NENA Conference in Indianapolis

22nd June 2002

This was supposed to be a page about Opera In the Vineyards 2002. Anne and I had booked it, paid the money and were a few days away from it. It was going to be great - a jazz concert, wine tasting, opera, al fresco dinner. I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, something came up.

The Thursday before, the company decided I needed to go on a conference. So Friday afternoon I flew to Indianapolis. While I was away, Anne took her friend Angela to Opera in the Vineyard while I sat in a hotel room in Indianapolis gnashing my teeth. Anne said that Angela, despite being a tiny little woman, ate enough for me. They had fun, so at least the tickets didn't go to waste.

[Crowne Plaza Hotel]

I arrived in Indianapolis late on Friday night, and made it to my hotel. I was a bit surprised by the hotel. It wasn't your usual conference hotel. It used to be the Union Central train station, and some parts still were. The trains come in during the night, and woke me up every time. The decor is old train station.

Look at the back of that photo. See those two little white figures? They are part of the collection of "ghosts" that are scattered about the hotel. These are white life-size statues of people who used to be found at the train station.

[Inside the
  Crowne Plaza Hotel]

These ghost figures were all over the place. This family group was outside the entrance to the lift on my floor.

[Mother and
  daughter...] [...and the
  father takes the photos]

My room was opposite a stack of Pullman cars. These were bought, rolled into position, and then remodelled. You can stay in them. Each one has a name on it, and the interior is based on their life. Louis Armstrong. George Gershwin. Charlie Chaplin. They have special weekend deals where you can stay in the Pullman car of your choice, all meals served in the car, for a few hundred dollars.

[The rooms in the
Pullman cars]

I liked the hotel a lot. The train station motif gave it a lot of character. I wandered round a lot, just taking it all in. [Ghosts of nuns
  in the train station]

The conference was a last minute, spur of the moment thing. It was a NENA conference, a conference about N11. To translate, NENA is the National Emergency Number Association. The N11 refers to the emergency number 911, and the other non-emergency numbers becoming available in the USA - 211, 311, 511 and 711. And one day, the other three numbers (411, 611 and 811) will have a real purpose too.

The conference started on the Monday, but on the weekend were courses put on by NENA so that newcomers could learn some of the technology. This industry has more acronyms than the computer industry.

The hotel was only a few minutes from the Indiana Convention Centre, which was tucked behind The Dome, shown in the photo. [The Dome]

The walk to the convention centre had a few highlights. First I found a curiously named bank. How did this happen? Did 6 or 7 banks open on the same day each claiming to be the Third Bank, and this one happened to be the fifth of them by opening 3 seconds after the fourth one, so it was known as the Fifth Third Bank? I guess I'll never know. [Fifth Third Bank]

The registration booths were in their very early stages when I arrived at 7am. I spent a long time waiting in line and arguing about registration. No, they didn't know about me. Never heard of me. Luckily I had copies of all faxes sent to them, so I sweet-talked my way past all the difficulties. The next problem was that the course I wanted to do was full. I couldn't join it. I hung on and kept arguing. Eventually, the woman gave me a registration card for it just to get rid of me, and told me that if it was too full and I was rejected, then I could come back and see her. It wasn't too full. It was full, but there were a couple of spare seats. So I spent Saturday from 8am till 4pm learning an Introduction to 911 Technology. This was learning what happens when you dial 911, and how the call gets the extra information attached to it, how it gets routed to the most appropriate PSAP (Public Safety Access Point), and how they work out who and where you are. I learnt a lot. The course was taught by a good old police boy from North Carolina who bunged on one hell of an accent.

Back to the hotel by 5pm, and I wandered round some more looking at the beams and the pool in the daylight. I can't say often enough how much I liked the layout of this hotel.

[The hotel pool]

[Beams above the pool]

And I found the Business Centre. This was a small room, open 24 hours, and keyed to the room swipe cards. One computer with network access to the Internet. Ah, a connection. I was feeling a bit cut off from the world until I found this. Now I could continue as per normal. I was using the two-way email device to stay in touch with Anne, but the Internet gave me a chance to write longer emails.

The system was running Windows and Microsoft's awful Internet Explorer. I haven't used this much, just enough to hate it. I've been using Mozilla for a while now and that really is a good browser. The tabs change the way you browse. But never mind, I was stuck with MSIE and wasn't that a pain. Security was a worry. After every session, I would clear history, clear temporary files, then drop out to the Explorer and erase all cookie files, and then into the stupid recycle bin and delete them from there. I know it's not 100% safe, but it was best I could do given the limited software I had to work with.

[The Business

After catching up on email and auctions and gossip, I headed into town. All the action for my Indianapolis visit was in the few blocks in the centre of town. I walked around, spotted all the chain stores, found the War Memorial and vowed to come back and film it. And that was about it. Found a mostly empty sushi house called, unsurprisingly, The Mikado, and had my evening meal. The food was good, but boy was the atmosphere quiet and boring for Saturday night. After dinner, I walked around some more. Two things struck me. There were a lot of people, and I mean a LOT of people, walking around smoking great big huge fat cigars. And there were Harley Davidsons screaming around all the time. It must have been a Harley Convention, or maybe Indianapolis is home to a Harley chapter, but there were a lot of them. Helmets were optional. Then back to the hotel, hit the Internet again, and then an early night.

Sunday was another day of learning. At least it started at 9am and not 8am, so I was able to have a bit of a sleep-in. On the way to the Convention Centre, I passed this lovely old Catholic Church and had a brief moment of guilt before conquering it. [Catholic Church]

The course on Sunday was an Introduction to PSAP Technology. This was taught by an ex-Canadian Mountie who now lives in Salt Lake City. I learnt a few things about Salt Lake City (the town that fun forgot). I went upstairs in the Convention Centre and got this great view of the Indiana State House.

[Indiana State House]

After the course, I went back to the hotel and got ready for the evening's festivities. Sunday night was a reception, with free drinks (up to two) and a band. The band was fun. The Danger Brothers. They started with songs from the rock and roll era of the fifties, and then slowly moved up to the 80s. All instruments were wireless. They spent a lot of time with the singer on stage crooning out love songs while the rest of the band, drummer included, was at the other end of the hall chatting up some cowgirl with cleavage. They did do one thing that impressed me. Also Sprach Zarathustra. The trombonist/keyboardist started with the long slow brass notes of Also Sprach Zarathustra then one handedly pounded the keyboards while the drummer, out in the audience with a pair of kettle drums, did the bong-bong-bong-bong-bong bit. They did a pretty good rendition of it. I stayed till the bitter end of the night - 11pm. Next morning was an early start, so I took myself to bed.

Monday morning we started at 6:45am with the First-Timers breakfast. Some of us turned up for a fake scrambled egg and leathered bacon breakfast, and were entertained by Phil Sorrentino, president of Humor Inc, who gave us a rah-rah talk. He was funny, he was biting, he spoke sense. He tried to cheer us all up, but some of us were just too tired.

Then we had the official opening of the conference. What a spectacle. My Sunday instructor was dressed in his Mountie uniform, had his bagpipes under his arm, and piped in a small honour contingent. That's him on the right in red in the photo. A singing policeman (see the head to the left at the bottom of the arch) sang sentimental songs about September 11th, and a small choir of NENA members (the people at the back of the photo) sang the Canadian and US national anthems. I still feel self-conscious about standing up and blocking people's views while I take photos, so I try and get photos from unobtrusively from where I am sitting, which is why half this photo consists of the backs of the people in front of me.

[Piping in the Honour

After the speeches and the songs and films of the World Trade Centre again, we were off to the vendors exhibition hall for a long walk-around, being accosted by salespeople, and finally having lunch.

[Vendors exhibition]

After the conference on Monday, I went walkabout and looked at Indianapolis. This is the state of the Hoosiers. Pronounced Whos-yas. The inner city was a planned city. The streets are laid out in a rigid cross grid with a pair of long diagonal streets cutting through the dead centre. And right at that dead centre is a huge war memorial. I had been to the war memorial on Saturday and been so impressed that I wanted to return with camera. I walked there the long way, going past the convention centre to the State Park, then to the right and then coming back to approach the war memorial from behind. This gave me a chance to get a photo of the city centre. They had a few strangely shaped buildings that gave it character. [Indianapolis city

I went through the government district while aiming for the war memorial. Finally, just as I reached the memorial, I spotted this building above me. Whoa. Did ancient Babylon have a supporter? How did a ziggurat get here? You can't quite see them in the photo, but there were all these weird carvings at the top of each level. [Ziggurat beside
  the war memorial]

So finally, I'm at the war memorial. It's in the heart of the city, a big circular block all to itself with a small roundabout around it. The largest limestone war memorial in the USA, so I was told. A Union war memorial. One that also celebrated the wars against Spain and Mexico and the Indian wars. This shows the base of it. There's a Civil War museum underneath it. This is the base of the war memorial.

[The War Memorial]

And this is the top of the war memorial.

[The top of the war

It was a fairly large memorial, lots of open space to walk around it, a pool with fountains around it, and large life-size statues on each side. This shows most of the statue groups. [Statuary at the
  war memorial]

I got good readable closeups of the plaques on opposite sides.

[Civil War and the War
with Spain] [Indian, British and
Mexican wars]

One of the things about the war memorial that made me chuckle were two large ironwork spikes. I've had people sling off at Australia for being the only country that eats the animals in its coat of arms. These spikes had four buffalo heads at the base, then a brace of black bears supporting holding the next level, and four eagles at the top.

[Buffalo at the base] [Bears holding it up]

After the war memorial, I headed back to the hotel for dinner. Along the way, I noticed that the city centre had a thing about skyways. They were everywhere. This one is the Art Garden, a large glass exhibition area.

[The Art Garden] [The Circle Centre

[Nordstrom skyway]

I arrived back at the hotel by way of the train station. [Union Station
  sign co-opted by the Crowne Plaza Hotel]

Tuesday's conference was a series of small sessions, plus more visits to the exhibition hall. All day, every time there was a break, groups of people would rush for the outside, myself included. Nominally, these were smoke breaks but there were more people outside trying to get the wireless signal for phone and two-way email devices than there were smokers.

My last night in town was spent at a chain restaurant. I didn't know it was a chain, but it was a midwest chain that I wasn't familiar with. The food was damned good. Tuscan meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes. They brew their own beer on premises. The first beer was okay, but nothing spectacular. The waiter asked me what I thought and I was honest and he was a little taken aback. He bought the next beer for me. It was a special beer they brew and it's not on the menu. They call it Mai Bock, which I think translates to My Beer. It was wonderful. I had several more and staggered back to the hotel feeling that all was wonderful and right with the world.

Up very early on Wednesday to catch the plane home. Coming in to Norfolk gave me a chance to do something I've been trying to do for ages - get photos from the air to show how water-bound this area is.

[Watery Hampton
  Roads from the air] [Watery Hampton
  Roads from the air]
[Watery Hampton
  Roads from the air] [Watery Hampton
  Roads from the air]

And finally, my faithful little cat. The first night I was away, she sat near the front door waiting for me, as she always does. She waited all night. Each day from then on, she would wait at the door. Finally, she gave up and spent time with Anne again, but Anne said she was a sad little cat. When I finally came home, she rushed up and she wailed at me, complaining that I had been way. I sat down for a while to read the mail, and she sat in front of and stared accusingly at me while rumbling happily. [The accusing,
  yet very happy, Redrum]