Category Archives: Travel

Back to ground zero thinking

Twenty days into vacation and my obsession with work has finally disappeared. I have a fresh slate to work with. I’m open to new priorities and adventures.

Çesma, Turkey

Çesma, Turkey

Çesma, Turkey

One thing that is less than idyllic and puts me in fighting mode is the god-awful wifi aboard ship. For $250, you get unreliable, low-bandwidth wifi that sometimes crashes once a minute. To add insult to injury, my cruise line censors content. Details at What are they thinking?  No matter where I happen to be, I consider an internet connection the next most important thing after toilet paper. And $250 for access is equivalent to charging $100 a roll.  “Can I have the email address of your I.T. department?” Answer from Windstar: “No, we are not allowed to give that out. I will call them for you.” Me: “No, I want this documented.”  Çesma, Turkey

Most of the towns and islands on our itinerary have ancient roots. Çesme reached its zenith in the middle ages under rule of the Genoese. In 1566, the Ottomans took over. In the twentieth century, watermelon replaced wine as the main crop, and Çesme became a windsurfing destination and home port for countless  fancy yachts. How do towns like this retain their identities?


Consider Ephesus, which was founded by the Achaeans in the Bronze Age. Four centuries later, in the 10th century BC, Ionians and Attic Greeks built Ephesus atop the older city. The Temple of Artemis, the largest building in the ancient world, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and home to the “many breasted Lady of Ephesus” was burned down by a loony in the third century BC. Ephesus was variously conquered by the Lydians, Persians, retaken by Ionians, Alexander the Great stopped by, the Egyptians under Ptolemy III ruled for a while, joined the Roman Empire, and became second only to Rome as a trading center.   Ephesis

It was raided by the Goths but rebuilt by Constantine. In 614, Ephesus was partly destroyed by an earthquake. St. John probably wrote his gospel here. Rumor has it that this is where the Virgin Mary retired to after the Crucifixion. The Byzantines ruled for three hundred years. The Crusaders passed through. The city was abandoned in the 15th century. To-date, archeologists have excavated only 15% of the ancient city.

How does a place like this retain its identity?

And how do we retain our personal identities?

My foundations have been raided and razed as if by Persians and Byzantines as I’ve morphed from child to high-school student to preppie to college student to computer salesman to Army officer to market researcher to manager to philosopher to author to mindful traveler. Somehow the values persist, the core remains, the identity is still there, even when buried under thirty feet of history and rubble.

An interviewer asked me what’s next. “Death,” I said. That was for shock value. Like most people, I cannot really imagine my demise. All I’ve ever known was life so death is a foreign concept.


I’ll probably joust with windmills until the end.

My current crusade is to share the secrets of how to learn to learn with those who don’t even realize that learning is a variable. Too many people think “learning = school.” The truth is that “schooling = indoctrination.” That’s why it sounds odd to ask, “What did you ask in school today?”

thoreauI’ll need to unlearn the attitudes  and axioms from my last crusade, informal learning, in order to concentrate on the new target of Real Learning.

I’ll no longer be fighting “the man,” denigrating L&D for shirking what I consider their responsibility to promote learning throughout the organization; I’m mostly going to forget that they are even there.

I intend to experiment with my latest insights into memory. If I recall a memory, I may be able to scramble it before returning it to storage. This wipes out the connections that make the memory whole. This may be impossible, but it will make for an interesting thought experiment.

This rambling, introspective post probably belongs on my Plog, my progress log, so I’ll copy it there now.


Roadtrip! What’s the coolest thing between Berkeley and Kansas City?

A dozen days from now, Uta and I will pack the dogs into the car and drive the 1800 miles from Berkeley to Kansas City, Missouri. After ten days at our son’s new house, we’ll drive the long way back via Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons.

coonskinLike most coastal Americans, we hardly know the interior of our country. I haven’t been in a car on this route since I was four years old.

We’ll be whizzing right along, my daredevil co-pilot at the wheel while I ride shotgun. I’d hate to miss a cool trading post or natural site or place to eat because I didn’t ask about it. Help us find the best stuff to do.

What are your favorite things along our easterly route from Berkeley, across Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska to Kansas City? 




Similarly, what should we not miss among the National Parks and natural wonders on the trip back? Food tips, off road suggestions, lodging, anything that put a smile on your face? 








Dogs. Flirt (left) and Azure (squirms too much to get picture) are geriatric miniature longhaired dachshunds. Ten pounds apiece. They will ride in a car cage on the back seat. This will force us to pace ourselves as well; breaks every two-three hours.

Any pet friendly suggestions for us?


Diet. When we moved to San Francisco in the mid 70s, I was impressed by the Californians’ dedication to preserving historic buildings. The next time I visited New York, Philly, and Washington, I found that historic preservation was a national phenomenon.

I have my fingers crossed on finding healthy food I want to eat. Hello, triple-D. (I have not eaten at a McDonalds, Wendy’s, KFC, PizzaHut, Burger Chef, or ChickFilla in over twenty years.) I usually find some local specialty to sustain myself; Uta is vegetarian.


Please comment on Facebook.



Cruising the Danube with Viking River Cruises


Uta and I took a Viking River Cruise down the Danube from October 31 to November 7. Everyone from my doctor to our airport driver had seen Viking ads on Public Television and wanted to hear how it went. Here goes.

Would we do it again? Absolutely — if the locations were desirable. Our cruise started in Nürnberg, and stopped in Regensberg, Passau, Melk, and Vienna before ending in Budapest. (Itinerary.) We’d been to Nürnberg, Regensberg, and Passau before, but that was more than 40 years ago. We’d spent a week in Vienna last year. Budapest was a new one for us. All of these are beautiful, intriguing places to wander around. (Our photos start here.)

Here’s the drill. At each stop, Viking provides a half-day tour and lets you explore on your own for the remainder of the day. There’s often an optional, extra-cost tour available. For example, most passengers went to a concert in Vienna. All meals are provided on the ship although we generally chose to lunch in town.


The great thing is that you visit half a dozen cities without having to check in and out of hotels. Your stateroom floats to your next destination during the evening.

Our stateroom had a balcony. That’s a shelf perhaps two feet wide with a couple of chairs. It makes the otherwise tiny room feel larger. The bathroom is minuscule but serviceable.

Food on the ship was excellent, as was service in the restaurant and bar. Smiling, friendly staff. An enthusiastic maitre’d insured that the kitchen provided vegetarian meals for Uta. Bartenders remembered our preferences. Overall, we felt pampered.

Beer and wine flow freely at mealtimes, but we bought the optional Silver Service package which prepays for unlimited cocktails and premium wines. At $210, our consumption of house brand champagne, among other libations, put us ahead on the deal.

Our fellow passengers were primarily American retirees. Those PBS ads apparently work. By and large, the passengers were cordial, outgoing, nice people. A few were loud, look-at-me boors. Particularly memorable was the asshole who wore his black Stetson even when visiting a cathedral.

Every day featured a PowerPoint presentation in the lounge on a topic such as the EU, how canal locks work, and the life of Mozart. Viking is really missing the boat here. The presentations should provide the foundation for the tours on shore. Now, they are banal, poorly organized time-wasters.

I’m going to get on the soapbox for a moment, for this is the realm of my expertise as a learning professional. First off, the presentations need a purpose, e.g. conveying the history of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburgs, the Romans, or the Reformation. This would lay the foundation for the guided tours. Second, the presentations should be designed in a compelling fashion (see Presentation Zen, Nancy Duarte, Cliff Atkinson). Third, the on-shore tours should draw on the presentations.

The on-shore tours were led by well-meaning locals who seemed to think we were interested in dates and names (that no one would remember five minutes later) instead of stories and the big picture. The guides made up their own content; a well-crafted outline would guide the guides to become better at what they do.

We didn’t want to fly to Europe to spend a mere six days, so we flew to Nürnberg a week early and later spent a few extras days in Budapest before coming home. Pre-cruise, we visited the medieval walled city of Rothenberg, spent three days pigging out in Alsace, and wandered around Bamberg for a couple of days.

Post-cruise we spent two extra days in Budapest on an extension offered through Viking. Were we to do this again, we’d save money by making our own arrangements in Budapest. In fact, we’d have opted to book our own flights and just buy the cruise package.

As it happened, Viking arranged our flights. We flew out on United cattle class. I detest United. No individualized entertainment, bad attitude, and they always seem to have their hand in your pocket. (Although the Japanese hostess who checked us in at SFO was the friendliest agent I’ve ever encountered). We flew back Lufthansa, middle seats in one of the last rows on the plane. 

Our total tab for Viking, including airfare, drinks, tips, and the two days at the Budapest Marriott came to $8,447, about $1000 day. This is an expensive way to travel.

We’ve been to Europe thirty or forty times, generally renting a car and following our own itinerary. I wasn’t confident we would enjoy the regimentation of a managed tour, too reminiscent of If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, but we encountered enough variety that this was not a problem.

Overall, I’ll give our Viking experience four stars out of five. Please leave comments on my Flickr site or Google Groups. 



Online Educa Berlin

Brandenburg Gate
In two weeks I’ll be attending my favorite learning event, ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2013, the 19th International Conference on Technology-Supported Learning and Training. This will be my tenth or eleventh year attending OEB. Joining colleagues from over a hundred countries and hanging out at Christmas markets has become a habit.Berlin, the day after Educa
Big data and analytics top this year’s agenda. I can hardly wait for the discussions of the ethics of the NSA and invasions of privacy. For my part, I’m going to focus on small data.
storiesMy session, the last event at OEB, Friday December 6, at 4:30 pm, will consist of eighteen personal stories from the last fifty years.

Inspired by French director Jean-Luc Goddard who said that “Every movie has a beginning, middle, and end — though not necessarily in that order,” the audience will select the sequence in which I tell the stories. Pick a number, hear a tale.

I plan talk about aborigines, Andrew Carnegie, Gloria Gery, Hans Monderman, George Carlin, drunk tank pink, the hills of San Francisco, founding the University of Phoenix, the birth of eLearning, the Oxford Union, a trip to the Morgan Motorcar factory, and more.

December 6 is Saint Nicholas day. Leave your boot by the door so Santa can leave you candy if you’ve been good this year.