In the Know on Assistive Technologies with Dr. Matteo Zallio

Dr Matteo Zallio seminar at DIT 4Assistive technologies can help us age more safely and gracefully, and live independently for much longer than we could on our own. My colleagues in engineering have been involved in growing these technologies. They’ve established the tPOT research group here at DIT to facilitate innovation in this area.

I recently attended a seminar at DIT by Dr. Matteo Zallio who has done very interesting research. Matteo is an architect with a PhD in assistive technologies and he spoke about “Environments and Smart Objects: Ambient Assisted Living for Long Lives of People.”

Matteo has developed a rating system to help people assess how well various products and places support aging. The rating system is hypothetical at this point–it’s been well-developed but not yet adopted for implementation. I’m hoping it will be soon.

I’ve researched facilities and designs to support aging in place in the past, so I had many questions and comment at the end of Matteo’s presentation. I even Skyped with him following his lecture to answer questions he had about moving to Dublin. I’m pleased to say he’ll be joining the tPOT group as a postdoctoral fellow next fall!

Pictures from his lecture, and his impressive book, are posted in this photo gallery:

Trend Shifters and Hip Young Urbanites

Donald Roman NYT feature

Fabiola and Donald Roman, as featured in the New York Time real estate section.

Times are changing.  Demographers tell us that younger set is shirking automobile ownership and moving closer into American cities.

I’m proud to say that one of my former Hampton University architecture students, Donald Roman, is among them.  He and his  wife, Fabiloa, recently chose a condo in Brooklyn over the now-faded suburban dream.  And, the New York Times just celebrated their accomplishment with a feature story.

If I recall correctly, Donald was never a fan of the car.

I’m happy to say that the heavy urban design emphasis of our architecture degree program served to strengthen his understanding of the benefits of population density and walkable city design.

I’m immensely proud that Donald and Fabiloa, who met in an Upward Bound program when they were in high school, planned well and chose carefully.  They overcame tremendous odds to become homeowners under the age of 30.  And, they had the good sense to recognize that living in a densely settled area means shorter commutes and quick access to a huge range of services.

During his time at Hampton University, Donald travelled with me to Tanzania on the 2005 Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad program I conducted.  It was a true joy to have Donald among the 23 American students and 65 Tanzanian students on the program.  He was immensely popular with the entire group and his soft-spoken but optimistic spirit uplifted our group every day.

Our 2005 Fulbright-Hays group in Tanzania.

Our 2005 Fulbright-Hays group in Tanzania.

Donald also made a big difference in my life when he introduced me to Malcolm Gladwell.  He even handed me a copy of The Tipping Point as we were leaving Sunset Beach on our last day in East Africa.

The Tipping Point is about “how little things can make a big difference.”  Interestingly, the NYT feature ends with a quote from Fabi about little things that make a big difference in one’s quality of life (like a dishwasher — and I totally agree!!!).

Thanks, Donald, for sharing with me your reflections on Gladwell’s ideas when we were beginning our trek home.   Your insights got me interested enough to invest  time in cracking the cover, and I had almost finished reading the book by the time my plane landed in Norfolk.

Since then, I’ve read each of Gladwell’s new releases cover to cover.  A new one, about David and Goliath, just hit the shelves and beacons me to read.

There are interesting TED talks by Gladwell on David and Goliath and “choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce” to help get you started if you haven’t yet cracked the mystic of Gladwell’s storytelling ability… or if you just want to have some fun learning about the break through discovery of vegetable chunks.

Chasing Lions in Dublin

I went on the hunt for lions in Dublin last week, and found plenty to stir my soul! Disney’s theatrical production of the Lion King is energetic and mesmerizing.  The costumes and choreography amazed and astounded me.

Queen for a Day

Queen of Tarts 2

A visit to the Queen of Tarts in the Dublin’s Temple Bar  is always a treat.

I have fond memories of Dr. Pam Eddy’s most recent visit to Dublin and our stop to see “the Queen” together.

In fact, I sent  a little box of raspberry scones home with Dave a couple of weeks ago… he stopped by Pam and Dave’s on his drive home from the airport to deliver the Queen’s best.

Curiosities of “Good to Great”

Good to Great 1I really enjoy the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.  It’s a book about business. I found it compelling but, even after having read 2/3 of it some years ago, I still often wonder: what does it all mean?

Perhaps I will never fully know.

An M.D. friend of mine told me about the book.  He found that it applied to multiple contexts. Another colleague of mine has been reading it, and I’ve flipped through it several times lately while visiting in his office.

As for myself, I think I’m better at achieving greatness in some contexts than others. In business I’ve little idea of how greatness looks or feels. In work and in life, I’ve achieved things that seem pretty great to me.

Beryl Markham provided the opening quote Collins used in his book: “That’s what makes death so hard — unsatisfied curiosity.”  Of course, we have all heard that curiosity is also what killed the cat.  Striking the right balance isn’t easy.

Defining new goals has always been the biggest challenge for me.  And I see I’m not alone. Defining appropriate goals for achieving greatness requires curiosity and experience.  So many companies are limited by their own success, Collins asserts, that they don’t flourish because they limit themselves to tried and tested approaches that they don’t realize are outdated.  If they do realize it, they usually are unable to shift to new approaches anyway.

Achieving those goals requires skill, perseverance, and steadfast determination.

Good to Great 2

Missing Margaret, My Second Mom

My dear friend Mary Sullivan and her mother, Margaret Sullivan.

My dear friend Mary Sullivan and her mother, Margaret Sullivan.

I’ve been at a loss for words to describe the passing of another very important person in my life. Margaret Sullivan, the mother of my dear friend Mary Kay and grandmother of my BFF (Best Friend Forever) Katie Sullivan Booth, passed away just after I left Virginia last week. Dave travelled to Blacksburg for her funeral, but unfortunately I missed the event.

Margaret was like a second mother to me. She lived less than a mile away and she did her best to take good care of my sister and me. I remember the day we met vividly. She was the dietician for Price’s Fork Elementary School. We’d just moved onto a new place that was close to the school.

It was August 1979 and I was nine years old. Margaret was selling lunch tickets and when I got to the front of the line, she said how glad she was that we’d moved there. She and Mary Kay attended the same church as my family, she said, and she hoped we could car pool to CCD. explains that CCD is the name for:

The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine [and it] was an association established in 1562 in Rome for the purpose of providing religious education. In its more modern usage, CCD is the religious teaching program of the Catholic Church. These classes are taught to school age children to learn the basic doctrines of their faith.

As a result, I spent a great deal of time with Margaret.

Over the years, she always encouraged me and praised me for setting a good example for my friends. (Mary Kay, Katie, and the rest of our group were all younger than me.) It was difficult at times, living up to the role she’d cut out for me, but I took it quite seriously. I remember have the gumption to say, “No!” more than once in tenuous circumstances. I felt that the fate of more than me rode on my decisions. All those times I was behind the wheel with them in tow on the way to some 4-H event or other, I surely was in an important position.

In earlier years, our little group spent most New Year’s Eves at the Sullivan house, playing cards and sipping ginger ale in our pajamas at the midnight hour.

Margaret and her husband Richard (a native West Virginian who served in the Army Air Corp in Europe during WWI) were highly active in the local grange hall, where our 4-H club met. They helped raise money for me to study abroad through the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) program in 1994. (That’s when I met Esther.) A contributor on’s ground speak forums explains: “The grange was a movement/organization started by farmers in the late 19th century (in the northern midwest, I think). It started out as a social organization and later got involved in politics. Grange halls can be found all over the US.

Over the years, Margaret was there to give me helpful advice in areas where I needed it. For instance, when CCD didn’t explain the essentials of life, Margaret lent me books (like those by Judy Blume). Thank goodness for that! I might still be in the dark on life otherwise!!!!! She was an avid reader, as her obituary asserts.

And Margaret stuck by me in my darkest hour of life. When I found I couldn’t be a stellar specimen of humanity in everything I did, she was there to help; she went to bat for me at a critical moment. For that, and for everything she did to help raise my sister and me, I remain eternally grateful.

God bless you, my dear Margaret. May you find peace and joy watching over your proud Sullivan (and Massie) lineage.

Anna’s Remarkable Spirit

Anna is a cancer survivor who blogs (and follows my blog). She hit a very rough patch. One no one should ever have to find themselves in such a predicament. I admire her courage and her positive “can do” spirit very much. I think you will, too….

cancer killing recipe

It is not a Writers Block – I can’t have one – simply because I’m not a Writer. 🙂 . Mr. Murphy with his Law turned my life up – side – down. On Friday, October 19 – I was just finishing my new post entitled: “Healing powers of laughter ” 🙂 – when I found myself in a very stressful situation – ( Satan at it’s best ) – and I had to run for my Life –  but I colapsed in the middle of the street – and got picked -up by Ambulance. My blood pressure was 220/100 – and I spent 3 days in the Hospital. After several tests I was diagnosed with mild hearth attack, high blood pressure, spots on my liver, thickened esophagus. I asked  the Doctor: “what is realy wrong with me ?” – he said that they needed to do more test ( ??? )…

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Yoga at the Freemason Y

I love yoga, but I don’t often post photos of it on my blog. After all, it’s simply not kosher to wave an iPhone in the air during class.

I’d intended to practice at my home Y for the past two weeks, but a cold got in the way. Having recovered, I finally made my way to the YMCA in Norfolk’s Freemason district last Saturday. Here are some photos from that adventure.

Thanking Heaven for Gordon and Ms. Bessie

The late, great Gordon Chance with his daughter-in-law Shannon Chance.

The late, great Gordon Chance with his daughter-in-law Shannon Chance. (Photographed by Gordon’s son, Dave Chance, in 2008.)

Two people have been on my mind these past few days — Gordon Chance and Bessie Clark. They’ve both passed away but help keep the fire going in my heart.

Gordon was Dave’s dad, who we lost last May. He and Christina loved to visit Williamsburg, so I’ve included a photo of the two of us enjoying a sunny day in that colonial town during 2008. Gordon was skilled with his hands. He was the knowledgeable and hard-working father of seven kids and grandfather of five. I assure you: he is sorely missed.

Gordon’s passing was completely unexpected. He died of a heart attack at age 64. We had no opportunity to wrap things up or to say good-bye.

That is completely different from the case with the other person on my mind — our former next-door neighbor — Bessie Clark.

Ms. Bessie lived on the other side of us from Thom and Beth White. She passed away about five years ago, at the age of 88. For about two years, in around 2005 – 2006, I visited Bessie in her home every evening. Her kids appointed me to this job because they live far away (Maryland, DC, and California) and because Bessie wanted to stay in her own home but needed someone close by to keep an eye.

My visits with Ms. Bessie generally lasted 20-50 minutes. I enjoyed them because she told such fascinating stories. I learned about what it was like for a colored girl (Ms. Bessie’s preferred term) growing up in the American south in the aftermath of slavery.

Bessie was born in North Carolina. Remarkably for that day and time, her mother owned her own house and farm. Her mother sent both of her daughters to college — although Bessie stubbornly refused. After a week on campus, she boarded a bus back home. Bessie had no interest in studying more, even though she’d garnered A’s in school; what she came to love most in life was being a mom.

The late Bessie Clark with her neighbor Shannon Chance

The late Bessie Clark with her neighbor Shannon Chance

In the period I visited, Bessie was going though a very important phase of life. She was reminiscing and reviewing all that had happened. She was coming to terms with pent up frustrations and left over worries. She held nothing back. She told of days working retail and of dealing with a difficult husband who she (somehow) managed to love.

During my own life, I have spent a lot of time with older folks. Because I’d heard stories repeated over and over, I assumed I’d have the chance to hear her stories again. I fully intended to ask Ms. Bessie if I could make notes when repetition began.

But I heard her life tales only once. My “second chance” never came.

When Ms. Bessie had resolved everything to her satisfaction, her story telling stopped. She wanted just to sit and watch TV. When she started watching static, I had to say something. I called her kids to intervene.

It turned out that Ms. Bessie had developed a brain tumor. She had to be hospitalized, and she could no longer live on her own. She was unwilling to live that way and, with piece of mind and conviction that she was ready, she determined not to tell anyone when she contracted a bladder infection.

I wasn’t too surprised. She wins my superlative for “most stubborn.” She’d threaten as much in years prior. She just didn’t want to live away from her home.

A Christmas card from Sam (Bessie's son) and Barbara Clark.

A Christmas card from Sam (Bessie’s son) and Barbara Clark.

Bessie’s children asked me to speak at her funeral. As an outsider to her community, I thought I’d feel out-of-place. But the congregation, which filled the sanctuary, welcomed me with open arms.

The thing that struck me most about the day was how incredibly appreciative the entire congregation was of teachers. They mentioned and praised teachers and the role of education throughout the funeral and the meal that followed it. Not only did I feel welcome, I also felt special and appreciated. I was able to share Bessie’s sentiments about the importance of various people who were assembled there to celebrate her life.

In my experience, small things can spark powerful memories. What brought these memories of Bessie rushing forth was a text that arrived from Dave in early December. Bessie’s son and daughter-in-law had sent us a Christmas card.

The envelope itself was endearing. They way they addressed it — to Dr. and Mr. David Chance — reflects many of their values. To them, education and formality are important.

My life is better for knowing them and for having spent those years learning from Ms. Bessie.

So today, I smile to the Heavens, thankful to have known these two fabulous people. And thankful for the legacy they left behind for their families, the world, and me.