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.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong, 香港, borders China's Guangdong province and is 60 km (37 miles) from Macau.  With 7,3 million people in an area of 2,755 km² (1,064 sq miles) it is the world's 4th most densely populated country.

As a Special Administrative Region of China it has its own immigration and border controls.  I had to fill out an immigration card upon arrival and was given a paper ticket to hold on to until I left.  The ticket takes the place of stamping your passport.

A skyscraper is any building that is 150 meters (492 feet) or more tall.  With 316, Hong Kong has more than anywhere else in the world.  And they are still building.

At night the entire city is lit up.  The most impressive lights are on the Hong Kong side of the harbour and the best views of it at night are from the Kowloon side.

Government House was built in 1855.  It is the official residence of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

The Cenotaph was unveiled in 1923.  It commemorates those who died in both world wars while serving Hong Kong in the British armed forces.

The Court of Final Appeal was built in 1912.  During WWII, the Japanese used it as the military police headquarters while they occupied Hong Kong.

St. Stephen's Church was completed in 1980.  It was renovated in 1995 and serves the local Catholic community.

The Rosary Church, built in 1905, is the oldest Catholic church in Kowloon.

The Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China serves the Protestant community.

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest such centres in the world.  It was founded in 1864 and was opened to the public in 1871.  There are over 600 birds, 70 mammals, 40 reptiles and over a thousand species of plants.

At Duddell Street are the city's last four remaining gas lamps.  They were completed in 1899.

The Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum opened in 2006 to commemorate the 140th birthday of the Chinese statesman.

The Ohel Leah Synagogue was built in 1902.  Its renovation in 1998 won the Outstanding Project Award of the 2000 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

This Hung Shing Temple is one of six on Lantau Island.  It used to be next to the Silver Mine Bay Beach but was moved here a few decades ago.

The Po Lin Monastery is also on Lantau Island.  The Buddhist monastery was founded in 1906.

Next to the monastery is the Tian Tan Buddha.  Completed in 1993, the Big Buddha is the world's largest outdoor bronze statue.

Nearby is the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

On the Kowloon waterfront is a replica of the Olympic torch used in the Beijing Olympic Games.

The Golden Bauhinia sculpture.  At this square was where the handover ceremony took place when the UK handed Hong Kong back over to the Chinese in 1997.

The pilar is in commemoration of the return of Hong Kong to China.

There are a few Man Mo temples but the largest is on the Hong Kong side in Sheung Wan.  It was built in 1847.

The Western Market opened in 1858.  It is the oldest surviving market building in the city and it takes up a whole city block.

The Observation Wheel opened in 2014.  It overlooks Victoria Harbour.

Victoria Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island.  The Peak is a great place to get the best panoramic photos of the city and to get an appreciation for all of the skyscrapers.