Worse luck

It’s been a while since I got out to the trade seminars. You know, marketing’s traveling bumpf show, where they trot out the VP of sales, plus a “security evangelist” or somebody with some such title (who has a technical background, but likes schmoozing more than doing actual research). I used to go to lots: it’s a good way to get up to speed when you first enter a field, but the law of diminishing returns tends to set in real fast in terms of actual information.

There were actually two that I signed up for this week. SANS had one, and I’ve never been to any SANS stuff, so I went to that. Intel also had a real dog and pony show, with extra associated vendors. When I get home from these things, Gloria always asks me whether I’m glad I went.

I’m glad I went to the SANS show. Didn’t get much out of the presentation itself. But the style of the presentation was intriguing: an awful lot of “cute stuff” demonstrated, without much actual information being relayed. The attitude of the presenters was also interesting: they were definitely in it for the cash.

I’m sorta glad I went to the Intel show. The presentations were all pretty lame, and seemed to get worse as the day progressed. However, a couple of the vendors were security related, and it was interesting to see some of the directions people are trying to go with desktop security. (The event was supposed to have had a “trade show” component, but the arrangements made it nearly impossible to actually talk to the vendors. Maybe that was by design: if you did talk to them, you got to the end of their knowledge base quite quickly.) Intel has something on some of the new processors called vPro that has some kind of access control which various vendors are using for remote maintenance and so forth. No details on how it works, of course. I suspect it’s left over from the old TCPI stuff.

I also knew a fair number of people at the show, so it was nice to chat. And thereby also hangs a bit of a tale.

So the first presenter of the day, Jason, gets up. You always start by making a rapport with the audience, right? And he’s from Toronto. So he’s giving us this big song and dance about how, even though he’s from Toronto, he actually grew up in Burnaby, so we should trust him. And I lean over to Gord and mutter, “But he’s wearing a suit.”

I shouldn’t sit with Gord. He’s a bad influence. He laughs, and says I should
say that. So when Jason, up front, starts in for the third time about how he’s from Burnaby, I yell out, “But you’re wearing a suit!” The whole room laughs. Jason takes off his suit jacket (which is kind of a production, because, of course, he’s been wired into a lavalier microphone), and goes on with his presentation.

(Apparently I started something. Second presenter of the day comes up and elaborately takes off his jacket before he starts, the rest of the presenters don’t wear jackets, except for the last one who claims that he promised his mother he’d wear a jacket.)

So on a break I see Jason, and apologize for giving him a hard time. I also tell him that, being from Toronto, he’ll have a chance to come and heckle me when I speak at InfoSecurity Canada. He looks at my name tag, and looks up, kinda stunned. “Rob Slade,” he says, in a disbelieving voice. (I’m a bit surprised at this. I’m used to getting some recognition in tech crowds, but not among the marketing people who do these sales seminars: they don’t read technical books or mailing lists.) “I’m Jason Bremner,” says he, and I’m thinking, yeah, I saw your name on the program, and then he adds, “from Keats.”

Keats is a little island, near Vancouver, that is recreational property. My parents had a place on Keats, and I grew up there, in the summers. The Bremners had a place as well. The Bremner kids were all younger than I was, but all I can say in my defense was that the last time I saw Jason, he was about ten years old. And he wasn’t wearing a suit.

At these events, the major vendors get the minor vendors to come along by promising a big crowd. And the way to get the crowd to stay, once they’ve showed up, is to have the prize draws at the end of the event. So they are drawing for gift cards and things, and the draws from the minor vendors who came along, and everyone is waiting for the big draw of a laptop. (I’m not too worried about winning anything: the biggest thing I have *ever* won is a fairly fancy chair that the grandchildren have turned into a piece of indoor playground equipment.) And everyone at my table is just chatting, and I hear my name called. And ask, “What did I win?” and nobody says anything. So I go up, and it’s kind of strange, and the guy hands me a sheaf of papers, and says something about they’ll have to get me registered, and the name of the person coming with me, and I go and stand to the side and start reading and it’s a prize trip: airfare, hotel, tickets to the Formula 1, spending money, and down at the bottom it says “Value of prize: $5,000.” And up at the top it gives the dates. And I’m thinking: This can’t be happening.

Because I’ve got to present (three times, no less) at InfoSecurity Canada, and the dates conflict.

(Oho, I hear you cry, just change the tickets. Montreal and Toronto aren’t that far apart. Yeah, right. It took me two months to get the outfit running the conference to get around to travel arrangements, and said arrangement still aren’t complete. And other work has to be scheduled around the conference. And both the airlines and prize giving people are extremely sticky about *any* changes: you practically have to have the authorities guarantee that you are going to be on those specific flights. Unfortunately, I can pretty much guarantee that it wouldn’t work.)

I’m in shock, over both winning and losing $5,000 in the space of a few minutes. I probably should have waited until everyone had left, and *then* told them I couldn’t go: that way I’d have been in a good position to trade the prize I’d saved them for something relatively meaningful. As it was, I told them I couldn’t go, they drew again, and the guy who won was young and had a shaved head, and looked like he’d just have a blast being at the race with the noise and the high powered machines and all. (Hey, I’m a grandfather. I can stand loud noise, but two full days of it would get old real fast.)

So I spend the rest of the day shaking from the adrenalin buzz and with an upset stomach: how was your day?

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