Saturday, December 31, 2016

PF 2017

PF 2017!!  Šťastný nový rok!!

Happy New Year everyone!!

This was another great year of travel adventures.  Happy New Year to all of the places that I was lucky enough to visit in 2016.

Šťastný nový rok!  Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh!  Blein Vie Noa!  Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!  З Новым годам!  Tau Hou hari!  Gelukkig nieuwjaar!  Selamat tahun Baru!  Boldog új évet!  С новым годом!  Hyvää uutta vuotta!  新年快樂! புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்! 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  This was the first time in almost 40 years since Christmas Eve and Hanukkah fell on the same day.

It's nice that the snow didn't melt so we actually got a White Christmas this year.

Thanks to FaceTime and a 9 hour time difference I got to watch my niece and nephew open the gifts I sent them from Euroland.

Veselé Vánoce!!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Today's the last day to buy the traditional carp for Christmas dinner.

This is also the last working day before the three Christmas holidays so I'd like to wish my very international team a very Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!  Veselé Vánoce!  Veselé Vianoce!  Selamat Hari Natal!  Boldog Karácsonyt!  Wesołych Świąnt!  Geseënde Kersfees!  Crăciun fericit!  Gëzuar Krishtlindjet!  Весела Коледа!  圣诞节快乐!  Nollaig Shona!  Buon Natale!  क्रिसमस की बधाई!  Feliz Natal!  Maligayang Pasko!  عيد ميلاد سعيد!  Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!  Linksmų Kalėdų!  С Рождеством!  ¡Feliz Navidad!  Chúc Giáng Sinh Vui Vẻ!  З Різдвом Христовим!  மெர்ரி கிறிஸ்துமஸ்!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rum For Debt

Cuba owes Czechland something like +6 billion koruna (~$276 million).  This is debt that dates back to the Cold War days.

Cuba doesn't have that kind of money available so it proposed paying off the debt with rum.

Cuban rum is quite popular here.  In 2015, Czech Republic imported 892 tonnes of rum from Cuba.

The Czech Finance Ministry hasn't agreed to anything but does want some of the debt actually paid in cash.

Here's the part that I don't get.  The money was owed to Czechoslovakia and Czechoslovakia spilt up in 1993.  So did Czech Republic assume the full Cuban debt?  Or was the debt spilt between Czechland and Slovakia?  Does Cuba also owe money to Slovakia?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2016 PM Christmas Party

On Thursday night we had an IBM Project Management Christmas party.  This year's theme was "Bad boys / bad girls".

Of course my team was behind the theme and poster.  Sometimes they're a bit too good with Photoshop.

It was an interesting theme for sure.  Tattoo sleeves were the must have accessory this year to complete the looks.

It was a lot of fun!  My team can definitely throw a good party.  Who knows what they'll come up with next time.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Mikuláš 2016

The Christmas season has begun which means it's time for Mikuláš to show up.  Every year a few of us go around the office giving out candy.

I've been the angel but I think it's more believable for me to be the devil.  Sooner or later, I may actually have to be Mikuláš. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Christmas Tree is Up

This is my first Christmas in the new flat so I had to think about where to put up the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Fortunately, I had a little elf who decorated it.

I still prefer this small fake little tree as opposed to a big real one.  In a couple of weeks I'll help Claudia put up a bigger tree at her flat for her and Tünde.

Update:  Here's the tree for Claudia's flat.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

2016 VUT Vánoční Ples

Last year I had the honour of representing IBM at the 2015 Brno University of Technology Christmas Ball.  This year I really lucked out.  I was fortunate enough to be given a VIP ticket to the ball and this time I didn't have to give a speech.

The Brno University of Technology, Vysoké učeni technické v Brně (VUT)is the biggest technical university in Czech Republic.  This event is the biggest ball in Czech Republic and it was held in the biggest hall in Central Europe.  IBM was again the executive sponsor of this year's ball.

Some of my former interns.
Several of my local team are graduates, and several interns are current students, so I do what I can to support them.  Back in May, my team sponsored a project management workshop on a weekend for the student organising committee.  That, plus I guess a good word from my guys scored me an invite to this year's party.  And what a party it was.

There were over 3000 people and the event looked as if it was professionally organised.  Hats off to the students who pulled this all together.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My First English Class

Tonight was another first.  My first English class.  Well, sort of.  I was invited by Masaryk University, the country's second largest university, to give a presentation.

I was asked to present the cultural differences between the USA and Czech Republic, and to touch on the differences between American and British English.

The lecture was kind of scheduled at the last minute but there were 10 students who came.  I seemed to go well and it was fun.  Hopefully, I'll get invited to do this again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Glass Room

The Glass Room was written by British author Simon Mawer and it was published in 2009.

The real glass room

It's a fictional book set in 1930s Czechoslovakia.  The story is inspired by Vila Tugendhut, the UNESCO World Heritage site in Brno.  The house is pretty much a main character of the novel.

Before Natalie left Brno, she loaned me her copy of the book.  I had just never gotten around to reading it.  But after moving in to my new flat, which Claudia calls "Little Tugendhut" because of the onyx wall, I got inspired to give it a read.

I made sure to finish the book and returned it to her a few weeks ago in Wellington.  She had forgotten that she had loaned it to me three years ago.

It was such a good read.  Highly recommended.  Although fiction, it is interesting to read about the 1930s setting, how Brno and Vienna are described, and the onset of WWII.    Brno isn't actually mentioned, instead the Czech word for "city" is used.  So everywhere you read město, just think Brno

Update:  The Glass Room has been made in to a movie.

Monday, November 28, 2016

8th Annual Thanksgiving

Saturday was my 8th annual Thanksgiving party.  Eight years!  Wow!  After all this time it really is Czechsgiving now.

As soon as Agile24 was over on Friday I immediately went to pick up the turkey.  This year's turkey was 11,6 Kg (25.6 lbs).
Tünde helping make dinner.

Then it was straight to the kitchen to start prepping for Saturday.  Fortunately after seven years I've got it down to a bit of a system.  The only difference was that this was the first year in my new flat and I did miss a bit of the counter space I had in the old flat.

The other thing is that this year I wanted to pull it off without any care packages from home.

Again, more kids this year.  We even made a little kids play area and at night they enjoyed their very own kinder disco.

Here's a short video that Vilém made.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


On Thursday and Friday my team hosted a 24-hour agile event.  It was appropriately called Agile24.  Agile24 is basically a hack-a-thon where teams get together to work on anything that they want.

Self-organized teams, of up to eight people each, spent up to 24 hours together working to develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of their interest.

This was a great opportunity for people to take agile and Scrum fundamentals from just theory to actual practice.

Along the way we had some educational sessions and a couple of optional workshops.  We went through a lot of coffee, Red Bull, and pizza through the night.  Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.

On Friday, each team had five minutes to present what they accomplished and the top three teams won prizes.

This is the first such event ever held in an IBM Client Innovation Centre.  Another kudo for my team.
Lik Min and Dolika will organise Malaysia

I am very proud of my team for organising such a successful event.  So proud.  There was a lot of preparation that went in to pulling this off.

My teams in Malaysia and Poland are already organising events of their own in Q1.

Here's a short video we put together of Brno's first Agile24.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Google Outage

Google was down tonight across most of Central Europe tonight.  At around 8 pm tonight, the world's largest search engine went down all across Czechland.

It wasn't just the search engine that was down.  People couldn't access their Gmail accounts or watch videos on YouTube.

No Google, Gmail or YouTube?!?!  At least Facebook still worked.

Shortly before 10 pm, things started working again.  There hasn't been a statement yet as to what happened but whatever it was, it impacted service in Czechia, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, and Slovenia.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Team Missed Me

I had a fantastic holiday!  I wasn't ready to give up the 26℃ (79℉) weather in Hong Kong for the 9℃ (48℉) in Brno but it was time to go back to work.

It seems that my local Brno team clearly missed me while I was gone for three weeks.  I returned to find my entire desk and chair were wrapped in aluminium foil.

When I say that my entire desk was wrapped, I mean everything.  My phone.  My monitor.  My stapler.  Pens on my desk.

The guilty culprits put a lot of effort in to doing this right.  Not only was my tea box wrapped up but each individual tea bag was also wrapped.  Hats off to their level of commitment.  They must have gone through at least four or five tubes of foil.

I'm all for a good prank.  This one is very familiar to a prank we pulled two or three years ago where we wrapped everything in plastic wrap.  I've got a pretty good idea of who put them up to this one.  #cantwaitforpayback  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong & Macau Trip Summary

This was a fantastic holiday.  A whole three weeks away.  The only other time I've ever taken three weeks off was when I went home to Atlanta, Prescott, and Irvine back in 2012.  Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macau.  Wow!

Krasimir and I met up at Heathrow and then we had a 13 hour flight to Singapore.  We enjoyed our time in Singapore.  I'm really glad that we had a four day layover here because it really broke up the travel time to New Zealand.

It was fun seeing the diversity in Singapore.  All of the unique architecture plus everything from Chinatown to Little India.  The hawker centres were fun and the food was incredible.

While it was fun, I don't have a burning desire to go back.  Don't get me wrong, I would for sure do a layover here again to break up another long trip but, I feel like we got the full experience.  One of the highlights was Changi Airport.  This has to be the best airport ever!  It is one of the busiest airports in the world and it focuses on travellers.  I've never been in an airport that provides art galleries, multiple gardens, a swimming pool and free movie theatres.  For Christmas I really want one of the free foot massage machines that are in the terminals.  

From Singapore we had a 7 hour 40 minute flight to Sydney with an hour layover before our +3 hour flight to Auckland.  New Zealand really is far away from everywhere else.  Auckland was fun and we got to spend time with our favourite Kiwi.

We did all kinds of fun things...hiked up a volcano, saw a gannet colony, saw the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and even saw Priscilla.

Then it was on to Napier which was a nice little town.  It was so wonderful to see the Pacific Ocean again.  This was my first experience with Jetstar airlines which was so much better than any Ryanair flight I've ever taken.

I was shocked however by airport security in Kiwiland.  For domestic flights security is way more relaxed than it is in Europe or the USA.  On some flights we just boarded the plane.  Others when we did go through security there were no restrictions on liquids.  I was shocked seeing being going through with water bottles.  Awesome!

After Napier we were in Dunedin on the south island.  The best part of Dunedin was going out to see the Moeraki Boulders.  Again, I got to see the Pacific Ocean.  It may not seem like a big deal but when you grow up in California and now live in a landlocked country it is a very big deal.

Then it was on to Wellington.  This really is a fab city and I wish that we had had more time here.  It was so great staying with Nat's folks and Robyn and Roger took such great care of us before and after the earthquake.

Leaving Wellington Airport

We were so lucky to have not been on our own on the south island when it happened.  One of my favourite things was sitting down to a Sunday family night dinner.  Everything was so delicious!

Then it was on to Hong Kong via Sydney.  I caught a view of the Sydney Opera House from the plane.  This has sparked a fire so maybe we'll have to head to Australia in 2018, and perhaps a return visit to Wellington (minus the earthquake).

I knew that we would enjoy Hong Kong but...damn!  It was so much better than I had pictured.

Hong Kong (and a day in Macau) in four days just let's you scratch the surface.  There is so much that I still want to go back and see.  If only I had unlimited holiday time.  

Oh well, next came the +13 hour flight back to Heathrow, a three hour layover before my flight back to Vienna and my Student Agency bus home. At least I've got time today to do some laundry before returning to work tomorrow.