I recently returned from a trip to Australia, where I gave a keynote at the Australasian Computer Science Week, the annual gathering of computer scientists from Australia and New Zealand. You can see a journalist's account of what I talked about here.
There is a small but very strong database community in Australia, and I encourage anyone who has a chance to go down under and visit. The strength of the community was apparent when two of the three major annual awards were given for database work. Heng Tao Shen from the University of Queensland received the Chris Wallace Award. This is the top prize given for technical achievements across all fields of computer science (full professors are not eligible for this prize). Heng Tao made his mark spanning the fields of databases and multi-media.
The second award was the Ph.D Thesis Award that went to Michael Cahill who received his Ph.D from the University of Sydney under the guidance of my friend (and excellent cook!) Alan Fekete. Michael and Alan also received the Best Paper Award at SIGMOD 2008 for this work on serializable isolation for snapshot databases.
I was very fortunate to spend time with these winners. Heng Tao was my wonderful host in Brisbane and helped make a long-time dream come true -- sitting on a sunny beach in the middle of January (in Gold Coast). When I went to Sydney, Alan took me to an espresso machine making factory, where I got to see up close how these machines are made!
The coffee in Australia is amazing, and will be the subject of a different post. But if you're going to Australia and need coffee, check out my list of favorite cafes and you'll be happy.