Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sick Notes

It's never fun getting sick.  Here's what one can expect if it happens here in Czechland.

Let's assume that you have Czech health insurance and you go to the doctor.  If you are too sick to work then the doctor will issue a sick note so that you can stay home.  This note must be delivered to your employer within 3 working days.

The sick note is actually a several page form and each page has a different coloured stripe.

Part II is the Rozhodnutí o yzniku docasné pracovní - the yellow stripe.  This is the illness card and you have to keep it for the duration of your illness.  At the end of your illness you give this back to the doctor.

Part III is Hlášení zamestnavateli o vzniku docasné pracovní neschopnosti - the blue stripe.  This is the page that you have to give to your employer within 3 working days from the beginning of your illness.

Part IV is Rozhodnutí o vzniku docasné pracovní neschopnosti pro uplatnení nároku na nemocenské - the pink stripe.  This page is only used if the illness is longer than 14 days.  The backside of the form is signed by the patient and it needs to contain your bank account number.

Part V is Rozhodnutí o ukoncení docasné pracovní neschopnosti - also a pink stripe.  This is the form that you have to deliver to your employer at the end of your illness.  The patient has to sign the backside.

There's also a part of the pink form that you have to submit when your illness continues from one month to the next month.

As per Czech law, you don't get paid for the first three days that you are sick.  From day 4 to day 14, the employer pays 60% of the salary.  The state does not contribute any money.

From day 15, the employer no longer pays anything.  Instead the Czech government pays the 60% salary.  This is why part IV of the form is so important because if you don't deliver the forms on time then the state may not be able to deposit the partial salary to your bank account on time.

If you are home sick then you are expected to be at home.  On part II of the form, the doctor will provide some time that you can be out in public.  For example, so you can go to the market for groceries.  Perhaps from 10 am to Noon, and again from 2 pm to 4 pm.

The employer is entitled to check if the employee on sick leave is actually home sick when they are supposed to be.  The employer can contact the municipal social security administration and both parties will come knock on your door.  If you're supposed to be home sick and you're away then you can be fined.  I'm not sure what the amount of the fine is.  I suppose it depends on how long a person has been on sick leave for.  

One of the very cool things about IBM here in Czechland is that the company supplements the 60% salary payment required by law.  For high level positions, IBM actually pays 90% salary for days 4 - 60.  Then for all employees, they pay 75% salary for days 61 - 120.

Monday, September 4, 2017

University Hospital Brno

University Hospital Brno, Fakultní Nemocnice Brno, is the largest hospital in Moravia and one of the biggest in Czechland.  It is located in the Bohunice district.

The hospital was established in 1998 and it is managed by the Czech Health Ministry.  It's a teaching hospital in cooperation with Masaryk University.

There are three main departments.  The main hospital in Bohunice, plus a children's hospital in Černá Pole and the maternity hospital at Obilní Trh.

All together there are 1100 doctors and 2100 nurses for 1888 beds.  I've heard nothing but good things about this hospital.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Czech Billboards

There's a new law in Czechland that took effect yesterday.  Apparently billboard advertising has been banned.  Billboards can not be displayed within 250 meters of the highway or within 50 meters of 1st class roads.

The thinking is that the billboards can pose a safety issue as drivers can be distracted by the advertising.  

The billboards must be removed by a certain time or pay fines up to 300,000 Kč (close to $14,000).  About 3,000 billboards across the country are impacted.

One company is fighting back and it has replaced the advertising with Czech flags.  Apparently state symbols can not be removed.

I don't know how long this will go on for but at least for a while you can see Czech flags all along the highway.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Manchester, England

Manchester is in the north of England.  It is 56 km (35 miles) from Liverpool and 262 km (163 miles) from London.  Manchester has 541,000 residents while the Greater Manchester area is home to 2,79 million people.  People from Manchester are Mancunian (proper) or Manc (slang).

It was founded around 79 AD as a Roman fort.  Manchester was given a town charter in 1301 and it achieved city status in 1853.


Manchester was the world's first industrialised city thanks to the Industrial Revolution.  The city was a major player in the textile industry and was the world's largest marketplace for cotton goods.



In 2017 it became a UNESCO City of Literature.

Today it is the third-most visited city in the UK after London and Edinburgh.

The town hall was completed in 1877.

Beetham Tower was completed in 2006 and is currently the tallest building in Manchester.  At 169 metres (554 feet) is is the 10th tallest building in the UK.

The John Rylands Library was completed in 1899 and opened to the public in 1900.  It is now part of the University of Manchester Library and is open to the public.  Well worth a visit.



Manchester's Chinatown is in the city centre.  It is the second largest Chinatown in the UK and the third largest in Europe.




The Cenotaph was unveiled in 1924.  It was a WWI memorial but has been updated over the years for subsequent conflicts.



St. John's Gardens was established in 1932.  It was previously home to St. John's Church and a graveyard from 1769 to 1931.



The Opera House opened in 1912.  It closed in 1979 when it became a bingo hall until 1984 when it reopened as a theatre.






Manchester's Anglican cathedral was built from 1421 - 1882.  It is currently being renovated.




The Corn Exchange used to be just that, a corn exchange.  The market was bombed by the IRA in 1996.  It was later renovated and is a shopping centre.



The Museum of Science and Industry opened in 1983.  It sits on the world's first railway station.  There are some really interesting exhibits that range from locomotives to aircraft and textiles to computing.  Well worth a visit.

The National Football Museum opened in 2001 and moved to its current location in 2012.  I've lived in Euroland long enough that it's football; not soccer.

Canal Street is one of the busiest streets in the Gay Village.  Manchester Pride has been held every August since 2003.

At Sackville Gardens is the Alan Turing memorial which was unveiled in 2001.  Alan Turing is regarded as the "father of modern computing" whose work breaking codes during WWII is believed to have shortened the war in Europe by at least two years and saved more than 14 million lives.  In 1952 he was prosecuted for being gay and was subjected to chemical castration before he ultimately committed suicide.  He was posthumously pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013.

At Piccadilly Gardens is a statue of Queen Victoria.

This is also where I came across a Czech and Slovak food stand.  Just in case I was missing some Slovak halušky.

This was my first time in Manchester and I loved it.  Not just for Pride weekend, although it was a lot of fun.  The city has a great vibe to it and I'll for sure plan a return trip.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 Manchester Pride

On Saturday morning I arrived in Manchester for the 2017 Pride festival.  It took place in the Gay Village and it was so much fun.

The theme was Class of 2017 with the aim of highlighting the need for education to end discrimination and abuse against the LGBT community.

There was plenty of security for the event.  Probably even more following May's Manchester Arena bombing after the Ariana Grande concert where 22 people died.






Tens of thousands of people were there.  The highlight was the parade which had over 140 floats.


Lots of rainbows, drag queens, and regular people all just having a good time.  Some of the biggest applause came when the Manchester police marched down the route.

Overall it was just a great weekend!  

It was bank holiday weekend in the UK which might be why it was so crowded.  I hope to make it back next year. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Back in the USA, Again

This past week I've been in New York for work.  I haven't been to the USA in five years.  Now all of a sudden, I've been here three times in two months.  At least I continue to rack up the airline miles.

The flight over began a bit rough.  The BA flight from Vienna to Heathrow was delayed so I had to change terminals and rush through security.  I was seriously worried that I would miss my connecting flight to JFK.

Thanks BA for the upgrade!
Fortunately they had not begun to board the flight and British Airways gave me an upgrade to premium economy.  I love having bronze status!

Me & Dušan at IBM HQ
I was supposed to be in Manchester tonight for their pride weekend.  


Due to this last minute trip that's changed and I'll fly tonight from JFK to Manchester so I should get there by 7 am tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be my first try at using the UK immigration line as a registered traveller.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cancelled Eindhoven Route

Wizz Air has cancelled its regular flight between Brno and Eindhoven.  Apparently due to low demand which seems odd because the route always seemed pretty full.  Wizz Air has been flying the Brno-Eindhoven route twice a week for the past six years.  The last flight will be at the end of October 2017.

Wizz Air is a low-cost Hungarian airline based in Budapest.  Like Ryanair, it prefers to land at smaller or secondary airports in order to keep costs low.  They then nickel and dime you for every little thing.  I've flown them from several times and I actually prefer them to Ryanair.

Eindhoven is 125 km (78 miles) to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  A bus from the airport to Amsterdam Central Station was just two hours.

It's a shame that they're going to cancel this route.  They used to fly from Brno to Rome but that was cancelled a few years ago.

Currently the discount airlines only fly from Brno Airport to London.  Wizz flies to London Luton and Ryanair flies to London Stansted.

We need more cheap flight options from Brno.  That was I won't always have to fly out of Vienna or Bratislava.  I'm still hoping for a Brno-Dublin route.    

Friday, August 18, 2017

Daddy's Little IBMer

Petr, Tibor, Andrew, and Michal
Four of the guys on my team are all expecting new arrivals.  Or rather their wives are all due soon.

Baby showers aren't really done over except by the foreigners so, last week, we decided to do at least a little something for them.

We had onesies made up with our team logo and "Daddy's Little IBMer" printed on them.  The guys were all pleasantly surprised.  Congratulations lads!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Registered Traveller

The UK and Ireland have their own common travel area and are not part of Schengen.  Every time that I land in the UK, along with every other non-EU traveller, I have to complete a landing card.

You have to provide your passport details, along with how long you will be in the UK, where you're staying, and your incoming flight or ferry information.

What has always driven me crazy is that I've had to complete this for a connecting flight in London Stansted.  Ryanair doesn't have connecting flights so when I fly Brno-Stansted-Dublin I have to go through UK immigration, get a stamp in my passport, pick up my bag and then proceed to departures so that I can drop of my bag for the next flight and go through security again.

In these cases, I write that my address in the UK is "Stansted Airport" and that my stay in the UK is "4 hours".  Sometimes the immigration officer writes "IT" for "in transit" over the stamp in my passport.  All of this stamping takes up valuable space in my passport.

These paper landing cards don't make much sense in a digital age and they cost the UK £3,6 million (+$4.7 million) per year.  Sometime this fall, the UK is supposed to scrap these cards.

I've been accepted as a Registered Traveller which will not let me get through the UK border much faster.  The service costs £70 ($92) to apply and £50 each year to renew.  You have to be at least 18 years old, have an ePassport, and have visited the UK at least four times in the last 24 months.

The benefits of being a registered traveller is that now when I arrive in the UK, I (a) no longer have to complete a landing card, and (b) I get to use the arrival lines reserved for UK/EU citizens.  No more having to use the non-EU lanes which all require a conversation with an immigration officer and tend to take much longer to get through.  There's also no fingerprint check.

I'll get to use the UK lines at the following airports:  Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, London Stansted, and Manchester.  At all other UK airports I will still need to use the non-EU arrival lines.  But these are the major airports so not a big deal.  It will also work at the Eurostar terminals in Brussels, Lille, and Paris.

The registered traveller service is open to citizens of Argentina, Australia, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Uruguay, and the USA.

I understood that I should have received some kind of card but they ran out.  Instead a sticker was placed on the back of my passport.

If only Ireland would come up with something similar because I get annoyed with the third degree every time I arrive at Dublin Airport. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

StB

The StB, Státni bezpečnost, was the Czechoslovak secret police.  From 1945 to 1990 is served as the intelligence and counter-intelligence agency that dealt with any activity deemed subversive to the state.

The StB was an instrument of the communist party and was headquartered in Prague.  The StB had around 30,000 informants who helped it spy on fellow citizens.

Each Warsaw Pact country had its own secret police.  The Soviets had the KGB, East Germany had the Stasi, while in Romania is was the Securitate.

Today in Czech Republic, former StB agents, as well as informants, are banned from certain jobs.  They can not be legislators or police officers.

The Security Information Service, Bezpečností informační služba (BIS), is the Czech national intelligence service.  It was formed in 1994 and is not a direct successor of the StB.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Makro

Makro is a membership warehouse club.  Kind of the European version of Costco, sort of.  In order to shop at Makro you need to have a membership card and membership is only open to business entities.






In Europe, the stores are owned by Metro AG while in Latin America they are owned by SHV Holdings.

There are 13 Makro stores in Czechland.  They offer some very good prices.  I love going to Makro because you are able to find some things, seafood and other food stuffs, that you'll never find in a normal Czech grocery store.





One of my team approached our HR office with an idea to offer Makro memberships to IBM Brno employees.  It was a great idea and that's how I scored my card.  Good job Andrew!

One of the interesting things about the store is that young children are not allowed.  Kids under 140 cm aren't allowed inside.

I love that because you never have to deal with kids running around the store, especially with the forklifts in use.