Thursday, January 31, 2019

Vladimír's Farewell Party

Last night was the farewell send off for one of the guys at IBM who used to work for me.  Vladimír joined IBM as a student intern working in my old project office.  His intern project was actually our 2016 Agile conference.  After his internship was over he joined IBM and was my assistant for a while.  He even talked me in to giving my first webinar.

He's a good chap but I know that he's been involved in a few pranks.  Namely the tin foil desk, the packing cube, and I still haven't found my chair.



For some reason his farewell send off starting as an outdoor BBQ.  Who's ever heard of an outdoor BBQ in the snow.  It was so damn cold!  After the BBQ, people went to the pub until the wee hours of the morning.  Luckily for me, I had an early morning meeting so I was unable to make it to the pub.

Now he's off to join MicroSoft in Prague.  I'm sure that he'll do great things there.  

Saturday, January 26, 2019

2018 Good Country Index

The Good Country Index is a United Nations measure of "what country on earth contributes to the good of humanity."  The index is made up of 35 different data points which gives a ranking in seven categories and an overall ranking.

The seven categories are: Science and Technology, Culture, International Peace and Security, World Order, Planet and Climate, Prosperity and Equality, and Health and Well-being.

For 2018, the top 10 countries were...

  1.  Finland 
  2.  Netherlands
  3.  Ireland
  4.  Sweden
  5.  Germany
  6.  Denmark
  7.   Switzerland
  8.  Norway
  9.  France
  10.  Spain

Scandinavia scored really well.  It's interesting that all of the top 10 countries are in the European Union or the European Economic Area.

Czech Republic moved up two spots this year to #32.
Czechland was actually #2 for Science and Technology.  Wow!
The USA fell 15 spots from #25 in 2017 to #40 in 2018.

The bottom three countries were #161 Mauritania, #162 Libya, and #163 Iraq. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Record Low Unemployment

Back in  September 2016 Czechland had the lowest unemployment in the EU at 5,2%.  Well it has continued to fall.  The unemployment rate here is now 1,9%.  It's the first time in EU history that a country has been under 2%.  Way to go Czechland!

Germany comes in second at 3,3%, followed by the Netherlands at 3,5%, and Hungary at 3,7%.

The EU-wide average is 6,7% and the average for the Eurozone countries is 7,9%.

The most unemployment is in Italy at 10,5%, Spain at 14,7%, and Greece at 18,6%.

More and more foreigners are coming to Czechland for work.  While foreigners only make up 5% of the population, we account for 11% of the workforce.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Jan Palach

Today was the 50th anniversary of the day that Jan Palach set himself on fire.

Jan Palach was a history and political economy student in Prague.  He lit himself on fire to protest the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia which put down Alesander which put down Alexander Dubček's liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring.  He died a few days later in hospital.

His funeral turned into a huge political protest against the occupation.

In 1989, there were anticommunist demonstrations in Prague from 15 - 21 January.  As this was the 20th anniversary of Palach's death it was referred to as "Palach Week".  The police suppressed the protests by beating the demonstrators and using water cannons.  This is considered one of the key events leading up to the Velvet Revolution that brought down the communist government ten months later.

Last year a Czech film was released but I still haven't seen it.  Here's the movie trailer for Jan Palach that I found out on YouTube.


Here's a news clip from AFP with footage from tonight's 50th anniversary in Prague.

©AFP News Agency

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Malaysia












Malaysia is a country in South East Asia.  

It is made up of two parts, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia.  Peninsular Malaysia borders Thailand while East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, borders Indonesia and Brunei.

Malaysia is a little larger than New Mexico and it is home to almost 32 million people.

The country is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy.  Most of the country's 13 states are ruled by hereditary sultans or governors appointed by the government.  Every five years one of the sultans is elected king and is the head of state.  However, the prime minister is the head of the government.  Malaysia is the only country in SE Asia that is official federalist.  Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the largest city while Putrajaya is the federal government administrative centre.

The UK established colonies during the late 18th century.  In 1957, the country gained independence from Britain.  Singapore had been a part of the country but it became an independent country.

It is a part of ASEAN and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Malaysia is a diverse country.  Roughly half of the population is Malay with large Chinese and Indian minorities.  The official language is Malay but English is widely spoken.  Chinese and Tamil are commonly spoken by the respective minority communities.  However, in total there are 134 languages spoken within the country.

1 Ringget 
The Ringget is the national currency and it is made up of 100 sen.

Islam is recognised as the state's religion and about 61% of the population is Muslim.  The Malaysian constitution grants freedom of region and about 20% of the country is Buddhist and 9% is Christian.

As a predominately Muslim country, it's not a good place to be gay.  Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Malaysia has no diplomatic ties and has never recognised Israel.  It will only recognise Israel once a peace agreement has been reached with Palestine.

There are diplomatic relations with Czechland.  Primary exports from here to Malaysia are engineering products, machine tools and electric motors.  While Czechland primarily receives machinery, rubber, cocoa, and other electrical equipment.  

Here's a video I found out on YouTube about how powerful the country is.
©Test Tube News

Malaysia has been on my list of places to visit since 1999 when I saw the movie Entrapment.  I also had several colleagues who had been to Kuala Lumpur for work and everyone had such good things to say about KL.  It's hard to believe that after 20 years I'm finally going to tick this off of my bucket list.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Another New EU Rule

As of two days ago, there's a new EU rule in place that I'm very happy about.

Banks can now only charge as much for cross-border payments as they charge for domestic payments.  Yeah lower fees!


If your bank charges you €1 every time you withdraw money in your home country (outside of your bank's network), then they can't charge you any more than that when you make a withdrawal in any other EU country.  This includes transfers between bank accounts in different EU countries.

Brexit still hasn't happened so this applies to the UK as well.  Once, if ever, the Brexit does happen then here's another thing that will need to be worked out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

ASEAN

ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  It's a regional block made up of ten countries, something like the Southeast Asian version of the European Union.

Originally formed, by five countries, in 1961 as the Association of Southeast Asia, the group was intended as an alliance against communism.  Over the years it has developed into a powerful economic area.

The member nations are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Although not members, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste both have observer status.

ASEAN is diverse.  There are 10 official languages but English is the working language.  Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country while over 95% of Thailand is Buddhist and over 80% of the Philippines is Roman Catholic.

If ASEAN were a single country then it would be the world's 7th-largest economy.  By 2050 it is projected to be the world's 4th-largest economy.  ASEAN is home to more than 600 million people making it the world's 3rd-largest market.

In 2006, it received observer status at the UN General Assembly.  There's talk one day of having a single currency. like the Euro, but that's way down the road.

Here's a short video from 2016 that I found out on YouTube.
©Test Tube News

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 Minimum Wage Increase

As of the 1 January 2019, the minimum wage in Czechland increases to 13.350 Kč ($577 or €524) per month.

For 2018 the minimum wage was 12.200 Kč so now people will earn the equivalent of an extra $48 or €44 per month.

This isn't a lot of money but it's more than the 8000 Kč it was when I moved here in 2009.

Something like 4% of the workforce here receives minimum wage.

Czech minimum wage is among the lowest in the EU only ahead of Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria.

There's still very low unemployment here and competition is tough.  I'm surprised that the minimum wage wasn't raised even more.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2019 Public Holidays

In Czechland, if a public holiday falls on a weekend then you're out of luck.  The holiday doesn't move to Monday or Friday like it does it other countries.  2019 is one of those years where we will lose out because three public holiday fall during a weekend.  Dang it!

However there are a few long weekends to look forward to and we will get three days off for Christmas.  Now to sit down with the calendar and plan out a few trips so that I maximise my holiday time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Dublin NYE

Happy New Year!  Last night was the Dublin New Year's Festival down at the River Liffey by the Custom House.

It's cool because there were three different shows.  At 6 pm there was a family friendly music and light show.  At 7 pm there was a "midnight matinee" countdown so that all of the kids could celebrate New Years.  It's brilliant because it also works for us old people that don't want to have to stay awake until midnight.

At 8 pm there was a countdown concert with live performances by Walking on Cars, Ash, Aimee, and Lisa McHugh.

Then at 11:30 pm there was another light show leading up to the midnight countdown.  We got out of there early and went to dinner.  New Year's has never been my favourite holiday.  Places are so crowded and there are way too many drunk people out.  I'd much rather have an early dinner and stay in so this was perfect.  I got to see the fireworks and was home in my pyjamas by midnight.