Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Weekend in Brussels, Belgium

After my little travel delay I managed to get to Belgium and had a great weekend in Brussels.  It's such a great city to visit.

I haven't been to Brussels since 2010 so it was fun to visit the medieval Grand Place, Royal Palace, Parc du Cinquantenaire and few of the local churches.

No visit to the city is complete without seeing Mannekin Pis.  This time he was sporting a national uniform.

There's also girl version called Jeanneke Pis.  People throw coins in to the fountain the loyalty of loved ones.  I believe there's also a peeing dog version but we didn't see it.  Maybe next time.

EU Commission HQ
If I ever manage to make it during the week then I for sure want to take the tour of the EU headquarters.

On Sunday we went to see the Atomium and to spend the day at Mini-Europe.

Saturday night at the Grand Place there was a concert for La Fête de la Fédération.  Here's a short video I took of the DJ spinning.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

European Day of Languages

Today was European Day of Languages.  It began in 2001 and each year there are various activities that promote language diversity.

Europe has something like 225 indigenous languages.  The most common native languages are Russian (about 150 million people), German (approximately 95 million), English and French (about 65 million people each), Italian (60 million), Spanish and Polish (40 million each), Ukrainian (30 million) and Romanian (26 million).  English is the most popular first foreign language in the European Union

In Slovakia, Czech is the most commonly spoken foreign language.
In the EU, German, French and Spanish are the most common 2nd foreign languages.  In Czechland, Slovak is the third most commonly spoken foreign language.  

Flight Delay

It's pretty obvious that I travel quite a bit.  One of my favourite travel tools is TripIt.  It scans my e-mail to create complete travel itineraries that I can access on my iPhone or easily share with others.  It even keeps up with all of my various travel loyalty points.  It's free but I use the Pro version.  This paid version monitors my flights, reminds me when to check in, and keeps me up to date with any delays.

This morning I was supposed to be on a 7 AM flight to Brussels.  I purchased a ticket on Brussels Airlines which was a code share flight on Austrian Airlines.  Well last night at 10:30 TripIt notified me that the flight had been cancelled.  And of course no customer service assistance at either Austrian or Brussels airlines were available.  My only option was to take my 2:45 AM bus to the Vienna Airport to see when I would be rescheduled.
My Saturday night Tweet
I arrived at the airport at 5 AM but had to wait 40 minutes for the customer service counter to open (late) for business.
I have TripIt so I knew that the flight had plenty of available seating.  This tells me that the airline cancelled the flight because it wasn't full.  However all I was told is that the flight was cancelled due to ¨technical reasons.¨  Whatever.  They put me on a Brussels Airlines flight 2.5 hours later and gave me a voucher for €4.  My airpot latte was €5.

At 11:30 Austrian did Tweet me back.  I got a "sorry."  Very disappointing as it's not the usual good service that I've received from Austrian Airlines in the past.
My Brussels Airlines flight at least got me to Belgium.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Back in Wrocław

I'm back in Wrocław again.  That's twice in two weeks.  Last time was our big team building event and this time I'm here for 2½ days of meetings.

Fortunately that means this visit will be much more low key than last time.  Which is good because my wrist still freaking hurts. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Quarter Three Team Building Event

On Saturday we are our third quarterly team building event and this time it was hosted by my team in Wrocław.  A bunch of us rented a bus to make the drive from Brno which is about four to four and a half hours away.  Due to the distance we didn't have anyone join us from Bratislava or Székesfehérvár but it was still lots of fun.
Piotr, Laďa, & Andrew

The festivities were held at Jack's City which is a western dude ranch.  We had tug of war, sack races, volleyball, boules, archery, shooting, and bull riding.  For the kids there were pony rides and even a fake cow to milk.

The bull riding was a popular attraction.  Of course everyone wanted to see the managers getting thrown from the bull.  There was plenty of liquid courage available to get people up on the bull.  Or at least enough alcohol to get me to wear that cowboy hat. 

The potato sack race seemed like a good idea at the time but not a great one after a few drinks.  I went down and landed hard on my wrist but fortunately that was the only party foul.

Next morning selfie

There was also karaoke and dancing to round out the event.  Afterwards many people ended up in the city centre to continue the party.  The next morning we explored the centre and had an early lunch before our bus back to Brno.

It was a great time (except for my wrist) and a big thank you to our Polish colleagues for hosting us.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

On a Bus to Poland

Well it's time for our third quarter team building event and this time it's being hosted in Poland

We've rented a bus and 17 of us are now on our way to Wrocław.  Let's hope that we make it. 

And if we do then let's hope that my liver and dignity survive the experience.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Finally Extradited

Some good news!  The USA extradited Kevin Dahlgren back to Czechland to stand trial for the quadruple-murder of his family in Brno back in May 2013.

He has spent the last 27 months in custody in the USA fighting extradition.  I've been reminded by people several times that the United States rarely ever extradites American citizens.  Well as of 31 August 2015 he is in Czech custody.

Now I've read over and over how this is the first time that America has ever extradited someone to Czech Republic.  Now let's be fair here.  This is first time that the Czech Republic has ever requested extradition of an American citizen before.  The way I see it is that the USA always complies with Czechland on these matters.

He was in court the day he arrived back in the country and his request to be released on bail was denied.  He is appealing the decision but so far there's no date for the appellate hearing.  In the meantime he is being held in prison in Brno's Bohunice district.  If he is found guilty of the murders then he could face life in prison.

Update:  On 20 July 2016 he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Update:  In March 2017, the original ruling was upheld in court.

Update:  On 11 January 2018, Dahlgren killed himself in his jail cell using the bedsheets.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Honey Ball?

So at lunch today someone asked me if I've seen the TV show "Honey Ball".  Honey Ball?  Nope.

No, she said.  "Honey Bell".  Honey Bell?  Nope.  I wondered if she was talking about "Honey Boo Boo" which believe it or not is shown on Czech TV. 

Well it turns out she was asking about "Hannibal".  She just said it with a thick Slovak accent. 

I've heard of the show but never seen it.  Just a little linguistic misunderstanding but it sure made for a fun lunch discussion.