Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Verdict is in

The verdict is finally in on the Kevin Dahlgren case.  This is the American who was accused of murdering four of his Czech relatives, here in Brno back in 2013, and then hopping on a flight from Vienna back to the USA.  He was apprehended upon landing at Washington Dulles Airport.

The Czech government asked for his extradition and after two years he was sent back to Brno in 2015.  I still hear that this is the first time ever that the USA extradited an American citizen to Czech Republic.  However, no one seems to remember that this was the first time that the Czechs ever requested extradition of an American.

He refused to testify at his trial in the regional court in Brno.  Today the judge sentenced him to life in prison.  After the verdict his lawyer immediately filed an appeal and the case will now go to the appeals court in Olomouc.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Back in Slovakia...again

Nové Slovenské národné divadlo
Well, big surprise...I'm back in Slovakia...again.  All I have to say is that it's a damn good thing that my Slovak team is so awesome otherwise these 6:20 AM train rides from Brno would start getting old.

Every time I go to see my Bratislava team I walk past the new Slovak National Theatre.  I've walked past it for years so sooner or later I really should go inside.  The theatre opened in 2007 and is near the Danube.  It has three theatre spaces for opera & ballet, a drama hall and an experimental theatre space, which can seat 1,700 spectators.

I still need a reason to go see something at the old theatre in the centre.  Oh well, sooner or later I guess.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

2016 Bohemia Jazz Fest

The Bohemia Jazz Festival began in 2006 as a way to promote world-class jazz here in Czechland.  The week-long festival takes place in public squares in seven Czech cities - Prague, Brno, Liberec, Tábor, Písek, Plzeň, and Domažlice.

Bohemia Jazz Festival is one of the largest summer music festivals in Europe.  Best of all...the concerts are all free.

One of this year's performers is Harold López-Nussa Torres from Cuba.  Here's a video I found out on YouTube of his trio performing at Náměstí Svobodý the other night.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Stag Night

The other day Ján surprised the guys at work by us know that he and his girlfriend, Markéta, are getting married at the weekend.  Just a small ceremony with their families.

Well there's no way that the boys were going to let him off that easy.  You can't get married without a stag night.  So after a couple of hours they pulled together an impromptu sendoff.  Ján was told to show up and to be sure to have a helmet.

Ján and his helmet
The first event was to show up at the Starobrno brewery to ride the beer tram.

The Starobrno Brewery is the successor to brewery founded in 1325.  In the later 19th century is was remanded Starobrno, which means "old Brno".  In 2009 it became a part of Heineken.

The beer tram is exactly what it sounds like - a pub inside of a tram.  The trams sits 38 people, another 17 can stand, there are plenty of cup holders, a bar, music, Wi-Fi, and there's even a loo on board.

The tram can follow any of the tracks in Brno so you just tell the driver what part of town you want to ride in.  We booked the tram for an hour.

My first Czech stag night.  11 chaps, 30 litres of beer, and 1 hour.  Challenge accepted!

After the ride, and those 30 litres of beer, we had dinner at the brewery.  It was later followed by more traditional stag night activities, also known as going to a strip bar.  Sorry, no photos from the strip bar.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

University Graduation

Brno University of Technology Faculty of Business and Management
Today was a very special day.  I got to watch two of my guys receive their master's degrees.  Congratulations Jakub and Ladislav!!  The guys graduated from VUT, the Brno University of Technology.  They earned their Ing (engineer) degrees in informatics and management from the faculty of business and management.

It wasn't exactly what I was expecting.  I'm not sure if all Czech graduations are the same or if it's just how VUT does it.  I'm used to the everyone participating in a big graduation ceremony, people's names are called, they receive their degrees, and the graduates throw their caps in the air.  The whole ceremony can last hours depending on the number of graduates.

Here they had what almost seemed like express ceremonies.  The graduating class is broken down in to groups of 30 students each group gets their own ceremony.  The 30 graduates all marched in followed by ten professors and the dean.  There were a couple of speeches and then each student's name, and their hometown, was announced as they received their degrees.  There was quite a bit of pomp and circumstance involved.  I'm surprised that each student's didn't have to kiss the dean's ring.

Academic titles are a big deal over here.  I kept hearing the word "bachelor" and then I figured it out.  As each graduate was called, they were called by their current degree title and complete name.

The whole ceremony took just over 45 minutes.  As we were leaving the next group was getting ready to go.  They've got this graduation ceremony thing down to a science.

I'm glad that I had the opportunity to go and I'm very proud of the guys.  They've worked their asses off for the last two years. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Back in Slovakia

I'm back in Slovakia again.  Big surprise.  Just a couple of days of meetings in Bratislava.

At least from the 23rd floor of the office there is a great view of the castle.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

7 Years in Czechland

Friday was my seven year mark in Brno.  I just wasn't actually in Brno on Friday in order to really mark the occasion.  I was up in Helsinki for Eiko and Tommi's wedding.  I got back home on Sunday evening and had to work on Monday.

Fortunately today is 5 July and it's St. Cyril and St. Methodius Day which means a day off.  It also gives me time to realise that I've been here for seven years.  Seven years!  Where has all of the time gone?  It's a good thing that I love it here.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make this adventure in Czechland so great.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Eiko & Tommi's Wedding

On Saturday we were in Finland to watch Eiko and Tommi get married.  It was great to be able to join in on all of the festivities.

When we were in Helsinki in 2014 we visited St. John's Church which is the country's largest stone church.  Who would have thought then that this is where Eiko would tie the knot?

This is actually their second of three weddings.  They had a civil service in Stockholm and this was the full blown European wedding in Helsinki with Tommi's family.  In January they will have a Japanese wedding with her family in Tokyo.

Eiko is Japanese and Tommi is Finnish.  They met in graduate school in Spain and now live in Sweden.  So of course they were going to have an international wedding and their guests represent 16 different nationalities.

The reception was a great blend of traditions from across the globe.  One Swedish tradition is that when the bride leaves the room, all of the men cling their glasses while all of the women line up to kiss the groom.  When the groom leaves, the women all cling glasses and the men line up to kiss the bride.  

It was also a great chance to catch up with Liz and James after their wedding.  The midnight sun for sure helped make for some great photos.  It was a beautiful wedding and a wonderful weekend.  We're so happy that we could join in and share it with everyone.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Midnight Sun

We're in Helsinki this weekend for Eiko and Tommi's wedding tomorrow.  It feels like we were just at Liz and Jame's wedding and now it's time for Eiko to walk down the aisle.

One interesting thing going on, besides this also being Helsinki's Pride weekend, is the midnight sun.  Also called "white nights", this is when sunsets are late, sunrises are early, and it never really gets completely dark.  While the sun sets for a while, light can be seen on the horizon.

Around the summer solstice the sun is visible for 24 hours but this is way up north closer at the Artic Circle.  Most of Scandinavia experiences these white nights, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, plus Greenland, Russia, Alaska, and parts of Canada.

This photo was taken at 11 PM and as you can see it is still very much light outside.  The night sky is defiantly more blue than black.

Our hotel has blackout curtains so I don't think it will be a problem getting a solid night's sleep before all of the festivities begin tomorrow.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Gay Adoption

While Czechland does not have gay marriage it has recognised registrované partnerství, registered partnerships, since 2006.  This allows for equal status when it comes to inheritance, alimony and health care.  One thing they have not allowed for is adoption.  Well that now changes...sort of.

The Czech Constitutional Court, the country's highest legal authority, has just overturned a law that bans individual gays and lesbians living in a registered partnership from adopting children.  The decision was based on the fact that it was discriminatory because individual gays and lesbians who don't live in a registered partnership are allowed to adopt.

So moving forward, gays and lesbians who have a registered partnership can now legally adopt but as an individual; not as a couple.  Hey, it's not perfect but it is definitely progress.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Winter Queen

Elizabeth Stuart, 1596 - 1662, was the daughter of James VI and I, King of Scots, England, and Ireland, and his wife, Anne of Denmark.

She was named after Queen Elizabeth I of England.  Her grandmother was Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth's younger brother became Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

In 1613 she married Frederick V, Count Palatine of the Rhine.  Both of them had been related to Henry II of England.  They moved to Prague and in 1619 they were crowned the King and Queen of Bohemia.

In 1620 their reign was ended by their defeat at the Battle of White Mountain which triggered the Thirty Years' War.  As their reign only lasted one year, Elizabeth is remembered as the Winter Queen, zimní královna.  In 1621, she became an Electress, a queen in exile, and lived in the Hague.

Frederick died in 1632 during the war.  He and Elizabeth has 13 children.  The royal families of Spain, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Netherlands, plus the former royal families of Greece, Romania, Germany, and Russia are all descendants of the Winter Queen.

Her grandson became George I of Great Britain.  Through different paths, Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom is a direct descendent of the 10th and 11th generation.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit Results

Wow!  This whole Brexit thing has me absolutely gobsmacked.  I can't believe how the vote went.

The final results were 52% for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union vs 48% to remain.  Again, absolutely gobsmacked.

I've heard arguments that a post-Brexit UK could leave the EU and still retain benefits like the four countries in the European Economic Area.  To me, this just sounds dumb because the UK would then still have all of the obligations it currently does but it would lose its vote.  Staying the same without having a say doesn't seem too bright to me.  Just saying...

The overall vote was close but it wasn't close across the entire UK.  The majority of England and Wales (except for their capitals of London and Cardiff) voted to leave.  The majority of Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.  Could this lead to another independence referendum in Scotland?  Does this mean that the Common Travel Area will be impacted and border checks will have to be reintroduced between Ireland and Northern Ireland?  Could there be a referendum for Northern Ireland to leave the UK and join the Republic?  

Residents of the British Territory of Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.  Brexit could have serious political and economic consequences and who knows, perhaps residents will eventually want to join Spain?

While older voters wanted to leave, the majority of younger voters all wanted to remain.  This whole referendum thing was basically supposed to be an opinion poll but it hasn't been marketed that way to UK voters.  It will be interesting to see what happens next but it looks like the United Kingdom is less united than ever.

We have elections coming up in November in the USA.  Let's hope that these are the only crazy election results this year.

Update:  Here's another interesting CGP Grey video I found out on YouTube.  It gives a nice, quick overview of last month's Brexit vote.

©CGP Grey

Friday, June 17, 2016

Brno vs Prague and Bratislava

There are a number of reasons why I enjoy living in Brno.  Coming from Atlanta, a city of over 5 million people, makes Brno seem like a small town and that's fine by me.  I find Brno to be the perfect size.  It's a big enough city that there is always something going on but small enough to enjoy the local feel of the place.

I'm going on seven years here and, from the beginning, I've always preferred Brno to both Prague and Bratislava.  For one thing I find the cost of living to be lower here.  Here's a random flyer I found from, a recruitment company, where it highlights a few of the cost and quality of living statistics between the three cities.

I usually spend two to four days in Bratislava each month so I'm pretty familiar with the city and I find it to be more expensive than Brno.  It's interesting to look at this table to see that it is also more expensive than Prague which is three times the size.  It may be because Slovakia is on the Euro.

The cost of rent and pubic transportation are lowest in Brno and most expensive in Bratislava.  Going out for dinner and beer is cheapest in Brno.  Now, to be fair salaries are lower here on average compared to the other cities.  But Brno's crime and safety indices are better too.

No, I'm not trying to bash Prague or Bratislava.  I love going to Prague.  It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  And after dealing with so many tourists I normally can't wait to get back home to Brno.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wrocław Again

I'm back in Poland again.

Another couple of days meeting with my team in Wrocław.

I like the it here but I'm ready to be back in Brno and sleep in my own bed.

Monday, June 13, 2016

2016 Global Peace Index

The results of the 2016 Global Peace Index are in.  Despite last year's terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, and instability in Turkey, Europe remains the world's most peaceful region.  European countries make up 14 of the the world's top 20 peaceful countries.

For the third year in a row Iceland is the most peaceful country.

Last year, Czechland cracked the top 10.  This year it moves up four spots to #6.  The USA fell out of the top 100 to come in at #103.

Syria is the least peaceful country followed by, South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

Here are the top 20 countries.

  1. Iceland
  2. Denmark
  3. Austria
  4. New Zealand
  5. Portugal
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Switzerland
  8. Canada
  9. Japan
  10. Slovenia
  11. Finland
  12. Ireland
  13. Bhutan
  14. Sweden
  15. Australia
  16. Germany
  17. Norway
  18. Belgium
  19. Hungary
  20. Singapore