A rare post about my job.

I don’t usually talk about my job online for a bunch of different reasons.  For one thing, I deal with confidential data.  For another, I think that “what do you do?” is the least interesting question anyone can ask me when they first meet me.  For the two or three of you who don’t actually know what I do, I’m a Systems Administrator for a hosting company.  When most people ask me what I do for a living, I usually just say, “computers.”

Despite the low frequency of my work-related posts, my job is an incredibly large part of my life.  I’ve worked at Mr. Company1 for almost thirteen years, starting in the summer of 2002.  I was 29 when I started working for the company.  When I started working there, my cell phone was new and large and awkward, and I still had a pager for emergencies.  (Remember pagers?)

The company sent me to Hong Kong for two weeks in 2008.  This was my first trip outside of the United States other than Canada and the Bahamas.  My employment there is the very reason that I lived in Germany for three years, working for our European office in Germany.  Working for Mr. Company is what allowed me to travel all over Europe for the last few years.

In a week’s time, however, the company won’t exist.  Not in its current form, anyway.  We’re being merged into our sister company, and we’re taking their name.  My health benefits are switching companies.  We’ll have a new CEO.   I’ll be given a new e-mail address.

On the first of April, the name of my employer will cease to exist in North America.  That’s a hell of a thing.

I’m excited though.  So far, the changes coming down from on high have been good ones- they’ve separated our different offices into separate product lines, which means that our Utah office gets my least favorite platform, while I still get to play with my favorite products every day.   My department has also gone from a 24/7 schedule to a 24/5 schedule, with nobody in the office on Saturday or Sunday.

Since my return from Germany, my responsibilities and workload at my job have increased a great deal.  The company keeps me very, very busy, and that’s going to continue.  Some time in the next few months, the newly merged and re-named Mr. Company will be sending me to Tokyo for about a month.  In theory, I’ll go in May or June-  the schedule isn’t fixed yet, so it could be later.   Alas, it will likely be far too late to see the famous cherry blossoms.  It will be my first trip to Japan.  It will also be my first trip to another country for the new-and-improved Mr. Company, and I think that’s going to be pretty nifty.

In just five more days, it will be time to say goodbye to the company that I’ve always known, and hello to more or less the same company in a newer, shinier form.  More or less.

Mr. Company is dead.  Long live Mr. Company.


1I always refer to my current employer as Mr. Company online. Always.

Auf Wiedersehen, 2014.

2014_out

2014 was a hell of a year.  It was the last third of my time in Germany before my contract ended there.

In 2014, I visited old favorite cities and the friends that resided in each- Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin.  I visited new cities in Germany that I had not yet seen- Dresden, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Leipzig, Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Heidelberg.

In 2014, I visited cities in other countries that I had never seen before-  Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Egypt.

In 2014, I saw concerts by Ellie Goulding, Gary Numan, Baskery, Hayseed Dixie, Air Supply,  Eels, the Alan Parsons Live Project, and Lewis Black.  I saw stage productions of The Little Shop of Horrors (auf Deutsch) and the Book of Mormon.

In 2014, I saw America play Germany in the World Cup.  I saw Germany lose its collective mind with joy when they were victorious in the final game.  I attended beer festivals and blogger meetups.

In 2014, I went hot air ballooning over Bavaria.  I rode a camel through one tiny corner of the Sahara desert.  I rode Segways twice, and found them to be much smoother than a camel.  I saw the Great Pyramid at Giza.

In 2014, I saw two dear friends wed to their beloved, one in July and one in October.  I saw my Aunt Florence laid to rest over a funeral home’s live Internet video stream from my apartment in Germany.

In the last three months of 2014, I came home and began to reset my life here. My books and movies have been boxed up for four years.  and I feel like I have been too.   I’ve been stuck for a long while.

2015 is going to be a grand adventure, I think.  I’m starting the year off by taking my girlfriend with me to California in late January to see one of my all time favorite bands.  There’s other stuff on the calendar, but I won’t list it all out here.

I’m just glad to see 2014 on its way out.  I’m ready to be unstuck.

What are you looking forward to about 2015?

Bayern

Repatriation Day

Bayern

Today is the day that I leave Germany. I’m not leaving forever, because I have friends here. After today, though, I won’t be a resident of Deutschland. I’m heading back to Florida.  My plane out of Frankfurt is actually scheduled to depart at the exact minute this post is scheduled to go up.

While this is a travel day for me, I thought it might be fun to give my friends an idea of what my Floridian  life will be like, geographically speaking, courtesty of http://overlapmaps.com/.  I’ve noticed that Europeans who have never been to the United States seldom have any real idea of just how expansive the US really is.  Americans who haven’t traveled here are similarly bereft of clue when it comes to scale, which is part of what makes these maps so much fun.

Here’s an example to illustrate that point.  This conversation actually happened between me and a colleague back in the US:

Colleague:  Hey, can you go to the data center to look at this server?
Me: The data center is in Frankfurt.  That’s three hours away.  I might be able to get there by tomorrow, if I leave now, go home, pack a bag, and manage to catch the next train out.
Colleague:  …so that’s a no, then?

First up in our map fun:  South Florida, overlayed onto the region of Bavaria I currently live in.   While these distances are not exact, I can say that Munich roughly overlays where Miami is, and Regensburg roughly overlays where I will be living.

overlay01

These next two are just fun:  Germany overlaid onto Florida, and Florida overlaid onto Germany.

overlay02 overlay03

…and just for giggles, the United States overlayed across all of Europe.  The US is a big place.  I lived in the US for my entire life before 2011, and I still haven’t seen nearly as much of it as I have seen of Europe.   I’ve gotta get on that.

overlay04

Which is bigger?  Your home town, or the place you live now?

krakow-9

Krakow, Poland

I knew early on that I needed to get to Poland at some point during my stay here.   For one thing, I wanted to visit every country that borders Germany, and Poland was the last shared border country on that list.  For another thing, my father’s father was born in Warsaw, so I’m partly Polish.

If I was going to visit Poland, I had to choose a city.  My top two choices were Krakow and Warsaw, and everything I had read indicated that Warsaw wasn’t all that different from any other major city.  Off to Krakow I went!

My hotel was only two short blocks from the Main Market Square.  This is the largest medieval European square, covering roughly 40,000 square meters.  Plus, it has a giant head.

Not pictured:  Me, re-enacting that scene from Clash of the Titans.

krakow-1

In the middle of the Market Square is a building called the Cloth Hall.  The original structure dates back to the 13th century, but it was rebuilt in the 16th century after the previous iteration was destroyed by fire.

krakow-3

Inside the cloth hall are rows of merchants, mostly selling to tourists.

krakow-2

The Market Square has a ton of pigeons.  They were creepy as hell.

krakow-6

One more view of the Cloth Hall, this time from the back and with a nifty fountain in view.

krakow-27

This is a slightly different view of the same building.  This view shows the Town Hall tower, which you can climb.

krakow-9

If you should choose to climb it, be aware that the steps in this tower are very tall steps, and the passageway is very narrow.  Good view from the top, though.

krakow-8

The old town hall’s tower is still standing, even though the rest of the town hall is gone.  There’s a brass sculpture next to the tower showing what the original structure looked like.

krakow-7

All the extra crap in that last picture is because there was an enormous stage set up in the Square for some big event while I was there.  Lots of live music, some of which was even good.

krakow-21

…but I digress.  In the main square, there are often a bunch of these walking around in various languages:

krakow-29

Pick one and follow them.  They cover a lot of interesting topics.  Most of the free tours will lead you down this street, past the McDonald’s and toward St. Florian’s Gate.

krakow-28

St. Florian’s Gate is part of the city’s defensive walls from the 13th century.  There used to be a moat, but that’s gone now. There were originally 47 observation towers and seven gates, because Krakow was a medieval fortress at the time.

krakow-4

Near the gate is this excellent statue of Jay Garrick the Roman god Mercury.

krakow-5

Through the gate is the Barbican, a circular fortification which was originally connected to the main gate.  Barbican is not the name of the building, it’s the name of the type of structure- but I don’t think the locals call it by another name.

krakow-20

Let’s go back to the Market Square, because I’m not done there.  In one corner is this pretty nifty church, the Church of St. Mary, sometimes referred to as St. Mary’s Basilica.  The church is not parallel to the square, and the towers are not uniform.  The reason for the different towers is that the smaller tower is a bell tower, and the higher tower has always belonged to the city and was used as a watchtower.

krakow-19

Every hour, on the hour, a small window is opened in the watchtower, and a short trumpet signal called the Hejnał mariacki is played.  The trumpeter then opens a different window and repeats the call.  This is done four times in all, in four directions which roughly correspond to the direction of the four main Krakow city gates.

krakow-10

The tune breaks off very abruptly.  It is not known with certainty why this is so, but one of the most persistent legends is that it is cut off to commemorate a 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before a Mongol attack on the city.  Here’s a short video of the trumpet signal.

In another corner of the Market Square is another amazing (but much, much smaller) church called St. Adalbert’s Church. Legend says this is the location where St. Adalbert used to preach.

Every night, the Royal Chamber Orchestra does an amazing one hour concert in this church.  The baroque dome gives it excellent acoustics, and the show is well worth seeing.   The program alternates, and when I saw it, the song  included such venerable classics as Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and Horner’s “Love Theme from Titanic.”

krakow-22

Walking south out of the main Market Square, along Grodzka, you eventually come to an intersection with two more interesting churches visible.    I can’t remember the name of this one.

krakow-11

This one is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan church.

krakow-13

Across the street from the Franciscan church is the Bishop’s Palace, where Pope John Paul II stayed whenever he was in the city.  They even decked out the window he used to hang out of to permanently commemorate this.

krakow-17

Between the two churches is another interesting sculpture showing where the Church of All Saints stood in the past.

krakow-12

At this point in the post, the “walking around the city” narrative sort of breaks down, because the last few pictures aren’t in a straight line.  For example, this is the former Collegium Physicum, the location for the faculties of pharmacology, physiology, physics, chemistry, and geology.  Lots of science was done here.

krakow-15

…and this is the Collegium Maius, the oldest existing building of the Jagiellonian University.  I didn’t get to see that wonderful clock in motion, but my city map said it runs at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm every day.

krakow-18

This the real gold roof of the cathedral on Wawel Hill, near the castle.  It’s plated though, and not solid gold, because that would be too heavy.

krakow-14

I took a brief stop in Wawal Castle to view Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine.  It was smaller than I expected.  The classics almost always are.  Alas, photographs were forbidden.  After I was done looking at the painting, I noticed this fascinating giant balloon from the courtyard.

krakow-16

This is the Hiflyer.  It’s based a reasonable walk from the city center, and as long as the weather is good, they’re flying.  They recommend calling ahead just to be sure, but a reservation isn’t necessary.  The balloon is more or less stationary, because it’s tethered to a single place on the ground.

krakow-25

The “basket” for this is actually a very large metal ring, with an open center for the cable that pulls you back down at the end of your flight.

krakow-24

Going up at dusk affords you some pretty spectacular views of the area.  This direction shows Wawel Hill, including the castle.

krakow-23

On my last evening in town, I stopped at one of the restaurants in the main market square and I had these fresh pierogies.    I love pierogies, and having a chance to have freshly made ones in Poland is not to be missed.  These were so, so delicious.

krakow-26

Have you ever been to Krakow?  Have you ever had a pierogi?

Berlin’s Number Two!

Well, not quite yet.  Paris is still number two, right behind London.  According to European Cities Marketing, however, Berlin’s popularity is growing faster than any other city based on the number of overnight stays recorded in the city.   The number of overnight stays in Berlin in 2013 is chomping at the heels of Paris for that number two spot:

top-ten-tourist-cities

There is a more important reason that I’m looking at this chart though-  it’s a list!  Another checklist!  I’ve been to eight out of ten of these cities!  All I need is Madrid and Istanbul and I’ll have visited all ten!

Have you been to all ten of Europe’s most visited cities?