All posts by bfiggefox

Black History Month: Bermuda

Cobbs Hill Methodist Church: 

“This one room place of worship was built block by block by the slaves and the free blacks, and completed in 1827 after two years of rigorous work. Bermuda stones were used from the local quarries to build the church. Most of the work was done during their free time at night. “

In contrast

At St. Peter’s Church

Free or enslaved blacks COULD worship with the Episcopalians (they drove the carriages of their owners?) but were in the balcony at the oldest continually used Anglican church in the western hemisphere: 

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At St. Peter’s church, blacks could worship in the gallery where the organ now is. Photo provided by the church.

 Both are on the African Diaspora Heritage Trail  

Both will be filled with worshippers this Sunday. 

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Out with the Ums and the Uhs!

Do you hate to listen to a recording of yourself? Because you hear the Ums and the Uhs (and maybe the ‘Likes’?)

Eileen Sinett, of Speaking That Connects, offers a three-part training focused on helping speakers drastically reduce or eliminate the “uhs, ums, duhs,” and other fillers that can punctuate our public speaking. “All listeners are not the same,” says Sinett. “Some will focus on your message despite fillers; others will be distracted and count these hesitations as you speak. If you have been told you ‘uh’ and ‘um’ too much, help is here to reduce or eliminate these vocal fillers.”

Sinett is a corporate trainer as well as a speech pathologist. She first became interested in helping people with physical disabilities after watching a Jerry Lewis telethon in high school. “I’m probably one of the few people who can list Jerry Lewis as a career influence,” she says. A counselor suggested speech pathology, and she enrolled at Emerson College in Boston, receiving a bachelors degree in 1971. She earned a master’s in speech correction from Kean University in 2002.

“Drastically Reduce Ums, Ahs, and Other Fillers” consists of three weekly group sessions and one private coaching session. The group is limited to eight participants and runs Thursdays, February 21, February 28, and March 7 from 7 to 8:45 p.m. at the Speaking that Connects Studio, 610 Plainsboro Road. The cost is $250 for all four sessions. Call 609-799-1400 or visit www.speakingthatconnects.com/programs to register.

This post was taken from an article in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 30, 2019. I am highlighting it because Sinett has been able to improve my speech. 

Rehearse Your Performance Muscles

You get hired for your technical skills, you get promoted because you “present” well.

Any skill — hockey, piano, or acting — requires exercise to get stronger, and so does public speaking.

“Strong presentations create a career advantage, and practice helps them build their communication confidence and performance muscles,” says Eileen Sinett, speech consultant with Speaking That Connects.

She offers a speech practice group called Rehearsals, which runs on the first and third Wednesdays of the month from 7 to 8:45 p.m., beginning February 6 at the Speaking that Connects Studio at 610 Plainsboro Road. The cost is $30 for a single session or $50 for both in one month. Call 609-799-1400 or visit www.speakingthatconnects.com/programs to register.

“There are few opportunities to practice before groups,” says Sinett, “be it Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie, adult education, or some other corporate training and development companies.”

Rehearsals, says Sinett, “gives speakers an opportunity to practice a presentation before a group of peers and receive their constructive feedback,” as well as the guidance of Sinett herself.

If you are not currently working on a speech, dust off one you have given before – and practice!

A version of this story was printed in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 30, 2019. I am highlighting this story because Sinett has helped me improve my own speech making efforts. Here is another article about Sinett. 

 

In lieu of a card

 

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My Christmas Card: before dawn, Rochester New York

I probably won’t get around to answering your cards this year, again. Sometimes I have sent New Year’s cards. Or Valentines. Or St. Patrick’s Day cards. 

Instead, here is a list of resources that are helping me face 2019.

At Princeton United Methodist Church, we have embarked on a series called Relationships and Faith, based in part on materials from the Arbinger Institute. to  learn the difference between an Inward Mindset and an Outward Mindset. Pastor Jenny Smith Walz is undertaking the important and difficult task — to talk about difficult questions of gender and race within the church. Her challenging sermon series, titled “The Beloved Community,”  begins this month, focusing on “What God wants for God’s people.”  The ongoing study has workbooks available in the church office. Also here is a link to one of the Arbinger books,

I am also led to discover, and embrace, the work of Julia Cameron. Known for founding  The Artist’s Way, Cameron recommends — nay, requires — those pursuing creativity to write “Morning Pages,” three pages written in the morning, first thing, to clear the addlement from one’s brain. I found my first Cameron book in one of those “free libraries” on the street in DC in October, and it has taken me this long to convince myself it might work.

For the evening, I am trying to use a journaling system called Vertellis Chapters,  This “mix of mindfulness and stoicism practices” is a Netherlands-based journaling system (the Dutch are so smart!) and I found it at my favorite shopping spot – online.

Then, my old favorite, is the Upper Room Disciplines. a book of daily devotions based on the lectionary — the Bible passages read throughout the Christian church. So often, that commentary, that scripture, speaks to a current sadness or gladness of the day. My small group at PrincetonUMC, the Monday Morning Group, uses these readings for informal study.

Am I reading these, writing these, studying these consistently every day? No. 

George was a habit-driven person and I am the exact opposite. He did exercises daily without fail. When it comes to doing exercises daily, I mostly fail. 

But I am trying to create these habits. And I feel led to share them with whoever is out there, just as Jenny, Ginny, Gerri, Aimee, Anthony, Ineke, Judi, Mary Lib, Pat, Deborah, Susannah and so so many more have shared their inspirations with me.  

 

 

 

Floyd, Landis, Venturi, Chavooshian, Berman, Trego, Hamilton, Wadsworth…

So many of these folks I knew, either from interviewing them, or from being acquainted with their spouses and children.

They are profiled in the current edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper, honoring those who died in 2018.

I’m so glad about that. When I was working there, our New Year’s edition merely compiled the printed wisdom from the previous year. Remembering people is more meaningful, and I hope the tradition continues.

Among the artists, activists — and, yes, captains of business — that i remember with special warmth are…

James Floyd

Robert Venturi

Alan Landis

Marge Chavooshian

Ron Berman

James Hamilton

William Trego

Ray Wadsworth.

Richard K. Rein offered his own list of the departed, people who had influenced his policies for the paper. Dick Hagy was the character that I remember. If you want to work for Rein, or to sell him something, you would do well to read that column. 

Executive male or black teen?

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Graph of MIT survey courtesy of NZHerald

Princeton engineering professor Alain Kornhauser might seem to dominate discussions of driverless cars; he’s making them and leading the dialogue on their controversies.

Now Princeton prof and Nobel winner Daniel Kahneman has been linked to the ethics of how driverless cars make their decisions about who to hit – cats or people? pregnant women or old man? In this article, Kahneman is cited re his experiment on the psychology of health decisions that extrapolates to the choices that driverless cars will make.

Quoting the Washington Post and NZ Herald (note the British spellings!)

The way questions are framed can often have an impact on the final decision that’s made. The behavioural scientist Daniel Kahneman illustrated this through a thought experiment in which the outbreak of an unusual disease was expected to kill 600 people.

Respondents, in this case, were offered two potential health programmes. In programme A, subjects were told they had a 100 per cent chance of saving 200 lives. Programme B offered a one-third chance of saving 600 lives and two-thirds possibility of saving no lives.

In this scenario, most people went for programme A – the guarantee of saving 200 lives.

However, when Kahneman switched the scenario to lives lost rather than lives saved, the choice respondents made was completely different.

When they were asked to choose between the 100 per cent chance of the death of 400 people or programme B (which remained unchanged), most respondents opted for the latter despite the fact that programme A was unchanged in both scenarios.

What Kahneman illustrated was that moral decisions can be swayed by the way in which the questioning is phrased.

Kahneman doesn’t decide. He illustrates the complexity of the decision. What I am asking? Will driverless cars “see” race? 

Princeton Cop: in Dallas, Doing WHAT?

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Photo by Carli Geraci, Dallas Morning News

You could take this as another example of how the whimsical statues of Seward Johnson can amuse passersby all over the world.

The work of the 88-year-old sculptor, J&J heir, and founder of Grounds for Sculpture is scattered all over Princeton. At Princeton hospital, the figures of the caregiver tending the little old lady always give me a start, no matter how many times I’ve encountered them.

In 1983, using a Princeton police officer as a model, Johnson fashioned a statue of a nearly six-foot cop writing a parking ticket. Titled “Time’s Up,” it is one of seven castings, and it was installed at a Dallas shopping center, Central Market, by Lincoln Property Company.

How cute, you might say, especially since another whimsical touch, the eggplant, is nearby.

But since social justice is one of my concerns, I think there could be another motive. If you were an undocumented person — down there in Texas country — how would you react?

Is this just an update of Confederate statues meant to intimidate?

Thanks to Brendan Meyer for the light-hearted reporting, and the amusing details are here. The paranoid insinuations are mine.

(Aside to Princeton residents, don’t worry about current cops issuing parking tickets until after Christmas or even January. According to my ‘reliable sources,’ because of the confusing new system,’ the meter cops are issuing only warnings. But don’t tell the tourists — we need the revenue.) 

 

From England to Princeton to Saint Louis: William Morris

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“Mrs. Siddons from the series ‘The Economy of Grace'” and detail image of Blackthorn-inspired wallpaper Photographs by Monica Bowen.

Since I learned that the design for Princeton United Methodist Church, built in 1909, has its roots in William Morris’s Arts and Crafts Movement, I have been trying to learn more about it,  And my friend, Mary Pat Robertson, enlivens my research by posting Instagram pictures from England.

Now I find that Barack Obama’s portrait artist, Kehinda Wiley, is also influenced by William Morris, as described here by critic Monica Bowen, courtesy Nancy Marshall’s post on the Arts and Crafts Movement Facebook page.  

Wiley came to the streets of Saint Louis and Ferguson and painted 11 original portraits of people that he met. From the website of the Saint Louis Art Museum:  Kehinde Wiley creates large-scale oil paintings of contemporary African American subjects in poses that recall grand traditions of European and American portraiture. His models—real people dressed in their own clothing—assume poses adapted from historic paintings. Wiley’s portraits often feature ornate and decorative backgrounds, elements of which surround and sometimes weave around his subjects. His works address the politics of race and power in art, drawing attention to the pervasive lack of representation of people of color in the art world. The exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum continues through February 19, 2018 and admission is free.

So two of my passions – Princeton UMC’s architecture and stained glass windows and the study of African American culture, based on experiences with Not in Our Town Princeton –– now intersect.

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Carvings on the oak pews; At Princeton United Methodist Church, with roots in the Arts and Crafts Movement, attention was paid to every detail.

The care they need – the care they want

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If any part of health care in New Jersey needs reform, it’s end-of-life healthcare. Patients here are likely to undergo more intensive medical care, in their final days, than in any other state. All this treatment rarely helps the patients; likely it just makes them uncomfortable.

David Barile MD, palliative care specialist, founded NJ GoalsofCare,  a non-profit, to help everyone — lay people and medical people — achieve their goals for this stage of life that is often feared and ignored.  “We’re working to set a new standard by helping healthcare providers, patients, and families make medical decisions that genuinely reflect a person’s wishes,” says Barile. He created educational materials and documents to ensure that patients would receive the care they need and no less, and the care they want and no more.

In our family, we have had examples of too much care, too little care, and just the right amount of care. The “just the right amount,” no coincidence, was supervised by Dr. Barile. 

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Now his small organization has coalesced into The Goals of Care Coalition of New Jersey. Its partners are healthcare providers, government agencies, and community organizations.  Founding members are an impressive list:  NJ Hospital Association, the Medical Society of NJ, the NJ Association of Health Plans, the Health Care Association of NJ, HQSI, the Home Care & Hospice Association of NJ, LeadingAge NJ, the NJ Health Care Quality Institute, the NJ Palliative Care APN Consortium, the VNA Health Group, Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice, the NJ Association of Health Care Social Workers and the NJ Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.

From Robert Wood Johnson Foundation it has a one-year grant, $195,000, to address disparities in access to palliative care for minority populations living in New Jersey. It also landed a $75,000 matching grant, and here’s where I — and maybe you — come in. I’m donating, and I invite you to contribute. You can do it through a Facebook fundraising page or directly through GoalsofCareNJ website. 

Talking about the end-of-life does not come easily! That’s why I believe both the medical people and lay people need the GoalsofCare materials.

Bottom line: When it’s time to say goodbye to someone you love, it’s such a comfort to know that the caregivers are following the patient’s wishes.

 

 

 

 

Entertaining Engineer: Prud’homme

 

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Gathered to hear Bob Prud’homme speak at the Princeton Chamber breakfast was a contingent from Princeton United Methodist Church. In this quickie snap, from left: Bruce Henry, Barbara Fox, Prudhomme in back, Jamileh Gerber in front, Dana Dreibelbis in back, Daniel Shungu in front. Also attending from Princeton UMC: Ed Sproles and Doug Fullman.

Scientific “war stories” were on the agenda today, as Bob Prud’homme entertained members of the Princeton Regional Chamber at the Nassau Club. Some of the twists and turns of his 40-year career at Princeton University revealed good news, some not so good.

In the disheartening category was the realization that, since virtually no drugs are manufactured in the United States, the U.S. stands to lose significant intellectual capital re drug development.

Why? A therapy doesn’t leap from lab to assembly line. It undergoes translation from research to retail in a “pilot” manufacturing plant, where veteran managers and supervisors can keep close tabs on quality control. Until recently the major pharmas built those pilot plants in the U.S., supervised by U.S. managers. If all the pilot plants move overseas, technical managers in the other countries will acquire that extremely valuable expertise.

On the heartening side, Prud’homme says he often finds himself working with research scientists in Asia whom he knows – because they were his students and collaborators at Princeton. Surely this answers any chauvinistic assertions that U.S. schools should limit the number of students from abroad.

IMG_4615In the good news category, Prud’homme and his collaborators get money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop drugs for global health. (UFAR founder Daniel Shungu, seen chatting with Prud’homme before the breakfast, is also the recipient of Gates funds.) What can sell in a blister pack at CVS won’t work for a third world country, which needs drugs to be packaged in jars that will last for six months in a hot damp climate. Princeton’s engineering quad leads the industry in meeting the need for these opportunities in drug delivery.

Only inexpensive drugs can be brought to poor countries. In contrast, cancer therapies are so costly that they can’t be used in the Third World. Prud’homme worries that cancer therapies will even be too expensive for OUR country’s insurance capacity, and that our healthcare business plans are in danger. Either our healthcare insurance will topple, or it will be outrageously unequally distributed, or the people will make decisions about what gets covered and who doesn’t.

One fix would be to deny $60,000 immunotherapy if it won’t prolong life by at last a year. Another way is to adopt the single-payer system used in Australia and make the hard decisions. “I worry about the future of our healthcare system,” says Prud’homme, “and that we will have an unjust society. What problems are we willing to live with?”

Prud’homme memorably described the ins and outs of nanotechnology in clear terms. The challenge for using nano in injectable drugs is that the drug might disperse too quickly, before it reaches the target site. The difficulty with using nano molecules in oral therapies is that many molecules are hydrophobic. They do not live comfortably in water.

His lab, successful in conquering both challenges, has been selected as the “academic lab of choice” by the major pharmas. The story behind that reinforces MY conviction that our town is ever so fortunate to have this university and these research labs at our doorstep.

Many complain that because the university has “deep pockets” it should pay more in lieu of taxes. Exactly because Princeton University has those deep pockets, it can afford to offer generous terms to potential partners. Someone asked how scientists can get molecules through the patent process without revealing secrets to competitors. The answer, says Prud’homme, lies in the university’s motto “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.”

Nobody has approved this metaphor, but here’s how I would explain it. You have five pirates at your door for Trick or Treat, almost identically costumed. One has a face mask, Pirate X. When a big pharma (BASF, GSK, Pfizer, Merck – all Princeton collaborators) wants to secretly develop a molecule, Princeton sends all five to the patent office, revealing the identity of four, leaving one unidentified. This gives the big pharma lead time to develop Molecule X. (Somebody please comment if this comparison doesn’t work.)

Princeton University came late to the entrepreneurial market becauase. as Prud’homme acknowledged, research suitable for the commercial market used to be scorned by the academics. Princeton was one of the most hoity-toity of universities in condemning research that results in a salable product.  He credits the philosophy of John Ritter  (in charge of technology licensing) and the success of two researchers – Steve Forrest and Edward C. Taylor – with changing the university’s attitudes about the inviolable sanctity of basic research. Forrest (now at the University of Michigan) channeled his research on organic light -emitting diodes (OLEDs) into a start-up, Universal Display Corporation that leads the market for displays for smart phones and has revenues of more than $300 million. Taylor developed the cancer-fighting drug, Alimta, and the proceeds from that virtually paid for the university’s new chemistry building.

With its generous endowment, the university does not have to nickel-and-dime its collaborators, and its scientists and engineers can be “in the nation’s service.”