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Travel content from Leo Nelson

Miami

Alas, yet another post that I started back in July but never got around to completing it. So, for those of you with fancy blog readers such as Google Reader or Newsgator or RSS Bandit, you’ll know that I actually completed this post in December. For the rest of the world here’s a small glimse of the trip to Florida in July 2006.

Florida Trip 2006

Trip to Microsoft

During the first week of May I visited Microsoft’s Redmond campus. The whole purpose of the trip was to attend the annual MSN Butterfly Tour – an MSN Butterfly is a volunteer who provides feedback to the various teams at Microsoft launching products through MSN or Live.com

I’ve setup The Redmond Gallery using SlideShowPro to display the 50 odd pictures I took while at Microsoft’s Redmond campus. Also, thanks to Ryan this initial photo collection has expanded with his contribution of pictures.

Without further ado here’s a very brief synopsis of my first trip to Microsoft:

Day 1:

Departed from Philadelphia bright and early. Was bumped up to first class thanks to the Silver Elite World Perks Program on North West Airlines. YAY for first class since I was hungry and they actually serve you something other than in-flight magazines to eat. After 5 hours of flying and transit through Minneapolis I land in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEAC or SEA-TAC). I had previously co-ordinated to meet up with Eric and Nancy and thanks to Nancy’s friend Linda we were able to to move around Seattle a bit more easily. Redmond is about a half hour from Seattle and the entire drive to Redmond is filled with this picturesque landscape. Microsoft knows how to impress by playing the hospitable host and upon arrival at the Redmond Marriott we were immediately made aware of this through small welcome presents (e.g. chocolate, stuffed toy, welcome card). I spent most of the day exploring the Redmond Town Center and finished off the day after the Mixer that Eric and Nancy put together. Sorry no pictures on the Mixer.

Day 2:

If anyone on the trip figured out how to get the alarm clock in the hotel to work they definitely deserve an award. Anyways, by 7:00 AM everyone is at the Microsoft campus and following brunch we’re briefed by Blake Irvine, Corporate Vice President, Windows Live Platform Group. The Microsoft campus is big. It’s like a university with tons of soda machines and geeks everywhere, and now apparently there’ll be towels and Starbucks coffee too. Everyone you talk with, has this amazing understanding of technology. They’re also hiring like crazy based on the 200 person new employee orientation we ran into. The cafeteria serves food like they’re trying to feed a starving campus. The whole day was filled with product demonstrations and feedback sessions. My goal to meet with the Custom Domains team was accomplished and provided as many feature requests that I felt they were lacking. We also ended up meeting people like Leah from the Windows Live Messenger Team and were given sneak peaks at the Messenger phones that have now launched. Microsoft treated us to dinner at the Columbia Winery –  Washington State’s first premium winery. Anyways, after dinner at the Columbia winery I crashed.

Day 3:

Another day of product demonstrations, feedback, surveys and glances at what’s coming over the next few months. Finally met Sanaz from the Live Team and Moz from the Spaces team. We got a better idea of products like Max and the void that they’re trying to fill or visualize. The day ends with a trip to the company store to finish our vouchers and with final farewells at the visitor center.

It seems that every Microsoft employee or product team with a blog connects with their audience much better. We could finally put faces to names and tons of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘please scrap that feature type or else …’ feedback were easier to provide to people who had talked about their product. Nevertheless, everyone from the Butterfly group was here determined to make their feedback into one of Microsoft’s plethora of products. Everyone from Microsoft was there determined to make their product the best. Talk about passion from both sides. Overall, this trip had a bit of everything – a great trip, a short trip, a networking trip and most of all a much enjoyed trip. Infact, even if Scobleizer wasn’t there you didn’t need his presence to realize that this was one group of people you could trust would do their best to make sure that their product met your needs.

Trip to Seattle

I was going to write up a nice lengthy blog about my recent trip to Seattle and Redmond but as I mentioned earlier today is one of those weekends when there are just one too many things that I’m trying to get done.

In a paragraph, Seattle is one of those cities you just have to visit. Surrounded by mountains and waterways, rich culture and history, delicious food and some unique architecture that really accents the weather. I stayed at the Hostel International for 3 days and spent time at the Pike Place Market, Waterfront, Pioneer Square and even went on an Underground Tour. After a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island, the Experience Music Project, Space Needle and even Uqjimaya located in the International District I had not even seen a quarter of the tourist attractions.

Words don’t do justice to such a great place, so as a temporary measure I’ve setup SlideShowPro to display the 140 odd pictures I took while at Microsoft’s Redmond campus and some time I spent in downtown Seattle. Also, thanks to Ryan the initial photo collection has expanded with his contribution of pictures. Thanks Ryan.

Without further ado The Seattle Gallery

Delta.com

Delta has just relaunched their website. This is weird timing since my marketing class recently covered a case study on how to market Delta in light of the various bankruptcy issues the airline has faced. One of the issues we discussed was how the airline could use their website to retain the brand value of Delta while still placing an increased emphasis on convenience of travel reservations, marketing of travel destinations and the SkyMiles customer loyalty programs. I think the new site has adequately addressed these issues. Will things be different in the next quarter?

Preparing for Canada …

As mentioned before, the trip to Canada is about to kick off in the next 24 hours. However, our method of organization has been primarily e-mail driven and it’s exciting to see how easy some things are when done via e-mail (perhaps we should have used Groove) – no room for discussion or disagreement and consensus on every item.

The joy of road trip planning and a sampling of one of the e-mails that were exchanged this week:

-We will meet at 1232 at 5 pm

-We’re thinking we’ll stop to eat at a rest stop somewhere after leaving Philadelphia. ‘A’ and ‘B’ are going grocery shopping Thursday night to get snacks and drinks for the trip. So, please send us any requests for food or drinks that you want. Otherwise you can eat what we get! Oh, and bring a water bottle if you have one.

-‘A’ just said the word money, and speaking of money, make sure you bring some! Also, save receipts of stuff you buy for communal consumption and enjoyment and we’ll figure out money stuff when we get back.

-So as not to drive the poor housekeeping staff crazy and to avoid eviction, ‘A’ is going to bring some basic toiletry stuff i.e. shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, body wash and face wash. ‘B’ will bring washcloths, towels and blankets and somehow we’ll sneak these in without being obvious. Oh, and if you want a pillow, it might be good if a couple of us bring our own. Maybe we should also bring one sleeping bag?

-Don’t forget passports, or birth certificates, or visas ‘A’ and ‘C’

-There is an indoor pool at the hotel so if you want to swim, bring swimming suits/trunks.

-Bring ideas and information about things you want to do in Toronto and we can talk about it in the car on Friday. Some ideas suggested already include the Niagara Falls, Church on Sunday, biking, museums, Niagara-on-the-Lake, immigrant towns. So, keep in mind clothing for these various activities. Also, when we get to B’s house Friday night there will be a campfire ready and waiting (no roast pig this time) so you might want to bring a sweatshirt as well. The weather in Toronto is supposed to be in the low 80’s with possible rain on Sunday (which we can do anti-rain dances in hopes that it won’t. Or maybe we should do plain old country line dancing to keep the rain, and scary people, away).

-Okay, so contact information. In the car Friday we can make sure we all have each other’s phone numbers, and, if you let ‘B’ be extremely obsessive, we can exchange emergency contact information as well. ‘B’s house is in a rather secluded location and does not have cell phone reception. So, if you need anyone to get in touch with you late Friday night until we leave on Saturday you need to give them the home phone number for ‘B’ which is (XXX) XXX-XXXX. If you need to make any outgoing calls, it’s totally fine because ‘B’ has a great phone plan and calls are free, which is also the same plan that gives us those cool free Blockbuster coupons, which is kind of beside the point, but since this is so long anyway, I thought I would just annoy you more, and if you are still reading this email I know that you really love me. 🙂

-If you have any fun car games (i.e. cards or keep-the-driver-awake-games) feel free to bring them. We will be playing the animal game and the berry-spotting game (a.k.a. forest-fruit spotting game).

-Don’t forget your CD’s

-The tentative itinerary is leave Philly Friday night, drive to ‘B’s house in upstate NY (similar to a bed and breakfast except that one of us won’t have bed) Then, Saturday morning after breakfast we head to Toronto via Niagara (?) spend Saturday and Sunday in Toronto and drive back to B’s house late Sunday night into early Monday morning. Then, we return to the city of Sisterly and Brotherly Love by 4:00 PM on Monday.

-Remember cameras to commemorate this crazy trip.