Archive for category Uncategorized

The Corona Hours

Here in the Czech Republic, we’ve been under self-isolation rules for about 20 days. For some that’s not a big deal, for some it’s a nightmare. For me, well, I spend a pretty good amount of time trying to figure out how I feel and washing my hands.

I try to structure my days more or less in line with my normal life. I get up early, make coffee, and fend off the advances of my cat who has spent the night locked out of the bedroom and is thus recovering from the trauma of not being able to get her rectum as close to my face as possible. Pretty normal.

Things can be normal still when I sit at Mission Control (my desk), check my MITs list (most important tasks), and get started with my morning of work. When I am working on coursebook materials, an article, or fiction, I can mostly escape into those places and leave the stresses of the world behind, whether it’s a Corona World or not. I also find that when I am in the kitchen cooking and watching a show or listening to a podcast then I am also able to block out current stresses.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Report on the Obnoxious Persistence of Czech Culture in Prague

The aim of this report is to outline and call attention to the troubling occurrences of the unfortunate eruption of Czech culture in the capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague.

Shops and Establishments

This one is relatively amazing. Over the past twelve years, there has been an extremely aggressive campaign to completely squash Czech culture by saturating the city center with shops and restaurants that are either of completely differing culture or are completely void of flavor or culture. Waffle houses, rib, wings or burger joints, furniture shops for rich people, Moleskine shops, fried fish houses. And yet, despite this, there are still some Czech establishments poking through. Contributors to our research counted as many of four (4) Czech restaurants in the city center and were horrified to find that three of those didn’t even have a burger on the menu.

Our recommended action here is scorched earth. Find these places and bring them down.

The Gentrification Campaign of the Pub

Our campaign to remove every pub with even a drop of character that might not appeal to upper-class white people from New York has been enormously successful. In their wake, we have left a hundred pubs with brass and dark wood interiors, tables, and chairs; patrons enjoy sleek menus (a burger features on each one), Wi-Fi, and absolutely no discerning characteristics from one another.

Research shows that people could not tell one center pub from another in a blindfold test (blindfolds were removed when they were brought out of the toilets). Feedback shows that patrons like this sort of bland anonymity. The only problem in this area is the occasional classic Czech pub, but these exist mostly on the periphery of the city.

Recommendation: keep pounding away and do not relent.

Ježíšek

Attempts to bludgeon the Czech people to death with Santa Claus have been absolute. He is in Coca Cola ads on the square, he is winking at people with Rudolph-the-bloody-rednosed-bloody-rein-bloody-deer in Old Town, and he is in the chocolate ads in every British, German, and Dutch shop in the city. But still the Czechs maintain an annoying dedication to their Christmas spirit, Ježíšek (baby Jesus).

This is more remarkable when considering the fact that Jesus in baby form has little to no marketability power in the modern world. He can’t bring presents into a house, he isn’t comforting (no baby is), and his ability to grant wishes (Christmas or otherwise) seems mostly based on the proxy power of his father. More confusingly distressing is that, unlike Santa and Rudolph, Ježíšek has no real physical representation. So Czech people are forced to use their “imagination” to conjure the image of a small baby whose father grants them wishes and who can’t carry a gift without the help of an adult, but who somehow comes to their living rooms when kids ring a little bell. Insanity.

We may make some headway in a few years if we keep up deployment of Christmas movies to Netflix and to international theaters. If the occurrences of Santa can be raised (an estimated) 19%, then we may see a slow decline in Ježíšek’s popularity. Might consider cameoing both in the next Die Hard film.

Nota Bene: pass this by Bruce. Would he feel comfortable shooting a “baby Jesus” with a Glock 20?

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Mother Goose Says Goodbye

On Monday afternoon, I got a Facebook call from my sister at 1 pm. A call from the U.S. on a non-preassigned call day (Sun and Thurs) instantly sends red flags flying through my mind. It was 7 am in Philadelphia. It was a Facebook call. It was someone who usually doesn’t call me. Something was wrong. I didn’t want to pick it up. But I did.

I was right. And a minute later I was hearing that my grandmom had died. The news wasn’t a complete shock. In our weekly conversations my dad had been laying down small comments, she’s getting pretty frail, she’s not doing too great, she was a bit out of it, I think it’s getting close. She wasn’t bedridden, but getting around the house, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, was a two person affair. Travel anywhere was hinged majorly on factors that most of us take for granted. Every day was an operation involving oxygen, medicine, taking vitals, shots. My aunt is a registered nurse and provided care 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, without which she may quite well have gone a number of years ago.

So when my sister said the words, it wasn’t a massive shock, but it was a punch to the gut anyway. There’s a difference between a theoretical bad condition and the very real fact that you’re never going to see someone again. I got on the tram, sat down, opened my Murakami book and propped it on my lap. It and I sat just like that for the 43 minutes to my stop. I was dazed and unable to speak.

I decided to deal with this like a man’s man, a hard man, and so I popped into the grocery store and bought 450 Koruna (20ish bucks) worth of candy, junk food, and carbohydrates, and I made a B line for my pajamas.

Read the rest of this entry »

3 Comments

Report: Thirteen Minutes Offline

cats: owners of the internet

Introduction

This report outlines the events of September 20, 2019, in which the internet went down and the manners by which the residents [two adult(ish) humans, one cat] of [redacted address] were forced to find entertainment. The report suggests possible measures to be taken in future, both preemptive and during said situation.  

Overview

Male adult A [codename Count Wolfenstein] was relaxing on his couch watching Netflix and scrolling through Reddit when the internet went down. The remote control seemed as well to be on the fritz, so the subject was forced to find entertainment in the things he could find around the couch.

Chubby-Cubby-Master ™

The chubby-cubby-master is a side-riding cloth and Velcro cubby that attached to the side of the couch (and is evidently unremovable). Within, Count Wolfenstein found a very thin and tall book with various colored and glossy pictures throughout. This was verified to be a “magazine” and while various articles were inside the Count was troubled by their length, their lack of listing sections, and the complete void of Wikipedia links. Ultimately the “magazine” was put back into the chubby cubby for reserve use.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Cat Man

Cat Man in Box

Pet owners who go on holiday always pay a collateral price for their trip. A friend of mine has to put all of her shoes in cabinets or her German Shepherd will destroy them for being left alone. Another will come across little secret stockpiles of cat poop in shoes, closets, Tupperware in retribution for his little jaunt. A lot of animals don’t like to be left home alone, and they show it in different ways.

My cat has a pattern when it comes to doling out neglect-inspired revenge. When I return from holiday she meows me into the flat with the gusto and volume of a failed expeditionary general. She then pulls little passive aggressive moves like tripping me up and shouting at me about it, Whoa, dude, watch where you’re going! But when I turn on the bathroom tap for her and rub her head as she drinks, the meows slowly dissipate. She is back in her comfort zone, relief and gratitude take over the anger. While she drinks I pour a packet of top shelf kitty grub in her bowl and lure her to dinner. By the time she eats, her purrs could motor a boat across the English Channel.

It’s the period after this that worries me. See, she seems lovably grateful and happy that Dad has returned, but she will always get me once. With one bite, that is. My cat has the revenge memory, the plotting abilities, and the hand accessories of Freddy Krueger. She lays in wait, bides her time, and then she gets me with one good bite. When this will come, I genuinely don’t know. It could be in a day or a month or as I leave for Christmas holiday. I just have to be on my toes.

Making matters more difficult is the fact that she spends roughly eight hours a day sitting on me. My cat expresses neediness by sitting on me: my neck, my back, my stomach between me and my book, my hip, and by sitting on my feet when I am making coffee. This might be seen as charming by an ignorant observer. After all, she’s fluffy and sleepy-eyed, relaxed and reclined. But I know that at the drop of a hat this sleepy-eyed furball can turn into a lawnmower. And one that’s pissed off to boot. Sometimes there’s a warning, a growl, a mohawked ridge of fur, splayed claws. Sometimes there’s not.

Today there’s not. The cat moseys to the back of the couch on which I am lying and reading a book. My phone buzzes and like a good little mindless follower, I reach out for it. And that’s when it happens. The cat goes from 0 to 100 in a split second, literally pouncing on my arm. She grips my arm and plunges those vampire fangs deep into my wrist. I yelp in the manner of a truly surprised person (like a small child) and wrest the cat off by her scruff.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Continued Watching for Dr. Doolittle

There’s no doubt that I am a Netflix cliché in that with the thousands (OK, I’m in the Czech Republic) the hundreds of options I’m given, I choose to watch things I’ve seen two hundred times. These appear in my Watch it Again section. Jaws. Lord of the Rings. Ghostbusters. Every Indiana Jones installment. Friends (I know, shut up). Brooklyn 99. Buster Scruggs. The War.

Tonight we go for a light-hearted comedy mystery, one of my favorite genres, and we watch Murder Mystery. This is the one starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as a married couple on a European tour who end up in the middle of a real life murder mystery. Since his big hit films in the 90s, Sandler has been hit or miss. Aniston is usually just fecken funny and she’s usually in fecken funny flicks. The movie totals in at 1:39 minutes. We’ll give it a chance.  

We last 31 minutes.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Local Run Spot

My local park. Life could be worse

Despite the fact that my recent move to a flat place with convenient shops and metro stop has led to a bit of sedentary laziness, I am spoiled as regards good local parks. This isn’t uncommon in Prague, as this city was ranked last year as the world’s greenest city. Much of my area is covered in trees and parks, so finding a place to jog isn’t hard. Where I choose to do my red-faced huffing and puffing is a few minutes’ walk away at a wonderful park called Hvězda (star).

Like most other things in Prague, it’s got a history. In the late 900s (i.e. Bob Hope’s 5th birthday), the forest was donated to the Břevnov Monastery’s grounds. About 500 years later it became a walled in game reserve for Ferdinand II. And part of the grounds were involved in the historic Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Now it’s a park noted for its birds and other animals. Visitors can enjoy sightings of the Middle spotted woodpecker, the narrow-mouthed whorl snail, and, today, the short-legged North American red-faced cry-jogger.     

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

The Peculiar Personalities of Trams

It’s one of those spring days which are warm or cold depending upon whether or not you’re standing in the sunlight or the shadows. I have somehow managed to secure both, with my head in the bright sun and my butt cooling in the shade. My soon-to-be fellow passengers are mature, with the average age, including me, some teenagers, and a woman with a gaggle of children, resting somewhere in the high 230s.

As the 1 tram approaches the mature passengers halt any conversations and edge towards what they know to be the spots where the doors will open. The tram gets closer and the tension is palpable. Who will get the Class A seats by the door, the ones in the shade? Wrinkly elbows begin to wield and I let them go. Last week I was clipped by a suspiciously well-placed walker to the shin. In any event, I’m still getting used to the personality of the trams out here. And I don’t want to overstep my bounds.

If you spend time riding around on Prague’s transportation system, you learn quickly enough that each tram has something of a personality. More than the metros and far more than the buses (the recognized bores of the transport world), trams have a feel, a personality, and these are fostered by their routes.  

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

The Move


Last time, coming or going

It’s Friday, about 2 pm. I am on my way home on a tram filled with young teens and kids, who, while in various stages of personal and physical development, share in common a momentary ecstasy that is born of the beginning of the weekend. I am immensely jealous.

Since I was a kid, there has never been anything quite as euphoric as a Friday afternoon. I have always loved the “look ahead” stage. More a fan of Christmas Eve than Christmas, a fan of the last weeks of school rather than the beginning of the summer holiday. It’s when I have everything ahead of me that I am happiest. And Friday is just that – everything is ahead of me and the possibilities are endless. Pizza and a movie, a nice walk on Saturday, a nice walk on Saturday that ends conveniently at a pub. So on any other Friday I would be sitting on this tram, outwardly a middle-aged dude listening to podcasts, inwardly a twelve year old with a peach-fuzz mustache throwing the devil’s ears at passing motorists.

But this weekend is the weekend in which I will move. After two weeks’ prep, planning, organizing, boxing, bagging, and throwing away huge portions of the collected booty of thirteen years, it will happen. Without touching the obvious horrors of tragedy or medical crises, there is nothing worse to look forward to on a weekend.

Friday night is spent standing in various rooms in my house having meltdown moments. “Has someone fed these things after midnight!?” I scream to the ceiling, wondering how our bags and boxes are multiplying. “What is this? I don’t own a toaster! Where has this thing been, just waiting for me to move it!?” I occasionally center myself (read: avoid prison) by sitting on my soon-to-be-disassembled bouch (bed + couch, you get it) and eat some form of carbohydrate while watching a sitcom and purposefully not looking at the room beyond my laptop.  

The misery that comes with moving isn’t the carrying and lifting, but the fact that every single thing has to be reckoned with. Whether that means it gets thrown away, put in a bag and brought to the new house, or set on fire and thrown out the window. Everything from the deep, darkest caverns of the last thirteen years must be dealt with. Every single item. Everything.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

On the Move

Phone Museum in my Closet

As a card-carrying resident of my own personal comfort zone, I’ve found that there’s an awful lot that can rattle me. The upstairs neighbors renovating their flat for five months. A wonky lock on the front door. Friends or relatives staying at the flat.

But there’s not much worse for this Comfort Zone Guy than moving flats. If you’re an adherent to a comfort zone, then you understand.  

Moving is terrible. No matter who you are or what your philosophy is towards being settled, you probably have a bad memory of being surrounded by hundreds of boxes, bags, crates, and furniture that you had to bring somewhere else. Moving means you have to move everything in your house. Everything. Soap. Each shoe. Every notebook, pen, and bottle of hot sauce. And so, everything is disrupted.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments