Monday, August 27, 2018

2018 Manchester Pride

We had so much fun at last year's Pride in Manchester that we went again this year.  It is one of the longest running Pride events in the UK.

The theme this year was the "Circus of Acceptance".  The parade this year had about 150 entries and with more than 4,000 participants.  With tens of thousands coming out to watch and join in the festivities in the Gay Village.

Well over £161,000 (about $205K) was raised for local Manchester LGBT charities.

It was such a nice weekend.  Even with a bit of Sunday rain.  I wonder what next year's theme will be?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Bee in the City

We were back in Manchester over the weekend for Pride.  Manchester was the first industrialised city and the work bee has long represented the Mancunian work ethic.

The Bee in the City trail runs this year from 23 July to 23 September with over a 100 super-sized bees located across the city.

It is sponsored by the Manchester City Council and at the end, the bees will be auctioned off to raise money for the Lord Mayor of Manchester's We Love MCR Charity.

Many of the bees are quite detailed and pay tribute to the city's history.  Quite similar to the Berlin Bears and the Innsbruck Easter eggs.

There's a mobile app available with a map and information about each of the bees.  It's kind of a shame that the bees are only a temporary feature.  I wonder how much money they will raise for charity.

Update:  In October the bees were actioned off and the city raised £1,1 million (about $1.4M) for charity.

Friday, August 17, 2018

50 Years Ago

It was 50 years ago today that the Soviet Union made the decision to invade Czechoslovakia.  Three days later, on the night of 20.8.1968, troops from the U.S.S.R, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland invaded.  The invasion was known as "Operation Danube" and it was to crush the liberalisation reforms known as the Prague Spring.

I knew that Romania did not join the Warsaw Pact invasion because Ceaușescu was against it.  However, I always thought that East Germany was part of the initial invasion.  Apparently this was called off right before the invasion because it was too close to the 30th anniversary of Nazi Germany having annexed the Sudetenland.

Here's a pretty comprehensive video I found out on YouTube about the chain of events that led to the Soviet-led invasion.

©History Class

Thursday, August 16, 2018

BA Silver Status

Yeah!! I earned Silver status with British Airways.  The British Airways frequent flyer programme is called Executive Club and there are four tiers - Blue, Bronze, Silver, and Gold.  Each level gives you additional perks when flying on BA.

Every time you fly on BA, or one of their Oneworld partners, you earn tier points and Avios.  Tier points are earned from flying.  The tier points awarded are dependent on the cost and class of the ticket purchased.  Flying in business class over economy gets you more points.  The only way to earn tier points is by flying.  You can't purchase your way to a particular status level.

Avios are points that you earn from flying, or from making purchases with airline partners.  You can redeem Avios points for free flights, hotel stays, rental cars, etc.

Each of the Oneworld Alliance airlines have their own frequent flyer programmes.  The top three BA Executive Club levels, Bronze, Silver, and Gold, are equivalent to Oneworld's Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald levels.

Some of the benefits I now get with Silver/Saphire status include:

  • Access to priority Business Class check-in at the airport, even when I fly economy 
  • Priority boarding 
  • Priority standby when on a waitlist
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Extra baggage allowance.  On BA flights I get to check two bags for free instead of just one.  And my checked bags gets to be 32 kg instead of the normal 23 kg.
  • Earn an extra 50% bonus Avios points when flying on BA.
  • Free seat selection at purchase.  No more having to wait until checking in to get a free seat; or having to pay for an emergency seat exit for the extra leg room.
  • Free use of the the airport Business Class lounges, even when flying economy.  This one is huge - a quiet place to rest, free Wi-Fi, free snacks, free drinks; and I can even bring a guest. 
It's not listed as a benefit but I've noticed that when flying through London Heathrow, my BA ticket comes with Fast-Track access through airport security.  Love that!

Some of these benefits may not sound like much but for frequent travellers they can make all the difference at the airport.  Fortunately, I actually received Silver status before my trip to India.  I just hadn't received my card.  The Qatar Airways checkin line at Bangalore airport had at least 25 people in queue.  It was so nice to be able to walk right up to the priority checkin and be done in less than five minutes.  And having lounge access privileges at Doha airport gave me the opportunity to take a nap in the business class sleep rooms and I never had to pay exorbitant airport prices for food or drinks.  I so plan on taking advantage of these benefits in November when we fly to Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

You have to keep flying in order to maintain your status.  It takes 600 tier points to maintain Silver.  If I don't earn at least 600 points this year then next year I drop down to Bronze status.  Bronze/Ruby is nice but Silver is way, way better.  Unfortunately, I'll probably never earn Gold/Emerald. which requires 1500 points.  I'd have to fly more than twice what I do now so that's not happening anytime soon.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

2018 Prague Pride

Yesterday was Prague Pride.
This was the largest pride, since the city's first back in 2011, with more than 21 floats and over 40,000 people.  It was awesome!!

I was proud that IBM participated in the parade.  #inclusiveIBM

It didn't take long at all for me to wind up on YouTube again.  This was my first Prague Pride but definitely not my last.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Brno Scavenger Hunt

The gremlins were at it again.  I was out of the office for four days and came back to find my desk switched with Kasia's.

The pitchfork and pink high hells were nice touches.

Oh, the irony of being away at a diversity conference to come back to find pink high heels under your desk.  #cantwaitforpayback

On Thursday night we had a team scavenger hunt in the city centre.

The scavenger hunt was challenging but fun.  We discovered things about Brno that I'd never seen before.

Who knew that there was a samurai statue that overlooks the city?

Like last year, there is another umbrella display in the centre.  This time it celebrates Kometa, Brno's ice hockey team.  In 2017, they won country's top title and they're going for it again this year.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Doha, Qatar

On the way back from Bangalore, I had a ten hour layover in Doha.  I took advantage of a visa on arrival to check out the city.  However, sightseeing in 46℃ (115℉) heat was a bit tough.

Dohaالدوحة, was established in 1825 and it became the capital of Qatar in 1971.  With over 1,3 million people it's the country's biggest city.  More than half of the entire country lives in the greater metro area.

The Corniche is the seven kilometre (4,25 mile) waterfront promenade.  It's the best spot to view the city's skyline.

The Pearl Monument represents the Doha Bay's history of pearl diving and the pearl trade.

The Museum of Islamic Art opened in 2008.  The five-story museum documents 1400 years of Islamic art.

The National Museum of Qatar is currently under construction.  It is scheduled to open in December 2018 and it will replace the Qatar National Museum.

Souq Waqif is more than 100 years old.  This is where Bedouins would trade goods with locals.  In 2006 the government began to restore the souq.  Along with a few restaurants, this is the place to buy traditional garments and spices.

The Qatar National Library opened its new facility in November 2017.  It collection contains over 1 million items.

Katara is the city's cultural village.

Katara amphitheater

It is home to an open amphitheater, an opera house, cinema, mosque, an auction house, a maritime museum, and a beach.

The arches of Interchange 5/6 on the Lusail Expressway opened in December 2017.

The Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre opened in 2008.  It is the tallest mosque in the country and prior to 2009 it used to be the largest mosque in Qatar.

The Amiri Diwan of the State of Qatar is the Emir's palace.  It also serves as a government building and hosts the prime minister.

Imam Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque is the Qatar State Mosque.  It opened in 2011 and can accommodate 30,000 people.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

2018 India Trip Summary

Last week was my whirlwind trip to Bangalore.  On Tuesday, I had Qatar Airways flights from Prague to Doha to Bangalore.  I was ready to drop by the time I got to my hotel at 4 am on Wednesday.

Thursday was the Out & Equal LGBTQ India Forum.  The first of its kind event in India.  It was awesome to meet with executives from so many top Indian companies.

On Thursday night, the hotel held a drag show at the roof top bar.  I can't remember the last time I saw a drag show.  The headliners were Maya The Drag Queen, Rimi Heart, DJ Summer Camp, and Lady Bai.  The show was great!

We couldn't make it too of an evening because we had an IBM leadership workshop that started early Friday morning.

Another excellent day with IBMers from all over the world.  It really is a small IBM world sometimes.  For example, one of the participants from who recently transferred from Australia to Singapore is someone that I knew back in Atlanta.  We hadn't seen each other in probably 12 years.  Well, except for on Facebook.

I also got the chance to catch up with Mirek who used to work in Prague but is now in Singapore.  It's kind of funny that the Czech guy came to India to represent IBM in Singapore while I, the American, was here representing Czechia.

We were so busy that our first chance to even leave the hotel was on Friday night.  Several of us headed out for dinner and to get our first sight of India beyond the hotel lobby.

Rather than fly back home on Friday night, I paid for an extra day so that I could fly out Saturday night (actually super early Sunday morning).  This gave me the chance to see some of the sights in Bangalore during the day on Saturday.

On the way back I had a ten hour layover in Qatar which gave me a few hours to check out Doha.  But sightseeing in 46℃ (115℉) heat was a bit extreme though.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Bangalore, India

Bangalore, in southern India, is home to 12,3 million people making it the country's third-largest city.  This city is bigger than the entire Czech Republic.  Since 2014, the city's name is officially Bengaluruಬೆಂಗಳೂರು
Bangalore is the English language version.

The city was founded in 1537.

The official language is Kannada while English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu are widely spoken.

Bangalore has one of the world's most highly-educated workforces and the city is considered India's Silicon Valley.

ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna Temple is one of the most famous temples in Bangalore with thousands of visitors daily.  The temple was completed in 1997.

Just don't wear shorts or you'll be walking around with a sheet wrapped around your waist.

Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace was completed in 1791.  Today it is a museum.

Dodda Basavana Gudi, also known as the Nandhi Temple, was built in 1537.  The current tower was built in the early 20th century.

The temple is home to one of the largest bull statues in the world.

Not sure if it was a coincidence, or not, but there was a decorated bull not far away from the temple.

Lalbagh Botanical Gardens dates back to around 1889.  It is home to the country's largest collection of tropical plants.  I was fortunate to catch part of the Independence Day Horticultural Show.

Vidhan Soudha is one of the largest legislative buildings in the city.  It is home to 22 government departments.

Attara Kacheri is the High Court of the Karnataka State of which Bangalore is the state capital.

The Sir Seshadri Iyer Memorial Library is the State Central Library.  It is over 100 years and has a collection of more than 3 million books.

Bangalore Palace was completed in 1862.  It was built to look like a smaller version of Windsor Castle.

Due to the conference, I only had a single day to explore Bangalore so these are just the highlights that I was able to squeeze in.  The thing that stood out the most was the insane traffic.  There is no way that I would ever drive here.

Here's a video I found out on YouTube about the traffic.

©Wild Films India