Monday, December 18, 2006

Apfelkuchen at Stubers...

Frau Stuber invited me to an Apple-Pie at her place.

Like always it was incredibly delicious and we spent a nice afternoon talking dime to a dozen alongwith Herr Stuber, her daughter Martina and her husband Thorsten.

I wish them all great health and a merry time!

Visitors from Palo Alto...

I guess she would squirm at the thought of me calling her a visitor to Heidelberg... :)

It was wonderful meeting Simone after a gap of almost 6 months. We spent the Saturday evening together catching up on all the lost time and philosophising on human tendencies, attitudes and ethics. Apart from all this talking, we also did some serious power-shopping for her. This is also when she conveyed the all-apparent-yet-unknown-to-me bit of information that apparel shops had items sorted by color - something that I had never realized before - so much for my outstanding genes when it comes to shopping (pun intended)!

Dinner was at a nice restaurant in Hauptstraße (Main Street) of Heidelberg. Our beautiful window table attracted more than one visitor that would peep into the restaurant to see god-knows-what!

In spite of Simone having been awake for 24 hours thanks to the jet lag, and me having got little sleep thanks to the Christmas Party and having lumbered wood that morning, we still managed to have a coherent conversation - quite an achievement, actually!

There are some people who are perpetually interesting and always fun to meet - Simone is certainly one of them.

No slumber but lumber...

Reached home at around 03:00 am from the company Christmas Party that was. Being fundamentally nocturnal, I had to check my emails and respond to them before going to sleep!

Why is this detail so important? It is because a few hours later I had to drive over to Ellerstadt where Fred lives to help him gather firewood for winter. This was a real first-time in my life that still makes me feel WOW!

I woke up at 09:30 thanks to a very disturbed sleep and completed the 45 minute drive to Ellerstadt in about 30 (no, I didn't break any rules - the freeways here have no limits and 240 kmph i.e. 150 mph is permitted). Marcel was also around, and we had a refreshing coffee at Fred's place before starting on our adventure drive to the forests around Bad Dürkheim in Fred's 4 WD pick-up - one that negotiates mud and slush in ways that never stops amazing me. After considerable driving in the Forests, we located a spot that had a few dead trees felled by a storm or by the forest department that made perfect candidates for firewood. Marcel who obviously loves the powersaw got to the task immediately. I was quite a silent spectator to this noise and initially just helped these two in loading their vehicle. After a while, curiosity took over and I did some sawing too - it was fun, I must admit.

After collecting about 1.5 tonnes of firewood, Fred invited us over to lunch at a nice forest restaurant. The salad was great and although they didn't have anything vegetarian on their menu, a bit of creativity from me got them to preparing Kartoffel Knödel with Pilz Rahm Söse (Potato Dumplings with Mushroom Cream Sauce) for me! Yummy!

After lunch, Fred had to meet a mechanic (he is incredibly good at fraternizing with people) and by the time we returned to Ellerstadt, I was running late on my appointment with Simone at Heidelberg at 17:00 hours!

Zooming back home helped - so did delaying that meet by 30 minutes.

SAP Christmas Party 2006...

This is one time of the year when people - young and old alike seem to feel incredibly positive and happy - at least in the Parties!

SAP hosted one on Friday night - this time in SAP Arena again - a large stadium in Mannheim that belongs to the company. This party attended by about 4000 employees was great fun and the organizers really did put in a lot of effort into taking our feedback from last year seriously.

On one hand, I got to catch up with a lot of interesting people...

(Michael and me - ignore the seemingly empty glasses!)

And on the other, there were some others like Henning who simply could not be located in this humongous party!

Nice people and good music can more than compensate for the food that wasn't up to the mark, and all said - the party was great fun! I had a good time even though I didn't indulge in much alcohol (had to drive back home), and said quits at around 02:00 am - kind of early for me but I wanted to help Fred collect wood for winter (!!) the next morning!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Technocrats @ TechEd!

One of the highlights of my visit to Microsoft TechEd 2006 was my interaction with Technocrats - be it at the Ask the Experts (ATE) pavilion where I was invited as one, or outside it.

In addition to meeting intelligent geeks that had challenging questions aplenty, I also got to meet and interact with two stalwarts in the Microsoft Visual Studio development team - namely, Steve Teixeira (Group Program Manager - Visual C++) and Ayman Shoukry (Program Manager - Visual C++).

Both Steve and Ayman were present at the TechEd not only as representatives of the Visual C++ teams but also as speakers that made an outstanding impression with the delegates attending their presentations. The general consensus was that TechEd should feature more sessions for those into C++ programming.

After the first day of the conference, Steve invited all the VC++ MVPs along with Ayman and Danny Thorpe from Windows Live to a dinner at an Italian Restaurant. In course of dinner I got acquainted with fellow VC++ MVPs - Bruno van Dooren, a delegate from Belgium; and Marcus Heege, a speaker from Germany. I already knew of Bruno from the MVP Private Newsgroups and while it was the first time that Marcus and I met, Deutsch and Deutschland helped us establish an immediate connection.

Here is a snap from that evening (Bruno who left early is missing)...

(Clockwise from left: Marcus, Steve, Danny, me, and Ayman)

It was a nice evening with us discussing all and sundry - cultures, people, travel and technology (Shh... Technology is beyond the realms of this BLOG, remember!). Interesting to note was Steve's ability to understand a good amount of what the waitress said in Spanish - something that made me wonder if I could recollect the French I've learnt - un peu, perhaps.

In addition to their speaking engagements, Steve and Ayman were also present at the ATE pavilion - this however was really not the first time that I got to know of them.

It was only 3 months ago that Codeguru (that popular online software development forum that has me for a Moderator) featured a special chat forum ("Slow Chat: Visual C++: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow") where members could interact with the Visual C++ Product Team. Ayman and Steve have both been active in this Slow Chat and hence, they were in effect no strangers. For instance, here is one discussion where Ayman (Codeguru: aymans) and I had both contributed to. Similarly, Steve (Codeguru: steixeira) had responses I knew of to other threads in this forum. World is such a small place - little did I know then that I would be meeting these two in person. I must add that these people were as approachable and knowledgeable as their online avatars seemed to be.

A couple of days later, as I took a tram on my way back - I saw the winner of the Speaker Idol contest and C# MVP take a seat facing me. It was a no-brainer and I invited Bart de Smet to join me for dinner. He obliged and we enjoyed a good evening together.

TechEd is to me as much about people as it is about technology. I believe, I got the best of both, and hope to see all those mentioned in here during the MVP Summit at Seattle scheduled in March of 2007.

I had a wonderful time in Barcelona, even got featured on the VC++ Team BLOG (thanks, Steve!) - and can only say that Microsoft Tech Ed 2006 beat my expectations.

Looking forward - 2007 has all the makings of a challenging year what with two TechEds of interest to me. SAP TechEd that I should be visiting in the role of a speaker presenting SAP's latest deployment tool that should roll our products to all our customers - architected by me, and Microsoft TechEd as... Time will tell!


How the ball got rolling - Microsoft Tech Ed 2006...

Honestly speaking - at first, Sid attending Microsoft Tech Ed 2006 almost didn't happen!

The story goes this way: having attended Microsoft TechEd 2005 at Amsterdam last year, the deal (in my company) was that this be the year when a ticket would be purchased and for another employee (actually, my boss... So, no scope for negotiations there).

It was pretty clear since the beginning of 2006 that I would actually not make it this time - clear, save for one small (but rather significant) detail. This time, I was a Microsoft awarded MVP too. Time passed, the event was announced, and finally I was landed an innocuous email asking MVPs that would wish to volunteer for the event as Product Experts to apply!

There wasn't much to think about, and certainly nothing to lose. Being one that has a reasonably long experience in the software development world, as someone who is responsible for the design and development of a popular product that literally reaches millions in it's current version and as an appointed Moderator in one of the most popular online Forums, I thought I had a chance.

Luckily, I was right.

No sooner came in an email accepting my candidature as a volunteer with "Ask the Expert" for Visual Studio, I got my supervisors to sponsor my flight, and my stay in Barcelona. Bless them!

Microsoft TechEd 2006 was already set to be a very different and a very enriching experience. I talk more about it in the posts to come...

Last but not the least - many thanks to Ronald Beekelaar for organizing the ATE and having me invited. It all started with you, Ronald - meeting you was a real pleasure and so was meeting Kim. I hope to see you both again.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Diwali in Deutschland!

Yes, you read it right - I am talking of Diwali, and in Deutschland!

Before I continue, let me just ensure that you know what Diwali is! For one, it is the biggest and the happiest festival that is celebrated in all of India also called the "Festival of Lights". For another, it is one of those few festivals in the world that are celebrated by people of many religions. Yes, though the origins of Diwali lie in the homecoming of Hindu Lord Rama (from the epic Ramayana) after defeating the demons in Sri Lanka (no, I am not talking about the Tamil Tigers a.k.a LTTE), this festival is celebrated with gaiety and pomp by Sikhs and Jains too. This in addition to spirited Christians, Muslims, etc that join in the celebrations.

When one is an Indian and lives outside India the way I do - Diwali implies a time when one can visualize all the sweets, eats, lamps, lights, crackers and fun that one could possibly imagine in vivid colors - all the fun but with oneself out of it! Friends and family back home miss you as much as you miss them, all the more on this auspicious day.

Hey, now I did not say that to collect sympathy! This is but an expected part of living in a different country! However, being someone who is not wont to sitting and pondering, what I did is something that impresses me too - I used my online skills to find that the city of Fürth was celebrating Diwali! Yes, unbelievable but true.

There wasn't any decision to be made. I had to simply switch the car-ignition ON and zoom to a city 230 kms away! Now, those of you who know me do understand that this is a trivial distance for someone called "Sid".

The event itself was wonderful. It gives me so much pleasure to see people in Germany that not only love but enjoy Indian Culture. It was amazing to see a stage prepared for Bollywood Dance performances! It was even more amazing to see youngsters from this country, not all Indian perform dances to a level that would make them a good candidate in any decent Bollywood movie. Being a true Bombayite, and a genuine son-of-the-soil, I was mesmerized by my memories of India that started running in front of my eyes - all triggered by this event.

Dances apart, there was also a Tabla recital. Surprise of surprises, the Tabla Master was not Indian too, and not German either. He was from Kabul and played the instruments with a level of expertise that radiated confidence.

However, one of the most interesting part of this event that made my evening so agreeable was the people I got to meet! It all started with a friendly conversation with a Bengali lady called Kokila and Christa who was there with her two daughters Jesse and Pamela whom I asked for the schedule of the programmes (thinking they were in charge of the event). They instead invited me to accompany them, and I realized that the two also knew each other only for the duration of the evening. They were all cheerful people who were simply having a good time. A coffee, a Prosecco, and a dinner soon followed as did a couple of musical performances. Time was flying and fast! It was already night before we could realize. The event had a perfect close for a "Festival of Lights". There were fireworks and these were the icing on the cake - for, I didn't expect them.

That was my account of a lovely evening. We all exchanged contact information, and promised to stay in touch. I do sincerely hope it works out that way! Nice and open-minded people are always few and far between. Be it in India or in Germany.

Shubh Diwali!

Meet the Sid @ Microsoft TechEd, November 2006, Barcelona

Find me at the "Ask The Experts" pavilion!

Looking forward to my first Microsoft Tech Ed experience as a MVP for Visual Studio / Visual C++... :-)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vietnamese + German + Taiwanese + Indian + French = Fun

In the weekend that went, Le Thuy - a Vietnamese friend of mine tugged me along to a grill invite. I was more excited by the prospect of meeting some really interesting people than by the grill itself. Guess what? We made a group of five from five different countries - all with an experience of living a life outside one's own terra-firma - all with stories aplenty to tell.

As a previous mentions must have told you - I love these international meetings and they often add to much to my perspective of people and life!

For now, I just want to specially thank Le Thuy for her wonderful Pasta Salad, and Frederik for the thoughtful mix of paprika and mushroom that made grass-eaters feel at home. David and Sabrina for the wonderful conversations.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hola Chicos...

...Are perhaps one of the few words in Spanish I know, thanks to Eva.

She and Simone are having a blast of a time in sunny PA... Much as I dig not being there, I wish you both better luck with flights, trams and lots of fun... ;-)

Germany is more fun when you are here. :-)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tied in a knot...

My childhood friend Vinay got married this weekend. What a wonderful thing.

Living in a foreign country comes with it share of pains - one of them being the inability to be physically present in days so important as these. My best wishes to you Prajakta and Vinay towards a long, happy, peaceful and blissful marital life.

Much as I envy Sujit for being able to make it, I am very happy that at least one other in our elite group of three was witness to this great event! :-)

Miss you both.
So long...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Me and photography...

Hope you enjoy the photos at:

I'll keep updating it... You keep visiting it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

My first technical BLOG...

Announcing the arrival of:

More to follow...

Some nice meetings to talk of...

I've been a member of a popular programming bulletin board (online, of course) called Codeguru for some time now. It all started about 3 years back when I had some queries, and posted them here. As time passed, I became a contributor of solutions too, and in general - started enjoying this community. Eventually, I got recognized by Microsoft and some doors opened.

It does seem that lady luck was going strong on me (perhaps, I did work long on her ;) ) and I had the pleasure of meeting some really nice people (MVPs and otherwise) whom I knew of online - in person.

Rather than delve deep into the individual meetings again, let me just take you to the threads that discuss these developments -

I have also had the pleasure of meeting MVPs during regional Microsoft meet, and that was a wonderful experience too.

That's a lot of reading for now.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

My very first Blog, ever...

So... I wonder - what makes me start Blogging?

Is it just to experiment with what seems to be a new idea? Is it simply to "experience the pleasure of Blogging" as many put it? Is it with the intention of making my thoughts and opinions reach people? Is it one way to spend free time in what seems to be a meaningful activity?

Perhaps, it is all this and a lot more...

I will compose side-by-side technical BLOGs where I share some learning and experience - especially that gained from my work and from Codeguru - you should find these through my profile link.

This BLOG itself is going to discuss me (sounds narcissist, ehh? I agree!), interesting people I meet, as well as my pursuits in hobbies like photography, driving, travelling, etc.

Welcome to my Blog, folks! Feel free to share your comments...
Keep watching this space for stuff from me!


Siddhartha Rao
Microsoft MVP - Visual C++
Codeguru Community Moderator