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!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Desperately Seeking a Hot Tub

When we left the Atlanta rally we knew we'd make it to somewhere in northern Florida, so I started looking for an RV park using my Allstays app on my Droid phone.  Yippee, we found a park, and it even has a hot tub!  Ohhhhh how we wanted a soak!  We pulled in just about sunset and the office was closed but a phone number was posted, so we called and were told which site to take, but he also informed us that there was no operational parkwide hot tub - only the onsite tubs at the premium sites

ohhhhh nooooo

Oh well - that's how it goes.  We took a walk, had some dinner, watched some TV and went to bed.  The next day we figured we could make it all the way to Fort Lauderdale if we really tried.  But we had our normal, lazy morning.  Then, as we were passing Gainesville, we decided to do some Trader Joes shopping.  So, it was already 2 or 3 o'clock and we weren't even to Orlando yet.  hmmm - we could go just a little out of our way and stay at our membership park - Thousand Trails - just west of Orlands. And ... they have a great hot tub!  Yes, we can be a day late to Fort Lauderdale.

When we checked in, the first words out of my mouth was, "how's the hot tub?"  Oh, sorry, it's out of order at the moment.

oohhhhhhh NOOOOOO!

Oh well, staying there didn't cost us anything.
We were on our way the next morning and made reservations to be back in a week, they promised the hot tub would be fixed by then!  We've stayed at Thousand Trails Orlando many times and the hot tub has always been wonderful, so we trusted.

My main reason for visiting Fort Lauderdale was to see Mom.  She was great!

This picture was taken after I took her to her semi-annual visit to the Neurologist ... the memory doctor.  As we were going there, she asked me (several time) "so ... where are we going? ... I forget"  I would answer her, "you have an appointment with the memory doctor."  She would laugh and laugh and laugh!
Her memory is non-existent - short term, or long term - but her sense of humor is fully intact!  She still clearly knows who I am, and it's good to see her.
Jim and I also had a couple of Dr. appts during our week stay.  Then we took off again for 2 weeks at Thousand Trails Orlando.
We like the sites back in the woods. Very pretty. And we had a great sunset for our happy hour with Laura, Geoff, Linda and David. Nice.:

But ... would you believe the hot tub STILL isn't in working order. OOHHHHH NOOOOOOO
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