Liberation Celebration 2012 – Prague, Czech Republic

When living overseas, there aren’t a ton of places for Americans to celebrate the greatness of our nation.  (Yes, I love my country.  Yes, I know it’s not in fashion.  Deal with it.)  So when the celebrations commemorating the liberation of the Czech Republic from the Nazi occupation came around, I jumped at the chance to partake.  I also took the opportunity to take Little NH1 along for a bit of a history lesson.

Five years may seem like a tender age to be learning about geopolitics of the past and present but I’d rather get my viewpoint in there before she gets a skewed version from some other source.  On our walk to the event, we talked in general terms about WWII and about what brave American soldiers did for the Czech people and much of Europe all of those years ago.  I explained that the Czechs are our allies (like our friends) and described Hitler and the Nazis (a big army led by a very, very bad man).  It seemed to click with her and I’m looking forward to hearing her version in a few days or weeks when I least expect it.  That’s how those things happen.

The celebration itself took place on a warm Friday morning in front of the US Embassy in Prague.  Though the US actually only liberated the country up through Plzen in the west, the celebration starts in Prague and continues around the country for the next week or two.  The street in front of the embassy was lined with restored motorcycles and Jeeps belonging to enthusiasts from around Europe.  A big band was assembled on the street and played patriotic songs and swing tunes of the era.

Little NH1 heard Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” and appeared to be just about as taken by it as her dad.  An impromptu Czech couple danced to the music and the crowd mulled around admiring the vehicles and the glorious weather and celebrating the commemoration of the liberation of the Czech people.

As we walked away from the celebration to return her school, she told me, “Daddy, I’m glad we’re Americans.”

Mission accomplished.

Headed South, Away From Reality

It’s pouring down rain in Prague and we’re about to head out on another adventure.  May do some writing from the road this time but can’t guarantee it.

A few interesting and completely unrelated things for the www this morning:

Will Germany leave the Euro?

Campari Popsicles

Rudy says they’d be looking to impeach Bush if he was in charge of the country during the BP mess.  Oh, and a new bill,  would create another government agency and give President Obama the power to shut off the Internet.  Ah, hope and change.  “Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president’s performance.”  That’s change you can believe in.

Ah, and this guy got elected in the SC primary.

Why wouldn’t I take a vacation from reality?

Microsoft Tag

I think the time for Microsoft’s “Tag” technology is now and here’s why: How many times have you stood in a grocery store or electronics store (having been spoiled by Internet shopping) with a product in your hand and wondered, “Is this thing any good?”  How many times have you whipped out your mobile phone, opened the browser, and typed in a Google search for that item to look for reviews.  If you’re like me, you’d answer ‘never.’  Now, how about if you could whip out your mobile, open an application and take a picture of a bar code and be instantly transferred to more product information.  You’d at least give it a shot, no?

That’s the thinking behind Microsoft’s “Tag” beta technology.  The online service will associate a colorful square tag to any site on the web and offer you several formats to include the graphic on the backs of products, business cards, and product or service literature.  Imagine if all of those envelopes full of those coupons you receive in the mail were tagged.  With one click of your phone camera, you could carry any and all of those coupons in your pocket and show them to the pimply kid behind the counter at the Gap, or Dominoes, or the IHOP or wherever.

For the traveling salesman, imagine a tag on the back of your business card.  Those of you who have ever been to or worked a trade show know what I’m talking about.  You probably used to carry around glossy folders and pamphlets, then CD’s with all sorts of information on them, and then it changed to flash drives.  Now, in a world of cost-cutting, imagine making all of that available to your customer for the cost of some color ink on a card that already exists.  Probably not right for every transaction but you know it would make the accountants happy.  And frankly, do people really care about the ubiquitous pens, t-shirts, bags, CD’s and flash drives at trade shows anymore?  Not to mention, there’s nothing to ship.  Cheaper, immediate and interactive?  As you can tell, I’m intrigued.

The icing on the cake (and admittedly the possible source of some problems) is the way that MS is going about offering this.  It’s in beta at this point but it’s free.  Anyone with a “Windows Live” account can set up a tag for a web address.  There’s even supposed to be built-in support for existing, non MS bar codes included in future releases.  The mobile application download itself is free and works on several different phone platforms – Windows Mobile and the iPhone included.

One more thing – it’s FAST.  On my HTC Touch Diamond 2, you barely even get the tag into the crosshairs and you’re transported to the web page.  No fumbling with a crummy onscreen keyboard, no scrolling through a Google search.  This is instant gratification.

The one downside I see is that at its core, this is just more marketing.  Do we really need that?  I’m pretty sure we don’t.  On the other hand, if some trusted review site would give tags to merchants to have on the racks (or, for example, have tags on Wal-Mart store shelves lead to product reviews on Walmart.com) then it might be really useful to the consumer, no?  We don’t necessarily trust big political parties or big corporations anymore but we haven’t totally given up on our neighbors.  Window’s Tag should totally work to leverage that zeitgeist.

The fact is, about three years ago, I was walking home after a night out with my wife and had one of those “why hasn’t anybody invented this” conversations.  Now, it’s here.  I say, it’s about time.  Tag it up, peeps.

Vodka on Ice

It has been below freezing for several weeks now in the Czech Republic.  It is becoming demoralizing as the days progress and the forecast calls for highs in the 20’s and “snow flurries.”  My serotonin levels are bottoming out and the once snowy sidewalks have become a continuous network of cobble-stone and black-ice death traps as I make my way to the metro in the morning.  But as the old adage goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  For the purpose of this post, I’ve modified that to, “When Central European weather fronts give you freezing-ass temps and crusty piles snow, chill your vodka.”  Beat’s whining about it, doesn’t it?

Here’s the view from my living room on to my balcony:

The Dog Ate My Homework

Hi, there.  Good to see you again.  I’ve been out on a bit of a winter break, I guess.  I have tons of reasons why I haven’t blogged in ages.  In classic blogger fashion, I’ll offer myself as the center of the universe and tell you why I haven’t blogged in such a long while:

1) I was traveling seeing friends and family in Texas.  I was eating, drinking and celebrating too much to find time to blog.

2) Since I’ve been back, all of that eating and drinking has caught up to me.  I have constant heartburn and cooking up new recipes has taken a back seat of late.

3) I have totally revamped all computers in my home as well as my wireless network.  That has eaten up all my free time after work.

4) Work has been fast and furious since my return and I’ve written a lot of BS there so I don’t feel much need to write further BS to you when I return home.

However, with all those excuses now behind me and my fist clutching a bottle of Zantac, I realize that I’m full of new blog posts just itching to be published.  I have loads of thoughts and impressions on Texas people, food and music as well as everything that goes with getting into the 21st Century world of Windows 7 all across the house.  There are even some politics that interest me these days from Ukraine to Massachusetts.  And, now that I see people are using Google translate to translate my blog from English to Russian, it’s good to see that my brilliance is going around the world.

Take heart, dear readers.  I’m NotHemingway and the 2010 fun is about to begin!

Obama Sinking Like A Stone

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama’s declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they’d rather have his predecessor.

The above comes from Politico.  How far the mighty fall.  Bush/Cheney 2012?  Heh.

In other Presidential news, I read that during his Nobel Prize acceptance tour, Obama snubbed the Swedish (ahem) Norwegian King.  Really?  I can’t believe he’d miss the chance to bow to someone.

Book Review – “Enough” by John Naish

Enough - NaishI finished Enough by John Naish while on work travel to Moscow. It turned out to be an interesting setting in which to read the book because it is clear that Russian society has no idea of the concept of “enough.” Naish’s tome is categorized as environmentalist or “green” in many circles but I think there’s more to it than that. Sure, realizing that you have enough stuff and cutting down on consumer goods meshes with a green lifestyle but Naish makes the case that it can also improve one’s quality of life, if done consistently.

His basic premise is that there is too much stuff in our lives: information, food, work, goods and not enough appreciation of the things that we already posses.  This combination leaves us on the eternal chase for the “next best thing.” The book is not an instruction book and Naish admits to not having all the answers. However, just reading his book did make me look at my own life, habits and possessions in a different light.  To his credit, there’s also a spiritual aspect in the “enough” equation and he doesn’t ignore it.

The only trouble I had with the book was in the closing pages where he confronted the unsustainability of our capitalist culture. Naish claims that growth cannot continue. Maybe I read too much into it but it started to sound a bit too much like nouveau-Marxism and made me uncomfortable. However, I take the point that at the rate we’re going, we’re going to use up all of the world’s resources on disposable gadgets before little NH finishes college.  There’s just too much crap in the landfills to keep this up.  He’s right, something has to give.

All in all it’s an interesting book if only to make you consider the profound idea that less is more. Naish’s writing style is engaging, witty and even humorous and that gives his arguments an easy-going, conversational twist. Reading Enough was more akin to dinner conversation than preaching and for that reason is highly recommended.

Sarkozy Sees the Obvious, Obama Does Not

‘President Obama dreams of a world without weapons…but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite,” Mr. Sarkozy said.

Yes, he was referring to Obama’s UN speech about a world without nukes from last week.  Of course, he could have been referring to the speech Obama gave in Prague this Spring.  It was the same dreamy rhetoric only, months earlier.

So, the question is, what took Sarko so long?

My Journey Ends in Kosovo

Newborn.jpg

Two weeks on the road are coming to an end in the newest nation in the world – Kosovo.  This is a nation that has tasted independence for the first time and seems determined to make good on its promise.  Different organizations representing the “international community” swarm all over Pristina and give it a hyperactivity that would not otherwise be present.

One gets the sense that the Kosovars are good people.  With all that they have experienced, the fact that there is even hope for the future says something about their character.

I’ve learned much about this region on this trip.  I’ve also continued to learn about myself.  Those two things always seem to go together and, I think, always will.

Quick Impressions from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

SarajevoIt’s a strange day when it dawns on me that Sarajevo, a city with such a storied history, is a comfortable place for me.  As I strolled by mosques and Serbian Orthodox churches this evening I pondered the history that has converged on this overgrown village.  I’m really intrigued by the way, for a time, Sarajevo really tried to be a melting pot of the world’s great religions and so many different cultures.  Yes, it was a failed effort and what followed was “sniper alley” but it’s no less interesting.

I realized that this is about my 5th trip here in as many years.  I guess I can’t help but feel a little more comfortable.   Plus, the food is good and my grasp of the history of the city gets a little better with every visit.

I have a couple more nights here and am looking forward to more good meals and finding more comfort in the storied streets of this town.

September 11th, 2009

Pentagon on the horizon 9-11-01
Pentagon on the horizon 9-11-01

Looking back on that day, Clifford D. May‘s analysis is thought provoking:

If this struggle is too much for the present generation, we will deserve what comes in its place. Americans used to say that freedom is not free, that it must be earned by generation after generation. That sounds hokey to 21st-century ears, I know. That doesn’t make it less true.

Some Interesting Tech Links

Swiss ban Google’s street-view feature over privacy concerns. I am having fun taking virtual tours of Paris in advance our our visit there.  Not sure how I feel about this one-  I could argue both sides.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles-  the future of the Air Force.  Cool stuff.

Energy for Europe to be provided by world’s largest solar power plant in Africa? Maybe I am crazy, but this doesn’t seem very smart from a national security perspective.  Then again we in the U.S. do import 60-70% of our oil for energy production…with fully 44% of that coming from Africa and the Middle East.  So what do I know?