Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgivingkkah

Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Hanukkah!  Therefore Happy Thanksgivingkkah!!

This is a once in a lifetime event.  Hanukkah and Thanksgiving won't happen on the same day again for another 80,000 years.   

It's been a full day.  After work, I managed to find the sweet potatoes I need for our 5th annual Brno Thanksgiving feast.  I met up with some friends for a screening of Sunset Boulevard at Vila Tugendhat.

Tomorrow I pick up the turkey and start baking.  Let the madness begin... 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

World's Sexiest Accents

CNN Travel has released its poll of the world's 12 sexiest accents.  I don't think that this was exactly scientific but it was an interesting read.

I thought it was funny that "U.S. Southern" made the list at #8.  It was described as "molasses taking a smoke break."  There are lots of different southern accents.  People from Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, and Atlanta don't sound alike.

One day at work, my colleagues asked me to speak with my southern accent all day.  They got a big kick out of it.  Of course, after about 10 minutes they asked me to stop.

Somehow Czech was ranked the 4th most sexiest accent.  Seriously? 

Czech was described "like Russian, without the nettlesome history of brutal, iron-fisted despotism" and that it sounds like Count Dracula.

Czechs sound nothing like Count Dracula.  It's Hungarian that makes people sound like vampires.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Turkey Drama

Czech (NO) customer service is about to send me over the edge.  Seeing as I will pay money, why can't they just deliver what the hell I actually order?

Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  Therefore, it's time for turkey drama.  I don't understand why it has to be so bloody difficult to get a turkey.

Claudia has a new favorite butcher shop that is only a few blocks from my flat.  So she placed an online order for a 10 kg (22 lbs).  The shop replied that they would order the turkey and that it would be 13 - 15 kilos (29 - 33 lbs).  Ummm...not what the hell we requested.  The largest turkey we've had so far was 14 kg and it just barely fit in to my oven.  I was not about to try my luck and end up with a 15 kg bird.   

Kamila, for some reason, convinced me to give the halal shop another try.  Katka placed the order and all was fine.  Fortunately, we called, just to double check.  Yes, they will order the turkey.  Yes, they know what size I want.  Yes, I can pick it up on Friday.  They will call back to let me know if they will receive it.  By the way, it will be between 8 kg and 13 kg, if they get it. Thanks but no thanks.  I'm not taking a chance on not getting what I want.

After multiple telephone calls, I ended up confirming the order with the same turkey farm in Židlochovice that we normally use.  I'll get an 8 kg (17.6 lb) bird on Friday.  Not quite the 10 kg that I wanted but close enough.

Now to try to find the sweet potatoes...
Me & my 8 kg bird



EDIT:  I managed to get the sweet potatoes on Thursday and picked up the turkey on Friday at noon.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 PM Parade

I was in Prague on Thursday and Friday.  I and two colleagues were invited to present at the 2013 Project Management Parade.  It is one of the largest PM conferences in Czech Republic.

Presentations were held on both days, with a networking function on Thursday night and workshops on Friday.  Both of my colleagues speak Czech but my portion was to be given in English.  I understood that there would be an interpreter provided. 

Accordingly, I had prepared my presentations to be shorter in order to provide time for the interpreter to speak.  About five minutes before I was to present I was informed that there wasn't an interpreter so I should just speak English.  Not the end of the world but I had to wing it a bit in order to stretch out the time.  Also, it was a bit unnerving looking at the audience and trying to figure out who was following what I was saying and who couldn't understand English at all. 

The first topic presented was a case study on The Modernization of the European Backbone Cloud Infrastructure by Applying Corporate PM Standards.  The second presentation was on the management of personal development within project management.  Two very riveting topics

I'm glad that I did it.  Not sure that I would do it again.  The only negative was the 4:30 AM train ride from Brno to Praha. 

One interesting thing was having my bio prepared in Czech.  In the USA, I would list my project management certification when working as a PM.  But I would never put "MBA" after my name.  In Central Europe, academic titles are a big deal and you have to list them.  So in the official program I was listed as - Mgr. Christopher ..., MBA, PMP / IBM.  To me it seems very odd.  I'm sure my classmates from school would chuckle if they saw it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Way Too Early For Christmas

At Galerie Vaňkovka
It is way too early for Christmas.  Every year it seems to come earlier and earlier.

In the USA, we have Halloween on October 31st.  We have Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday in November.  The very next day is "Black Friday" which is the busiest shopping day of the year.

Having Halloween and Thanksgiving before December doesn't stop all of the retailers from putting out Christmas decorations early.  But it does help us keep Christmas in December.

Not here.  Although Halloween has gotten more popular in the last five years, it's not enough to keep the stores from putting out decorations.  I noticed stores putting out decorations a few weeks ago.  At Vaňkovka it's already starting to look like a winter wonderland.  At least there's no snow yet.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Večerníček

Večerníček
Večerníček is a children's television program that has been on the air for 40 years.

Večerníček is shown every evening at 6:45 pm, when children are supposed to go to bed.  Each episode lasts five to seven minutes and there are usually 10 to 20 episodes per show.

Sandmännchen
It is also shown in Slovakia.  Prior to 1993, both Czech and Slovak versions were shown in Czechoslovakia.

In East Germany, the children watched Sandmännchen (the Sandman).  He too is still popular in Germany.

The Večerníček website has lots of videos online that you can watch.  Here's a sample video, from 1983, that I found out on YouTube. 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Care Package Happiness

As an expat, receiving a care package from home is total happiness.  Today I received a box of Thanksgiving goodies.  Thank you Steven and Michael!!

And just in time.  I can't believe this will be the 5th annual Brno Thanksgiving fiesta.  This year it is officially a destination event.  Liz and James are flying over from England.  Eiko is flying down from Sweden.  Natalie flies back from New Zealand to London, changes out her luggage and catches a flight to Czechland.  And one of my mates, Brian from Florida, is in Euroland for a couple of weeks and he will make it to Brno in time for dinner.

The turkey is already ordered.  Let's see what kind of adventure it turns in to this year.

I'm just waiting on one more package from home to be delivered.  The only thing that would make these packages better is if they were hand delivered.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Helena Vondráčková

I was listening to the radio the other day.  So who knew that there was a Czech version of the 1970s disco hit I Will Survive?

Helena Vondáčková is like the Czech version of Cher, a singer whose career has spanned five decades.

The Golden Kids
Born in 1947, she won a national talent contest in Czechoslovakia in 1964.  In 1968, she and Vaclav Neckář and Marta Kubišová formed the trio - The Golden Kids.  In 1970, the group was forced to disband due to Kibišová's outspoken comments about the communist regime.

Vondráčková is known for a number of Czech language cover songs.  She has released songs sung in Czech, English, Slovak, French, Polish, Russian, German and Japanese.  She spent most of the 70's and 80's touring Europe, Asia, and North and South America. 

Like several other Czech pop stars, her career declined after the Velvet Revolution because she was associated with the communist government.  Since that time she has regained popularity.

Here's a clip I found on YouTube of her singing Já půjdu dál.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

1000th Russian Hit

I still can't believe how many hits that this blog receives.  I usually average over 50 new hits a day.  And from all over the world.  This still amazes me that so many people read what is basically my on-line journal.

Today I received my 1000th unique hit from Russia.  Not the 1000th time someone in Russia has looked at my blog.  My blog was viewed by the 1000th new IP address in Russia.  Большое спасибо России! 

At some point I still need to visit Russia.  The main reason I haven't gone so far is simply because Russia requires a visa and the application process is a pain in the ass.

Recently, Russia has implemented some tough new anti-gay legislation.  Basically "propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation" is illegal so as to protect minors.  Utter rubbish!  

It will be interesting to see what effect this has on next year's Olympic Games in Sochi.  Perhaps I'll make it over next year to either St. Petersburg or Kaliningrad.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tünde's Christening

© Tomáš Donát
Yesterday was Tünde's christening.  The ceremony was held at the Bethlehem Evangelical church.  Actually it was just one of the many of the week's events.

Still trying to teach her the peace sign


Claudia's parents came down from Berlin and stayed almost a week with me.  It's about time considering how many times I've been to their place.

The proud parents
Norbert's parents drove up from Hungary.  This was the first time that Claudia's parents and Norbert's parents have met each other.  Poor Norbert had to do all of the interpreting because he's the only one who can speak both Hungarian and German.  

The Happy Godparents
The ceremony was a little challenging to follow.  It was done almost entirely in Hungarian.  With a short reading done in both German and English.  Natalie and I were trying to figure out what we were supposed to do at what time.

© Tomáš Donát
Afterwards, there was a reception where we had Claudia's 30th and my 40th at.

Official paperwork



Later on we had to sign the official paperwork for the Hungarian Protestant Church.  Our little German-Hungarian princess officially has a New Zealand godmother and an American godfather.




This morning's farewell brunch was the last of the festivities.  Everyone piled in to their cars and headed back home.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Smurfy Halloween

Vilma as Smurfette
Yesterday was Halloween.  I made a passing suggestion a couple of weeks ago that my former management team should come up with a group costume.  Something fun like the Smurfs.   Over here in Czechland they are known as Šmoulové.


Well the gang decided go for it but somehow decided that I had to participate as well.  I tried to argue that I should be exempt since I'm no longer a part of the team.  They didn't seem to go for it.

Before the blue latex
Martin came up with blue latex paint.  Martina came up with hats and gloves.  Somehow I ended up as Papa Smurf.

Martin & Andrew







In the USA, kids dress up and receive candy.  Here, we dressed up and gave out candy to our teams. 

Passing out candy



It was fun surprising everyone with candy at work.






The biggest challenge was getting rid of the blue face paint.