So one of the things that makes this particular trip so interesting is that while I’m in Orlando at Disney World at a massive conference this is also a work week for me. I’m not on vacation despite what it looks like on my Facebook. So it was up early for me like normal to make it to a keynote. Also during that keynote, while I’m paying attention and making sure I get the information needed for the future I have to take care of the work issues now. It was multi-tasking at it’s finest. My brain is often in two places at once and I can thrive here although it does require quite a bit of coffee.
Two whole cups of hotel room coffee weren’t doing the trick so I grabbed a Monster on my way to the ESPN Arena for our opening Keynote. Slamming that before I got off the bus there was more coffee waiting for me at the arena. Yup, all the caffeine means I can now do all the things, and I did. Rushing back to the main hotel after the very large presentation at the Arena I was in back to back breakout sessions discovering the “New IT”, deploying new visual hardware monitoring, predicting and preventing events, and exploring the cloud. All while monitoring email and needs from work back in Austin. I was planning on having a quiet evening as the event that night was a “Pub Crawl” through the pavilion of vendors. Which ended early enough for a sane person, but this experience has been anything but sane.
During the day I was introduced to all kinds of high ups from very large corporations talking with them about how they run their departments. During one of my few breaks, my Splunk Rep came and grabbed me and said, here fill out this link I just sent you and follow me. I had no idea what was happening so I just followed and filled. Turns out there was a private, invite-only appreciation dinner at the House of Blues that night and I had just received my invite. This changed my plans really quick, so after my last session, it was a quick trip through the pavilion for the Pub Crawl and then back to my room to get ready for the dinner. We were bussed over to the House of Blues for an open bar, all you can eat dinner and show from the Blues Brothers and Aretha Franklin. It was quite the show too.
It was getting late and we had another early morning Keynote so it was time to figure out getting back to my hotel. I notice we where on the water and looking at a map I saw the canals connecting us back to other resorts including the Port Orleans so after asking a few of the Disney cast members I found my way to the port that would take me back to my hotel. Traveling by boat hands down beat out the trip by bus. I also got to see quite a bit of the Disney Springs site and will have to go back Thursday night to make sure there is nothing there I need to pick up before coming home.
Tuesday night, however, would not end up treating me right once I got back to the hotel room. I couldn’t fall asleep despite being exhausted. Once I did I woke up at 5:30 AM and could not go back to sleep. That meant that Wednesday morning started with a crawl. I have no idea what it was that kept me from sleeping other than I don’t sleep well alone. After laying in bed wide awake trying to rest I finally got up when my alarm went off and got ready for the day. I checked my email and there was a laundry list of things to do with a sluggish connection and even more sluggish brain I knocked out some work and then went to the conference. I won’t bore you with the results of the breakouts. Needless to say, the information presented to my brain is a lot with actionable items for the next several years resulting from this. However, the biggest brain blow out was to come later that night.
After learning how Cisco monitors 3 million devices with Splunk and starting to feel my brain matter ooze out of my head a bit from the expansion. So I ran back to the hotel for a rest and a recharge of my devices. At 7:00 prompt I headed out to the front of my Disney resort to be bussed to Universal Studios Adventure Island. That’s right the company who invited me to Disney World, gave me an all access private pass to the House of Blues, has now rented out the entire Universal Studios Adventure Island theme park for a private party. Did I mention that this included HARRY POTTER WORLD!!!!!!!
Yeah that’s right the inner geek in me went crazy. After arriving I went straight for Harry Potter world. Past the Dr. Seuss Whoville, past the Lost Continent and right to the Hogwarts Express. Upon arriving I grabbed a butterbeer and seeing how there was open bars everywhere I grabbed some bourbon on ice and poured it in for good measure. That’s right open bars where everywhere along with free food from all the restaurants and stands and open access to all the rides. This was a gigantic treat and I was really really geeking out to this.
After the butterbeer I then headed off to visit Olivander’s for the wand show. That was pretty neet the way they used practical sfx to make it seem just like the movies. I then went and purchased my wand along with my school cardigan and some souvenirs for people. Afterwards I took a quick ride on the Hogwarts Express to visit Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross and then back to Hogsmead to visit the Three Broomsticks for a quick bite.
Finally I headed up to the castle Hogwarts. There was large lights flashing and fireworks going off while in line for the ride you basically go through the whole school. The herbology classroom, the hallways with moving paintings, defense against the dark arts room, Snapes dungeon, Dumbledoors office. It was pretty massive. The ride itself left me really wondering how they pulled off the technology behind it. You entered into the Great Hall of the castle and again the practical sfx they used to get the ceiling just right was impressive. You sat in ride chair and then went down a conveyer belt. There Hermione appears and magics you to fly and all of the sudden you are in the air. It then spins around to a room that I can only describe as whole body VR. We flew on broomstick a through the Hogwarts grounds escaping dragons, dementors, and going through a Quidditch game. In between the VR episodes we would rotate and go through animatronic sections that included Aragog and his spiders, and some very scary animatronic dementors. That last was particularly impressive because as one of the large scary ones came close a light came out of its face like it was trying to suck your soul out. As you moved away to escape your face appeared in the mist as you flew away. Making it seem like your soul was trying to escape. Very impressive.
After we finished with Hogwarts we saw some more sites. Jurassic Park World, a whole Marvel Comics themed section to the park. It was a lot to take in and just that one section of Universal if properly explored could take an entire day. We only had from 7:00 PM to 11:45 PM. Still enough to completely geek out Harry Potter World. I got to bed around 1AM after being bussed back to the hotel.