Friday, April 27, 2018

Resealable Containers and Plastics

The European Union passed legislation that all plastic packaging in the EU market needs to be recyclable or reusable by 2030.  Currently about 25 million tons of plastic waste is generated in Europe each year but less that 30% of it gets recycled.

Plastic lid

Last year, Czechs passed legislation making it illegal for grocery stores and retail shops to give free plastic bags to customers.  In supermarkets, a plastic bag normally costs 1-2 Kč (~5-10¢).  But the thin plastic bags used for fruit & veg are still free.

This may explain why most dairy products here don't come in resealable containers.  In the USA, yogurt and sour cream containers come with plastic, resealable lids.  Here, the lids are usually made of tin foil and are not resealable.

Resealable packaging
In the USA, sliced cheese comes with ziplock packaging which helps keep things fresh.  In Czechland, you simply tear open a corner of the package.  The packages are not resealable.

Czech packaging
I have two theories as to why.  The first is that most packaging here isn't resealable because of a conscious effort to reduce plastic waste.

The second theory is because food here isn't packed with preservatives.  And portion sizes are smaller.  So there's less of a need for resealable packaging here.  For example, here a packet of cheese is 100 grams which is normally just five slices.  In the USA, a packet would be at least 10 slices.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Katowice, Poland

Katowice is in southern Poland, about 3,5 - 4 hours from Brno.  It's 60 km (37 miles) from Częstochowa and 69 km (43 miles) from Kraków.  Katowice has a population over 297,000 while the greater metropolitan area is home to 2,2 million people.

From 1327 the region was part of the Kingdom of Bohemia.  Katowice was founded around 1580 and gained city status in 1865.  It has been home to Germans, Silesians, Jews, and Poles.  It's an industrial city with a history of coal mines and steel factories.

The Silesian Parliament was built from 1925-1929.  It was once the biggest building in the country.  In 1012, it was declared a historic monument.

The Scouts Memorial is dedicated to the scouts who, for two days, defended the city against the Germans at the start of the war in 1939.

The Katowice History Museum was established in 1981.  It's rather small but completely covers the city's history.

St. Mary's Church dates back to the 19th century and is one of the oldest in Katowice.

Spodek ("saucer" in Polish) opened in 1971 and it's a multipurpose area.  It can hold up to 11,500 people and until 2014 it was the country's largest indoor venue.

The Silesian Library was founded in 1922 and became a public library in the 1930s. It is home to more than 2,5 million volumes.  It's one of the most modern libraries in Poland.

The Polish Soldier Monument was unveiled in 1978 and honours those Poles who fought in WWII.  The bronze statue weights 80 tons.

The Silesian Theatre was originally built as the "German Theatre" in 1907.  It is the largest theatre in Silesia.

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul was built between 1898 and 1902.  It served as the city's cathedral from 1925 to 1955.

The Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music was founded in 1929.  It provides university level courses.

The Silesian Insurgents' Monument was unveiled in 1967.  It is dedicated those who took part in the Silesian Uprisings of 1919, 1920, and 1921.

The Evangelical Church was built from 1856-1858 and it is the oldest building in the city.

The Christ the King Cathedral was built between 1927 and 1955.  It's the largest in Poland and there is a coal alter to honour miners.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Brno Ossuary

During renovation in 2001, an ossuary was discovered under St. James' Church.  It turned out to be the second largest ossuary in Europe and opened to the public in 2012.  I didn't visit it when it first opened due to the crowds and then I figured I would go when I had guests so with Steven & Michal here it was high time for a visit.

The Catacombs in Paris hold the remains of about six million people.  Brno has the the remains of more than 50,000 people and the Bone Church near Kutná Hora has the remains of 40,000 people.

There was a cemetery adjacent to St. James' Church back in the 13th century.  Since it was located inside of the city's walls there was no way to ever expand it.  So 10-12 years after a person was buried, their remains were moved so as to make room for a new deceased person.

The ossuary was founded in the 17th century and expanded in the 18th century.  It's wild to me that it was forgotten about for about 200 years until it was rediscovered in 2001.

The Czech Republic and the European Union invested 40 million Kč (about $1.9 million) in research, renovation, and preservation of the site.

Analysis showed that most of the skeletal remains were victims of medieval plague and cholera epidemics, the Thirty Years' War and the Swedish siege.

Admission is 140 Kč (~$7).  It's interesting but small.  The Bone Church is much bigger.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Steven & Michael's 2018 Visit

Steven and Michael were on their way to Istanbul and managed to work in a few days visiting me in Brno.  I hadn't seen them since last year in California.  It was so great to see them.  And the first time I've seen them with their wedding rings.

It's been wicked cold every other time that they've been here before so it was nice for them to experience Brno in good weather.

On the weekend we explored the city.  We even visited the ossuary at St. Jakub's which I hadn't even been to yet.

The boys also managed a couple of day trips to Olomouc and Bratislava.

It was brilliant having them here, even for just a few days, and they finally got to see my new flat.

Plus they totally spoiled me with a bag full of goodies.  I must say that hand delivered care packages are the absolute best.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Foreign Policy Lecture

Tonight I attended a lecture at the Moravská zemská knihovna.  The topic was U.S: Foreign Policy and it was conducted in English.  The lecture was given by Dr. Schuyler Foerster.  He was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, he taught at the Air Force Academy, and he's currently a visiting professor here at Masaryk University.

The lecture lasted just over an hour and it was quite interesting.  It focused less on all of the crazy stupid things that the current administration is doing and more on the history of U.S. foreign policy which helps explain why the U.S. does what it does.  I enjoyed it and hopefully there will be another one in the future.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Add 1 Challenge Update

OK, so I've pretty much dropped the ball with the Add One Challenge.  I did quite well with my 30 day video update.  I was hitting my daily study goal of at least 45 minutes.  Our second mini challenge was to create at least 3 sentences a day for 15 days.  I was doing fine with this but my daily study sessions took a back seat to my holiday in Eilat.

I was out of the office for a few months so there was lots to catch up on when I returned.  And I still haven't found my chair.  Even with returning to work and catching up with so many people I tried to keep up with my daily study goal.  Sometimes I managed an hour and some days I only managed 15 minutes.  My day 60 video was due three weeks ago which I don't see happening.

So was it worth it?  Yes.  I enjoyed the challenge and it gave me a good kick in the pants to work on my Czech.  I picked up some good study techniques and motivation from other people in the challenge.  The good thing was that I did actually improve my Czech.  I'm sorry that I didn't see this through to the end but I'm glad that I tried this.  I may try another 90 day challenge in the future. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Czech Groupon

Groupon launched in Chicago in 2008.  It's an e-commerce marketplace where subscribers can get discounts on products, services, travel, and activities.  The company gets bulk discounts from businesses and consumers purchase discounted vouchers.  While the site does exist in some European countries it does not exist here in Czechland.

Slevomat is the country's largest daily deal and bulk discount website.  Slevomat has more than 1,3 million registered users.  I've used this site a few times and have always been happy with the service.

Vykupto was another provider that was founded in Brno in 2010.  In 2015, Vykupto was purchased by  Even though Vykupto was purchased you can still buy vouchers. is the largest search engine for discount and promotional offers here.  I've never used this one before; just Slevomat and Vykupto.

I've heard that another popular site is Zapakatel but I haven't used this one before either.

The sites are only available in Czech so it's a good way to practice the language while their offers provide a nice discount for various goods and services.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Aberdeen, Scotland

Aberdeen is the third-largest city in Scotland and the 38th largest in the UK.  The city is home to 196,670 people while the great metro area is home to almost 230,000.  Located in the northeast of Scotland, on the coast of the North Sea, it is roughly 2,5 hours southeast of Inverness and 2,5 hours north of Edinburgh.

The local area was settled about 8,000 years ago.  Aberdeen received a charter in 1179 and it gained city status in 1891.

Town House, Sheriff Court, Tolbooth Museum

Aberdeen is known as the Granite City because during the mid-18th to mid-20th centuries the Victorian buildings were built from locally quarried grey granite.

Marischal College used to be the seat of the college and the University of Aberdeen.  Construction began in 1837 and at 17,500 m² (188,400 sq ft) it is the world's second largest granite building.  Since 2011, it is home to the city council and there is a museum.

St. Andrew's Cathedral belongs to the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The church opened in 1817 and it became a cathedral in 1914.  This is where the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA was ordained.

St. Mary's Cathedral belongs to the Roman Catholic Church and it opened in 1860.

The Kirk of St. Nicholas is part of the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.  It dates back to the 12th century.

The Union Terrace Gardens opened in 1879.  The 2,5 acre park is about to undergo a £25m redevelopment that is targeted to complete by summer 2020.

The William Wallace statue was erected in 1888.  He was a leader during the Wars of Scottish Independence.  Think of the movie Braveheart.

The Central Library is the city's main library.  It opened in 1892 and is currently under renovation.

St. Mark's Church of Scotland opened in 1892.

His Majesty's Theatre opened in 1906.  With seating capacity over 1,400 it is the largest theatre in northeast Scotland.  The library is next to the church which is next to the theatre so the buildings are referred to as "education, salvation and damnation".

The Aberdeen Maritime Museum opened in 1984.  It is housed in the city's second-oldest building dating back to 1593.  The museum is very interesting.  There's quite a bit of information about the oil industry because of the North Sea oil fields which were discovered in the 1970s.

I don't normally think of Scotland as a beach destination but there's a nice coastline.  Even though it was a bit chilly there were quite a few surfers out catching some waves.  Aberdeen was a great little weekend getaway!

Just as the Bank of England has put new bank notes into circulation, there are new bills in Scotland too.

I still think it's odd that different banks issue different bank notes but I suppose you just get used to it.