Presence or productivity… that is the question

I was born in a communistic country and was just about old enough to see how employment generally worked. The key attribute was presence at the workplace.

It did not matter how much you did, or if you did anything at all. The pay cheque was always there at the end of the month.

This was the first thing that came to my mind when a friend mentioned that her company had retracted her previous partial home office arrangement and required that she’d be at her desk full time.

I assumed that her performance had possibly been lower while working from a remote location. However she insisted that she had never been more productive. Instead it had been the other staff in her office that had complained.

They were upset that she had a special arrangement and wanted it too. Like the bullies at the school yard who saw someone with a shiny marble and if they could not have it then at least they would crush it.
It did not matter that my friend was working partially from home to be close to a family member who was ill, the other staff were just upset.

She had previously told me about the poor working conditions in the office. I suggested that maybe that was the main reason why other staff in the office also wanted to escape: not for the benefit of working from home but for the benefit of staying away from the office.

Finally my friend asked me what my advice would be and I told her the first thing that came to my mind.

Quit and find a real company that values results and is not run by second-tier staff who are first grade champions in office politics.

Photo by k2space.

Wedding congratulations are in order

rudolf-loves-iveta.jpgfor the newly wed Rudolf and Iveta Kaspar.
I was able to get away from our recently enlarged family for three days to attend Rudolf’s and Iveta’s wedding.
The wedding was in Prague and the couple put on a relaxed wedding full of party, laughter and family love.
The day started with a small reception at the couples new apartment in an almost finished apartment block.
There were wires sticking out from the walls in the hallways and the apartment was all empty but for a pair of mattresses and sleeping bags.
This didn’t prevent a great atmosphere and a never ending flow of champagne.
A red Skoda decorated with white flowers was arranged for the bride and a white mini bus was arranged for the groom and the rest of the family.
In such magnificent style did we travel to the busy Old Town Square were the wedding ceremony was to be held at the Old Town town hall.
I have been to the Old Town Square on numerous occasions to marvel at the ancient astronomical clock just like millions of tourist from all around the world. Never have I however been inside the town hall.
The actual ceremony was short and sweet and the couple had chosen a few untraditional songs for the organist: Clocks by Cold Play, Everybody’s changing by Keane and Spomal by Peha.
Apparently the organist had not known how to play the songs initially but managed splendidly once provided the notes.
The square was as busy as ever on this fine Saturday and full of tourists from all around the world. They snapped away merrily at the newly wed couple.
Rudolf and Iveta are for ever recorded in the family travel albums of visitors from China, Italy, Russia, Germany but mainly Japan.
A family feast followed where I had the chance to meet the bride’s family members for the first time.
I can happily report that they turned out to be a bunch of really nice and honest people that never say no to having fun.
The feast lasted longer than planned and it was getting close to the “real” evening party. Luckily I managed to squeeze in 30 minutes of power napping; something that I doubt the newly wed couple had time to do.
There was a great crowd at the evening party and I met up with a few childhood friends I hadn’t seen in years. There were a few surprises like random visitors from Norway and excellent musicians dressed in poncho’s.
More food was arranged in the form of a buffet with traditional Czech delicacies.
After the earlier feast I swore not to eat again for several days but I caved in for a midnight snack of chicken wings, sandwiches, goulash and some more wedding cake.
All in all a fantastic wedding and celebration and a huge privilege that I was able to attend.
Congratulations to the newly wed couple and an apology for the delayed wedding present… it is on the way!


Is a Swedish word for a kind of small hospital or more correctly a smaller emergency ward.
Which is exactly what it looks like at home at the moment.
We came back from Brazil last week and together with the fond memories of the trip our baby son also brought back a violent flue.
The symptoms are fever for 2-3 days, then excruciating body ache, then a short spell of extremely runny nose followed by a heavy and painful cough.
His mother got it shortly thereafter.
Then it was the grandmother’s turn. She is only visiting for a short while but wasn’t spared nonetheless.
The nanny was holding out until last Friday but surrendered shivering and with a splitting head ache.
She had to take a few days off which brought havoc to the delicate ecosystem of baby care taking at home.
So here I am, last man standing and wading through an avalanche of used tissues, dirty dishes and empty paracetamol packs.
I am under no illusion that I will escape this vicious bug but maybe I can avoid it at least until the rest of the family has recuperated (and enjoy special treatment).
From Sjukstugan with love,

One mighty year

party hat face birthday babyMy dearest son, you have completed your first year – on to Level2. How much of it will you remember in years to come?
You came on Cupid’s wings and landed in our arms
Do you for example remember when you took your first breath – a breath of sweet life in an otherwise sterile operation room?
Do you remember when you tasted real food for the first time or took your first tumbling step?
I sure do and the memories will be for ever etched into my mind.
You are growing up surrounded by technologies one could not even dream about when I was I child.
You are wearing a GPS/GSM tracker in your pocket, watching high definition baby television, space tourism is about to take of, open source software is challenging commercial offerings on many fronts and the Internet is becoming just another utility like tap water is.
There are some unfortunate things to be sad about like the decaying environment, advances in genetically modified plants and organisms, greed of pharmaceutical companies and cruelty going on in the world wide world.
Hopefully these issues can be improved upon with a generation of bright children like you and your sister.
I kissed your face and you said my name – Mwuuaaaaaahhh
You stand on the shoulders of great man and can achieve anything you set your mind to. However let’s start with some potty training because you cannot conquer the world while wearing a diaper!

Iza wee baby girl!

wee baby girl dressA little baby girl is on the way.
The ultrasound operator was 99% sure… and apparently she has never been wrong before. I bet that the last 1% is to avoid angry customers.
Both mom and dad to be are very proud and happy; mom a little bit more.
Celebrations commenced with a jump and heels clicked together followed by a pink shopping extravaganza at the first baby shop in sight: pure baby.
I can’t help but worry that taking care of and raising two babies is possibly double work compared to a single child.
Cue cold sweat on forehead, lack of breath and a taste of blood in my mouth.

Greedy property circus

estate agentsWe are in search of a new home and had been viewing several properties last Saturday. Most had been charming and it was always nice to have a chat with the owners and trying to find out the peculiars of their homes.
Last property was an “open house” viewing. An estate agent (no names) had invited many, many interested couples and families to view this property.
The house was in great shape, the fire place was lit and the previous owner was the producer of one of our favourite British TV series (his BAFTA award was standing on the coffee table)…. but the previous owner was nowhere to be seen.
Instead we were met with a very camp articulate agent who signed us into a book at the entrance and briefed us about the house in 1 minute. Then he was off to receive the next couple waiting at the door.
While walking around the house there was nowhere to sit down or relax and discuss what we liked/disliked. Everywhere you looked there were other couples talking away.
The open house viewing concept might be understandable in quite periods where any possible buzz needs to be generated to sell a property.
However currently the property market is extremly busy. Most decent properties recieve an offer that matches their asking price after a single day; often it recieves multiple such offers.
In such a climate it is terrible seeing all the other potential buyers. There were easily 15 other couples during the 20 minutes we stayed.
The estate agent was informing some other people that the property already had 4 offers at the asking price. This can only mean a fierce bidding war if you want the house badly.
Just as we were leaving the house after a very dissapointing viewing a lady stopped us, introduced herself as a newspaper journalist (was it from the standard?) and asked if she could ask my wife a few questions about the open house viewing concept.
A big grin appeared on my wife’s face and she started telling the journalist just how wrong the idea was.
How important it is to have a chat with the previous owners, how it is important to feel the potential privacy and comfort of a new home, how it instead feels like being at a fish market and finally how it’s all about greed and nothing about providing a service.
Photo credit Anyhoo

Total lunar eclipse 2007

lunar eclipse 2007It was the best lunar eclipse in the last decade and certainly the first one that I took the time to observe.
Due to light scattered in the Earth’s atmosphere, the moon was visible even while totally in the Earth’s shadow.
Blue light scatters the most in the Earth’s atmosphere, making mainly the red light to hit the moon.
In ancient times such a moon as this was called “blood moon” and usually associated with catastrophes or big changes to come. I am glad we have moved on from that.

2 new drugs offer options in HIV fight

pillsThe International Herald Tribune reports about 2 new drugs offering options in HIV fight.
One drug, maraviroc, has been developed by Pfizer; the other drug, raltegravir, has been developed by Merck.
If humanity could find a cure for HIV/AIDS it would be a major breakthrough and a clear sign of progress.
Unfortunately I have become a little numb from the last 10 years’ of several “almost HIV/AIDS cure” announcements to be joyous anymore.
I doubt that there is enough profit for a company to develop a one time cure for HIV.
All the profit is surely in producing expensive drug cocktails that have to be taken regularly and for the rest of a patients life.
Unfortunately HIV/AIDS has a tendency to become resistant to drugs after prolonged usage so new drug cocktails have to be developed periodically.
Let’s not be naive but instead realise that corporations have a responsibility to their share holders to maximise the return of their investments.
It would be very irresponsible to develop a cure and thus killing the steady revenue stream from millions of regularly paying patients.
The very nasty drawback is that millions of patients in developing countries do not have the funds for expensive drug cocktails and are in dire need of a cure.
Had penicillin been discovered during the last 20 years would it have been released? Maybe not and instead there would be daily medicine to be taken to keep an infection at bay; never quite curing it.
[Link] [Photo credit: sparktography]

Happy New Year of the pig

So I was on a walkabout close from Trafalgar Square, London and noticed an amazing amount of people in the streets.
There was a performance on and everywhere red decorations and signs of Happy New Year.
Last time I had seen this kind of celebration for the Chinese New Year was in Singapore many, many winters ago.
I reckoned the best action would be in the actual China Town so I headed towards it.
Many of the major streets between Trafalgar Square and China Town were closed of for motor traffic and it was a spectacular feeling walking around these famous streets like it was in Disneyland.
There were several crowd control measures in place like one way pedestrian streets which made it a bit tricky but I made it to the golden gate in the end.
Most of the shops and restaurants had cabbage and red envelopes hanging from their doors.
Several processions with Chinese lions were performing the traditional lion dance to usher in the new year.
The lion would dance in front of the store front and like a curious cat inspect the package. It would capture the package, spit out the cabbage but keep the red envelope with money.
Suddenly the stewards started pushing people around me into different directions because two of the lions were about to have a show down right where we were standing. This turned out to be great fun and gave splendid close up views of the acrobats hiding in the lion costumes.
Call it a pig, a boar or a hog; I wish you a very red and happy new year!
PS The lions kiss at 1:15

To talk or not to talk

shop liftingThe other evening I was shopping for a few quick groceries at our local corner shop.
While browsing among the chicken fillets and beef steaks, a gentleman appeared next to me.
He was well dressed and well groomed and opted for the premium beef steak. He then hesitated for a moment and added the premium chicken fillet to his shopping.
I went off to the check out and noticed him choosing among the vegetables by the exit.
He gave me a quick and casual look and then went straight out; clearly without paying.
For a while I was considering whether I should be a good citizen and quickly notify the staff about this. I concluded that it wasn’t my job to police the shop and that the shop surely has CCTV which may or may not have caught it on tape.
Neither do I know the circumstances behind the man’s actions and I was not going to judge him for them. Somebody else will do that (Karma, God, whathaveyou).
What would you have done?
Photo credit: Fanboy29