This year, I decided that Chicago was close enough to home to make the trip to AU. To defray expenses, I offered to teach a course on "Sheet Metal Flat Development with AutoCAD" (MCH021).
|Owen Wengerd, President|
September 23, 1996
by Owen Wengerd
All Rights Reserved
Now that I'm back home after a week in Chicago at Autodesk University, I'd like to briefly share my experiences for those of you who didn't make the trip.
When I arrived in Chicago on Saturday (9/14), I checked into my cut-rate hotel and drove around Chicago long enough to become familiar with my surroundings. I scoped out the Navy Pier where I would be spending most of my time, then parked my truck, unpacked my equipment, and set out on foot to discover what secrets Chicago held in its guts. I basically accomplished nothing on Saturday except for getting a blister on my toe.
On Sunday, I slept in. I was rudely awakened when the maid banged on my door around 9 AM. However, I quickly got dressed, showered in the standing-room-only shower stall, and headed for Navy Pier. Since I had become at least slightly familiar with the streets on Saturday, I felt confident in taking a few chances on the way to Navy Pier. Once I discovered that I had missed my guess and ended up some 6 miles north of Navy Pier, things went smoothly. In fact I pulled into the East garage at Navy Pier and pulled my truck into a parking space directly in front of the door which led to the stairs that lead directly to the AU registration area. Things were going good.
Sunday's agenda included getting registered, preparing my computer and room for my class Monday forenoon, and attending Lynn Allen's "Tips for Speakers" class on Sunday afternoon. The only hitch was that my room was the one room which did not have a computer in it yet. Well, besides the Speaker Ready room, which didn't get one until Wednesday.
Lynn's class was good. I borrowed a computer from another room so I could make some changes to my presentation to reflect some of her suggestions. I listened to the first half of the keynote address where I watched an uncomfortable, fully suited, dave espinoza-aguilar address the crowd, and Carol Bartz introduce the CEO of Softdesk as "the president and CEO of Autodesk".
At 6 PM the exhibit floor opened and everyone, including me, made a mad dash for the free food and drink on the show floor. I think some people even looked at the exhibits. I still didn't have a computer in my room.
Stacie Dong of Miller-Freeman promised that there would be a machine in my room before 6 AM Monday. So there I was at 5:30 AM Monday morning, waiting for someone to unlock the doors. By 6:30, the doors were unlocked, and I got right to work getting all my stuff loaded, making my own AutoCAD configuration, and preparing my example drawings for use. Sure enough, I discovered a bug in one of the lisp routines that was included on the CDROM every AU attendee received.
Once the 8:00 speaker kicked me out of the room at 7:30, I headed for the Speaker Ready room to grab some doughnuts and orange juice. The ready room was devoid of munchies, so I peeked into the Show Management room and found that it was well-stocked. I then decided to go through my presentation one last time before I had to face my 70 students at 10 AM.
The class went great. I improvised a bit, and winged it a lot. One student contended that my AutoLISP routines used symbol names containing illegal characters. When I pointed out that even the built-in multiplication function contained an asterisk, he shook his head in disgust. Luckily, he stormed out minutes later.
I felt like I had the world by the tail. I had students telling me what a great class it was, and eagerly staying after the class to ask questions and discuss related topics. One late-comer turned out to be someone I knew from the ACAD forum on Compuserve, and as it turned out he picked up the $8.00 tab for my Versucci Cheeseburger lunch.
Heading into Monday afternoon began an entire week of coasting. Monday evening was NAAUG's "Birds of a Feather" session, where I ran into a handful of people I knew from Compuserve. I ended up at a table with fellow programmers, including Andrew Bichard.
Tuesday included the annual NAAUG meeting, where I met a few more Compuserve people, including NAAUG BOD members and SIG chairs. I helped hand out the new NAAUG T-Shirts; by the comments, I'm convinced that the T-Shirt was the only reason most of the NAAUG members showed up.
Tuesday evening was the Speakers' Reception at the Palmer Hilton's Crystal Room. A great time was had by all. I met Tom Stoeckel, and ended up giving him a ride back to his hotel. By Tuesday evening, the trade show was over and many of the Autodesk people were on their way back home. The technical seminar component of AU continued in earnest.
I think it was Tuesday evening when I discovered the underbelly of Chicago. Yes, there is a whole city of loading docks, maintenance facilities, and the city impound lot under the streets of downtown Chicago. I was fascinated by it all, until I realized that I could not find my way out. The Chicago maps I had made no mention of "Lower" Wacker and "Upper" Wacker, much less how to get from one to the other. It was a memorable experience.
I had signed up to assist in some of the lab classes in order to help pay for some of my expenses, so I had the opportunity to wander around the classes and observe a variety of speakers and their students' reactions. This was an illuminating experience, to say the least. Let's just say that not all speakers are created equal, and some of them really helped my self-esteem.
I'll end this ditty on a high note at the NAAUG beer bust on Thursday afternoon. Between Donnia Tabor-Hansen, Don Spencer, dave aguilar, and Greg Robinson, the crowd was well-fed, entertained, and after a few drinks didn't even mind the less than perfectly level floor. I won a CADalyst T-shirt by naming Art Liddle as the person behind "Hot-Tip Harry".
Who was Who
What follows will be a quick description of my impressions of well-known people I met at the show. If you hang around the ACAD forum on Compuserve and/or read the AutoCAD trade rags, you'll recognize most of these people (in alphabetical order, and my apologies if I missed anybody).
outgoing NAAUG president
|Short and stocky, belongs in a t-shirt and jeans. I didn't talk with dave more than to say hello.|
|Lynn had black hair this year. I understand that she changes her hair color periodically; in fact they raffled off her blond wig at the NAAUG beer bust. She told me she had been considering green this year in honor of a famous Chicago resident. Lynn stuck out as being very friendly.|
Compuserver/Civil TM on ACAD
|I saw Dennis briefly when he was at the show with Papa Joe on Sunday night. In fact Joe pointed him out to me, and I ended up playing cat and mouse trying to track him down. I can't think of anything unusual about him, other than the fact that he pretty much resembled what I had imagined from knowing him online.|
Compuserver/Autodesk product support
|I soon determined that Nate was a few bricks short of a full load when he insisted that he loved product support. He was dead serious, too. The silly grin and nervous damage must be the result of too many support calls. A super-nice chap.|
Compuserver/GIS TM/President of American Digital Cartography
|I assisted in one of Mike's lab classes on GIS/AutoCAD Map. I didn't do more than say hello, but Mike was either a bit nervous or just naturally talks fast, because he whipped through the presentation with such urgency that I had a hard time keeping everyone in sync.|
|I met Morey at the Birds-of-a-Feather session. He thought I was mad at him, since I hadn't "talked" to him after he and I apparently had different viewpoints regarding an issue on the ACAD forum. I assured him that I had no recollection of the incident he was referring to, and that I thought very highly of him. Morey was very easy to talk to, and I appreciated the fact that he had been seeking me out to clear up any misunderstanding.|
|Andrew spotted me from his wheelchair, across the room at the Birds-of-a-Feather session. While talking to Morey Behrens, I noticed Andrew making his way over. I ended up sitting next to him at the programming SIG table. His British accent was not as pronounced as some I've heard, but his congeniality was easily recognized.|
|Craig was pretty busy in the lab sessions. I attended several of his classes, and I was very impressed with his presentation skills, and his knowledge of AutoCAD. Besides being a charming personality, Craig ranks as my favorite instructor (out of the handful that I listened to).|
|I met Dave at the Speakers' Reception. Since he had recently reviewed a software product I've been working on, we had a good discussion about it. Dave was very outspoken, and I would say his "live" personality matched his online persona very closely.|
|Art could be a twin brother to a truck-driver friend of mine. I had the opportunity to try to pick Art out of a group of 5 Autodesk employees who were present for the Programming SIG meeting, and I picked Jim Quanci. Of all the Autodeskers on Compuserve, Art's physical presence was the most different from what I had envisioned. Luckily, his personality is just as friendly and even-tempered in person as it is online. Art appreciates the users' point-of-view and it really showed at the SIG meetings.|
Social Deviant at Large/Compuserver
|I walked into the "Gurus" session halfway through the course, and Al was stealing the show when I walked in. It really was a show. I think they should charge admission next year, and maybe even sell popcorn. Not only was Al entertaining, but he really knew his stuff. Phil Kreiker was not to be outdone, though...|
|Dudek, Tony||I never did have a chance to talk to Tony, but he was one of the gurus at the "Gurus" session. He added the wisecracks. Tony also got his picture on the AU CDROM.|
|I only had a chance to say hello to Bill. I remembered him from some work I had done on the R13 certification exam, but I really don't know him that well.|
|I said hello to Leif, and we crossed paths in the Speaker Ready room several times. It was my first encounter, although I recognized his name from articles he's authored in the CAD rags.|
|Mark is an imposing figure, both in height and breadth. Since he's from Chicago, I tried to recruit him to show a Compuserve group out for pizza, but our schedules didn't suit. Mark stood out mostly because of his size, but he's also quite possibly the youngest of the Compuservers I met.|
Autodesk Program Manager
|Jessica is most notable for her ability to remain anonymous. I tried fruitlessly to find her. Rumor had it that she was only around on Monday and Tuesday. I never did meet Jessica.|
|Emmanuel is a very intelligent individual, with a very well-rounded approach to things. He brought the entire family with him, and I encouraged him to teach a course at next year's AU to help defray the expenses. We had a good philosophical discussion about everything from mathematics to religion.|
|John was also on the "Gurus" panel. I don't remember John's online personality, but he does lurk on the ACAD forum. He introduced himself at the beer bust.|
|David was pretty active in the NAAUG events. I didn't have a chance to talk to him more than to say hello. He seemed to be the "do-er" type rather than the "talk-er" type.|
AutoCAD Certification Exam
|I met Alan briefly. He was one of my contacts for the work I did on the R13 certification exam, and he remembered my name when I introduced myself. Our introduction was a quick hello in the Speaker Ready room, and that was the last time I saw him.|
|Bill is very recognizable, not only because of his computer-nerd looks, but his height. He towers over most people physically as well as in AutoLISP expertise. I would have liked to attend his all-day AutoLISP class on Sunday, but as it was I just got in at the end in time to say hello.|
|Phil ventured outside the rabbit hole long enough to keep things lively at the "Gurus" session. For those who have never met him in person, rest assured that his writing style is indistinguishable from the rest of him. A unique character, the sandals were a sure giveaway to his identity.|
|What little I saw of Art gave me the impression that he was all business. He left early, so I never did get a chance to show him a demo of our new product.|
|I never could catch Sandy to introduce myself, since she was always involved in a conversation with somebody. She has an imposing presence both physically and socially.|
|What can I say? This old phart is everything he says he is. I met Joe on Sunday evening, and we chatted for a while. I could tell that he was in agony since he had no cigarette and no coffee. Joe is socially challenged, and I frankly have a hard time envisioning him in front of a computer.|
NAAUG Programming SIG chairman
|Scott seemed very uncomfortable in front of a large group of would-be programmers at the SIG meeting, but he asked a lot of good questions of the Autodesk contingent, and he obviously knows his stuff when it comes to the AutoCAD APIs.|
|Mike looked like he could have made a wrong turn on the way to the truck-stop bar, but he is as intriguing an individual in person as he is online. I thoroughly enjoyed his company, and his non-descript appearance certainly belied the colorful personality underneath the western hat.|
Autodesk Developer Marketing
|Jim reminds me of Mike Kinsley of CNN's Crossfire, both in appearance and presentation. Heck, they even sound alike. He was very friendly when I met him at the Programming SIG meeting, and I felt like there was a good sense of humor just beneath the surface.|
|Greg has a deep voice, and a quick smile. One can't help but be enthralled when he speaks. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to take any of his classes, but he did a bang-up job with the microphone at the NAAUG beer bust.|
|In addition to being very talkative, Peter also listens well. He was very sociable, and he comes across as very much a computer weenie like the rest of us. He tried valiantly to coax a borrowed Win95 laptop to log onto my ISP so I could download a file.|
|Lara does a lot of work behind-the-scenes at CADalyst. Her huge, friendly smile dwarfs the rest of her. Well, actually, a lot of things dwarf the rest of her, but her aggressively friendly personality more than makes up for any lack of physical stature.|
|I only saw Gene once on Sunday evening, and I only had a brief conversation. His editorials in CADalyst seem to reflect his personality pretty accurately, I thought.|
NAAUG board member
|Don was everywhere NAAUG was, and he definitely played an active role in the NAAUG events. I didn't have a chance to talk with Don very much, since he was always either behind a microphone or running around like a chicken with its head cut off.|
|I met Tom at the Speakers' Reception, and we really got along well. I gave him a ride back to his hotel after the reception, then we went out for pizza on Wednesday evening. He's a great guy, who I'm glad to have had an opportunity to meet in person.|
new NAAUG President
|Donnia is a natural for having a microphone and addressing a crowd of NAAUG members. Her southern drawl and humor come through very well. I'll bet she's a blast to work with.|
Workcenter Developer Support
|Jim and I met by accident in the Speaker ready room on Tuesday, and we got into a discussion about file security and integrity. Jim has a keen insight into the subject, and I came away being very impressed with his abilities. I detected an unmistakable difference (for the better) in his attitude as compared to my perception of the core AutoCAD group's attitude. He seemed to really enjoy interacting with his students.|
|George is a smallish individual with big hair and an earring. I happened to be next to him while we were both waiting on someone, and we had a good conversation. I must say that neither George nor any of the other Cadence people were the least bit aloof, and all of them were very approachable. George was certainly no exception.|
|Donna was as friendly and outgoing in person as she is online. I had hoped that she would join us for pizza on Wednesday, but she had a rough day and decided to head for the hotel instead.|
|Evan has an imposing presence. Or, said another way, he's tall and has a beer belly. He was at the CADalyst booth on Sunday evening when I first met him, and he immediately remarked that I was a "well-respected" Compuserve forumite as I was introducing myself to Art Liddle. I saw Evan several times throughout the week, but unfortunately I never did get a chance to really talk to him one-on-one.|