Monday, January 28, 2008

Got batteries?

In the "What will they think of next" category, I drove an electric car last week. One that talked to me. Really! A quick business trip took me to Washington DC last week, where I rented a car to do some shopping. The clerk asked me if a Prius would work, I said sure, and went off to find the red car in parking space B14. It didn't click until I sat down behind the wheel that the Prius was Toyota's Hybrid car - a battery power, boosted by a regular gas engine when needed.

I reached for the key to turn the ignition and... well, it didn't turn. The "key" was a little plastic remote control thing that you shove in a slot in the dashboard... or keep in your pocket... or hang on your earlobe. As soon as the key's reasonably close to the car, you hit the big black POWER button and the car lights up like a Christmas tree in Old Town Square. Flip the "shift" lever into Drive - it feels a little like an Indy 500 arcade game as it pops back to the "home" position. The "D" symbol on the instrument panel lights up, projected onto the base of the windscreen in front of you. Then you hit the "gas" pedal - and you move... quietly, smoothly... no sound at all until the engine kicks on to charge the battery. Cool!

Actually, it was so cool that it was a bit distracting - listening as the engine came on, then off again then on. Watching the LCD display in the middle of the dashboard tell me how the car was currently being powered - gas engine, electric engine, both? In fact, I almost forgot to look outside the car and watch where I was going! Especially when Betsy started talking to me!

The rental included a talking GPS. Punch in a business name or street address, and in no time at all, "Betsy" was directing you right there... "In .4 miles, turn left on Wilson Boulevard". She kept me company while navigating DC's confusing streets... and became an invaluable tool during my hunt for Jad's "Mercury Zip Planet Hero" and Danna's "Blue Cindawella Pwincess Dwess." Mission accomplished... with a total outlay of $5 in gas!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Date Nights #10 and #11 - Movie Nights!

Date Nights 10 and 11 - January 2nd & 5th, 2008
Temperature: Cold!
Location: Palac Flora Mall, Gold Class Cinemas

Two date nights - in one week - I could definitely get used to this! We took advantage of Erin's parents' last night in town to head out for a movie - hitting Cinema City in the Palac Flora mall. Movie? Elizabeth - The Golden Age - two thumbs up for a great (mostly) historical movie with good performances from Kate Blanchett (Elizabeth) and Clive Owen (Sir Walter Raleigh) and fabulous costumes. Also has some great scenes of the naval battle that brought down the Spanish Armada.

Just a couple days later, Mitch and Janie - a couple friends of ours treated us to Date Night #11. Talk about a full service date night - they provided their teenage kids as babysitters, picked us up, introduced us to the Gold Class Cinemas at Anděl and then, to top it off, took us out to dinner at the Kavala Greek Restaurant not far from home!

Once you've seen a movie at Gold Class, it's hard to go back to a "normal" cinema. The cinema has no more than 12 or so seats - each one a plush, comfy recliner. Waiters deliver food to your chair once the movie starts up. It's kind of like being at the best home theater money could buy... complete with a waiter! We saw "American Gangster" - starring Denzel Washington in the "based on a true story" tale of the Drug Lord Frank Lucas and the cop who brought him down. Moral of the story? "Crime pays, but not forever." Another takeaway? Never buy a house for your mother (you have to have seen the movie.)

Dinner was tasty - for a great, spicy starter, try the "Kafteres Piperies" (Grilled Hot Peppers with Garlic). Interesting movie, good food - great company! Thanks, guys!

Friday, January 4, 2008

NHL - Czech Style

One of best places to learn "colorful" Czech language? Among thousands of hockey fans at the T-Mobile Arena during a HC Sparta hockey game! I learned, for example, that the word for "referee" in Czech is usually accompanied by an extended finger. Culturally appropriate? Maybe in the hockey arena. I don't think I'd try this particular translation of the word during polite conversation though!

HC Sparta is one of two major league hockey teams here in Prague, where hockey is a big thing. In fact, you're into hockey, take a look at your favorite team's roster. Chances are you'll see at least one Czech name. The game is big enough that Prague has its own hockey hooligans - though they were kept in Czech (ha ha) tonight by units of fully armored riot police, stationed at the four corners of the arena. One key difference from pro hockey in "the West?" The price! Entry for one adult was 150 Czk ($7) - kids under 145 cm get their own free seats.

Click here to continue reading "NHL - Czech Style"Of course for Jad and Danna, this first ever hockey game wasn't really about the speed on ice, the pace of the action or the close score (Sparta ended up winning in OT). It was about the "hot dogs". Dinner on the ice may not be classy, but it's filling and cheap - three foot-long Klobasas (sausages), served with a thick slab of bread and dollop of mustard; bag of chips and a 1/2 liter beer for about $10. Other highlights? The balloon that cruised around the arena during stops in the action, and the Sparta Cheerleaders. Though the kids thought their costumes were fancy, we decided together that yes, they really must be cold dressed like that on the ice!

We descended from the rafters to join a friend just off center ice for the second period. Good thing - we got to see first hand the effects of a hockey stick swung judiciously into a jaw. "Daddy he got an owie, huh?" Discussion moved from there to the reason for the "bad boy box" where the offending player had to spend his penalty.

By the start of the third period, Danna was just getting into the whole hockey fan thing "S-P-A-R-T-A!" "P-R-A-H-A!" (I think we may have a hockey hooligan in the making), but Jad was fading. Thanks to Prague's fabulous public transport though, we were back on the #12 Tram (the stop right outside the Arena is Výstavište) and heading home in no time flat.

Looking for an entertaining evening out that won't break the budget? Check out Czech Hockey!