Highlights from the Summer of 2013

The Summer of 2013 was truly amazing for me with a wide range of travel and big events.

It seemed appropriate to jot everything down while the memories were still fresh:

  • Wrote and then read the first chapter of my sequel to the Submarine Warriors novel to a great group of elementary school kids at Eagle Rock.  Needless to say, the Underworlders Strike Back.
  • I published my 5th computer book.  This title is “Keeping Windows 8 Tablets in Sync with SQL Server 2012.”  It covers the creation of virtualized SQL Server, Active Directory, and IIS instances in Hyper-V where they can be uploaded to Windows Azure IaaS to support cloud-based data sync operations.  I describe DDL, DML & sync operations with SQL Server Compact as as how to build Modern tablet apps.
  • I was a speaker at Microsoft TechEd North America in New Orleans where I presented three Windows Phone 8 sessions including:
    • The Phone That Has Everything the Enterprise Needs: Windows Phone 8
    • Developing Large-Scale Enterprise Mobile Apps for Windows Phone 8 and Windows Tablets
    • The Future of HTML5 Mobile and Hybrid Web Apps for Windows Phone 8 and Windows Tablets
  • I enjoyed the famous Jazz Brunch outside on the courtyard at The Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter.
  • I walked into Peaches Records to check out some vinyl.  Since I was wearing my Microsoft speaker shirt, the owner thought I was there to help them with customer support.  After uninstalling two anti-virus and firewall packages that were both running concurrently, I restored the owner’s faith in Windows 8.
  • I had a wonderful dinner with old friends at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA.
  • I won a speaker award from the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center for providing Best Customer Focus.  Believe it or not, I delivered over 50 Windows Phone 8 sessions to corporate executives visiting from all over the world in FY13.
  • I was a speaker at Microsoft TechEd Europe in Madrid where I presented the same three breakout session as I did in New Orleans.
  • Had a great dinner near the speaker hotel with my friend Jeff Prosise and decided to make training videos for WintellectNOW.
  • Enjoyed being the loudest person at TechEd as I delivered over a dozen enterprise mobility sessions at the Windows Phone booth with dark sunglasses, a cigar, and a microphone.  I had special guest appearances from will.i.am and Daft Punk.
  • UK Country Drinks with Sarah Lamb and Andy Wigley and then a birthday party dinner for Raleigh in a cool part of Madrid.
  • Flew to London to hang out with Vicky, Ken and their kids at their home in St. John’s Wood.  When Julia and Rob arrived, we had a mini family reunion going.
  • Via a FaceTime conversation, Vicky and I convinced Cathy to drop everything a make a last minute flight from Seattle to London the next day.  Thanks Delta air miles!
  • Bought Churchill’s “Their Finest Hour” at Hatchards bookstore in Piccadilly Circus that’s been around since 1797.  Remarkably, when I was paying for the book and the woman at the counter noticed I was from Seattle, she asked how things were going at Elliot Bay Book Company?  Ah, the small world of literature.
  • Cathy and I spent a wonderful weekend walking along the Thames, crossed the Millennium Bridge to visit  Shakespeare’s Globe,   and trekked out to The All England Lawn Tennis Club.
  • Walked across Abbey Road and had my picture taken.
  • Had a fun dinner with Cathy, Vicky, Ken, Julia, and Rob at The Pig’s Ear in Chelsea.
  • Took the Eurostar to Paris to ensure we were out of England and in France in time for the Fourth of July.  There’s no better way to travel.
  • My good friend Arnaud let Cathy and I stay at his apartment while he was out of town.  I loved how the bed is pulled down from the ceiling to sleep in it.
  • Dinner with Thierry, Cathy, and David at Le Café du Commerce in the 15th arrondissement.  We sat on the third floor and dined under the stars because of the cool retractable roof.
  • Scotch at Harry’s New York Bar near Place de Vendome is my regular hangout when I’m in Paris.
  • Cathy and I spent several hours roaming around the grounds of Roland-Garros and immersed ourselves in French Open history.  We actually got to walk on the hallowed clay courts themselves.
  • I created the official Seattle Bumbershoot app for Windows Phone 8 to provide festival goers with a schedule of events.  I worked with the One Reel folks and wrote all the code outside sitting on my deck over a weekend.
  • At MGX in Atlanta, I enjoyed sitting at the counter at the Waffle House in Centennial Olympic Park teaching fellow Microsofties how to sell mobile solutions while they ate waffles and sausage.  You never know where you’re going to be able to help someone.  BTW, have you ever tried their hashbrowns with cream gravy?
  • Had lots of fun with all my Windows Phone friends outdoors at the Pitbull + Usher concert in Centennial Olympic Park.
  • I was a speaker at TechReady in Seattle where I delivered the same content as I did for the previous two TechEd events.
  • My favorite highlight of the summer was when I slept under a tree one afternoon at Madison Park.
  • Had a nice time hanging out with Jeff and shopping for waterfront homes on Bainbridge Island.
  • Cathy and I made our annual trek to my spirtual home of Walla Walla to taste great wines.  We stayed at Walla Faces Inn at the Vineyard which is our favorite spot.
  • Cathy and I enjoyed in immersive, 2-hour wine tour at Long Shadows Vintners where we learned alot about the art and science of winemaking.  The The Chihuly tasting room was just beautiful.
  • One of the evenings Cathy and I had dinner in the vineyard with a French baguette, Brie, spicy Soppressata, and a crisp, Walla Walla Rose.  Memorable.
  • Packed up the kids and drove up to our home away from home, Whistler/Blackcomb in beautiful British Columbia.  The scenery along the the Sea to Sky Highway is hard to beat.
  • Everyone was thrilled that my Mom flew up to join us in Whistler.
  • We went to Cows for ice cream every night in Whistler Village.
  • Cathy and I ventured into the Belvedere Ice Room for a chilly Vodka tasting wearing heavy coats.  Definitely a super-cool moment!
  • I volunteered my time to develop a grant submission and reporting website for the Riverview Education Foundation running in Windows Azure.
  • Created my first WintelllectNOW video that covers Windows Phone 8 in the enterprise.  Go check it out at wintellectnow.com and use my promo code TIFFANY-13 to view all the great training content.
  • Joined the Windows Intune team to help grow Microsoft’s Mobile Device Management (MDM) business.
  • My blog https://robtiffany.com was named one of BizTech Magazine’s 50 Must-Read IT Blogs for 2013.

I am grateful.


Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at https://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Walking to Omaha Beach

Big Red One

I caught a train from Paris to Bayeux at Gare Saint-Lazare with only four minutes to spare.  Two hours later I was in the heart of Normandie and ready to crash at my hotel.  Luckily, it was only a half a mile walk from the train station to my hotel so I skipped the taxi.  Just in case you didn’t know, Bayeux was a hang-out for William the Conqueror about a thousand years ago.  Luckily, beautiful Bayeux wasn’t bombed during Operation Overlord back in 1944.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, I walked over to the Scauto Renault dealer that rents cars.  Renting a car was part of the plan since I only had one day in Normandie and wanted to visit all the D-Day beaches.  To my surprise, it was closed when I arrived.  Maybe I was too early.  I decided to walk into the center of Bayeux and would check back with Scauto later when it opened.

Upon visiting the Bayeux Tourist Office on Rue Saint-Jean, the woman there informed me that almost everything would be closed since today was May Day.  Depending on where you live in the world, this is International Workers Day or Labour Day which means everyone is taking the day off.  She said some taxi services might be open but they would be very expensive.  She then suggested that I walk up Rue de Docteur Michel to check on one last possible rental car business that might be open.

On the way to try my luck with another car rental shop, I walked through a wonderful outdoor marketplace where everything from food and wine to dresses and shoes were being sold.  It was so full of life and I think the whole town was there.

When I got to the car rental store in the Northwest part of town, the guy there told me they weren’t renting cars and to come back on Sunday.  He said all that in French.  Obviously, that didn’t do me any good.  I walked outside on to Boulevard d’ Eindoven and noticed a small sign that read “Omaha Beach” with an arrow pointing down the D6 country road.  Hmmm.

Out of curiosity, I decided to follow the sidewalk down this road for a bit just to where it might take me.  I eventually came upon a sign that said Port-en-Bessin was 9 km away.  Hey, people run 5 and 10k’s all the time.  I checked my watch and it was only 10:30 AM.  This was no big deal and I had the time, so I just kept walking on the D6 road between Bayeux and Port-en-Bessin.  Needless to say, the sidewalk disappeared pretty quickly and I was alternating between walking on the road and on the grass when I needed to get out of the way of cars.  I saw lots of tour buses full of white and silver-haired people pass by as I hiked down the road.

About half way there, I stepped on a broken bottle that went through my shoe and into my foot.  I literally had to yank it out of my shoe.  I promise I’m not making this up to make a better story.  Needless to say, this wasn’t what I was hoping for with the long walk to come.

As I walked through the beautiful countryside, I imagined what it must have been like to be a young GI back in 1944.  For a moment, I was carrying a gun and wearing the helmet and uniform of an American infantryman who was seeing the French countryside for the first time.  Large green pastures and lots of yellow flowers.  I’m sure many of those boys had never left the small town they had grown up in back in America prior to joining the Army.

When I arrived in Port-en-Bessin, I sat down on a park bench to survey the broken Coke bottle damage.  Not great, but not the end of the world either.  After all this walking, you’d think I’d be there by now but it turns out I was only a little more than half way there.  I hung a left on Avenue de Marechal de Tourville (D514) and headed west, which was parallel to the English Channel.

I walked past the Omaha Beach golf course and through Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes where a large gathering of people looked like they were having a French Bar-B-Que.  Of course, their BBQ had red wine instead of cold beer.  I soon came upon a large billboard that read, “Thanks to our Liberators.”

After hours of walking, I arrived in Colleville-sur-Mer and was thrilled to see an open cafe.  I had lunch in an old stone house where they were serving the “Michelle Obama Burger” and had a big poster of Presidents Obama and Sarkozy on the wall.  This place looked ancient and an old man added wood to a small fireplace from time to time while I was there.  Not sure why since it was fairly warm outside.  I had the hot dog and fries which ended up being 2 hot dogs lined-up end-to-end inside a baguette with melted brie on top.  Not bad.  I quickly downed 2 Coke’s since I had broken one of the rules of hiking and didn’t bring a water bottle.  After eating, the owner let me use his bathroom (toilettes) where I took off my shoe and tended to my battle wound with soap and water.

After lunch, I continued down the road past a church and visited the Big Red One Assault Museum.  This is the nickname of the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army due to the design of their shoulder patch.  Great artifacts and memorabilia but I couldn’t shake the image of Lee Marvin from the movie back in 1980.  You probably didn’t know that Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) played a Private in that movie.

I got back on D514 which was now called Route d’Omaha Beach and walked westward.  Once I got to the roundabout that I saw on my map, I knew it was time to veer to the right and make my way to the American cemetery.  Big surprise that this road was named Route du Cimetiere Americain.  Upon entering the cemetery complex, I had to cross through a large parking lot full of all those large Coach tour buses that had passed me by while I was walking from Bayeux.

I walked into the Visitors Center and got in line to walk through the metal detector and have my backpack screened.  Inside I saw famous quotations on the walls, biographies of soldiers and lots of videos of Eisenhower and others who made D-Day possible.  This is where you start getting “misty-eyed.”  The Visitor Center is truly amazing and delivers more information about what happened there in 1944 than two semesters of history classes.  I signed the guestbook on behalf of Grandad and Paw Paw.

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced
their strength in the air and their capacity to wage overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of
war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of
the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less
than full Victory!

Good Luck!  And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

– General Eisenhower

Once you leave the visitor center, you walk out to the cemetery and face 9,387 Christian Crosses and Stars of David that mark the burial sites of the Americans that gave their lives so that Europe might be free during the greatest amphibious invasion of all time.  This is where you start crying for the duration of your time at the cemetery.  This reminded me of the hours I’d spent walking through the gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery.

One of the monuments read, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”  You could almost hear flutes and drums playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic as brave Americans marched into battle.

The cemetery rests on top of cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel.  After walking amongst thousands of grave sites, I followed a pathway down the cliff to the beach below.

This is where it all began.  Neither of my grandfathers or other relatives of that Greatest Generation could tell me what it was like since they all fought in the Pacific.  Most people today have “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers” to give them a sense of that day.  It was a beautiful sandy beach with a line of rocks separating the sand from the rest of the land.  After walking westward along the beach for a bit, I gathered together some rocks and wrote something really big in the sand.


As I walked down the beach and farther away from where my journey began, I found myself calculating what time I would arrive at my hotel that night if I had to walk all the way back.  I had already walked 12 miles so far and could only imagine what completing the 24 mile round-trip journey in the dark would be like.  I could see lots of flags and another monument on the beach in the distance so I kept walking towards Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer and farther away from Bayeux.

I finally arrived at a large steel piece of artwork jutting out of the beach called “The Braves” monument.  It actually looked like a bunch of giant swords pointing upward to the sky.  Behind it were the flags of all the allies flapping in the ocean wind.  As I walked off the beach and through the flags I came upon the Liberation monument dedicated to the 1st Infantry Division and the 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team of the 29th Infantry Division.  That was a mouthful.

Now that I was at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, I decided my day was done since it was getting dark.  I walked over to a freestanding Tourist Office that looked like one of those old camera film developing huts you used to see in strip center parking lots back in the ‘70s.

“Parlez-vous anglais?” I asked the girl inside.  She helped me find some taxi services that might save me from another 12 mile walk.  The first taxi phone number I dialed responded with a voice message in French that basically told me they were closed for the day.  Luckily, the second number I dialed got me a guy who could understand English.  He was in Bayeux and I told him I was in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer near the D’ Day House Hotel next to the flags and big monuments.  He said it was a long drive and could I wait 25-30 minutes for a driver to get there.


I quickly went to check out the nearby Musee Memorial d’Omaha Beach that had lots of great vehicles, guns, uniforms and photographs from the landings on Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc.  After that, I grabbed a Pepsi at the D’ Day House restaurant and waited for the cab to arrive.  During the long drive back to my hotel in Bayeux I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to make the hike back.  When I got out of the taxi at the hotel, I could hardly walk back to my room.  I guess sitting still in the car caused me to stiffen-up.  I soaked in a hot bath for about an hour and then crashed without eating dinner.

When I woke up, it was time to go catch the train back to Paris.

I had spent a day walking through a small part of France.  Back in 1944-45, the millions of young men who didn’t die on the beaches of Normandie spent almost a year walking all the way across France.  I bet an ice-cold Coke and a hot dog in a baguette would’ve hit the spot for them too.

Vive la Liberte