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The biggest nightmare I can foresee would be to immediately follow Paul & Bill’s flying circus. Fortunately I’ve never had to do that. I have had some….challenges, however.
At the H&T Verlogs conference in Munich a few years back, about 3 minutes into a presentation that included live demos on integrating IBM DB2 with Lotus Domino, I managed to knock a 5 ounce glass of water directly into my Dell laptop’s keyboard. The laptop shut down, and when it tried to boot came up with the fantastic error message “Drive Not Found”.
Although sympathetic (Germans are known for their sympathy the world over) I could tell by looking at the group in the room that if I cancelled and rescheduled I wouldn’t get them back. I decided that since there were only 20 or so people in the room, I would skip over plans “B” and “C” and drop to plan “D” – drop back and punt. I stepped off the stage, leaving the now useless bit of plastic and silicon where it sat soaking. I gathered everyone in the room around in an informal circle, and presented the same content in the manner of a guided discussion as a room full of peers.
Sympathy or not (and quite aside from my earlier joke, this particular room full of Germans was very understanding and even helpful) I managed to complete the presentation and cover the content well enough that I got fairly good evaluations almost on par with my usual ones.
Something that was really neat about this incident though, was that I’d brought Aeriel with me. We tell our kids that when things go wrong you have to keep going. They don’t get to see us do it though. Ari got to see me screw up, but put it back together and move on.
Immediately after the presentation, I went up to the hotel room and tore the laptop apart to dry. I knew the drive was bad, so Aeriel and I walked a couple of miles to a retail shopping mall where I purchased a new 40gb hard disk and a copy (a German copy) of Windows XP. I installed the drive that afternoon, loaded Windows XP using my memory for what was in the prompts, and put my backup data on it so that I was ready to do my presentations the next day.
I still have that boxed copy of Windows XP in German. Maybe I’ll bring it with me to Rudi’s conference this fall and give it away as a prize for the best question.
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