AWS Road Trip

14 User Groups, 5500 Miles, One Evangelist

Day 7 - Singapore to Manila

I left the Marina Bay Sands for the second time on this trip, and took a taxi to Changi airport. This airport has a unique (in my experience) internal architecture. Instead of a centralized security checkpoint,the security checking is performed at each gate. Each gate has its own security checkpoint, which is staffed for some indeterminate amount of time prior to the actual boarding time. This distributed model seems to work more efficiently than the more commonplace centralized model. I suspect that this is because the central checkpoint does not need to scale to handle the peak load.

I boarded a Phillipine Air flight for the 3.75 hour flight to Manila. The cabin crew made everyone pull down the window shades shortly after takeoff for some reason.

Phillipine Air Plane Singapore

The flight was bumpier than most, but I arrived on time and had no trouble making my way through immigration or customs.

My colleagues Markku and Franco had arrived in Manila an hour earlier and they met me at the curb. We took a taxi to the Fairmont Makati, checked in, and had a quick lunch. My room was well appointed:

Fairmont Makati Room

There’s construction everywhere in Manila. Here’s the view from my room:


We headed over to the user group venue (a second floor bar) and got set up. The video projector had been forcibly removed from its usual ceiling mount and had definitely seen better days, but we got it to work and it served me well.

AWS Talk

AWS Talk

AWS provided some nice snacks for the attendees:

AWS Talk Snacks

Attendance was really good, even though it was Friday night and we were competing with a couple of other local tech events for attendees:

AWS Talk in Manila

The room was packed:

Presenting in a Bar

After my talk one of the attendees asked me to sign his laptop. I was a bit hesitant, but he insisted so I was happy to oblige:

Signing Laptop

Signed Laptop

We wrapped up after 10 PM and taxi’ed to a restaurant. Markku and Franco insisted that I have some Sisig, which turned out to be delicious:

Eating Sesig

More Sesig

We also had another pork dish:

Mystery Pork Dish

We wrapped up with Halo-Halo, a popular dessert:


It was well after midnight when I returned to the hotel, exhausted and talked out!

Day 6 - AWS Summit in Singapore

I spent Thursday at the AWS Summit in Singapore. Held at the Marina Bay Sands Conference Center, this event attracted a crowd of thousands. Here’s one of the signs:

I came to the summit to deliver a talk on database options that are available to AWS users. I had never used the deck before, and spent a good part of the morning making sure that I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I had just 35 minutes to present the material. Here’s the room before the guests showed up:

I spoke to a capacity crowd and ended up finishing the material with just 24 seconds to spare. It went really well and I spoke to a number of the attendees afterward.

After things wrapped up at the Summit, Markku and I took a couple of guests to the No Signboard Seafood restaurant for a very productive dinner. I snapped a picture of the Marina Bay Sands as we walked there:

We ordered a big plate of Chili Crab, and enjoyed every bite:

My colleagues went out for a night on the town and I walked back ot the hotel, stopping for a couple more pictures along the way:

The hotel is just as spectacular at night:

I walked across the Helix Bridge. Being the geek that I am, I wondered how they designed, simulated, and stress-tested the unusual structure as I made my way through it! I found that the Wikipedia page for the bridge contained an entire section on Analysis, which confirmed my suspicion that it was non-trivial.

To wrap up the day I took an elevator to the 57th floor of the hotel and took a look at the infinity pool. It was late and I was dog-tired, so I didn’t actually get in the water!

Tomorrow I fly to Manila!

Day 5 - Kuala Lumpur to Singapore

I woke up in Kualu Lumpur, had breakfast with Markku, and checked out of the Aloft hotel. I took the following picture just before I left:

Near the Aloft

We walked across the street and boarded a train that took us directly to the KLIA airport. Interestingly enough, the hotel and the airport shops were both happy to accept payment in Singaporean Dollars. I did not have any of the Malaysian currency due to the very short time (less than 24 hours) that we spent in the country. The airport had a nice display of plane models:

Model Planes

One short flight later and we were back in Singapore. I returned to the Marina Bay Sands and checked in, then headed over to the Convention Center and the AWS Summit.

The first event (Cloud Kata) was in full swing:

Fate smiled on me and I was given a really nice corner room:

Here’s the view from my window:

And from the window in the hallway:

Here’s the hotel – the unique and spectacular Marina Bay Sands. I have yet to visit the rooftop pool:

The AWS Cloud Kata includes a Start-up Hub to connect sources and sinks of talent and money:

I’ll spend tomorrow at the AWS Summit!

Day 4 - Kuala Lumpur

I got a whopping three hours of sleep, but at least they were good hours! I checked out of the Marina Bay Sands and was at the Changi airport by 7:30.

While waiting for Markku to arrive, I wandered around and found this cool Lego mosaic:

Lego Mosaic

I also found a sign for a brand that was popular in the US a long time ago:


The airport was modern, but the departure and arrival board was mechanical:

Departure Board

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur after a smooth 40 minute flight, and met our colleague John Fitzpatrick. John is based in Singapore but is responsible for all of the AWS business in Malaysia. We taxi’ed to a city called Cyberjaya and took a quick break to prepare for our meeting.

Earlier in the trip, Markku had told me that I had to have some Kaya Toast. I wasn’t sure why he was so excited about some bread, but soon found out! The toast is spread with Kaya, a jam made from coconuts, eggs, and sugar. It was delicious!


I had a mango smoothie, which was also very tasty.

Jeff and John

We proceed to our meeting and spent three hours discussing cloud computing before proceeding to the city. En route, it started raining, as it apparently does just about every day. I checked in to the Aloft hotel and spent an hour getting ready to present.

Here is the view from my hotel room:

View 1

View 2

We took the subway over to the office of Mindvalley, also known as the Hall of Awesomeness. With a name that cool you have to worry about being disappointed when you get there, but this was not the case. The HoA is very cool and reflects the intensity and passion of the founders and staff. I got set up to present, and things went really well:

Jeff On Stage

The audience was attentive and lively, and peppered me with great questions about AWS.

After things wound down, we retired to a rooftop bar to sneak a peak at the Petronas Twin Towers:

I was back at my hotel at 11:30 and asleep shortly thereafter. I’ll return to Singapore today to get ready for tomorrow’s AWS Summit.

Day 3 - Singapore

After a fairly decent night’s sleep I got up and took a quick look out the window. The harbor was full of container ships:

Singapore Container Ships

It turns out that the Port of Singapore is the world’s second-largerst in terms of total shipping tonnage. The rest of the harbor is very picturesque:

Here’s a quick video pan of the same view:

From the elevator lobby I was able to see yet another interesting view:

After taking care of my email and other duties, I took a taxi over to the AWS Singapore office. The taxi driver was singing along to Johnny Cash; for some reason this cultural short-circuit reminded me of a Pico Iyer book that I read many years ago.

Arriving at the office, I met my new colleague Markku Lepisto. He recently joined the AWS team and holds the title of Senior Technology Evangelist. We had a delicious Indonesian lunch (no photo, sorry kids) around the corner from the office.

I spent the afternoon working on this post, chatting with my colleagues, and preparing for my evening presentation.

Late in the afternoon we headed over to the offices of Roomorama and I gave my AWS talk. I had been warned that the audience might not feel comfortable asking questions, but this was not the case – in fact they were a very energetic and lively crowd:

I returned to my hotel and enjoyed a room service dinner to wrap up the day. Tomorrow I will head back to the airport, fly to Kuala Lumpur, meet with a customer, and then speak at the Kuala Lumpur AWS User Group.

Days 1 and 2 - Seattle to Singapore

My weekend basically disappeared, swallowed up as I crossed the International Date Line.

My day began in Seattle, with a very nice omelette skillfully and lovingly prepared by my daughter Tina. After saying goodbye to my family, I stepped outside and into a town car waiting outside:

Jeff's Ride

I arrived at Sea-Tac, checked in, and boarded my Korean Air flight that would take me from Seattle to Seoul, and from there to Singapore:

The Plane, The Plane

The flights were long yet pleasant. I had an empty seat next to me on both flights, which gave me just a little bit more room to spread out. The in-flight meals and entertainment were both good and the time passed fairly quickly (11 hours to Seoul and another 6 to Singapore). I watched a couple of movies and read a couple of books (including Steve Martin’s biography ) on my Kindle Fire.

My connection in Seoul was very tight; by the time I went through the internal security and walked to the gate, my flight was already boarding.

I arrived in Singpore minutes before midnight, went through customs very quickly, found my luggage, exchanged some US dollars for their Singapore equivalents, and got into a long taxi line. I’m guessing that the line was longer than usual due to a couple of factors. First, it was late and the train was closed. Second, it appears that many Singaporeans go away for the weekend with little more than a small carry-on. The line moved fairly quickly and I was in a taxi before too long.

The taxi whisked me to the Marina Bay Sands and I was checked in within minutes. The lobby is huge and I need to spend some more time exploring before I leave:

Marina Bay Sands Lobby

Here’s my room:

Hotel Room

And here are some pictures of the view from the 24th floor:

Singapore At Night

The Singapore Flyer is right outside of the hotel. With any luck I will have time for a ride:

Singapore Flyer

I messaged my family to let them know that I had arrived safe and sound, checked my email, and called it a night!

Road Trip Part 2 - the Far East

Shortly after I concluded my US road trip in June, my AWS colleagues in Singapore approached me with an interesting proposal. Encouraged by my meetings with user groups in 14 cities, they asked me to consider making a similar tour through the Far East.

Today I will embark on a smaller version of my trip, visiting three cities and speaking at user groups in each one. Here’s my plan:

If you are in any of those cities and can make it to the user groups, please say hello!

The Final Report and Presentation

Ok, I did it!

I returned to Seattle on the 1st of June and gave one final talk, to the Seattle AWS User Group, on the 3rd. I spent the following week filing my expenses, writing my trip report, and writing my report for my UW MCDM independent study class. My professor responded enthusiastically to my report and I am all set to graduate tomorrow!

Here’s a copy of the report (click on the image to download):

Based on this work, I was also nominated for MCDM’s Communication Leadership Student Award, which will be presented at the upcoming MCDM Screen Summit. It would be a real kick to win!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved:

  • My work colleagues for their support.
  • My family for their understanding, support, and awesome greeting.
  • Red Lion Hotels for accomodations in multiple cities.
  • MapBox for the really cool map.
  • The user group leaders in all fourteen cities.
  • Contour for the loan of the video camera.
  • Everyone who came to one of my user group talks and asked such great questions.
  • My new Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections.
  • Everyone who followed my trip through this blog.

Here is a representative version of my presentation. I changed it a bit from talk to talk based on feedback:

Based on the success of this road trip, my AWS colleagues in Singapore are in the process of booking me for a series of user group talks in Southeast Asia in July of 2013. The planning is still underway but it looks like I will be speaking in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila. Stay tuned to this blog for more information on this exciting development.

Several of my friends and colleagues have asked me if this was a one-time event or if I would consider doing it again. At first I thought that this was a bucket list kind of thing. However, now that I am rested and have had some time to think about it, I will definitely think about doing it again in 2014.

Day 20 - Portland to Sammamish

I awoke before 6 AM after sleeping more soundly than a hibernating bear!

I wrote yesterday’s blog post and was on the road out of Portland by 8 AM. After a quick stop for gas it was smooth sailing into Washington. Here’s my exit video:

I pulled in to a gas station to fill up, only to realize that Oregon is just one of the two US states that mandates full service (the other is New Jersey).

As I was getting close to home, my wife called and asked me to slow down so that they would have enough time to prepare for my arrival. I drove up our hill and was greeted by an actual finish line:

Finish Line

My family went all-out to welcome me with a finish line, checkered flags, balloons, signs, and more:

Victory Family

A Big Welcome

My grandson Jeffrey was happy to see me, and I was overjoyed to see him:

Jeff and Jeffrey

My daughter Grace made a pair of really nice signs for me:

Grace Sign 1

Grace Sign 2

Sadly, I turned the video camera off at the bottom of the hill and didn’t capture my drive across / through the finish line.

The drive from Portland to Seattle covered 197 miles. Here are my final stats for the trip:

  • Total Miles: 5550.7
  • Fuel Economy: 21.9 MPG
  • Gas Consumed: 252 gallons
  • Driving Time: 104 hours

I’ll be speaking in Seattle on Monday; if you have already registered I look forward to seeing you there.

To truly finish up this trip I need to write my internal trip report, file my expenses, and write a report for my UW MCDM Independent Study class.

Day 19 - Medford to Portland

I was up early and out of the hotel at 8:00 AM. I drove from Medford to Grant’s Pass and had a delicious breakfast at the Black Bear Diner with a developer who had emailed me the week before with some questions about AWS.

I left Grant’s Pass shortly after 10:00 AM and arrived in Portland shortly before 3. This was one of the more twisty, curvy, and scenic parts of my entire trip. I’d like to travel it again and take the time to really see it.

Here is my arrival video:

I checked in to the Red Lion Portland Convention Center, cleaned up, and headed over to the AWS Meetup, which was scheduled to start at 4 PM.

Here’s a photo before the seats filled up and things got underway:

Portland AWS

Early in this talk I felt rather fatigued but things got better as I went along and everything turned out fine. As usual, several people asked for Postgres, and a couple of others asked about OSX.

The best question of the night was “Andy Grove of Intel once said that ’Only the Paranoid Survive.’ What are you paranoid about?” After giving this a moment’s thought, I replied that this kind of thinking was appropriate for companies that focus on competitors, but that we focus on customers. I then elaborated on all of the ways that we listen to, learn from, and respond to the requests that we get from our customers.

A sight-impaired man who came in with his dog asked me to tell our documentation people to include descriptive tags on all of the images in our documentation. That’s a great idea and I will. I will also try to do this for images that I post to the AWS Blog.

After the event I returned to the Red Lion, got a salad, a burger, and some asparagus spears from the nearby Burgerville, and was sound asleep by 11:00 PM.

I’ll get up early tomorrow and hope to be at home before noon!

  • Total miles for the day: 276.6
  • On the iPod: Early 70’s rock.