Meanwhile, over in Max’s other hell…

Thursday, 28 February 2008

I sauntered into work this morning at about 10 to find this email from one of our trainee lawyers waiting for me:

Hi Max,

I was at the foreigner police in the morning (quite interesting place); almost everything is OK, except of (bad news) term of your health insurance. As FP needs to extend your visa obligatory for 2 years (good news), they need evidence that your health insurance will last till March 2010. However, FP women on the phone were not able to tell me before for how long will be your visa extended. That was the reason why we have decided to extend your health insurance for 1 year (anyway, insurance company could extend it only for 1 year by one agreement).

I have asked Katka to go to the health insurance company today or tomorrow and to conclude another insurance agreement valid until 2010. Then I will visit FP on Monday, give them a stamp and health insurance documents and they will grant new visa immediately.

I will stop by you when you’ll be at your desk.


Great, I thought, it sounds so easy.

So Katka, a secretary, went to VZP, which must be the worst insurance company in the world. There she was told that it would be impossible to conclude a health insurance agreement for a year from now (March 2009 to March 2010) and that instead I would have to cancel my 2008-2009 agreement, pay a 20% cancellation penalty, and then conclude a 2-year agreement. Which you may note, if you understood the email above, is absolutely contrary to what they had told her in January when she originally went to renew my insurance.

Katka, bless her, did not tell me anything – she was too smart for that because I have been known to shoot the messenger, so to speak. Katka told Martin and Martin had to tell me and face the wrath of Max. Which in fact he enjoys. All I need is some leather, a pair of thigh-high boots and a whip, and I think he’d be in heaven. [Martin, if you’re reading this – NO. Forget it.]

Two minutes later I was on the phone to VZP getting the director’s number. Martin took over and called; he talked to the director’s secretary. I am trying to teach these kids not to take things lying down. And that if two people in one office give you two different answers, go higher and talk to someone who knows what they are talking about.

“I always win,” I said to Martin. But then I had to admit that I lose a lot in this country – the trade licence office, the commercial register, the foreigner police – and it always costs me money.

And that’s where we are. The director was in a meeting and it was really too late to find anyone in authority to talk to. Martin will start trying again tomorrow morning at 8. But I had to promise him that if we don’t get things sorted out by tomorrow afternoon, I will pay the 20% penalty so that he can go and get my new visa on Monday. The penalty will actually be less than 1800 crowns (just over $100) and it’s not worth getting deported (again) over that.


The Flat in Žižkov – a progress report

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

We were notified last Wednesday that the building permit for the new attic flats had finally come through. Only approximately 5 months behind schedule, but that is par for the course. The Building Authority, after all, is just another cog in the antiquated machine that is Czech bureaucracy.

Filip sent me the agreement on future purchase agreement and asked me when I wanted to go over to his office to sign it. The agreement was 8 pages long and in Czech. I skimmed through it quickly and then sent Filip an email that started thus:

The attached agreement is wrong. It does not match the agreement attached to the reservation agreement. If you remember, we made some changes to the agreement – I am sure that you have it on file.

The changes I was referring to in my email were those that I had carefully negotiated last summer with the help of one of my Czech colleagues.

Filip then tried to tell me that the agreements were substantially the same, that only some building specifications had been inserted. It seems that Filip completely forgot that I am a lawyer.

I sent him one example of where the agreements were different and asked him to find the agreement we had actually agreed and to update that version for me to sign. Filip then merely corrected the one point I had specified and asked me to let him know if I found anything else. I was pissed off.

I emailed Filip again the next day once I had enlisted the help of another Czech colleague. (The one who had helped me last summer is currently on holiday in Africa.)

One of my Czech colleagues is going to go through the agreement for me to make sure it matches the agreed agreement. I will get back to you on Monday to tell you if we need to make any more changes and to agree a signing date.

My email to Filip on Monday:

There are several problems with the new agreement. It is not consistent with the changes we made last summer and certain other changes have been made to the contents we had agreed.

My accompanying list contained 12 points.

Since Monday, all I have received from Filip is an acknowledgement that he had received my email.

In the meantime, Jono and I are consolidating the funds we need to pay our 2nd deposit. I expect we’ll sign next week or the week after. We’ll be one step closer and there will be champagne.

Last time I walked by the building, by the way, was 17 days ago. The scaffolding was up, the roof was off, and there was work being done on a Sunday.

Super-pessimist Max

Tuesday, 26 February 2008
clinton obama

rtm sent this link: Bush predicts GOP will hold White House, along with an rtm message:

1st, he was right about FLA.

then in ’04, so smug. “oh I ain’t gonna lose!”

now this…

I answered:

They barely even need to rig the vote this time.

First – the Dems have proved that they won’t change anything anyway.

Second – a white man will always win over a woman or a black man.

Stay where you are, kids – it’s not time to go back to The Amerika yet.

And the thing is that that’s really what I think. I think it’s great that the Democratic primaries are down to a black man and a woman – that at least we have come that far. But I also think that the Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot. I honestly don’t think that enough people in The Amerika will vote for a woman or a black man over a white man. That is to say that some people will vote for McCain even in spite of their Democratic leanings because his opponent’s colour or sex is not the correct one for the leader of our country.

Many of those people will lie to their friends about who they voted for. And many others will admit to voting for McCain, but will deny any charges of racism or sexism. And in many of their minds, it really won’t be racism or sexism. After all, some of their best friends are black… But the person that represents The Amerika, the leader of the free world forgodsake, needs to have a certain image. That image has never been of colour and it has never worn a skirt.

Anyone who believes that political change is just around the corner is going to be bitterly disappointed once again.

For Monkey

Friday, 22 February 2008

Max is away

Thursday, 14 February 2008
wroclaw winter

In support of free speech

Wednesday, 13 February 2008
westergaard mohammed cartoon
Today several leading Danish newspapers have reprinted the above cartoon, one of those that had sparked Muslim protests worldwide after their original publication in 2005. The occasion is the arrest of three suspects in an alleged plot to murder the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.
This post is in support of the Danish newspapers and Mr Westergaard and those who refuse to give in to fear and fanaticism.

Ms Magazine sucks my butt

Wednesday, 13 February 2008
tzipi livni
Tzipi Livni

Who knew? It turns out that Ms. magazine is antisemitic. Yes, I say antisemitic rather than anti-Israel because I no longer accept the distinction – a separate discussion that will have to wait, I’m busy.

Last month, Ms. Magazine refused to publish an advertisement submitted by the American Jewish Congress (AJC). The advertisement featured photographs of three Israeli female public figures, labelled as follows:

  • Dorit Beinisch, President, Supreme Court of Israel
  • Tzipi Livni, Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Dalia Itzik, Speaker of the Knesset

And then the caption in big bold letters: This is Israel. See the ad here.

Pretty impressive women’s empowerment stuff, I would say. And what a nice contrast to Israel’s neighbours in the Middle East, where women are usually treated as second class citizens and rarely hold political posts. In fact, a nice contrast to most other countries wherever they may be.

Susie Gilligan of the Ms. publisher’s office told the AJC: “We would love to have an ad from you on women’s empowerment, or reproductive freedom, but not on this” – apparently without an explanation of what “this” might be. Read the full story here.

The clear message is that Ms. magazine, like so many other “liberal” movements and institutions, has bought into the antisemitic propaganda that Israel is somehow on the wrong side of issues related to democracy and human rights. That all too pervasive attitude is based on an absolute ignorance of Middle Eastern history and culture, modern politics and reality in the region. And unfortunately it seems that most people share in that ignorance and a common unwillingness to dig deeper for a more balanced and objective truth.