Friday, January 13, 2017

Off to the Arctic Circle

I'm off to the Arctic Circle this weekend.  Specifically, I'm on the way to Tromsø, Norway.

The Arctic Circle is about 16,000 km (9,900 miles).  About 4% of the Earth's surface lies north of the Circle.  The Circle crosses Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Russia, Canada, and the USA.  Due to the severe cold, only around four million people live there.

The Arctic Circle isn't fixed.  The latitude depends on the axial tilt of the planet.  The Circle is drifting north about 15 metres (49 feet) per year.

At this time of year there will be very little daylight, maybe only five or six hours per day.  The reason for going this weekend is to try to see the Northern Lights.  Fingers crossed for good weather.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

First Bratislava Trip of 2017

An early morning train to Slovakia
Well, so far in 2017, I managed to stay home a full two weeks before needing to go to the Bratislava office.

Fortunately it was just a day trip.  A full day of meetings but at least it gave me the opportunity to have a short visit with my Slovak team.

The Bratislava Crew

On the flip side, my Czech team decided to have some fun while I was away.  Perhaps they were jealous that I was with the Slovak team or something but during the day they decided to decorate my desk with a snowman.  Cute, but I don't understand why they always want to mess with my desk.  So long as they clean it up before it melts.

Friday, January 6, 2017

IBM Extending Benefits

When it comes to being committed to diversity then there are few companies that can match IBM.  There's a long track record in the company of acceptance and inclusion.  IBM had an equal pay policy for men and women back in the 1930s.  There was an equal opportunity policy at IBM 11 years before the Civil Rights Act became law.  It was one of the first companies to include sexual orientation as part of the Equation Opportunity policy and IBM extended domestic partner benefits in the USA almost 20 years ago.  It makes me proud to be an IBMer.

Now IBM is one of the first companies in Czech Republic to recognise registered partnerships in the area of paid time off.  So for example, under Czech labour law, an employee is entitled to paid time off if a spouse's parent dies.  This sort of benefit doesn't exist for same-sex couples because Czechland doesn't have gay marriage.  So even though there is no gay marriage here, IBM will still provide this type of benefit to those employees who have a registered domestic partnership.  There's still more to do but I'm proud of the progress that is being made in Central Europe.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Public Transportation Fees

Currently the cost of a one-year public transportation pass in Brno is 4.750 Kč (~$215).  That's for unlimited use of the trams, busses, and trolley busses.  Plus with the annual pass, a person gets to ride with you for free on weekends and public holidays.

I think it's a great deal here.  By comparison, a similar pass in Stuttgart, Germany, costs around €70 ($82) per month.  In Dublin, the cost of an annual bus ticket is €1250 ($1,470), and that's just for the bus.  Including the trams will cost you more.  Brno is a bargain.  

This year the price of an annual Brno pass will drop to 3.325 Kč ($150).

In order to qualify for the reduced price you have to be a permanent resident in Brno, have paid the annual waste collection fee, and you must purchase it online.

You first have to register on the e-shop.  Pay the full price of 4.750 Kč.  You need to complete a request form for the Brno city office to verify that you are a permanent resident and that the waste collection fee has been paid.  Once verified, you will receive a refund of 1.425 Kč within 3 months.

The thing that I don't like is that you no longer receive a paper ticket.  The debit or credit card you used to purchase the pass becomes your ticket.  Fortunately, for those that don't want to use their bank card can buy an anonymous card available from the public transportation office.

My pass won't expire until September so I've got plenty of time to decide if I'll just use my card or one of the anonymous cards.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Public Holidays

2017 is going to be a great year for travelling because there are fewer working days this year.  In the USA, if a public holiday falls on a Saturday then you get Friday off.  If it falls on a Sunday then you get Monday off.  So it doesn't matter when the holiday falls you are guaranteed a day off.

Over here in Czechland, if a public holiday falls on a weekend then it doesn't matter.  You are already off so you lose an extra day off.

With the way the holidays fall this year, there are only 250 working days with six long weekends.  Yippee!!  Now to start combining public holidays with some vacation days to maximise time off.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

PF 2017

PF 2017!!  Šťastný nový rok!!

Happy New Year everyone!!

This was another great year of travel adventures.  Happy New Year to all of the places that I was lucky enough to visit in 2016.

Šťastný nový rok!  Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh!  Blein Vie Noa!  Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!  З Новым годам!  Tau Hou hari!  Gelukkig nieuwjaar!  Selamat tahun Baru!  Boldog új évet!  С новым годом!  Hyvää uutta vuotta!  新年快樂! புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்! 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  This was the first time in almost 40 years since Christmas Eve and Hanukkah fell on the same day.

It's nice that the snow didn't melt so we actually got a White Christmas this year.

Thanks to FaceTime and a 9 hour time difference I got to watch my niece and nephew open the gifts I sent them from Euroland.

Veselé Vánoce!!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Today's the last day to buy the traditional carp for Christmas dinner.

This is also the last working day before the three Christmas holidays so I'd like to wish my very international team a very Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!  Veselé Vánoce!  Veselé Vianoce!  Selamat Hari Natal!  Boldog Karácsonyt!  Wesołych Świąnt!  Geseënde Kersfees!  Crăciun fericit!  Gëzuar Krishtlindjet!  Весела Коледа!  圣诞节快乐!  Nollaig Shona!  Buon Natale!  क्रिसमस की बधाई!  Feliz Natal!  Maligayang Pasko!  عيد ميلاد سعيد!  Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!  Linksmų Kalėdų!  С Рождеством!  ¡Feliz Navidad!  Chúc Giáng Sinh Vui Vẻ!  З Різдвом Христовим!  மெர்ரி கிறிஸ்துமஸ்!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rum For Debt

Cuba owes Czechland something like +6 billion koruna (~$276 million).  This is debt that dates back to the Cold War days.

Cuba doesn't have that kind of money available so it proposed paying off the debt with rum.

Cuban rum is quite popular here.  In 2015, Czech Republic imported 892 tonnes of rum from Cuba.

The Czech Finance Ministry hasn't agreed to anything but does want some of the debt actually paid in cash.

Here's the part that I don't get.  The money was owed to Czechoslovakia and Czechoslovakia spilt up in 1993.  So did Czech Republic assume the full Cuban debt?  Or was the debt spilt between Czechland and Slovakia?  Does Cuba also owe money to Slovakia?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2016 PM Christmas Party

On Thursday night we had an IBM Project Management Christmas party.  This year's theme was "Bad boys / bad girls".

Of course my team was behind the theme and poster.  Sometimes they're a bit too good with Photoshop.

It was an interesting theme for sure.  Tattoo sleeves were the must have accessory this year to complete the looks.

It was a lot of fun!  My team can definitely throw a good party.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Mikuláš 2016

The Christmas season has begun which means it's time for Mikuláš to show up.  Every year a few of us go around the office giving out candy.

I've been the angel but I think it's more believable for me to be the devil.  Sooner or later, I may actually have to be Mikuláš. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Christmas Tree is Up

This is my first Christmas in the new flat so I had to think about where to put up the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Fortunately, I had a little elf who decorated it.

I still prefer this small fake little tree as opposed to a big real one.  In a couple of weeks I'll help Claudia put up a bigger tree at her flat for her and Tünde.

Update:  Here's the tree for Claudia's flat.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

2016 VUT Vánoční Ples

Last year I had the honour of representing IBM at the 2015 Brno University of Technology Christmas Ball.  This year I really lucked out.  I was fortunate enough to be given a VIP ticket to the ball and this time I didn't have to give a speech.

The Brno University of Technology, Vysoké učeni technické v Brně (VUT)is the biggest technical university in Czech Republic.  This event is the biggest ball in Czech Republic and it was held in the biggest hall in Central Europe.  IBM was again the executive sponsor of this year's ball.

Some of my former interns.
Several of my local team are graduates, and several interns are current students, so I do what I can to support them.  Back in May, my team sponsored a project management workshop on a weekend for the student organising committee.  That, plus I guess a good word from my guys scored me an invite to this year's party.  And what a party it was.

There were over 3000 people and the event looked as if it was professionally organised.  Hats off to the students who pulled this all together.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My First English Class

Tonight was another first.  My first English class.  Well, sort of.  I was invited by Masaryk University, the country's second largest university, to give a presentation.

I was asked to present the cultural differences between the USA and Czech Republic, and to touch on the differences between American and British English.

The lecture was kind of scheduled at the last minute but there were 10 students who came.  I seemed to go well and it was fun.  Hopefully, I'll get invited to do this again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Glass Room

The Glass Room was written by British author Simon Mawer and it was published in 2009.

The real glass room

It's a fictional book set in 1930s Czechoslovakia.  The story is inspired by Vila Tugendhut, the UNESCO World Heritage site in Brno.  The house is pretty much a main character of the novel.

Before Natalie left Brno, she loaned me her copy of the book.  I had just never gotten around to reading it.  But after moving in to my new flat, which Claudia calls "Little Tugendhut" because of the onyx wall, I got inspired to give it a read.

I made sure to finish the book and returned it to her a few weeks ago in Wellington.  She had forgotten that she had loaned it to me four years ago.

It was such a good read.  Highly recommended.  Although fiction, it is interesting to read about the 1930s setting, how Brno and Vienna are described, and the onset of WWII.    Brno isn't actually mentioned, instead the Czech word for "city" is used.  So everywhere you read město, just think Brno.