Friday, 29 June 2007
But much more importantly, I wanted to offer heartfelt congratulations to tvc and his good lady wife on the miscegenated production of the second member of the next generation. I am most envious and not only of the growing family, but also the wife’s ability to rebound from childbirth within a couple days looking like she’s undergone nothing more than an earlobe piercing operation.
I haven’t seen pictures of E. for ages, tvc, so I recommend you follow the example of Bedřich and put some images on a photoshare site where it’s easy to view updates. I hope Bedřich won’t mind if I put the link to his pics here. Our Man In Liberec also puts his baby picks at the same site here.
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
North Bohemia gets a mention in the guise of the sklarna pub in Harrachov. I don’t know it, since it wasn’t established until my departure in 2002, but it looks well worth a visit. Do Rotten or Bedrich or Our Man In Liberec know that one at all? Things must have moved a lot in the past five years, as I thought I knew just about all the pubs in Prague worth knowing. Hence one of my first port of calls upon my return next year will be to the Prvni Pivni Tramway. I thought my favourite pub would at least score a mention though – U Hrochu beside the snĕmovna. I remember a particularly raucous time there with Bedrich waiting to get his passport renewed since the pub is just down the street from the British embassy.
Finally, the little pivovar in Štramberk serving Troobacz looks idyllic. You been there at all tvc, since you’re the closest?
We’ve been downing a bit of slivovice here in recent days thanks to some ex-pat mates in Turangi. I’m pretty sure it’s not that hard to make and I’ll give a bash myself this summer.
Not too much to report from Morava. Have spent the last 5 weeks travelling as usual, finished up last week in Amsterdam (don't worry, postcard is in the mail) and cancelled a trip to Bulgaria. Partner there couldn't fill the week with meetings so I decided not to go and spend some time at home catching up.
I know JP and Matt are planning something up North this coming weekend, but I can't motivate myself for another trip just now. Having said that, all are welcome to Brno, got our deck furniture finally so stop by sometime. Promised Emma a trip to the Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna and since promises to 3 year olds cannot be broken or forgotten, we'll spend the first part of the upcoming svatky getting Emma to talk to animals in German....
Then a couple of trips around the region before The Summer Holiday, this year a week at Limone sul Garda on Lago di Garda above Verona and then a second week in Alto Adige - Sudtirol - South Tirol near Meran. Stasa vetoed the annual beach bake in Greece since we are expecting #2 this December and she doesn't want a hot destination this summer.
Kivak would be interested and perhaps a bit jealous to know that I'm planning a two week intensive Russian course in Odessa right after holiday. Need to get this in the portfolio for when we step up our CIS business activities next year. Should be fun. Odessa and the Black Sea in August.....I'll try to take some pictures. Then from September to Christmas non-stop travels and the business routine. So that's 2007 for me, hope all you guys are having a good year.
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Hence the potential installation of Rotten as a temporary property manager (sorry mate, I’ll provide more information as it comes to hand; will look good on the CV if nothing else). I’m getting it in the neck here because I didn’t agree to sell the place when an offer was made a couple years ago. I was motivated at the time by the requirement to have some domicile once we returned to live in Prague at a later date, but as you know, that’s all turned to custard. Much to my chagrin, the place does now have to be sold, so that’s the main driving force behind next year’s trip. But given that half of it belongs to the brother-in-law and given the mammoth expenses we’re now facing (discussed yesterday), we may not get too much loose change out of it.
I guess it wouldn’t have been that much fun living there anyhow, as the neighbourhood’s not that salubrious, even though Metropole is hidden from view. There are no pubs in the area, and the only place to whet your whistle is the bowling alley or the herna bar that tvc and I investigated last time around. Then again, the flat’s part of a činzak rather than a panelak, so you don’t get the pissing in a bowl effect from upstairs. And because it’s right on the southern edge of Prague, there’s easy bus access to the villages and walking tracks of Praha Jih-Praha Východ.
Perhaps if we have any money left we could invest in some nice property in nearby Brdy. I understand there’ll soon be lots of wealthy American technicians spending up large there. Cha-ching.
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
I won’t go into the details of the IVF treatment in case you’re eating your lunch, but suffice to say it doesn’t come cheap, even though the probability of a successful outcome is fairly minimal. Adoption, on the other hand, while twice as expensive, offers greater certainty and is bound to be far more of an adventure, which rather appeals to me.
We took the first step along this latter route last week when we had to attend a compulsory information evening staged by the government bureaucrats in charge of the process. While not offering any further insight into the challenges that lie ahead, it did reinforce our opinion that NZ adoption is too much of a lottery to warrant serious consideration. Inter-country adoption it is then. And as I’ve noted in earlier posts, we’re keen on some wee Slav scamps, with Lithuanian or Russian. We were originally misinformed by the bureaucrats that Russia was out of the question, but it appears it is possible via an adoption agency intermediary. Whichever country we choose, we’ll have to make trips back and forth, hence the heavy cost, but the upside is that you guys get to see lots of us! Waheh! Not you BA, sorry; you’ll have to haul your own private Idaho over to Yurp, as it’s not on the direct flightpath from here :( (I’m showing signs of early senility here since I forgot that I’m the only one who reads this.)
We’ve put in our application papers already. Now we have to wait to see whether we did it early enough to be booked into the next set of seminars that are meant to explain what we’re really letting ourselves in for. In the meantime, the government agents will check out our police and medical records, and interview a number of nominated referees. Then we’ll have the agents come around to our house to interview us, search for the whips and chains in our basement, note the presence of the Bible on the bookshelves (there’s going to be lots of crossing of fingers behind backs during this process), and generally ascertain that we’re fit and proper parents-to-be. This is called a ‘home study’, which will eventually have to be translated and sent to the adoption authorities in the country of our choosing. That’ll take six months from completion of the home study, so we’re looking at at least a year away. Then it could take another year before we’re informed of any children available for adoption, in which case the process of travelling back and forth and getting the appropriate legal documentation and court orders could take yet another year. During that initial six month period after completion of the home study we’ll also be permitted seek adoption in NZ, but it’s unlikely to result in anything and besides, you’re not allowed to have your fingers in several pies at once, i.e. you can’t be registered to adopt in both your home country and another (one) country. Ach jo. So if you’re feeling munificent, our bank account is now open for receipt of all donations ;)
Monday, 18 June 2007
In Trieste I got a bus to Llublijana, but I didn’t quite have enough money to pay for the next bus ticket all way the home to CZ, but I could go as far as Vienna. Only I fell asleep on the bus and only woke up in Munich. Then I had to walk out of Munich and find my way to an autobahn where I attempted to hitchhike from a public toilet. Probably not the best gambit. Without turning a few tricks it consequently took me a full day to travel about 50km down the road. Germans are not the most generous of drivers, but one middle-aged woman did have the guts to pick me up as it was getting dark and put me up for the night. Her husband dropped me off at the most convenient hitchhiking post the next morning and I was across Rozvadov before lunch and in Plzen by early afternoon. Back in the money, I poured an entire vat of artery-hardening goulash down my neck in the station restaurant, smoked half a packet of Start bezfiltr and caught the train down to Železná Ruda where my trusty chauffeur, tvc, was waiting to accompany me on a fun-filled English-language camp for two weeks…(remember slashing that cowpoke’s tyres on his four-wheel-drive?; those were the days).
Walking across the border from Macedonia to Greece was actually one the hardest I’ve ever encountered. On a par with walking across the Bridge of Friendship from Georgiu, Romania, into Bulgaria. Usually, as a Kiwi, you can be assured almost every time of being waved through (apart from when Ukrainian conscripts want to photocopy your passport because they’ve never seen one from that part of the world before). This time though, the Greek border guards wanted to know why I had a middle name, my father had a middle name, and my mother had audacity to have two middle names. Got into a bit of a theological argument about that one, trying to explain the differences between Christianity and Greek Orthodox. It may have been my reference to the absence of smoke and mirrors in Protestanism that waylaid me longer than necessary. Pity I didn’t have Richard Dawkins with me. Still, I’m up for another trip to Greece if anyone’s keen next year.
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
I say halfway up Mt Improbable because I've got a long way to go before I can get my writing style to the peak of its evolution (although some might say it's gone as far as it can). And of course, you guessed it, I'm reading my way through Richard Dawkin's 'The God Delusion' at the moment and what a bloody good read it is, too. In fact, I just have to save this draft and nip away for a few more pages. Excuse me a moment.
...Okay, that was a whole day, but I'm back now. Anyhow, continuing the riff about Dawkins, I love that concept of "irreducible complexity" that 'intelligent design' advocates use to justify the 'obvious' existence of God and that Dawkins takes great delight in tearing to shreds. This theory posits the view that intelligently designed features of the natural world are so irreducibly complex that they can only have been created by God because without one of the parts that make up the whole they wouldn't possibly work. Dawkins rebutts the argument with his allusion to climbing Mt Probable: intelligent design would have us believe that an eye or a wing suddenly came into existence by leaping from the bottom of the cliff on one side of Mt Probable to the very peak. Dawkins and natural selection theorists however, show that eyes and wings evolve very slowly by gradually sidling up the gentle slope on the other side of Mt Probable through incremental and only slightly improbable steps that build upon one another until eventually you get something that seems highly improbable and hence intelligently designed. They're not irreducibly complex though, because an eye is still capable of seeing even after the lens has been surgically removed in a cataract operation, for example.
I know I'm verging on the very dull here and have probably overstepped tvc's 'bolshie rant' threshhold', but if you have the chance to read it, then do so. Dawkins is great at taking the piss out of his opponents, such as the reference to the court case on the imposition of intelligent design teaching in some school, when the inventor of the term, Professor Michael Behe (or is that inventor of the term 'flagellar motor' as an example of intelligent design') has his testimony described by the judge as "extraordinarily inane". There are also fine examples of writings by the Founding Fathers revealing nearly all of them to be either deists or out-and-out atheists, e.g. Thomas Jefferson. They'd be spinning in the graves at how very unsecular America has become.
Admittedly I haven't finished the book yet, and I know there has been heavily criticism of it in some non-religious academic and intellectual circles, not least the London Review of Books, but it's been enough so far to get me off my agnostic perch and come out as an atheist.
Sorry Rotten, I was going to get that Mitchell book you recommended, but I had to spend my Borders birthday vouchers and they didn't stock it. Hence The God Delusion and Cormac McCarthy's The Border Trilogy. Have just finished Norm Mailer's The Castle in the Forest about Hitler's childhood; a very good read also, but one or two plot holes that reveal Norm to be the 84-year-old that he is.
And lastly before I forget, I just wanted to say that I saw The Pursuit of Happiness the other day and I haven't been more nauseated by a film in a long time. Happiness is apparently all about becoming a stock broker and making a stack of loot, end of story. Not very satisfying sorry.
Sunday, 10 June 2007
Thursday, 7 June 2007
And while on the subject of political visits, I see that Dubya has just dropped around Mirek's place to receive some metaphorical fellating and to swap some light-highted banter over the light-sabre rattling exchanged between them and Vlad. Here's Steve Bell's take on the visit and Dubya's reassertion of the fight for democracy:
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
All I really wanted to do is allude to New Zealand’s influence on one of the possible outcomes of the elections we’re so much looking forward to next year. I refer here to the anticipated announcement of Fred Thompson’s candidacy for the Republic Party’s nomination for President. Apart from being a lobbyist, lawyer (co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee – “What did the President know and when did he know it?”) and former senator from Tennessee, you’ll all know Fred better of course from his acting gigs on Die Hard II: Die Harder and Law & Order. So what the fek has he got to do with Aotearoa? Well, he got his big acting break from Roger Donaldson, director of the first ever New Zealand movie shown in US cinemas called Sleeping Dogs (starring Warren Oates because first-choice Jack Nicholson thought NZ$5,000 wouldn’t even pay his green fees back in 1977), which launched the career of Sam Neil. Roger Donaldson and Sam Neil these days are close neighbours in Queenstown, in the central South Island, where they both grow wine. Roger is also responsible for that huge box office and critical success, Cocktail, which destroyed Bryan Brown’s career while Teflon Tom Cruise managed to keep on turning out other bilge. Strange how Hollywood works. Roger is, however, also responsible for some minor successes, like No Way Out, Thirteen Days, and The Fastest Indian in the World.
But to bring an end to this long story, Donaldson and Thompson were introduced as a result of the the 1977 Ray Blanton-Tennessee Parole Board scandal when became the subject of a 1983 book, Marie (I assume you Americans know all about this coz I don’t). Donaldson bought the film rights and travelled to Nashville to speak with the people involved with the original case. After meeting with Thompson, Donaldson asked Thompson if he wanted to play himself in the movie; Thompson agreed. The resulting film, Marie, was released in 1985. Donaldson then cast Thompson in the part of the CIA Director in his next movie, No Way Out, in 1987. Enough already? In other words, Thompson owes his big break in the public eye to a Kiwi ;)
How about voting for another, better actor for President? Make it count and give one for Christopher Walken.
Friday, 1 June 2007
1. Still a raving left-wing loony (I dig that Bush countdown thing you've got here, by the way)
2. Likes a little porno in the workplace (Tip: if your next employer has installed WebMarshall, skip the porn break after lunch and buy a home PC where you can surf to your heart's content after the missus has retired for the evening)
3. Has a little issue with authority at work and has yet to win a Positive Contributor of the Year Award from any of his employers
4. Needs to take a few writing lessons from Rotten after he gets back in country
Having read all this I'm beginning to think Kivak needs to leave the public/government/NGO sector for good and get a job with a private company that involves selling something or otherwise making a lot of money for the bank/firm, whatever, while under a lot of pressure. Make sure you have a boss like Gordon "lunch is for wimps" Gekko from the movie Wall Street who really won't give a shit about you surfing naughty web sites, buttering the Kleenex or whatever else it was that got you in hot water with the boss lady at your last job, just as long as you make the numbers whatever it takes. Good advice, huh? Might change the old perspective on things.
Right. Onwards. Not much new to report from here. Was in Dallas last week, flew back at the weekend to Vienna, slept most of the way thanks to whacking down about 5 margaritas before boarding the flight to Frankfurt. Spent a few days in Vilnius with customers. Had one guy there on a reference visit from Romania. Lebanese bloke with a libido that would put Kivak's to shame back in the old days. Had to take him to a strip joint where he dropped about 600 EUR in drinks and "tips". What we have to do sometimes to make these people buy something.....Highly recommended destination, kivak go and adopt your brood of kids there. Here's what you should do: take Rita in the spring and summer and delegate all adopting responsibility to her, let her sort it out. You go and sit in a cafe (I'll tell you where) in the Old Town, order a strong pint of Lithuanian lager (5.5% alc to 15% which is basically malt licker) and watch the people (yes, I mean short skirts) go by for a few hours. After a few pints you'll love Lithuania too.
Now I'm home for a few days but will be out and about in Amsterdam and various East European destinations till mid-July. Tough on the family but I promised them a really, really nice summer holiday to make up for my absence next 5 weeks. Really nice, I promise....
Will end this entry with another recommendation: Berlin. Home of my pre-Liberazzi university days spent mostly studying and tasting German beers. Went up to meet an old friend from NYC, picked up Matt Griffon who some of you may know in Goerlitz and had a three day reunion sesh which culminated in this picture, taken Sunday morning a few weeks ago at around 7:30 AM after the last bar kicked us out. I decided a little Nemirof Ukrainian honey&pepper flavored vodka with a little tomato juice would be just the trick to end the evening (morning) on the right note. Credits to Matt for the creative photo editing. A few hours after this photo was taken he fled Berlin on a Dresden and Liberec- bound train, obviously not interested in spending another day with the likes of me.
I must sound like such a boozer. But this was a one-off. Really.
P.S. Kivak, thanks for the cards. I sent you one yesterday from the plane. A card you tear off the boxed lunch of Schweinebraten mit Sauerkraut & Semmelknoedel that Austrian Airlines served me. The stewardess is supposed to mail it for free so let's see if it indeed does make its way to the B..... estate down at L.... H....