Thursday, June 28, 2018

Remembrance/Protest

Yesterday at námestí Svobody (Freedom Square) there was a remembrance for the victims of communism.  Two victims in particular were Milada Horáková and Jan Palach.



Milada Horáková was a sociologist, lawyer, and a politician.  She was arrested by the StB in 1949 and accused of leading a plot to overthrow the Communist regime.  Following a political show trial she was executed in 1950.

Jan Palach was a history and political economy student in Prague.  In 1968 the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia to put down the liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring.  In protest of the occupation he lit himself on fire in 1969 and died of his burns a few days later.

The event was also a protest against the Communist Party.  The current Czech Prime Minister is Andrej Babiš.  He's the 2nd richest man in the country and he was elected back in October 2017.  It's been reported that he was once an StB agent.  The protest against the Communists is because they will likely help form a minority cabinet.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

State of Qatar

The State of Qatarدولة قطر  is located on the Persian Gulf in the Middle East.  Qatar is a little smaller than Connecticut.  It borders Saudi Arabia, and is across the sea from Bahrain and the UAE.  Saudi Arabia just annoyed a bid to build a canal on the border which will basically turn Qatar into an island nation.

Qatar is home to 2,6 million people but only 12% are Qatari citizens.  There are 2,3 million expats, mostly non-Arab, living and working in the country.  You're a Qatari citizen only if your father was a citizen.  It takes at least 20 years for a foreigner to get citizenship.

The Al Thani dynasty has ruled Qatar since 1825.  Once a part of the Ottoman Empire, it became a British protectorate and gained independence in 1971.

The country is an absolute monarchy and Islam is the official religion.  Qatar has a mixed legal system blending civil law with Sharia (Islamic law) when it comes to family and personal matters.  Political bodies and trade unions are not permitted by law.

This is not a place to be if you're gay.  Homosexuality is illegal and is punishable by fines, up to 7 years in prison or even the death penalty.  

©Test Tube News

Arabic is the official language.  With so many expats, English is a common foreign language.

Until 1966, the Indian Rupee was used as the country's currency.  It briefly spotted the Saudi Riyal before adopting the Qatar and Dubai Riyal.  In 1973 the Qatari Riyal became the official currency and it is pegged to the U.S. Dollar.

Due to having the world's third-largest natural-gas reserves and oil reserves, Qatar is a very rich country.  It has the highest per capita income in the world.

Qatar is home to the Al Jazeera television station which opened in 1996. 

Qatar Airways is the state-owned national carrier and it began operations in 1994.  Hamad International Airport opened in 2014 and is the airline's hub which provides routes to more than 150 international destinations.  In 2013 the airline joined Oneworld.  The airline is using Doha to compete with Emirates and it's Dubai base.

Qatar is probably the most open country in the Middle East when it comes to travel.  Citizens of more than 80 countries are able to visit without needing to arrange a visa in advance.
©Al Jazeera

In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt broke diplomatic ties with Qatar.  This included closure of their seaports and airspace which makes flights in and out of Doha longer.  The countries have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism which Qatar denies.  Here are a couple of YouTube videos I found that talks about the 1-year anniversary of the blockade and the impact of the economic blockade.

©France24

©Al Jazeera

Monday, June 18, 2018

Republic of India

The Republic of India, in South Asia, is the 6th largest country by area.  It is home to 1,28 billion people making it the the world's second most populous country after China.

New Delhi is the capital, and largest city, with over 28,5 million people.


India is a little bigger than 1/3rd than the USA.  The country sits on the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal and borders Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, Nepal, and Pakistan.












©Wendover Productions

The Indian subcontinent was home to one of the world's oldest civilisations during the 3rd millennium BC.

Numerous empires and  dynasties ruled the area of the centuries.  Europeans started making footholds in the 16th century and by the 19th century the UK held control of India.  India gained independence in 1947 and eventually it split in to India and Pakistan.

India is a federal parliamentary republic with 29 states and 7 union territories.  It's a nuclear power and has the world's second largest military.

The Rupee (₽) is the official currency.  India is the world's 7th biggest economy known for providing outsourcing services.

When it gained independence, Indian Standard Time (IST) was established so that the whole country would be on the same time.  Daylight Savings Time is not observed and India time is UTC+5,5 hours.

There are 15 official languages.  Hindi is the most widely spoken language used by 41% of the population.  The other official languages are Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit.


English is a subsidiary official language and is used for most political and business situations.  Hindustani isn't an official language but is widely spoken in northern India.

©NDTV

Hinduism is the largest religion and overall the society tends to be quite conservative.  This makes it difficult for gay people.  Homosexuality was decriminalised in 2009 but it was then decriminalised in 2013.  Officially it is illegal with harsh penalties on the books.  However the ruling is currently being reviewed and there is hope that it will be decimalised again.  On the plus side, in 2014, India granted legal recognition of a third gender.

Bangalore is the Indian Silicon Valley and home to their outsourcing industry.  Here's an interesting video I found out on YouTube about the next wave of outsourcing in India.

©Financial Times

Here's a short 2014 video about how powerful the country is.

©Test Tube News

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2018 Pride Business Forum

Friday was the 8th annual Pride Business Forum.  It's the only platform in Czechland to discuss LGBT equality in the workplace.

IBM was one of the organising partners and the event was held at the Hilton Prague Old Town.








It was a great opportunity to meet with business leaders and share experiences about diversity in the corporate world.  There were guest speakers, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and a networking reception.  Headsets were provided with simultaneous translation between English and Czech.

This was my first time at this event.  It was so awesome!!  I'm definitely looking forward to this year's Prague Pride.  Here's a video I found on YouTube of last year's event.

©Pride Business Forum

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

MacMillan, McGregor, Ashton Ballet

On Saturday night we went to the Vienna State Opera to see a ballet.  The Wiener Staatsoper, obviously located in Vienna, Austria, opened in 1869.

Originally it was the Vienna Court Opera but was renamed in 1920 after the end of the Habsburg Empire.

The State Opera is one of the busiest in the world.  There's always something going on here.  There are usually 50 - 60 operas and 10 ballets every year.

The building is absolutely beautiful.  At some point I need to take one of the guided tours.

Saturday's programme was dedicated to British choreography.

There were three different performances by choreographers Kenneth MacMillan, Wayne McGregor, and Frederick Ashton.

The show was great!  Here's the programme trailer that I found out on YouTube.

©Wiener Staatsoper

Friday, June 8, 2018

New Bank Account

It was time to switch to a new bank.  So here's the story...

When I moved here I opened a bank account with Raiffeisen Bank.  Raiffeisen is the 3rd-largest bank in Austria.  It has subsidiaries in Czechland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Switzerland, Russia, and Ukraine.

A couple of years ago I went in to my local branch because I needed to sign a U.S. tax form that all international bank require for American citizens.  When the receptionist looked me up on the computer she asked me if I went to university because they didn't have my title in the system.  I told her that I have an M.B.A.  I understand that the Central Europeans love their academic degree titles so I wasn't surprised by the question.  I thought that was the end of it.

About a month later I had to go in to the branch to pick up my new credit card because the current card was about to expire.  My previous card had my first, middle, and last name printed on it.  The new card had "M.B.A." printed before my name and only the first two letters of my last name.  When I questioned why my complete last name wasn't on the card, the clerk looked at me like I had three eyeballs.  She said that if I really wanted to, that I could make a special request to have my complete name printed on the card.  WTF!  Why the hell is it a "special request" to have my last name printed on my credit card?

They ordered me a new card which arrived the next week.  The new card had my title, first name and last name.  They left off my middle name.  Fine, but the card didn't work so they had to order a new card.  Another week passed and I finally received my new card.

A few months later, I had to go pick up my new debit card.  The new card had left off my middle name again but it had my title, first and last name.  Anyway...

I did a little shopping around and found a nice deal with Česká spořitelna.  I went in to Raiffeisen to see if they would match the deal.  I was told that the account I had was the best one possible.  There was nothing they could do to upgrade my account.  Fine.  If they don't want to make me feel special then I'll take my business elsewhere.

Česka spořitelna is the most popular bank in Czechland with 4,7 million clients.  It was founded in 1825 and, in 2000, it was acquired by Erste Group.

Erste Group Bank is another Austrian bank holding company that was founded in 2008.  It originally opened in 1819 as an Austrian savings bank.  Erste Group is one of the biggest banks in Central and Eastern Europe with branches in Austria, Czechland, Slovakia, Hungary, Montenegro, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Slovenia.

I opened an Erste Premier account.  I was a big fool to have not done this before.  I now have a personal banker.  I feel so grown up.  I have a multi-currency account set up in Czech Crowns, U.S. Dollars, Euros and British Pounds.  My account comes with investment advisory and it even provides concierge services.  Plus, the online banking app is great!

As a frequent traveller I'm very excited about the travel benefits that I now receive.  First, I get premium travel insurance so I no longer need to buy it each year.   Secondly, I get free access to the priority Erste lounges at the Prague and Vienna airports.  I also received a Priority Pass which grants me access to more than 1000 airport lounges worldwide.

I'm already impressed with the customer service.  My banker called me yesterday to let me know that my new credit card had arrived.  Since he would be in the area, he offered to bring me my card at work so that I wouldn't have to make a trip to the branch.  I so should have switched before.  Highly recommended.