Thursday, June 30, 2022

EU vs. Internal Combustion Engines

Tomorrow is the beginning of Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  The EU has a Green Deal goal of climate neutrality by 2050.  This means that action is required now as 20% of the EU's CO² emissions comes from road transportation.  The European Commission has proposed that as of 2035, all new cars and vans should yield zero emissions.  It's been approved by the European Parliament.  The finalisation of the new rules will be negotiated during the Czech EU presidency.


Škoda is the largest employer in Czechland.  All of the company's Czech plants already make electric cars or components.  In 2019, it introduced the Citigo-e iV, its first electric car.  By 2030, Škoda wants 50-70% market share of all-electric car sales in Europe.

Hyundai has a factory in Nošovice.  In 2020, they started producing the Kona Electric and they also want a big piece of the European electric car market.

Toyota is the country's third-largest automaker with a factory in Kolín.  The Kolín factory currently produces two models, both with internal combustion engines.  The company wants all of its luxury cars running on electric by 2030 in Europe, North America, and China.  All of its cars should be running on electric by 2035.

The EU has also proposed legislation that will require public charging points no more than 60 km (37 miles) apart from each other on major roads by 2025.  The outlook is for 3,5 million public charging stations by 2030 and 16,3 million by 2050.

Update:  On 26 August, legislation passed that all new vehicles sold in California by 2035 must be either electric or electric hybrids.


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Czech EU Presidency

On 1 July 2022, Czechland assumes the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  The presidency rotates every six months, and France has held it for the last six months, and after the Czechs it will go to Sweden.

The role is to set the agenda of the Council of the EU, lead its meetings, act as the broker between all of the individual interests of the member states while representing the council in negotiations with the European Commission, the European Parliament and external partners.

This will be the second time that the country has held the presidency.  The first time was from 1 January until 30 June 2009, right before I moved to Czechia.

So Petr Fiala, the Czech Prime Minister, will be in charge of the EU for the next six months.  The top five priorities, which are pretty closely linked are:

  1. Managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine's post-war recovery
  2. Energy security
  3. Strengthening Europe's defence capabilities and cyberspace security 
  4. Strategic resilience of the European economy
  5. Resilience of democratic institutions  


It was announced last month that the presidency's slogan will be "Europe as a task: rethink, rebuild, reposer."  The "Europe as a task" comes from a speech that former president Václav Havel once made in Germany.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube about the upcoming transition.


One of the criticisms of the upcoming Czech presidency is that there are at least five Czech minister that won't be able to lead meetings in English.  I don't really get what the minor uproar is all about.  Only the European Commission has English, French, and German as its working languages.  The EU has 24 official languages, of which Czech is one of them, so if any of the ministers don't feel comfortable using English then they can use an interpreter.

Monday, June 27, 2022

EU and NATO Enlargement

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin wanted to prevent EU and NATO expansion in the east.  Well four months into the war and he's accomplished the opposite of what he wanted.  
Ukraine and Moldova have formally applied to join the EU and both are now official candidate countries.  Georgia has also applied and is now a potential candidate member.

Ukraine and Georgia were on track to apply in 2024 but the war has fast tracked their applications.

Joining the EU is not an easy thing to do and it takes years.  Türkiye applied in 1999, North Macedonia in 2005, Montenegro in 2010, Serbia in 2012, and Albania in 2014.  

Slovakia applied on 27 June 1995 and Czechland appleid on 17 January 1996.  Both joined on 1 May 2004.  So over eight years and neither country had Russian troops occupying part of their territories.

©The EU made SIMPLE

What's really significant is that Finland and Sweden have now both officially applied to join NATO.  While both countries are part of the the Partnership for Peace programme, both countries have long histories of neutrality.  Russia's invasion of Ukraine has really changed things.



Russia really can't be surprised that countries want to join NATO.  Take a look at the countries that the Soviet Union or Russia has invaded in the last 100 years.

Я за Україну. Я за Україною. Слава Україні  Stojím za Ukrajinou!  I stand with Ukraine. 🇺🇦

 The USA approved both Finland's and Sweden's NATO applications on 3 August 2022.  Czechland approved both on 27 August 2022.

Update:  December 2022 - Bosnia and Herzegovina is now an official candidate member for EU membership.

Update: 4 April 2023 - Finland became the 31st member of NATO.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Moritzburg, Germany

Good morning Dresden

Claudia and I arrived in Dresden on Thursday evening.  On Friday morning we explored the city a bit and found a café for breakfast before we headed over to Moritzburg.  It's about a 30 minute bus ride from the main station but it was free thanks to my €9 ticket.  

Moritzburg is home to Prince Charming's castle from the film Popelka.  A Friday afternoon and how many people can say that they were at Prince Charming's castle?  I love living in Euroland. 

Claudia's parents brought Tünde down from Berlin after she got out of school.  The pension that Claudia booked us all at was the same place where her parents spent their honeymoon 45 years ago.  

At the castle, we had tickets to a performance of Popelka.  The start of the play was delayed due to a bit of rain but fortunately it cleared up enough for the show to go on.

After the show we went to dinner to celebrate Oma and Opa's anniversary.

On Sunday morning, they dropped me off at the train station for my trip back to Brno.  

This was my fourth trip to Germany in three weeks and my third weekend in a row.  I had to let Tünde know that I wasn't coming back next week.  Uncle Christopher wants to sleep in his own bed.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

My 4th Trip This Month

I'm on the train to Dresden.  This is my fourth trip to Germany this month.  I'll meet Claudia tonight and then tomorrow we meet up with her parents and Tünde, after she gets out of school, in Moritzburg which is about 17 km (10½ miles) away.

Moritzburg is home to the prince's castle in Popelka.   We've got tickets to a play where they will perform Cinderella at the backside of the castle.  This is also Claudia's parents' 45th wedding anniversary and we're staying at the same pension where they had their honeymoon.

It should be a fun weekend but this is it for all of the Germany trips.  Next weekend I'm sleeping in my own bed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Turkey is now Türkiye

In Turkish, the Republic of Turkey is Türkiye Cumhuriyeti and it took the name when it declared itself a republic on 29 October 1923.  The country's short name in English has been "Turkey" for almost 100 years.  In German it's been "Turkei" and in French it's been "Turquie". 

Well Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to change the country's image and disassociate it from the bird.

The country's short name is now Türkiye.  

It can take a while for a country's name change to take root.  In 1935, Persia changed its name to Iran with "Iran" being the Farsi word for Persia.

In 2019, Macedonia changed its name to North Macedonia to resolve its name dispute with Greece which was holding up the country's accession to NATO.

In 2016, Czech Republic changed its official short name to Czechia.  That's still taking a while to catch on.

Here's a five-minute video I found on YouTube that talks about Türkiye's name change.

©DW News

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Back to Back Berlin Weekends

Last weekend I was in Berlin for the Pet Shop Boys concert with Claudia.  This whole last week I was on a business trip to Frankfurt.  I wasn't planning on being in Berlin this weekend but with Natalie making a surprise visit to see the girls I just had to join in too.  

Once we finally arrived, we went to Claudia's parent's place in Rahnsdorf.  It's been hot in Euroland.  It was 35℃ (95℉) so the swimming pool felt great.

Once pool time was over, I was put to work picking cherries.

Later on we went to to Friedrichshagen and grabbed some döner kebabs for dinner.

This was a whirlwind weekend but I got to see Nat a second time while she's here with the Red Cross and Tünde got a double godparent visit.  But I was completely knackered after the delay getting to Berlin on Friday night.  

I left around 7:30 am because my train from Hauptbahnhof to Brno left at 9:16 am.  I had a seat reservation in 1st class but there was a last minute reconfiguration and there was one less 1st class wagon.  

Of course, the wagon that wasn't there was the one where I had a reservation.  So lots of people were scrambling to find a seat.  Not a big deal. but the train was late and I missed my connection in Prague.  

The next Prague train was completely booked so I had to wait just over three hours for the next available train to get back home.  On Thursday I go to Dresden and Moritzburg.  My fourth trip to Germany in three weeks. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Delayed Sleeper Train

Natalie booked sleeper train ticket from Budapest to Frankfurt Oder.  She booked two sleeper berths so that when the train stopped in Břeclav, I could jump on and then we would arrive in Germany together and we would then go to Erkner where Claudia would pick us up.  Easy enough.  Except, in my experience, nothing coming out of Hungary is ever on time.

Headed to Břeclav

Nat's train was supposed to leave Budapest at 19:29 but it left 28 minutes late.  The train was supposed to arrive in Břeclav at 23:04 and depart again at 23:50.  I made it home from Frankfurt am Main,  Unpacked, showered, repacked and hopped on a local train to Břeclav where I found out that Nat's train was delayed.  There's not a whole lot to do at the Břeclav train station after 23:00 while you're waiting for a delayed train.

I did discover that there's a train museum inside the Břeclav train station.  It was closed but maybe I'll have a chance to check it out some other time.

Inside the station there's also a monument to the locals to fought and died in WW2.

The train finally arrived a little after 2:30 and I jumped on.  I was so ready for that sleeper berth.

Headed to Erkner

The train then continued on through Poland before finally getting to Frankfurt Oder.  From there we jumped on a regional train to Erkner, which I got to use for free thanks to the €9 ticket that I bought before last weekend's concert.

Claudia and Tünde picked us up at the Erkner.  Claudia's parents were away for the weekend so we headed over to their place to use the swimming pool. 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

My Second Kyndryl Business Trip

Following the Pet Shop Boys concert in Berlin on Saturday night, I was back in Brno on Sunday, because on Monday I had to go to back to Frankfurt for my second Kyndryl Business trip.  It looks like I should be here more or less quarterly. 

It was a good trip but there were some very long days.  A group of us did manage to make it in to the city one night for dinner and to check out a bit of the old town. 

Just as there are lots of differences in how English is spoken, German has the same thing.  Only maybe more.  Hessisch is the local German dialect spoken around here.  Fortunately my Hochdeutsch works here but I guess I need to pick up a little of the local lingo.  There is some specific local vocabulary but in general, a lot of the hard sounds become softer.

"auf" becomes "uff"

"P" gets pronounced more like "B"

-ig sounds like -isch

I'm sure that there's more to it.  I doubt that I'll ever blend in like a local.  Berliners usually think that I come from the south due to my accent and vocabulary.

While I was in Frankfurt, Natalie managed to get the weekend off wanted to get up to Berlin to see Claudia and Tünde before she had to return to Wellington.  I already had a Nat visit but one visit is never enough and we decided to surprise Tünde with a double godparent visit. 

On the way to Vienna

On Friday I had a train trip back to Brno via Vienna.  Natalie booked a sleeper train from Budapest to Berlin.  I got home, unpacked, showered, repacked and jumped on another train so that I could meet up with her in Břeclav.  The only glitch is that her train ended up being delayed almost three hours.  

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Pet Shop Boys Concert 2022

We finally got to see the Pet Shop Boys at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin last night.  I bought these tickets back in 2019 and I forgot that I booked the premium seat package.  We tried to enter the area last night and the guy at the door said that we had to go around to the other entrance.  

The other entrance was the premium ticket ticket entry.  Wow, what a difference.  There were restaurants and bars that we were able to visit prior to going inside.  The premium section was nice and the price difference was only €10 per seat.  Well worth it.    

The entire show was awesome!  It was basically all of their greatest hits.  We had awesome seats.  The show was even better than the last time I saw them at the 2013 Berlin music festival.  I don't think I sat down once during the whole show.  

After the concert we headed back to Friedrichshagen because I had to leave before 6 AM to catch the S-Bahn to Hauptbahnhof for my morning train back to Brno.  Tonight I need to finish packing because tomorrow I'm headed back to Frankfurt for the week.

Here are a few video clips that I took with my mobile.  Now I can't wait to see them again. 

Friday, June 10, 2022

Germany's €9 Ticket

For Christmas 2019, I bought Claudia and I concert tickets to see the Pet Shop Boys in Berlin on 1 May 2020.  Then came Covid and the world shut down and the concert was postponed.  Then postponed again.  It's 2022 and we finally get to go see them.  The last time I saw them was back in 2013.  

While I'm in Germany this weekend I'm going to use my new €9 ticket which the government launched this summer to help with the rising energy costs.  For just €9, you can travel, in 2nd class, on all local and regional public transport across the country.  Buses, trams, ferries, U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains, plus local and regional trains.  This is an amazing deal.  

EC and IC trains are excluded so I still need to have a normal ticket from Brno to Berlin.  But once I'm in Germany all of my local travel is covered.  A one-way S-Bahn ticket from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Friedrichshagen is €3.  The €9 ticket is good for the entire month of June.  It's going to be available in July and August as well so €27 for all three months.  It seems to have already caused a big jump in the number of people using public transportation all across Germany.

I'm on the train now and I'll get to Berlin tonight.  Tomorrow night is the concert at the Mercedes Arena and then it's back to Brno on Sunday because I have a business trip on Monday to Frankfurt.  I'll be able to use my €9 ticket on public transportation there too.  This really is a cool deal.  I wish Czechland did something similar.

December 2022 Update:  I loved my €9 ticket but Germany didn't extend it.  The German states finally agreed on a new country-wide public and regional transportation ticket.  It costs €49 a month it is only available as a monthly subscription.  

Now I just use my BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe) app on my mobile phone.  I can buy 4 one-way tickets (AB zones) for €9,40.  Four individual tickets would cost €12 so it's basically buy 3 and get 1 free.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

My New Sofa

The old sofa

My new sofa arrived yesterday.  I liked my old couch, which was huge, but the leather had started to crack and was just a mess.  I just wanted the old one gone and I didn't have the time to list it on Facebook for whomever wanted to come take it away for free.  

The leather was shot

Technically, the delivery guys would take away the old sofa but it needed to be on the street.  However, when I was contacted for delivery the dispatcher agreed that it wouldn't be a problem for the guys to remove the couch from my flat.  The delivery guys were great.

My old sofa broke was a four-piece unit and the new one is three pieces.  My old sofa was a bit larger and the centre section could sit three people whereas the new sofa can accommodate two people sitting in the centre.

However, the new sofa has a pull out bed so I've got another spot of guests to sleep over.  And the best part is that both side sections come with some much needed storage. 

There definitely won't be any kids jumping on Uncle CJ's new couch this Czechsgiving.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

C-Suite Visit

Yesterday part of our Kyndryl c-suite paid a visit to Brno.  This never happened when we were part of IBM.  It started off with a session in an auditorium at a local university where we got to hear from our CEO, CFO, and Chief Transformation Officer.  They were joined by our local site leader.

Martin Schroeter is our CEO so he leads the world's largest IT infrastructure services firm.  Prior to taking the reins at Kyndryl, he was the Senior Vice President of IBM Global Markets.

Nelly Akoth is our new Chief Transformation Officer, who previously was a senior partner in IBM's Global Business Services unit where she was the worldwide leader for the accounting and finance practice.  She used to be the CFO for IBM Sub-Saharan Africa.  I've had the opportunity to meet her before and she's great.

David Wyshner is our new Chief Financial Officer.  He actually didn't come from IBM but from XPO Logistics where he led the global finance organisation.

Zoltán Zerényi is the Director of Client Innovation Centre, EMEA, and he is our local site leader.

It was inspiring getting to listen to our leaders.  Later, Maida and I had the opportunity meet with our CEO.  Pretty cool!