she’s such a trooper and just kept paddling away. It was a treacherous journey, but we all did make it back ok in the downpour and intense winds.

I felt really bad for one of the other folks on the tour, Rhonda, One of the guides paddling her back in herself, and I helped to pull Rhonda ashore. She was literally shaking in fear. I can’t really blame her, it was quite an intense experience.

Despite the crazy weather, I had a blast. In fact I think the obstacle of the storm was a factor in that for me. It was so unexpected and creepy at the same time. The staff were great. They got us all back ok, and offered us a card so we could get another adventure at some point since ours didn’t go exactly as planned due to the crazy weather. Lot’s of fun and highly recommended.

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OUTC 17 Day 1 and 2

mpus is the CMS solution that we use at work, so it’s always exciting to go and learn as much about it as possible. This year I was also presenting, so that made things a bit more exciting as well.

The flight in wasn’t too bad. Typically in the past I wind up feeling pretty sick after such a long flight, but this time around wasn’t so bad. I did eventually get a bad headache later that first night, but nothing nearly as bad as how I had felt in the past. So that was a plus.

The conference took place at the Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego. It’s a very pretty and unique location. It’s on an island in Mission Bay, and all the rooms seem to be little bungalows scattered throughout the island. Not the traditional 20 story hotel. It’s pretty nice. Palm trees, beaches, pools and little ponds all over the place. Very scenic and fun to just walk around and take it all in.

The opening keynotes were pretty interesting. Not as interesting to me as last year, as we’re not brand new to OU Campus any longer, but still well done. The sessions on days one and two weren’t as interesting as last year for the same reasons, but meeting everyone and discussing similar issues and solutions is always very helpful, and I’ve been enjoying doing that.

I do seem to be having some sort of allergy out here. I awoke Monday morning with my right eye nearly completely shut. I suspect it’s a reaction to some plant/pollen out here, but who knows. There’s many new variables in play for me out here. I was a bit bummed that I have had to wear my glasses more than I’d like, especially when I was presenting. But oh well, it’s better than my eye getting irritated further.

My presentation took place on the first day at 3:15 pm. It was titled, Surviving the Migration from Homegrown CMS to OU Campus. I went over how we had gone through our migration. The audience was primarily individuals who had not migrated yet, so it was the ideal audience. I don’t present too often, and this was the first time I had to wear a mic when presenting, but I must admit I wasn’t nervous at all.

Per a random request I played elevator music that I had found on YouTubTube leading up to the presentation. It think the silliness calmed what little nerves I may have had going in. The presentation went fairly well and lasted the full 45 minutes. I didn’t notice anyone who left the presentation early, and there were many questions at the end that were a pleasure to answer.

At the end I had several people come up to me afterwards and thank me for speaking in a language that they understood. They are going through a very similar situation and sharing our success and regrets was very beneficial to them. It felts nice to be of help.

Later that night we had a steamboat dinner cruised through Mission Bay. They bused us from our hotel to the steamboat where we got on and for a few hours calmly went around the bay. It was pretty nice and definitely a unique thing for me. The food was solid and the company entertaining. A fun little trip.

Checking out a some more sessions on Tuesday and looking forward to the workshops and hackathon to come later in the conference.

 

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Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving wasn’t too major of a production this year. Sadly I believe most of the key family connections are no longer alive. So, it meant it was only my parents and my younger brother this year. Oh, and Buddy (the dog with one blue eye).

I try to make something for Thanksgiving, and this year I made some mac and cheese and cornbread at my house and brought it over to my parents. No cooking disasters for me, everything seemed to turn out ok. So that was a good thing.

Less people as well as older and less energetic equals a lot less holiday drama. I don’t believe there was a single incident, door slammed, yelling, etc. Wow, that’s really an amazing feat now that I think about it. Certainly a first.

I walked Buddy a few times, it’s her favorite this to do and I enjoy it quite a bit as well. We’ve become quite the walking tandem.

Between watching football games we did Skype with my brother Anthony and his crew. Ryan is turning into a little person and we’re pretty sure he said “hello” to my mom while Skype-ing with us. Ant and I exchanged stupid things we did as kid stories and he soundly defeated me. I believe he has an hour and a half of stories to my 30 seconds.

The next day I did get some Black Friday shopping in. Treated myself to a fine Best Buy PS4 deal. Haven’t really played any games recently, and there’s several years of fine titles for me to give a shot now that it’s getting a bit colder out.

Though a bit sad at how diminished the holiday gatherings have become, it wasn’t too bad this year. Nice to see everyone getting along and enjoying themselves.

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2016 OmniUpdate User Training Conference: Travel Day

Traveling over to LA with Lou went pretty well. I woke up a little before 2:00 am with no problem. Drove over to his house and his super friendly father in law gave us a ride to the airport. We arrived at the airport with no issues, got our boarding passes, etc.

Security was a cinch too. We didn’t have to wait in line at all. I did have to be patted down (this seems to happen to me often), and Lou had to have his notebook checked out, but besides that no issues.

The flight was pretty easy. We sat next to small children or skinny women, so there was plenty of space for us on the ride. Very minor turbulence, and the take off and landing were very smooth.

The shuttle service from the airport to the hotel was great too. The driver was super nice and very fast.

However, travel and the early morning hours left me a broken man. I was dehydrated, had a really bad headache, and my whole clock was just off. Quite frankly I was mad that I wasn’t in the comfort of home for a good part of the day. Not in good shape.

After taking a very long shower, attempting to eat (it was difficult to put food down I felt so lousy), and drinking water constantly I eventually got close back to being my normal self. Oh and I no longer curse California to hell as I’m now feeling a lot better.

Later in the day we had the conference registration where I got some cool long sleeve tech shirt thingy. Might be good to go running in on colder days. We also had a little area for people to play huge games. A massive game of Jenga, Operation, etc. It was pretty cool, and we were able to meet a lot of people from other schools. Though I was still feeling pretty lousy and probably said some very strange things to some of the folks.

The Millennium Biltmore, the hosting hotel is pretty unique. It’s very old and really sums up the golden age of Hollywood. Very glamorous and you can tell it must’ve been a very big deal back in the day. The only drawback is that our rooms are pretty old too. But alas, I just need a place to sleep so I’ll live.

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Christmas 2015

This year was a bit more quiet than past holidays. Spent the day at my parents with my younger brother Frank as well. Ant couldn’t make it up from Florida this year, and there weren’t any guests in attendance either.

I wound up giving out a lot of gift cards this year. Not so much because it’s easier/safer, but mainly to get these guys to get out of the house to use them up. 

To Florida I sent an Amazon gift card, an assortment of board games (notably Monopoly), a solar charging light/phone charger, Richard Scarry books, a beaver dog toy, and a Netflix gift card. Really wanted to get a little something for everyone, as well as things to entertain.

I got Dad a gift card to Bagliani’s and a block of cheese. For Mom a gift card so she can have s shopping day and get away from the guys. Frank got a new tennis racquet and Netflix so he can watch the Marvel shows (almost binged them all already).

I made out quite all right. The first thing I opened were sponges, so I was a bit concerned. However, it picked up after that. Got some much needed towels, a Lowes gift card (used on a mitre saw), a Sports Authority gift card, and my Mom surprised me with a new tennis racquet (I’m so bad, but it’s fun).

Dinner was quite, and I just hung out with the family for the day. We Skyped with Ant s few times, so that was nice too. 

All in all a quiet but nice Christmas.

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