Winding Down…..

Posted From Bratislava, Slovakia.

Aboard the good ship Amastella we just had a wonderful performance from a classical trio. As they played this whole thing started coming together. Central Europe is at the same time, mysterious, tragic, and magical. This is wrapped up in a history that goes back millenia. The castles and cathedrals and moats tell a story of an area that is heaped in lore and tradition but where you wonder if in a highly technological world that past is no longer relevant. The notes we heard could have been played in a palace salon in 1800 or a lonely flat where the composer toiled. Do we even think that way now?

It is probably fitting that we have bounced from the Czech Republic to Germany to Austria and now Slovenia before ending up in Hungary. Languages, customs, foods, guides and of course wines have presented themselves for our observation and consideration. Each are incredibly provincial but at the same time evoking a common emotion.Thank God, the Danube ties it together somewhat.

The second longest river is Europe is not blue.I don’t know where they got that ? Probably just worked in the lyrics. But it is clear as a bell and serves as a boundary of all sorts. The fact that Romans populated the area is pretty astounding. There were no bullet trains or C130’s to move them from Rome so they set up fortifications and way stations throughout. As in all of Europe, war making for centuries has been a common pastime. Bow windows are for real crossbows or spears and gigantic ramparts are everywhere to keep out the opposing legions from storming the bastion.

It all makes sense when you start with people moving in and around the banks. Trading posts get set up and sooner than you know it, you have a city. Depending on the tribe they came from, their language can sound like Greek to everyone but themselves.That is a stumbling block throughout Europe.A lot of borders with people speaking in many tongues. I can’t help but think about the addition of Spanish as our second language in the US. Does it make our broadscape more of a home to all or just another dividing point. Of course you can reply that our English sounds strange in various parts of the America and y’all would be right. You betcha! Fugeddaboutit!

The traffic on this river is amazing.A major use is commerce and our 440 foot lady just came through a huge lock with a tug and two barges lashed tightly right alongside us. Tight quarters but we made it. We have encountered dozens upon dozens of riverboats like ours and there is no lack of clientele.There is rhythm and reverie to this stream and throughout mes amis, the mayhem of the world seems very far away.

Austria and Germany speak the same language but it sounds different. Our guide in Deutschland had a route to accomplish and she was going to do it quickly with a staccato like quality. The Austrians are more gentile and as in life they just let it happen. They are often criticized for their lack of creativity and spontaneity. If that is true, why is it the motherland of so many composers and architects? The University of Vienna is bold and dynamic with a design that looks like a Guggenheim museum as compared to the ivy covered quads of Oxford and Cambridge.

They love their country and it shows. Linz is somewhat industrial and was bombed repeatedly in WWII but they are proud of their rebuilding efforts however pedestrian. Then you venture into the Lakes region with incredible vistas and you see their deep respect for Mother Nature. It is probably why they are neat freaks. Everything is in order, especially their wood piles. They are stacked just perfectly. You don’t see junked cars or refrigerators in rural yards but well kept houses that seem freshly painted or stained. The roads comprised of the autobahns and beyond are in superb shape which enables them to set their cruise control at 130mph which works out to be some absurd number of kilometers.

On that count, gas is around $4.50 a gallon even with low oil prices. Most of it is taxes.There is a clever system where you pay a toll based on how much you drive and it is all done automatically. Like an EZ Pass on steroids. Their Highway Fund is not bankrupt. They have made healthcare work. Taxes are high but when you see what they provide you do have to stop and think. The universities are free for residents and that is without Feeling The Bernie.I don’t necessarily want to be a socialist but there are benefits.

Don’t worry, we do have a lot in common. Depending on the country corruption is either rampant or subdued. Politicians are despised everywhere. But what they do have is history. Over the centuries they have seen dynasties come and go. They have occupied lands and had the same done to them. There have been hundreds of great ideas on how to run a country from Caesar to Merkel. They will keep on adapting and trying to find the perfect fit and therein lies the simplicity of change. It never stops.

It is part of a pervasive feeling you get here. Life goes on no matter what. When you see cities and they tell you that this street or district was blown to smithereens in WWII, or maybe it was WWI, or perhaps Attila the Hun, you get the picture. C”est la guerre. Simply put they know how to take it down a notch. Meals are an occurrence not just a need of life. You take your time and have good conversation. Christmas and Sundays are to be celebrated and not just a good excuse for some good old fashioned commercialism.

That is not to say they are anti business. They know their talents don’t come cheaply so they play to their strengths and design and build precision instruments and machinery. There are more jobs than people. They make a good living but they as a whole are averse to debt. If they don’t have the money for something they save until they do.What are these people thinking? Don’t they understand Visa and AMEX are the keys to happiness?

In truth they aren’t any better or any worse than us. When you go through charming cities and streets you have to remember what it was like six or seven hundred years ago. The streets were filled with filth, plague and pestilence. You wouldn’t be surprised if someone threw garbage out the window from the fourth floor walkup.That is why guys walk on the outside. The water was rancid which was one of the great reasons for drinking beer. Even the rich had to have tapestries woven to keep the walls of their dank castles warm. And all this time you thought they were just pieces of art.

Tomorrow we will be in Budapest and then on to home. Would I live here? Probably not. I like our little aerie in Denver. As we have in other travels these are nice places to visit. I only wish we would appreciate all that we have as Americans and add a little bit of European flair to it. Take time to talk. Have enough money to make do but not conquer the world. As a nation Austria is neutral on the world stage.Not a bad thought. They used to be the world leader but that was during the Hapsburgs. No longer. Hmmm, maybe there is a message here.

As always
Ted The Great.

Observations: Just One. I found this in my wanderings. Appropriate!

In Heaven…
• the mechanics are German
• the chefs are French
• the police are British
• the lovers are Italian
• and everything is organized by the Swiss.
In Hell…
• the mechanics are French
• the police are German
• the chefs are British
• the lovers are Swiss
• and everything is organized by the Italians… Anonymous

Czech It Out…..

Posted from Prague,Czech Republic….

We are in Prague and from the get go it is full of surprises. Of course just like the ugly American that I am, I figured there were only a few flights a day coming to this forsaken metropolis in Europe’s eastern frontier. While walking to customs I glanced at the Arrivals board and saw Dubai, Moscow, Beijing, London and Tokyo for openers. This city of castles and cathedrals is at the same time historic, cosmopolitan and full of energy. Point taken by a humbled TTG.

The drive to the city showcases several housing areas that are extremely well kept but with an institutional flair. Our guide told us these were sold to citizens after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 at very advantageous prices. Much of it had been been constructed by the Communists. What a stark comparison to the same type of housing outside St Petersburg which is still under Communist control. The Russian model produced decay and rust, while democracy and self ownership had pride reflected in the impeccable exteriors.

The sprawling buildings that represent Prague itself demonstrate every manner of architecture from Gothic to art deco. Streets in the Old Town are cobblestone and the facades of buildings have been kept intact for centuries. The interiors may be brassy and bold but the law keeps “scrapers” out and the charm is marvelous.

As we walked along the Vitava River we were somewhat blown away by the breadth of the city from a physical and historical point of view. Prague is a actually a compilation of four ancient towns joined by the famous Charles Bridge. There have been kings and princes and Holy Roman Emperors. all playing a part in its evolution not to even mention the totalitarian occupations of the twentieth century.

You have Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Austrians,Russians and who knows what coming together to flavor the food as well as the culture. It is almost as if ruling parties through this part of Europe have been conquering and dividing the countryside over the centuries partly through the spoils of victory and partly as tradeoffs on the chessboards of power.I have often mused as to how people can be so docile to takeover. Then you realize the amalgams of peoples are matter of fact. Yet some hostilities are ingrained and you wonder if it will ever work .Sound familiar? And our American differences aren’t even remotely as complex.

The most unsettling area of Prague is the old Jewish ghetto. This dates back as early as the 15th century. If inhabitants wanted to go outside of their confines back then, they had to wear a yellow hat.They still earmark this section of town as such but more for historical and tourist reasons. Hitler came here and was able to condemn 70% of the Jewish residents to the gas chambers. If he was an anomaly maybe it would be okay but he was not. Why is this true throughout our world from South Africa to the Middle East to probably America? What makes the Jewish religion so hated for millenia? I wish I knew.

Speaking of religion it has thrown another wrench into the mix. The area was predominantly Catholic in the Dark Ages but as the Age of Enlightenment moved forward, some were fed up with the antics of the Popes and wanted to see reforms . Ergo the formation of Protestantism. In the long run you had to pick sides in the battle and make formal choice between one or the other. Many did not do so for fear of retribution so they were listed as atheists. Prague with all its religious history has become the largest atheistic city in the world. As Paul Harvey would say, And now you know the rest of the story!

Beer is the national drink and they can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner It has many recipes but the Pilsener is exceptional. You pay less for a beer than you do for bottled water. They also take pride in their wine. We went to a Czech restaurant for dinner and entertainment last night. This guy kept walking around with a yard of white wine in one hand and a yard of red in the other .That’s right like you would see a yard of beer. He would keep filling glasses reaching across the table and using his index finger as the stopper. What a country! It the US he would have to be in violation of some health law.

The floor show was a local group of strings, brass and of all things a dulcimer. As the dancers stomped and turned in ethnic garb you could almost see the gypsy in their eyes.Half sadness. Half merriment. with just a pinch of lust thrown in for good measure. They had a cellist who also performed in the National Symphony. She did a solo and was magnificent. Imagine in one of our major cities if first chair violinist or cellist had to do gigs in a local restaurant to make ends meet? Chest la vie. Sorry, I don’t know how to say that in Czech.

I am sorry I have put on my Rick Steve’s hat once again. I hope it is not a travelogue but a little insight to the soul of where we travel. We leave tomorrow to meet up with our river boat as we meander towards Budapest with several stops along the way. It fascinates me that somehow with all the drama of the centuries these places have survived and thrived. Somehow they suck it up and make it work. I am sure there have been plenty of obituaries written without ever having gone to press.

The best part of our trip is the lack of TV and newspapers or at least those written in English. It is refreshing to have conversations and loll over coffee or lunch. Somehow like the places we visit you have the feeling this will all work out somehow. Not from naivete or fantasies of Pollyanna but from looking at all this history and taking heart.

As always
Ted The Great


Very few bicyclists or motorcyclists are present on city streets. There is an excellent system of transportation via subway or tram. Drivers in cars are required to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks but not the trams. The hit the horn and seem to pick up speed.
This city is as clean as a whistle. There is absolutely no trash anywhere. The Londoners were not so civil. It was not unusual to see trash in the street or on sidewalks. I thought the Brits were civil?

There are literally dozens of swans beneath the Charles Bridge. They have obviously been well fed by the tourists. Prime time for Prague is spring and fall. It seems Europeans want to head to the shore in summer.

The Chinese and Japanese tourists are rude and obnoxious to a fault. They do not understand queuing and are somewhat oblivious to any other human beings. The lovely Kathy seems to think this is due to the crowded cities of Asia. Every man or woman for themselves. Dunno but that still doesn’t explain why they take pictures of everything including the loos? We can only hope they were not in tape mode.


Breakfast at Wimbledon….

Posted from Wimbledon,England.

“Smoked Salmon with Herbed Goat Cheese and Toast. That is for many American tennis fans who watch morning Wimbledon matches. Across the pond, however, tradition dictates strawberries and cream, Pimm’s cup, and other English delights.”

Neither of these were my fare this morning but the scrambled eggs and toast at the Kenny’s of London were just as delightful. Kathy and I flew across the pond yesterday and arrived late last night. I had to crawl out of bed this AM to see my grandsons before their trek to school. And a haul it is as they walk 1.5 miles each way through city streets to get there. This is but one of many differences in their education.

It was raining in London this day and of course I asked how the boys were going to get there? They simply opened their “brollies” and set out with friends. Makes perfect sense. No car. No ride. On your own boys! They were decked out in their white shirts and ties and blazers. It seems in England all students wear uniforms of some sort whether the school is government or public. Oddly enough, the latter refers institutions such as Eton and Harrow.

I always wore a uniform to school and wondered why the fuss about it in the US? Many parents take offense at the thought, for fear their child may not be able to express themselves properly. The boys attend Wimbledon College which is a state school and they are strict as to attire and appearance. The thought behind this I discovered is twofold: First with a uniform they take pride in their appearance and at the same time no one is any better than anyone else. Secondly they are taught to distinguish themselves not by what they wear or have but by their demeanor and talents as an educated person. Hmm…now there is an interesting concept

I decided to peruse the “Guide For New Parents” at WC. To be fair this is a Catholic school for boys that is run by the Jesuits. Yes, you heard me right, it is a religious school under the auspices of United Kingdom Department of Education. Seems history plays large part in this. Some of you might find that offensive or in the vision statement that includes,”Caring for the individual, showing love in deeds, building a christian community, engaging with the wider world, encouraging excellence and finding God in all things.” I just hope you cannot argue with the sentiment if not the verbiage.

The school goes back to 1897 and has around 1300 students in 6 grades. They divide into “Houses.” It is not a boarding school but the feeling of family is evident. Simply put,the older kids take care of the younger ones not only at orientation but throughout their whole time at WC.If things go right or wrong the House is regaled or disciplined as a unit. There is also detention that sometimes is assigned on Saturdays. At Loyola in NYC we used to call it “Jug”.

My grandsons are 11 and soon to be 13. They participate in rugby and other school activities. The rugby practice areas are a distance away and in the first term the young ones are transported.After that they have to find their own way. Throughout, independence and dealing with adversity is put upon the lads. If they forget the assignment or fail to get it done on time they are the ones that have to do the explaining, not the parents.

Mom and dad are encouraged to be involved but not to be an intermediary. If you have a problem you do the negotiating not Mum. In GB, education is stressed from an early age as they have a two track system that stresses further education or training in the trades.The rails don’t meet. This is a bit elitist but upon further investigation the opportunities are equal to everyone to a point. Being state schools and open enrollment, it is up to the parent no matter what the economic class to be a part of the process.

There are no admission tests to get into Wimbeldon College. Kids are assigned to certain classes and groups by their achievement on tests after they arrive. They try to put them in where they can make the most of their abilities. Also each one gets a target grade in each subject to prevent setting goals too high on one hand or
too low on the other.

They go to class for 6 hours a day. As they say being late is unacceptable. There is homework every night which can range from 1 to over 2 hours. Sports are rugby, football, swimming and tennis. There is PT and other activities from music to drama. I can’t stress enough what is an attempt to affect the boy in every aspect of education. From book learning to morality, by seeing wrong from right, to keeping themselves in shape. Keep in mind this whole curriculum is in a state run school.

They are tough but caring. Teachers everywhere would love to have some sort of discipline and a structure that encourages cooperation. Sure we have bad kids, teachers and parents at home but it seems to me that it takes all three to create failure, not just one leg of the stool.The impressive part of my grandkids’ school seems to be the development of the whole child not just expertise in math or science. They are recognized and supported as a whole person not just a statistic in ratings.The kids are stressed at times but they are taught to deal with it.They seem incredibly happy and committed.

Is this foolproof or without failing? Of course not. For instance,cell phones are not allowed in any way shape or fashion at school. Do kids have them? To be sure. However if they are caught they are confiscated for good. Do I dare say this is a little different form of the “fear of God”? I am sure some fall through the cracks but it is not for the want of trying.

We are searching for a new way to make our schools work better in America. Here in Merry Old England they have a system that is centuries old.Is it the right way? Who knows? Is there a chance that in our quest for improvement we may have overlooked what is right before our eyes? Interesting question and one I will ponder over my third cup of coffee while sitting at the kitchen table having Breakfast at Wimbeldon. It’s wonderful.

As always
Ted The Great

At the government schools in England including Wimbledon College the government provides for all. If students can’t afford uniforms, school supplies or lunches it is taken care of for free. This is all done without any fanfare or notoriety.

At age 16 British students take exams for the General Certificate of Secondary Education or other Level 1/2 qualifications. While education is compulsory until 18, schooling is only compulsory to 16, thus post-16 education can take a number of forms, and may be academic or vocational.

The English go to school from September to July. There are three terms and those are each divided in two. There are breaks or “Holidays” between terms.

European homes are by design minimalistic. At my son’s they live in a gracious three story row house. There is a kitchen and sitting room on the first floor. They have no car but use public transportation or walk. It is more than comfortable and charming and somehow it works.

Artificial Intelligence….

This morning Kathy and I were waiting patiently for our neighbor to take us to the airport for the start of our latest Magical Mystery Tour. I flipped on the TV and was bombarded by every pundit in the world who wanted to tell me what I saw during the Vice Presidential debate last night. I only watched the last five minutes and that was plenty. Another 90 minutes of mindless mud slinging. Been there. Done that.

Wanting one last look as to whether the financial world was coming to an end I deftly shifted to CNBC. It seems there is a cyber security conference going on in Cambridge and who better to describe the action than that mad bomber known as Jim Cramer. The conversation got away from a plebeian thing called security and got to the real meat of our netherworld….Artificial Intelligence. After watching Messrs. Kaine and Pence and Hilary and the Donald I would opt for any kind of intelligence.

For those hopelessly locked in the Dark Ages, Artificial Intelligence(AI) is swiftly giving computers the ability to think like humans. As a matter of fact the consensus is that they will be able to think better than mere mortals within a few years. At first this is rather unsettling. But upon further examination, there might be something to this. Think of all our failings and foibles being corrected by son of IMac.

It appears this thing called emotion gets in the way of rational thinking. You should be able to load x number of factors into the computer, add an algorithm here and there and Voila you have the best possible solution to everything from your investments, dietary needs, athletic performance and relationships.The possibilities are endless. Everything is reduced to percentages of success and optimization of effort. There is no question as to how you should operate.

To find a need for this kind of expertise I have to go to the most irrational of institutions on earth, our government. As a matter of fact if we figure this out we could probably apply it to just about any ruling scheme in our universe. We all know that our current system makes no sense even if the Founding Fathers thought they were brilliant. Basically you put power in the hands of the few that are supposed to represent all of us but we know it is all about them. Whether it is the legislative or executive branch you can pretty much put money on the guy or gal who garners the most monetary gain. Of course they will tell you it has no effect on their decision making but have already concluded that we are not dealing with straight shooters.

For instance a computer will tell you we run a big deficit. When outlays surpass intake the bus is heading for a large cliff. Right there in black and white. The digital solution is to curtail spending or up the ante. What is so hard about that? When deciding where to cut we should consider where we do the least damage and obtain the highest return. Unfortunately our pols don’t get this higher math and that equates with grid lock.

Infrastructure also comes to mind. When you own a house and you have something broken, you fix it. If your car breaks down constantly you repair or replace it otherwise your butt is staying in place for the foreseeable future. I don’t even need my IPad for that. Yet today our highways, electric grid, and airports as well as water and sewer are well beyond Band Aids and Neosporin. We don’t raise the gasoline tax for 35 years. We turn down tolls as being unfair. We wait until disaster strikes even though there are dozens of Flints on the horizon. Analyze that.

Now this is all depressing and I want to think about possibilities and not maladies. I want to play golf where I am told what club to hit taking in all factors, atmospheric and psychologic. Shooting par is a given and the Ryder Cup unnecessary because we will know the result before it happens. No more head injuries in football because the game will be played on a circuit board. Baseball, tennis etc? All you need is a joy stick.

As I sit in this metal tube some 38,000 feet above the ground I think travel will come to a halt. Check out virtual reality to transport us. You will travel to faraway places without leaving your living room. Strapping on the Oculus goggles, you will be right smack in the Taj Mahal or Sistine Chapel. You can ski down the Matterhorn without killing yourself. Board meetings? Your seat will be your Barcalounger and you will be privy to every facial reaction and nuance at the table. You will have a printout that will tell you the boss is cheating on you and his wife. It is right there in his DNA.

Speaking of which, healthcare will take care of itself. My nephew tells me we will have a portal we pass through every day and it will determine minute changes in the cellular structure of all of our various poundages. It will attack tumors or viruses at their very onset enabling all of us to live to be 150. Ain’t that a treat!

Relationships? No sweat. By body chemistry you will be able to discover if Mr or Miss Wonderful is really right for you. Bars will close and liquor sales will plunge because the pickup lines and groveling for phone numbers will be passe’. As a matter of fact driverless cars, virtual dating and artificial insemination will make any sort of physical contact not the best use of your valuable free time. I guess that is good?

Does all this sound crazy? Maybe yes? Maybe no? The cognoscenti think it is not if but when. I think with our mega egos, we just may get beyond the tipping point without realizing we overshot it. We may have created a monster or our own doing and at our own peril. There may be nothing artificial nor intelligent about that. It may be plain dumb.

As always
Ted The Great.


Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving future commerce.

This is the “new world” AI seeks. They want to do this all through cyberware. Interesting but provocative. It is wonderful we can put machines to use for us. It is when the machines view us the other way around that gets me thinking.