Sunday, May 26, 2019

Ondřej Brzobohatý

Ondřej Brzobohatý is a Czech singer, actor, composer, and TV personality.  I enjoy his music so, like Kryštof, I have several of his tunes on my iPod to help me improve my listening comprehension skills.

He is from Prague and is the son of Czech actor Radoslav Brzobohatý and Slovak actress Hana Gregorová.  In 2016, he changed his last name from "Brzobohatý" to "Brzobohatý Gregor" because he worked as a composer of music overseas.

In 2004 he was the moderator for Česko hledá SuperStar, the Czech version of the Idol series.  In 2012 he hosted the Český slavík, in 2013 he danced on StarDance...když hvězdy tanči, the Czech version of Strictly Come Dancing.  He 2014 he was a judge on X Factor.

As a composer he has written and produced songs for Karel Gott, Helena Vondráčková, Dara Rolins, Hana Zagorová, and Ilong Csáková.

In 2016 he married Taťána Kucharová who was the 2006 Miss World.

Here are a couple of his music videos from YouTube.  The first is And the Oscar Goes To.

©Ondřej G. Brzobohatý

Máme rádi jazz is a duet with Vojtěch Dyk, another popular singer here in Czechland.

©Ondřej G. Brzobohatý

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Republic of Indonesia

Indonesia, in Southeast Asia is an archipelago between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  There are 17.000 islands and shares borders with Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.  The capital and largest city is Jakarta which is located on Java, the world's most populous island.

It's huge!  Almost three times bigger than Texas and it's the world's largest island country.  Indonesia is home to more than 267 million people making it the fourth most populous country in the world.  It's also the most populous Muslim-majority country.

Archaeologists estimate that the islands were inhabited some two million to 500.000 years ago.  There were Buddhist and Hindu dynasties between the 8th and 13th centuries.  Islam came in the 8th century and became the dominant religion by the end of the 16th century.

Europeans came in 1512.  The Dutch were the dominant European power here for about 200 years which is why is used to be known as the Dutch East Indies and the Netherlands East Indies.

WWII and the Japanese invasion put an end to Dutch rule.  Following the war, Indonesia declared indolence in 1945 and it was recognised internationally in 1949.

In 1975 Indonesia invaded East Timor but in 1999 it successfully seceded from Indonesia.

Today the Republic of Indonesia is a presidential republic and it was a founding member of ASEAN.

The country is very diverse.  There are about 300 distinct ethnic groups with the largest being Javanese at 40% of the population.

There are six officially recognised religions - Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.  There are 227 million Muslims mostly Sunnis.  Only about 10% of the population is Christian.  Like several Muslim countries, it does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Rupiah (Rp) is the official currency.
The official language is Indonesian which is a standardised version of Malay.    Due to the country's population this makes it one of the world's most widely spoken languages.  But there are over 700 local languages.  700!

The flag is almost identical to that of Monaco.  The Indonesian flag is a bit larger and a slightly different shade of red.  I wonder how often this becomes a "thing".

In 2012 the Czech Export Bank and the Indonesia Exim Bank signed an agreement to support import/export activities between the two countries.  Czechland imports textiles, clothes, footwear, and rubber from Indonesia.  Indonesia imports machinery, chemicals, electrical and power generation and telecommunications equipment from Czechland.  It's about $500 million of bilateral trade.

Here's a 2016 video I found on YouTube about how powerful Indonesia is.

©Test Tube News

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

No More Registered Traveller

Two years ago I became a registered traveller for the UK and it has been awesome.  Year one cost me £70 ($92) but last year's renewal was on £50 ($62).  It's so worth it to be able to no longer fill out landing cards and to be able to us the ePassport gates.  No more filling up my passport with UK entry stamps.  Yeah!

As of yesterday I won't need to renew my registered traveller status anymore.  Now all Americans get to use the ePassport gates.  The gates have also been opened to travellers from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.  So much for being in an exclusive club but at least I'll now save £50 a year.

As I understand it, if and when Brexit happens, EU citizens will still be able to use the gates.

Here's short video I found out on YouTube about how to use the gates.
©UK Home Office

Sunday, May 19, 2019

2019 Eurovision Final Results

Another Eurovision has come and gone.  The finals of the 64th edition were held last night in Israel.

Things were looking good after Tuesday's semi-final 1.  Of the 17 countries participating on Tuesday, Czechland came in second place with 242 points.

There were 26 countries in last night's finals.  Lake Malawi ended up in 11th place with 157 points.  Here's the Czech performance from the finals that I found out on YouTube.

©Eurovision Song Contest

The 2019 winner was Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands.  His song Arcade won with 498 points.  Here's the winning performance.

©Eurovision Song Contest

Fair play to Czechland coming in 11th.  Not quite as good as last year's 6th place finish but still respectable.  I still say that Czechland would do better if Slovakia participated because they would always vote for each other. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland and the third biggest in the UK.  It is home to 626,000 people with more than 1,65 million people in the greater metro area.

Glasgow is in central west Scotland on the River Clyde.  It is about 412 miles northwest of London and 46 miles west of Edinburgh.

The city was founded in the late 6th century and gained city status in 1170.

In 1990 it was a European City of Culture, in 2008 it was named a UNESCO City of Music, in 2014 it hosted the Commonwealth Games and the first European Championships in 2018.

Scottish English can take some getting used to but the Glaswegian accent can be quite difficult to understand.  I had to laugh when I was told by a local that I have a "soft American accent".  I've defiantly never heard that one before.

George Square is the city's main square and it's filled with statues and monuments.  The City Chambers were completed in 1889.

The Cenotaph monument on the east side of the square honours the soldiers who died in WWI.  The monument was unveiled in 1925.

The Gallery of Modern Art opened in 1996 and it is housed in a building completed in 1778.

In front of the gallery is the Duke of Wellington statue.  Since the 1980s the statue has been capped with a traffic cone.  

The Royal Concert Hall opened in 1990.

St. George's Tron Church opened in 1808.  It belongs to the Church of Scotland and extensive refurbishments completed in 2009.

The Trades House was established back in 1605.

The Beresford was a hotel that opened in 1938.  At 10 stories it was the city's first skyscraper and built between the wars.  During WWII it was used to house American servicemen.  Today the building has privately owned flats.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was established in 1901.  Following a three year refurbishment it reopened in 2006.

The museum houses Salvidor Dalí's Christ of Saint John of the Cross.  In 1951 the purchase price of £8,200 was controversial.  Today it is valued at over £60 million.

The Mitchell Library was established in 1877.  It houses over 1,2 million volumes.

St. Andrew's Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Church, was consecrated in 1816.

Hutchesons' Hall was built in 1805.

Glasgow Green is a 55 hectares (136 acres) public park.  It was established in the 15th century and is the city's oldest park.

The Doulton Fountain, at the Green, was built for an exhibition in 1888.  It is the world's largest terracotta fountain.

The oldest cathedral in Scotland is Glasgow Cathedral.  Also known as St. Mungo's cathedral and it opened in 1136. It was a Roman Catholic Church until the 1500s and now it is Church of Scotland.

The Britannia Panopticon was built in 1858.  It is one of Britain's oldest remaining music halls.

The Glasgow Botanic Gardens are in the city's West End.  The Kibble Palace is a 19th century wrought iron framed glasshouse.

The Central Gurdwara is the country's biggest place of worship.  Not just as a Sikh temple but of any faith.

The Riverside Museum opened in 2011.  It is the Museum of Transport and in 2013 it was the European Museum of the Year.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was founded in 1847.  It is the busiest performing arts venue in Scotland with over 500 performances each year.

Bingham's Pond is on the West End.  It was built in the 1880s on the site of old brick and coal pits.

Kelvingrove Park began in 1852 as the West End Park.  It is 34 hectares (85 acres) with several statues and fountains.

The Harbour Tunnel Rotundas were built in 1896 on the River Clyde.

The SEC Armadillo opened in 1997.  The venue seats 3000 people.

The SSE Hydro seats 14,300 people and it is one of the world's busiest arenas.

The city council commissioned huge murals throughout the city with many of them by Smug, aka Sam Bates, the Australian street artist.

It's a great alternative to people tagging the city's buildings.

Glasgow was supposed to be an anniversary trip but it didn't work out.  I had already paid for my flights and the hotel so my only options were to go alone or stay home and be out the money.  Breakups suck but at least there was enough in the city to keep me busy and my mind off of things.  I definitely want to give the city another go under better circumstances.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

7th Least Miserable Economy

The Bloomberg Misery Index sums a country's inflation and unemployment to determine how happy or miserable its people are.  With Czechland's record low unemployment it's not wonder that they finally cracked the Top 10 of the least miserable economies.

1.  Thailand
2.  Switzerland
3.  Japan / Singapore
5.  Taiwan
6.  Malaysia
7.  Czech Republic
8.  Hong Kong
9.  Israel / South Korea

The USA jumped six spots to the 13th least miserable economy.

Having low unemployment too low can be a bad thing.  Employers may not let people move to new roles because they will be unable to find a backfill.  If prices are too low it could mean that demand is low.

Venezuela is the most miserable as inflation is expected to hit 8 million percent this year.  8 million %!!    

Coming in behind Venezuela is Argentina, South Africa, Turkey, Greece, and Ukraine.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

15 Years in the EU

Today is Labour Day.  It's also the 15th anniversary of Czechland, and nine other countries, joining the European Union.

2004 was the largest single accession of new members to EU with Czechland, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Malta, and Cyprus joining.

In 1993 the Czech Republic signed an Economic Association Agreement with the EU.  In 1996 the country formally submitted its application to join.

In 2003 Czechs voted in a nationwide referendum on joining the EU.  Only 55,2% of voters turned out to vote but 77,3% of those that did, supported joining.

I think that Czechs overall are happy about being in the EU.  Although they are required to one day adopt the Euro, and continue to meet all of the requirements to join the Eurozone, there's still no date for when it will happen.  Certainly not anytime soon.