It’s Good to Be Home with the Pups

30 10 2007

It’s Good to Be Home with the Pups — originally uploaded to flickr by cogdogblog

Dorothy was more than right, there is no place like home, as confirmed yesterday when I finally landed in sunny warm Phoenix (over 90F) and my wife was there to meet me at the airport.

And my pups, Cadu (black lab) and Fresa (beagle) were ectstatic even though they did not even get any prezzies.

I thought about listing all the people I wanted to thank for this tremendous opportunity, and then realized it would take about 5 hours to comb through my notes and list them all- so consider this a blanket THANK YOU to the entire nation of Australia (except the one person who sneezed on the plane to Tasmania and gave me this cold), especially those who coordinated my trip, came to my presentations, and I include now in my circle of colleagues and friends– and especially the hikers:

Three Hikers

And one more for the blog-rific Sue Waters who posted a rather comprehensive blog post summarizing my visit.

This is likely and should be the last blog post here, so if for some strange reason you want to follow my tracks, my blog attention returns to my regular hangout at http://cogdogblog.com.

G’Day! Giddyup! Adios!





Bridges

28 10 2007

The Bridge — originally uploaded to flickr by cogdogblog

Sydney

Each of these last days I blog about it being the best highlight of the trip. I think this morning now wins. Westley offered to take me “on the water for a view few others will see” – we rowed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in his kayak, and it was truly gloriously amazing.

It did call for a 4:30 wake up call (actually that never came, but my alarm watch never fails) and a cab driver who did not know the streets and without his glasses, could not read the map, but we got to Westley’s house fine.

The rowing trip was about an hour out and back as we went under the bridge, out to the PM’s pad on the water and back.

Amazing would be an understatement.

We grabbed breakfast, got a fast tour of Wesley’s MLC school and chatted with an amazing teacher there. I’d been away from a classroom for so long, and was amazed to see all these kids sprawled out with laptops doing their research. School has changed since my time there, thankfully.

Then it was a buzz over to University of Sydney for a meeting Angela Thomas and colleagues on a SL teen project, then zip to the airport.

All in all, I now have this bridge image as the symbol for this trip, as I feel like I have this solid connection between where I am and my new colleagues and friends here in Australia.

It’s a solid and a beautiful bridge, indeed.

G’Day, Aussies, I am going home!

Just 8 hours later on my flight back to the states, I flew over the scene:
Harbour View





Big Wide Blue Mountains

28 10 2007

Blue Mountain Panorama — originally uploaded to flickr by cogdogblog

Today was a day that for this long trip was the goal at the finish line. Sean Fitzgerald offered (and came thrugh in a big way) to coordinate a day trip hike into the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. We tossed together a plan in a wiki (zero emails).

Sean, Jo, Bruce, and I met at Sydney’s Central Railway, and Westley joined us two stops later. Along the train route, the city ever so slowly gives way to some more open-ness, then softly climbs into the sandstone hills, and then morphs to the multiple waves of tree covered mountain ridges.

It was 2 hours on the train to get to Katoomba, and the time flew among our conversations. We walked through town to get to the Echo Point overlook (encrusted with bus loads of camera toting tourists). The photo above is actually 4 run together into a panorama with a program called AutoStitch (one of the few things I will jump into Windows to use).

At this spot we met up with Robyn and Stephan, who had rode their motorcycle up the hill.

Me and My Friends in the Blue Mountains

Sean, Bruce, Westley, and I opted for the hike down the stairs (like 1000 of them?) around the base of the Three Sisters, and across the forest about halfway down the seemingly bottomless opening. Trying to capture the sense, scale of this forest in photos got to be futile. Along the way, Westley asked us to record some audio with him, so as geeks on a hike, there we were with his ipod/recorder chatting about Second Life with birds calling and the waterfall gurgling. Look for the podcast eventually to be on Westley’s iThought blog (how is that for pressure to edit?)

We got to a point where it looked like the next trail up was yet another hour walk, so we did the logical thing and opted to ride out on the tram so we could get to town and find a pub. At the top, we still had 45 minutes of walk along the cliff top trail to return to our starting point. Just as the rain began to come down.

We caught up with the rest of the crew in town, and enjoyed camaraderie, food, and drink. And bonus! Alex stopped by as this was on his commute from Orange to Sydney:

Chilling Over Food

Then it was another two hour train ride down the hill.

All in all, this was a great way to almost close out this trip. I’ve known all of these folks by web. twitter, Second Life, and all is now enriched having the real life experiences. In fact, I am thinking these distinctions of “First Life/Real Life, Second Life” are less meaningful as we live in a fluid continuum between them, they are not separate lives at all.

So.. all that left is to wake up at 4:30 so I can join Westley for a paddle around Sydney Harbor, one more meeting at the University of Sydney, and then get on the big old jet airliner.





The Icing on the Cake of a Trip

27 10 2007

A Great Dinner Party in Newtown — originally uploaded to flickr by cogdogblog

These two weeks circling the island of Australia have been fantastic, but I’d be lying if I said I was not dog happy relieved to be finished the “official” parts- now I am on to my last bits of time here, designated by the code F-U-N.

Before leaving Brisbane this morning, I got to catch up for coffee with my old friend from Director Days (going back to Macromedia’s UCON in 1996). By the way, there were at least three folks who mentioned the old Director Web site that was my focus and obsession in the 1990s (its been more than 2 years since being updated, but still there- Colen, please don’t bust up the old Maricopa URLs!).

Dorian is a top Flash developer, creating, of all things, online poker games. I am hoping his company is not involved with the ones that comment spam blogs.

But wait, there was time for another breakfast meetup with Mark from University of Queenstown, eating at a cafe bearing an Eifel tower. And Mark kindly offered to drive me to the airport, and deftly managed to get me there in that 5 minute window before they stop checking people in. Nope, I was not sweating. Nope.

So it was back to Sydney, where I got to meet up with friend and colleague Angela Thomas and we went over to the shops near Fox Studios to meet up with more colleagues- HeyJude! I got to meet a great blogger plus more colleagues Wesley and Lynette. We chilled out at the movies and then Wesley provided this fab walking tour of Newtown, the funky (not trendy) hip hub of Sydney with stops at pubs, walls, and a great dinner at Cafe C.

A fab day, just a fab day. It’s time to get some rest for tomorrow’s hiking trip to the Blue Mountains.

And to answer your twitter question, HeyJude- I run late hours on pure adrenaline and the thrill of web goodness. I never run out of things on the web to inspire and generate energy. Someday I might actually see some of the nasties things the doomsayers and firewallers harp on, but so far, I se much more good than evil. By orders of magnitude.





Virtual Worlds from Brisbane

26 10 2007

And then there were none… the last presentation is in the can! But what a fun way to close out here in Brisbane. The venue for my Virtual Worlds: Promise or Perils (this site has all of the URLs I referenced, links to the movies, and the slides via flickr) was the beautiful open and glass structure of the Queensland State Library in Brisbane. As just about all of my sessions, the technology was flawless, practically plug and play.

A genuine highlight was getting to meet up with Lindy McKeown, whom I have known only in Second Life as Decka Mah, someone who is truly an expert in Second Life.

I was looking forward to this session because I had a full two hours (used every minute of it) but allowed for showing more videos and a little bit more discussion than my previous rounds. The audience was a mixture of TAFE, university, and private trainers.

We started the live Second Life demo, where Kevin Jarrett, a researcher from Walden University who received a grant/fellowship to explore/research this virtual world had arranged a meeting with some of the folks he works with at ISTE island.

Second Life Demo
Meetup with Victoria and KJ

We got to hear as well from Victoria Gloucester (Catherine Parsons in RL) and and Ken Greer (Dr. Ken Hartman in RL). My audience was most intrigued by Victoria’s avatar, in fact, they were still talking about her wings, dress, and wondering who she was when we met 6 hours later for a reception — see Kevin’s writeup Hello Brisbane, I Must be Going.

Next, we teleported to NMC Campus to hear Ed Lamoreaux, from Bradley University, talk about how his avatar, Professor Belivue teaches social ethnography classes in Second Life. And the Professor shared his sideline activity of performing music every Saturday night.

When it was time to ask questions, Lindy spoke up and invited the Professor to perform at her SL island, Terra Incognita. Connections!

It would have been fun to do more in Second Life, but I had so much more to cover. Just like all previous sessions, the audience just loved the World of Warcraft machinima Balled of the Noob. It is such a hit, I may work it into all my presentations! The also really appreciated Robbie Dingo’s Better Life. I moved through some discussion of other virtual worlds such as Qwaq, Wonderland, Hipihi. I ended with a quick demo of OpenSim running on my laptop. The demo itself is not all that impressive (I have a virtual world with a lump of land, 4 pieces of wood and a welcome sign) — but the principle and potential of being able to run a virtual world on a local server, network, does hit home. I think.

And like that, I was ready to say, stick a fork in me, as I am Done. We had a nice lunch n the lobby, then Lindy and I had a nice coffee out on Southbank. It was then some decompress time to walk back to the hotel, relax (over a Cascade Pale Ale)m ebfore heading out for the late afternoon reception with ACPET. They had a prime location at Venice Cafe right on the water looking at the Story Bridge. Food was awesome, and everyone seemed pleased I was drinking the local beer, XXXX.

It was a great series of conversations with a wide variety of people, most of whom were still very excited about Second Life. The put me on the spot to say some “remarks” about my reflections on what I had seen across Australia in the last 2 weeks. I have very little idea what I said!

CogDogBlah

I had some enlightening conversation with two hearing impaired women who had “heard” my presentation by lip reading, and it reminded me in a hard honest way that I had not factored that into my presentations, as they relayed (quite nicely) the frustration of not being able to access the audio content (the voice chat in Second Life) and the lack of captions in my videos. We also laughed as they shared the common occurrence that their need to stare intently at a speaker to lip read sometimes gets misconstrued as a signal of attraction! And I sure remember a woman looking at me ever intently 😉 We really laughed at this.

The reception was lovely, thanks everyone for joining us, and helping close this trip in the best way possible.

It was only topped by the view of the bridge as I headed back down Queen Street:

Nighttime at Story Bridge





Blue Mountain Hike- Meet Us At the Station

25 10 2007

In a fiat of executive decision making (that would be Sean’s) the hike for this Sunday has been decided as the one near Katoomba. This is scheduled for Sunday, Oct 28- We plan to be leaving Central Station at 9.18am. We can meet under the big clock on the country platform (upstairs) around 9.00am. Here is the train route if you would like to pick it up along the way – http://snipurl.com/1spz1

I am looking forward to this time of unwinding and hanging out with people to talk about… whatever comes up. I am more than happy not to talk about witter, or Second Life or Web 2.0 or …. Or we can, that’s the beauty of just being with people.

Look for the details and add your name to the Bliue Mountain Walk with Alan wiki
http://cogdoghouse.wikispaces.com/Blue+Mountains+Walk

See you at the station





No Google Feeling Lucky in Perth!

25 10 2007

I forgot to mention this in my write up for the time in Perth (3 days ago? feels like a month!). It was in my session on “Powerful Personal Portals” and I was showing how you add a new tab in iGoogle. As a test when I was prepping my materials, I had entered a tab named “Australia” and left the “I Fell Luck” box. It was very cool, as the new page was populated with news, weather, other gadgets relevant to Australia, that could be modified, deleted, etc.

So in my live demo, I decided to create a tab called “Perth”:

add-tab.jpg

Hey, I was feeling lucky!

Then the audience busted out laughing:

perth-respect2.jpg

“No relevant content? I get no respect!” says Perth. No problem. We loaded up the Australia tab and customized all the widgets to get the weather from Western Australia, etc.

You gotta be able to move fast on your feet when playing on the web, and remember the one about mistakes? “If it drops, pick it up”.

C’mon Google, give Perth some widgets. No wait, people in Perth can make their own widgets! Get with it.