Saturday, August 27, 2016

Agile 2k16 Retrospective

One of my goals at work this year was to hold an international project management conference.  It's never been done before at IBM in Brno or in any any of our Client Innovation Centres.  So why not be the first.

The conference, on Tuesday, was a retrospective of our Agile Transformation.  We lined up presenters, both internal and external, from Czechland, Slovakia, Poland, Norway, and Malaysia.  

As a first try I thought we would get around 150 attendees but we went over that and had a wait list.  I was very proud of my team for making this such a successful event.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Czechland Gets Smaller

©Der Spiegel
It seems that Germany has gotten a little bigger while Czechland has gotten a wee bit smaller.

The Křinice River, Kirnitzsch in German, has naturally changed course.  It used to to flow in a slight loop, between the two countries, but now it flows straight.

Not a big deal except that about 40% of the border between Czech Republic and Germany is determined by waterways.

Initial findings show that the river may have straightened around 2013 when the area was last flooded.

I'm sure there must be some an official Czech-German border commission or some EU border something or other that will need to sort this out.

Until then it looks like Czechland has lost an area of about 18 x 28 meters (60 x 90 feet).

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bring Your Child to Work Day

This was the third or fourth time I've worked out of the Dublin office but this week was definitely more interesting.

The other day I'm told that my English is OK for an American.  And today was Bring Your Child to Work Day.

Hmmm...not sure why my Irish colleagues didn't warn me about this one in advance.

It seemed to be a pretty nice event with movies, colouring, face painting and more.  All of the kids seemed to have a fun time and you could see the pride on people's faces when they introduced their children around the office.

I should suggest something like this in Brno but probably on a day that I work from home.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Compliment...of sorts

Today I received a compliment...of sorts.  More of an insult but here's the story.

I had a meeting with an Irish chap in our Dublin office.  As we wrapped up he said:  "Your English is remarkable for a Czech."

I responded with:  "Thanks.  I'm American."

Leprechaun:  "Oh.  Well then it's just OK."

I'll take it as friendly banter and I'm sure my Brno colleagues will get a laugh out of the story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Douglas, Isle of Man

Douglas is the capital of the Isle of Man.  In Manx it is called Doolish and it is also the largest town on the island with just over 28,000 people which is about 33% of the entire island's population.  It is on the east coast at the mouth of the River Douglas.

Douglas was a just a small settlement until the 18th century when shipping routes were established with Liverpool.  In 1863, Douglas replaced Castletown as the capital.  Today it is the main shopping and business hub.

Douglas' claims to fame are the annual Tourist Trophy (TT) motorcycle races and as the birthplace of Maurice, Robin, and Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.

The busiest part of town is the promenade.  It runs for two miles with plenty of historic buildings facing the sea.  It is perfect for a relaxing stroll.

For those that don't want to walk then there's the option to take a horse-drawn tram from Spring to early Fall.  It's one of two remaining in the world but we preferred to walk.

The Jubilee Clock was donated in 1887 in commemoration of the the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign.

The Gaiety Theatre was built in 1899.  It opened in July 1900 and underwent major restoration in 1976.  It has a year-round programme and seats 898 people.

The Parish Church of Saint Thomas is an Anglican church.  It was consecrated in 1849 and seats over 1,000 people.

The Manx Museum houses the National Art Collection and the National Archives.  Unfortunately it is closed on Sunday so we missed it.

The War Memorial was unveiled in 1924 in memory of the soldiers killed during WWI.  The names of those lost in WWII have were added to the monument.  The "Manxman" stands on a column of Manx granite.

Villa Marina is an entertainment venue along the promenade.  It opened in 1913 and underwent major restoration from 2001-2004.

Sir Norman Wisdom was an English actor, comedian, and singer.  He was best known for a some comedy films produced from 1953 to 1966.  He was knighted in 2000 and passed away in 2010.

St. Mary's Isle, also known as Conister Rock, is a partially submerged reef in Douglas Bay.  It is home to the Tower of Refuge.  Several vessels were shipwrecked due to the reef so the tower was built as a refuge fro survivors until help could arrive.  The tower was completed in 1832 and is designed to look like a 13th century castle.

The most famous shipwreck was the St. George in 1830. A memorial commemorating the rescue of the St. George is on the promenade.

Overall Douglas is a nice, quiet place to visit.  Two days were plenty of time to see everything and still have time to just relax.

Friday, August 12, 2016

New Dress Code Video

The IBM Client Innovation Centre in Brno has a new dress code.  It's quite simple now.  There is no dress code.  In order to simply things and empower people, we've gone to a policy where people should use their best judgement.

This was communicated today and here's the video that's been put out on YouTube.  Yes, I did get roped in to being a part of this.  And no, I would never dress like this at work.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is an island in the Irish Sea located between Ireland and the UK.  The island is 572 km² (32 miles²); almost three times the size of Washington, DC.  It is home to just over 88,000 people.  The capital, and largest city, is Douglas.

The Isle of Man, called Ellan Vannin in Manx, is self-governing crown dependency.  While its inhabitants are British citizens, the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom or the European Union.

The UK is responsible for defence and diplomatic affairs.  As a Crown dependency Queen Elizabeth II holds the title of Lord of Man and is represented locally by a Lieutenant Governor.  The Chief Minister is elected by the Tynwald - local parliament.  The Tynwald is one of the world's oldest continuous governing bodies.

The Isle of Man was settled by the Celts around the 5th century and came under Viking control in 1079.  In 1266 it became part of Scotland and came under the English Crown in 1399.  In 1866, it obtained some measure of Home Rule and never became part of the UK.

Since it is not part of the UK, but its people are British citizens, the passports are a bit different.  The cover page doesn't say "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island" or "European Union".  Instead, it says "British Islands - Isle of Man" on the cover.

Although it enjoys free access to EU markets, it isn't part of the EU, so they didn't get to vote on the UK leaving the EU.

English is the official language and Manx Gaelic became official in 1985.  While the last native Manx speaker died in 1974 the government has been trying to revive the language.  Manx is closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic but the languages are not mutually understandable.  Only about 2% of the population has any knowledge of it.

£1 IOM note; £1 UK coin
The Isle of Man has its own money.  The Manx Pound is at parity with the UK's Pound Sterling.  The British Pound is accepted everywhere but the Manx Pound is not accepted in the UK.  For some reason there is a £1 note and a £1 coin.

£10 IOM note on top; £10 UK note below
In a couple of weeks I'll be working a week in the Dublin office.  It's only about a 30 minute flight from Dublin to the Isle of Man so the plan is to spend a weekend in Douglas.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Weekend in Amsterdam

With the IBM LGBT leadership workshop on Thursday and Friday's Workplace Pride conference finished it only made sense that a weekend city break in Amsterdam was in order.

Amsterdam is such a great city.  We spent the weekend walking along the canals, visiting a few museums and just enjoying a peaceful little getaway.

The only thing that gets on my nerves here is the smell of marijuana that randomly hits you.  It's not a constant thing but there are times when you're just walking along and all of a sudden the smell it there.  That's fine if you like it but I have always hated the stench of it.