So why does Justin Bieber owe me £120?
Well ... while I was on the Finnish boat, I started to see a few tweets from people who were planning to attend the conference in Oslo about the lack of hotel rooms being caused by Justin Bieber playing three nights in Oslo during the conference! Sigh. All I can say is that I'm not so sure that kids in the UK would be packing out hotel rooms to attend a gig. Can't these people go straight home afterwards or something? Someone pointed out to me later that it was even worse than I thought. Apparently (although I have no evidence of this), people were booking multiple hotel rooms in the hope that one of their bookings would be at the hotel where JB himself would be staying! That's why I'd struggled to find any decent hotel rooms in Oslo the week before. My partner works in business travel and tried to help out at the time, followed by the dire warning that 'there must be something going on in Oslo that night'. OUGN Conference? I didn't realise it was *that* big!
Which meant that by the time the boat arrived back in Helsinki, I still didn't have anywhere to stay in Oslo that night. I was counting on Mark Rittman to have tracked down some local party house but I think he probably blew it with his Jupiter Ace T-shirt and rubbish chat-up lines. Instead, I was lucky to be helped out by my friends Heli Helskyaho and Tuomas Pystynen of Miracle Finland Oy, who took me in hand, drove me to the Miracle offices and let me use their network so I could start hunting down hotels. Fortunately I managed to blag one of the few remaining rooms at OSL airport which would mean that I wouldn't be able to meet up with friends in the centre but I would at least be able to have a bed for the night! However, the price came in at £270 and, even allowing for the fact that hotel is usually pretty expensive, I reckon it would probably have cost me around £150 max on any normal night. So your card has been marked, Mr Bieber!
An unexpected upside to the Miracle solution to my problem (They are good at solutions) was the constant yummy smell coming from the food factory under the office which was helping me build up an appetite so the three of us headed back into the centre of Helsinki to meet for a final lunch with Alex and Debra. I wish I could remember the name of the mixed meat stew with loganberries that I had but it was very tasty and apparently quite traditional. (See, Mark, it's not all Fish Fingers round my way!) I did consider the reindeer but I'm not sure I could have looked the Cuddly Toys in the eye when I got home.
Then there was just time for a trip to the airport on the unsurprisingly efficient and cheap airport bus and managing to lose Debra while I was checking in and then having a smoke. I'm sure she thinks I did it deliberately but she really was gone in a flash, so I'm blaming her I stupidly missed out on valuable lounge time, too, not realising that HEL is one of those few airports where it's still possible to smoke airside. But nothing could get me down now that I had somewhere to sleep and it wasn't too long before I arrived at OSL to find myself in a surprisingly pleasant hotel. I might even stay there again if Bieber stays out of my way.
One long sleep, a fantastic breakfast and a typically enjoyable and efficient Norwegian train experience later and I was hanging around the ferry terminal watching speakers arrive from around the world. Because I'd been at the much smaller and more intimate OUGF, I'd forgotten just how many people attend OUGN and was quite taken aback by the massive crowd hovering around the terminal, waiting to board. However it was a fairly enjoyable wait as several OUGN people were there to take good care of me as always and I know so many people who attend now and don't see too often that I wasn't exactly stuck for a conversation.
Once boarded, it's was time for Duncan Harris' keynote covering some of the history of how Oracle has addressed security issues in it's product and, particularly for an old guy like me, it was funny to be reminded just how far we've come. There's always scope for improvement, of course.
Then it was time for Cary Millsap's "Learning about Life through Business and Software". I'd already seen this keynote at UKOUG where there was almost universal agreement that it was terrific but I could listen to Cary presenting all day and this was no exception. However, I'm a smart guy and previous attendee so I played my master card of leaving his presentation just before the end (much easier to do in the show theatre venue) so that I could avoid the rush to collect my luggage and get to my room before the time that it was supposed to be available officially It worked like a charm, just like last year but perhaps I shouldn't have given my secret away!
Which also meant that I was about to head for an early lunch and avoid queuing there - all important stuff as I was presenting immediately after the lunch break. Imagine my surprise, though, when I discovered that they had converted the smoking room inside the conference centre (that I frequented in the nervous build-up to presentations during previous years) into another conference room and it was where I was due to present! Probably someone's idea of a little joke
The main challenge of the presentations at OUGN was that the presentation slots at OUGF were 60 minutes and I had only asked for 45 minute slots at OUGN. All my own fault as the conference agendas were organised at different times. The Fast ETL processes using native Oracle features probably worked the better of the two and I was surprised to see a completely packed room because Cary was presenting at the same time. Even Oyvind came to my presentation, but probably only because he'd seen the other one before
After that the rest of the afternoon was all about catching up with some more sleep as I was still feeling pretty unwell and I vaguely recall spending a good bit of time with Mark Rittman. There might have been some beer involved, but a good bit of work and business chat too and crowing about just how great the iPad mini is. Mark's a complete Apple Fanboi of course, but it was nice to be able to agree with him about that stuff for a change
I know there was more eating and drinking and night-club time after that (Martin Nash is a bad influence on me ), but, erm, well my memory of that evening is a bit hazy. It *was* a long time ago, after all
As Connor McDonald hadn't been on the Finnish boat, I took the opportunity to catch his Odds and Ends presentation the next morning. He was excellent as usual although I might not have processed what he was saying too well on that particular morning! Let's put it down to nerves about how on earth I was going to get through the 60 minute 10053 trace presentation in 45 minutes. In the end it kind of went ok although, as I vaguely recall Connor tweeting or saying to me later, if I'd spent a bit less time talking about drinking beer later it might have helped! To be honest, it was starting to feel like a very long week and so I was just glad to have finished my presentations to be able to go onshore to Kiel with some friends for lunch.
Most of what happened next eludes me now although I vaguely recall hanging out with some of my *proper* mates from overseas over a quiet beer or two whilst Martin Widlake was serenaded with Happy Birthday by a much louder crowd in a nearby bar. The only reason I remember most of this is because I uncovered this awful photo of Gerald listening intently to Cary Millsap and Tom Kyte. I suspect he thought he'd learn something about Oracle, but the conversation was far more interesting than that!
By the time I'd had some sleep and maintained my tradition of only waking up as our arrival into port was being announced, there was only time for a last few beers (something of a pattern emerging here) in the Oslo sun and then it was time for the trip home.
Thanks again to several good people of OUGN and OUGF for making the double conference a wonderful, if somewhat tiring, experience.