Some Personal Stories
Over my long career with IBM, I have traveled extensively as part of my job. Having visited numerous countries, I came away with some impressions and anecdotes. I like to share a few.
- July 2017
I was a member of a small team at IBM Research working on some high profile projects. We were helping Museums and Libraries digitize their content and building digital librarIes. We got involved with all aspects of content management including, capture, color fidelity, image processing, database design, workflow, rights management and security, and compression and web design.
Having traveled to numerous countries, and experiencing various cultures, I have a few anecdotes.
Andrew Wyeth - Brandywine Project
Our first project was with the American artist Andrew Wyeth. We helped design a high quality digital scanning system to capture and store his many artworks. On one occasion, I was giving a demo to both Mr.and Mrs. Wyeth of our display system. We had done a few sample captures of his artwork and have a large 23 inch display to show the results. We had taken great care to insure the color fidelity of the system. We were proud of our work and wanted to impress the Wyeths. After showing a few paintings, Mrs. Wyeth made a comment that the image just did not have the impact of the original. We were a bit discouraged but only a few days later did we found out that the original painting was 3 feet by 4 feet in size. There is no way a 23 inch monitor could do justice to a painting of that size. The CRT display technology of that time did not provide us the capacity to match an original artwork. It would have been great if we had a 50 inch flat screen.
Vatican Library Project
This project took me to Rome and Vatican City. My impressions of Rome was that it was very busy and crowded and the traffic is filled with small tiny cars. As Americans, we are not used to these cars.
The Vatican was very impressive and we had the privilege to get a private tour. It was a time when the Sistine Chapel was just completing a major renovation. Our guide pointed to a corner where you can see the before and after of the paintings on the ceiling. It was like night and day.
I remember Father Boyle, the prefect, taking us through the archives with draws and draws full of manuscripts. He could stop, open a drawer and pull out a sample and start giving a lecture about the content. He was a walking encyclopedia and a scholar.
Library of Congress
My visit to the Hall of Congress, the US Capitol, was a momentous occasion. Not because of anything we did that day but it was the day the OJ Simpson trial announced the verdict. The three of us, Frank, OJ and I was sitting in the cafeteria of Congress. Frank was my colleague of many years and have been on numerous installation trips. OJ was a computer technician along for this trip. He is often referred to as the "good" OJ. He was black and built like a football player and had the nick name OJ since childhood. There were many TV monitors in the cafeteria and the room was full of employees and staff and some visitors gathering around to hear the result. When the "not guilty" came down, you can hear this loud cheer from the people there. We were stunned. The majority of the people cheering were black employees which was the majority in that cafeteria. We could not understand the verdict and the reactions. It was then that I came to the conclusion that our country has a long way to go before we reach that color blind society.
Lutherhalle, Wittenberg, Germany
Lutherhalle was the home of Martin Luther, now a museum and landmark. My trip there was a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of the two Germany. We landed in Berlin and saw a thriving city with construction all over. After a short drive by car, crossing into the former East Germany, we saw a depressed and run down community. It was clear to me how communism can devestate a country in just 40 years.
It was humbling for me to stand in front of the church door that Luther posted his 95 theses so many years ago that started the reformation movement.
Trip to Israel
After landing in Tel Avi, we saw soldiers with machine guns every where. They have the best security in the world. They needed it because of terrorism. We drove to Haifa, to meet with our IBM colleagues. In Haifa, we experienced a friendly population and saw people dancing on beach. In Haifa, we also saw the shopping mall where a few months earlier, rockets fell and injured many civilians.
We took a day tour to Jerusalem and the old city. We say the wailing wall and walked the Via Delarosa, where Jesus walled 2000 years ago. It is amazing to me how this placed survived 2000 years of wars and conflict.
Hebrew Union College
The first Cincinnati Haggadah is one of the treasured artifacts of Hebrew Union College's Jewish Institute of Religion. A Haggadah is the traditional rituals of a Jewish seder during the high holy day of Passover. Our project was to digitize the whole book and create a digital version on CDROM.
Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg, Russia
Most memorable event, though there were so many, for me was standing on the roof of the Hermitage museum where very few had been. They were filming a panorama image from there and we tagged along in the depth of winter. It was a beautiful and serene moment.
My other memory was the sparse items there. In restaurants, they would only have a small square of a paper napkin. We are spoiled here in the US with our many fast food places and throw away utensils.
National Palace Museum - Taiwan
Going back to Taipei, Taiwan was very sentimental for me. I was born there and immigrated to the US when I was 10 years old. I still had an aunt and some cousins who lives there. We had a reunion dinner with some of them. They were very happy to see me after many years. My last time visiting there was in 1970, my college year.
Taipei was a modern city with lots of traffic. Our project was with the National Palace Museum which was located outside the downtown area. I learned that the museum contained some of the prize possessions of China. Even more valuable than what existed in Mainland China. After the Communist tookover in 1949, Chiang Kai Shek took all the artifacts from Beijing and moved them to Taiwan for save keeping. It was suppose to be temporary, until they retake back the homeland. That was 50 years ago.
Palisades Conferece Center
My one personal contact with Lou Gerstner, CEO of IBM, was at a demo center in the Palisades, NY. We were invited to give a demonstration to a group of customers at a conferece. Lou Gerstner came around and brought a few of the executives and introduced himself and thanked us for being there. As I shook his hand, I realized he was missing a finger. I found out later that he had a lawnmower accident years before. It is humbling to think that a man of his stature does his own lawncare.
I feel blessed having been involved with all these projects. To have visited the source of Christianity, and the Protestant reformation and the birth of Jesus and the Vatican, the home of the Pope and Catholicism and the wailing wall in Jerusalem, it was more than any one can expect.
My trips were full of learning experiences and meeting various people of all cultures and nationalities. What stands out for me is how different we live and yet under all that, we are all humans who basically want the same things. We want a family and provide for them and be happy.
Life is Good!
© 2017 Jack Lee