Ρεάλ Μάθηση

In Athens, everything is Unfamilarland. I plan on learning a lot. Trying to grok the meaning of Ρεάλ Μάθηση is tough. (It means “real learning.”)

New foods, new sights, new behaviors, and incomprehensible signs are part of the mix.



The Cluetrain moves forward

Yesterday I fought CIFNA insurance, which was refusing to pay for my drugs because it was the second time in a year I asked for a refill in advance because I was going on vacation.  The story is online.

The company’s obtuseness, putting internal rules ahead of the welfare of their customers, really made me angry. In retrospect, I should not have let them get to me that much. I was in fighting mode.

I spent hours telling the world not to deal with CIGNA. I outlined what had happened and Tweeted it, along with YouTubes of Gordon Gecko, a retired CIGNA executive talking with Bill Moyers, and the famous “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” clip. I emailed CIGNA’s president, the State Insurance Commissioner, Medicare, and others.

This morning CIGNA backed down. I’ve got my drugs. I got a weird phone call a little while ago. I redialed. The woman on the line explained that she was trying to reach a colleague and absently minded dialed me in error since my phone number was right there in front of her. Ha ha. They’re doing damage control.

I’m of an age where I don’t feel like taking any shit from inept institutions. Next time I’ll stay cooler in the head but work to cause even more extensive damage.




I began the day by reading and recording quotations about learning.

Nominally, these are for the marginalia of Real Learning.

Practically, some of them provide insight but most (I’m doing the filtering here) reaffirm what I already believe.

Speaking of which, I’ve revisited my fundamental beliefs. They have not changed in a while and since the world has changed since I wrote them, that’s a problem. Excerpt:


Perception is reality. (See The User Illusion)

  • Placebos work.
  • Hawthorne effect.
  • Halo effect.
  • There need be no commodities.
  • Reality is relative: we each have our own.

Mental expectations set real limits.virgil

  • Learned helplessness.
  • “They are able because they think they are able.” Virgil
  • Optimism works better than pessimism.
  • Logic = blinders to intuitive exploration.

Modern people have cro magnon brains.

Not just poison people…

Life is simply too share to deal with incompetents. It may not be their fault but WTF if they waste my time or divert my attention from more important goals, I’m going to exclude them from my life. If the “quiver in the liver” says something’s not right, I’m walking away. I only want to deal with competent people.

Case in point. Last week I fled my horrendous pharmacy which had gone from service leader to hell-in-a-handbasket in a matter of weeks.  Yelp:

Pharmacy used to be good and efficient when Quan was in charge.  It has gone to hell.  I have had to go there 4 and five times to get a prescription.  Each time they told me it would be ready in two hours.

I’m not sure when this pharmacy started to circle the drain but here we are.  The last several visits have been like something out of Dante’s Inferno.  Lines of people waiting around in purgatory, all being told why they can’t have their medicines, no the doctor hasn’t called anything in yet or yes they have but no, it’s not ready.  This last time:  “No…oh yes, here it is. It’ll be an hour at least.”

This is strictly about the pharmacy. I have never, ever seen a business go from being so good to so bad in such a short period of time! Prescriptions are now NEVER ready when they’re supposed to be and there are now 6-10 unhappy people every time I visit waiting for their overdue prescriptions.

Asked if they had to received the prescription. Honest to God, the pharmacy assistant pulled a stack of faxes off the machine that must have been half an inch high. Probably at least 50 pages. Then she said, “Whoops! Ran out of paper!”

So I fled. The former pharmacist at CVC here quit and went to Kaiser. His staff fled. A fill-in pharmacist told me “This situation is bad for you and bad for us. Lots of people are leaving” I went up the street to a ***** rated pharmacy.

Unfortunately this was out of the frying pan and into the fire. I should have trusted my gut. Things felt a bit out of kilter, but this fellow was top of the heap on Yelp. Five stars.


I began to have doubts when Sal couldn’t fill the prescription I’d turned in for Uta. Turned out he’d submitted the wrong prescription even though I’d handed him the drug bottle with a red check mark on it. After lots of folderol,  he said the prescription was ready; he’d secured the doctor’s approval for a refill. This was BS because he put in the name of the wrong physician, essentially faking it.

My crap detectors went on red alert, but I’ll naïvely give anybody a second chance. Shit happens. So today I go in today and explain I need more of a particular drug because my supply won’t last through vacation.  He calls the insurance company and says I’ve changed insurance companies (huh?) and instead of a $71 co-pay, they want $1200. What? Sal says he can’t do anything; perhaps I should call my insurance company. He gives me a special number. After an hour and being hung up on, I get through and find this isn’t my insurance company at all.

I call Sal and tell him to contact my real insurance provider, the same folks he’d called about six prescriptions for me last week. He calls me back that they want a co-pay of $1400. I told him this was no insurance at all; that’s the retail price of the drug. What can I do? I will run out of the drug in Turkey and the withdrawal symptoms are not fun. He said I could call me insurance company. I told him that was my least fun activity in the world

I called the insurance company and they said Sal had quoted me the price for a rejected claim. I was going on vacation? I should send them a fax with my itinerary to prove I wasn’t bullshitting them. Okay, I’ve done that now. We’ll see if I get a response before I depart on vacation in two days. The lady at CIGNA suggested that maybe I could wait until the prescription is ready for a normal refill, have a neighbor pick it up, and the neighbor could FedEx it to me. Fat chance. I’ll be on a boat in the Mediterranean.

I’ve faxed them my itinerary. (Just love dealing with suppliers who suggest I’m a liar.) We’ll see what transpires tomorrow.

Of course, I’m dumping Sal as my pharmacist. Nice man but his actions show he’s a fuck-up who doesn’t know what he’s doing.


Less learned: If you sense that someone you meet is not someone you want to continue with, cut the cord immediately. Trust your gut. Adios.

Answering others

I once began a speech spontaneously, saying I was glad I’d made it because I was looking forward to what I have to say.

Yesterday a fellow interviewed me for 90 minutes as part of his PhD thesis on entrepreneurship.

“What’s your plan after this project? he asked.

I replied that I’m 71 years old and have had three heart attacks. A few years from now I expect to be dead.

Last night I read a friend’s plog. I love his #1 objective, “Be a better person.”

Clearly, I need to do a little more work on my “long term” goals.

With Real Learning, I am out to help make as many peoples’ lives more fulfilling as I can. I am thinking millions. I would like to be the catalyst in a learning revolution.

My visual monkey mind

I awoke with the idea that Real Learning is a follow-up to Informal Learning.


Instead of a choice of riding a bus or riding a bike, a real learner rides a motorcycle. I used Google to find pictures of some great motorcycles: Norton, Vincent, BMW, Ducati, Benelli.. Then I realized not everyone can picture themselves on a motorcycle. Maybe a Vespa. Or, aha!, a car.

I was lost for an hour scrolling through pictures of beautiful cars and motorcycles. My mind enjoys this. Lots of mini-stimulation. It’s flow experience: I can get lost in it.

bentley bmw128 porsche car tesla vespa norton vincent

Which of these images go best with the bus and bike?

I’ll model a few in PowerPoint and see what appears to work.


fast and slow

The best way to figure this out is to experiment and see how things look.


The Norton motorcycle looks good. Motorcycle to bike is the right metaphor. Same freedom of motion but this time going faster.

The Vespa looks dowdy compared to the bikes. The Vincent looks like a fragile antique. The Ducati is clearly a racing bike and Real Learning is more regular transportation. The cars just don’t do it for me. I think the Norton is my best choice.

Back to the graphics. This is more in the way of advertising than book illustration (although it would be a good idea to tell this story in the book as well.)

I’m imagining I’m David Ogilvey or BIll Bernback.



Without the teacher

Six months ago I started taking a yoga class. One on one. I met with the teacher weekly for an hour but I could not for the life of me get into doing yoga at home.

Last month I told the teacher something was’t working. I wanted to go it on my own. That way I couldn’t rationalize that I could put off practice until the next session with her.  I stopped the weekly sessions.

Now I’m doing my yoga routine four or five days a week. The secret to motivation was throwing away the crutch of my instructor-led session.