We took our family vacation in 2015 on the island where "Mama Mia 2" was filmed

A little more than two years ago our family--my wife and me, our two kids and their spouses and three grandkids--spent a wonderful week together on the same island where Mama Mia 2 was filmed and which will be released this summer.

It has to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world, an island in the Adriatic Sea between Croatia and Italy and just north of Greece.  Our daughter found a dacha, if you will, that fit everybody nicely.  It was incredibly comfortable.  Parts of it go back to the time of Christ.

Everyday, we'd walk by olive trees and small restaurants that specialized in freshly caught seafood.  There was internet service but very little else that lent itself to the age of high tech.

Now Mama Mia 2 was shot there.  We recognize many of the places.  I'd love to go back.

At the very least, we will see the movie.  Above is the trailer.  

Older baby-boomers: Go to Amazon and buy "virtual reality" goggles for a new look at the world


If you knock on my front door during this warm weather, there's a good chance you'll see me with these virtual reality goggles.  It has nothing to do with the myriad eye problems I've had over the past few years.  These goggles allow me to view hundreds of videos taken with cameras that give you a 360 degree view of whatever you're looking at.

I just got back from a virtual helicopter trip over downtown Las Vegas.  It was amazing.  It was as if I was actually taking the ride.  I could see everything and look anywhere in any direction, including up and down.  I could even feel the bumps in the ride.  I'm ready to go again.

The device allows me to adjust it to my tricky vision and to see everything with a natural sharpness.  The New York Times has a collection of 360 degree videos.  At least two will be watched before the day is over.

I'd recommend this to just about anybody.  I can't wait to show it to my six-year-old grandson and to my wife, a retired third grade teacher.

Are you familiar with Virtual Reality (VR) goggles?  Have you ever used them and what have you watched?


Traveling with 15-month-old on an airplane across the AtlanticI

Traveling with a 15-month-old
My daughter-in-law had a dollar store notebook bag of little stuff for each of us to use to entertain our 15-month-old grandson.


I was rummaging through a page of digital images from this past year and I found one of a special collection of little dollar store toys that my daughter-in-law got for our 15-month-old grandson to help entertain him on our plane ride across the Atlantic.

My wife, my son, my daughter-in-law and I each had a notebook storage bag filled with little dollar store toys that could entertain a little guy on a long plane ride.  The bag contained a real assortment of baby-friendly items, including stickers.

Did it work?  Not perfectly.  He was tired and off his routine.  But for five minutes here and three minutes there, it seemed to work.  I used the little stickers to put on the bottom of his feet.  He enjoyed bending to pick them off.

I remember my first visit to Paris ten years ago.


Posing by the Arc de Triomphe.
Paris is one of the most dynamic and historic cities that I've ever visited.

We were only in Paris overnight, but I remember being impressed by a unique sense of world history.  I was part of a mission team that was flying home from Mali in West Africa where we had been working on a school construction project.


I saw enough to know that I'd like to spend more time there to see the places where some of the key events in world history took place.  Our taste for the city was whetted by touring the Lourve and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

That's why I was transfixed to watching the news reports of the tragic events in the city.  It was a frontal attack by terrorists on one of the main stages for the world.  It was hard to concentrate and it was a reminder of what happened in this country on 9-11.

My heart goes out to the people of Paris and to the people of the world as we transition to a new dynamic for settling conflicts.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Drinking my morning coffee at a shop in central Paris


Drinking my morning coffee in central Paris after flying in from West Africa.


While cleaning out my digital files, I found this picture taken several years ago of me having coffee at a shop by the Arch of Triumph on the Champs-Elysees if my memory is correct.  I had just flown all night and was trying to enjoy some peace and quiet while watching the web.

Looking at recent news maps,  it appears to be close to the recent fracas in Paris involving the satirical magazine.

I vividly remember all the traffic and the attitude of the French who we met.  They must have seen themselves as tall people.  It seemed like they were looking down on us because we were Americans.

My memories of going to Cuba with my friend Charlie Cain in 1978

This was taken at the bar in Havana, Cuba where Ernest Hemingway used to drink rum and coke.

Note:  President Obama announced today that he's resuming normal relations between this country and Cuba.  That's great news.  It about time.  Here I recount my memories of traveling to that country.

In 1977, my friend Charlie Cain, a Detroit News reporter, and I were looking for a place to take a different vacation.  As pressroom manager at the State Capitol in Michigan, I had daily contact with news reporters who shared their suggestions.  Somebody threw out the idea of going to Cuba.

President Jimmy Carter had let the U.S. embargo against Cuba expire which opened up the country to U.S. travel for the first time in a bunch of decades.  We went and we both had our eyes opened to a country full of really friendly people and to overwhelming poverty.

Landing at the Havana airport had a surreal quality with the knowledge that Keywest, Florida was less than a hundred miles away.  It was a communist country closed to Americans, but still with incredibly close ties to this country.  It seemed like everybody there had relatives somewhere in the Midwest, particularly Michigan.  There were people with cousins in Saginaw, grandkids in Lansing and brothers in the Detroit area.

Before we left on our trip, Charlie and I connected with a Cuban family in Lansing where the grandfather was still in Havana.  He was poor.  He had very little freedom and his resources like clothing were meager.  They asked us to take him K-Mart quality clothes to him along with some razor blades.  We did.  Highlights of the trip included:

  • A visit to Varadero Beach on the north shore of the country at a seedy resort right on the Carribean.  This was before the commercial development of the past few years.  Just down the beach was the Dupont Mansion with a restaurant where Charlie and I ate.  We were the only customers.  Everytime, we had a swallow of water a waiter refilled it.  This was repeated for crumbs dropped on the tablecloth.
  • An eerie visit to the Bay of Pigs where soldiers landed via parachute during an attempt to overthrow Castro.  We took a motorboat to an island restaurant where we ate crocodile burgers.  Our guide explained how the soldiers during the attack became food for the crocodiles.
  • We brought a Bible which we got through customs.  At our hotel in Havana, I saw the maid eyeing up the Bible.  I asked her if she wanted it.  She nerviously shook her head no.  We left the room and when we got back, it was gone.
  • A stay at an East German resort on the south coast which was near a Russian sub base.  At the resort bar, we drank vodka shots with a big table full of young Russian sailors.  We toasted everything from Chevrolet to Cassius Clay.
  • A visit to the bar in Havana where Ernest Hemingway used to dirnk rum and cokes.  In the above picture, I stand in front of a Saturday Evening Post article about the bar.  It was big time unreal to be sitting on a stool where he may have sat.
Talking on the phone in my office in the pressroom at the Michigan State Capitol.

Permanently etched in my memory is our visit with the old grandpa that we brought the clothes to.  We arranged to meet him in the lobby of our hotel.  We patiently waiting until a clerk handed us a note telling us where to look for him.

We invited him to our room to get the clothes.  He was stopped at the elevator by the Cuban secret police and hassled.  Concerned that he might be jailed, we asserted ourselves and he was allowed to go to our room

When we delivered the gift, he cried.  Through his tears, he said he had two sons in the United States.  Pointing to us, he said he now had four.  

He gave us each handrolled Cuban cigars.  These were the real deal and not for faint of heart cigar smokers.  As we tried to show our respect to him by smoking them, we could see the gravity of the moment.

During that trip, the world became a whole lot smaller for the two of us.  We met and got to know people who deserve better.  

I'd go back again now that the country's open once more to U.S. visitors.

It's time to reconnect and share.  We have so much to offer each other.