Pete's Stuff

Money, Money, Money

So as everyone no doubt knows, I was in San Francisco this week for the annual Oracle conference. I posted on Monday night, which ended up being a rare free day, but since then it's been a nonstop display of frankly, money. Not to say it isn't a little exciting to be here, though. To make it sound super c00l, I can say that I spent four nights in a great city, saw Aerosmith, Roger Daltrey, Devotchka, and the Pogues in concert, survived an earthquake and a typhoon, and came awful close to the president, the vice president, and the governor of California. Not too bad!

On Tuesday evening we were invited to a portal customer appreciation gala at the St. Regis Hotel, across the street from Moscone Center. This was the real deal, held in a swanky salon with expensive sculptures, an open bar, and guys walking around with white gloves and silver platters filled with hors d'oeuvres. The event was originally going to be on the 4th floor terrace, but the remnants of a Pacific typhoon had blown onshore that morning and made being outdoors pretty miserable. We spent a couple of hours there, and I chose to nurse a couple glasses of wine and stay conservative.

After that, Jonathan and I headed a few blocks down Market Street to the Warfield Theater for the show. Devotchka played their usual mellow set, but I was a little surprised that it was all music - I don't think they once addressed the audience during the entire show. Not sure if that's typical for them, but it's odd in general. The Pogues were great - Shane McGowan showed up on time, the songs were all solid, and the crowd was in a great mood. I didn't run into any drunken troublemakers, and stayed up in the front part of the main floor where it was just basically one big mosh pit, with everybody happy and high fiving after each song. There were a few times people tripped and fell, but the crowd was very careful about protecting them and lifting them back up to their feet, so it was a good vibe.

We walked back along Market Street after midnight, and at one point we ended up being harrassed by a sketchy looking guy who stayed alongside us offering us... I don't know, something. "I'm not trying to sell you something, man." "Well, maybe I'm selling... San Francisco, man! Whadya want, you let me know!" I couldn't really even understand what his deal was, and he didn't have anyone else around so I wasn't concerned about it - it was just baffling. He stayed with us a quarter mile before giving up.

The following day brought an earthquake in the early morning. Nothing to be concerned about though, it was only a 3.8 centered near Oakland, and no one noticed it until they heard on the noon news, or perhaps later.

Larry Ellison's keynote address was in the afternoon. A couple of his topics were of no real interest to us, but the half hour he spent on the Exadata hardware was pretty cool, if only because of all the gadget lust it invoked in the largely technical crowd. But after the Exadata presentation, he surprised everyone by having a couple of guys wheel out a wooden lectern and then informed the crowd he had a "special guest" who would like to speak. It turned out to be the Governator, who gave an absolutely hilarious talk relating to the high-tech industry, and its importance to California and the nation. However, he spiced it up with plenty of references to his history and career, slightly risqué jokes about his marital life, and made sure to underscore his commitment to greening up energy policy. It was genuinely fun to listen to, and certainly brought back any of the audience who might have started to tune out by that point.

Another point - I've heard that Arnold is not actually a very big guy in person, and certainly with his political career, it's no secret. Nevertheless, it was interesting to be sitting about 40 feet away and realize he just looks like an ordinary guy in a suit, and isn't much taller than me, if at all.

At 6:00 we met up with our account rep and regional sales manager, who took us out to dinner at a wonderful restaurant called "2" just a block away from Moscone. I had a filet of grilled salmon with gnocchi and lamb's quarters, and it was impeccable. We had a honest, good time, with nothing formal or stilted about the conversation. Then we walked over to Moscone West to board a shuttle bus to Treasure Island for the overall "customer appreciation" event.

Treasure Island is in the middle of the bay, right off the Bay Bridge between downtown SF and Oakland. The event was being held at the midway area, which turned out to be exactly that - it was a huge area with rides, booths, carnie games, and an amphitheater on the south end and a temporary tent at the north end for the bands to play. Plus, there were rows and rows of tents with complimentary food and drinks (Budweiser, but who's complaining?) The south amphitheater filled up just before 9 PM, and we wandered into the main floor just in time to see Aerosmith take the stage. I told the guys later that I wouldn't pay to see Aerosmith, but since I didn't, I actually enjoyed the show. The Wailers, Roger Daltrey (formerly of The Who), and Three Dog Night also played. Things started to break up around midnight and we headed back to the hotel shuttle buses.

Scott and I both had flights out in early afternoon, so there wasn't much to do on Thursday. I had shared a cab with Pete on the way in, but since I was out on my own I decided to take the train to the airport, which was really easy. The weather had cleared up and as we passed through some of the above-ground areas in the south metro, I had a last image of San Francisco with its iconic architecture clinging to the hillsides, all covered with a low layer of fog.

Oh yeah, the prez- vice-prez thing. That was less exciting, but all I got to experience there were airport delays. Obama was flying out of SFO on Thursday, and Biden had flown into MSP for a fundraiser hosted by the Pohlads. So I arrived at the airport around noon local time and ended up in Minneapolis around 10 PM local time. But I suppose I shouldn't complain - Scott was flying home on the same trip and he suffers from some pretty severe flight anxiety. Just a reminder that things could be worse. I did have a window seat, though, and got some great views of the Golden Gate and the Bay as we left, the Sierra Nevada, the Nevada Deserts, the Bonneville Salt Flats, and the Great Salt Lake before it got dark out.

During the event, we were talking about the amount of money involved in putting on an event like this, and whether it was a profit maker or simply break-even. The only good numbers we can estimate are the registration fees - Tim (our account rep) estimated 42,000 people at a minimum registration fee of $1,999. That gives a total of near 100 million dollars in attendee fees, which makes the rest of the excess a little more understandable. Still, there must have been an incredible amount of logistics to make it all happen - I'm sure there was a team of people basically working all year just to make it happen. And, that same team is probably working on next year right at this moment.