re:Invent 2018

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The day after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, we travelled half-way around the world to Las Vegas for the annual AWS re:Invent conference and made a quick trip to Seattle to visit with friends, catch a Seattle Seahawks game and pickup our mail. The full trip was a challenging one to pack for with such different climates, venues, and cultural norms to take into account, but we were able to keep cool or warm as appropriate and had a great adventure. By the time we returned to Amsterdam nearly three weeks later, we’d flown 17,360 miles—time to stay in one place for a bit.

Below are highlights from November 27th through December 5th, 2018. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

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Las Vegas
Early morning in Las Vegas for the 2018 AWS re:Invent conference. We arrived last night after a 14:40 flight from Abu Dhabi to New York, and another 6:05 flight to Las Vegas. The timezone here is eleven hours different from the UAE, so nearly the worse possible from a jet-lag perspective.
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Andy Jassy
Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy at the start of his re:Invent 2018 keynote. I (James) have always found information processing infrastructure incredibly interesting and that’s just about all I’ve done at work for for the last nearly 30 years, so no big surprises there. What I do find surprising is that more than 50,000 people would find their way to Las Vegas to learn more about Amazon Web Services and what we are doing in cloud computing. Infrastructure still isn’t quite “cool”, but this is as close as I’ve ever seen it :-).
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Ross Brawn
Ross Brawn is a legend in the motorsports world. He’s been team principle of many Formula 1 team including Ferrari, Honda, Brawn, and Mercedes. His teams have won eight Formula 1 Constructors Championships and they have won the World Driving Championship eight times. He is now Formula 1 Managing Director of Motorsports and we’re honored to have him and the rest of the Formula 1 organization as customers of Amazon Web Services.
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re:Invent House Band
The re:Invent house band. You know you are at the right conference when the keynote speech has it’s own band :-). And it’s a pretty good one too.
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Zach Person
Austin-based Zach Person put on an awesome performance at re:Play, the re:Invent after-party.
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DJ Skrillex headlining at re:Play, the re:Invent after-party.
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An evening drink at the Bookstore Bar in our Seattle hotel, Kimpton Alexis. We flew in from Las Vegas this morning to pick up all the packages we had delivered to our mailbox at the local UPS store, see some friends, and go to an NFL football game.
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Luggage Scale
One of the many Amazon orders we picked up included a portable, digital luggage scale. With all the boat parts we bring back, we’re often near the airline checked bag weight limit. This will allow us to weigh the bags in our room and make sure none are over the limit.
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New Devices
We only go shopping three or four times a year, so when we arrive into Seattle, it’s like Christmas. Here we’re setting up two new Pixel 3 phones and an Amazon Kindle tablet.
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Mike Dilley
Lunch at the Old Stove Brewing company with longtime friend Mike Dilley, President and Director of the Eugene International Film Festival, who’d come up from Eugene, OR to spend the day with us.

When we say “longtime friend” it particularly applies here. I (James) first met Mike back more than 50 years ago when I was six years old. My father and Mike were in chemistry class together at the University of Oregon. They became friends and I used to see Mike fairly frequently during that period. He spent enormous amounts of time with me showing his music equipment and other gadgets. I particularly enjoyed using his giant Sony 777 reel-to-reel tape recorder. Mike had owned a recording studio in the not too-distant-past and, as consequence, had lots of interesting music equipment and had the patience to explain it all to me in detail.

Over the years I have stayed in contact with Mike. In the late 70s and early 80s history repeated and Mike again was running a recording studio and he was again explaining to me all the details of making music and how all the equipment worked. I spent nearly a week at Producers Studio in Eugene with sound engineer Steve Diamond. Over the years, I’ve always had a great time with Mike, we always enjoy talking, and 50 years later it’s still great fun to see him.

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Seattle Underground Tour
Following the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 that destroyed 31 blocks, Seattle officials decreed that the reconstructed streets be regraded one or two stories higher than the current street level, as the city originally was build on flood-prone tidelands. This would also ensure that new gravity-fed flush toilets wouldn’t back up at high tide. The ground floors of the surviving buildings eventually were enclosed by sidewalks and became the Seattle Underground. Businesses continued to operate in the Underground until 1907 when the city shut it down fearing a bubonic plague outbreak. Apparently the rats loved it, and probably still do.
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Pavement Lights
Many of the sidewalks in and around Pioneer Square in Seattle contain small panes of purple glass block. These are pavement lights, a form of walk-on skylight, that were installed over gaps in the sidewalks previously used by customers to access the Seattle Underground businesses below street level during the regrading project. Here we are looking up to one of the pavement lights from below street level.
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The last live NFL game we saw was the Seattle Seahawks vs the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco in 2017. Here, a year later in Seattle, we co-incidentally are watching the same two teams. The Seahawks won both games.
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Holiday Lights
Holiday lights along Occidental Avenue as we follow the crowds out of the Seahawks game.
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Fabulous sunset over Elliott Bay with the Seattle Wheel on the left, viewed from outside the Four Seasons Hotel.
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Toronto Friends
Dinner at the Pike Place Brewery with long-time friends we worked with at the IBM Toronto Software lab in the late 1980s and 1990s. James, Lubor, Steve and Al (clockwise from left) worked together on the IBM DB2 database product and Don (far right) was on the C++ compiler team with Jennifer. We all later moved to Seattle to work for Microsoft at around the same time.
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Elevator Service
The elevator in our hotel apart for service. Fortunately there is a second one—we have a lot of luggage to move today.
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Checking in our luggage at the Seattle airport. We’re checking four large suitcases full of spares, each weighing over 60lbs, and the long cardboard box leaning against the counter containing several antennas. The small rolling suitcase on the right contains any valuables that we’ll carry on.
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James got a chance before taking off from Seattle to chat with the flight crew and have them explain some of the features of the Airbus A330-300 that we would be taking non-stop to Amsterdam. The A330-300 is part of the new breed of wide-bodies focused more on fuel efficiency rather than just getting bigger.

The monsters of the wide body fleet, the 747-400s and A380s, are not selling all that well right now but the slightly smaller, two-engine planes are doing unusually well with deep sales backlogs. The A330-300, in the longer-range variants, can reach out to 7,250 nautical miles and have a passenger capacity of up to 335 passenger, so they are considerably smaller than the biggest wide bodies they are competing against.

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Lost Luggage
Our four big suitcases made it to Amsterdam yesterday morning, but our cardboard box with the antennas didn’t. We weren’t particularly hopeful of ever seeing it again, but we received the package this morning in good condition.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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2 comments on “re:Invent 2018
  1. Stewart says:

    Glad to see you and Jennifer having such a great time on your voyage James…and congratulations on your 70K and high altitude pennants from Nordhavn!

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