Thursday, October 28, 2004

Kan-Ed Live!

Kan-Ed Live!Interested in seeing one of my programs online? This program was done for the South Central Kansas Library System on October 2004, on risk management and libariries. It also includes an appearance of Spider-Man with the 9 year olds.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

the saga and how it ended...

I had it, and finally demanded to speak with the resident manager of the Westbury Hotel, Tim. He claimed that there was nothing he could do and insisted that any recourse I had would have to be with

That afternoon, I decided to nap and put a do not disturb sign on my door. I hear a ring and the door was immediately opened by a housekeeper who semed surpirsed ot find me there. I checked and made sure the do not disturb sign was on the door, facing the right way. It was. I asked the housekeeper why she came in anyway, and she shrugged. I called housekeeping and Tim. He defended her, explaining that many people leave the DND sign on their door by mistake and then complain that their room wasn't cleaned. No wonder this hotel is a mess. The management is utterly out of touch. I suggested that if anyone is worried that a dnd sign is on by mistake, that someone in housekeeping should call instead of ignoring the sign. Why I should be trying to teach him how to manage a hotel is beyond me. :-( But someone should.

He called Luxurylink again, and informed me that the purchase was non-refundable. He offered to give me a visit at the hotel again, on him. Even free, I wouldn't stay there again. I insisted that he do something. So he asked luxurylink to call me. They were incredible. They were also embarassed with what had gone on. Eventually, they agreed to refund a portion of the purchase price themselves to accomodate me. Tim offered to credit me for the Internet access and offered me a car to the airport.

I couldn't wait to check out, a day early, and took him up on the offer. I thought he should have done more, but, as I said I was thrilled to get out of there.

I got into the car, a limousine that had seen its better years long ago. It smelled of fuel, but the window doesn't work. Then a piece of the separator between the driver and the passenger fell off entirely. I was getting used to this by now. Until the driver hit someone from behind and shrugged when the other driver got ot and started shouting. The driver took me to American Airlines, instead of Virgin. Then went to the wrong Virgin adn finally gave up, on the fifth go round at the airport, pointing to the general direction of the terminal and telling me to find it myself.

a fitting ending...

is there a blog where people can share nightmares for traveling, and warn others off of hotels and management who don't care? If there is, let me know. If not, maybe we should start one.

back home, happily.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Westbury Hotel saga, part 2 - insulting my guests

tonight I had dinner plans with someone from Microsoft UK at my hotel - the now blogged infamous Westbury Hotel. She visited their website and was told that the hotel is on Bond/New Bond streets. (In fact it faces Conduit Street, not Bond/New Bond) She circled a few times, and finally found the hotel, arriving twenty minutes late.

When she approached the concierge in the lobby to inquire about me, she was directed to the lounge where we were waiting. When she mentioned the website was wrong about the address, accfording to her, he looked at her in a condescending manner and said "Everyone knows where the Westbury Hotel is...we are very famous" implying that she was obviously not well-informed (or not sufficiently sophisticated enough) if she didn't know the hotel and its location.

she was very unhappy. So was I when I heard. any pleasure in the concierge's directing her to me in the lounge (I had asked him to, if she arrived) was outweighed by her discomfort as my guest.

I will be checking out early. I've had enough.

my 2 cents.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Westbury Hotel-Mayfair, London - the hotel that can't get out of its own way

I often write about my travels. I book them online and take them for business.
I frequent and am a big fan of theirs. The trips are often very underpriced and additional perks, such as massages, are included at prices I could never book even without those perks.

I buy the trips when they come up at special prices and wait until I need them. I buy them for Rome, Seattle, London and San Francisco, since I am often there and can always use them.

I have had great results, by and large. They carefully screen the hotels and usually only the best ones are available at I have had two disaters, though. One in Rome and one as we speak, in London.

I am staying at The Westbury Hotel in London and wish I weren't. I had stayed here once before when I did my UK book tour in Spring 2000. I loved it then. The food was outstanding, the service even better. They even had my favorite shoe store in the world right across the street and the store where I buy my underwear down the block. (You know that you travel too often when you buy staples in other countries. I buy my eye glasses in Singapore, too,)

I should have known this was a problem. I bought the trip at auction (and was the only bidder). It wasn't cheap, but for what I got, it saved me money. It also included a studio suite at the price I would have booked an ordinary room in London in this neighborhood (Bond Street and Conduit).

I e-mailed them with the date requests right after buying the trip. (I bought this just for an upcoming trip I had to make for a presentation at Parliament on online safety.)

I needed to hear back right away. But no one bothered to e-mail me back.

I followed up with a second e-mail, again to the person told me to contact to set up the reservations. Still no answer. I contacted and was told to call and not e-mail.

I found out the Westbury Hotel contact person was on maternity leave and they had "so many e-mails from people wanting reservations they put them aside until they could get to them" I couldn't believe my ears. I almost laughed. Almost is the operative word here.

They promised me a call back. You can guess what happened, or better yet, what didn't happen. Finally, on my next call, insisting on speaking to someone in management (this became a common activity on my part, they are now all on a first name basis with me) they confirmed my room. I went over the class of room included in the package with them. They booked it as a deluxe room, not a studio suite. I reminded them twice more.

I changed my travel dates, moving them up by one day, and found out I still wasn't in a studio suite (whatever that is anyway). Each call ended in a promise to do better next time. I was starting to feel like a mother of a nine year old.

I would have made alterative plans but had prepaid the trip and was now too close to the travel dates to rebook without confusing everything else.

I arrived at check-in time. I was taken to a "studio suite" that was dark and didn't have the promised view of Bond Street. (I frankly could care less, but wanted something that didn't look out at a wall of another building a few feet away. :-() They then offered me another room they claim was a suite, with a bed and a small sitting area at the foot of the bed. I complained, and I was told I could upgrade to a larger suite for 500 pounds a night more (about $900 at today's exchange rates). When I stopped laughing, I marched down to meet the duty manager. A nice guy who didn't really want to hear the history of the world and the Westbury Hotel screw ups, I am sure. But he listened, parked me in the lounge with a hot pot of tea while he checked out other "studio suites." I assumed things were looking up, finally. I also showed him their posting at and what my package included. He seemed shocked.

He found me a lovely little suite, apologized that it didn't face Bond Street, and I settled in. I had ot call and remind them about the additional little things included in my package, each coming as an apparent surprise to them. :-(

I tried to log into the broadband service and once again had problems. This time when I tried to sign up for service, the service told me that I wasn't checked into my room. While sitting there in my room, I had problems understanding how I could have gotten a key without being checked in. I called down to the front desk. Whomever answered had no idea what I was talking about. She insisted I needed a tech engineer to fix my laptop's settings (they were, of course, fine). I had e-mails backed up relating to my schedule and needed access. it took about 1/2 hour before I was able to get service, after the duty officer rebooted the server (they said). But the service required that I reclick on IE whenever it wanted to check e-mail using outlook, and confirm every time I wanted to surf to a new page. all at the bargain price of more than $23 per 24 hour period of access. :-(

But, heck, I had high speed access, so I should't complain. I also had a US ethernet adapter on my desk.

And, to be honest, they weren't the only good things.
The food was great, consistently. But service at breakfast was a problem. Still, the food was good and the hotel lovely, especially the public rooms. A porter named Alfie, 17-1/2 years old and learning Spanish and German, was one of the nicest and most able porters I have eve encountered, so there is hope for this place.

I dropped back to the hotel after a morning at Parliament planning tomorrow's event and giving some interviews. I wanted to rest and take a hot bath. But when I got ready to run the water, I found lots of hairs (not mine) in the tub. That's when I lost it...

I will be checking out a day early, even though I prepaid for five nights. Even though it will cost me to change my flight. Even though I have things to do in town. I would have left even earlier if I could have.

Some times you need to just cut your losses and know when to give up.

so, if you are visiting England, drop by and bid on the lygon arms hotel ( for a wonderful restful time in front of a huge walk-in fireplace with food to die for and a spa attached. And stear clear of The Westbury...Please! But if you are a hotel owner and looking for an incredible porter, and manager-in-training candidate, look up Alfie. He's the only reason I stayed this long.

just my 2 cents.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Lygon Arms, -A place away from everything and connected too :-)

I am posting this from a little hotel (a very famous one) in Broadway, England. It's in the Cotswolds and once hosted Oliver Cromwell and others famous throughout UK history. It has fireplaces in most major rooms, large enough to walk into, and incredible food and most of all, incredible people who work here. (Lygon Arms, pronounced "liggon arms" and

I have Internet access from their business office (a tiny room, with a single desk, printer and computer, and LAN access without charge) overlooking a tiny cobblestone courtyard.

I found this place in my reading about incredible historical hotels and inns in England over the years. I found a wonderful rate at which included a package of room (a suite with three separate rooms), spa treatments and meals.

I arrived last night, late from my US flight (it's a long drive from Heathrow to here, about 1-1/2 hours by car). I was exhausted and needed a strong cup of tea.
The night porter (Stephen, who used to be a cabinet maker locally) managed to get me a pot of hot english breakfast tea, and a plate of wonderful sandwiches, notwithstanding the late hour (about midnight).

Parked in front of this unbelievable fireplace, in a stuffed wing chair, surrounded by antiques and in a building built about 500 years ago, I started to unwind.

Today I wandered down High Street (the only main street in town) past the most amazing stone-fronted cottages, in a world that looks like a Hollywood movie lot, but better. Flowers, trees, iron works and antiques abound.

Late morning I sat before another fire and met a retired teacher and banker out for a quiet day from Liverpool. We talked about children and fate. I finished another pot of tea, and while gazing into the fire, unwound a bit more.

Then, while getting ready to leave and wander around again, I met an American family stationed in London out for a day's drive. Wonderful children, a wonderful family and another pot of tea.

I then finally got out and walked into this tiny bookshop. The owner helped me find historical fiction he knew I would enjoy. We talked about books and life in a tiny town in perfectdom, England. We talked about the politics of book publishing, and another person in the shop joined the conversation and recommended some other books. I pulled the latest novel by the Princess of Kent out of my purse that wasn't available here yet, and we passed it around.

I dropped by the spa once more and brought one of my new books, and sat quietly in the jacuzzi. I then sat in the diningroom before (you guessed it!) another huge fireplace and crackling fire, to one of the most amazing meals of my life. The waitress (I cannot remember her name, but she is from France) decided that she could help me enjoy their chocolates and still stay on South Beach Diet, and managed ot do just that. At her suggestion (not with much prompting)I took my tea in another room before a different fire. (I was becoming quite an expert on fires :-)) Karen, the head housekeeper sat and kept me company, and brought me a second pot of tea when mine got cold.

I am sharing this all with you for no good reason other than because it was great to be unconnected for a few hours, with a mobile phone that only works if you stand under an old tree in the courtyard. :-) And how the Internet helped me find this wonderful place and a way to unwind before the Parliamentary event in a few days, and my return to London when the world starts once more. And how wonderful people are everywhere, especially in this tiny postcard size village where time stood still and caring and kindness still matters.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Blogs and the good old days online

Although I am considered by some as one of the early Internet policy experts and an early adopted of the power of the Net to create and empower large groups of people (especially volunteers), I was actually very late to the Net. I only began using it in 1993, and started using AOL before I even knew the other technologies existed.

In 1994-5 I began running the legal discussions boards at AOL. I was an unapid volunteer, but did it becasue as a board host, I received AOL without charge. (It cost by the minute then.)I had board editing tools, where I could add new discussion boards, delete and edit others' posts, pretty much do what I wanted. It was a blast. I could start a special discussion and promote others. I was able to leave my mark on what we were doing, and it worked. Our area became very popular, and eventually Court TV cam to me and asked me to replicate this for them, which is how the Court TV Law Center was formed. We were all unapid volunteers and early pioneers of providing professional information to consumers without charge as a public and Internet service. It was was the net was born. People helping each other, sharing what they know and can was fun and exciting.

Then I became mainstream. The media started following our discussions and judges would cite to our posts in their decisions. The law journals were all over whatever we did. But the more mainstream I became, the more I lost touch with the fun part of the Internet, everyone else.

I began Internet safety volunteer groups and ran them entirely online. But posting was work, not fun. And I spent time online because I had to, not because I wanted to. Instead of devoting time to jokes and learning about others, I was fielding hundreds and sometimes thousands of daily e-mails from people who wanted my advice, wanted to share their thoughts with me, wanted my help.

I knew about blogs, which harkened back to the good old days when I began using the Net and AOL. But dismissed them. "Who had time for blogging?" I wondered. Eugene Volokh, now well known in teh bloggin circles, was one fo those who hung out together with me in lawyers-only networks. We would chat about law, love and policy. Movies, music and infidelity. Being able to discourse with so many bright and well-informed people (even if they all were lawyers :-)) was so much fun.

I couldn't get enough. When in Moscow, in my now former husband's inner office, I unplugged a red phone to the Kremlin to use the special phone access to reach Counsel Connect and send posts from there. I understand Yeltsin's staff got a busy signal one time, and I denied knowing why :-).

It's truly sad when I look at 1993 and see it as the good old days. But much as changed. Now, instead of posting on AOL, I am interviewed on the Today Show or by the New York Times or People Magazine. And my e-mail responses are as short as possible to conserve my typing energy. (Everyone who reads this blog knows I cannot type or spell :-))

After a conference in June, 2004 I decided it was time to start blogging. It didn't take long for my blog to get noticed. (It doesn't hurt that I am a columnist for :-)) I also became the subect of a cybersmear campaign that passed lies which were, unfortunately, picked up by bloggers thinking they were being given the truth. But, that's the nature of the Net. Good, bad, truth, lies, it's all about sharing our thoughts and ideas and opinions.

I am starting to enjoy this. It brings me back to the good old days.

I still can't type, or spell, but I am having lots more fun while doing it. :-)