London Training

Last week I had the pleasure of teaching an OpenNMS course in London.

We’ve been doing some work with BT (British Telecom) and part of that involved training. The hardest part in doing training outside of our main office is finding a place that also has computers we can use. It dawned on me that Red Hat has a London office, so I sent a few e-mails and they were gracious enough to loan us both a conference room and a mobile classroom equipped with nice laptops.

I think I need to make it a tradition to visit as many Red Hat offices as I can (grin).

This one was in a building that used to house Special Operations:

The office is on Baker Street (yes, that Baker Street) which is in Mayfair, a very posh section of London. It’s home to Selfridges on Oxford Street, a Harrods-like huge department store, as well as a slew of expensive cars: Bentleys, Rolls, Aston Martins as well as Ferrari’s and Mercedes.

Not that I had too much time to spend looking at the sights. I was there to teach a class and I am in the middle of totally redesigning it, so my first couple of nights were spent working on slides. On Thursday, however, my friend Jonathan Sartin (OGP) had invited me to see a presentation on “The Universe Within” at the Royal Institute by professor Neil Shubin.

We got there a bit early, so I grabbed a local ale and we waited for Craig Gallen (OGP) to show up from the Royal Society (a different “Royal”). The auditorium was pretty full and steeply pitched, which reminded me of some of the many colleges I attended.

Shubin is best known for finding a transitional fossil named Tiktaalik in the arctic region of Canada. A good portion of the hour long presentation was on finding it, starting with looking for fossils along the highways of Pennsylvania. As my family is originally from there, I can remember driving by these hills that were steeply cut so the road would run straight and you could see the different strata plainly. He was looking for fossils in the Devonian era (about 375 million years ago) specifically for an animal that closely resembled a lobed fish but with the flat head and neck of the later land dwelling amphibians. After several years he found it in Tiktaalik.

The talk was good, but at one point he mentioned that the Earth was actually speeding up and the days were getting shorter. This didn’t sound right to me, as I remember once in high school actually calculating the effect the Moon has on the Earth’s rotation and that it was slowing down (through its influence on tides). Furthermore, it would slow down until the rotation of the Earth (a “day”) matched the rotation of the Moon, which is a little more than 27 current days. When that happens, the Moon will spiral into the Earth, causing a few traffic jams and flight delays.

Actually, the calculations showed this was to happen in about 7 billion years, and by that time the Sun will be a Red Giant with a diameter out to about the orbit of Mars, so no worries.

Anyway, when question and answer session happened, I decided to call him on it. He pretty much corrected himself, “It *is* slowing down, the days are getting shorter … I mean longer. Did I say shorter? I meant longer” and left it at that, but Jonathan gave me points for asking a question at the Royal Institute on my first visit, and one meant to correct the speaker at that.

On the way out, I noticed that there were chargers out front for electric cars. Cool.

When I mentioned I was in London, Alex Hoogerhuis, an OpenNMS guru and current resident of Norway, decided to fly in for the day and visit with me. It was fun. We walked down the road to a pub called “The Pheasant” and had a nice meal, and afterward went to the lounge and talked about planes. He taught me the easiest ways to identify the most common commercial jets and I plan to write that up at some point.

The next morning we took a cab to Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Since he no longer has elite status I was able to get him into the BA lounge, and he was able to show me a really cool, almost hidden section of the lounge where we waited for our gates to be announced. It was a fun visit and I hope to be able to see him again soon, which will probably be at the OpenNMS Users Conference in March – the OpenNMS event of the year.

Be there. (grin)