Friday, December 27, 2013

Trick or Treat Christmas

It seemed a dirty trick that our RV would be in the service bay at Lazydays for the entire holiday season, but as it turned out – it was a treat.  We decided to clean out the RV so as to leave it locked up and hand the keys over to Lazydays in Tampa, and then drive to Fort Lauderdale and stay at Mom’s townhouse for the holidays.  Hopefully, with 2-3 weeks to work on it, they’ll be able to fix the slide right!
We packed up several computers, tablets, and smartphones – and a couple items of clothing.  We really don’t need anything else.  Dee, who lives at the townhouse now (Mom’s in an Assisted Living Facility) was spending the holidays with her family, so we had the place to ourselves – complete with Cable High Speed Internet!  I have a desk upstairs for my computer and Jim has a desk downstairs for his.  What a treat.  The weather has been beautiful, so we’re also enjoying the small, private backyard.  Here’s the Video Christmas Card we recorded there:

And, of course, being in our hometown for the holidays is full of family and friends.  We went to the Christmas party at our Dive Shop – UnderSea Sports – and reconnected with some dive buddies.  We attended the Toastmaster’s Club Christmas breakfast.  And we split Christmas day between brunch at Jim’s sister’s in West Palm Beach, and dinner at Jo Ellen’s with Devon, grandkids, and Mom.

Debbie says she hardly decorated for Christmas at all!  I’d say it was incredibly festive with the Christmas tree and then all the miniature Christmas trees, garlands, nativity scenes, and of course, champagne mimosas and food.  Thanks for doing all the work Debbie and Bob!

“Uncle” Bill makes a great Santa Claus:

Then it was back down to Fort Lauderdale, pick up Mom, and go to Jo Ellen’s house for Christmas dinner with the rest of the family … We used the occasion to take a very rare photo of the whole group – Mom, Me, Lacey, Aiva, AJ, Jo Elen, Devon, Jim:

Here we are all around the dinner table.  There’s a little story behind this photo – it’s actually made up of 3 or 4 pictures – I’ll write about it in our Geeks on Tour newsletter this week.

Aiva was so cute helping Grandma with the dinner!

And, here’s a typical scene with AJ playing video games.  I think Dad is giving him some pointers here.

Nice picture of Mom, Me, and Jim.  Thanks to the photographer … Aiva!

AJ likes presents!  Surprised?

Dot – Devon’s dog.
Merry Christmas to All!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Picasa Collages–Learning with Geeks on Tour

We’re really excited about using Google Hangouts On Air to deliver live webinars thru Youtube.  Our next webinar is:
  • Topic: Making Photo Collages with Picasa
  • When: Thursday, December 19, 2pm EST (Miami time)
  • How Long: 30 – 45 minutes
  • How to Register: Enter your name and email on this registration page.
  • How to View: After you register you will receive reminders with a link to go to when it’s time to view the live webinar.  You will be directed to a simple web page, nothing to download, no special equipment or software needed.  If you can watch and hear Youtube videos, you can watch and hear this webinar.
  • What if you miss it?  The live hangout is free to the public.  It will be recorded and the recording will be available on our Youtube channel.
We use Picasa Collages nearly every day.  It’s so easy, yet so powerful!  Whenever you have more than one picture you’d like to print or share, you could consider putting them together into one collage.  The basics are quite simple, just select all the pictures you want to use, then click the Create menu and Picture Collage… command.  If you have the Collage button at the bottom of your screen, that is the same thing.  Now you have lots of options.  Most people don’t experiment beyond the “Picture Pile” default, but Mosaic, Frame Mosaic, and even Multiple Exposure give you many interesting styles to explore.  Add to that the ability to use borders, colors, backgrounds, page formats, captions, and you start to see the power available.  You can see more examples of collages we’ve made.
In fact, the informational image above was created using the Collage feature.  It’s a collage of collages if you will!  We’ve already made several videos on how to use the Collage feature. You need to be a Geeks on Tour member to view the Shortcourse on Collages and Banners.  If you are a member but don’t know your username, please contact us.  If you’re not a member, you can join now!
We also have several free articles on collages on our website.
We hope you can join us for our free, live webinar on Thursday, but in any case … Make Some Collages!
Here's the recording of the Webinar on Collages.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Orlando and Tampa

We are members at Thousand Trails, so whenever possible we take advantage of that to stay at one of their parks.  So, after our 2 week visit to Fort Lauderdale, we headed up to Orlando.  We had never seen Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Holiday Lights, so we took advantage of our Annual Weekday pass and joined our friends Geoff and Laura for an evening at Disney.  It really is quite impressive!

Here’s the lake at Thousand Trails Orlando:

And these are our new bikes.  It’s a big park and a great place to ride.

And, you probably noticed the beautiful weather!  We can’t help but gloat about being in Florida right now when the country’s weather looks like this:

We also needed to be in the Orlando area because we have some presentations booked at computer clubs in the middle of the state.  Here we are presenting our Facebook seminar at the Lake Henry Computer Club:


Our First Hangout on Air!

We've been wanting to do online webinars for a long time and have been keeping an eye on Google Hangouts as the tool that looks the best for what we want to do.  It's still pretty new, but it seems to be maturing, so we jumped in.  Teaching something about Picasa seemed the most logical first topic and, given the season we're in, I thought making cards would be good.  You can't actually make the cards with Picasa, but you certainly can find and prepare the pictures you want on them.  Then, you can use the File->Order Prints to upload your picture to Walmart, Snapfish, or several other vendors, and they'll make the cards for you.

But, if you're serious about Cards, you need to take a look at Send Out Cards.  I'm always amazed when our friend, Laura Baker, shows me some of the things that Send Out Cards can do.  So, we asked if Laura would like to join us in this experiment, and she said Yes!

People could watch the webinar on their computers – and we even set up a chat area where they could ask questions.  They could also watch on their tablet or smartphone.  Here’s a shot I took of my Android smartphone during the webinar:

We were quite happy with how everything worked.  The Internet connection is the most crucial piece and we were just using our Smartphones as a hotspot with Verizon.  I wrote more about our hangout on our business website.  Click here to read more.

Off to Tampa

We had an appointment for our motorhome to get some service on our problematic slide.  We figured if anybody had the facility and knowhow to fix it for good, Lazydays would.  Our appointment was for December 9.  Here we are in what is affectionately knows as the Bayview campground!  That’s when you sleep in your RV while it’s parked in the Service Bay.

Then, on the 10th, we had a presentation booked at the Greater Tampa Bay Computer User Group.  It’s a small but interested group and they requested a repeat of the “Cloud Computing” seminar that we presented for them last year.  We’ve changed a lot since then, so they didn’t get the same seminar!


So, now it’s December 13 and we’re still here at Lazydays.  In fact, we’ll probably need to leave the RV here for a week or two (we’ll go back to Fort Lauderdale and stay in Mom’s townhouse) so they can completely remove the slide – fix everything that’s wrong – and put it back in.  If you think that sounds like an expensive proposition – you’re right.  The estimate is a rough $5,000. 

I think I’m going to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Home Again, Home Again

We like to visit our hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida - but we don't like to get too comfortable!  So, we visit for 1-3 weeks, then we're off again.  This time we stayed at Thousand Trails Orlando before coming home for a 3 week visit, and, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, we'll be going back to Orlando.  But then, we have some other obligations.  We'll be speaking to the Lake Henry Computer User Group in Winter Haven on Dec 5, the Greater Tampa Bay Computer User Group on Dec 10, and the Central Florida Computer Society on Dec 15.  Then we'll come back home for the Christmas holidays.  You can always see our public schedule by visiting the Calendar on our website:

It's usually not real exciting while we're in Fort Lauderdale, so I don't have much to blog about.  My main reason for being here is to visit with my Mom.  She's doing well in her Assisted Living Facility and she's always happy to see me.  Jim and I drove her down to the beach one day - not a particularly nice day - but she enjoyed the ride.

We also got to do something cool with the grandkids this visit.  Their elementary school sponsors an annual 'Walk for Peace'.  We joined them and walked about two miles in the neighborhood of their school.  It was way fun till it started raining - then it got even more fun!



Here's our site at Paradise Island RV park.  We almost always stay here because it is so conveniently located.  It's just about 5 blocks from the house we used to live in before we went RVing.

We also took advantage of being in town to go to our wonderful Toastmasters club - Earlybird Toastmasters.  We signed up to give a speech so we could work up a new Geeks on Tour introduction and get some practice in front of this friendly group.


We made a visit to our storage unit and I brought home a box of memorabilia from Computer Savvy, the computer training center I owned with my Mom here in Fort Lauderdale from 1983-96.  Does anyone remember that Charlie Chaplin was the first spokesmand/ad campaign for the IBM PC?

This newspaper article is from 1993 - it's a good overview of the whole business. If you click on it you should be able to enlarge it.


My Mom was the real entrepreneur and she was determined to have fun with owning a business.  Here she is with our first portable computer - about 20 lbs! You can take it on your boat!!


There are lots more pictures at this Computer Savvy Web Album, and I'll probably add lots more as I keep going thru the box.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Disney Birthday, and Hot Tub Finally!

Yay!! The hot tub is fixed here at TT Orlando – so we’re going over there every morning.  We just love being in hot water!

It’s also a nice walk from our site to the hot tub and back.  We like the spaces back in the wooded section.

Since we were staying at the Thousand Trails near Orlando. It’s only logical to take advantage of Disney World for my birthday celebration.  Epcot opened in 1982 and Mom and I went in 1983 when we started our Computer Training business. I remember so enjoying the ‘Spaceship Earth’ ride and its explanation of human communication from caveman to satellites.  I also fell in love with Morocco because of the exhibit at the World showcase.  I’ve only been to Epcot a few times since then (when you take kids, you go to Magic Kingdom) and I always enjoy it.

Jim did his research and found that the best deal was a Florida Resident weekday only annual pass – with that we could go to whatever parks we wanted, so the day before my birthday, we also visited Hollywood Studios.  I really liked the simple ride thru movie history from a Disney perspective.  Anyone remember Disney’s Wonderful World of Color?  That was on display too – with lots of stories about Walt and his brother Roy. 

But, for my birthday, I wanted Epcot.  The Spaceship Earth is a wonderful example of  a Geodesic Dome as conceived by one of my heros, Buckminster Fuller.

From there we went to the Living Seas with the huge saltwater aquarium, and lots of fun with Nemo and pals.

When you’re on any Disney property, reality is suspended, you hear happy music everywhere, and there are no problems in the world!  Especially in Epcot’s World Showcase, where you can visit France, England, Morocco, Japan, China, Mexico and others all just by walking around a lake.

We had a gorgeous day for it too!  We so enjoyed walking around the beautiful property and taking all the educational rides like the boat ride thru “The Land” where you see experimental hydroponic gardening, and the 360 degree film of France that makes you want to go there, and of course the “Soarin” ride which makes you feel like you’re in a hang-glider flying over Yosemite Falls, Napa Valley and the like.

Our dinner reservations were for Morocco.  The food was exquisite, and the dinner show with a belly dancer was fun.  Just in case you can’t figure this picture out, she’s bending over backwards as she dances.

A most excellent birthday – thanks to Jim for making all the arrangements!

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Elliott Masie’s #Learning2013 Conference

Lifelong Learning

Both Jim and I are lifelong learners.  One of the things that originally attracted us to each other was our hunger for learning; our curiosity for just about everything – but especially technology. Now we are Geeks Who Teach – and we welcomed this learning opportunity to “sharpen the saw.”

Who is Elliott Masie?

That’s a big question, and if you want to read all about him, here is his bio. But here, I’ll just tell you how I know him.  Elliott used to run a conference called “Computer Training and Support Conference.”  This was back in the early 90’s and that was my industry.  I owned a company called Computer Savvy which was a stick and brick business with 11 classrooms and over 100 computers.  We had a full schedule of classes on business computer applications as well as network systems certification courses.  I was even president of the International Computer Training Ass’n during some of those years.

Elliott asked me to be a member of his faculty and I spoke at a couple of his conferences.  I don’t even remember what I taught … probably something to do with Microsoft Access since that was a specialty of mine back then. I loved his conferences!  He knows how to deliver volumes of information in an entertaining and inspiring way, and, most of all he knows how to make people feel special for being a part of the teaching/learning profession.  Elliott Masie is my guru. We even visited his ‘Masie Center’ while traveling thru Saratoga Springs, NY.  Here’s the Blog post about that visit in 2008.

What is a Learning Conference?

I was thrilled when it worked out this year that we could attend his current conference called, simply “Learning.”  This conference has been going for quite a few years, so he identifies each conference by the year.  I can’t imagine that any other Learning conference could possibly live up to what we experienced at Learning 2013

Themes included:

  • Technology is becoming integral to learning everything!  A fitbit on your wrist helps you learn about your health.  A video on your smartphone teaches a hotel maintenance worker how to caulk the bathtubs.  A website generically called a MOOC (Massive, Open, Online Courses) makes university level education accessible to everyone for free! See Open University, Coursera, Kahn Academy
  • Learning should be Personalized: No more big classrooms where one size fits all, now it’s “one size fits one.”  Each learner has different needs and with online resources and mobile learning techniques, they should get exactly what they need.
  • Learning is getting shorter, referred to as ‘Learning Compression.’ No more week-long training programs, now a company provides a series of 20 minute videos, along with social media groups for new hires to get acclimated.  But, these shorter learning sessions need to happen more often.  Continuous learning, Lifelong Learning, Learning needs to become part of our DNA! 

We were probably the only 2-person company represented.  Most people were there from the likes of NBC Universal, Ericsson North America, General Dynamics Corporation, and Coca-Cola.  Did you know that there is now a corporate title CLO?  For Chief Learning Officer?  How to teach people what they need to know for advancement in the workplace is a big business!  We teach individual travelers what they need to know to enhance their travels with technology – but many of the same principles apply and we were like sponges soaking it all up.

Over 1,600 people were registered for this conference.  There were 177 breakout sessions over the 4 days for 20-50 people to learn details like, for me, how to embed a video into an eBook.  Or how to use smartphones to ‘gamify’ a class – we’ll use this one!  Or understanding 3D printers. Or how to present learning over webinars. 

But the best parts were the General Sessions.  You see, Elliott is very well-connected!  He was on a learning advisory committee in the Clinton administration, he produces Broadway plays, and he owns horses that race at Saratoga Springs … and that’s just for starters.  So he can get keynote speakers like Hillary Clinton, George Takei, and Jane Pauley. 

And, he must be one of the best interviewers on the planet.  With Elliott spending a half hour with each of these people we felt like we had been sitting in their living room just getting to know them. 

You might ask, “What do Hillary Clinton, George Takei and Jane Pauley have to do with Learning"?”  Well, you’d be amazed – we were. 

  • Jane Pauley talked about Baby Boomers.  She said she felt like “an ambassador from the 20th century.” She loves learning but cautioned that we need to slow down a bit for her, she has an “etch-a-sketch brain.”  She was really funny!  She is now doing a series for the Today Show called “Life Reimagined” about how older Americans are learning to completely change their lives and do what they want.  We RVers know all about that!
  • Hillary Clinton promoted a Clinton Foundation project called, “Too small to fail” about how important it is for children to get attention before the age of 5.  That is when the brain forms the majority of its functionality and, if it’s not healthy and interacting with people, conversation, and reading, it won’t develop fully.  Of course, Hillary Clinton is also a stellar example of lifelong learning herself.  She described Americans as learners, always exploring, always changing.  We need to focus on learning and get even better at it as the changes in our world speed up.
  • George Takei was all about the power of storytelling for learning.  We know him as a co-star on the original Star Trek series and, more recently the gay man/social activist with an incredibly popular Facebook page - over 5 million fans!  But, I didn’t know that he grew up in the American concentration camps that imprisoned Japanese-Americans during World War II. To teach people about this dark chapter in our history he is using story and music.  He stars in a Broadway musical called “Allegiance” which I really hope we get to see someday.  Guess who is the producer?  Elliott Masie.

The conference started out with fun as Jim volunteered to go thru the training program for a race car pit crew!  Innovation in learning was another theme! Here’s a short video of one tire change.

Another speaker I particularly liked was Nigel Paine. He spoke of brain science and how we know so much more nowadays about how we learn.

  1. Stressed brains can’t learn
  2. Brains need multiple type of media to learn
  3. Brains like to work together – social
  4. Brains need time to reflect and Process
  5. Healthier, fitter brains work better

Someone asked if the brain exercises so popular on the web today are valuable.  He answered that brain exercises make you good at doing brain exercises, but not much else. Smile

A Masie Conference is a Production

Remember me telling you that one of Elliott Masie’s hats is a Broadway producer?  Well, this conference is one of the beneficiaries! On stage in this photo are Telly Leung, Marcus Paul James, Eden Espinosa, and Adam Pascal.  What voices!  Wow.  These are well-known Broadway stars from Rent, Glee, and Wicked, among others.

Oh, and I don’t think I even mentioned that the location was the Coronado Springs hotel at Disney World in Orlando.  His conferences have always been on Disney properties.  I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job.  Mickey is a gracious and accommodating host.

Thanks Elliott!  It was a Blast, and I came away inspired and motivated to try all sorts of new things to help our Geeks on Tour members learn!