Sunday, January 31, 2016

More British Vocabulary

I wrote before  that when Czechs learn English in school it is usually British English that they learn.  For some things it is just easier for me over here to use the British version, like flat instead of apartment.  

I also work quite a bit with folks in, or from, the UK so over the past few years I've continued to come across many other differences in vocabulary.  Most of these are pretty common in Ireland too although the Irish have some slang that is all their own.  Here's some more common English English with the American English definition.

Ace ... excellent
Anti-clockwise ... counter clockwise
Bell end ... penis
Bob's your uncle ... and there you have it
Bollocks ... something not good
the Dog's bollocks ... something fantastic
a Bollocking ... a severe telling off
Bugger all ... nothing
Candy floss ... cotton candy
Car boot sale ... yard sale; garage sale
Chav ... white trash ("council-housed and violent")
Cheeky ... flippant
Fairy cake ... cup cake
Fancy dress party ... costume party
Fanny ... vagina (the Brits find it quite funny when Americans call a bum bag a fanny pack)
a Fiver ... a £5 note (€5 in Ireland)
Gutted ... a state of extreme despair
Hoover ... vacuum
Knackered ... exhausted
Knickers ... panties
Mate ... buddy; pal; dude
On the piss ... out on the town drinking heavily; out to get drunk
Pissed ... drunk (In the USA, pissed = angry)
To take the piss ... being sarcastic; a smart ass
Pear shaped ... a disaster
Ta ... thanks
a Tenner ... a £10 note (€10 in Ireland)
To know one's onions ... to be well versed on a subject
To lose the plot ... to go crazy
To pull ... to pick up
Out on the pull ... looking for some action
To snog ... to make out; serious kissing
To throw a spanner in the works ... to mess something up; make a mistake

Left side is bad; right side is good
Be very careful when you flash a "peace sign" in the UK because it could be confused and get you into trouble.  A peace sign showing the inside of your palm is fine.  A peace sign with the back of your palm showing is the two-finger salute and is the equivalent of throwing up your middle finger.

Update:  Here's a bit about Cockney rhyming slang.

Friday, January 29, 2016

No Más Bebés

On 1 February, a documentary called No Más Bebés, will be broadcast in the USA on PBS (the Public Broadcast Station).  "No más bebés" is Spanish for "No more babies".  The documentary is about Madrigal v. Quilligan, which was a civil-rights lawsuit in 1978 where 10 poor Mexican-American women sued the Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Centre.

The women charged the hospital and doctors had sterilised them without their informed consent.  Some were sterilised during labor, some were pressured into signing away consent, and some refused but were sterilised anyway.

The California judge ruled for the hospital.  Even though the women lost it pushed the federal government into enforcing regulations against sterilisation abuse and brought women's issues forward for Mexican-American women.

Here's the promotional video for the show that I found on YouTube.

My brother-in-law's mother, Helena Orozco, was one of the plaintiffs.  My 13-year old niece did a project about this as her National History Day entry at school.  She did well and will now advance to the county level competition.  She was also interviewed and quoted in Claudia Dreifus' article about this in The Nation.

My niece never got to meet her grandmother, who died before she was born.  I'm glad that she had the opportunity to see her grandmother in the film.  I am blown away by my niece's maturity and civic awareness at such a young age.

Good luck Emme!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Passport

Today I picked up my new passport from the American embassy in Bratislava.  My old passport got me to Argentina, Brazil, Czech Republic, Slovakia, United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Vatican City, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, San Marino, Malta, Denmark, Spain, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco, Moldova, Transnistria, Canada, Greece, Iceland, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Israel, Norway, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Cyprus, and Northern Cyprus.

The new passport has the RFID chip.  Holes were punched in my old passport and I got to keep it as a souvenir.  Let's see where this new passport takes me.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Furniture Building Time

Before wardrobe photo
My current flat came furnished and my new flat is unfurnished which means that I've spent the last couple of weekends at Ikea getting some decorating ideas and ordering some furniture.  I'm looking forward to moving in to my new place once everything is set up.  The new place is great but on the downside there is no closet or much storage to speak of.  I hired a couple of guys to come over help assemble furniture.  Here are a few of the before and after photos.
The completed wardrobe

There was no way I was going to put together a three meter wardrobe together by myself.  Especially this one with the pull out storage bins and shoe racks.

Pre-storage unit

At the entrance there's now a storage unit and a coat rack.

There's a sideboard now next to the dining table.

There's now a secretary desk in the living room.  I'm thinking of turning it in to a bar.

The poor guys were here for most of the day yesterday.  Aside from the wardrobe, storage unit, sideboard and secretary desk, they also put together a couple of bookshelves, an office chair, and hung up a mirror.  It was't just them though.  I did manage to take care of the coat rack, a footstool, another storage bin, and a few shelves.  The best part was that they hauled off all of the cardboard boxes.  I've been slowly moving things over to the new place.  In a few weeks the same guys will show up with a moving van and help haul all of my boxes over here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Brno Makes the List

Every January, the New York Times Travel section publishes the top 52 places to visit in a year.  Here are the Top 10 destinations for 2016.

  1. Mexico City, Mexico
  2. Bordeaux, France
  3. Malta
  4. Coral Bay, St. John
  5. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA
  6. Mozambique
  7. Toronto, Canada
  8. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  9. Shane, Sweden
  10. Viñales, Cuba
This year Brno made the list.  It came in at #27!!  Here's the write up by Evan Rail.

   27.  Brno, Czech Republic
Known mostly for its minimalist architecture, the Czech Republic's second city is finally starting to earn praise for its food and drink, with last year's new bars "Super Panda Circus" and "Lucky Bastard Beerhouse" joining the revered three-year old "Bar, Který Neexistuje" (The Bar Which Doesn't Exist).  Stylish new restaurants like "Simplé", "Pavillon", "Il Mercato" and "Koishi" offer pitch-perfect takes on French, American, Japanese and regional Italian cooking, among others, while third-wave coffeehouses "Coffee Fusion" and "Cafe Mitte" make it easy for overnight guests from nearby Prague and Vienna to shake off the excess of the previous evening on their way to the remarkable "Villa Tugendhat".

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Czechs and Salt

According to the World Health Organization Czechs consume more than twice the recommended daily salt intake.  While the WHO recommends less than 5 grams (one teaspoon), Czechs average around 13 grams per person.

This doesn't surprise me a bit.  I've never understand it when my friends immediately salt their food without even tasting it first.  To be fair, I do the same thing but with pepper.  Of course, the difference is that I already know that Czech food doesn't ever have enough pepper for me.  I never need to add salt over here.

When it comes to salt consumption, Czechs rank #3 in Europe.  Only Hungary and Macedonia consume more salt per person than in Czechland. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Road Rules

There are some new road rules that take effect in Czechland on 20 February 2016.

A reflector on my backpack
Pedestrians must wear reflective elements that are visible to other road users when on a roadside or shoulder outside an urban area where there is reduced visibility or no street lighting.  So everyone is buying reflector bands and putting them on their backpacks or purses.

You can't drive a vehicle that has dirt, frost, or snow on it that obstructs the driver's view either to the front, side or behind the driver.  You also can't drive a vehicle that has ice on it or on its cargo that could endanger traffic on the road if released.

A driver can not endanger a cyclist crossing a road on a crossing for cyclists.  Cyclists now have a similar "right of way" on crossings for cyclists to pedestrians on pedestrian crossings.

Cyclists are allowed to use the entire width of the road in a cycle zone.  Cyclists must allow motor vehicles to drive in a cycle zone and drivers may not go faster than 30 km per hour.

When pulled over by a police officer, if a dangerous defect is found on the vehicle, (or a trailer being pulled), that threatens public safety then then police officer will confiscate the vehicle's certificate of registration.  The police officer will issue a confiscation document to the driver.

If a driver fails to stop when directed by an authorised person regulating traffic or supervising road safety, then the driver will lose his or her license from one to six months.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Orthodox Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas to all of my Orthodox crew over here in Euroland.

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Czechs do NOT have pancakes.  There I've said it and I'm not wrong.

Czechs have palačinky which is translated to "pancakes".  Palačinky would be better translated to crêpes but Czechs will swear up and down that palačinky are pancakes.

American pancake batter is thick and is made from flour, milk, eggs and baking powder.  Sometimes milk is substituted with buttermilk.  American pancakes are thick, usually ⅓ inch (1 cm) each and about 4 inches (10 cm) across and a serving consists of 3 or 4 pancakes.

Silver Dollar pancakes
Pancakes are served with butter and maple syrup.  Blueberry pancakes are popular and you just add blueberries to the batter.  Kids (and some adults too) like chocolate chip or strawberry pancakes and are topped with whipped cream.

Sometimes we call pancakes hotcakes or flapjacks.  Silver Dollar pancakes are only 2 - 3 inches (5 - 7 cm) across.

Palačinky batter is made from flour, milk, eggs, and salt, with no baking powder.  They are very thin and look like crêpes.  They are never served with butter or syrup.

There are both sweet and savoury versions.  The sweet versions are usually rolled up with plum, apricot, blueberry or plum jam.

Many times you can get palačinky filled with fruit or Nutella with whipped cream and powdered sugar (confectionary or icing sugar).

Savoury options include spinach and garlic or ham and cheese.

Now don' get me wrong.  I like palačinky.  After all, who doesn't like crêpes?  But Czechs are passionate that palačinky are pancakes.  Stubborn, but they are not alone.  It's the same across Europe.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Czech License Plates

A = Prague
Image from Wikipedia
Cars in Czechland have two license plates, one of the front and one on the back.  The only difference is that the one on the back has registration and technical inspection stickers.

When you look at a Czech license plate you can tell where a car is registered by looking at the second character on the left.  The alpha character tells which kraj (region) the car is registered.

A = Prague
B = South Moravia For me, B = Brno
C = South Bohemia
E = Pardubice
H = Hradec Králové
J = Highland
K = Karlovy Vary
L = Liberec
M = Olomouc
P = Plzeň
S = Central Bohemia
T = Moravia-Silesia
U = Ústi nad Labem
Z = Zlín

B = Brno
As of last year, the plates are not changed if the vehicle owner moves to another region or if the vehicle is re-registered to a new owner in a different region.  New plates are issued if the plate is damaged, lost or stolen.

As of yesterday it is now possible to get a personalised "vanity" plate in Czechland.  The requested plate must have eight characters with at least one numeric character.  There are about 900 words deemed vulgar by the Ministry of Transportation which are not allowed.  No plates may begin with G, CH, O, Q or W.  The price for vanity plates is 10 000 Kč (~$400).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Wrist Update

So here's the update on my wrist injury.  The good news is that I don't have carpal tunnel.  It did turn out to just be a tragic (drunk) potato sack race accident.

I saw the neurologist and she said that it wasn't carpal tunnel.  So she referred me to an orthopedist who was able to see me the same day.  I had a slew of new x-rays taken and he said that I had some soft tissue damage.  Too much vodka before the potato sack race I guess.  I was prescribed 10 sessions with a physical therapist, located in the same building, who was able to fit me in 10 minutes later.

Everything turned out fine.  My wrist is completely healed.  The medical care I received was top drawer.  I had a few office visits, several x-rays, and multiple physical therapy sessions and it didn't cost me a single penny.  Love socialised health care!!  In the USA, even with insurance, all of this would have still cost me several hundred dollars.

Friday, January 1, 2016

1 January 2016

Happy New Year!!  Šťastný nový rok!!  

This morning I woke up to some New Year's Day snow.  Which, by the way, is way better than waking up to that fog we were having.

Věechno nejlepší Česko!! (A Slovensko taky!)  Happy Birthday Czechland!! (And Slovakia too!).  Independent countries for 23 years.

Tonight's plan is to go see the new Star Wars film at the cinema.  In Czech but with English subtitles.  Here's the dubbed Czech movie trailer that I found out on YouTube.  It should be a good show.