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All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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Friday
Apr032009

What I like about Cairo

Here is the best thing about Cairo. People love having their pictures taken:

 

 

 

 

Here's my method. Smile. Point at my camera. Point at the person I want to take a picture of. 90 percent say yes. I say shukran (Arabic for thank you.) For the 10% who say no, I say mafi mushkula (no problem). And I show them their photo on the LCD of the camera.

These pictures were all taken on a 45 minute late afternoon walk today. Amazing the worlds you can see when you get two blocks away from your 5 start hotel.

Conference starts in earnest tomorrow...

Thursday
Apr022009

Bumped (up)

At the risk of offending whatever gods I've pleased, I have to say that this trip so far has been most excellent.

Knock wood.

For anyone who flies on a regular basis, one the nicest sounds you can hear is your name being called in the departure area. It sounds like: "Would Douglas Johnson please see an agent at the check-in desk?" It usually means that you'll be trading your tourist class seat for one in first class. (Or that there is something wrong with your security check...)

Anyway, last night I got "The Call" and was bumped to first from my flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam. While I am somewhat accustomed to being bumped on domestic flights, I can count on one hand the number of times I've been bumped internationally. It is truly something that should happen to everyone at least once, just to learn what it means to be treated like a valued person by an airline.

You board first. No worries about overhead bin space. You are greeted with a large seat with a real blanket, real pillow and real glass of champagne on hand. You are handed a menu with three lovely entrees plus appetizers and desserts and of course all the booze you can handle. Oh, and a list of snacks just in case you get peckish between meals. You get a little kit that contains slippers, eyemask, toothbrush, comb and other goodies. You get a private video screen with your choice of movies and nice headsets. We in first class get our own bathrooms, unsullied by those of you back in steerage.

But the best thing is that the seat has more controls and positions than those vibrating chairs at Brookstone. It reclines until it is almost 180 degrees. You need that pillow and blanket. It massages your back. For a guy my height, that alone makes the trip a pleasure. I sleep on planes, but it's rare I don't wake up with a kink in my neck and cramps in my legs when I do. (Not to mention the drool down the front of my shirt.)

Since I am too cool to actually show any excitement about being in first class, I did not take the picture above, but it looks just like my seat. The little old lady sitting beside me had been bumped up for the first time and it was fun to hear her excitement about everything.

And it keeps getting better. First class seating gets you free admission to the business lounge here in Schipol airport. Free wi-fi, free food, quiet atmosphere, and, of course, more free booze. I guess airlines like their good customers well lubricated. For an eight hour layover, camping here in the business lounge is almost as good as the flight in first class.

I suspect this about uses up my good karma for the next 5 years, but it has been really nice. I've always suspected I was switched a birth with another child from a very rich family since I enjoy these experiences that would be very expensive should one actually pony up the funds. There is probably a rich person out there who couldn't care less.

Now, onward to Cairo!

Oh, if anyone who is attending the same event you are sees you sitting in first class, always act surprised that they are in coach. Saying "You mean the event organizers/school/organization didn't give YOU a first class ticket?" is always a fun trick to play.

Oops, time to go refill my wine glass...

Wednesday
Apr012009

Cairo bound...

My flight for Egypt leaves tonight about 9. After a layover in Amsterdam, I'll be arriving in Cairo on Friday at 1AM local time. I am excited.

I'll be doing a keynote and a couple workshops for the NESA Spring Educators Conference and then the LWW and I head to Luxor (via sleeper train) for a four day Nile cruise to Aswan.

A public note of appreciation: NESA, under the able leadership of David Chojnacki, is one of my favorite organizations with which to work - well organized, great communicators, and sympathetic to the needs of its member schools. The NESA staff call themselves a family and actually live up to the description. OK, so their taste in conference speakers is sometimes questionable, but you can't have everything...

I am just a little anxious about the final 4-hour "institute" I will be giving on Monday. Plunging into the Stream of Social Networking is a hands-on workshop where the participants will be completing 4-6 actual individualized projects designed to improve their personal learning networks and/or academic activities. I expect it to be chaotic. I am worried we won't be able to get everyone connected to the Internet. I am convinced that attendees will discover that I am a technology sham. But here is my real goal: I hope that 5 years from now, every attendee will be saying something like this to her/himself:

Gee, I don't remember the name of the workshop or presenter at that NESA conference in Cairo, but I do remember it is where I met the people who now form my online "learning and support group." How I ever got along without them before, I'll never know...."

It's been 20 years since I've been to Egypt. I hope the pyramids are still there. As I remember, they were pretty old even in the '80s so somebody may have torn them down.

 

From People are the Hard Part; Machines are the Easy Part ...

the true miracle of the pyramids

I once visited the Great Pyramids of Giza and have always remembered an observation made by the Gaddafi look-alike tour guide:

“Most people marvel at the engineering and building when looking at these ancient wonders. But the true miracle was the sophistication of human management 4,000 years ago. How did this early civilization feed, house, train, organize and motivate the workers in order to complete these giant undertakings?”

See you in the desert...


Ilustration by Brady Johnson