As we end the year and continue our journey into 2018, let us remember the people, the places, and everything we experienced that made 2017 a standout year. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I’ve assembled the above photo mosaic that tries to capture the more meaningful events of 2017 in my little world.
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The Masters of Open edX
One of the first decisions I had to make in 2017 was to select an implementation partner that would help Global Knowledge build a new learning platform on which the company could deliver 24/7 on-demand access to instructor-led videos and hands-on activities in a learning environment designed to maximize retention. That partner is IBL Studios. Their knowledge of Open edX made it possible for us to complete this critical project on time. We simply could not have got it done without their expert support.
The friendly skies
Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to work with several airlines that were building systems using software I had helped develop. One of these airlines is United. The time spent working with United offered insight into the complexity of the operation and dedication of the 88,000 employees responsible for routing 150 million passengers to over 300 destinations in 50 countries on 4,500 flights daily. Since then, I’ve flown close to 1 million miles on United – 100,000 in 2017. I’ve had my share of travel hiccups but appreciate the enormity of the challenge airlines take on every day and the level of service United strives to provide.
The modern gladiators on two-wheels
I love MotoGP, the Formula 1 of motorcycle racing. Like Brad Pitt, I always favored motorcycles over cars. Like Brad Pitt, I watch every race with whoever wants to watch. But that’s unfortunately where all similarities with Brad end. Twenty-three times a year, twenty-four modern gladiators barrel down a race track on two wheels at a top speed of 350 km/hr. That’s barely 25 km/hr slower than the Formula 1 official speed record! This year, Marc Marquez was crowned world champion for the 6th time at the age of 24. But it’s Valentino Rossi, the most successful motorcycle racer of all time that continues to win our hearts at the age of 38. Let us also remember Nick Hayden – the Kentucky Kid – who was killed by a car while riding his bicycle in Italy.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Madrid while attending the Open edX conference. In case anyone thinks I played hooky, here’s evidence I was present at the keynote and even asked a question to edX founder and CEO Anang Agarwal. Although Madrid is the 3rd largest city and metropolitan area in the European Union, it felt more quaint and friendlier than most other European capitals I’ve had the opportunity to visit. I look forward to visiting again.
If “home is where the heart is,” then my iPhone instant messaging and social media apps are the keys to my home. These apps allow me to stay connected with friends and family, regardless of time and whereabouts, be it Boulder, Paris, Montreal, New York City, San Francisco, or Saigon. Technology has made the world a little smaller. Technology has made it possible to seamlessly buy goods and services, board planes, trains, and automobiles, pay our bills and reimburse our friends, discover great restaurants, not get lost, listen to music, binge-watch our favorite shows with the touch of a finger. The decision to go all-in with Apple at home and at work has greatly simplified things and made traveling a lot less burdensome.
Eyes in the sky
I’ve been curious about drones for quite some time. But they were too big and expensive, or too small and not compelling enough. All of this changed the day DJI announced the Mavic Pro, a portable yet powerful drone that you can tuck in a backpack, has a 7 km range, and is equipped with a 12 MP photo and 4K video camera. The Mavic Pro has allowed me to capture moments in stunning quality and from unique perspectives that would never have been possible otherwise. Watch my first drone video venturing out into the waters along the Pacific Coastline for a short flyover.
On this day in 1217, the Estonian tribal leader Lembitu of Lehola was killed in a battle against Teutonic Knights. On this day in 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan pledged $3 billion to medical research to “cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century”. On this day in 2017, Global Knowledge pulled off an even greater feat and launched the GK Learning Platform. Thank you to the incredible team that made it possible.
So far as weekends go, the CU Boulder Family Weekend is one of my favorite times of the year as I get to hang out and have fun with Jenna and Lesa. They usually introduce me to some of their new favorite eateries and we return to some old time favorites – like The Sink. On Saturday we’ll enjoy an electrifying NCAA Division I college football game and cheer Ralphie the Buffalo as he runs on Folsom Field. This year, we also took part in a few memorable events at Jenna’s sorority, went to a fraternity party, then skipped town to hike near Gross Reservoir. If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, I probably won’t be returning to a fraternity party until 2047 – with my grandchildren.
Smiles for life
Hannah and I spent Thanksgiving in Vietnam. This year, we rose at dawn to visit the floating market in the Mekong Delta, took a sleeping bus to Dalat in the central highlands regions, and spent quality time catching up with friends and family in Saigon.
See what it’s like to ride through the streets of Saigon on the back of Alan’s motorbike. Saigon is a motorbike-crazed place, streets filled with two-wheelers zipping along at all hours of the day and night. What an experience riding with thousands of motorbikes in – almost – perfect harmony!
The highlight of our trip was a heartfelt visit to the Trường Khuyết Tật Bé Thơ orphanage in Bien Hoa, Dong Nai. There are no words that can describe how blessed I feel for having met these loving children. They will grow up to become remarkable adults that will make this world a better place.
Singing in the rain
Some call Paris the city of love while others refer to it as the city of light. I call it home as most of my family still lives there. Our family Christmas traditions haven’t changed in decades – and that’s a good thing – as their magic warms our hearts for the year to come. We enjoyed a few bottles of Chateau Tocatlian, “a neo-classic nearly matured Merlot that kicks you with a mouthful of over-oaked toasty cocoa, hints of unripe fruit punch, and atomic traces of musty cardboard.” We also rediscovered and sang along to some old vinyl records of Johnny Hallyday, France Gall, Eddy Mitchell and other childhood rockstars. But more than just a walk down memory lane, this visit was about seeing a new generation of Tocatlians growing into their own while discovering their aspirations and hopes.
Who’s your better half?
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you.” Frederick Buechner
2017 was a good year in many respects – except for the division, hatred, attacks inspired and perpetrated by some of our world leaders. What made 2017 special are the people in our lives that shared the journey. In my case, it’s the family in Boulder and Paris, Hannah, Alan in Saigon, Jimmy in Montreal, and my colleagues who fought alongside each other to accomplish the impossible. It is our families, friends, and distinguished colleagues that bring about the best in us and are effectively our better halves.
Let’s make the world a better place!
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass.
The Center for Innocent Children in Vietnam needs your help! By contributing to this campaign, you are making the statement that despite being abandoned by their families or orphaned, these children deserve a decent childhood, an education, and a chance at a better life. Your willingness to help makes all the difference.