We haven't spent a huge amount of time in France, but we have spent quite a lot of time in Belgium (right next door and therefore with many shared influences), which has become one of our favorite places in the world. One of our favorite dishes (among many, many favorites) is Croque Monsieur--a glorious meal whose basic description (a French version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) just can't begin to do it justice. Served, as are many meals in even the finest restaurants in Belgium, with frites (french fries), we each had that particular dish a minimum of four times. The croissants, brioche and pain au chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant-like pastry) for breakfast brought back memories of our breakfasts at the IBM education center in La Hulpe near Brussels.
We were among a minority of the North American IBMers who loved the education center in La Hulpe. The center itself was rather sparsely furnished, to say the least, having small single beds in bedrooms that by American hotel standards were closet-sized. For years the rooms typically did not have TV or indeed many other amenities. So all the more reason to be out of your room as much as possible, wandering around the grounds and the adjoining forest and the lovely chateau next door to IBM, or gathering with friends and colleagues in La Cave, the IBM bar (sounds strange, doesn't it?).
At La Hulpe, we always worked very hard, typically participating in ITSO Technical Forum events that often included sessions and labs on bleeding-edge technology that rarely seemed to want to behave as the instructors had planned. Maybe it's just the workaholic in both of us, but the hard work combined with abundant food and Belgian beer made us look forward to visiting La Hulpe time and time again. And this past week, preparing for and running our RPG & DB2 Summit event, we experienced that same mixture of hard work combined with fabulous food and beer (we did have some Belgian beer, but also enjoyed Summit, from a local Minneapolis brewery) and we found ourselves reminiscing of times gone by around 15 or so years ago.
One more thing that made last week's event feel like old times in La Hulpe was the fact that our keynote speaker was Ian Jarman. Ian spent several years of his own IBM career in the ITSO and therefore was often among those colleagues with whom we shared the La Hulpe experience.
Leaping back into the present for a moment, Ian's keynote session featured coverage of four primary features of the 7.1 announcements that are about to be made. For us the most exciting were the DB2- and RPG-related announcements, which included a major RPG-related statement of direction for a new RPG Open I/O feature that will allow developers to build device handlers that will allow a wide variety of devices to interact with RPG programs using the old familiar op-code--Read, Write, ExFmt, etc. The power of this capability will become more obvious as ISVs and other clever developers begin to see what their imaginations lead them to create. We'll be releasing more information on this interesting development as and when details become available.
Last week was fun, exhausting and very fulfilling, just as the ITSO forum events were. The attendees and exhibitors were fabulous, it's so much fun to be surrounded by like-minded people all seeking to exploit their systems to the fullest. And just like we did all those years ago we're both now trying to recover, both by trying to catch up on lost sleep (at least there was no jet lag in Minneapolis!) and trying to lose the extra pounds the French food added to our waistlines. Who would have thought that Belgium memories could come so close to being relived in Minneapolis! Thanks to the Sofitel and to over 100 energetic IBM i enthusiasts at the Summit, it was much like old times.