Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mistaken Identity - a parable of heath care in America

I sought a dermatological screening from my health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, in early December because I was concerned about a suspicious mole on my face. The lead- time to see a specialist was about eight weeks. Last Thursday, the appointed day arrived and I made a special effort to be on time. In recent visits, Kaiser had been quite prompt about appointments. I registered with an unsmiling, waiting room attendant, a woman of few words, skilled in avoiding eye contact – or any human connection - with her clients. She collected a fifteen dollar co-payment, tapped an entry on her computer, and instructed me to wait.

I waited,… and waited… and waited….. Fortunately, I came equipped with cell phone and laptop so the time was put to some use. I was grateful that the television, now ubiquitous in all waiting areas was turned off. There was a status board in the waiting room listing doctors’ names, but the doctor with whom I had an appointment was not one of them. After fifty minutes had elapsed. I got the attention of the desk attendant and asked how far behind schedule Dr. _____ was? “He’s not behind schedule,” was the reply. “I’ve been waiting nearly an hour,” was my response. “What’s your name” …”John Richardson.” She looked at her computer and seemed puzzled. She disappeared through a door behind her desk, returning after a few minutes. “What’s your name?” she asked. “John Richardson,” I replied. She disappeared again, and then reappeared, looking at me with a puzzled expression.

Soon afterwards, a physicians' assistant came through another door looked at me and called a name that I did not recognize. When no one responded, she disappeared. She then appeared behind the desk and caucused with the desk attendant, looked at me, then disappeared. She soon afterwards, she reappeared. Looking at me from the other side of the waiting room she queried, “Are you (a name I didn’t recognize).” “No.” I said. “What is your name?” She queried, “John Richardson,” I responded. “Follow me,” she said and led me to an examining room, where she explained what happened.

She reported that she had called my name an hour earlier. I was on my cell phone, she said and another patient had responded to the name ‘John Richardson.” She had given him a preparatory examination and entered the information on my chart. The young man was about forty years my junior, but this did not, apparently, attract her attention or, subsequently, the doctor’s. The doctor then came in and gave my impersonator a complete screening, entering the results on my chart. Serendipitously, I was wearing my American University name tag (I manage a customer service organization at AU and require my staff to wear name tags, so I do as well.). Looking at the tag, the physician’s assistant said, “Well, I guess you really are John Richardson.” After giving me a prep examination and entering the information in her computer she looked at the screen. “Poor Dr, _______”, she said. “He spent so much time entering the results of the other examination on your chart, and now he is going to have to erase it and do the whole thing over again.”

There was good news from the most pleasant doctor when I finally did get to see him. The suspicious mole was benign.

All is well that ends well, however I’m glad that my impersonator and I were not scheduled for an amputation, kidney transplant or open-heart surgery.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Captive audiences?

My daughter, who serves in a Florida fine dining restaurant, told me a story about her assistant manager. Late one evening some customers came in with a special request. The assistant manager said “no.” They sought out my daughter who often served them and she repeated the request. “Don’t worry about them” , the assistant manager responded in a sneering voice – he was in the process of closing, a bit early. “They’re regular customers. They’ll be back,{“

Her story got me thinking a problem I see plaguing many businesses. Seeking out new customers or responding to other institutional priorities is ‘where the action is.” It is where the promotions, increased responsibilities, prestige and big salary increases are found. Lip service aside, serving existing customers is at the bottom of the priority list, if it shows up at all.

Another example. I purchase vitamins from a high-end company the sells its products via direct marketing. Its reputation is has been based, in part, on the quality of their products but also on the quality of their customer service. But lately, service has deteriorated. Customers are encouraged to order on line rather than working with their representatives. My representative has reported increased problems in getting responses to her requests and queries. She has come to accept this lack of good stewardship as a new norm. Systems analysts call this “drift to low performance.” When she was on vacation I called for assistance myself, after trying unsuccessfully, to log on to a less than customer-friendly web site. After a wait of some minutes I reached a “customer service representative” but he could provide no information. Our system is down, he told me, indifferently, You can try back in three or four hours.

I have already blogged about a company has provided me with the worst customer service I have experienced in a long life, Cingular Wireless. Civil servants in the most primitive developing country bureaucracies do better – far better. I assume this is a product of the long-term contracts most cell providers now force on their unwilling clients. Readers may recall the response of a Cingular representative, at a local outlet, to whom I expressed my concerns: “the customers keep coming,” he told me candidly, “why should we do anything different.”

Universities can face the problem of indifference to captive audiences, as well. Relationships between students and the institution are complex. Students are both more and less than ‘customers.” The value-added they seek, an academic degree, requires a long-term investment. Institutional control over students, even graduate students, is quasi-paternalistic.

Many faculty members function as semi-independent entrepreneurs, beholden as much to external reference groups, their professional communities, as to the institution or its students. University leaders are guided more by these groups than by teaching or ‘service to the community’ when making decisions about salaries, promotions, and the sine-qua non-decision affecting a faculty member’s life, academic tenure. Fortunately, many faculty are drawn to their profession by an intrinsic love of teaching, and often creative contributions (research, art, composition, performances) as well. To a degree these loves transcend institutional incentives.

But this may not be the case for other staff members who support the institutional infrastructure in which teaching and creativity occur – facilities, finance, housing, dining, maintenance, information technology and the like. Their roles are similar to what they might be in a non academic business or government agency. Their motivations, as “position descriptions” and Human Resources Offices emphasize, are more conventional. The reference groups to which they are beholden, as a practical matter, are not students or even faculty members, but institutional superiors in relatively conventional ‘chains of command.” The incentives to give lesser priority to the needs of a university’s captive audience, students, are greater and may be difficult to withstand.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Remembering great teachers that shaped our lives

Friday before spring semester classes begin is a time AU has set aside to celebrate and strengthen teaching. For the past two years, our gorgeous new Katzen Arts Center ( ) has been the venue for this event. It is titled the Ann Ferren Teaching Conference ( after a former faculty member and Interim Provost, who crusaded to support faculty members in becoming better teachers. I wish students could witness this event, where nearly three hundred faculty and a few advanced graduate students spend a day discussing a calling they love and to which they are deeply committed.

Panel discussions are mostly led by faculty, who share effective, innovative teaching practices and by students, who discuss teaching practices that engage and motivate them. This year, I added a new set of perspectives to the mix. I invited three AU board members to share experiences of teaching practices and teachers that made a difference in their lives.

Here is an excerpt from the letter in which I described the panel’s context and purpose:

“The panel’s motivating idea emerged from a memorable Terrace Dining Room breakfast I shared with several Board members and students, coinciding with last November’s Board meeting.

As an alternative to casual conversation, I posed a question to [the board members] that interested me and I thought would interest the four or five students present: “Could you tell us about the path you followed from AU student to Board member, especially choices you made along the way, how they worked out and what you learned from them?” As conversation progressed, I also posed a second question: “what do you find most personally rewarding and fulfilling about your present professional work and about your role as a Board member?” Despite an early hour, students became totally engaged with the conversations these questions evoked, as I did. My goal, in proposing an Ann Ferren Teaching Conference panel with Board-member participants, was to recreate the ambiance of that breakfast in a way that faculty colleagues would find valuable.

Having now thought about the panel more concretely, I believe that achieving this goal could provide a most useful connection between you, in your roles as alumni/Board members, and faculty members who attend. But the conversation’s substance must be somewhat different from our November breakfast because the audience will be different. What would most interest colleagues, it seems to me, is candid, personal reflections about how memorable contacts with faculty members, both positive and negative, both within the classroom and outside of it, shaped important life-choices you made on your path from AU student to Board member. The contacts need not have been with AU faculty members, though of course recollections from AU would have particular meaning for this audience.

Some of you may be familiar with David Shribman’s entertaining, evocative little book, I Remember My Teacher. One striking impression the book made on me was the very different ways that teachers memorably impacted their students. Some were compassionate, others irascible. Some were primarily classroom performers; others were empathetic, caring mentors. Sometimes the influence was felt immediately, for others it came many years later."

Writing this last has led me to reflect on teachers I remember – all at the university level, in contrast to some of Shribman’s subjects. My honors supervisor at Dartmouth, John Williams, taught me a valuable lesson in mentoring by agreeing to direct my research in an area of the philosophy of history that he had not studied for years. We read the same works together, me for the first time, him for the second. My doctoral advisor at the University of Minnesota, Robert Holt, provided support that very probably kept me from blowing my brains out when I was suffering through painful divorce proceedings. Carnegie Mellon’s Herbert Simon convinced me, in the gentlest way possible, that my postdoctoral project applying certain esoteric mathematical formalisms to the political economy of developing nations exceeded my capabilities and, possibly, anyone’s capabilities. MIT’s Jay Forrester compelled me to master his dynamic simulation model of US economic development by tasking me to introduce the model to his group’s principal corporate financial sponsors, with him in the audience.”

The panel was moving – even memorable. I wish I could have videotaped it. Board members spoke of specific faculty members who gave them self confidence, inspired them and motivated them. It was a reminder to those of us who have chosen teaching a profession that our work does make a difference.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Storing the Christmas decorations for another year

Last weekend my wife and I packed up the Christmas decorations for another year. This final ritual means that the holidays are really over. In many respects, the break was a good one. By listening to public ratio and staying out of shopping malls (apart from a visit to Borders books), we had a non-commercial Christmas. Long trips to visit grandchildren were postponed until less turbulent travel times; this probably kept me from joining stranded multitudes who spent several vacation-days at the Denver Airport.

There was more time in the country, which occasionally reminded my wife and me why we mostly live separately, but also reawakened pleasures of relatively unstructured companionship together. There was time to complete long deferred chores in Hume, at my apartment and office. While the ‘to do” list of such chores remains long, crossing off few of the more nagging items was gratifying. (Of course the list didn’t get any shorter. New items were added.) My wife and I enjoyed good health, though some members of our family endured one of those horrific holiday periods that included several emergency room visits. This recalled one bleak holiday period my daughter spent in intensive care, after an emergency room trip that saved her life.

Some time ago, I asked my counselor for a key to successful relationships. Her response as worthy of a Zen Buddhist master: “no expectations.” Even now, I’m not sure I grasp how to apply that deep wisdom to my relationships. But it does seem a useful guide to a holiday season that is lived more fully, even joyfully, “in the moment.”

Monday, January 01, 2007

At the beginning of most days, I set time aside to be alone and to be quiet. I spend part of this time reading and, most recently, I have been reading a book by my friend Elizabeth Harper Neeld, 'Seven Choices: Finding Daylight after Loss Shatters Your World.' In earlier blogs, I have mentioned two other books by Elizabeth. 'From the Plow to the Pulpit' is an oral life-history of evangelical preacher Tommie Harper, Elizabeth’s father. 'A Sacred Primer: The Essential Guide to Quiet Time and Prayer' is about what the title implies. Among many contributions, this book provides a structure for personal quiet times that I have found helpful.

In the concluding chapter of 'Seven Choices,' Elizabeth quotes a Chinese parable, which seems an appropriate beginning for this New Year (pp. 317-318).

"There was a farmer whose champion horse ran away and all the neighbors gathered to say, “That’s bad.” And the old farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day, the stallion came back with a whole herd of wild horses, and the neighbors all said, “That’s good.” And the old farmer said, “Maybe.” Then the farmer’s son broke his leg trying to tame one of the wild horses and the neighbors said, “That’s bad.” Right after the son broke his leg, the army came through and drafted all the young men and took them off to war, but the left the farmer’s son because his leg was broken. All the neighbors said, “That’s good” to which the farmer only said, “Maybe.” "

"And, of course, the story never ends… :"

Holiday Newsletter

A years end, it has become a tradition in may families to supplement or replace Christmas/holiday cards with a newsletter recapitulating the year’s events. Most frequently these are banal recountings of ‘good news,’ reminiscent of the Christmas newsletter in the moving two-person drama, “Love Letters.” Occasionally letters probe more deeply, which I find more interesting. As we age, news of illness and death, as well as more joyful life transitions begins to appear.

My 2006 newsletter draws on the 114 blog postings I wrote last year. Thus, most of the material will not be unfamiliar to regular readers, if any.

Dear Family and Friends

This will be a different sort of Christmas newsletter though, for a change, it was actually begun on Christmas day, rather than days afterwards. As many of you know, I have been writing a blog under the pseudonym ‘Dormgrandpop’ ( for several years. Like many blogs, it is a mixture of dairy, reflection and commentary. Blogs need not have a purpose, but if Dormgrandpop’s blog has one, it is to provide AU students, especially residents, with glimpses of one professor’s life and reflections from an outside-the-classroom vantage point.

This makes can make a yearly recapitulation easier, albeit more lengthy, since I need not rely on memory for thoughts and reflections. I have chosen a few blog titles and excerpts as markers for a full and productive year.

You will find little news of, my wife, Emily in what follows, though including shared experiences is customary in many family newsletters. One of Emily’s distinctive attributes and great strengths is her independence, which extends to this genre and many others. Some of you may be receiving a missive from her, as well.

01 01 Can an old dog (or Professsor) learn new tricks? In November, I switched from my faithful Toshiba laptop to new Macintosh Powerbook, Generation Four. The experience has transformed my experience of computing and has now traveled with me to Portugal in Sri Lanka. My staff gave me a book about Macintosh Zealots, The Cult of Mac as a birthday present.

01 10 Celebrating teaching at AU. A flagship event in the Center of Teaching Excellence Year is the annual Ann Ferren Teaching Conference. This year’s venue was AU’s gorgeous new Katzen Arts Center. I said in my opening remarks, in probably no other higher education in the world would more than 250 faculty members voluntarily gather, in the second week in January to discuss and celebrate effective teaching.

02 08 My day. Since beginning to blog, my respect for Eleanor Roosevelt, who sustained a daily column entitled “My Day” for several years, has grown. Some days, my ‘to do’ list is so full that I simply don’t write at all. This day begin at 6 AM with a morning tennis match (at which a colleague of many years and I also do business) and did not conclude until midnight, after an Anderson Hall staff meeting. At 12:15, I was too exhausted and devoid of creativity to do anything except post my schedule for the day.

03 02 A rich, energized campus. About 6 AM each morning, the morning shift manager of CTE’s audio and video systems and services group calls me with a briefing of the days events on campus that require audiovisual services – which means most events. There are typically between 130 and 180 classes requiring AV services and events too numerous to mention. There are meetings of clubs, training sessions for employees, events with outside speakers, films, concerts and much, much more. When I was first hired by AU, the institution had a miniscule – almost nonexistent – endowment. Now, the level has risen from miniscule to modest. But Washington, D.C. might be viewed as a hidden endowment. Faculty and students arte drawn as much to the city as to the institution. With all the shortcomings in our governments – national and city - Washington DC remains, for some at least, one of the world’s best places to live. And it is home.

03 03 Moving on. For those of us who have chosen “professor’ as a calling, the connections we make with a relatively few students who may call us ‘mentor’ are an important facet of a good life. But ‘moving on’ is essential part of the process, as it should be. Freshmen become seniors and they graduate. They may return to ‘the dorm’ but it is not the same. Ph.D. students complete their dissertations. Young faculty receive tenure and constitute themselves as mentors to others. Thus mentoring, for all its rewards, has a poignant quality. It gives meaning to a central Buddhist precept: impermanence. A young colleague who is both a graduate student and one of my most trusted staff members told me this as we concluded a meeting this morning: “really the only way you can repay good mentoring is to give the same gift to someone else.”

03 25 Yin and Yang of a Close Community. This was a reflection on ‘comunities’ to which I am linked, in Rural Virginia, at American University and in Sri Lanka. After describing the warmth and sense of in inclusion each provided. I concluded: “Close communities, too, can have their dark side. Families can know too much about each other, about dark secrets that can are bright facades of cordiality. The Leeds Church parking lot is overfull during divine services. But it is equally full during the weekly meetings of Alcoholics’ Anonymous. People can be gossipy, critical and judgmental. The bonds that embrace, can also exclude. Which is to say that close communities, like close families, mirror the yin and yang of the human beings that comprise them – and of the human condition.

04 03 The purpose of life. This morning, I finished reading The Buddha and His Teachings, which I purchased in Sri Lanka, some months ago. The book was first published by the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia in 1942 and updated in 1988. It’s concluding passage answers the question, “what is the purpose of life?” In the opinion of a Buddhist, the purpose of life is Supreme Enlightenment, i.e. understanding oneself as one really is. This may be achieved through sublime conduct, mental culture and penetrative insight; in other words, through service and perfection. mIn service are included boundless loving kindness, compassion and absolute selflessness which prompt human beings to be of service to others. Perfection embraces absolute purity and absolute wisdom.

05 09 Seasons of the heart. This was written after downloading a John Denver album onto my Ipod. One song, in particular, evoked memories. “For me, “Seasons of the Heart” is the most descriptive song about falling out of love every written. I decided to divorce my first wife after listening to “Seasons of the Heart” several times, driving home to our (then) farm in Western Maryland. For many women, men and couples, the decade between 40 and 50 is a particularly intense time of reexamining relationships; often of affairs. My close friends and I – in California and on the East Coast – were living passionate fast paced lives, committed to causes, in our work and relationships; writing, speaking and traveling, overseas and from coast to coast in the US. Unlike Annie Denver, we did not have someone who chronicled our lives, relationships and the seasons of our hearts in song and then presented them in concerts and recordings. I never knew Annie personally. But I should imagine she did not always view that sort of visibility as a blessing.

06 29 ‘Time to Colombo: 4:05.’ For many years, the real time travel map, where passengers can watch a tiny plane image creeping across a topographical map, has been a feature of international travel. The transit from London to Colombo is, particularly evocative, because I have visited so many of the cities…. Interestingly the maps have no political boundaries. …Flying over the Middle East, there is Teheran, where I consulted for the Imperial Government of the Shah. Muscat, where I visited students who had become influential civil servants… Then the cities of India, many now with new names, Bombay has become Mumbai. Madras has become Chennai, though Delhi remains unchanged. Who decides when a new name appears on the map, following a political upheaval…?

07 01 My travails with Cingular Wireless. Vile customer service, on the part of IT and cell providers seems to be a reality of our times. Marketing and sales to new customers, not servicing existing ones is where the action is. My staff and I spent hours, from DC and Colombo trying to get Cingular to provide the service for which I had contracted. Finally, I gave up, expressing my frustration in a blog. “Indifferent or incompetent ‘customer service’ seems a chronic malady of our time. Thus it may be a bit unfair to single out Cingular wireless for special mention. I do so because Cingular staff members seem to have engaged themselves in making my life difficult with a particular, diabolical malice….”

08 24 The 10th Imperative – My take on the Middle East. This excerpts a fairly lengthy reflection that took my book Paradise Poisoned as a point of departure. THE TENTH IMPERATIVE: Do realistic, rigorous, opportunity-costs analyses of military options, versus equivalent expenditures for non military options, before proceeding down the slippery slope of ‘military solutions’ to complex development problems. Political leaders often say they ‘had no choice,’ but there are always choices. The longer the time horizon, the greater the range of choices. Paradise Poisoned provides an estimate of funds that might have been expended on non violent options in Sri Lanka – like providing economically relevant non-discriminatory educational opportunities for Sri Lanka’s youth. Rarely, if ever, are military options contrasted with non military ones. Development professionals sometimes joke that development assistance budgets are denominated in millions, while military budgets are denominated in billions, but the joke is not funny.

09 17 Balaton Group 2006 – New Members Night. The Balton Group is a unique network – and community – of individuals who are committed to sustainable development. Many are global leaders. The group has met in Hungary, each year, for 25 years. New members night is one of many customs that defines a distinct group culture: “…There were eight individuals from eight different nations – Japan, Jordan, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, Bolivia and Denmark …In response to questions, they shared personal information and reflected on how their personal lives and commitment to a better world intermingled. They discussed conventional lifestyles abandoned, comfortable lifestyles foregone, and risks accepted in pursuit of deeply held values. … “New members night” is a time of affirmation, renewal and hope for the Balaton Group.”

09 26 A death threat and what there is to be learned from it: I wrote this reflection after an Anderson Hall resident assistant received a death threat, presumably from another student: “In my four plus years at Anderson Hall, this was a first. But it is hardly a surprise that seventeen to twenty-two year old men and women sometimes exercise egregiously bad judgment. They become preoccupied with the excitement of a moment. They are swayed by the bad judgment of their peers. Their human sensibilities are clouded by drugs, alcohol or physical passions. They act without regard for risks and long term consequences. And most often, they pay the price. I can remember many instances when I drank to excess and took potentially life changing risks. Fortunately I survived these most perilous - and most exciting – years of my life without irreparable harm. That is what parents pray for. Mostly, our prayers are answered, but not always.

10 30 A warning from the prophet Isaiah. As mid-term election campaigning drew to a close, American political life seemed to have reached a nadir of dissembling and divisiveness. Sunday’s old Testament reading at Leeds Church, not chosen for political reasons, provided food for thought: “.See the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear. Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one brings suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, conceiving mischief and begetting iniquity. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and no! there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead. We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully.”

11 28 The Holidays – A time for musing about ‘family values. This Thanksgiving, there was much to be thankful for. My father, now age 96 visited from Pennsylvania. Our long drives together provide a time for long conversations, which I cherish. My stepson, whose professionalism, clear values and authenticity I greatly admire, drove up from Kentucky. It was one of those picture-book Thanksgivings with, even, a picture-book turkey. The season evoked musings on family values, from which I share the conclusion: “[…it was not until I was in my late 40s, that I first experienced the concept of unconditional love as a reality. The experience was overwhelming; one of the most powerful and memorable of my life. Unconditional love is supposed to be a fundamental family value, though I believe it is experienced rarely either in families or committed relationships, It is not something to be taken for granted. Perhaps this is why one definition of God is ‘unconditional love.’ From these musings, readers will see why, for me, “family values” are a domain of questions rather than answers. This can be disquieting, as are most fundamental questions, but also useful. What we do not take for granted, we tend to examine more deeply. Perhaps this may lead to deeper understanding of what is fundamentally important.”

12 11 Traveling by train to Florida. There are some individuals in the world with unusually deep reservoirs of unconditional love. My daughter is one of them. I know of few people who are more beloved by more friends to whom she has lent a helping hand, unpretentiously and unselfishly. It seems as natural as breathing for her to do this. Earlier in the fall, when I asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said ‘come for a visit.” So I did. We had a wonderful, if brief visit, a time to connect with her friends, eat out and see some of her landscaping creations. An added benefit was traveling to Florda by train, something I had not done for many years. Here are a few reflections: My ‘roomette” was more spacious than on the older Pullman cars – and more expensive – but I didn’t mind. The space was billed as accommodating two, but I think this only applies to a young couple in the romantic phase of dating or early marriage. After many intense end-of-semester days at AU, I relished the solitude. A tapestry of familiar terrain, unfolding outside my window, brought back memories. Occasionally, I would read email on my Blackberry, make phone calls or complete a deferred task stored on my computer. But mostly, I just sat back, in my room or taking three quite acceptable dining-car meals, absorbing the sights and sounds. Sleeping car travel is a somewhat costly anachronism. It is for those who relish a unique travel experience, perhaps steeped in memories, not for ‘busy people’ who want to get somewhere fast. But I am glad I took the time, shall do so again, and perhaps share the experience with one of my grandchildren.

10 07 You don’t have to taught how to love, you have to be taught not to. The following, written by my friend, the late Donella Meadows, is out of order, chronologically, but seemed an apt ending. She was writing about a Balaton Group meeting. “…All week we were together, our nations sworn enemies of each other. And what was important was not our nationalities – it’s amazing how seldom nationalities come up at all in Balaton meetings. When they do, it’s as a contribution, as in songs or dances or rocks or data that are different and that be shared to make the whole picture more colorful and more complete. What’s important is who we are as people, what we stand for, how we can learn to serve to make a better world. It’s not hard to be like that, it’s the most natural thing in the world. As a little song from “South Pacific” says, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year, it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, you’ve got to be carefully taught.” You don’t have to be taught to love. The Balaton meeting gives me a safe space, both to think and to love, to be challenged intellectually and to let myself be mushy and hug people and sing and play with them without holding back my feelings. I feel released.”

My love and best wishes to you in the upcoming New Year.

01 01 The Style Channel's visit to American University

In an earlier blog (‘Glory is Fleeting’), I mentioned the Style Channel’s visit to AU as part of the series, “My Celebrity Home.” There is a nice article about this in the Fall 2006 number of American University’s Alumni Magazine, and in the on-line version. For those interested, the link to the latter is