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Showing posts from 2017

Prague Blog: Old City Tour!

I've completed my TEFL course, lined up a job (I'll need another or some private students, but all in good time), and I have a few days of down time this week. As I was in the Old City (Staré Mĕsto in Czech) anyway, I decided to take advantage of the situation and finally get some pictures for the blog. I am not the world's best photographer, but I hope you enjoy this nonetheless.

Just a few blocks from where I started was this sculpture:


Installed in 2014, this is a statue of the head of Frank Kafka by sculptor David Černý. Though certainly the greatest Czech writer who ever lived and a resident of Prague nearly all his life, Kafka actually wrote in German. He did speak Czech, however, and was clearly inspired by the great city in many of his works. But this isn't just a traditional statue...



Though much of kinetic sculpture feels like movement for movement's sake (not a bad thing, per se), this is an excellent way to capture both the image and the spirit of the g…

Prague Blog: The End of the Beginning

Yesterday was the last day of TEFL training. After wrapping up our last formal class, there was still one final item on the schedule:"The Long Arm of TEFL." There had been whispers and rumors about this final rite of passage for weeks. Some said X, others said Y--all agreed that it was the final hurdle. Having done everything else, one more barrier remained between us and our certificates--and our graduation party. What does The Long Arm entail? Ah, well, that's a secret--all I will say is that rarely have I seen so many people experience such intense momentary anxiety and then get down to doing the work at hand. I was damn proud of all of us. Needless to say, we all survived it, in body if not in soul, and the drink tickets at the graduation party went a long way toward healing the scars.

So, last night, thirty days after I arrived in Prague, I stood on a stage at a brewery (beer again) with twenty-eight other folks posing for a class photo commemorating the graduation …

Prague Blog: Pivo and Me

Ah, Prague. Praha. City of a Hundred Spires. The Golden City. The Left Bank of the Nineties. The Mother of Cities. The Heart of Europe. Prague has many names, but I think it needs one more: Pivo Prague, Capital of Beer Bohemia.

Prague is a beer city. If the national drink of American is coffee, and the national drink of France is wine, Czechia's national drink is undoubtedly beer. Or pivo, in the Czech. Czechia has the highest per capita consumption of beer in the world. More than the UK. More than Germany. Think about that for a moment. Czechia drinks about 35% more beer per captia than any other nation. The measure isn't even close: on an average day in the Czech Republic, a 12+ ounces of beer are consumed for every man, woman, and child. And yes, at pretty much every place you can get them both, beer is literally cheaper than water.*

Brewing in Czechia dates back well over a thousand years, with major bewing centers being the towns of Budweis (note the name), Pilzen (and th…

Prague Blog: My First Class

So, my TTT is too high and my language grading needs some work. In non-jargon, that means I tend to talk too much and that both my grammar and verbiage tend to be complicated. The previous sentence, and almost every other sentence that has passed my lips and fingertips since I was 15, amply demonstrate this. Why is this bad for teaching English to people who don't speak it? Because it confuses the hell out of them, that's why. Aside from that, and a few other amatuer flubs, my first few lessons as a student teacher went pretty well.

Actually standing in front of a group of English language learners was an eye-opening experience. My class was a group of well educated, intelligent, successful people who took hours out of their free time to improve their English. The oligation I felt toward them was more powerful even than what I had expected. I needed to engage them and teach them something they found valuable, not because I wanted to get high marks and pass the course (at least…

Prague Blog: Amateur Cultural Anthropology

It is typical practice for obnoxious Americans, when they travel abroad, to observe the differing cultural practices of our destinations, and be as judgmental as hell. I hope I am not a typical obnoxious American, but after only ten days on the ground in Prague, there are certain cultural differences that I think are noteworthy:


Dogs: No, it's not notable that Czechs love dogs. Everyone does*. What is noticeable is how incredible well Czech masters train their dogs, illustrated most evidently by the fact that it is very common for owner and dog to go for a stroll together without using a leash. I don't mean merely in parks, either. In the heart of the Old Town of Prague, I saw numerous dogs happily trotting behind or ahead of their owners, ignoring the dozens of people and cars coming and going. There seems to be an attempt to get Czech owners to clean up after their pup, but so far, the dogs are better trained than their owners...PDA: For a people not known for their friendly,…

Prague Blog: The Journey

Written largely on Wednesday 11 October. Sorry for the delayed posting, but there were WiFi issues at my new digs. That said, I think it ended up adding value.

Yesterday morning, I woke up in suburban Philadelphia around 8 am Eastern Daylight. Last night, a little after 10 pm, I boarded a Norwegian Air Dreamliner, which transported me and several hundred of my closest strangers to Oslo, where we disembarked around 11:30. (We're on Central European Summer Time now.) Since then I have been puttering about the airport, asking strangers for lights (can't take lighters on planes, y'know), and generally waiting for my 19:35 scheduled flight to Prague. Tonight, sometime after 22:30 I'd imagine, I will deposited at my temporary home in my new home city. The whole process will have taken less than thirty-six hours, about 18 if you just count from airport to aiport to airport and discount a day playing tourist in Philadelphia.

As many people have observed, the rapid speed of mod…

Prague Blog: Preliminary -- What I Leave Behind

This post if pretty melancholy, and more personal than I often get. If you want more like this (or less), one way to ask is to go to https://www.patreon.com/sjcaustenite, become a Patron, and then exercise your right to request something more cheerful in the future.


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When I first made the decision to move to Prague, I focused solely on the opportuity it presented. Once the decision had been made, however, I started to think of practicalities. Like, how good is their internet speed? (About the same as the USA's, if not better.) How much are smokes? (About $4.50 USD--yes, I know I should quit, but I would rather quit because I want to rather than because it's too expensive.) What's the gay scene like? (So thriving the NYT did a piece on it.) Do they have Pizza Hut? (The chain is returning to Prague this year after a 13 year hiatus.)

Generally, the things that make my life not just tolerable but enjoyable will be available in abundance. Oh, to be sure, t…

Prague Blog: Preliminary -- The Things I'm Carrying, in Video Form

In Book II of the Iliad, Homer (let's just call the author that) enumerates the forces that sailed from Greece to lay siege on Troy, and then does a similar, smaller listing of the Trojan force. The "Catalogue of Ships," as it's known, stops the forward momentum of the epic to make sure the reader understands the scene on the plains outside Troy. At the same time, it establishes a great deal about the power dynamics at play, and provides us greater insight into the characters involved. Sometimes, what (or who) you own can speak volumes about who you are. In that spirit, but with none of the grandeur, I'm making a list of all the things I kept when I left my apartment and, more to the point, all the things I am taking to Prague with me.

The first category is things I'm keeping but not taking. This includes about a hundred books, mostly from my time at St. John's; a Johnnie chair, a college graduation present from my mother; various small items of sentiment…

Prague Blog: Preliminary -- Why?

Since I decided to uproot my entire life, move to a country I have never visited, and train in a career I have no experience with, people have often asked me, "Why?" I'm sure that many of them likely were wondering 'WHY?!?!?!" but, if so, they were polite enough to hide that fact. So, here, as the first (unofficial, preliminary) installment of my Prague Blog, I thought I would try to make the case for why this isn't a completely ridiculous thing to do.

The first starting premise for this is probably a key facet of my personality: I don't like things. Not, "there are things I don't like," but rather, on the whole, I don't care about physical things. I am not a thing person.* To a lesser extent, but still worth mentioning, I am not a creature comforts person. It is true that I go a bit stir crazy when I don't have access to walkable shops, etc., and I do have a great fondness for hot and cold running water and HVAC , but my needs in t…

I played all of God of War! Again!

Kratos was a Spartan captain, leading his army to victory after victory. He is brutal and brilliant, but his army is overmatched when they encounter a mass of barbarians. In a desperate plea to save his life and his reputation, Kratos offers his life to Ares, the God of War. Ares accepts the deal, defeating Kratos' enemies, and empowering the Spartan to further and further conquests. Kratos' bloodlust grows, and Ares manipulates him to be his perfect warrior, Ares' avatar on Earth. This culminates in Kratos killing his wife and daughter in a blind rage. That act causes Kratos to become the Ghost of Sparta, a warrior coated in the white ashes of his wife and daughter, a visible reminder to himself and all who encounter him of what this man has done. He breaks with Ares, instead serving other Olympian gods, especially Athena, as a sort of roving hero for hire. This service lasts 10 years before the first game begins. This is all backstory, told mainly in the first game, wit…

Doctor Who & The Punch

CW: Homophobic slurs, discussions of violence

The following post is intended to be an examination of the moral dimensions of certain actions in Doctor Who, pursued in a rationalist style borrowing from Western theories of ethics. As such, it will likely strike many readers as a chilly analysis, but I hope not an insensitive one.

N.B. After several days, and a loss of several hours work, I have given up on doing linking footnotes in the interest in publishing this before the heat death of the universe. Everything is marked, though, so Control + F is your friend. I also had help editing and proofreading this post, but due to the great Save Fail of 2017, many of those edits have been lost. Management regrets the inconvenience.
A Thought Experiment Let's say I'm walking down the street, and a guy calls me a faggot as he walks past me. As a gay dude, this has definitely happened to me. I know what to do, which is to keep walking. But what if I were to turn around, tap him on the sh…