Fog. I thought we were in the clouds as the plane wheels hit the ground like a fighter jet landing on a carrier deck. Visibility was maybe three feet and the fog was so dense the plane parked on the tarmac and we were brought to the terminals in bright yellow buses. Kastrup is so efficient. Clean walnut parquet greets you as you climb up floors to reach the neatly organized passport control, where kind border control guards actually smile when you arrive at the window. In JFK they growl at you and treat you like a criminal begging for mercy to enter a dingy airport that feels more like a mid-50's bowling alleyl. In Copenhagen, the baggage is at the carousel when you arrive and the airport feels like a luxury shopping arcade. Mercedes taxis whisk you into the city, on a sleepy sunday when most of the city is just having brunch.
My hotel room isn't ready when I arrive, but I'm happy to have some hours to relax in Vesterbro and wander the empty streets as the fog burns off into early autumn sun drenched splendor. The grass is green, the trees are yellow and red, the sky is bright blue. It takes me two hours to adjust and remember the life I led when I called this city home for 5 years in the 1990's. Bicycles wiz by on their own lanes next to the sidewalks. Late 19th Century apartment buildings hide hip modern interiors. Small, heavily taxed cars conceal a standard living that is the envy of most other nations. What a remarkable governance experiment. High personal income taxes (top rate is 52%), VAT (25%), car tax (220%), and all manner of other taxes are balanced by very low corporate tax rates (26%) and a free labor market, yielding universal healthcare, excellent pensions, and free education through PhD. This country is a net oil exporter, thanks to lucrative North Sea oil platforms, yet produces 60% of its energy needs from wind, solar, and geothermal.
While America watched its bridges and roads deteriorate, Denmark built huge public works projects extending road and rail bridges to Sweden, Germany, and from Jutland to Zealand. They unified their rail system in Copenhagen, and deployed high speed rail to Hamburg and Stockholm. They made Kastrup into the logistical hub of Scandinavia, linking the Nordic countries to the EU mainland. It is a remarkable little country, and this week the weather is also wonderful.
I'm here to speak at a conference - IBM Software Group Day. I'm in a Global Services track and have 35 minutes to go through some dense Data Governance content. The conference site is a mile from my hotel and I love the walk through Vesterbro, along many sleezy streets west of the Main Train Station that today feel quite a bit better than they were a decade ago when I lived nearby. The conference venue is an old slaughterhouse, now filled with 1200 IBM customers, and some fantastic art works on the walls. The conference organization is fantastic, and everything seems to run as efficiently as the rest of Denmark. My session is just after lunch, and my slides suffer some strange powerpoint virus which mixes them up just short of delivery. But the audience is wonderful and we had a great time going through the discussion. Somehow I finish on time, which is rare, and get some great questions after.
Enclosed is what I presented. Its similar to the SIMposium 2010 deck with two new use cases. They worked well in Copenhagen and I have plans for something even better at IOD:
Copenhagen SWG Day Presentation
The rest of the week is full of customer meetings, but every day I'm here I'm reminded of the life I once lived in Denmark and the part of me that that lies dormant the rest of my life when I'm not here. Its the casualty of international travel, that you learn not only great things about the places you visit but also what you learn about yourself that is only evident when you are there again.