Monday, October 31, 2016


Singapore is both a city and country.

The city-state has a main island and 62 other islands located next to Malaysia.

Singapore is home to almost 5,8 million people.

It's easy to get around and there's plenty of areas to explore.  Singapore is quite diverse and a mix of Chinese, Malay, and Tamil cultures. 

This is a great place for those who like architecture.

The Marina Bay Sands opened in 2010.  The resort includes a hotel, a convention centre, a shopping mall, a museum, a skating rink and the world's largest atrium casino.  The three 55-story hotel towers were inspired by decks of cards.  The SkyPark is a 1 hectare (2,5 acre) roof terrace that connects the three towers.  SkyPark includes an infinity swimming pool and great views of the city.

Merlion Park is a popular area at Marina Bay near the Central Business District.

The Merlion, the mythical fish with a lion's head, was created in 1964 as a logo for the tourism board.

The ArtScience Museum opened in 2011 as the world's first ArtScience museum.  Exhibits show the accomplishments of both the arts and the sciences over time.  The building was designed to represent a lotus flower.

Every night there is an incredible laser and fountain show set to music that includes Louis Armstrong's It's a Wonderful World.

The Double-helix bridge is a pedestrian bridge that opened in 2010.

The Singapore Flyer opened in 2008.  Until 2014 it was the world's tallest Ferris wheel at 165 metres (541 feet).

The Float is the world's largest floating stage.  It can seat 30,000 people and was used for the YOG's opening and closing ceremonies.

Youth Olympic Park is the city's first art park.  It opened in 2010 when Singapore hosted the first Youth Olympic Games.

The Gardens by the Bay is a futuristic park with giant artificial trees.  It is home to over 200 different plant and flower species.

The National Gallery opened in 2015.  It is home to more than 8,000 works of art.  It is made up of the former Supreme Court building and City Hall, both national monuments, and it is the country's largest museum.

The Arts House at the Old Parliament opened in 2004.  The old building was restored and is now an arts and heritage centre.

The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall opened in 1862.  It is home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and was listed as a national monument in 1992.  It was renovated in 2014.

The War Memorial Park is dedicated to the civilians who died in Singapore during WWII.

Saint Andrew's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral near City Hall.  It is the country's largest cathedral.

Singapore's House of Parliament was completed in 1999.

The Fountain of Wealth was listed in 1988 by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest fountain.  The water actually flows inward.  It's all very feng shui.

The Red Dot Design Museum has over 1,000 exhibits from more than 55 countries.  All of the exhibits have won the prestigious red dot design award.

The Asian Civilizations Museum specialises in history from China, Southeast Asia, and West Asia.

Singapore is predominantly Chinese but Chinatown is home to the traditional Chinese quarters. There are lots of restored shophouses and it's a great place for a wander.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre is a well put together museum chronicling Chinatown and the history of Chinese immigrants.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a four-storey temple in southern Chinatown.  It was completed in 2007.  It is supposed to be home to one of Buddha Shakyamuni's teeth.
Central Business District

The Majestic is a historic building in Chinatown.  In 1928 it was a Cantonese opera house.  During WWII the Japanese Army used it to screen propaganda films.  It screened Chinese films until it closed in 1998.  It was renovated and reopened in 2003.

The Sri Mariamman Temple is the city's oldest, and most important, Hindu temple.

Little India is the centre of the Indian community.  It's a colourful area and the main area is just a few blocks.  Lots of shops selling saris, gold jewellery and spices.

The Sultan Mosque was completed in 1928.  It can accommodate 5,000 people and became a national monument in 1975.  It is considered by many to be one of the city's most important mosques.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is the area's oldest and busiest temple.  It dates back to 1881.

The Angullia Mosque has been serving the Muslim community in Little India for over 120 years.

One of the best things about Singapore is all of the really delicious food.  Especially at the hawker centres which are great open-air places for inexpensive local food.  There are community tables and benches.  They sprang up in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens were founded in 1859.  The 82-hectare (202,6 acre) area contains more than 10,000 species of flora.  It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 and it is the only tropical garden listed as a site.  About 4,5 million people visit each year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My First Webinar

Tonight was another first.  My first webinar gig speaking to Czech and Slovak students about Agile.  I, and one of my colleagues, Ján, were invited to present to the Studenské Trenérské Centrum (STC).

The STC is a programme, sponsored by Microsoft, for high school students who want to improve their IT skills.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cantonese Opera Days

I swear there is always something going on in Brno.

Tonight was Cantonese Opera Days in the South Moravian Region at Sono Centrum.

I'm not so sure how helpful Cantonese with Czech subtitles are for my trip to Hong Kong next month but I'm counting down the days.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hranice Abyss, Czech Republic

Hranická propast, the Hranice Abyss, is located in near the town of Hranice na Moravě in Moravia.  The limestone abyss was the deepest in the country.  It's now been found to be the deepest underwater cave in the world.

A Czech-Polish expedition has recently found that the cave is deeper than previously believed.  New measurements put it at 404 metres (+1325 feet) deep.  

Hranice na Moravě isn't that far from Brno, so perhaps a field trip is in order.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Malaysian 2016 Agile Conference

My Malaysian team hosted an Agile conference today at the IBM Client Innovation Centre in Cyberjaya, Malaysia.

I wasn't able to be there with them in person so video was the next best option.  Last week they asked me to record a message as part of the keynote kick off.

My Malaysian project management team
By all accounts it was a complete success.  I'm very proud of the team and what they pulled off.  Hopefully next year I'll get the chance to visit them in person.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Low Unemployment in Czechland

Unemployment is low in Czechland.  It has been falling since January and as of September is is 5,2%.

The last several quarters have seen steady growth.  Exporters see a solid demand for Czech goods and there's a growing services demand.  There's also been an increase in self employment and entrepreneurship.

This is all good news.  On the flip side, it's getting more and more difficult for employers to find workers.  Even for low qualified positions.  It's creating wage pressure as well.  Difficulty finding people and at higher wages will become a major obstacle for continued economic growth.

Czechland currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the EU.  Followed by Germany, Hungary, Malta and the UK.

At around 23%, Greece has the highest unemployment rate in the EU.  Ahead of Spain, Cyprus, Italy and Croatia.

Update:  New record-low unemployment in Czechland.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

National Coming Out Day

11 October is National Coming Out Day.  It began in the USA in 1988.  The belief is that homophobia exists in silence and ignorance.  If people know that their friends and family members are gay then they are less likely to maintain homophobic views.

National Coming Out Day is observed in Switzerland and the UK.  And thanks to Facebook and other social media, it's gone worldwide.

National Coming Out Day inspired me to come out to my family in 1993.  One of the best things that I ever did.  The thing about being gay is that we don't have to come out just once.  We have to come out all of the time.  Just because your mom knows, doesn't mean that your doctor knows, or that your boss or colleagues know.  We get to choose to whom and when we come out to.  So Happy National Coming Out Day!

Monday, October 3, 2016

New Holiday Hours

New legislation takes place starting now.  All retail stores, over 200 square metres (2,150 sq.ft.), must be closed on the following seven Czech public holidays.

  • New Year's Day (1 January)
  • Easter Monday
  • Liberation Day (8 May)
  • Czech Statehood Day (28 September)
  • Independent Czechoslovak Day (28 October)
  • Christmas Day (25 December)
  • St. Stephen's Day (26 December)

On Christmas Eve (24 December), shops can only stay open until Noon.

The only exemptions from this are shops smaller than 200 square metres, pharmacies, gas stations, plus shops located in hospitals, airports and train stations.

The penalty for breaking the law is up to 1 million Kč (~€38.000 or $42,500).

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Belarus Trip Summary

Europe is done as I've now visited every single county.  All 50.  By far the most difficult country to cross off the list was Belarus but it certainly was worth it.  Even with the ordeals of sorting out my tourist visa and the travel drama of actually flying here.

For western tourists, Minsk is one of the least visited European capitals.  So I'm pretty happy that I've made it.  Minsk was great!

I really enjoyed just walking around the city and marvelling at the large, Soviet-style architecture.  It really gave me the feel that this is  somewhat how things were like in the Soviet Union.

The city was exceptionally clean.  Of course, everywhere I turned there was someone in a uniform.  I couldn't tell you was a city police officer, metropolitan police, transit police, army, military cadet, young pioneer, etc.  But if having that much security around means that things stay clean then it's worth it.  I only saw tagging once and it was being cleaned off.

Minsk metro map
I did lots of walking but getting around was quite easy.  Public transportation was cheap as chips.  A ride on the metro only costs about 30¢.  I purchased a 10 day transit card, good for up to 42 trips on the bus, trolly, tram or metro, for only $8.

The Minsk metro was the ninth metro system built in the Soviet Union.

At Lenin Station

The metro stations are very clean and all of the Soviet-era symbols are still present.  The metro handles about 800,000 people per day and each station has its own theme.

The only confusing thing was the names of some of the stations.  Many of the stations have two names.  The old Russian name and the new Belarusian name.  Many of the maps or directions that people give you on the street use the old Russian version.  For example, most people call October Square - Площадь Октябрьская (Oktyabrskaya) but it is announced as Плошча Кастрычніцкая (Kastryčnickaja).  But it's fine once you sort out what is what.

The money was a bit interesting.  Before July there were no coins; only paper notes.  The new currency devalued everything by 1,000 and introduced coins.  The old currency is still in use and there are currency posters everywhere.

I paid for a coffee with coins and got my change back (0,20 rubles) back, half in the new coin and half with the old paper bill.

It was funny watching people pay for things because no one knows how to deal with coins.  Most people just put their hand out with the coins and let the cashier take what was needed.  I'm so used to the Czech system where you are supposed to make life easier for the cashiers that when I did it here people were surprised.

I did a number of tours which worked out quite well.  I'm pretty proud of myself for doing all of the tours in Russian.  After the third or fourth day, I found out that some of my fellow travellers actually could speak at least a little English.

The only drawback was that my tour to Grodno was cancelled.  But I finally made it to Brest which was the main reason to visit Belarus.  Overall, it was a great get away.  Definitely worth another visit.