Category Archives: travel

Potpourri

Huh!  I have a real blend of thoughts running through my mind. . .

First, I appreciate all the dear friends who have wished me well, as I leave IBM.  There seems to be so many different exciting things out there to choose from, I’m wondering just where I’ll start. The most tempting words come from friends who are independent consultants and are so happy living outside the corporate culture of the big corporate houses.

In a way the adventure on this stream of thought began back in May when I met a most likeable gentleman named Mike Israel.  He is a Business Application Manager and over lunch he told me of how he had migrated from consulting life to the life of living as a corporate employee.  He mentioned how things so dramatically change when you embark into the corporate world.

It does make you wonder doesn’t it, how culture can be a burden to some folk, and they though strong in ability find something stifling in the midst of the corporate scene.  It makes one think we have much inventing yet to embark into the 21st century eh?  Here we see ourselves so sophisticated, and yet our corporate cultures are old and salty.

It’s similar to the telephone industry.  Aren’t you just loving the big debate around Google Voice, AT&T, and Apple, and now everyone is saying, “I didn’t do it!”.  What a laugh this is, but the stark truth is that our ideas about communications are old and stale.  Who can rescue us from this lethargy?  Do we really have to wait for people to get all upset and angry before we go about reinventing ourselves?  Hats off to Google for giving us fresh insight into possibilities.

My email box this week has just been full of too many Internet farces.  I’m tired of the off cuff remarks that America should only be speaking English.  Huh?  How can we be so dull of character to think everyone should be like us?  My life is so rich through my studies of Latin, French, Greek, Hewbrew, Italian, and Portuguese.  We need to be ashamed of our stick-in-the-mud attitudes.  I realize we are feeling the discomfort of a fast changing world, but we can’t put our head in the sand like an ostrich, eh?  Also along this same line, is the silly email about how things were so wonderful when we were kids.  Oh yeah?  A key learning for me in the past year, is all about living in the now.  Yes, I’m fond of memories, but balance is also about finding the silver lining in my present place.  It’s been written that one should find happiness in want and in great blessing, so let’s live in the present and in the now.

It’s encouraging to see some signs of recovery eh?  Glad to know the housing market jumped this summer and some things are on the move.  Hey, we’ll take it!  Sorry to hears the CARS program has so soon ended, this seemed to be a cool stimulus in spite of the way the program was to be run.  Just hope those dealers get their monies are not left holding the bag.

Oh and let’s dream too!  Some friends want to go crusing in the Baltic next summer (2010).  That sounds so cool, more things to see that I’ve never seen!  The world is a great place.  My work at IBM has taken me to some awesome places too.  Some of my work locations have been:  Switzerland, Shanghai, Singapore, Barcelona with many side trips.  Hehe, but as stated about that is the past, the future is here today, so I’ll dream about the Baltic Sea.  Ahhh, you can dream too!

Two presidents this month

Monticello
Monticello

October has brought the opportunity to visit two special homes in the U.S., the first here you see is that of Thomas Jefferson.  Monticello was built by Thomas as a dream house just 4 miles from where he was born.  The property was owned by his father who left it to Thomas.  It is a very interesting house that started out as a two story home and grew to be three story house as Thomas was always on the look out for new challenges.  For the U.S. one might say Thomas Jefferson was not only a President, but one of our oldest “gadget-men”, as this home has clever inventions that Thomas adapted from around the world.  I say oldest only in relationship to the U.S. which is a young country of the world when you look at Europe and Asia, excluding of course the American Indians which predates those who established America as a country.

Thomas Jefferson brought many ideas with him back from France where he had served as an important diplomat for America.  The influence of Europe is seen not only in his home, where he takes the idea of the bedroom from France who had very compact designs (Jefferson played out this theme allowing him to maximize central floor space) but you also see it in his influence at the age of 73 on what was to become the University of Virginia.  Jefferson was very proud to have the opportunity to help design a college not only from an architectural point of view, but to shape the importance of knowledge for a country that would need the best in thinking to become a great nation.  We can not underestimate the importance of such a contribution and should all be challenged to think of how important our work is to provide the next generation with the finest of training.  It is one of the few pieces of security in this world that is troubled by war, financial turmoil and globalization.

Flowers at Monticello
Flowers at Monticello

Second, Jefferson’s home is a cornucopia for living things, as beautiful gardens and flowers adorn this 21st century home.  Yes, of course this is a done for us by team of folk that wish for you and me to experience the beauty and feeling of what this place looked like when Jefferson was alive.  The gardens are brimmed full of delights.

This weekend we were also filled with awe to see the home of James and Dolly Madison.  The Madison were great friends of Thomas Jefferson, and Monticello even has a bedroom where they would come and stay for several days at a time.  A lady on the tour of Montpelier (home of the Madisons) commented that we who live in the 21st century have lost the social joy that appears to have been a part of the era of the Jeffersons and Madisons.

Montpeiler
Montpeiler

My apologies as I had no camera on this second visit and can only give you a vey small taste of Montpelier.  Montpelier is very interesting, as some 5 years ago, it was determined to restore Montpelier back to the state of what it would appear to be when the Madisons lived there.  A great family named the duPonts had control of the property prior bequeathing to the National Trust.  The duPonts had doubled the overall size of the house to a modern mansion of the 20th century, but a brilliant plan was hatched to bring the house back to it’s 18th/19th century state.  Top experts were brought in (both architectural and those of archelogical expertise) and some 5 years later, the house has returned to it’s size (12,000 square feet) and is a long on it’s way to coming to state where the house will be returned to a near quality of it’s 19th century status.  (the plaster is still curing, a 9 month venture, and until the interior reaches a mature state, the team cannot put the house into a museum-like status, i.e., a correct balance of humidity)

My personal opinion is that the team at Montpelier are superior and have a very high quality product that is worthy of people taking time to view and savor. Montepelier is a significant treasure of some 2,400 acres of land, plus 200 pristine acres that have not been touched in three centuries.  (James Madison was a leading conservationist, and did not ravage the land like many plantation people of his day)  James Madison invented many techniques for farming that conserved land and resources.

When James Madison died the plantation was barely solvent, and Montpelier quickly slide into red ink (bankruptcy) within a short period, thus many articles owned by the Madison family have been lost.  An example of this is the lack of Madison’s books which numbered well over 4,000 volumes near the time of his death.

The U.S. is a great recipient of the genius of these two men as they were key contributors through collaboration and friendship.  We can take their example and apply to our modern lives and be better people for it.

Beauty in DC. . .

Da Vinci in Washington DC
Da Vinci in Washington DC

Yes, a lovely Saturday this weekend, we traveled up I-95 to Washington, DC to take in the National Galley of Art.  This lovely Leonardo Da Vinci is found there in the gallery and it is quite an inspiration to those passing through the museum.  There was a large group in front of this painting listening to the expert words of a guide and it was an opportunity when they moved on to other works to get a closer view of this magnificent painting.  The photo here is not the painting itself but taken from a poster in the main entrance.

Have a superb day wherever you are at today and take in the great beauty that surrounds us all.

Barcelona!

Who is that?
Who is that?

What a town!  Years ago when working in Lausanne, Switzerland one of my team, Hoisuk flew to Barcelona and came back all enthusiastic after a long weekend there.

My turn finally came now almost 3 weeks ago as I, along my wife traveled there for business and yes some wonderful pleasure of getting acquainted with an awesome town.  One of the superb things in Barcelona is the tourist bus system which has 3 routes, green, blue and red.  This line covers an immense area of the city and one tour circle can last some 2 hours in length.  The best seat on the bus is on top of the bus in the “open” air, i.e., no roof.

One learns many tremendous details on Barcelona as one travels around these routes as there is earphones with 6 to 8 languages offerred.  One of the most intriguing influences on Barcelona is the designer/architect Gaudi.  He is long gone from this world, but his work continues, especially at the cathedral, La Sagrada Família.  The photo in the corner is from his La Pedrera, an apartment type dwelling that you would think was something from the 1990’s not 1906.

Another awesome fact about Barcelona is that it has a parlimentarian government that is older than 1100 years of age.  This predates the govenment of the England.  Barcelona is the home of the 1992 Olympics and the stadium is still as fresh and beautiful as if they were there just last year.

The beach is a beautiful spot on Barcelona.  The tour indicated it has not always been the case, as it was hid behind a cluster of factories and no one had thought about what a valuable item the beach could be.  Hmm, reminds us that maybe we too have things in our back pocket going unappreciated as well.

Well, this is short today, but hopefully I will get back on my blog routine and share more with you awesome opportunities that have come my way.  Don’t turn down an opportunity to go to Barcelona.  Now I just need to figure out how to get back there and see more of the wonderful country of Spain.

Weekend surprise

Riverwalk @ Prime Outlets
Riverwalk @ Prime Outlets

This past weekend (Labor Day weekend / September 1) we traveled by car to Williamsburg, Virginia to take in just a bit of local flavor.  It was a lazy trip preceeded by a trip to Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House in Richmond.  Upon arrival to Williamsburg, we thought we might make a quick side trip to the Prime Outlet Mall, as other shopping travels had not netted the right walking shoes for Barcelona.  So prior to looking around in Williamsburg we made the stop at the Prime Outlets.

The big surprise of our visit was a total chance visit near a store where Nancy had found a few things.  I had stepped into the store and said to Nancy, “I’ve found a parking place, I’ll be outside enjoying the air.”  I went outside the store and walking towards me was a familiar face, it was such a surprise, my mind was blank with “can this be, oh my goodness I can’t remember the name!”  There in front of me stood Cortland Gee, a man I met in 2002.  Courtland worked for Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania back in 2002 as the Security Team Leader for their SAP HR application.  Courtland and I quickly became great friends as we have some similar loves in life, jazz music and motorcycling.  I spent some 18 months working for Rohm and Haas both on a technical upgrade as well as a global implementation where I also was the team lead for the Asia Pacific rollout.

We had a super time catching up on recent history.  Courtland had left Rohm and Haas for greener pastures as now works as a tour director for Hagey Coach and Tours.  Courtland is quite a natural as he loves people and enjoys sharing his life learning with others.

This weekend is also a great time of catch-up for us.  I’ve been in the email box clearly out many details which I owe to my great friends around the world.  Nancy is using Skype to talk with friends in Prague, Czech Republic.

This too has been a big weekend for friends getting married in far away places.  Chris and LIsa will be married in Switzerland, and Jo-Ann and her fiancee will do a second wedding for family in Malaysia.  These are dear friends from IBM who I was privileged to meet in Lausanne, Switerzland as I worked for Philip Morris International.

Well enough details for a quick post, I hope you are having a great weekend wherever you are today.

New digs

O.k. so the first week in August headed to a new project in Richmond, Virginia.  I’ve started as the project manager for MeadWestvaco (MWV), an enormous packaging and chemical business in some 30 countries of the world.

We located a cool apartment near Short Pump Town Center.  This has been a real shock moving from Wisconsin as Richmond is so packed with shopping, history (Civil War), restaurants and each square mile is just used to the maximum with numerous establishments.

The project is a startup for global HR on the SAP platform.  We’ll travel to Barcelona, Spain in September for the initial meetings with key countries that will be involved in Wave 1.  It’s been superb to be in Richmond as it is also the home of Philip Morris USA which is a part of the international organization located in Lausanne, Switzerland (where I worked for some 28 months starting in January 2005.

It makes me appreciate how really small of big world is to be close to a former customer.  MWV is in process of building a new corporate office in downtown Richmond, which looks to be completed in late 2009.  This building faces the James River and is an absolute prime location in a very memorable part of Richmond.

We have many things to learn about Richmond as there is vast Civil War history here and of course just up the highway is the famous home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello.

More details and pictures to follow, just wanted to back into the blog world and keep moving.

Jammin’ on the outside

Hi there world.  I’m not new to blogs.  I regularly post inside IBM on BlogCentral.  I’ve just become so involved with social networking on the inside, I decided “hey it’s time to start jammin’ on the outside where my many friends across the globe could reach out and see what I’m doing and saying.

I had a website originally in this very place and yes, it was Web 1.0, a place so static and dead that I was embarassed to admit to much of anyone I had a website.  I hope to have a new leaf here by moving over to a blog format and therefore give opportunity for interaction and a lot of fun too!

This weekend was superb with a trip to Chicago and the Chicago Art Museum on Saturday.  We spent several hours on the first floor looking through the Asian art (there are exquisite 8th century porcelain pieces that China would be proud to say exist in the U.S.A.) as well as other exhibits and especially some of their sculptors (which is a much smaller collection than I expected).  It’s hard to summarize the wonderful art available in this museum and the weather was so nice and rainy it was the kind of day you want to spend inside.

The lions guard the gate to the museum
The lions guard the gate to the museum

We also had a nice surprise today in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as we had planned to walk up and enter the Kohler Art Museum.  We arrived to find an Art Festival weekend and many tents to view art work from around the U.S.A.   It was an afternoon delight to view exquisite prints, glass objects and fine pottery of many expressions.

Looking forward to share many more things here in the future.  Thanks for the visit.

Al