To Book or Not Book a Cruise

How many of you like to travel?
How many of you like staying in a Hotel, a fancy hotel, an all-inclusive hotel?
Yeah me too.

Now, imagine a mile-long stretch of 25 story buildings in New York City. If you can picture that, then you get the idea of the size and scale of a modern-day cruise ship.

It dwarfs the Titanic.
Just to put that into perspective, here is a behemoth cruise ship as compared to the notorious Titanic!

It is like staying in a luxury all-inclusive hotel…. Not waterfront, water-on. A hotel that travels and shows up at a new town every few days for you to explore.

Late last year, I took my family on our first cruise together. Today, I want to tell you all about the cruise ship that we went on, then our experience on a cruise ship vacation, and finally some pro tips that we learned that might help you, if you decide to book a cruise yourself.

Our ship was one of Royal Caribbean’s newer and larger ones, the “Liberty of the Seas”.
Upon boarding we were amazed as we stood upon the top deck, level 14. And saw the enormity of the ship that we were on. You see nothing but the crystal-clear blue water of the many pools and hot tubs. And theater size screens showing the football game, and a running track around the whole thing.

But that’s not it, beyond that area, there is a basketball court, a rock-climbing wall, 2 water slides that out off the side of the ship and back, and another water slide for tubes. And the best feature, the FlowRider. A surf simulator where you can either boogie board on your knees or standup and surf!

Our destination was the Caribbean, with excursions for each port of call. In Cozumel, Mexico, we basked in the sun on a secluded beach lined with palm trees at a Beach Club. On the island of Grand Cayman, we went to Stingray City where we swam with stingrays (that had their stingers removed). As you can see here, my daughter absolutely loved it! And in Jamaica we climbed the famous Dunn’s River Falls without falling down! Which was quite a feat! Trust me!

But the one thing that all cruisers can agree on, is the food! And there is a lot of it!
The main dinning hall was set up as a buffet, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with literally everything imaginable.

And there are many other restaurants around the ship, but the formal dining hall is where you can enjoy a 3 course dinner with excellent service. One night, my wife and I were given 3 lobster tails each. And once waiters they found out that I liked Indian food, they would then bring me a 4th course of a different curry dish each night. We would be so full that we would go back to the room, take a nap, then go out to the evening or late night shows.

The Main Theatre that held over 1,400 people. There, the Cruise Director hosted a late night show with a full band and orchestra, similar to the “Tonight Show”.
Also, there were some funny Comedians, they would do an early family friendly act and then a late adult only show.
But there were more shows;

  • a juggling variety show
  • a Trapeze show
  • lounge acts
  • Karaoke
  • Bingo
  • wacky contests…
  • There was even an ice skating rink on the ship where you could ice skate, but it also a great ice skating show!
  • And even a Broadway musical, “Saturday Night Fever”!

Although we are far from pros, I got some pro tips for you, about what we learned.
For less roll and sway, it is best to have a centrally located stateroom on a lower deck.
But that’s the only reason to have a room located in the center. It gives you much more flexibility to amenities, remember how big the ship is…? We found out the hard way, as our room was located at the front of the ship, but almost everything was at the back of the ship. We were constantly crisscrossing the ship every time we left our room. But this may not be a bad thing, considering how much we ate!

The internet package is around $15 a day, but it only includes 1 device. We didn’t opt for it. And it was really nice not having a phone to check or a computer to do work on… I think a lot of other passengers declined as well. As it was so refreshing not to see everybody staring down at their phones.

Also, we didn’t opt to get the alcohol package, I know, Cardinal sin, I get it! But my wife doesn’t drink. And that is the way they get you, is that you cannot buy just 1 drink package, if you get a drink package, then your partner is required to also get a drink package. However, you can bring on 2 bottles of wine. But I did notice upon boarding the ship, they give you one last chance to purchase an alcohol package, but at Buy One, get one for ½ off…

Well, there you have it, I hope that you learned about cruise ships, an cruise vacation, and with some additional pro tips.

Cruising is a relaxing way to travel and explore destinations comfortably, and affordable, especially for what you are getting. They run around $69 a night, per person. And back in the day you would incur additional costs to fly to Miami to depart. Nowadays, being able to depart from Galveston makes cruising much more affordable for us Texans.

Now if you want to book your own trip, I am now I am a registered cruise line agent and happy to sign up anybody after the meeting. Ha-ha, just kidding, Thank you very much!

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Hi, I’m Matt Comer

Here at IBM and elsewhere. We consider ourselves grown-ups and what grown-ups tend to do when meeting new people, once they’ve exhausted discussions about the weather. Is ask, “what do you do”? And they say, ‘I’m a “fill in the blank with job title”‘, “I work for ‘blank'”, and if they work for IBM, they also say ‘I work for “whatever Business Unit”‘.
Well, this being my ice breaker speech, I want to introduce myself…
by telling you a little bit about myself,
then what I do,
and end with what I want to do.

Ready? Alright, here goes.

Hello, my name is Matt Comer.
I have worked at IBM for 15 years.
The large majority of that time as a Contractor. I thought that I would get my foot in the door, but it ended up taking 12.35 years to do so. But who’s counting?
This past Summer, I celebrated my 3rd year as an IBMer.
Due to co-location and my proximity to Austin (albeit we had just recently built a house on land, outside of the city, deep past South Austin in Dripping Springs)…
it was my proximity to the Austin offices, that had finally won IBM… over… on my talents and skills. But my Manager had a lot to do with it. He is one of only 2 Managers in my professional career that really went to bat for me and believed in me. He was a true advocate for me. And… he’s leaving at the end of the year, retiring after over 40 years with IBM. (Co-location’s what finally got him…)
But it’s not like I didn’t get anything out of it.
I got paid all those years as a Contractor, not as much, but I got paid. Which we all like. Let’s not kid ourselves, were doing it for the money… Or… I’m doing it for the money. I got kids to feed. And to put through college!
No really, I do like what I do.

But my trade-off was a good 10 years working remotely. That time was wonderful! Working from home.
As my wife, Jenny, and I had small children; Garrett who just turned 1.
And my daughter Grace who is 14 months behind him, she’ll be 10 on the Winter Solstice.
Getting to spend that extra time each day with my family, that was a true blessing.
And per that trade-off, my career growth has lagged, now I’m playing catch up.
I used to be a Web Developer for PartnerWorld. But now I’m in the MSC, it’s our internal type of agency; The Marketing Services Center. There I’m a Project Manager for IBM Blogs.

Our tiny team creates and maintains our own custom WordPress themes and hosts 150 blogs with over 10,000 active Contributors, Authors, and Users and our metrics average 1.5 million Page Views, per month.

Now, that I am in the office and co-located, I am actively seeking to take advantage of all f the opportunities that are presented to me. I have joined many groups, Toastmasters, Mentoring mentees, volunteering, taking on stretch projects, patent groups, I listen in on many random calls, and attend all sorts of presentations and parties, as I search for free food.

I want to expand my skills and prove myself and move around in IBM and acquire new skills. I got 2 Agile certifications this year and I’m working on my PMP.
But I plan on obtaining more certifications. And, I want to invent.
I’m on several patent groups. And I have defended 1 patent.
And this afternoon will be going before a board to defend another patent, wish me luck!

I would like a Mentor.
Now, I do have the very best, Ricardo, as my Toastmasters Mentor, and I am very excited about that.
However, I mentioned earlier that I Mentor others in IBM; interns, and hires, transitioning military… But I myself don’t have a Mentor. Please let me know If anybody wants to take me on…

Anyhow, that is who I am and what I do. And what I want to do.
I want to thank you all for bearing with me today and now I am nervous, but excited to hear your feedback.
Thank you very much.

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Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) Certified

In addition to:
Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) Certified

Although, I bought all of the PMP books for the Project Management Professional Certification | PMP – Project Management Institute (PMI) As the PMP® is recognized the world over as the gold standard in project management. The Project Management Professional (PMP). And I attended and participated in several IBM PMP Study Groups, I decided in 2019 to change my focus to Agile.

Currently, I am also working on various stretch projects for the MSC. While studying for my PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification.

In 2019, I have joined an IBM PMI-ACP Study Group, to take an exam for my certification. Th MSC awarded me a prize to study towards a Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) Scrum Alliance certification.

But someday, just someday, you never know:

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Join Toastmasters

After attending many an open house event and regular meetings, today I officially joined Toastmasters and now a Member of the Austin Toastmasters Club at IBM (part of District 55), which just recently celebrated their 25th Anniversary in Austin.

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WP Engine Summit 2019

WP Engine Summit 2019 The Digital Breakthrough Conference
Attended both days June 25-26 Austin, TX. And arrived on June 24th to check-in and mingle.

IBM allowed me to go and work a bit

What a great conference and feeling being surrounded by so many WordPress enthusiasts.

At IBM, I am the Project Manager of IBM Blogs. And WordPress Product Owner.

Plenty of great breakout sessions.
And even a wonderful key note speech by non-other than Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Smith played thirteen seasons with the Cowboys and two with the Arizona Cardinals.

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Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Certified

Although, I bought all of the PMP books for the Project Management Professional Certification | PMP – Project Management Institute (PMI) As the PMP® is recognized the world over as the gold standard in project management. The Project Management Professional (PMP). And I attended and participated in several IBM PMP Study Groups, I decided in 2019 to change my focus to Agile.

Currently, I am also working on various stretch projects for the MSC. While studying for my PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification.

In 2019, I have joined an IBM PMI-ACP Study Group, to take an exam for my certification. Th MSC awarded me a prize to study towards a Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) Scrum Alliance certification.

But someday, just someday, you never know:

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Matt Comer IBM Originals

Meet the Originals

Matt Comer


“When you meet someone from Austin, you realize how rare it is.”
WordPress Product Owner
(AUSTIN, TX)

Austin is such a music city, and really it always has been. My father would take me to shows when I was younger and even though I don’t play, I really developed an appreciation for the arts. Austin has a film community too. I belong to the Austin Film Society, founded by Richard Linklater. It’s really big. I recently saw the 20th anniversary of Office Space. It still stands up, and it’s probably even better now! Anyhow, I think a lot of us from here can really relate to artists.

SXSW just happened here. For me, it officially kicked off when my friends and I got up on stage with Rage Against the Machine. Which was almost as cool attending Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion. It’s 2,000 people that get together at his movie studio, which is a ghost town, and people just take over. There’s a jail, a saloon, a chapel that only holds about 60 people. You have to get really lucky to get in. We’ve gotten in for the past several years. Maybe that’s one of the benefits of being born and raised here. You know exactly where to go, and what to do.

Talk to me about:

Korean thrillers, How I met my wife (hint: it includes my lack of insurance and tooth pain), Kayaking, canoeing, boating, Armadillo Day, Living on the Colorado River

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Deep Dives w/ Matt Comer & tiny curations

Formerly known as Darkest Before Dawn Radio Show – Relaunched on IBM Radio

Darkest Before DawnDeep Dives w/ Matt Comer

Deep Dives w/ Matt Comer – started in the Spring of 2019, where I host a one hour episode spotlighting an artist or genre. This show features songs that rarely if ever get any airplay; these type of songs are typically known as Deep Cuts or Deep Tracks. The songs that you may not know unless you have really dug into an artist or band and listened to albums and a discography in its entirety. Rather than focusing on the hits that we all know and love, we will hear alternate recordings, rare recordings, live recordings, alternate takes, cover versions from other artists, along with vintage advertisements and interviews. Along with our own guest hosts and interviews. This is my favorite music and I am happy to curate this music for you! Please listen and I hope that you enjoy these songs as much as I do, so please join me and let’s go on a Deep Dive!

Also, please check out Antonio Banda and I’s Valentines Day show – “Valentine’s Day love songs that you didn’t know were actually stalker and creeper songs”.

Short attention span? Check out Tiny Curations! Where you can get the skinny on some great music in around 15 minutes. Come on, you’ve got the time!

tiny curations

This shows are distilled into only the very best and mostly rare tracks that represent an artist to me. Attention spans are short and so are these shows. We try to keep these shows to around 15 or so minutes. That might mean 2-4 songs, so hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!Like it a bit longer? Well check out a full artist spotlight and Deep Dive into the music with Deep Dives w/ Matt Comer!

Listen to Episodes.

New IBM Radio Show – Deep Dives w/ Matt Comer

Deep Dives and Tiny Curations Episodes
Listen at ibmradio.net and on the interwebs

More Places to Listen

Anchor FM

Apple Podcasts
Breaker
Google Podcasts
Overcast
Pocket Casts
RadioPublic
Stitcher

An hour episode spotlighting an artist or genre, featuring songs that rarely if ever get any airplay; these type of songs are typically known as Deep Cuts or Deep Tracks. The songs that you may not know unless you have really dug into an artist or band and listened to albums and a discography in its entirety. Rather than focusing on the hits that we all know and love, we will hear alternate recordings, rare recordings, live recordings, alternate takes, cover versions from other artists, along with vintage advertisements and interviews.

Or have a short attention span, tiny curations is for you

Based out of Austin, Texas, near the hill country town of Cedar Valley, just short of Dripping Springs. Brought to you by your host Matthew Comer. Now featured on IBM Community Radio – ibmradio.net.

Here is one of my favorites playlists on my Sansa® SanDisk Clip+ 8GB with expandable memory MP3 Player, via Last.fm.

[lastfmplaylist:mcomer:a975414d32bba582f47ad3ae74aedc39:Favorites]
[lastfmplaylist:mcomer:a975414d32bba582f47ad3ae74aedc39:Willie]

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Valentine’s Day love songs that you didn’t know were actually stalker and creeper songs

Check out Antonio Banda and I’s Valentines Day show – “Valentine’s Day love songs that you didn’t know were actually stalker and creeper songs”.

Short attention span? Check out Tiny Curations! Where you can get the skinny on some great music in around 15 minutes. Come on, you’ve got the time!

Deep Dives and Tiny Curations Episodes
Listen at ibmradio.net and on the interwebs

More Places to Listen

Anchor FM

Apple Podcasts
Breaker
Google Podcasts
Overcast
Pocket Casts
RadioPublic
Stitcher

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Statesman – Forget Groundhog Day: It’s Armadillo Day in Texas

Forget Groundhog Day: It’s Armadillo Day in Texas

https://www.statesman.com/news/20190202/forget-groundhog-day-its-armadillo-day-in-texas

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