5 Local Attractions to Explore in St. Louis

St. Louis is rich with attractions to explore while visiting the city for our Fall Conference & Expo. When you’re done with the conference for the day (or if you’re planning to stay a day or two longer) be sure to check out some of these historical attractions.

Located downtown, they are each beautifully restored, budget-friendly and easily accessible to visitors. And, after day spent sitting, it is nice to stretch your legs and explore!

Gateway Arch

When people think of St. Louis, they often think of the Gateway Arch. It’s our nation’s tallest monument, and it is a well-known icon. You can purchase tickets to ride the tram to the top, go on a riverboat cruise and watch the documentary Monument to the Dream. To prepare, check out the website to view the online gallery and brush-up on your Gateway Arch history!

The Old Courthouse

This is a fun, historic location near the Gateway Arch. It is also free, so why not check it out? Beginning in the 19th century, the courthouse was a meeting place for pioneers headed west. It also saw historical classes, such as Dred and Harriet Scott suing for their freedom. Inside the courthouse you will find historical exhibits, and more!

St. Louis Union Station

This attraction is unique combination of historical beauty and modern amenities. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel on-site, there are plenty of activities – including a Ferris wheel, historical information, daily 3D light shows and a Fire and Light Show.

St. Louis Public Library, Central Library Location

Not all libraries are created equal, although they all have access to wonderful books. This library is well known for its Beaux-Arts and Neo Classical Architecture, making it well-worth a visit. They also provide tours on specific days of week.

St. Louis City Garden

Spread over 2.9 acres, this garden is gorgeous. It hosts 24 large-scale garden sculptures, and the Missouri Botanical Garden offered their expertise in what plants and trees would thrive in the area. Tours are provided as well, so check out its website for a schedule.

6 Unique Food Experiences in Downtown St. Louis

As our Fall Conference & Expo in St. Louis, Missouri approaches, we’re looking forward to trying some of the delicious food at local restaurants.

Here are some local favorites, not only offering great menus but also a unique experience.

  1. Morgan Street Brewery was established in 1995, but the property has a long history dating back to 1791! In fact, it is the site where the first Mulatto slave, named Esther, was freed! Today, you can sample a variety of local and international beer. Free tours of the historical building are offered.
  2. Lombardo’s Trattoria was established in 1934, which means the restaurant has been cooking its wonderful Italian menu for a while now. It is open for lunch Wednesday-Friday, and it stays open late for dinner. Also, it’s a great place to enjoy a glass of wine and quality food after spending your day at the Expo!
  3. Sugarfire Smoke House is the BBQ restaurant you’ve been waiting to try. It has won awards, and you can only find it in Missouri. The downtown location is the newest yet, prices are affordable and its cook produces melt-in-your-mouth excellence.
  4. Zia’s was founded in 1985 and has gone on to win many awards AND start a food truck service in 2011. Zia’s is part of “The Hill”, a neighborhood specializing in all things Italian. This neighborhood boasts a historical atmosphere, making you feel welcome and at home.
  5. Blue City Deli truly speaks to the blues culture of St. Louis. Its food is worth waiting for, and you’ll have plenty to look at and listen to while in line for your meal. This is a must for a true St. Louis experience.
  6. The Schlafly Tap Room hosts various events throughout the year, including live music. The original buildings were constructed in 1902 and 1904, and they’ve seen a lot of history since those days. Eventually, this building will be part of the historical registry, and you can check out all the neat history compiled for the registry application on its website. Local history, local music and local food…what more could you want?

Conference HotelThe Fall Conference & Expo will take place October 2-4, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch. Conveniently located downtown, the Hyatt Regency provides easy access to many restaurants and entertainment options.

Visiting St. Louis: 5 Fun and Interactive Museums

St. Louis, Missouri is an exciting city with many attractions to draw in the interested visitor. While visiting for our Fall Conference and Expo, plan to spend some time exploring the area on your down time! After all, exploring new cities is one of perks of traveling for conferences.

Once you’ve had a chance to see the Gateway Arch and visit Route 66, check out one of the many great museums the city has to offer.

Here are five to get you started!

  1. St. Louis Science Center With a variety of exhibits year-round, the science center is fun for everyone. With more than 700-hands on exhibits exploring different parts of science, you’re sure to find something you love.
  2. Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum Are you more of a sports fan? Check out this stop to explore the Championship Gallery, Holding History room, and more for an interactive exploration of the baseball history.
  3. St. Louis Art Museum This museum is filled with exhibitions and collections that will have you coming back many times, just to enjoy everything there is to offer. Collections span the globe, so you’re sure to find the styles you enjoy.
  4. National Blues Museum Is it possible to visit St. Louis without enjoying some blues? This museum hosts interactive, technology driven exhibits as well as special events. Check out their Friday and Sunday Live Music shows here.
  5. Missouri History Museum Checking out the local history is an enjoyable learning experience, so make sure this museum is on your list. In October, you’ll have the chance to see three special exhibits: #1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, World War I: Missouri and the Great War and Panoramas of the City!

2017 Fall Conference Call for Presentations

The Call for Presentations is now open for the COMMON 2017 Fall Conference & Expo, which takes place October 2-4, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.

This three-day Power Systems educational and networking event will be packed with educational sessions on a variety of topics, including vendor-led sessions, an Expo and numerous networking opportunities. The conference will consist of stand-alone sessions of 75 or 165 minutes in length, lecture and demos and preconference workshops.

The education team is looking for content in every Course of Study. But we are particularly interested in sessions on External Storage, Virtualization, Managing Source Code in the IFS using GIT and general Systems Management courses. We are also looking for intermediate to advanced sessions on Node.js, Python, and Ruby.

The deadline to submit a session for consideration is June 5, 2017. To submit a session, you must first log-on to your Cosmo account.

If this is your first time using COSMO, click on password in “I don’t know my username or password.” For your username, use the email address you have on file with COMMON. Follow the instructions to retrieve your password. (Issues signing on? Call us at 1.312.279.0192.)

Once you are in the system, hover on CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS on any page and then select Submit a New Session. See the screen shot below.

Call for Presentations

If you are a returning speaker as would like to resubmit a session you have previously submitted, go to My Sessions and click Select next to the session in your session list to edit the status.

You can view and edit any of your submissions up until the June 5, 2017 deadline by visiting My Sessions.

Tips from an Insider – Navigating the Annual Meeting

As a former Board Member, on behalf of COMMON, I want to thank you for choosing to attend the upcoming 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition at the amazing Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. The fact that you are investing in yourself and your future by attending says a lot about you. COMMON is committed to ensuring your return on this investment by providing the best possible conference. Try and make sure you take advantage of everything the conference offers.

I’ve been attending COMMON conferences for what seems like decades, both as an attendee and as a volunteer. Here, I want to share tips that have resulted in great conference experiences.

  1. Dress comfortably for the conference and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a light jacket (or a long-sleeve shirt) as session rooms can be chilly at times. Remember, the typical dress code is business casual for the conference. You will do more walking than you realize, so I can’t stress comfortable shoes enough.
  2. COMMON will provide a backpack at registration that can be used to carry the items you need with you each day. If possible, register on Saturday so you can go back to your room, read everything inside the backpack and then fill it with some of the items below.
  3. Don’t forget your phone charger. You’ll find that your battery is drained by the end of each day. If you have a portable charging unit, they are great as well.
  4. Bring a few breakfast bars with you so you will always have a bite to eat if the day gets a little hectic or if you can’t find a quick lunch.
  5. Go online to www.common.org/sessions and create your session grid before leaving for Orlando. This gives you plenty of time to map out which sessions are interesting to you. I always choose two sessions for each period so I have a primary and a backup session. Then, I can decide the day of the conference which sessions I am going to attend. Sometimes I make my decision by the speaker, by the topic or just what I feel like.
  6. Even if it’s not your first time to the Annual Meeting, stop by the First Timer’s Session on Saturday evening from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Trevor Perry leads this very informative session. You’ll get great nuggets of information to enhance your conference experience. It’s also a great way to start making friends that will explore Universal with you afterwards.
  7. Put your phone on vibrate during sessions so you will not be the person everyone looks at when the phone starts ringing, interrupting the speaker.
  8. Arrive to sessions 7 to 10 minutes early to find a good seat and to settle in before the speaker starts. This is also a great time to start a conversation with others since they are interested in learning about the same subject. You already know you have something in common. Also, once the speaker is prepared, it can be a great time to ask a question.
  9. Bring business cards with you to exchange contact information with your peers and experts. Plus, some vendors have raffles that you can throw your cards into.
  10. Take advantage of the Exposition and learn about the latest products and solutions in the industry. If you want to receive additional information, just have your badge scanned. It’s a quick and easy way to connect with exhibitors.
  11. Before going to the Exposition on Sunday and Monday nights, I like to go back to my room, drop off my backpack and then return to wander the expo. I find it easier to walk the expo without my bag, but the drawback is not having it available to put things into. Another option is to just lighten your bag in your room and then come back down. Perhaps leave your PC or tablet safely secured in the in-room safe.
  12. Try to get a good breakfast before Opening Session on Sunday morning where Jeff Carey, our President, will kick-off the conference promptly at 9:00 a.m. I recommend getting there no later than 8:45 a.m. to get a seat. Make sure you stop at the restroom beforehand as this session goes until 10:30 a.m. Lunch is not provided on Sunday, so those breakfast bars come in handy. Otherwise, you have 45 minutes to get a little something during the midday break. The Welcome Reception starts at 5:00 p.m. in the Exposition on Sunday and will include food and drinks. Come hungry and thirsty. There is enough there for dinner.
  13. On Monday and Tuesday, lunch is served in the Exposition. It’s a good lunch. Arrive early, eat quickly and then spend the remaining time walking the expo. Make a friend or two at your table and ask if they want to walk around the expo. They wanted to ask you the same thing but were too shy.
  14. After the sessions are done each day, don’t just go up to your room and stay there. Take part in the evening events. These are great opportunities to continue your learning by getting one-on-one time with the experts and your peers. It’s amazing how much you can learn by just talking to your fellow attendees. If you are a little shy, don’t worry. Everyone is friendly and just as shy. They want to talk with you just as much as you want to talk with them. Take the first step. Walk up, introduce yourself and tell them what you do. In fact, go to the Exposition on Monday night and meet up with people you saw in your sessions. Take advantage of the many restaurants and bars at Universal’s CityWalk afterwards with your new friends.
  15. Be sure to attend the CEF Closing Reception on Wednesday night. The evening starts with dinner at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. (Don’t forget to bring your island/beach inspired apparel to wear.) This will be followed by dessert, rides and entertainment in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Explore Hogsmeade and don’t forget to try some of the butterbeer (don’t worry it is non-alcoholic). We will be able to ride attractions like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff without the daytime lines! While in Hogsmeade, don’t forget to stop at Ollivander’s Wand Shop, which will be open for your wizarding needs. Remember, the wand chooses the wizard. You will have a great night relaxing and having fun after four days of learning. It’s a memorable way to end the conference.
  16. The COMMON staff will wear shirts with the COMMON logo on them. If you have a question, they can help you. Just ask. The COMMON Board of Directors will have purple ribbons on their badge holders. Don’t hesitate to tell them what you need to make COMMON more effective for you.
  17. On Wednesday is the Meeting of the Members, held at 12:45 p.m. Get your lunch beforehand and then come listen to what your association is doing for you. This session is all about what COMMON is doing now and where it is going.
  18. Have a piece of paper available to jot down notes regarding things you learned at each session. When you get back to the office, talk with your management to show them what you learned and how it will help the company. This is your ticket to the 2018 Annual Meeting in San Antonio.

Remember, these are just a few of my own personal tips on how to get the most out of your investment and have a kick-ass conference. The goal is for you to learn new things, expand your horizon, meet new people and have fun.

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in Orlando. Safe travels.

Pete Massiello

About the Author

Pete Massiello

Pete Massiello

Pete has been working with the AS/400, iSeries, IBM i since 1989, focusing on systems management and technical support. He has held numerous technical positions through out his career. Pete is the President of iTech Solutions Group, an IBM Premier Business Partner delivering solutions and services to IBM i shops throughout the world. He is a member of IBM’s certification test writing team, an IBM Certified Systems Expert with certifications in IBM i Design, Administration, LPAR, Virtualization, Implementation, and HMC management. Pete has a BS in Computer Science from Hofstra University, and an MBA from the University of New Haven. He was President of COMMON from 2010 to 2012, and again in 2014. He is a COMMON Hall of Fame speaker and a frequent speaker at user groups all over the world. In 2011, IBM established the Champions award for Power Systems. Pete was one of the first recipients. Recently, Pete was re-nominated as a Power Systems Champion in 2016.

Universal Orlando Resort™ – Party with Harry Potter

In May, the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition will be held at Universal Orlando Resort. The event venue is Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, located on Universal property. Our Closing Reception on the 10th of May will be held at Jimmy Buffett’s® Margaritaville® at Universal CityWalk, followed by entertainment in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade.

There are two Harry Potter themed sections in the two Universal parks. The Wizarding World is at Islands of Adventure, and London is at Universal Studios Florida. The Hogwart’s Express train connects the two but requires a Park-to-Park admission.

Closing Reception

Hogsmeade, where our event will be held, offers three main attractions. The rides are: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey where you can experience the halls, offices and classrooms of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; Dragon Challenge, which includes two high-speed roller coaster experiences; and Flight of the Hippogriff, a more family-friendly coaster with the head of an eagle and body of a horse.

Other Attractions

If you have an opportunity to visit outside of the conference, there are many other attractions at Islands of Adventure. We recommend the new Incredible Hulk Coaster® and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man®. While there, don’t miss the opportunity to bring home some goodies for your kids. Shopping options include: Dervish and Banges™ for omnioculars or a Hogwarts uniform; Filch’s Emporium™ for “confiscated goods;” Honeydukes™ candy shop for Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans; and Ollivanders™ for all varieties of magic wands.

Don’t forget, if you stay at Sapphire Falls or Loews Royal Pacific Resort you benefit from complimentary shuttle buses to the parks and early park admission.

See you there!

Spreading the MAGIC of IBM i

MAGICOne of the newest Power Systems/IBM i users’ groups is the Mid-Atlantic Group of IBM i Collaborators – or MAGIC for short. Serving Virginia Beach and the Chesapeake Bay area, MAGIC brings education and networking to this community. To learn more about MAGIC, visit www.magic-ug.org.

Thank you to Laura Hamway for answering a few questions regarding the group.

Why do Power Systems and IBM i users need MAGIC now?

MAGIC and all user groups are needed to help assist the user base with the latest offerings in the IBM i world. Currently many users are not aware of technologies available on the i. For example, open source, PHP etc. Even the advancements in RPG, utilizing RDi. These developments play a significant role in staying current. Also, user groups are great for networking. The knowledge you can learn from your peers is tremendous, and these groups bring people together to share what they have done and what issues/challenges they may face.

What gives MAGIC it’s “magic”?

MAGIC is made up of very enthusiastic IBM i users, and they want to see the platform succeed and expand. We want to educate and bring more IBM i users together. Additionally, we want to share with everyone what a great platform this is and that the IBM i can do everything other platforms can do.

What are the most important IT issues facing MAGIC members?

Currently staffing is a huge concern for IBM i shops. The user group provides a place to learn new techniques on the IBM i, and in return, this opens up the talent pool. Taking advantage of PHP, .Net and other technologies means these IBM i shops do not need to only look for RPG talent. For individuals currently on the IBM i, this means you do not have to just work in RPG. You have an opportunity to learn and utilize other great technologies and enhance your skill level.

MAGIC covers a wide geographic area. How will the organization bring its members together?

Most meetings will be online with several satellite locations. All meetings will utilize webcam. The use of the webcam will make the meetings more personable. Attendees agree that watching a presenter while they are speaking is more engaging then just watching a screen and hearing a voice. We also utilize a webcam at the satellite locations so the presenters can see how the audience is reacting and if people have questions. This method has proven to be more interactive. With this methodology, we can reach a wider audience. If you are able to attend one of the satellite meetings – that is great. You get to network with your fellow IBM i peers. If you cannot make it to a satellite location, then you can participate online. Our focus is to get the most information out to all that want to participate.

Can you share a fun or inspiring story from one of your first events?

MAGIC ConferenceOur first annual event was in Virginia Beach, a two-day conference. The challenge was getting the word out. We were new and didn’t have a name yet, but we knew there were users that would benefit. Usually Virginia Beach is beautiful with fall weather temperatures in the 70s. We thought…what a great place to come for a conference, a small beach town. A hotel right on the beach! We confirmed Charlie Guarino as a speaker at the conference. He was excited to stay in the area with the beach and sunshine. Mike Larsen even extended his trip through the weekend to take in all the sites of Virginia Beach. Well, then Hurricane Matthew decided to threaten the area. The weather was horrible! It was windy with rain the entire time. Charlie luckily got out after the conference. I think Lee Paul was stuck due to weather, and Mike got to spend the weekend in a flooded hotel! It was a conference to remember!

Besides the weather, with some cancelling due to the storm, we had a great turn out. The event was a success, and the users were fired up about all the possibilities on the i. They couldn’t wait to start a new user group. During the conference, we had a competition to see who could come up with the name for the group. Tom Rainey suggested MAGIC – Mid-Atlantic Group of IBM i Collaborators.

MAGIC is holding a Modernization Seminar on March 30, 2017. Click here to learn more.

Available Scholarships to COMMON’s Annual Meeting and Exposition

In just a couple of short months, COMMON’s Annual Meeting and Exposition will bring together authorities in the industry on IBM i for four days of education and networking. Each year in conjunction with COMMON, the COMMON Education Foundation (CEF) awards scholarships that recognize contributing members of the COMMON community, and those committed to the IBM i platform. This year, once again, the CEF will be offering the Al Barsa Award scholarship, open to all COMMON members. Al was fiercely dedicated to i. As such, he was an overall advocate for the community and mentor to others. This scholarship honors an individual who exemplifies Al’s commitment and support of IBM i. Award of the scholarship is based on candidate’s commitment and dedication to the i Community, volunteer record and history as an advocate for i. The recipient of this award receives a conference registration to the 2017 COMMON Annual Meeting and is presented with a plaque during the event’s Opening Session. Candidates may nominate themselves or may be nominated by another individual. If you know of someone deserving of the award or would like to nominate yourself, go to www.commoneducationfoundation.org to apply. Deadline for submission is Friday, April 07, 2017.

In addition, the CEF also awards the John Earl Memorial Scholarship by nomination only. Earl was a dedicated speaker and Subject Matter Expert for COMMON for over two decades. His dedication to knowledge sharing and mentoring helped make the community grow. He, along with the former IBM Partners in Education program planted the initial seed for what would become the COMMON Education Foundation. John was a tremendous influence in the community throughout his years and the memory of his dedication and accomplishments still live on today. With the help of HelpSystems, this scholarship has been established in John’s name to recognize a member of the COMMON community that exemplifies John’s dedication to the growth of the IBM i community. Scholarship is by nomination only and covers the Registration expenses for COMMON’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Both awards, in addition to those awards dedicated to the educators that teach IBM i in colleges, will be awarded at COMMON’s Annual Meeting and Exposition’s Opening Session in Orlando on May 7, 2017.

2017 Annual Meeting Venue: Loews Sapphire Falls Resort in Orlando

May 7-10 will be a great time of year to visit Universal Orlando™. Loews Sapphire Falls Resort opened in July 2016 as the fifth hotel within the massive entertainment complex. With a Caribbean theme, the hotel offers 1,000 rooms and the largest hotel pool within the theme park, complete with water slides. The hotel also offers waterfront dining at the Amatista Cookhouse and, like all good Caribbean resorts, is home to both a poolside bar and a rum lounge.

Each hotel room has a mini-fridge to stow away any leftovers and in-room WiFi is also included at no additional charge. Rooms range in size from 529 square feet to 1,353 square feet. Universal theme park characters often make appearances in the hotel and their voices are used for wake-up calls in the hotel.

Russ Dagon, Vice President and Executive Project Director of Universal Creative, describes the hotel as follows: “it’s a different place, so we wanted to make sure we provided that respite from the theme park, but, at the same time, embrace the fact that we are so close to the theme park.”

From the hotel there are three easy and free connectors to Universal theme parks and Universal CityWalk™ – water taxi, shuttle and a short walking path. Guests at the hotel receive a one-hour-early admission benefit at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida™. Hotel guests also have resort-wide charging privileges to their rooms, complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort and complimentary shuttle service to SeaWorld® and Aquatica™.

Our conference room rate of $190 is valid from May 1st through 17th. We look forward to seeing you in May and hope you can stay for a few extra days of vacation.

Learn More about the 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Columbus, Ohio: Fall Conference – What to Do in Your Free Time

As you wander from your hotel room to the many sessions and workshops we will be hosting in the beautiful city of Columbus, Ohio, there is a vast world outside the doors of the hotel you should experience. COMMON would like to encourage you to get out and stretch your legs as you venture into some free time within the city. Here are a few ideas to get you pointed in the direction of some food or fun:

  1. Martini Modern Italian – This restaurant is located right around the corner from the Hilton Columbus Downtown and will be open 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Sunday and 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. the other evenings of the conference. Here is a menu you can view online to get a feel for the restaurant before even checking in to your room.
  2. The Big Bang – If you are looking for a some entertainment, this bar is just down the road by the Nationwide Arena. It will be open Wednesday night from 8:00 p.m. – 2 a.m. and features dueling pianos.
  3. The Greater Columbus Convention Center – There are a variety of restaurants within the convention center including The Sandwich Company, Gourmet Grille, and even some common restaurant chains within the food court if you are looking for a menu that is a bit more familiar.
  4. Aside from food, if you feel like setting technology aside for a bit, consider one of three parks that are relatively close to the Hilton Columbus Downtown as well. The largest is Goodale Park located north of the hotel. The second is McFerson Commons Park, which is just past the Nationwide Arena. Lastly, Sensenbrenner Park is the smaller of the three, but it is also the closest. This park is just down the road on High Street, south of the hotel.

At COMMON, we would like to encourage you to take a moment and experience Columbus. We hope you have safe travels, and we will see you soon at the Fall Conference & Expo.