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Today is Ada Lovelace Day (, which marks the contributions of women in technology. I was one of the thousands of bloggers worldwide to pledge to write something about women in tech, and I figured the best way to do this was to combine my interest in IT with my translation activities.

The following text is just lovely. It comes from a Czech website called Zkus IT [Try IT], and it is a profile of a truly remarkable woman, Zdena Rábová, who was one of the key figures in the development of the Czech IT sector overall. The text was written by Prof. Ing. Jan M. Honzík, CSc., and the translation is mine.

Zdena RabovaDoc. Ing. Zdena Rábová, CSc. is among the unequalled personalities not only at the Faculty of Information Technology, where she worked, but in technical university education overall. She took part in the creation and development of an independent computer sector in the Czech Republic as well as in the creation of all study plans and programs in the software sector. She was the founder of the Brno School of Simulation and was among the leading experts in this area in the entire country.

Doc. Zdena Rábová was born on 17 December 1936 12. to a family that included the successful and forward-thinking pharmacist and businessman PhMr. Merlíček and his wife, a music teacher with the maiden name of Šašková, who came from Velké Meziříčí and came from a family owning a well-known printing house, whose report card forms decorate quite a few family archives.

She spent most of her childhood and youth with her three siblings, older brother Janek and younger Mika and in the enlightened environment of Ivančice. While the Communist totalitarian regime imprisoned her father, Zdena’s evident talent overcame various obstacles. In 1955 she graduated from the Jan Blahoslav secondary school and managed to begin university studies at the building faculty at the Technical University of Brno [VUT in the Czech abbreviation], even though it was not her intended field of study.

She finished the Technical University in Brno in 1960, and in 1963 started to become interested in a new field – programming numeric computers. She began her expert career in computers under the leadership of Prof. Drahoňovský at the building faculty, where she attended programming courses on the LGP 30 computer at the Computer Equipment Laboratory at VUT Brno.

On 2 February 1965, she was accepted at the computer institute of the Electrotechnical Faculty at VUT Brno. After building the laboratory with an MSP-2A computer, I was one of four young graduates who became her students. We made up her “study group,” and under her leadership we gained the first teaching, publication and scientific research experience. She made an indelible impression on the development of our human and expert profiles, and in neverending discussions and disputes many new conceptual ideas were born, especially in the areas of programming, programming languages and simulations.

The founder of the Brno School of Simulation
The workshop which bore the seal of her leadership was also the birthplace of the first Eastern European language translator, Algol 60, as well as the first texts on the Pascal language, and a number of original tools, projects and publications. She was the founder of the Brno School of Simulation and was among the leading experts in this area in the entire country. She led the Programming and Simulation Group for 20 years. She focused her scientific and expert work on areas of simulation languages and their translators.

She successfully defended her candidate dissertation work, “Simulation of Discrete Systems,” in 1975. She presented her inaugural dissertation, “Abstract and Simulation Models of Dynamic Systems,” in 1978, and was named and established as a docent [senior lecturer] in 1980. She was the author and co-author of 18 papers, and dozens of doctoral graduates, docents, three professors and one priest with scientific honors emerged under her scientific leadership. Under her “raising,” two professors achieved the position of dean.
Her deep expert knowledge, connected with an unerring intuition, deeply influenced the workplace from which the Faculty of Information Technology was created, especially in the personnel and structural development. She held the lion’s share of the leadership of the new Institute of Intelligent Systems.

The MSP-2A computerThe MSP-2A computer (Photo by Hana Mahlerová, VÚMS)

For more than three decades she was involved in organizing contests of students’ creative activities which due to her maintained their continuity – and were some of the few to do so – even in the ferment of the early 1990s.

Doc. Rábová was an exemplary engineer who, through her humility, systematic approach, self-criticism as well as her refined abilities in written expression, helped the scientific and educational careers of many young engineers. Her sensitive human approach greatly cultivated the majority of her male counterparts.
She had all the attributes of a professor, but never made an effort to attain that title. No office I know has had or has such magic as the unique information center that was Zdena’s office. No one was left waiting at her door, and her quasi-parallel method of “serving” colleagues who happened to be sitting with her in meetings or on visits, as well as students who had just knocked on her door, was truly above standard and unorthodox.

Zdena’s human dimension has taken on nearly a cult dimension. She is a symbol of hard work, honor, humility and at the same time taking care of the success or problems of others. Zdena was always willing to do work for others or to correct their shoddy goods. Her conversations never had the word “I” in them connected with her personally, her interests or needs, and she said “thank you” to those who themselves should have thanked her.

I admired her natural womanly ability and intuition to find solutions where the rest of us would not have looked. Her sense of humor, modest behavior and unsentimentality were proverbial. These expressions came out especially boldly in the period after the start of her serious illness. She never complained, and her first wish was to get back to work, to her office, to her table. When it was really bad, here was how she answered the question of how she was doing: “It’s awful, but they’re giving me something so that I can come into work.”
She died at age 69, in the middle of all her work, on 18 May 2006 in Brno. It wasn’t just her beloved family, her husband and important mathematician Miloš Ráb (†2007), her daughter Milena and grandchildren Verunka and Miloš who lost a great figure in Docent Rábová – it was her institute, her faculty, the school and the Czech academic community.

Prof. Ing. Jan M. Honzík, CSc.

I’ve moved servers today, so hopefully the dust will settle soon. Maybe this will be the spur I’ve been looking for to start blogging more regularly again.

Over the weekend I got an email from my friend and colleague Sahr Gborie in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I’m taking the liberty of reprinting it here, as I think it’s a particularly strong idea, one that could potentially save lives. Here’s what Sahr wrote:

We all carry our mobile phones with hundreds of names/ numbers stored in its memory or SIM cards but yet nobody, other than ourselves, knows which of these numbers belong to our near and dear ones?

ICE: In Case of Emergency

In case we are involved in an accident or had a heart attack and the people attending us get hold of our mobile phone but don’t know which number to call to inform our family members. Yes, there are many numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency?

For this reason, we must have one or more telephone numbers stored under the name ICE (In case of Emergency) in our mobile phones.

Recently, the concept of “ICE” is catching up quickly. It is simple, an important method of contact during emergency situations.

As cell phones are carried by majority of the population, just store the number of a contact person or person who should be contacted at during emergency as ICE” (meaning In Case of Emergency).

The idea was thought up by Sierra eRiders staff traveling up county who found that when they went to the scenes of accidents along the road, there were always mobile phones with patients, but people in the scenes didn’t know which number to call.

In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital staff would then be able to quickly contact your next of kin, by simply dialing the number stored as “ICE”.

We therefore thought that it would be a good idea if all staff members in your organization are sensitize that will later share the ideas with their families, then the entire country will aware of the ICE concepts.

It really could save your life, mine and others, or put a loved one’s mind at

For more than one contact name lets staff members simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and
ICE3 etc.

This is a great idea that will make a difference!

Yours faithfully,

Sahr F. Gborie
Project Coordinator

I’ve made it successfully to Dakar, Senegal, where I’m staying with a good friend. I’ll continue on to Freetown, Sierra Leone midday tomorrow (Sunday).

Dakar is hot and humid now, and from what I’ve seen in the darkness flying from the airport, it looks like a lovely place.

And just as fate would have it, in all my eagerness to get packed, I notice that Kalousek is out as the head of KDU-ÄŒSL. What could have led him to literally cut a deal with the devil, i.e. the Communists?

Maybe the fact that he was slated to be in charge of literally all EU funding? At least that was the deal he was working on with ODS, but my memory could be failing me in the heat here.

I am absolutely, firmly, completely convinced that the music they play in the ninth circle of Hell is that of the Czech TV show “Panorama.”

The show provides live pictures from around the country, and that’s nice enough. But uff, that music really has to go.


I wanted to start off by saying that Monday’s World Cup match between the US and the Czech Republic left me with a deep ambivalence that I’m just getting over. The kind of ambivalence you get when your worst enemy goes driving off a cliff in your new sportscar. In a way, I’m glad that the result was so clear, because it means there really _was_ a better team.

I’ve managed to watch quite a few of the World Cup matches now, and have to say: I hate “homers” in any sport. You know the kind: the commentators who refer to the local team as “us,” using the first person plural: “We almost scored!”

As if!

The Czech commentator Jaroslav Bosák is a huge “homer.” But he has his own library of similes that would give the US newsman Dan Rather a run for his money. And that’s why I like him.

I’m a connossieur of colorful phrases, and as an amateur translator I savor opportunities to translate an interestingly-turned phrase. So, with great pleasure, I will attempt to translate this article from today’s

Bosák’s famous comments

How can one understand the phrases of commentator Jaroslav Bosák? Take a look at this explanatory dictionary:

Phrases used by Bosák and attempts at their meaning:

Å evčenko didn’t break through. His father, the tank driver, would’ve had to be there to do that.”
The Ukrainian forward attempted in vain to go through two defenders.

“They’re playing on only one half of the pitch. The caretakers must be happy.”
One of the teams has clear dominance.

“And that had as much in common with football as čabajka [a Hungarian sausage] has with health food.”
The performance of both teams isn’t pretty to watch.

“The organizing service as well as the police acted as if this was a friendly match on the first of May and not as if it was the derby.”
Police and organizers underestimated hardcore fans, so-called hooligans.

“Brazilian samba could be heard in the stadium, while a Prussian march was lost somewhere in the distance.”
Developments in the Brazil-Germany match were fully in control of the Brazilian footballers.

“Yeah, and when I look at Schmeichel, I wouldn’t want to fight with him over who’s going to wash the dishes.”
The then-goalie for Denmark was angry.

“The Belarus defense was hanging on BaroÅ¡ like Christmas ornaments on the tree.”
A mildly critical comment addressed at the tight defense played by opponents on the Czech forward.

“He pulled through the two defenders as if they were painted there.”
A mildly admiring comment addressed at the technically-skilled forward.

“The kidneys of Igor Gluščevič sent out a dangerous shot.”
The former Sparta player shot without knowing how.

“Ooooooh! That, sir, was a foul! I wouldn’t wish that on my wife’s favorite boyfriend.”
An especially tough foul, probably on a sensitive place.

“And in the air, the plaster cast sounded after Zagarokis’ foul”
An even tougher foul, on any part of the body.

“Poborský sped up like Stanislav Gross’ driver.”
Special admiration for the Czech back’s speed.

“I’d like to recall my colleague, Shakespeare: ‘Much ado about nothing.'”
The game isn’t worth anything.

“That was a slice like from a First Republic farmer.”
A red-card foul.

“The coach, Rehhagel, honors the famous adage that the best defense is … defense.”
The tactics of the Greek team, which led to a historic gold at the European Championship, weren’t liked by anyone but the Greeks.

Even though I’m far from over my jet lag, I’m in beautiful Amsterdam this week for meetings related to our LiveSupport software for radio stations.
“What is LiveSupport?” you may ask. Well, it’s software that my colleagues and I have created that lets you create an entire radio station from within your PC. All you need is a transmitter (or a streaming server) and maybe a mixing board and microphone. And it’s free and open source. Check it out at

The other thing I’ll be doing here is taking part in the ‘Expression Under Repression’ conference on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to meeting many of the other participants, including Hossein Derakshan, otherwise known as Hoder, the groundbreaking blogger from Iran. I’ve admired him for quite some time, and hope the event isn’t too packed that I can’t say hello to him.

Connectivity permitting, I’ll also try to keep my eye on efforts to form the next Czech government. Looks like this one will be down to the wire, but reading MF Dnes on the plane this morning, I had the impression that despite Paroubek’s weird outburst, he’ll probably cut a deal with ODS, allowing them to form the next government. But you never know…

The work I’m doing for my dad has me doing some technical illustrations that involve thousands of hand-drawn polygons in Macromedia Freehand MX. The work is pretty intense, and reminds me of why I don’t do this for a living anymore.

My dad’s offices are at the end of a pier on San Francisco Bay, near the AT&T Park baseball stadium. So it was a pleasant surprise yesterday to be brought out of my deep concentration by the sound of seals’ barking, followed by foghorns and steam whistles.

I’m in California for the next couple of weeks, doing some work with my dad. It’s nice to be back here, even if it’s cloudy and rainy.

As I got back, the Bay Area was talking about Barry Bonds hitting home run #714, tying him with Babe Ruth for 2nd place among all time home run hitters, but back in Prague everyone was talking about the hockey championship, not to mention the fight between Rath and Macek.

I haven’t seen video of the fight, so I can’t judge if this was a hissy-fit slapfight or if the two of the most-hated men in Czech politics really threw down. Regardless, I’m only sad that they didn’t really hurt each other.

UPDATE 17:57 PDT 210506: Thanks to reader bartj in the comments, here is a link to a video of the incident, which looks more like something from the Three Stooges or Benny Hill rather than full-gospel fisticuffs.