William Shattner has a new album, Has Been, produced by Ben Folds. Includes guest appearances by Ben Folds, Joe Jackson, Lemon Jelly, Aimee Mann, Henry Rollins and Brad Paisley. The website has outtakes, as does this NPR story. Brilliant. Brilliant.


Hotter than a pile of bloated corpses

From the San Jose Mercury News:

A search on Google.com under the words "tsunami" and "Petra Nemcova," the Czech supermodel who survived the tsunami in Thailand, turned up 59,500 results. A search under the words "tsunami" and "Nagappattinam," one of the most devastated port cities in Tamil Nadu, shows fewer than one-tenth -- 5,120 -- of the number of hits mentioning Nemcova's brush with danger.



You're overpaid

The Times (of London) reported Sunday on a Deloitte report on labour costs in the EU. (Hospodářské noviny picked up the ball today.) I didn't find the report itself on the Deloitte site; holler if you find it. Not surprisingly, Germany is the spendiest 'with average employment costs topping £35,000'. Lowball honours go to the neighbours: 'At just under £4,610 per employee the Slovak Republic has the lowest remuneration costs in the EU'.

According to HN's story, the Czech Republic has the ... 17th highest? labour costs in the EU25 at GBP 6970 (just over CZK 300,000) per employee per year (or CZK 25,000 a month).

Last month, Lidove noviny cited data from the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry indicating that the average monthly wage topped CZK 20,000 in the third quarter. The paper wrote: 'A manager in an industrial company, for instance, earned Kc52,554 on average in the third quarter, that is eight per cent more than a year ago. In contrast, the average monthly wage of electricians rose by two per cent year-on-year to Kc17,323.'

The ministry had reported earlier in December that the minimum wage would increase from CZK 6,700 to CZK 7,185 a month as of January, news which probably very nearly brought smiles to the faces of the 5,000 people who earn it.

Most people I know, Czechs and foreigners alike, weigh in around CZK 20,000 a month. That figure does a body handsomely considering that the earners probably have some sort of health insurance and live in a city where the public transport system relieves them of the need for a car.

Czechs may or may not want to rely on the state pension system and will save for their retirement accordingly. Foreign wage earners are in a different boat. If, like me, you're a US citizen whose been out of his home country's income tax loop for years ... well, there's good news and bad news. Bad news is you can't afford to retire, even in the unlikely event that Social Security exists when you get there. Good news is you haven't poured your hard-earned dough down the US drain. (Ok, so it wasn't so hard-earned.) We've had the pleasure of flushing it down the Czech drain. But oh well.

And then there's housing. We 20K/month earners are kinda in a jam, because the market demands we spend about half our income on shelter. Construction is up, which should bring housing costs down, but oil prices are keeping the prices on the rise (the Czech Statistical Office cited an 11 percent month-on-month increase in housing prices in October).

All this is to say that CZK 35 is too damn much to pay for a beer. Thanks for listening.