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JRP Reflecting

Reflection – written April 12 , 1998

The world we live in can be a big place. At times over the past couple of years I have thought I’ve covered a lot of territory, but then I realized I had never been Down Under. It is a very long trip, and my preparations to go there have been under way for quite a while. The day finally came on Saturday April 11, 1998. What follows is what I did that Saturday, and a bit of a travelogue from my trip to Oz.
In a lot of ways I think I’m really fortunate to work at IBM. The combination of work and my own personal interests (addictions?) seem to keep me surrounded with a lot of fun technology both at work and at home. People I work with think I’m spoiled, but that’s OK. I learn a lot from all this stuff, and genuinely enjoy experimenting. For example, Saturday before leaving (like nearly every Saturday morning), I started out by reading Barron’s and the New York Times on the Web. I like to keep up with developments in the business world and this is how I do it. With the Web versions I can scan the front pages quickly and then look at the personal journal and see additional stories that concern the Internet or IBM or Java or security.
After the requisite news fix, time to play with gadgets that seem to have a way of accumulating around me. I claim innocence, but friends and family insist I bring it on myself. Not a chance. 🙂 There’s a neat Atomic Clock which I downloaded from Parsons Technology which will synchronize your PC with one of the many Internet Time Servers around the country. I use the one at MIT. The Atomic Clock program gets the precise time and automatically adjust your system clock. Don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better knowing the time stamps on the computer I depend on are within microseconds of a master time source.
Many people seem to be using handheld computers. I see an increasing number of WorkPads inside of IBM these days. For fast lookup of a phone number I have gotten used to the REX. A while back though, I was really intrigued by the concept of being able to keep data in a wristwatch that’s in sync with an authoritative time source. The really correct time. Given that you can keep your PC telling accurate time via Atomic Clock, I thought it would be interesting to have a watch that I knew was right. That’s how I came to own a DataLink watch. Before heading off to a place farther away in time than I’ve ever been, I of course held the watch up to the monitor to sync it up. The watch reads UPC like scan bars on the monitor. It also downloads frequent flier numbers. Great stuff. Accurate time is no longer a worry.
One problem with this trip is that it was scheduled quite a few months ago. I was glad to be invited, as I’ve always wanted to visit Australia. So I didn’t pay much attention to the dates, and of course didn’t realize at the time that I was committing myself to be flying away from my family on Easter Sunday. Will have to remember this next time. So with a guilty conscience I figured I should at least make sure the bills were paid before heading off for a week. I’ve been using Quicken for years and have been extremely happy with it. I rely on Quicken Financial Planner too. Saturday morning is when I seem to have time to look over investments and such. My background once upon a time was in finance, and I continue to maintain a strong interest– I manage my own investments. After a bit of analysis of some holdings I hopped over to Fidelity Investments to enter sell orders for several Internet stocks. (No, I don’t give stock tips; I live by a bit of stock market advice my father once gave me– about stock advice he said, “Don’t take any, and don’t give any!”)
Had to clear my head after all this, and start thinking about being cooped up on airplanes for an unfathomable amount of time. This plus a beautiful day in Connecticut made it irresistible to run down Main Street for a five miler. I have been running for quite a few years but only in the past year or so bought some exercise equipment at home as I think resistance training is beneficial. So after running I try and do additional exercises. Of course I’ve got to keep track of what I’m doing. There’s an old PC in the basement that’s connected to other systems (like the one the watch synched up with) via Ethernet. I’ve been using ProTrak to keep track of which exercises to do on which day. It lets you set up workout templates to vary the muscle groups and sequence of exercises and then keeps logs of everything you do.
I’m biased, but I think IBM makes great laptops. Lucky for me, IBM lets me use a ThinkPad 560X. At both home and work it sits on a port replicator that has PCMCIA cards in it for CD-ROM and Ethernet (to talk to other machines in the house). I’ve found LapLink agents a good way to keep critical files in sync between various computers I use. The house LAN sits behind a Netopia ISDN routerIBM Global Network ISDN service dynamically assigns an address to the Netopia. The Netopia in turn internally and magically maps addresses to the private subnet my home systems are on.
The trip itself to Australia was mostly pleasant but really, really long. Flight from New York arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday night. With just an hour to boarding for the next leg I stopped in the JAL lounge, replicated my Notes databases for mail and Web site and charge my battery a bit. Then off to board a beautiful Qantas 747 bound for Sydney. The flight was just over 15 hours! After customs and a car ride to the Sheraton on the Park in downtown Sydney it was just under 27 hours door to door. I got a little bit of sleep on the plane but not much. I just can’t seem to get comfortable enough to really sack out. With the aggressive set of bookings my IBM Australia colleagues have arranged for me this week having not much sleep is something I will need to get used to.
Now that I was at my hotel room I had to decide what to do next. Take a nap? Go for a run? I looked out the window and it was sunny as could be. Beautiful Hyde Park right across the street. People running by. I was sure glad I brought running shorts and shoes. There’s no way I’d go as far away as Australia without a GPS. I’m still using the GARMIN GPS 40 I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. Fascinating stuff. So I took it with me and went into the middle of the park to get an unobstructed view for the satellites. Since the receiver was last turned on in Connecticut I knew it would take 15 minutes or longer for it to figure out where it was so I decided to help it along by looking up a stored waypoint for Tokyo from last winter’s trip there. It was 35.7 North and 139.8 East. Let’s see Sydney should be same ballpark East and West but below the equator. I took a guess at 35 South and 140 East. That speeded up things a lot. Five satellites soon appeared in my little handheld receiver’s display. After things resolved it gave me the reading: 33.5 South and 151.1 East. Then I pressed the GoTo button and entered Somers, NY from my waypoint list. 9,954 miles! I think that is as far as I have ever been from anywhere!
The run through Hyde Park and into the Royal Botanic Gardens was beautiful. Many varieties of flowers in bloom. I ran along the water and then the Sydney Opera House came into view. It was spectacular. Then along the water I saw all kinds of boats ranging from sightseeing to Navy vessels. Thanks to the GPS receiver I found my way back to the hotel with no problems. It was one of the nicest 4 mile runs I have ever taken, although I have to admit my energy level was down a bit. By that night I will have been up for over 40 hours and was surely ready for at least one good nights sleep.
Later in the day I grabbed lunch with a colleague and a reporter from the Australian FinancialReview. A story titled “IBM calls for domain reform” appeared the next morning (April 14, page 31). We ate at the Park Hyatt ….a great view of the harbor from their restaurant. One of the highlights of the trip was sharing dinner at the home of a local IBMer, along with his family and friends. Steaks on the barbie, they called it. I called it delicious. To round out the day, we took in a ballet at the Sydney Opera House. At least the Opera House was spectacular even if the ballet performance wasn’t my cup of tea.
So much for leisure activities. Tuesday was booked with back-to-back meetings throughout the day. To start the day I read the local newspapers. In addition to the story in the AFR there was a story in The Australian called “Patrick’s dream is a wired world” (April 14, page 51) and another in the Sydney Morning Herald called “Start on-line simply, grow fast, says IBM” (April 14, page 3c). During the day I had a chance to share my thoughts on IBM’s leadership in the e-business arena with a number of additional reporters and broadcasters, and closed out the day by meeting with my IBM Australia colleagues and customers.
Now the schedule was becoming brutal. I had an early start to the day, catching a 6:20 AM flight from Sydney to Brisbane. During the week I found all my flights on both Qantas andAnsett to be very pleasant. Great airlines. (I learned that Qantas stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Air Services.) In Brisbane I met with a number of ministers and Australian government representatives from Queensland . Turns out that Queensland is twice as big as Texas! After lunch I delivered a keynote address at WWW7 .This conference has really grown, but the core attendees are still the brightest minds on the Web. After my keynote I also participated in a well-attended panel discussion with Tim Berners-Lee of the W3C and Cathy Marshall of Xerox PARC . The day flew by and I was determined to enjoy a truly unique Aussie dinner, and the concierge did not disappoint. The Breakfast Creek Steakhouse in Brisbane was outstanding. A very informal atmosphere, outdoor dining, great steak, terrific beer, and prices that were hard to believe.
Up early again to fly from Brisbane to Canberra , Australia’s capital. Just as I do when first arriving in any city I haven’t been to before, I got out my Garmin GPS 40 to get a reading on the latitude and longitude. The result was a new first. While in Sydney I was 9,952 miles from home. The GPS 40 only displays up to 9999.9 miles and couldn’t display the distance from Canberra to my office or home. First time I have ever been more than 10,000 miles from home! Canberra is not yet 100 years old, and was built based on a well executed master architecture plan. The city is very similar to Washington, D.C. The view of the river actually looks just like the Potomac. I wish I had had the time to run there. The new Parliament House in Canberra is spectacular, I have never seen anything like it before. Part of the building is actually built underground, and you can’t get a good feel for the building’s size until you enter and walk around.
I was in Canberra to speak at an event co-sponsored by the government and Telstra the national telephone company of Australia. The event was called Enabling Australia , really a call to action for business and government to embrace e-business. The event was very well attended, and Ira Magaziner, White House advisor, was among the speakers. The event lasted all day, and included a dinner at the National Gallery of Australia…another Australian treasure. If you have visited my music section you know how much I love Mozart. Upon walking into the Gallery there was a string quartet performing some of his best. It was a most enjoyable reception. There were twenty or so dinner tables and I was humbled by being able to be at the table of Senator Richard Alston (Minister for Communications and the Information Economy), Mr. Frank Blount (chairman of Telstra), Honorable Alan Stockdale (Treasurer of Victoria & Minister for Multimedia), Linda Nicholls (Chairman of the Australian Post), and Ira Magaziner.
Almost home. After another early morning flight back to Sydney and a presentation to a group of IBM customers, I was ready to go home. Quite a wonderful week… productive professionally, but personally I found Australia to be a very open and friendly country. I will certainly be back… at the very latest for Sydney 2000!