Johns Hopkine Magazine The latest from Johns Hopkins Magazine. Johns Hopkine Magazine Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Message <p>I was once asked, "What exactly do you do as university president?"</p> <p>It was my teenage daughter who wanted to know precisely what I did for a living.</p> <p>Not confident that the question was entirely bereft of skepticism, I did a mental inventory of a recent week and shared my activities.</p> <p>I had a pre-call for a pre-meeting for a meeting about the coming fiscal year. I signed scores of letters, waded through hundreds of emails, handed out dozens of doughnuts to bleary-eyed undergraduate students in the library, and logged 24 hours—a full day—on the phone, often while in the car en route to other meetings.</p> <p>As I wrapped up my spiel, my daughter's blank stare told me all I needed to know. Except for the doughnuts, this did not sound like fun.</p> <p>Clearly, I pitched it wrong. Because, in truth, this job is the most rewarding and joyous I've ever had.</p> <p>As president, I have handed diplomas to students who are the first in their families to graduate from college and to a student who was the last of six siblings to walk across the stage at a Johns Hopkins graduation. I've stood amid colleagues at the Applied Physics Laboratory as they received the call that the New Horizons mission to Pluto had reached its target. I've traveled to Stockholm to witness Adam Riess receive the Nobel Prize in physics.</p> <p>I've had the privilege to perform with an undergraduate South Asian dance troupe, surprise faculty members with $250,000 research awards, cut ribbons on LEED-certified buildings that change the way our scholars collaborate and our students learn, and stand with community leaders working for change in Baltimore.</p> <p>I participated with alumni and friends in the creation of research and teaching centers like the Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, aimed at harnessing the body's immune system to combat cancer, or the Grass Humanities Institute, devoted to addressing the enduring questions of our age through the humanities.</p> <p>Indeed, I can imagine no other job that affords the privilege to engage so deeply with a learned community committed to the advancement of ideas, to connect so directly with faculty, students, and staff of remarkable creativity and intelligence, to be part of an institution that is fundamentally dedicated to changing the trajectory of lives through education, research, and service.</p> <p>This spring, my daughter graduated from college. Like parents from time immemorial, I could not resist offering one final piece of sage counsel. So I told her, find a job that makes you happy. That gives you a sense of meaning and impact. That you would find fun to do. Maybe, with the passage of time, I've finally landed the point.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Contributors <p><strong>Rafael Alvarez</strong> ("A Mural Reawakened," p. 68) is the author of 10 books, most recently <em>The Baltimore Love Project</em>, a history of murals in Crabtown. A longtime rewrite man on the City Desk of <em>The Baltimore Sun</em>, Alvarez has worked on merchant ships and written for the HBO drama <em>The Wire</em>. He is known for short stories about a waterfront junkman named Orlo and his Greek lover, Leini.</p> <p><strong>Burnt Toast Creative</strong> is the working alias for Scott Martin ("Lighten Up—It's Good for You," illustration, p. 24), a Canadian artist who started drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil. Now he is an internationally known illustrator whose clients include Dropbox, Red Bull, and Google.</p> <p><strong>Marshall Clarke</strong> ("When the Air is a Playground," photography, p. 16) is a Baltimore native who specializes in editorial and documentary photography. He loves to travel, bike, and create art with his niece and nephew when he is not behind the camera.</p> <p><strong>John Kachik</strong> ("A Man Walks Into a Bar," portraits, p. 42) is an alumnus and occasional adjunct faculty member of the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he studied illustration and sculpture. He is also on the faculty educational board at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick, Maryland. He lives in Sykesville, Maryland, with his wife, Maria, daughters Emily and Isabel, their dogs Mia and Scarlett, and Mojo the turtle.</p> <p><strong>Rachel Wallach</strong> ("Might as Well Laugh," p. 34) writes and edits in Baltimore. She has written about topics ranging from ethics to robots to oysters to the history of dance. Her work has appeared in several Johns Hopkins publications, including <em>JHU Engineering</em>, <em>Johns Hopkins Public Health</em>, and <em>Arts & Sciences Magazine</em>.</p> <h3>On the cover</h3> <p>We've all been there—one minute, you're watching a clip from <em>The Daily Show</em>, and the next you're sucked into the click hole of the internet, watching videos of a skateboarding bulldog and a cat wearing rhinestone-encrusted sunglasses. Illustrator Daniel Fishel credits a YouTube binge for this issue's cover art, the perfect entryway to <em>The Fun Issue</em>. When he's not watching viral videos, the Queens, New York, resident is creating artwork for clients like <em>The Boston Globe</em>, <em>The Washington Post</em>, <em>McSweeney's</em>, and NPR.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Note <p>I am reputed to be a bit of a grump.</p> <p>My boss has said she finds this charming, but I'm not sure that's a widely shared sentiment. In my defense, I think some people misread my personality. I can be dour, I suppose, occasionally mordant, maybe less than chipper. But I prefer to think of my sour attitude as evidence of a deep, probing, and serious intellect and the outcome of my courageous refusal to avert my gaze from the hard truths of life.</p> <p>Yeah, all right, so I'm not Mr. Sunshine. But whether or not it's written on my face when I'm in the office, I have an awful lot of fun producing Johns Hopkins Magazine, and that was very much the case this time around. I am grinning right now as I present to you, dear readers, The Fun Issue, in which we have taken our sober, ever-so-earnest magazine that strives with every issue to exemplify an institution of the most serious intent, dressed it up in shorts and a T-shirt, and put a drink in its hand.</p> <p>And yep, we had great fun writing about people who are funny for a living, and people who make music with a washing machine, and intercollegiate varsity kiddie pool wading, and the neuroscience of fun. (Hey, c'mon, you know we had to do that last one.) We enlisted Johns Hopkins archivist Jim Stimpert to find images of campus hijinks through the decades—don't miss the university banjo club—and solicited essays from some of our favorite alumni writers. Plus we asked you, our readers, to send in your memories of fun at Johns Hopkins. You did not disappoint.</p> <p>So please, sit back, start reading, and enjoy yourselves. We sure did.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Remember that time? <p><em>We asked you, our readers, about the most fun you had during your time at Johns Hopkins, and you responded. From silly (strategically placed socks, inflatable furniture, bat boy) to scholarly ("Who am I to say that's not a poem?"), your submissions prove that in the midst of the university's academic rigor, there was room for occasional levity.</em></p> <p>I was 5 years old, building snowmen and making snow angels on the Gilman quad. I remember the beauty of the bright white snow, the majestic red brick buildings, and the shadow of the clock tower. My father was a graduate student of chemistry, and this was his way of including me in his very busy life. It is one of my most treasured childhood memories. <strong>—Marcia Lecrone Howes, Engr '86, SPH '13</strong></p> <p>I had fun listening to off-the-record talks by high-ranking officials such as the CIA director Allen Dulles and former Secretary of State Dean Acheson while a graduate student at SAIS. I often sat next to a shy classmate named Madeleine Albright. <strong>—Fred A. Kahn, SAIS '63</strong></p> <p>Spring Fair. There are numerous stories; many can't be shared. <strong>—Raquel Silverberg, Engr '92</strong></p> <p>Being an editor at the News-Letter, there was a lot of camaraderie—and sometimes, taking the usual JHU grind to absurd levels was oddly liberating. <strong>—Eric Ruck, A&S '90</strong></p> <p>When I was a graduate student in the Writing Seminars, someone in the administration started having dinners for graduate women so that women from different departments could meet and talk to each other. I met a woman from the math department, Margaret, who had grown up in Baltimore; I'd grown up in East Tennessee. We took the most interesting walks together, waving our hands and talking the whole way. We'd talk about books, mainly. Sometimes we told anecdotes about our childhood school experiences. I remember discussing Lou Andreas-Salomé and her various husbands and lovers, among them, Nietzsche, and Margaret would say things like, "He doesn't seem mathematically sound to me." I thought that was the most wonderful line. Anyway, that friendship was grand. Somehow, we lost touch. I don't even know if she solved the unsolvable math problem she was working on for her degree, but I surely loved those conversations. <strong>—Susan Catherine Jones, A&S '82 (MA)</strong></p> <p>I returned to school in 1993 to pursue a master's in information and telecommunications systems for business. It was a life-transforming experience to be surrounded by the caliber of talent, both in my professors and fellow students, in the Johns Hopkins program. The degree of intellectual stimulation I experienced has remained with me ever since, and I had a lot of fun exploring ideas and interacting at a level I had never before experienced. More than 20 years later, the shift in intellectual perspective I gained at Johns Hopkins continues to serve me. <strong>—Scott Bradley, Bus '95 (MS)</strong></p> <p>I had a date with a Mount St. Agnes girl for a spring dance in my junior year. When I arrived in a friend's ancient Oldsmobile, I was told by the girl at the dorm's front desk that my date had been called home for a family emergency, but she had arranged another date for me. I expected some horror for my date, but I decided to go with the flow no matter who they stuck me with. While I waited in the lobby, an absolutely beautiful woman descended the stairs. She walked up to me and asked if I was Kurt Johnson. She said, "Hi, I'm Catherine, your date." She told me she had a steady boyfriend at home, but we had a good time anyway, dancing the night away under the stars of a warm Baltimore night, twisting to Hank Ballard and The Midnighters, and drinking Seven and Sevens. <strong>—Kurt E. Johnson, A&S '65</strong></p> <p><strong>Fresh Food Cafe's "Midnight Breakfast":</strong><br /> A Poetic Reflection On the clock's count of twelve midnight in droves<br /> Noctilucent beings clamber down twisting, winding roads<br /> Towards the utopic locus that few can hardly resist<br /> Destined for mental and emotional bliss<br /> Sentiment alone carves out this specificity in time and space<br /> Impressing on the erudite race<br /> A peculiar historicity not easily erased<br /> How does the steely physique of an edifice with an unassuming predisposition<br /> Gain spatio-temporal coordinates along a plane of youthful indecision?<br /> Does the answer play second fiddle to the truth?<br /> Or is it uncouth to insinuate it is aloof?<br /> Perhaps the smorgasbord of vittles, giggles, brute mnemonic paradiddles<br /> Spell out the morphological experience as<br /> They each break fast<br /> While some ten sing over "Eye of the Tiger"<br /> Undoubtedly equating to a sociocultural masterpiece or utter catastrophe<br /> Either way they each emerge as a Survivor<br /> With a subtle sense of calm<br /> Like the evening's tale had already been written<br /> On some vatic palm<br /> Granting such F.U.N. to release all angst and stress<br /> "Freedom Unto Nerds!"<br /> Who unabashedly point noses at the stoic mien of solemn texts,<br /> But this is where they shall return, must return, need return<br /> For the midnight oil to continue to burn<br /> Waging on into the abyss of ambition<br /> Deepening as this one-fifth-of-a-score-of-years commitment<br /> Takes on the load of a premature vision<br /> And so as these beings scramble back to quaint dwellings<br /> Back to life, back to…surreality<br /> With iridescent auras of vibrancy<br /> They savor those last few moments of "self-liberation"<br /> Their minds having soaked up every second, minute, hour<br /> Of casual socialization<br /> Alas, the moment arrives:<br /> Snooze now or page, page against the drying of the eyes<br /> This thought<br /> Severe T<br /> hough the intended outcome<br /> Quite sincere<br /> The life of a Hopkins scholar<br /> Surely many have to admire<br /> Through the graceful flight of a blue jay fledgling<br /> Set free to roam and inspire<br /> <strong>—Brandon Lee Stuart, A&S '10</strong></p> <p>I first went to Hopkins during the summer after fourth grade. The city schools offered a program where, upon completion, qualified students could skip half a year. Riding two streetcars and a bus, I arrived on campus with great expectations (as did my parents). Besides the normal classroom tasks, my fondest memory was seeing films in a large room, my favorite being Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn. That summer, I learned how to take public transportation, how to mix with students from different backgrounds, and how to have fun on those green lawns. I entered fifth grade in the fall, telling my friends about "the big school with all of the brick buildings." I returned to Hopkins many years later as a single mom working toward a graduate degree in education. Both experiences are precious to me. And my parents were there for both of my graduations. <strong>—Carole Clarke Cochran, Ed '77 (MEd)</strong></p> <p>It was the spring of 1960 and hijinks were in the air. There was construction going on near our dormitory, and some of my fellow students decided to hotwire the equipment and move it to block the front doors of the dorms. I discovered this when I went to leave—about the time that the dorm manager tried to leave the dorm. She was not pleased.</p> <p>We found a way out and then saw that the names of the dormitories had been changed from the names of alumni to other words that were not complimentary. She was very angry and I confess that I had to mask my laughter with a cough because it was clear she was not finding the matter funny at all.</p> <p>There was more to discover. Construction cones had been placed on the city streets, and city traffic had been routed onto the campus with all exits off campus closed off. I walked toward Gilman Hall, where I found a large crowd of students sitting on the grass in a circle around the flagpole. I also noticed that the face of the clock on Gilman Hall had been transferred into a Mickey Mouse watch. A pirate flag was at the top of the flagpole and the rope used to raise the flag had been tied to the top of the pole. A janitor had placed a long ladder against the pole and was trying to reach the flag to remove it. Someone had greased the top of the pole and, as the ladder was not long enough, the man tried to climb the pole, only to slide back. Every time he tried and slipped back the students clapped and hollered. Someone had called the local television station and soon the janitor's progress was on live television. Finally, he succeeded and climbed down the ladder, pirate stuffed in his overalls. The episode made the evening news. <strong>—Frank Ward, A&S '60</strong></p> <p>Hosting Model United Nations tournaments at Johns Hopkins was always great fun. We would meet kids from Maryland and elsewhere who were so impressed with the Homewood campus. During the day, we'd debate international law, and a pre-med fraternity brother of mine, who was participating as a favor, represented an obscure Middle Eastern country. He was asked his opinion about something, stood up in the General Assembly in the Glass Pavillion, and instructed the attendees to dial 1-800-South-Yemen if they wanted to know more about his country. We cracked up and repeated that joke for years. <strong>—David Biderman, A&S '85</strong></p> <p>A small mud puddle formed on the lawn in front of the then new dorms. About 9 a.m. one morning in the spring of 1981, four of the crazier freshmen started throwing each other in the mud. From there it snowballed, and by lunch, more than 100 people had been tossed in the mud, oftentimes only to shower, go to class, and then get tossed in again. It was mayhem. <strong>—Joe Serrano, Engr '84</strong></p> <p>My friend Steve and I were chemistry lab partners, former roommates, and two pathetic premed students. As we approached Remsen Hall on April 8, 1969, Steve reminded me that it was Opening Day of baseball season—and of the fact that the Red Sox, his rooting interest, were in town. Tony Conigliaro was making his comeback after a horrendous injury. We walked past Remsen, never to return, up 33rd Street to Memorial Stadium and bought $2 student tickets. The Orioles lost 5-4. Each Opening Day, whenever it may be, we celebrate the anniversary of the death of our premed careers. (This year was No. 47.) I emailed Steve on Opening Day to wish him a happy anniversary and received an instant reply saying he was thinking the same thing as he received my note. <strong>—Jeffrey Koenig, A&S '72</strong></p> <p>In the winter of my freshman year, my friends and I attended a casino night hosted by one of the fraternities. Lady Luck was with me at the roulette wheel. That night I went home with a major prize: a case of Heineken Dark Lager. I took it back to my single room and invited my friends over to help me drink it. There were six or seven of us. Every­one came over to have a beer—one beer, and only late on a Saturday night after finishing their work and studying. No one wanted more than one beer, lest they not be mentally sharp and ready to work the next morning. Our beer gatherings took place at irregular intervals, and when it came time to move out at the end of the year, there were still seven beers left. My best friend, John, and I drank them on our last night as Johns Hopkins freshmen. It was the only time either of us was ever drunk in our entire college career. <strong>—Michael A. Bruno, A&S '82</strong></p> <p>Some of my favorite memories are weekend potlucks, tasting food from all over the world with us all dressed in our ethnic clothes. <strong>—Pooja Pundhir, SPH '15</strong></p> <p>This one time at Johns Hopkins, we attended a midnight play of <em>The Rocky Horror Picture Show</em>. My boyfriend at the time got absolutely smashed (of legal drinking age, of course), and while in the restroom decided that he wanted to attend the show wearing a strategically placed sock. Unfortunately, he was too drunk to exit the rest­room, and the sock … well, the sock was very clearly a poor strategy. As his girlfriend and presumed keeper, I was asked to escort him from the premises. Preferably clothed. <strong>—Meagan Sneeringer, A&S '08</strong></p> <p>As a Latin American studies major, I found the parties with the salsa music were always the most fun. Students from Middle East Studies, Canadian Studies, Asian Studies, and more would dance until the wee hours as everyone embraced the ritmo in their hearts. <strong>—Linda Higueras, SAIS '78</strong></p> <p>Fun? We were Master of Public Health students in a condensed, one-year program; most were midcareer professionals from U.S. and abroad. The women were "super women," pumping breast milk in between classes and knitting while listening to lectures. I had an 8-month-old who would wake up at midnight every night and cry for her mommy, not her daddy, as I tried to crawl into bed after studying. Our true grit was our sense of fun. <strong>—Kaimay Yuen Terry, SPH '77</strong></p> <p>As a student in the late 1960s in one of the iconic Dr. Elliott Coleman's last Writing Seminars classes, I can state half a century later, give or take a few years, that the entire year, every session, poetry or fiction, was a delightful and unexpected adventure. I never missed a minute and I couldn't wait for the next day. The year flew along. Dr. Coleman—Elliott to all of us—was uniformly kind and generous in his criticism. When one student submitted a concrete poem—the word poem in a piece of cardboard in a plastic box—Elliott's only commentary on it was, "Who am I to say that's not a poem?" All things, to Elliott, were art, even the most unlikely submissions. Life was art. Art was life. Which was the way it should have been. Academically, and in all ways, it was a perfect year. I wish it never ended. <strong>—Samuel A. Zervitz, Bus '71, A&S '72 (MA)</strong></p> <p>I memorized Poe's "The Raven" one stanza at a time while walking home from school. Each time I learned another stanza, I practiced everything up to there. (I also memorized the chemical elements in order by atomic number the same way, but I never practiced the elements after that, so I lost the memory.) I recited the poem often enough to keep the memory fresh. In grad school at Johns Hopkins, I shared an office at Ames 203. It had a big blackboard. On a whim, or perhaps to show off, I wrote "The Raven" on it from memory. My officemate countered by writing the first 10 lines of the Iliad in Greek. We kept adding, always from memory. My next contribution was "Aestivation" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. I erased "The Raven" and rewrote it with smaller letters to make more space. I started memorizing poems on purpose to fill in more space. I wrote "Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr" by Robert Browning inside the outline of a horse and rider and, in a similar theme, part of "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." I had previously memorized "Au Cimetière" by Théophile Gautier, so I added it, with a drawing of cemetery gates. I added "Evidence Read at the Trial of the Knave of Hearts" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a tour de force of memorization because so many of its words could be interchangeable. Finally, we put a sign in the small window in the door, calling it the "Ames 203 Literature Gallery" and charging 5 cents admission. <strong>—Reed Gwillim Law Jr., A&S '69 (MA)</strong></p> <p>The most fun our family had was during the winter storm of 1967. I was a chief resident in Orthopaedics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Like all other surgical and clinical specialty residents, we had to live next to the hospital in the "married with children" housing area, called the Compound. In those days, it was customary for the residents to walk the five minutes from the Compound to the hospital. A storm came in that dropped so much snow that we could not even get outside our doors. We had to improvise to get out in order to take care of our patients, but the children had a lot of fun with the snow. The hospital was almost all closed, and we got to stay home with our families. This included my daughters, now in their 50s, who still recall this jolly good time with glee. <strong>—John D. Hsu, HS '67, Med '71 (PGF)</strong></p> <p>Many of the fun times I had, both on and off campus, were with the Barnstormers, a student theater group. Rehearsals meant long, late nights in the Swirnow Theater and futile attempts to get homework done between scenes, but the camaraderie was unbeatable, and the joy of bringing creativity to campus was amazing. The most fun play we did during my time was certainly also the weirdest: <em>Bat Boy</em>, a musical inspired by the tabloid news story about a half-boy, half-bat. It's wacky, off-the-wall, and hilarious—not a fit to the Hopkins stereotype by any means. <strong>—Emily Ethridge, A&S '06</strong></p> <p>As a sophomore, I shared an off-campus apartment in Charles Village with two classmates. We all had big appetites but not much money, so quantity and price, rather than quality, were the objectives of our weekly shopping forages to the Giant supermarket in the Rotunda. Our wine purchases were dollar wines for the discounted price of $10 for a mixed case of 12 bottles from Harry's Liquor on Greenmount Avenue. And we drank a pale beer from Pennsylvania—Hofbrau—that sold for less than $4 for a case of 24 cans. Shortly after arriving on campus in 1971, the university's new provost, Steven Muller, was quoted as saying he was interested in getting out into the community and meeting the student body. Never one to shy away from an opening, my roommate extended a telephone invitation to Muller to join us for a home-cooked meal. To our surprise and delight, he quickly accepted, and we scheduled a weekday dinner at our Guilford Avenue apartment. Muller was an engaging conversationalist who was genuinely interested in the student viewpoint. For his part, he was treated to probably the strangest meal of his tenure at Hopkins: plentiful, but not much else going for it. The signature dessert consisted of one-fourth—slightly less than our usual split—of a half-gallon of Neapolitan ice cream. After all, it was the weekly special at 29 cents. <strong>—Steve LeGendre, A&S '73</strong></p> <p>My senior year, Baltimore was hit by a winter squall. The city was a frozen tundra, shut down, covered in a blanket of snow. Getting antsy, my friends and I decided to go sledding. The fact that none of us had a sled certainly wasn't going to hold us back. It was the year 2000, and inflatable furniture was king. We grabbed our neon green inflatable loungers (not a typo—we had more than one). We dragged our chairs from the Broadview Apartments, across Homewood campus, and to the Beach, where we met our friends. We had so much fun sliding down the Beach over and over, and we didn't even break a bone (or pop a chair). On the way home, we dragged our chairs down the middle of a deserted Charles Street just because we could. Afterward, the neon green chairs were toweled off and used as movie theater seats in our apartment. <strong>—Allison Ross, A&S '00</strong></p> <p>An edict went out at the beginning of my freshman year in 1956 that all were to wear a coat and tie when dining in the cafeteria. Many students were unhappy with that, and the word went around that it was time to protest. We did this by showing up for dinner one day wearing a coat, tie, and swimsuit. No pants, no shoes, not much else, actually. As I recall, the rule was revoked the next day. <strong>—Frank Ward, A&S '60</strong></p> <p>My time at Johns Hopkins was filled with incredibly fun times that taught more about science than lectures and lab classes ever could. <strong>Neuropsychology:</strong> All-night study sessions in the Hut demonstrated just how unproductive working well past bedtime could be; it also introduced loopy behavior. <strong>Architectural engineering:</strong> Postgame fraternity parties stressed the importance of not exceeding maximum capacity and demonstrated the impact of too many bodies on a building's integrity. <strong>Chemistry:</strong> Too much time spent waiting between experimental steps gave way to an idle mind and witnessing just what happens when you pour liquid nitrogen on a spider. <strong>Anthropology:</strong> Coming from the great nation of Texas, I was introduced to a vast array of cultures and dialects from within the United States. I spent the first semester with a dictionary after an exhaustive debate about whether carbonated drinks should be called pop, soda, or Coke. <strong>Kinesiology:</strong> Cheerleading was my favorite activity, but one-too-many faulty gymnastic moves underscored the importance of sleep and its impact on coordination. The crowd thought it was a comedy act. <strong>Sociology:</strong> Undeniably, the best part of Johns Hopkins was my "village." It always amazed me that the Admissions Committee could select students who looked nothing alike, came from vastly different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, grew up in different regions/states/countries, and yet were so similar in thinking. Johns Hopkins gave me a sense of belonging that made me believe anything was possible. <strong>—Cherie Butts, A&S '92, '97 (MS)</strong></p> <p>My friend John went into the vast lecture hall for Electrical Engineering and wrote in chalk a limerick on a blackboard that could be raised high above a second blackboard. He wrote this deathless prose one day and signed it "The Funny Man." This limerick mocked Electrical Engineering Professor Thorstein Larsen's favorite and too-often-repeated theme of the explosive force of coulombs.</p> <p><em>There once was an EE quite smart</em></p> <p><em>Who devoured abvolts a la carte</em></p> <p><em>He departed one night</em></p> <p><em>At velocity of light</em></p> <p><em>From holding two coulombs one meter apart.</em></p> <p>Professor Larsen came into the lecture hall to teach the multitude of engineering students, saw the limerick, and tried to pull down the blackboard, but John had removed the pole so it remained up high. John, however, was late to class and stood outside the lecture hall. He opened the left door to the hall and shouted "Henneberger is the Funny Man!" and shut the door. Professor Larsen took off out the door to see who this was, but John had quickly sneaked in through a different door and seated himself, leaving the professor to believe I had written the limerick that mocked him. **—John A. Henneberger, Engr '56</p> <p>One of the few reprieves from studying at SAIS was Cookie Hour on Tuesdays, when the student government would bring in boxes of cookies to placate the horde of grad students craving a sugar fix to get them through their 6 p.m. econometrics section. Sir David Attenborough could have narrated, in hushed tones, the paroxysm of future diplomats clawing over the last macadamia nut cookie like hyenas over a wildebeest carcass. I think the only tangible sign that I am an adult is that I have to create my own cookie hour now. <strong>—Felix Zhang, SAIS '15</strong></p> <p>My undergraduate years at Johns Hopkins were enlivened by the thrill of participating in productions of the Johns Hopkins Playshop. Professor N. Bryllion Fagin was our director, and I, a budding actress, pitched in as curtain puller, usher, ticket seller, lighting operator, set decorator, and more. My greatest fun was appearing in the stellar role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. With my hair in braids and my shiny red shoes, I danced the polka steps down the yellow brick road, exited the door, dashed around the building, and re-entered from the rear to the stage. Fun indeed. <strong>—Betty Samuels Seidel, Bus '42, Ed '72 (MEd)</strong></p> <p>I was admitted to SAIS with the expectation of going to Washington, D.C., for the first year and Bologna for the second. In May 1965, I received a letter. Surprise! It would be the other way around. "Please report to the Bologna Center in late August," read the letter. My fiancée, Martha, and I moved up our wedding date by two weeks so as to arrive in Bologna on time, which we did, speaking no Italian and knowing no one. We joined the class of about 100 primarily European students on what proved to be a yearlong honeymoon. To Venice for the September Regatta, to Brussels and Paris in November on a class trip, to Ortisei in the Dolomites for a New Year's ski trip, and to Viareggio in February for Carnevale. The professors routinely invited students to their rented villas for meals. We are still savoring Professor Randall Hinshaw's rabbit stew and Bob and Judy Nilsson's Christmas glogg. What we expected? Not at all. Do it again? In a heartbeat. <strong>—M. John Storey, SAIS Bol '66 (Cert), '67</strong></p> <p>Meeting my husband on the steps of Barton Hall. We first saw each other there and then officially met in karate class in the athletic center. But the most fun is yet to come, as our daughter graduates from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars this year. As African-Americans, we are delighted to have such a legacy in our family. <strong>—Bertram Lewis, Engr '88, '90 (MSE), Med '97 (MD/PhD)</strong>, and <strong>Kathy Lewis, Bus '95</strong></p> <p>I was participating in an anti-war march that took us from the Homewood campus to downtown Baltimore and back again. Since we were returning to campus during evening rush hour, the police encouraged us to march north on a southbound street, but we much preferred to march northbound on Charles Street in order to cause the most congestion and create the most visibility for the march. Despite our ignoring their requests, the police positioned motorcycle policemen on cross streets ahead of us to stop traffic as we marched. Two officers—a major and a lieutenant, I believe—ended up walking with the marchers to coordinate street closures by radio. Despite the likely differences in our political views, some friends and I fell into a pleasant conversation with these officers who, at about 28th Street, expressed real concern about seeing themselves in a photo in the next day's Baltimore Sun with the heading "Major X and Lieutenant Y Lead Anti-War Protest Up Charles Street." <strong>—Jerry Doctrow, A&S '72</strong></p> <p>A classmate and I played jokes on a fellow grad student; he was good-natured but very gullible. I think the best one was the time we sent him an official-looking letter from the "Epidemiology Dept. Space Committee" telling him he would have to share his tiny study cubicle, for which he had waited more than a year, with an incoming research associate from China. We thought he would complain to his adviser, who was in on it, but instead he went straight to Student Services. Afraid we would be found out, we cringed when he showed his letter to the director. Her response: "Isn't it just like the Department of Epidemiology to do something like this!" <strong>—Jean Langlois Orman, SPH '87, '91 (ScD)</strong></p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Dialogue <h3>Novel Graphics</h3> <p>I picked up my copy of Johns Hopkins Magazine last week and was so moved by the article "Wave Hunters" [Spring] that I wanted to compliment the authors, Julie Scharper and Josh Cochran. Since my graduation in 1980, this article is the most novel I have seen in the magazine in nearly 36 years. I usually don't have time to wade through each issue of the magazine to get the content of the many interesting articles. I skim the issue for articles of interest, then try to find the time to read them later. "Wave Hunters" was different. Its use of an eye-catching cartoon visual format with minimal verbiage led me to appreciate the content in its entirety, capturing all of it in a fraction of the time it takes to read an article and have an understanding of the concepts. Congratulations to these authors for this highly appealing and simple format and its facilitated access to my brain. I would like to see more articles like this.</p> <p><strong>Paul G. Harch, Med '80</strong></p> <p>New Orleans</p> <h3>His Contribution?</h3> <p>The letter to the editor written by William Nichols ["Procreation Policy," Dialogue, Spring] at first had me thinking that Mr. Nichols lacks compassion. Then I realized he describes himself as a liberal. May I assume, therefore, that he is out on the streets of Baltimore teaching young men about safe sex and responsibility? That he is writing politicians urging them to support Planned Parenthood? Working to ensure that foster homes are safe and that foster children are adopted? Lobbying to change the regulations that favor single mothers above two-parent households? Mr. Nichols says that "Johns Hopkins does little to address this very real problem." I wonder how much he is doing himself.</p> <p><strong>Elizabeth Corwin, SAIS Bol '82 (Cert), A&S '83</strong></p> <p>Tampa, Florida</p> <h3>With Gratitude</h3> <p>I read the story about Dr. Edward Held, Med '26, with great interest ["Devotion Becomes Opportunity," Alumni, Spring]. I was brought up in Hempstead, New York, and he was our family doctor for many years. This article unleashed a floodgate of memories. I remember that he came to our house and diagnosed my older sister's measles while she was lying on our piano bench. He tended to me when I stepped on a rusty nail. He also was very attentive to our family during my father's final illness in 1963. He taught me how to give a morphine injection should that become necessary. (It didn't.) He also said that he would be available anytime except Sunday morning, when he took a bike ride. I did not know that he had gone to Johns Hopkins but am pleased that he is getting the recognition a committed family doctor is due.</p> <p><strong>Mary (Hengstenberg) Grossman</strong></p> <p>Baltimore</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 In search of lost fun <p>Johns Hopkins does not have a reputation as a party school. There is no <em>Girls Gone Wild</em> video about the women of Johns Hopkins. When I was a student there, ca. 1980s, it enjoyed a perversely self-congratulatory reputation as a tense and joyless place, where "throat" (as in cutthroat) was part of the undergraduate vernacular and you could find pallid figures slumped over their textbooks at all hours in the timeless subterranean depths of the library's D-level. Against this bleak background, we goof-offs and fun-seekers found one another as easily as atheists making eye contact while everyone else's heads are bowed. When one of those friends and I turned up at our 10-year reunion, our former class president tried to throw us out, instantly sizing us up as party crashers.</p> <p>I'm advised that occasions and venues for officially sanctioned fun are more numerous on the Homewood campus now than when I attended, but in those days, you pretty much had to make your own. A friend and I once constructed a robot servant out of junk in a friend's apartment, as a surprise; another friend and I dressed up as a costumed superhero and villain and did battle with sparklers at Spring Fair; one night several of us sat in chairs and took a pretend road trip to New York City, in real time. The last session of one writing workshop ended several hours late with the detonation of fireworks in a pie in Wyman Dell; as they lit up the night sky, the perpetrators fled to the four corners, not to see one another again until the next semester.</p> <p>Oh, the libelous things I could write! The staid and respectable people I know who behaved very disreputably indeed! I once watched a future leading spokesperson for transgender issues persuade a future leading spokesperson for Asian-American issues to eat Meow Mix. I saw a future Fox commentator seized by paranoia while on LSD at a Grateful Dead concert who, "sensing an element of coercion," slipped free of his friends (captors!) and made good his escape into the crowd, not to reappear until the next morning when he turned up at our hotel room door looking sheepish. I saw the second-best minds of my generation deranged by boredom, munching out giggling pantsless/Staggering through the Hampden streets at dawn looking for a meatball sub.</p> <p>A lot of the fun was, of necessity, illicit. There was a lot of what wet blankets might call alcohol and drug abuse, and although there wasn't much sex, there was rampant nudity. (It was sort of a phase we went through. There was naked boxing, naked do-si-doing, a naked a cappella version of "White Rabbit" in a reverberant tiled bathroom.) There was also a lot of what you might call—again, if you wanted to be a stick-in-the-mud about it—criminal trespass. I remember sliding down the multistory corkscrew fire escape slide in The Charles, whirling through the dark for what seemed like a lifetime, only to emerge, reborn with a bang, through a pair of metal doors into PJ's Pub in the basement; sneaking into the network of underground steam tunnels beneath the campus and running through those <em>Nostromo</em>-*like corridors until I gashed open my scalp on a protruding pipe; slipping through an open window into Gilman Hall at night to switch off the clock tower. I remember standing out on the quad the day after that last one, a senior a few days away from graduation, looking up at it with hungover satisfaction, having arrested, if only briefly, the humorless, businesslike rush of time.</p> <p>The Fun Years seem to be mostly behind us now. Not to say there's no more fun to be had; just that, like sex and drugs, it's gotten harder to arrange. Certainly after college you will never again in your life have so much time to devote to hanging out, goofing off, flirting, and cracking each other up. Once people have careers, homes, and children, their lives become richer and more meaningful than they ever could have imagined, which can make them look, to the casual observer, as if they'd rather be dead. In her handbook on creativity, <em>What It Is</em>, cartoonist Lynda Barry invites us to imagine what would happen to a child who was never permitted to play. (A grim <em>gedankenexperiment</em> that's currently being carried out in the real world; we will soon see the results.) She wonders why we expect adults to thrive deprived of this essential human activity. Shirley Jackson: "No live organism can continue for long to exist under conditions of absolute sanity."</p> <p>"I posit that fun is an underrated medicant," my fellow alum Aaron Long wrote in an article for the MAPS Bulletin, the scholarly journal of psychedelics. Most adults think of fun as a necessary outlet for the stresses of our real lives—our working, "productive" lives—or a product to be bought. Some people think of it as a frivolous waste of time. But the serious business of adult life—survival, securing resources, and reproducing—is what all animals do, from microbes on up; playing is distinctively (if not uniquely) human. I would argue that it's one of the main things we ought to be doing in our inexcusably brief time on Earth.</p> <p>I still prefer the Johns Hopkins model of fun—jerry-rigged, DIY, and at least semi-illicit—to the prepackaged brands. (Institutionally contrived fun often just makes me feel embarrassed and sorry for everyone involved.) And some of my fellow alumni are still among my most reliable accomplices: Aaron, Carolyn, and I have driven cross-country together, staged many an illicit caper, ridden the circus train to Mexico City, and infiltrated the National Spelling Bee. Dave and Dave (now a NASA engineer and a national magazine editor, respectively) finally produced the rock opera about the War of 1812 they'd been working on since they lived together in their postgraduate bachelor apartment.</p> <p>I recently saw Dave at a hoot­enanny in a South Baltimore pub, another DIY fun occasion. Dave, who's had a bad year of it, with several deaths in the family, told me: "Bad times are going to happen on their own. The good times you have to make happen yourself."</p> <p>*From <em>Alien</em>, not Joseph Conrad.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 My idea of a good time <p>People always think I have more fun than I actually do, mostly because of what they glean from my social media presence. Everyone seems happier on the internet, I always say. Most of the time I'm looking at a screen like the rest of the planet, or I've got my head in a book. I don't want anyone to get any funny ideas about me. I'm swathed in misery as much as any other writer.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Illustration by Romy Blümel </p> </div> </div> <p>And anyway, fun for me is largely about observation rather than participation. The best time I have all day, lately, is walking my dog first thing in the morning, through my new neighborhood in New Orleans, where I have just purchased a house. I live on St. Claude Avenue, which is a busy thoroughfare running from Arabi, across the canal, through my neighborhood of the Bywater, followed by the Marigny, until it merges with Rampart Street, which then takes you along the border of the French Quarter and Tremé and further uptown. Traffic races on it throughout the day, but if you get up early enough—which I do—it has its beautiful quiet moments.</p> <p>I take my pup first across the neutral ground, past the corner store (Korner Market #2—where is #1, I always wonder), winding my way through the beautiful blocks full of brightly colored shotgun homes, to Satsuma Cafe for a coffee, where I often have my only conversation of the day, with a barista, me grinning like an idiot at people, humanity, life. Then we head down to Crescent Park, across the arched, rusted steel bridge at Piety Street, my dog panting, his little legs barely making each stair, so determined, and it makes me laugh every time. We amble down the park along the Mississippi, until we hit the dog park, usually empty that early, but we wait patiently for a few minutes, scan the cruise ships harbored nearby, and then we give up; no playmates for now.</p> <p>I try to wend my way home through a different path each time. It's sort of a reverse OCD—I'm determined to have a lack of order and repetition in my life. I need to see a new block, a new building, a new face every day. And by now the sun is risen, so when I hit St. Claude again the street looks entirely different. The bright colors of the buildings, the texture of the big sky, the stretch of earth dividing the street, all blissfully intertwined—that's my idea of a good time.</p> <p>And when I cross neutral ground again, nearly home, I see my last face of the day for a while: a tall, somber, older woman dressed in dark clothes, who most mornings hands out Christian tracts in front of the dollar store down the block. She always waves back at me with a smile. I like to think we say a little prayer for each other, even if we're praying for different things. It is a kind of friendship, or the beginning of one, and I can't wait to learn more about her, but for now just witnessing her is its own kind of fun.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 For the Johns Hopkins Aerial Circus Club, the air is a playground <p>Marni Epstein's feet could probably open and close a jar of peanut butter while she dangles from a tree branch and reads Shakespeare. But right now she's only asking them to help her ascend a 25-foot length of purple silk suspended from the ceiling of a converted church in Baltimore's Pigtown neighborhood. Epstein, a senior public health major at Johns Hopkins, uses agile toes to coil one stretch of the fabric under her other foot's arch, forming a cloth stirrup, while sinewy arms pull her ever higher. Soon she's suspended in midair, a slender frame gracefully contorting itself into crosses and ballerina-like poses. At one point, a single handgrip and a modest wrap of silk across her thigh are all that keep her in defiance of gravity.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="Johns Hopkins student Marni Epstein performs aerial circus acts" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Marshall Clarke </p> </div> </div> <p>For Epstein, and the dozen other Johns Hopkins undergraduates gathered at Baltimore's Mobtown Ballroom on a spring afternoon, the space between floor and ceiling is both playground and canvas. A couple of hours each week, this group hangs, spins, and twists on a colorful collection of silks and rings for the most artistic of core workouts. Sometimes, at the O'Connor Recreation Center, they practice floor-based partner acrobatics, including handstands and human pyramids. The members of the Johns Hopkins Aerial Circus Club, which Epstein and civil engineering major Gwen Martin founded two years ago, are prepping for their end-of-year show, a choreographed, music-accompanied performance on silks and lyra (a sort of oversized hula hoop suspended from the ceiling) that lets them show off skills built from the ground up. Nobody here is thrown into the high end. "We start everyone inches off the floor," says Epstein, who serves as group leader and instructor. "No risks early on, and we do this for weeks. Then we gradually and patiently go higher, watching everyone to make sure they are wrapping correctly." By wrapping, she means the careful twisting of silk around a leg, waist, torso, or ankle to support a person's body weight and allow them to go hands-free. Let's just say, you want a good wrap.</p> <p>Nearly all 16 members of the mostly female club started as novices, like Daniela Barrio, who earlier this practice performed her first "drop," the group's rite of passage. A drop entails strategically wrapping various parts of your body while in midair, so that when you let go of the silk, or flip over, you unravel until one stretch of fabric tightens to catch your fall. "It's all about trusting the wraps and making sure everything is in place," says Barrio, a sophomore psychology major from El Paso, Texas, who also likes to rock climb and play the cello. "I had to psych myself up a lot to have the courage to let go, but it was really fun."</p> <p>Make no mistake; there is danger here. So every handgrip and silk wrap is studied and fussed over. Some say they do this for the adrenaline rush. Others, like Barrio, enjoy the performance and artistic aspects. For many, it's a novel way to exercise, part of a larger trend in anti-gravity activities that has aerial yoga, aerial Zumba, and even aerial meditation classes popping up across the nation.</p> <p>Kelly Jo Stull, a former marine biologist turned circus artist who co-instructs the club with Epstein, also privately teaches aerial fabric, lyra, and German wheel (something like a large hamster wheel) gymnastics classes out of the Mobtown Ballroom. Business, she says, is good. Stull teaches 15 to 20 classes a week and currently has roughly 150 steady clients. "It's an alternative form of fitness, a physical and mental challenge, and more fun than going to the gym and just lifting something. Here, you lift yourself," says Stull, a redhead with a host of tattoos, including a mermaid on her arm and high-heeled trapezist on her back. "Then there's the other half who come because they want to be in Cirque du Soleil."</p> <p>Put Epstein in this camp. She has given at least some thought to joining the circus. Epstein says she grew up a "monkey kid"—she liked to climb trees and playground structures, anything to get off the ground. For her 11th birthday, her grandmother bought her lessons at Trapeze School New York. She got hooked on the thrill and the heights. Six months later, she attended a summer camp in the Poconos that featured a circus arts primer, where she further honed her trapeze skills and also learned silks, how to form a human pyramid, juggling, and other such Big Top activities. "That's when I really got into this stuff," says Epstein, who went to the camp five straight summers and now teaches at Trapeze School New York on school breaks.</p> <p>After high school, Epstein took a gap year. She first went to Bolivia with a youth group, where she did a 10-day trek through the Andes that included camping 15,000 feet above sea level. She would later travel to South Africa with Zip Zap Circus, a nonprofit social organization founded in Cape Town that looks to inspire and unite young people by exposing them to other cultures through the circus arts. There she lived in a cooperative house with a Brit, an Afrikaner, a Canadian, a German, and a Xhosa. Three to four times a week, they would travel to a township to work in a kids program in conjunction with Doctors Without Borders, teaching circus arts to youth at an HIV-TB clinic as a way to stay fit and build teamwork skills.</p> <p>When she got to Johns Hopkins, Epstein joined the Outdoors Club, which she formerly directed, and threw herself into backpacking, hiking, rappelling, and exploring. But her purest joy came whenever she was suspended in air, and she found a kindred spirit in Martin, who learned circus arts during her time in high school. The two founded the club, quietly confident others would share their passion. "Fifteen years ago, few people were taking a silks class, but there's been a real emergence in the past few years," Epstein says. "It's a creative outlet. For me, I swing to keep happy and release stress. It clears your mind, as you have to focus on the moves and what you're doing."</p> <p>And, Epstein says, she gets to be that kid again who crawled on top of the monkey bars. She'll come down when she's good and ready.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 BSO's Marin Alsop talks about fun in the concert hall <p><em>The 11th edition of</em> Encyclopædia Britannica, <em>under its entry for "applause," notes: "The reverential spirit which abolished applause in church has tended to spread to the theatre and the concert-room." And while it's true that a performance by a modern symphony orchestra usually is not a raucous, rollicking experience, that does not mean fun has been banished from the concert hall. Marin Alsop, director of Peabody Conservatory's graduate conducting program and the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, has given this a lot of thought:</em></p> <p>There are different kinds of fun, right? You're talking about, on the one hand, the experience of the audience and what they perceive as fun, and how the symphony orchestra has kind of gotten away from a looseness and a casual sense of fun.</p> <p>We weren't there in Beethoven's time, when everyone was yelling out from the audience and clapping whenever they wanted to. But it was a time when, for audiences, part of their education involved learning about music, learning about composition. So they came to a concert with a very deep knowledge of the process of composing, which we don't really have today. It was a much more opinionated experience, I think. When they liked something, they just started clapping. I think it was Beethoven's Seventh Symphony—they really liked the second movement, which was a funeral march, ironically, and they clapped so much the orchestra did it again.</p> <p>I've actually had this experience a few times, in particular with percussion pieces by our own Chris Rouse from Baltimore. I did his <em>Ogoun Badagris</em> and <em>Ku-Ka-Ilimoku</em>. I played them in Paris with the Orchestre de Paris, and the audience loved the pieces so much and clapped so much, I had to play them both twice. That was very cool. And I've had the experience of playing encores twice. Those are the really great moments, when the audience doesn't want it to end.</p> <p>I have a project called <em>Too Hot to Handel</em>, which is a gospel version of Handel's <em>Messiah</em>, and we often have to reprise the Hallelujah chorus several times because people just don't want to leave. They're dancing. I think part of what we're talking about is engagement. In the 1700s and 1800s, the audience was more engaged because of their knowledge base. I think when audiences feel engaged in that way, they have more fun and they want more. They're really enjoying the experience.</p> <p>We try, here at the BSO, to kind of maximize that whenever we can. For example, we're doing a later-night series called "Pulse," where the BSO is teamed up with local independent music groups. So we do a few pieces together, and the orchestra plays some really out-of-the-box stuff, Philip Glass and things like this. People can bring their drinks into the hall, and you can come and go if you want. If you want to go grab a beer and come back in, you can. That's proven to be really fun. And it's sold out.</p> <p>Of course, all art isn't about fun, but a lot of it is, and I think if it's either fun or emotionally charged, if it takes you on some kind of emotional journey, you can have the same interaction as if it's super-fun, so that a Mahler symphony can become a journey for the listener. Through our "Off the Cuff" series, where I take the pieces apart and put them back together, we've tried to re-create that atmosphere of ownership in the audience, similar to what we were talking about in the 1800s and late 1700s. If people know more about why this was written, how it was written, they'll feel much more connected to the piece and thereby have a heightened listening experience. That series has proved to be really successful, too.</p> <p>I had a swing band for 20 years, called String Fever. This was in … gosh … 1982 to 2002? A long time ago. We played in jazz clubs in New York, before classical musicians ever played in jazz clubs. I think having done that really informed how I think about the performance experience. You know, the first time, I had all my notes and I was going to tell them about all the songs, and then I realized it has to be much more of an interactive kind of experience. I try to bring that to the concert hall. It's hard with 2,400 or 2,500 people to have that experience, but I think we have done it, probably more than other orchestras because our orchestra is more outwardly emotive than many. They're willing to move and be engaged and try new things. I think here in Baltimore we have the chance to really change the landscape of that experience.</p> <p>"Fun" doesn't imply a superficial level of enjoyment. I think real fun can be extremely emotional and rewarding. I mean <em>real</em> fun, where you're really present. I think sometimes we do a disservice to what fun is. It's not necessarily jokes. I think it has many guises. For the musicians, if I can attempt to speak for them, I sense that they have fun whenever <em>they're</em> engaged. It's the same as for the audience, that's what's interesting. When we have a full house that's into what we're doing, the musicians are having fun.</p> <p>I think there are certain pieces that they always enjoy playing, but they love playing something new, discovering something new, whether it's a contemporary piece or a work by a well-known composer that we haven't played before. It's fun because it's all-new.</p> <p>For me, it's exactly the same. When I'm conducting an orchestra that is committed and engaged and willing to give, and when I have an audience that's willing to go on the journey, I think it's the same for all three parties.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Lunchtime layups <p>There were probably more East Asians and Upper East Siders than black dudes from East Baltimore hanging around campus during my time at Johns Hopkins. Many of those students seemed slightly put off by my presence, so I never really found a relatable Hopkins community––not until Chuck, a 6-foot-7 university employee, caught me throwing up shots in the gym and invited me to a weekly pickup. "The game is on Wednesdays and Fridays around 11," he said, "right here on Homewood." I asked him about the competition, and he said it varied, which was great for me because I was far from being in basketball shape and was on that grad school diet—you know, multi­flavored carbs dusted with salt.</p> <p>I thought "varied" on JHU's campus meant a few brothas (black dudes like me and Chuck), a few bros (the frat white boys who wear cargo shorts with flip-flops all year round and address everybody as "bro," even the women), and some of the Asian kids I saw dribbling around campus. This could be good for me, I thought. I could shake the rust and use these guys to work my way back into East Side–Baltimore shape just in time for the summer. So I took Chuck's offer and hit the gym a little after 11 on that following Friday morning.</p> <p>A game was in progress. I spotted Chuck first, snagging a rebound over everybody and seamlessly weaving between defenders, running the floor, gazellelike, coast-to-coast and sinking a midrange jump shot. The guy guarding him, Paul, was almost his size and answered right back with a similar shot. Both of them looked pretty talented. And I guess the rest of the crew out there fit Chuck's definition of "varies."</p> <p>A multiracial blur of ballers flashed back and forth; among the pack were some middle-aged dudes who could've been professors or grad students and some uncoordinated baby-faced undergrads. There were a couple of employees who were switching from their work uniforms into hoop clothes, and a handful of professors that included Lester Spence; Bill, a 70-year-old from the History Department; and Ralph, a 75-year-old astronomer who never got lost in the mix, outran people half his age, and occasionally hit a two-hand, over-the-shoulder swing shot.</p> <p>Who would have thought that the most diverse place on campus, both in age and race, would be a basketball game in the middle of the day? Dave Elbert, from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, has been playing in this pickup since 1993. "The game has been going since at least the early 1980s," he says. "The noontime hoop phenomenon is pretty well-known across academia."</p> <p>My noontime debut went well. I wasn't the best, I wasn't the worst, and I didn't leave in pain. I liked the game so much that I've never stopped attending. Balling with that crew has become a weekly routine and really the only bit of nonliterary fun that I can afford to squeeze in between my tour, the classes I teach, and my writing schedule. It's also the most interesting pickup game that I've ever been a part of—not because of differences in age and background, or the fact that a snapshot of us would make a great cheesy campus diversity flier. No, it's the language. There's nothing funnier than hearing a group of 30- to 70-plus-year-old intellects go back and forth over a travel or foul call. We're experts in our respective fields, but not on the court. We argue, we trade jokes and cheap shots, and then we all shake hands after the game.</p> <p>Sometimes the humor and conversations spill off the court after the games. They range from politics to school politics to corny jokes that only we get. The convenience of the lunchtime game is addictive, and I've grown to admire all the guys who participate, even the conservative ones, because really, at that time and in that place, we are all united by basketball. I've been playing in that Wednesday/Friday game for about four years now and can honestly say I would not prefer to play anywhere else in the world.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Lighten up—according to science, it's good for you <p>It's a brisk spring afternoon and my son, Charlie, and I are walking to a park with an old friend and her daughter. My son, who just turned 3, grips my hand, focused on getting to the playground as fast as his stubby legs will carry him.</p> <p>But 5-year-old Gabriela has other ideas. She scrambles up a hill to pluck a fistful of violets and dandelions. She tugs a branch, unleashing a shower of cherry blossoms. Next she's a cat, stalking down the sidewalk on all fours, batting her paws and hissing. "She's been a cat most of the week," my friend explains.</p> <p>Charlie has had enough. "Stop it, Gabriela," he says. "Stop being a cat! Stop running around! We're supposed to be going to the playground!"</p> <p>I can't help but think he has a point. The walk, which normally takes 10 minutes, is stretching into a half hour. I've got work to do: papers to grade, stories to research, laundry to fold.</p> <p>But then I stop and think: What better way than this to spend a spring day? Have I forgotten how to enjoy the journey? Have I forgotten how to have fun?</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>Ours is an era of seemingly limitless opportunities for fun: costumed bar crawls and bouncy castles, hoverboards and home brewing, blue-and-green mermaid hair, flash mobs, milkshakes adorned with donuts and rock candy.</p> <p>And yet, everyone seems perpetually stressed, overbooked, and uptight. Even kids seem busy these days, their afternoons packed with practices and lessons. In the words of Zippy the Pinhead, "Are we having fun yet?"</p> <p>Just what is fun, anyway? What happens in the brain when we have fun? Is there some evolutionary explanation of fun? And what happens if we don't get enough of it? These are tricky questions to pose to a scientist.</p> <p>Fun is vague. Highly subjective. "It's not a term that scientists use, ever," says David J. Linden, sitting in his ninth-floor office at the School of Medicine. "It's not like I can point to a place in the brain and say, 'Here's what happens when you have fun.'"</p> <p>But Linden, a neuroscience professor, knows a lot about a concept closely related to fun—pleasure. His book, <em>The Compass of Pleasure</em> (Viking, 2011), explains how experiences as seemingly distinct as drug use, sex, exercise, and altruism have similar effects on the brain. When people—or rats—feel pleasure, neurons activate in a part of the brain called the ventral tegmental area. The long, spindly axons of these neurons reach into other parts of the brain, as the roots of one tree wrap around those of another. When the neuron fires, the ends of the axons release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is then absorbed by neurons in other regions of the brain.</p> <p>This pleasure pathway has evolved to reward behavior that benefits survival, both of the individual and the species, says Linda Gorman, teaching professor in the Krieger School's Neuroscience Program. Eating, drinking, and having sex all set these neurons firing. "If it's going to be beneficial to your survival, that reward pathway would be activated," she says.</p> <p>Mood-altering drugs affect the release and absorption of dopamine, creating a sense of pleasure. They mimic substances that are naturally produced by the body. Morphine and other opium-derived drugs, for example, fit into receptors for the endorphins that the body produces during exercise. A "runner's high," the feeling of euphoria after a long run, is triggered by these endorphins flooding the brain. "This is not uniquely human," says Linden. "Exercise stimulates the pleasure pathways in rats and mice. A rat will press a lever a hundred times to access a running wheel."</p> <p>The average laboratory mouse will log 5 miles a night on its wheel, and some run as many as 12 miles, he says. Some mice hang on to the wheel after they stop running, whirling around as if on a tiny merry-go-round. Field observations of wild animals suggest the lab rodents are not just trying to break the monotony of being caged. A team of Dutch scientists used food to lure animals to hamster wheels outside. Field mice would eat the treat, then hop on the wheel, running for as long as 18 minutes. Rats, shrews, and even frogs, slugs, and snails, ran—or oozed—along the wheel as well. Even after researchers removed the food, many of these animals returned to the wheel, like miniature fitness buffs.</p> <p>It's easy to see the evolutionary benefits of exercise triggering the brain's pleasure center. Natural selection would seem to favor animals and humans who get a buzz out of chasing prey or running away from predators. Likewise, it's clear why eating, drinking, and having sex would bring us pleasure. But why do we enjoy activities that are not clearly tied to survival or the propagation of the species? Most people find learning, creating art, exploring new places, and performing charitable acts deeply pleasurable. "What's happened in humans is a miracle," says Linden. "Not only can humans take pleasure from things that have no relation to getting genes to the next generation, but we can take pleasure from things like fasting and celibacy, acts that run counter to the evolutionary imperative."</p> <p>What's going on here? Perhaps these pleasurable activities could all be seen as a form of play. And play might just be the most important act we can engage in.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>We've finally reached the park. Charlie is racing around the playground, blasting imaginary fires with a hose made from a fallen branch. Gabriela has made fast friends with another girl around her age, and they clamber up a spiral pole to cast fairy spells.</p> <p>We can learn about human play from watching two dogs romping around on a field nearby. They chase each other in circles, roll around, panting and biting. Occasionally, one yelps and the other backs away, the canine equivalent of, "Sorry, my bad." Puppies and young wolves engage in nearly identical play, but, as wolves grow, they play less, while dogs continue to play, says Stuart Brown, the former chief of Psychiatry at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in San Diego and currently a consulting professor at Stanford's design school, who has spent decades studying animal and human play. As adults, wolves have important business to attend to. They must work out their role in the pack, seek mates, hunt. But humans have bred dogs to remain playful.</p> <p>The drive to play arises from the most primitive parts of the brain, says Brown, who founded and serves as president of the National Institute for Play, a nonprofit that encourages the study and promotion of play. Studies with rats indicate that the urge to play comes from the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion, Brown says. If researchers remove the cerebral cortex—which controls higher order thought—from rat pups, the pups still learn to play normally with their peers. But though play bubbles up from the more primitive parts of our brains, it helps develop the more complex regions. Juvenile play helps create new pathways in the prefrontal cortex. Rat pups that are barred from play miss out on these connections and are unable to have normal social interactions as adults.</p> <p>Kids battling with lightsabers or building with LEGO bricks are playing, but what about a girl teaching herself to code? Or a boy training for a hypercompetitive sports team? And how do adults play? Is a round of golf with a client really play? "The state of play is biologically definable as a separate state, as separate as sleep and dreams from our regular consciousness," says Brown. Play is done purely for its own sake, he says. We improvise, experiment, make up new rules to keep the game going. We lose ourselves in play and we lose track of time, which truly does fly when we're having fun. Or, at least, the illusion that time is passing rapidly makes us think that we're having fun, according to an experiment at the University of Chicago devised by researcher Aaron Sackett (he is now at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota). His team told subjects they had 10 minutes to complete a word task. In reality, they stopped some subjects after five minutes, while others were left with the task for 20 minutes. Those in the five-minute group—for whom time appeared to be flying—rated the task as much more pleasurable.</p> <p>Freedom and self-direction are also key elements of play. Parents and teachers can make suggestions, but when they dictate the rules, the fun evaporates, says Doris Bergen, an educational psychologist at Miami University in Ohio, who has written many books about play. "The feeling of enjoyment is what's really crucial to play," she says.</p> <p>How we play changes as we grow. My 6-month-old grabs my husband's nose, catches my eye and laughs, and chews on anything she gets her hands on. Young toddlers mimic their parents by pretending to talk on the phone or rummaging through kitchen cabinets. And older toddlers and school-age children build ever more elaborate games, whether running around in the backyard or immersing themselves in imagined worlds with dolls or dinosaurs or trucks. In the past, most adults were so consumed with survival that play for them was largely confined to festivals and ceremonies.</p> <p>But as leisure time has increased, so have our opportunities to play, Bergen says. "Almost anything could be play. Some people do math problems for play."</p> <p>One of the reasons that humans spend more time playing compared to other animals is that our childhoods are so much longer, Linden says. Humans have large brains, but because we walk upright, women have narrow pelvises. In order for babies' heads to be able to pass through the birth canal, they begin life with small brains that take nearly two decades to fully develop.</p> <p>However, all this play comes at a cost. As Brown points out in his book, <em>Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul</em> (Avery, 2009), play has inherent dangers. Young animals are more likely to die—either by accident or by predator—when they are at play. So the evolutionary benefits must be greater than the risks. What do we gain from play?</p> <p>First, play provides a safe environment to try out adult behavior. When kittens pounce, bear cubs wrestle, or baby otters swim in circles, they're practicing the skills they will need as adults. Many social animals find their role in the group's hierarchy through play, Brown says. Rats, chimpanzees, and other animals move into dominant or submissive roles based on play. When young animals play, their brains are forging new neural pathways, so that playing in different environments, and surmounting new challenges, allows the brain to become more flexible.</p> <p>Bergen believes that natural selection has favored playful people because they are more likely to develop strategies to help them adapt to new environments. Early humans who experimented with new techniques for making weapons, picking berries, and crossing streams were honing their survival skills. And play is just as important—or perhaps more so—today as it was for our early ancestors, says Susan Magsamen, senior adviser to the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute and Science of Learning Institute. When children play, they're learning how to collaborate, empathize, solve problems, and persevere. Play awakens the sort of thinking that leads us to write novels, compose music, design buildings, and make scientific discoveries. Our exceptional capacity for play sets the stage for all of humanity's great advances.</p> <p>Magsamen spent her own childhood immersed in creative games with her five sisters, inventing plays and variety shows that they performed for their parents and grandparents. "One sister would make the tickets and one sister would make the sets and then we'd all sing songs from The Partridge Family," she says. That sort of play doesn't stop in adulthood; we just have other names for it. "Creativity and innovation are just big words for play in adults," she says.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>If you need cues to know you're having fun, one might be that you're laughing. In antiquity, laughter was feared, says Robert Provine, a neuroscientist and psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Plato even worried that unrestrained laughter could undermine society, Provine writes in his book, <em>Laughter: A Scientific Investigation</em> (Viking, 2000). Perhaps laughter seems threatening because it is one of the most primitive human sounds. Although everyone laughs a little differently, laughter follows certain set patterns; it has a deep structure. Laughter is instantly recognizable in all human societies. Our closest biological relatives, chimpanzees, laugh in a similar pattern, although their laughter sounds more like panting. "Laughter is a crude part of our primate endowment," Provine says.</p> <p>Even rats laugh; we just can't hear them. Jaak Panksepp, an affective neuroscientist at Washington State University, was studying rough-and-tumble play in rats when he stuck an audio recorder in their cages. The rats were not wrestling in silence, it turned out, but chirping rhythmically at frequencies we can't detect. But were the rats actually laughing? Panksepp decided to tickle them to find out. It turns out that rats love being tickled, particularly on the backs of their necks. When Panksepp and his assistant stopped tickling them, the rats nuzzled their hands, seeking more. And the rats emitted the same high-frequency chirps, at the same intervals, as they did when they romped with each other. Young rats chirped more than adults. Females chirped more than males. And the rats chirped less when they were tickled in the presence of a stressful stimulus, such as the smell of a cat.</p> <p>Humans have a complex relationship with laughter, Provine has found. He recorded students engaged in normal conversation and analyzed the remarks that provoked laughter. He found that laughter doesn't always signal fun. Fewer than a fifth of the remarks could be considered humorous. Most were mundane, such as: "How are you?" "Does anyone have a rubber band?" "What is that supposed to mean?"</p> <p>[ newsection ]</p> <p>Now here's some sobering news about fun: You're probably having less of it now than you did as a child. Pleasure-seeking behavior drops off in young adulthood, says Linden. And our ability to feel some types of pleasure diminishes as we age.</p> <p>"Our senses degrade as we get older," Linden says. Starting around age 20, we lose 1 percent of our touch receptors each year. That's not particularly noticeable in midlife, but by old age, it leads to problems with balance.</p> <p>People in the late stages of Parkinson's disease suffer a much more dramatic loss—the brain's pleasure circuitry ceases to function. Patients suffer anhedonia; they no longer enjoy eating, drinking, watching TV, or other activities they once found pleasurable. Drug and alcohol addicts also suffer from anhedonia, even years or decades after they've stopped using, Linden says. Excessive drug use can fry the brain's pleasure circuitry. People with a genetic predisposition to addiction already derive less pleasure from using intoxicants than others, Linden says. "The genetic variants that make you pleasure-seeking also make you less likely to enjoy pleasure."</p> <p>Since stress triggers addictive behavior, people should take part in activities that reduce it—exercise, meditation or prayer, and play, Linden says. "The answer is to take your pleasure widely. Mix your virtues and your vices."</p> <p>Play experts caution that the highly scheduled days of today's children allow less time for true play. "If there's an adult in charge, and you have to do it a certain way or you'll be critiqued—that is absolutely not play," says Bergen. "That is work disguised as play." Brown, of the National Institute for Play, says we're suffering from a national "play deficit." Cuts to recess time in school and ever-increasing academic expectations encroach on play time. And a culture that prizes busyness means that adults have less time to goof off. "It's a public health problem," Brown says. Depression, anxiety, and irritability are all symptoms of a lack of play, he says.</p> <p>So perhaps we adults should make more time for play, whether that means planting a garden, joining a bocce league, dancing, or rediscovering a childhood pastime. "We almost have a guilt about it," says Magsamen. "If we're playing, we must not be working. But if you're not playing, everything else doesn't go as well. Giving yourself permission to enjoy things makes all of your life fuller and richer."</p> <p>The kids skateboarding down the street, sipping imaginary tea, and building a pillow fort are learning just as much—perhaps more—as a peer in a piano lesson. Since our walk to the park with Gabriela, I've been trying to weave more fun into my days with my kids. The more we dawdle on our strolls, the more we discover: ant colonies in the sidewalk, frogs by the stream, and a pile of rocks that makes the perfect bear cave. We helicopter maple seeds, toss petals in the air, and cook bowls of mulch at the playground. Sometimes we even pretend we're cats.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Illuminating the weird <p>Heidi Herr walks through the stacks on the sixth floor of the George Peabody Library, occasionally stopping to run her fingertips over the spine of a book. When she reaches a shelf containing volumes on the occult, she gets a gleeful look in her eye. "This is a great place to find things for <em>Wunderkammer</em>," she says.</p> <p>Herr, the Sheridan Libraries' outreach librarian for special collections, curates <em>Welcome to George Peabody Library's Wunderkammer</em>! The blog, hosted on Tumblr, began in 2012 as a way to open the library's cabinet of curiosities to those outside a small scholarly niche. "I may be wandering around the stacks and a book just speaks to me and I open it and explore inside," Herr explains. "Other times it is a way to showcase new materials." For example, Herr recently used the site to display a newly acquired "cornfield game" produced in England in the 1820s. Riffing off the 1984 horror film <em>Children of the Corn</em>, she photographed the game's figurines in homicidal poses and accompanied the post with a hypothetical narrative about a plot to commit "murder most foul."</p> <p>The site has featured posts on odd words (one can only hope that "znees" comes back into fashion instead of "frost"), book covers like the scintillatingly titled economics volume <em>Age Before Booty</em>, and one-liners from burlesque joke books. "You don't want to be didactic on Tumblr—it's not the place for it," Herr says. "This is meant to bring forth levity, and I believe there is a place for humor in academic discourse."</p> <p><em>Wunderkammer</em> ranges from the goofy to the strange, a tone Herr admits is informed by her own sense of humor, honed in childhood. "It started early when my mom introduced me to Richard Simmons and Liberace, and then [grew from] reading tabloids at my grandmother's house. I learned at a young age to take delight in the absurd and find humor in the everyday."</p> <p>Herr is not alone in her desire to illuminate the weird among Peabody's collections in the name of scholarship and a good laugh. Elizabeth Archibald is a visiting teaching professor in Humanities at the Peabody Institute. She became so enthralled by the humorous things she encountered while researching materials for her course How-to: A History of Instruction, she began her blog <em>Ask the Past</em> in 2013 to share them with colleagues and friends.</p> <p>As its name suggests, the blog uses centuries-old how-to manuals to proffer wisdom and advice on topics as varied as how to change a diaper, how to treat baldness, and how to fart (this last one courtesy of a manual from 1530 by Erasmus, the revered Renaissance humanist and theologian.) The blog was so popular it became a book, <em>Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear</em> (Hachette, 2015), and international editions launch this year.</p> <p>"I spent a lot of time sifting through the collections and turning up these fascinating how-to manuals, everything from a 16th-century swimming manual to 19th-century palmistry manuals," she says. "The blog is directed by my curiosity and the curiosity of my students, and once I started the blog, the curiosity of readers, who send questions and requests from time to time."</p> <p>Archibald explains that there is a long tradition of advice manuals, particularly beginning with the dissemination of print in the 16th and 17th centuries. The sheer volume of material indicates that manuals accounted for a significant amount of business for early scribes and publishers.</p> <p>The books fall loosely into two categories: books of secrets that demonstrate how to overcome the laws of nature and manuals of conduct. Both offer a similar promise: buy this book and change your life. Archibald thinks that this democratic quality may have appealed to a reading public that was expanding as printing made books more accessible.</p> <p>"Another interesting facet is these texts sometimes offer advice in the form of poetry or dialogue or ambitious literary formats," she says. "That, along with other features of the texts, suggests that they were a reading genre as well as a useful genre, that in some cases people were looking at these texts not exclusively for their practical value but for entertainment or delight."</p> <p>She concedes that it is hard to know how seriously contemporary readers of these books would have taken the advice. When she found a late 16th-century entry explaining how to walk on water by attaching timbrels (similar to tambourines) to one's feet, she also found a note in the margin from an early reader expressing a healthy dose of skepticism. Some­times the advice is unintentionally funny. For example, in the event one finds a snake in the garden, <em>A Necessary Family-Book</em> from 1688 suggests dispatching the adder with a swift blow from a radish. And here is some 12th-century birth control advice, from the book version of the blog: "In another fashion, take a male weasel and let its testicles be removed and let it be released alive. Let the woman carry these testicles with her in her bosom and let her tie them in goose skin or in another skin, and she will not conceive." Some advice feels modern. A statute from Leipzig University in 1495 states that freshmen are not to be "tormented, harassed or molested in any way," proof that hazing has long been deemed unacceptable campus behavior.</p> <p>There's little that's taboo on Archibald's and Herr's sites. Sex, drunkenness, eccentric views on child rearing? All fair game. By capitalizing on the widespread use of social media, Herr and Archibald bring unique materials to readers who may not have other means to access the library's vast collections. "So many people are interested in the history and collections of the library, but they don't necessarily have the opportunity to come and explore on their own," says Herr.</p> <p>"It's really important to me to bring these materials to the table and let them speak for themselves in all their ridiculous, funny glory, and students really respond to that, as do we all," Archibald adds. "People think of history as serious and difficult at best, a string of dates at worst." She believes it's important to offer a lighter side—such as illustrations of buff men with heads like slugs, or the secret to avoiding what befell an Italian who suffered "a Scorpion bred in his braine" [sic]. (Hint: Do not sniff basil the next time you're at the farmer's market.)</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 For patients in tough situations, sometimes the best thing is humor <p>The first thing oncology nurse Pete Linkroum, Nurs '15, always asks his patients: "How are you doing?"</p> <p>"I'm killin' it," replied a new patient one day, a young girl.</p> <p>"Killin' it?" Linkroum echoed.</p> <p>"Yeah—I'm killin' it, because otherwise, it's killin' me," the patient quipped.</p> <p>The exchange set the tone for the nurse-patient relationship the two would sustain over the next few days. Even as Linkroum could see the side effects of chemo setting in, his patient kept up their inside joke, feeding an easy sense of trust between them.</p> <p>Studies have shown that the use of humor in health care settings, sometimes called "therapeutic humor," can enhance the immune system, improve digestion, and generate better sleep and pain management by increasing endorphins. Anecdotal evidence also suggests psychological benefits that come with reframing a difficult situation in a more humorous light, helping to relieve stress, says Anne Belcher, associate professor and co-director of the Office for Teaching Excellence at the School of Nursing.</p> <p>Therapeutic humor won't change a clinical outcome—it can't shrink a tumor or erase heart disease. But it can help patients better navigate the processes of illness, recovery, and even dying, says Belcher, who has a long-standing interest in the health benefits of humor and spirituality. "I have seen people handle chemotherapy and radiation therapy very well, and my sense is that—to some extent—it's because they incorporated humor into their bag of coping strategies."</p> <p>Belcher is a member of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, an international nonprofit founded in 1987 by a nurse. The group—which defines therapeutic humor as "any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life's situations"—offers education, research, and support to its members, who range from scholars and health care providers to funeral directors and clergy.</p> <p>Therapeutic humor doesn't mean laying a string of one-liners on an unsuspecting patient, or teasing her or using sarcasm. It's about tuning in to the ways a patient views her situation and following her lead if she takes a turn toward the lighthearted. Just as a patient and provider might connect over a shared interest in baseball or a favorite movie, humor provides another avenue toward the common ground that generates trust between individuals. It can also offer a step back from a difficult situation, a reminder that life can still be larger than fear and pain alone.</p> <p>Before he started using therapeutic humor with his own patients, before he even became a nurse, Linkroum experienced it on the receiving end. A National Guard combat medic in 2009, he sustained a nerve injury to his right arm during his second tour in Afghanistan. Unable to use his dominant hand, he was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he says he received outstanding medical care and almost reverential respect for his service. But something important was missing: The team he'd been part of for the previous four months had used humor to bond and to manage the stress of life-threatening combat situations, and he felt uprooted from that support system. It wasn't until a friend from the team came to visit, and the two indulged in gallows humor until they laughed and then cried, that he felt his coping mechanisms kick in. "Getting my humor back in the hospital was a big part of my recovery."</p> <p>Linkroum's combat experience drew him to end-of-life care, and in nursing school, he signed up for Belcher's class on death and dying. The class did a lot of laughing together—Belcher says she often jump-starts humor by telling a self-deprecating story, like the time she fell off a stage while moderating a panel discussion and pulled the table and a pitcher of ice water down with her. Laughing with his classmates, Linkroum realized the group was able to talk about anything and feel comfortable together because of the implicit trust that humor builds. "I can't think it's funny unless you think it's funny," he points out.</p> <p>So, when his patients express readiness for humor, Linkroum embraces it as a means to build their relationship. If the illness is terminal, the patient will eventually rely on him completely, and that bond will be a crucial element. "If we do have that trust, if we've laughed together for weeks or months, when we get to the point of total care, it's a positive experience," he says.</p> <p>Linkroum recalls arriving to bathe a patient with whom he had not yet found an opening. But as Linkroum lifted the blanket from his emaciated body, the patient joked: "Sorry about the Mr. Universe legs." Afterward, not only did the patient seem to make peace with the potentially embarrassing situation of being bathed by someone else, Linkroum noticed, but he also seemed generally less anxious and more at ease as the days unfolded.</p> <p>People in end-of-life and combat situations have in common constant uncertainty, Linkroum notes. Patients can be hit by sudden infections; soldiers can be hit by random rockets. His military team could find humor in gruesome and sad situations, and Linkroum says it made them successful as a group and also protected him from the post-traumatic stress that many combat veterans experience.</p> <p>The humor that helped him endure combat and avoid internalizing the stress can help his patients in the same way, he believes. "I hope it does for them what it did for me: It allowed me to be more comfortable with my situation. It allows them to get a little distance from what's happening." He adds, "One of the best ways to cope is to get that separation. Life goes on, it's OK to laugh about it, it's OK to have fun. If you're laughing at something, it's hard to be suffering at the same time." He likes to quote George Bernard Shaw: "Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."</p> <p>Like Linkroum, Belcher first experienced therapeutic humor while dealing with her own stresses. As a nursing student, she and her dorm-mates would act out funny skits for one another describing events from their harried days—things like precipitous births or cute things kids said. More than four decades later, she still uses role-playing to shift her perspective on troubling situations. "Sometimes just telling it makes it seem much funnier than it was at the time," she says.</p> <p>In the mid-1980s, Belcher was part of a team researching how young men with AIDS used spiritual coping strategies to deal with stress and depression, and she learned that humor was one of those strategies. "They knew cognitively they were in a very serious situation, but if they had a strong spiritual sense, their outlook was more positive," she recalls. So Belcher used to ask her cancer patients—and now teaches her students to ask them—what it means to have cancer. It's a way of opening a line of communication the patient can take in any direction he chooses. Often, the answer is along the lines of, "I realize how important it is to live every day to its fullest," but sometimes it's, "If I have chemo and my hair falls out, maybe it will grow back brown and curly." The latter sort of reply is an invitation to connect on a more personal level and a way for a patient to regain some control of his situation, Belcher says—an affirmation that the patient is not just a patient but an individual, with an identity and roles and interests beyond the walls of the hospital. "You have to have a nice balance, and humor is one way to say, 'This is how I am, this is what I enjoy, and if you react, I know you're really seeing me, not just a patient,'" she says.</p> <p>For patients, entering into humor often helps them shift briefly from being and feeling sick into being themselves, agrees Rab Razzak, director of outpatient palliative medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. "They remember they're human. They remember they're living. That's what my objective is: to improve their quality of life and their joy," says Razzak, who wisecracks so often that people started telling him he needed a stage. So he got one: he's also an amateur stand-up comic, and he even appeared in comedian Rob O'Reilly's West Hollywood show.</p> <p>For doctors and other care providers—many of whom experience burnout and compassion fatigue—humor can be a form of self-care, Razzak adds. Finding a humorous angle together can serve as a doorway to deeper connection with both colleagues and patients, buffering the pressures of the job. "The work that we do is so heavy that humor just makes working easier and more fun," he says. "It brings people together, makes an atmosphere of a team and family, and helps create better communication."</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Electronic music duo Matmos brings a third member on tour—a washing machine <p>Matmos had to burp the pump. The electronic music duo of M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, a Johns Hopkins assistant professor of English, were in Chicago going through the sound check for their concert when one very important band member started making a racket. Matmos was touring behind its recent album, <em>Ultimate Care II</em> (Thrill Jockey), which is named for the machine that served as the principal sound source for the recording: an early 1990s model Whirlpool washing machine.</p> <p>And at that moment, she was not happy. The live set involves running a wash cycle onstage, requiring a 30-gallon trash can filled with water and a submersible pump. The entire 45-minute set—the duration of a cold-water wash with the Ultimate Care II set for a small load—is choreographed to it.</p> <p>"We hadn't noticed that we set it to a large-sized load instead of small," Daniel says, pointing out that they fill the garbage can with enough water for a small load, not a large one, meaning the pump kept pumping though there was nothing left for it to pump. "We fried the engine, and it's making this horrible noise. We all look at each other, horrified. We have to play in an hour and our pump is not good."</p> <p>Daniel says they started calling Home Depot to see if they could buy another pump, but where was a Home Depot near the club? It didn't help that the venue's sound staff, dubious about the whole washing machine thing in the first place, was watching this anxiety unfold. "Soundmen get really nervous when we walk in the door," Daniel says. "They're asking, 'What are you doing?' And we're explaining, 'No really, it's going to be OK.' Their eyes don't exactly light up when you say that you brought towels. And somehow when you tell a sound person that it's going to be OK—"</p> <p>"It has the opposite effect," Schmidt says.</p> <p>Daniel and Schmidt sit around a coffee table in their Baltimore home, and though they're able to joke about this experience now, it's apparent how stressful it was at the time. Both a couple and a performing duo, Matmos has been turning banal and bizarre sounds into a heady, playful, and danceable musical mélange for more than 20 years. Their approach begins with an idea—each takes a turn at coming up with the conceptual foundation of a record—that produces the sound sources they're going to work with. Those sources vary from noises recorded from surgical/medical procedures (2001's <em>A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure</em>), the instrumentation of mid-18th century American music and medieval folk music (2003's <em>The Civil War</em>), or the Ganzfeld experiment that ostensibly tests for extrasensory perception (2013's <em>The Marriage of True Minds</em>). Sounds get recorded, processed, mulched, and recombined on a computer. The ultimate direction of the music is determined by what Schmidt and Daniel hear, guided by whatever intellectual, cultural, and musical ephemera filled their brains during the sounds' recording—such as medicine and surgery for <em>Cut</em>, parapsychology research for <em>Minds</em>.</p> <p>This approach allows Matmos to encompass experimental art music, the elusive discovery of improvisation, pop's accessibility, and whatever else might come up. Daniel and Schmidt's music is as likely to recall the beautifully nuanced works of composer Bernard Parmegiani or the cinematic sound tapestries of field recording artist Chris Watson as it does the squishy dance-floor beatscapes of producer Josh Kit Clayton or the mirthful chaos of <em>Trout Mask Replica</em>–era Captain Beefheart.</p> <p><em>Ultimate Care II</em> took about a year to conceive and record. The entire time, Daniel admits, they thought the album was unperformable. Care is one long track that opens with the familiar clicking of a washing machine's knob being turned to the appropriate setting, followed by the flowing rush of water filling the machine. Rhythms come from the machine's motor and Schmidt beating, tapping, or otherwise creating sounds from the machine's housing itself. The ear wants to identify many moments as ordinary laundry sounds: the clickety-clack of a lid opening and closing, the clanging whir of the spin cycle, the lumbering, gargling swoosh of a load of heavy denim, the alarming thuds of an unbalanced load. Throughout, the wash cycle's sounds are being processed and interacted with by the duo on computers.</p> <p>It makes for a disarmingly lovely and engaging musical suite, an inspired extrapolation of John Cage's "Living Room Music." Touring to support the album, though? Forget about it. "There was a stage of denial and bargaining when this record was over where we're thinking, 'We're just not going to play it live,'" Daniel says. They considered making a video of the machine running through its wash cycle and performing with that, but "the more we thought about that we were like, that's lame. That's a cop-out. But how?"</p> <p>They turned to a few artist friends for help. San Francisco sculptor, designer, and installation artist Michael Brown helped them devise the submersible pump and garbage can solution, and Baltimore-based artist and instrument builder Neil Feather fabricated a skateboard platform that makes the washing machine mobile.</p> <p>"It takes a village," Daniel says of realizing a seemingly impossible project, but sometimes it only takes one match to burn that village to the ground. That night in Chicago, something as simple as turning the machine to the wrong load setting appeared to have provided the spark. The pump sounded horrendous. And they didn't know where to buy a new one. And they were performing in about an hour. And "the sound people were not impressed," Daniel says. "They're looking at us like, Wow, you guys are a bunch of amateurs."</p> <p>"Real bands," Schmidt adds, "have a backup pump for their washing machines."</p> <p>A panicked phone call to Brown, their artist friend behind the pump-garbage can apparatus, informed them that they hadn't totaled the pump, merely allowed air to enter it. Once they cleared the line of air bubbles—in effect, burping it—everything went swimmingly, but it reminded them of how acutely they are tuned into a household appliance that came with the house they bought.</p> <p>The Ultimate Care II that they used to make the album, and perform it onstage, is also what cleans their clothes. "There's a Pavlovian music thing where if I'm in a café and I hear a certain Bjork song, I have this panic," Schmidt says, alluding to the fact that for nearly three years in the early 2000s, Matmos worked with and toured with the Icelandic pop superstar. If, say, her "Army of Me" comes on, Schmidt thinks about everything necessary to perform that song: the Roland SH-101 synthesizer needs to be doing this, the Korg MS2000 sequencer needs to be set to that patch, et cetera. "I played those songs so many times over and over that that is deeply programmed into my mind. Now it's the same with the washing machine. Now when it goes into rinse, I sit up and think, 'Oh, now I need to do this.'"</p> <p>The machine is "la prima diva absoluta," Daniel says. "It's The One and we're there to support the washing machine. Everything about performing this album is very composed when we do it live. I start a stopwatch as soon it starts and at exactly 10 minutes I need to change this and stop that. [The machine's] changes are important and we have to pull back so that it can take a solo in the cycle. There's a lot of suspense built into the fact that the washing machine is our bandleader onstage."</p> <p>As they speak, their bandleader is packed inside a box on a boat heading to Hamburg, Germany. In June, Matmos leaves for a two-week European tour. Their first performance is at Berghain, the legendary techno club housed in a former power plant in Berlin. Of course, performing <em>Ultimate Care II</em> in Europe means having an Ultimate Care II in Europe. Daniel and Schmidt couldn't use a different model of washing machine for the performance because the timing would be off—plus, they add, eco-conscious European washing machines are more quiet, with wash cycles that run for up to two hours.</p> <p>Two hours of washing-machine music might be a bit tedious. "We realized we have to come up with a plan B, so let's cheap out and just have video," Daniel says. "But we thought, you know what, every concert we've done of this album has had the original machine. Every sound on this album is from the original machine. Every image in the album art is a photograph of the original machine. The point of this project is to be fanatical and worship this object—not any object, this one. So dance with the one that brought you."</p> <p>Schmidt was in charge of figuring out how to get an American washing machine over to Europe, reading up on customs laws and locating a shipping company. The duo isn't sure how, or if, they're getting it back to the States after the tour, but they are going to need an Ultimate Care II for a performance at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston toward summer's end.</p> <p>They also just need the convenience of being able to do laundry. "We drove [the washing machine] to Boston and Chicago and New York and all over the place," Schmidt says. "Afterward, I put it back in the basement and it did laundry just like it never left. So right now there's a hole in my heart down there."</p> <p>Schmidt hired a local washing machine repairman to tighten and reinforce the machine to prepare it for its overseas journey and European jaunt. They didn't get a chance to rehearse with the machine after that reinforcement. When asked if its sound changed as a result of the reinforcement, they exchange a quick look.</p> <p>"I don't know," Daniel says. "I hope not. What if it's tighter and you can't get some of those resonances?"</p> <p>Schmidt rolls his eyes. "It's not a Stradivarius," he says. "It's going to sound pretty much the same."</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 For these Johns Hopkins alumni, comedy pays the bills <p>Scott Rogowsky went viral in April. The actor/comedian made an online video that features him riding the New York subway while reading fake books and filming people's reactions to the dust jackets: <em>Slut-Shaming Your Baby</em>; <em>Human Taxidermy: A Beginner's Guide</em>; <em>Gone Girl 2: Even Goner</em>; <em>Getting Away With Murder: For Dummies</em> by Robert Durst.</p> <p>A still image from this project began circulating through social media in mid-April, and the Fat Jew—aka social media personality Josh Ostrovsky—posted it to his Instagram feed for his 8.3 million followers. The photo showed Rogowsky reading a fake how-to book dedicated to an esoteric sexual act.</p> <p>Rogowsky, A&S '07, who since 2011 has hosted a monthly live late-night talk show around New York called <em>Running Late</em>, says nothing he's ever done has been seen by so many people—the video alone amassed 4.5 million views by May. The photo and video led to coverage in <em>The Guardian</em>, newspapers in Spain and Ireland, and more than 50 websites, plus an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. More people have seen Rogowsky from this photo/video, he reckons, than his short-lived ABC television program, <em>Would You Fall for That?</em> "I had that show on ABC in 2013; no one saw it," he says. "That shows you what people are watching. So while I think the dream is still to get <em>Running Late</em> on TV, now it might be to get it on Snapchat. Maybe that's the future."</p> <p>Thing is, Rogowsky made that video for <em>Playboy</em> as a freelance producer, the job that has paid his bills since 2009. He's written, directed, and starred in video and podcast content for a variety of clients, including ESPN and Comedy Central, and one of his steady gigs is producing the Sklarbro Country podcast for the Sklar Brothers, twins Randy and Jason, who comically talk sports and pop culture. <em>Running Late</em>, Rogowsky's show, is what he self-produces while doing these other projects. He had to put it on temporary hiatus last fall when he was hired to direct a series of five-minute videos for <em>Weird World of Sports</em>, a program available through Verizon's streaming go90 app. He covered underwater hockey, Segway polo, chess boxing in England, extreme pogo in Barcelona, and mountain unicycling in Austria.</p> <p>Welcome to comedy in the 21st century, where the possibilities for work are vast, the variety of platforms is wide, and both paying the bills and staying abreast of the industry involves juggling a number of different media and formats. All six alumni profiled here engage in some combination of writing, producing, social media marketing, and teaching projects that help support their comedic projects in writing, performing, and stand-up. That's simply the nature of the career right now.</p> <p>Comedy isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the university—it might not even be the 401st thing that comes to mind. Jeff Altman, A&S '74, somehow managed to jump from Homewood to stand-up in the early 1970s when the "comedy circuit" meant performing at the Comedy Store in Hollywood, the Improv in New York, and a few smaller venues such as the Ice House in Pasadena, California, which also booked folk music acts. Altman came of comedy age during a freewheeling era that produced a who's who of comedians. And while Altman's career during the 1980s comedy boom didn't catch the big wave that his peers Ricky Jay, David Letterman, and Jerry Seinfeld rode to mainstream success, those comedians still recall his anarchic humor so fondly that <em>Esquire</em> called Altman "the greatest stand-up you've probably never heard of" in an August 2015 article.</p> <p>More aspiring comedians have tried to make that jump from Homewood to Hollywood over the past 15 years, and the following alumni are doing their part to make comedy the 399th thing that comes to mind when thinking about Johns Hopkins.</p> <h3>Scott Rogowsky</h3> <p> <div class="image inline align-left image-portrait column"> <img src="//" alt="Comedian Scott Rogowsky" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: John Kachik </p> </div> </div> Since starting <em>Running Late</em> in 2011, Rogowsky has welcomed a number of comedic actors and personalities as guests—W. Kamau Bell, Andy Borowitz, David Cross, Gilbert Gottfried, Robert Klein, Amy Sedaris, Jenny Slate, Reggie Watts, Sasheer Zamata, and more. They're fun and audiences love them, but they're also tough guests. "They're not used to sharing the spotlight and will steamroll you a little bit," Rogowsky says. "And I'm not at the level where people respect me."</p> <p>He does enjoy interviewing pop culture figures with big personalities, like one of the guests from his April 2016 show, Lisa Ann. She's the fantasy sports radio personality, writer, and former adult film star infamous for portraying Sarah Palin in a series of parody adult films. Rogowsky had 45 minutes of pre-interview phone chat with her and knew she was going to be an entertaining character. "I like guests like her because she's willing to talk about anything," he says. "She can laugh about herself. She's composed and poised. And she's going to have fun."</p> <p>Rogowsky's wit runs to dry with a healthy dose of self-deprecation thrown in, and his interview style on <em>Running Late</em> is more engaging-and-curious Johnny Carson than overzealous-and-coy Jimmy Fallon. He wants his guests to have fun, lively conversations. In December 2012, he put together an "Evening with the Elliotts" episode of <em>Running Late</em> and welcomed Chris Elliott, the madcap veteran comedian who used to do curveball characters on <em>Late Show with David Letterman</em>, and Elliott's two daughters, comedic actor Bridey and <em>Saturday Night Live</em> cast member Abby. Rogowsky initially interviewed Bridey and Abby and then brought out their dad, who came onstage treating Rogowsky like he was Letterman, congratulating him for his recent Kennedy Center Honor. Rogowsky cracked up and did his best to hold his own against a man who has a few decades of comedy on him.</p> <p>Following a brief hiatus in the fall of 2015, Rogowsky is back to producing monthly <em>Running Late</em> episodes, hoping to build enough momentum to stage it weekly and generate enough of an audience to interest execs in TV—streaming, network, or cable. The show is a throwback to the leisurely, roaming talk show hosts of a different era, like Dick Cavett. "I've had him on the show," Rogowsky says. "His career is something that I would love to have, to be able to do a show that's smart, that speaks to the audience's intelligence—and maybe with a few porn stars thrown in."</p> <h3>Caitlin Kunkel</h3> <p> <div class="image inline align-right image-portrait column"> <img src="//" alt="Comedian Caitlin Kunkel" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: John Kachik </p> </div> </div> </p> <p>Comedy writer Caitlin Kunkel once had a really great dog named Patches Kunkel. She says so on many of her online/social media bios. But even this dog lover couldn't believe that some of her fellow Portlandia residents were taking advantage of Oregon's service animal laws, which are intended to accommodate animals that provide therapeutic benefit to people with a mental or psychiatric disability. She says people "were just getting papers from their doctor so they could waive their apartment fees for their dog."</p> <p>"I was like, 'You know what, that's really interesting that these people who are all so liberal and politically correct don't see anything wrong with abusing that law in order to not pay any deposits," she says. So she decided to poke fun at their rationalizations. Her "Emotions My Emotional Support Dog Supports" list was posted in April 2015 to <em>Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency</em>, the online portal of Dave Eggers' literary magazine, and addressed such debilitating mental issues as "slight rent increase rage," "other people's life decisions disgust," and "age-inappropriate wanderlust."</p> <p>That healthy sardonic streak is what gives her writing and satire, which have appeared on the <em>Huffington Post</em> and the Second City Network, its spark. Kunkel, A&S '06, is a writer, director, producer, and teacher. She says that, like many 18-year-olds, she entered the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars focused on dramatic stories. Classmates thought she was funny; she didn't believe them.</p> <p>She found her way to satire through the usual channel—teaching English to 400 Indonesian high school students while on a Fulbright fellowship. "That was just such a strange experience that I started to see a lot of absurdity in that," Kunkel says. She began to write some comedy while there, and when she returned to the States she went to Northwestern University for graduate school and started taking sketch and satire classes at Second City. "I was like, 'Oh! This is what I have been looking for,'" she says.</p> <p>Her satire blends a shrewd knowingness with ironic discomfort. Her "How to joke about Bill Cosby without offending anyone," posted in January 2015 on the Second City blog, mocked how-to listicles, the all-caps outrage of online moralism, and the everybody-is-a-unique-snowflake tone of advice columns. First suggestion: Word choice matters, so avoid "nonconsensual sex," "drugged drinks," and "disgraced icon." She writes: "We're trying to get a laugh here, NOT make people consider the fact that someone can be good at comedy AND ALSO a sexual predator."</p> <h3>Dan Ahdoot</h3> <p> <div class="image inline align-left image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="Comedian Dan Ahdoot" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: John Kachik </p> </div> </div> </p> <p>Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, the comedian/actor Dan Ahdoot has a number of things to celebrate. He plays one of five "top" realtors on <em>Bajillion Dollar Properties</em>, a satire of reality shows like <em>Million Dollar Listing</em> that debuted on the streaming service Seeso in March; NBCUniversal has renewed it for another season. Ahdoot also sold a show to Fox based on his stand-up routines and life. But right now he wants to rewrite a joke he has just made; he's thinking about a better way to set up a punchline involving a production duty on a pornographic film set. "I don't know if that's too edgy, but I think it's pretty funny," Ahdoot says, and offers a better lead-in.</p> <p>Hearing Ahdoot rewrite himself in real time opens a small window into his comedic mind, one forged through a decade of stand-up and a few years working in Los Angeles' acting and writing circles. Stand-up was what lured Ahdoot, A&S '00, away from the premed track and toward New York comedy clubs and college campuses. A standout set at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival in 2009 led to an appearance on <em>The Tonight Show with Jay Leno</em> and his move to Los Angeles for steady work writing, acting, and performing.</p> <p>It's easy to understand what makes him appealing to mainstream entertainment. He's the telegenic nice guy who seems accessible and nonthreatening when he gets a bit risqué talking about meeting women, being a guy, and race. Born in Tehran to Jewish parents who emigrated to the United States, Ahdoot grew up in Great Neck, New York, one of two places in the country that has a sizable Persian Jewish community.</p> <p>Everywhere else, he's a bit of a unicorn. "Being Iranian is outsider enough," Ahdoot says. "Throw Jew in the mix and you're completely on the outside—but you have a real front-row seat to be able to shine a light on life." In his early stand-up routines he often introduced his background by saying, "That's right, I'm an Iranian Jew, I was conceived in Narnia," before going on to toy with people's assumptions about Iranians. One story involves people coming up to him after his sets and asking if he's really Jewish or just saying that to hide the fact that he's Muslim; he wonders, "How much must it suck to be Muslim where people think you're faking being a Jew for your safety?"</p> <p>For Ahdoot, "stand-up has always been my bread and butter, my base, my safe place," he says, adding that a decade on the road was good prep for Hollywood. Selling a show is basically doing a 15-minute stand-up pitch for executives. He's got that down. He's currently developing a show idea based on his friends, guys who—unlike him—continued into medicine. He's now the one nondoctor in the gang whenever they get together.</p> <p>Working on this project might be why Ahdoot wanted to rewrite his punchline. When asked if he made the right decision to pursue comedy instead of medicine, he replies, "A million percent yes," and suggests the following zinger: "The way medicine is going now, even fluffers are looking back saying, 'Yeah, I made the right decision.'"</p> <p>Hmm. That one might still need a bit of polish.</p> <h3>Jeff Altman</h3> <p> <div class="image inline align-right image-portrait column"> <img src="//" alt="Comedian Jeff Altman" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: John Kachik </p> </div> </div> </p> <p>Jeff Altman's official Screen Actors Guild résumé mentions that during his undergraduate days it wasn't uncommon to see him "being escorted out of the Hutzler Reading Room dressed as a bush." True story: He once stuffed his pants with leaves and foliage, entered the study haunt, and was promptly removed. He and a friend also had a late-night bit they'd do there. "I would start complaining very slowly, 'Too many courses,'" Altman, A&S '74, says, his voice becoming a whimpering whine. His friend would tell him to quiet down. After about 10 minutes Altman would erupt, <em>"I can't do it anymore, I just can't"</em>—and his friend would come around the table, rip off Altman's shirt, stuff it in his mouth, and pretend to tie him up. "I'd have to pretend to saw myself free," Altman says with a chuckle.</p> <p>Perhaps it takes an overextended undergraduate to find this funny; any reasonable person, however, will wonder why somebody would do it in the first place. Altman's comedy is riven with such ridiculousness. His stand-up routines include impressions, characters, and physical comedy, but when filtered through his brain, they go a bit off. One Altman pratfall is presenting a National Safety Council announcement, smashing his head against something, and collapsing to the floor. A character he developed in the 1980s is a dad figure whose pants' waistline rises as he ages and "by the time he retired he had to pull down his zipper to drive." And one impression Altman did during a 2007 appearance on <em>Late Show With David Letterman</em> was Dick Cheney, in a bit about running into him in a restroom at the National Day of Prayer breakfast. The vice president enters a stall while Altman is washing his hands and, after a few minutes, begins complaining that there's no toilet paper. Altman does what any great American would do: "I turned off the lights and tiptoed out the door."</p> <p>Altman is officially credited with more than 40 appearances on his friend Letterman's program, but he also had a role in a number of the show's signature bits. An Altman creation was often on the other end of the line whenever Letterman took a phone call, and one of those recurring characters was Lieutenant Len Easton of the California Highway Patrol. As Easton, Altman speaks in a clipped parody of law-enforcement radio chatter, and he comes across sounding like the cop who only takes off his aviator sunglasses to let a perp know he's <em>really</em> serious—even though he's phoning in utter nonsense. A typical radio call: "Partner Larry reports feelings of dizziness and hives. May be an allergy to the air conditioning. Will report to base. Request medical help, coffee, donuts, out."</p> <p>Altman still does stand-up, and Johns Hopkins still finds its way into his act—a current routine involves getting an 8 on a calculus midterm—and he's impressed that he's not the only alum in the field anymore. "When I started doing comedy there were probably 300, 400 comics in the entire United States," he says. "Today if you walk into a Denny's and ask, 'Are there any comedians?' two people will stand up. The fact that you could name people immediately when I asked who else you were interviewing is just astounding to me. I find my own story kind of strange."</p> <h3>Liz Eldridge</h3> <p> <div class="image inline align-left image-portrait column"> <img src="//" alt="Comedian Liz Eldridge" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: John Kachik </p> </div> </div> </p> <p>Lyda Southard was just another plain American girl from the plain American Midwest. Born north of Kansas City in the late 19th century, she moved with her husband and his brother to a ranch in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1914, and had a daughter. Pretty soon her husband fell ill and died, followed by her brother-in-law. Lyda soldiered on, supported by the insurance money she collected. After her next three husbands—and her daughter—also took ill and died, and she collected their insurance claims, law enforcement began to sense something amiss. Sure enough, Lyda had poisoned them all, becoming one of America's first female serial killers, popularly remembered as Lyda Anna Mae Trueblood. When writer/performer Liz Eldridge, A&S '08, got a whiff of her story, she thought: darkly comic musical cabaret.</p> <p>Southard served as the inspiration for <em>Lydia Trueblood: The Black Widow of the Atlantic Coast</em>, the performance piece Eldridge co-wrote, co-starred in, and produced in Los Angeles and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014. It's a two-actor/musician performance in which Eldridge plays the titular Lydia, a saloon owner who recounts her tale of husband slaying in a monologue peppered with songs. Eldridge's Lydia is joined by her near mute daughter Annabelle (Clara Dykstra), who provides instrumental accompaniment to Eldridge's ukulele and velvety voice. The songs move at a Tom Waits-ian bordello pace, though the subject matter, such as macabre odes to alcohol ("Thank God for Whisky"), gets twisted into the bleakly comic when performed on ukulele. When Eldridge performs the singsong ballad "Everybody Loves Me"—"talk about bleeding hearts/ there's a bouquet on my front step made out of body parts"—the effect is like Taylor Swift having a homicidally bad day.</p> <p>Eldridge has a gift for such knowing musical comedy, able to write songs that flit between sincere musicality and outlandish performance. With her recently formed Los Angeles sketch comedy troupe Hot Garbage, Eldridge started making videos and posting them online, including a parody of Adele's "Hello From the Other Side." Titled "Hello From the 405," it's about being stuck in traffic on the overcrowded southern California highway. In it Eldridge sings into her cellphone, "I'm here Alameda dreaming/ about moving 40 feet to the off ramp, freedom," and the entire video achieves the kind of hilarious mirth mined by Our Hit Parade, New York's former underground series in which performance artists interpreted pop songs. Radio songs become funny, weird, theatrical, and an unusually entertaining vehicle for storytelling.</p> <p>That unconventional mode fits what initially drew Eldridge to Southard in the first place. "We have this vision of the femme fatale or the black widow as a very glamorous, very beautiful woman who tricks men and draws them in," Eldridge says. "But Lyda's not a great beauty by any stretch. She's a very normal-looking lady, which I relate to, certainly. [And] the men she is marrying are these guys who [think], 'This is my second marriage, this lady seems normal, maybe she'll be a good stepmom for my kids.' And then she poisons them for the insurance money.</p> <p>"I think that is so much scarier because it doesn't fit into our narrative of what an evil woman is," she continues, adding that she's currently working on a comedic cabaret piece inspired by Typhoid Mary. "I'm drawn to these sorts of characters, people who have to exist outside the constraints of society in order to find themselves."</p> <h3>Kurt Braunohler</h3> <p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="Comedian Kurt Braunohler" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: John Kachik </p> </div> </div> </p> <p>One Jet Ski expedition = 500 goats + 1,000 chickens. This was the equation Kurt Braunohler devised in 2014 to raise money to send sustenance animals to impoverished African families. Stating on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, "I might have figured out the dumbest way to make the world a better place," he launched a campaign to raise money for Heifer International, a nonprofit that provides livestock to people in the developing world. His pitch said, "I'll be jet-skiing from Chicago to New Orleans (seriously) in order to raise money to provide 500 goats and 1000 chickens for African families in need. I've got the jet-ski, I've got my route—I just need YOU to donate money so we can help change people's lives." He raised nearly $35,000 (all of which went to Heifer International), consulted experts on the best itinerary for Jet Skiing the Mississippi River, and on May 29, 2014, left Chicago with a small film crew and support vehicle, planning to make New Orleans by June 6 for a performance with his comedy partner, Kristen Schaal. He did stand-up performances at various stops en route. Comedy Central covered his expenses and filmed the trip for the web series <em>Roustabout</em>, which showed Braunohler tooling down the river wearing a wet suit done up as a tuxedo.</p> <p>Such whimsically outlandish sincerity is the Los Angeles–based actor/comedian's sweet spot. In 2013, he raised money on Kickstarter to pay a skywriter to spell "How do I land?" in the air over downtown Los Angeles, a photo of which became the cover art for his comedy album that year. A stand-up routine about his first and last bar fight, which ostensibly took place during his college years in Baltimore, is a meandering tale involving a bad bar DJ named Jazze, spelling the word "douchebag" at the top of his lungs, and a clumsy sidewalk grappling session that ends with Braunohler and the DJ inside a phone booth trying to head butt each other but succeeding only in smashing their mouths together. "So I'm in a phone booth with a man who's named himself DJ Jazze," he says. "I'm bleeding onto him, it's my first bar fight, and I just kissed a dude."</p> <p>Braunohler, A&S '98, got into comedy in the early 2000s in New York, a time when there was an overlap of indie rock and alternative comedy flitting through rock clubs and bars, and though he now maintains a steady mainstream career—this year alone, he co-stars in the third season of the Hulu comedy series <em>Deadbeat</em> alongside Tyler Labine and Kal Penn, stars as a disgraced investigative TV journalist trying to revive his career in <em>B-Roll</em>, and is shooting a stand-up special for Comedy Central in September—he still likes to keep a foot in the underground theaters and rock clubs where he forged his career. In Los Angeles, he and Schaal, a Daily Show alumna currently in the Fox comedy <em>The Last Man on Earth</em>, maintain their weekly variety show <em>Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen</em> at a bar in Silver Lake. And he's 90 episodes into his semimonthly <em>The K Ohle</em> podcast, where he interviews fellow comedians, talks music, and in general tries out new material and ideas.</p> <p>"You have to constantly be producing for free these days," Braunohler says. "It's good. It keeps you sharp. I think it has helped with joke writing, just constantly having to produce material. It keeps you more honest, I feel. You can't get lazy. If you are getting lazy, it's very obvious."</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Good night, Johnboy <p>Andy Moody and I were part of the 2002–2003 cohort of the Writing Seminars. We were both complacent as failures and misfits with zero pedigree, far from the fruit o' the Sems, if you will. He hailed from Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and had most recently failed as a truck driver; I hailed first from Iran, then Pasadena, California, and had most recently failed as a New Yorker, journalist, and editor. I blame the countless traumas of my Johns Hopkins year on why I cannot remember a thing about the experience. That failure of memory recently prompted me to email Andy about whether fun had anything to do with our time at Johns Hopkins. In particular, I wanted to ask him about a … social experiment that we conducted.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt=" Laptop screen with an image of an envelope" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Illustration by Jean Jullien </p> </div> </div> <p><strong>Porochista</strong> Andy, I have a vague recollection of the day, but do you remember us coming to this project?</p> <p><strong>Andy</strong> It was an overcast afternoon/early evening and we bumped into each other on the Upper Quad, in front of the library. I'd had a rough week and had not been sleeping well; I think you might have just been through a harrowing workshop, and we bonded over our shared sense of bleakness. We entered the library and went into that weird computer room near the entrance. I think we'd just gone there to check our email or something, but then you said something like, "What this program needs is a good prank. I really want to freak people out."</p> <p>Someone had already started a departmentwide email thread, so we decided to send this group an unsolicited greeting from an oddball stranger who knew plenty about all of them, even if none of them had ever heard of him. We came up with the name "Johnboy Hodgkinz" and created an account for him.</p> <p>Johnboy was a bumbling, possibly insane, sort of lovable, compulsively emailing townie who had become a fan of our Sems-folk. It's especially funny because we—and Alice McDermott and Stephen Dixon, our great mentors, will admit to this—were perhaps the least lovable cohort in all of Sems history. We didn't have a fan anywhere! We were notoriously unhappy, combative, heavily medicated, and mentally ill. Not a workshop made it through without some traumatizing outburst, someone crying, someone murdering someone with their eyes if not with their words. Our writing was not good enough for our attitudes to be that bad.</p> <p>Anyway, Andy became my partner in this, and one day we emailed the entire gang and pretended that someone finally loved them. Johnboy loved them. And he was watching them. And he wanted to hang out.</p> <p><strong>From: JOHNBOY HODGKINZ! []</strong></p> <p><strong>Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 3:36 PM</strong></p> <p><strong>Subject: Re:wRiTiNg sEmInArS!?!</strong></p> <p><strong>hi friends!</strong></p> <p><strong>i think i might have met some of you at The One World</strong><br /> <strong>and/or The Hut and/or Cafe Q. i just wanted to let you</strong><br /> <strong>know my doors are always open to those who wanna</strong><br /> <strong>come by and "talk shop" (betcha didn't know i write some</strong><br /> <strong>verse too! :-)</strong></p> <p><strong>i am thinking of hosting some parties for</strong><br /> <strong>people of the literary persuasion :-)</strong><br /> <strong>those of you who know me know i can</strong><br /> <strong>sure put down a cocktail or two at The PJ's</strong><br /> <strong>and The Rocky Run! i know some of you</strong><br /> <strong>writers like to drink too, sometimes even</strong><br /> <strong>too much j/k! j/k !!! :) and smoke huh??! ;)</strong><br /> <strong>i'm kinda in between jobs</strong><br /> <strong>so my cally (as in calendar! LOL!!) is</strong><br /> <strong>pretty open nowadays, thus i'd like</strong><br /> <strong>to ask YOU when you might be free</strong><br /> <strong>before your writing "sem" (as in sem-ester!</strong><br /> <strong>LOL LOL!!!) is over...</strong><br /> <strong>not just the ladies either!! :) :)</strong></p> <p><strong>if you'd like to learn more about</strong><br /> <strong>me (my favorite groups, sites,</strong><br /> <strong>where I like to "kick back," writers)</strong><br /> <strong>you can totally check out my web site.</strong></p> <p><strong>everyone's invited!</strong></p> <p><strong>i'm also looking to start a reading group.</strong><br /> <strong>i just finished jean macgary's "My Dream Date" and boy,</strong><br /> <strong>was that a crazy read! i'd love to hear what</strong><br /> <strong>the HIS and HERS of the writ-sems think of it! LOLOL!</strong></p> <p><strong>hey, what can i say? you guys are the future!!!!!! TTYL!!</strong></p> <p><strong>your friend, Johnboy</strong></p> <p>That was the first email. I don't think anyone really responded. We expected that. But we kept going. There was the Thanksgiving email in which Johnboy suggested we all "eat, drink (but not too much, and certainly not w/ driving, you hard-drinkin' kooky writer-types! ! ha ha! ) & be merry!" There was a Christmas note, and one about a month before the United States invaded Iraq that said we shouldn't be sad about that because Valentine's Day was coming.</p> <p><strong>A</strong> I remember both of us laughing very hard in that computer room as we wrote that first email, and you saying something like, "The most brilliant thing is that no one will ever suspect we did this together." I also remember you saying, "If you tell anyone, I will kill you," and seeming pretty convincing about it.</p> <p><strong>P</strong> I think I was always threatening to kill you—so sorry. I have my ideas, but why do you think we did this?</p> <p><strong>A</strong> You and I were among the few people there who liked writers like Barth, Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, etc., and most of our classmates not only disapproved of those writers but felt confident making moral judgments on anybody who happened to like them. The Johnboy Hodgkinz emails were a prime opportunity to sneak some postmodern playfulness into the discourse without having to personally suffer the consequences of an unfavorable workshop.</p> <p><strong>P</strong> I agree. How do you remember it ending? This I don't recall at all.</p> <p><strong>A</strong> We didn't plan for it to end, but you had some fight with [classmate] Angshuman Chakraborty and sent him a long email giving him a piece of your mind. At the end of the email, you wrote something like, "By the way, I am Johnboy Hodgkinz. Andy Moody and I made him up."</p> <p>Angshuman immediately told a few other friends, though I don't believe we were ever officially outed to the whole cohort, and there may well be people in the group who never found out the truth. I remember telling John Barnard [another of the cohort] about it a year or so later, and he gave me a very serious look and said, "You really could have done a lot more with that."</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 The fun was out there <p>For the first couple of months of freshman year, I spent my evenings breaking into buildings on campus. This began, naturally, because a few of us who lived in and around the Vincent-Willard dorm had mail ordered lock-picking kits, and, well, we needed something to practice on besides our own dorm rooms.</p> <p>So down into the midnight bowels of Krieger we crept, sneaking deep underground into disused classrooms, mute hallways, and one strange lab whose floor was tight-knit mesh wiring with a <em>Silence of the Lambs</em>–esque chamber below. We touched little, took nothing (except, once, a jar of desiccant—sorry!), and were never caught.</p> <p>Such was the state of fun at Johns Hopkins in the fall of 1992, an era when the administration seemed to have adopted a policy of benign neglect toward the extracurricular happiness of its undergraduate body. We had Spring Fair and the occasional bus trip to New York for the day. What more could we want?</p> <p>For many—really, most—of my cutthroat classmates, this was reason to grumble. Why, they moaned from the depths of D-level, couldn't school be more exciting? A student union, they pleaded. A bar. A café. Anything to make campus life more bearable.</p> <p>But for my friends and me, the school's DGAF attitude meant freedom: We could do whatever we wanted, on campus or off. When lock-picking grew old (quickly, I'm pleased to say), we began to roam, wandering among the half-abandoned industrial sites that lined the unreconstructed harbor, or driving (when someone happened to have a car) under the interstates that cut through and around the city. We were set loose upon Baltimore, and all we ever wanted was to go and see what there was.</p> <p>Here's what we found: A large yellow smiley face painted on the end of an oil-storage tank. The 16mm film collection at the Pratt Library. A man who claimed to have been hanging out with Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas & the Papas the night she lost her virginity. The Baltimore Streetcar Museum. How to clear the dance floor at Club Midnite by playing the 1978 song "Fish Heads" (eat them up, yum!). The big slice at Angelo's and the $4.95 crabcake subs at Sip & Bite. Smart drugs, Neal Stephenson, and <em>2600</em> magazine at Atomic Books. The indie movie screenings at Skizz Cyzyk's funeral home "mansion."</p> <p>None of these alone was world-changing (okay, except maybe "Fish Heads"). Put together, though, they amounted to a constant stream of stimulation, novelty, and excitement, the discoveries that make new adulthood feel fresh and occasionally profound.</p> <p>All the while, I heard the no-fun grumbling from around campus and failed to understand it. We had freedom—what more could we need? The world was all around us, begging to be explored. We didn't even have to leave campus: One spring, my girlfriend and I simply stepped off the sidewalk next to Mudd Hall into a little dell—and discovered a stand of wild scallions. We picked a ton, brought them home, and feasted on our foraged bounty. All we'd had to do was to leave the asphalt path—no red brick in those days—behind.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 A pioneer of the Johns Hopkins Wading Team looks back <p>The Johns Hopkins Wading Team, perennial leaders in the sport of intercollegiate kiddie pool wading, lists its founding date as January 22, 1446, "30 years before the university was [established]," which suggests an absence of math or history majors among its varsity lineup. Or maybe they're spoofing; hard to say. Be that as it may, the team is a genuine, university-sanctioned student club, and we've not heard any challenges to its claim of the longest-running rivalry in intercollegiate sports with Harvard's waders, the Sea Urchins. Home matches on the Beach are a popular student attraction, and for three years running, the team perched at the top of the annual <em>U.S. News</em> national wading rankings, beating out such perennial powers as El Camino College, Duke, MIT, and L'Academie de Cuisine. At least, that's what the team says on its Facebook page, so it must be true.</p> <p><em>Johns Hopkins Magazine</em> recently spoke to Nathan Choe, A&S '15, one of the team's co-founders (which means he looks so much younger than his nearly 600 years; waders really hold up). In his varsity days, Choe was a specialist in the speed category, which he describes as "the final stretch of the match when both teams have to empty the pools of water and air, fold them up, and get them back into their boxes as fast as possible."</p> <p><strong>Johns Hopkins Magazine</strong> You're one of the pioneers of wading as an intercollegiate sport. What does that legacy mean to you?</p> <p><strong>Nathan Choe</strong> Wading, to me, is more than just a sport. Wading is a way of life. Even though I have not participated in any competitive wades this year, I still feel the rush of pool water—which is a mixture of tap and a dribble of urine—flowing through my veins. The patience that I had to foster, sitting in that pool for hours on end, helps me get through each day of teaching ninth-graders. The camaraderie between waders was addicting, and it pushes me to seek all the joys in life. The pressure to constantly improve our setup and take-down times still drives me to get better and faster and more consistent at everything that I do. This is the legacy of the wading team. Sure, I can sit in a pool for 14 hours. And yes, I can deflate the pool, fold it up, and get it back into its box in less than three minutes. But the real, lasting impact of the wading team, of all the wading teams across America, is the spirit of the wader that will never leave our souls. We will always push ourselves to be a little stronger, to be a little faster, to hold our bladders a little longer.</p> <p><strong>JHM</strong> Did you come to wading late as a sport, or were you one of those kids who was always splashing in a puddle or walking around with a deflated pool in your hand?</p> <p><strong>NC</strong> My love of wading did not start at Johns Hopkins. There's a saying that goes, "We are all born waders, for we all wade in the womb." Unlike many others, I never quite left the water, however. Whether I was jumping around in the sprinklers in elementary school or swimming on a team during my teenage years, I always had a fondness, nay a respect, for the water. She is uncontrollable, insatiable, and dangerous but is also the sweetest nectar from which I've ever sipped. In the beginning of a wade on a hot summer day, there is no better embrace than hers, but at the end of 10 hours, her touch corrupts our skin, in much the same way as time, causing wrinkles in the flesh and the soul.</p> <p><strong>JHM</strong> Where do you think your dedication came from?</p> <p><strong>NC</strong> They say that a smooth sea never made for a skilled sailor. It's not the brine, nor the wind, nor the long expeditions to sea that really harden a seaman, but rather the water, in crashing waves or still kiddie pools, that makes a man.</p> <p><strong>JHM</strong> You had a stellar career with many highlights. Do any of your wades stand out now as you look back?</p> <p><strong>NC</strong> Looking back is definitely a bittersweet experience, but there are surely some wades that have stuck with me more over the years. There was our wade against the University of Alaska Pacific, which occurred in the snow. Though we had expected it to be brutal, we had not expected the stakes to be so high and the temperature so low. Thirty minutes into the wade, one of our teammates, Ian Anderson, fainted from hypothermia. Seeing as his body was still in the pool, the time kept running, so we had a debate about whether or not we should stop the wade. After we could not revive him in a minute, we ended the endurance portion, ultimately costing us the match. The University of Alaska Pacific basically had home-court advantage, and it showed.</p> <p><strong>JHM</strong> How do you feel about the sport's explosive growth?</p> <p><strong>NC</strong> I'm very happy that wading has gotten the traction that it has. I changed a lot in college. The independence, the responsibility, the challenging course load all pushed me to change and grow as an adult. But the wading team, with its fun-loving, perfectionist tendencies, forced me to grow even more than I imagined possible. The spread of the sport only means that more students will get the experience that I received.</p> <p><strong>JHM</strong> The team's constitution reads, "The Johns Hopkins Wading Team plans to revitalize the University's sometimes (most of the time) downtrodden student body by showing our spirit, our lightheartedness, and our unquenchable desire to sit in about a foot of water." Do you feel, retrospectively, "mission accomplished"?</p> <p><strong>NC</strong> It definitely feels like we've helped increase the spirit at Johns Hopkins. Not only do people show up at our events, cheer for us, and join us for our tailgates, but people also love talking about the wading team when talking about JHU. Johns Hopkins, I think undeservedly, gets a cutthroat, austere reputation, and I think that the wading team serves as a perfect foil. The wading team is so effective at raising spirits because it is everything that Johns Hopkins is not "supposed" to be. It's silly, it's a powerhouse sports team, and it's fun for the sake of fun. </p> <p><strong>JHM</strong> The end of an intercollegiate wading career must be tough, with no pro league to go to. More than a few great athletes have had a hard time dealing with retirement. You have moved on to rewarding work teaching ninth-grade algebra in Baltimore, but otherwise what has life been like for you since hanging up the flip-flops?</p> <p><strong>NC</strong> Life hasn't been the same since the wading team. When you go through years of your life on such a strict regimen with the same people day in and day out, it's hard adjusting to a "normal" life. There have been times when I realize that I've been in the bathtub for hours and other times when I would just empty my trash on the ground, following the same motion we'd practice for emptying buckets of water into the pool. Sometimes, I shower in cold water, partly to bring back the warm nostalgia of freezing wades and partly to numb the emptiness that I occasionally feel. Being on the wading team has certainly pushed me to become a better person and, though it has propelled me into a life that doesn't seem that difficult by comparison, I do miss the team. Looking back, it was a great time in my life and has really made me who I am. And sometimes, I really long to hop back into that pool. But like any wade, that chapter had to come to a close. It was time to fold that part of my life up and pack it back into the box until, maybe one day, I get to pull it back out, pump some air into it, and hop right back in.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 New hospital president <p>Redonda Miller, senior vice president of medical affairs for the Johns Hopkins Health System and vice president of medical affairs for the Johns Hopkins Hospital, will assume the role of president of Johns Hopkins Hospital on July 1.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column has-caption"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p> <span class="visuallyhidden">Image caption:</span> Redonda Miller will become Johns Hopkins Hospital’s 11th president and the first woman to hold the post. </p> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Photograph by Keith Weller </p> </div> </div> <p>She will succeed current president Ronald R. Peterson, becoming the hospital's 11th president and the first woman to hold the post since the hospital was founded in 1889. Miller was chosen following an extensive national search co-led by Peterson and Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty, vice president for medicine of Johns Hopkins University, and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.</p> <p>Peterson announced to employees in January that he would relinquish his role as president and maintain his titles as president of the health system and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. He served concurrently in all three roles for nearly 20 years.</p> <p>"Over the next few years we contemplate the need for the next president to oversee significant patient care redesign within the hospital and our outpatient clinics, and the introduction of precision medicine centers of excellence, for which the hospital will serve as the living laboratory," Peterson wrote in a message to the Johns Hopkins community. "Redonda will surely help propel Johns Hopkins Medicine and our historic Johns Hopkins Hospital into a profoundly bright future to better serve our mission, our patients, and our community."</p> <p>Miller first came to Johns Hopkins as a medical student and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She served as an assistant chief of service in 1996 and the following year joined the School of Medicine faculty as an assistant professor of medicine. She distinguished herself as a collaborator, with great success in developing councils and committees to bring people and ideas together, and to address challenges and solve problems. Miller earned her MBA from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School—then known as the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education—in 2004. In 2006, she was promoted to associate professor.</p> <p>During her tenure, Miller has served in a number of positions, including as associate program director of the Osler Medical Residency Training Program, assistant dean for student affairs for the School of Medicine, and vice chair of clinical operations for the Department of Medicine. A passionate advocate for women's health, she has also been a featured speaker at conferences and grand rounds around the country.</p> <p>Miller, 49, is married to physician Albert Polito, a pulmonologist who directs the Lung Center at Mercy Medical Center. They have two daughters: Francesca, 11, and Bianca, 7.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 A pledge to BLocal <p>Johns Hopkins and 24 other Baltimore-area businesses have pledged to harness their collective influence in order to help strengthen the city by creating more economic opportunities.</p> <p>Through the BLocal initiative, companies are pledging to expand existing programs or launch new ones to build, hire, invest, and buy locally. They will spend more on design and construction contracts with local and minority- and women-owned businesses, hire residents from Baltimore's most distressed communities, and spend more purchasing dollars with local vendors and women- and minority-owned businesses. Taken together, these commitments—which include the HopkinsLocal initiative launched in September 2015—will infuse at least $69 million into local and minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses over the next three years. </p> <p>"HopkinsLocal is our comprehensive approach to leverage Johns Hopkins' economic power to do more to build, buy, and hire locally," says Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University. "Building on that promise, BLocal aims to help bolster a local economy, not on a project-by-project basis but through a collective, deep-seated change approach."</p> <p>As a group, the BLocal companies expect to invest an initial $53 million in renovation and construction projects, and $16 million in goods and services purchased from businesses headed by local and minority- and women-owned businesses through 2019. That investment is expected to grow as more of the BLocal partners determine exactly how much they will invest in the initiative and in what areas.</p> <p>Among the 25 companies participating in BLocal are Johns Hopkins University and Health System, Under Armour, BGE, T. Rowe Price, and Whiting-Turner.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Seeking immunity to cancer <p>Johns Hopkins is launching an institute devoted to the study of a new and promising approach to cancer treatment, embracing the Obama administration's "moonshot" initiative to cure cancer, an effort led by Vice President Joe Biden.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="Cancer cells" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Courtesy of National Cancer Institute </p> </div> </div> <p>The Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy was founded with two $50 million gifts—one from Michael R. Bloomberg, Engr '64, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and three-term mayor of New York City; the other from philanthropist Sidney Kimmel, founder of Jones Apparel Group. An additional $25 million for the center was contributed by more than a dozen additional supporters.</p> <p>Immunotherapy has the potential to cure and end all forms of cancer, researchers say, making it the most rapidly advancing approach to cancer treatment and one of the most promising avenues of cancer research today. Immunotherapy seeks to redirect patients' highly individual immune systems to target, detect, and destroy cancer cells. "We are at the forefront of an emerging and promising field of cancer research and treatment," says Paul Rothman, dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "We are grateful for these tremendous gifts, which will help us accelerate the already rapid pace of discoveries in immunotherapy."</p> <p>The institute will further strengthen Johns Hopkins' world-class program in cancer immunology, uniting the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center experts with the immunology, genetics, microbiology, and biomedical engineering experts throughout Johns Hopkins in a concentrated effort involving more than 100 scientists and clinicians.</p> <p>"Michael Bloomberg and Sidney Kimmel are visionaries," university President Ronald J. Daniels says. "Their philanthropy has already fostered remarkable innovation throughout Johns Hopkins, transforming the landscape of public health and cancer research. The new Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute builds on that legacy, giving us the latitude to dream big as we accelerate our efforts to end all forms of cancer."</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Funding humanities <p>Philanthropist Elizabeth Grass Weese and her brother, Roger Grass, have committed $10 million to advance humanities scholarship and teaching at Johns Hopkins and to promote literature, art, philosophy, history, and other cultural studies in Baltimore and the wider community. Their gift is the largest ever to Johns Hopkins exclusively for the support of the humanities.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Thinkstock </p> </div> </div> <p>It establishes the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute as a sponsor of programming for 10 humanities departments in the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, as well as related departments and centers. The institute is named for the donors' late father, founder of what became Rite Aid Corp. The institute's first director will be William Egginton, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities.</p> <p>"The study of the humanities is at the basis of everything in life, and sometimes it gets short shrift," says Weese. "What I really love about the institute is its cross-disciplinary nature, which illustrates the scope of the humanities."</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Commencement <p>Johns Hopkins celebrated its 2016 universitywide Commencement on May 18 in a climate-controlled venue. For the first time, the ceremony was held at Royal Farms Arena in downtown Baltimore.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="Graduation caps" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Hemera/Thinkstock </p> </div> </div> <p>Filmmaker Spike Lee, whose works include <em>Do the Right Thing</em> and <em>Jungle Fever</em>, addressed the graduates while receiving his own honorary doctorate of humane letters. A writer, director, actor, producer, author, educator, and entrepreneur, Lee often addresses issues of race, equality, gang violence, and gun control in his films.</p> <p>"More than 25 years since the release of his groundbreaking <em>Do the Right Thing</em>, Spike Lee's films continue to resonate from the stoops of Bed-Stuy to the classrooms of Johns Hopkins," says Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels. "On screen and off, as a filmmaker and educator, Spike Lee challenges all of us to confront the pressing questions of equality and justice that shape our country."</p> <p>Roughly 7,500 students earned degrees, certificates, and diplomas in spring 2016.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Solomon Golomb <p>Solomon W. Golomb, A&S '51, a pioneering scholar in the fields of mathematics and engineering, died May 1 at his home in California. He was 83.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="Solomon Golomb (left) and Barack Obama" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Photograph by Ryan K Morris/National Science & Technology Medals Foundation </p> </div> </div> <p>Golomb was known for his groundbreaking work in communications, including shift register sequences. He invented Golomb coding, a data compression method, and Golomb rulers, a specialized ruler used in radio astronomy and information theory. He was also known for creating mathematical games, including Cheskers, pentominoes, and polyominoes—which served as the inspiration for Tetris. He created the popular and long-running <em>Johns Hopkins Magazine</em> word puzzle Golomb's Gambits, which he authored for 32 years. The first Golomb's Gambits puzzle appeared in the April 1984 issue.</p> <p>A graduate of Baltimore City College high school, Golomb earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Johns Hopkins before his 19th birthday. He went on to receive master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics from Harvard University. He spent more than 50 years at the University of Southern California, where he was a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and mathematics and the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Chair in Communications.</p> <p>"With unparalleled scholarly contributions and distinction to the field of engineering and mathematics, Sol's impact has been extraordinary, transformative, and impossible to measure," Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of USC's Viterbi School of Engineering, wrote in a message announcing Golomb's death. "His academic and scholarly work on the theory of communications built the pillars upon which our modern technological life rests. His work on cryptography ushered in new approaches for securing communications signals. And his awe-inspiring inventiveness in mathematical reasoning has led to wonderfully playful discoveries of mind-twisting games."</p> <p>Shortly before his death, Golomb received the Franklin Institute's 2016 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Abbreviated <p><strong>Mauro Maggioni</strong>, whose work explores mathematical techniques for analyzing, modeling, and extracting information from large data sets, was named the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Data Intensive Computation in the <strong>Krieger School of Arts and Sciences</strong>' Department of Mathematics and the <strong>Whiting School of Engineering</strong>'s Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics. The 20th BDP to be appointed, he joins Johns Hopkins from Duke University.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Solomon Snyder</strong>, Distinguished Service Professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology, and Psychiatry, received the Salk Institute Medal for Research Excellence, a distinction bestowed just twice before in the institute's 55-year history.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><em>U.S. News & World Report</em>'s 2016 rankings of Best Graduate Schools placed several Johns Hopkins programs at or near the top of the list: Biomedical Engineering, a program run jointly by the <strong>Whiting School</strong> and the <strong>School of Medicine</strong>, held its long-standing No. 1 spot; the <strong>School of Nursing</strong> master's program moved from a second place tie to No. 1; the <strong>School of Medicine</strong> tied for third place for research-focused medical schools; and the <strong>School of Education</strong> tied for second place.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Carol Greider</strong>, the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics in the <strong>School of Medicine</strong>, was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society. Greider shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for her discovery in 1984 of telomerase, an enzyme that maintains protective "caps" on the ends of chromosomes.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>The American Academy of Arts & Sciences elected among its 213 new members two Johns Hopkins professors: <strong>Andrew Cherlin</strong>, a professor of sociology in the <strong>Krieger School</strong>, and <strong>Alex Kolodkin</strong>, a professor of neuroscience in the <strong>School of Medicine</strong> and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Andrew Cherlin</strong> was also one of four Johns Hopkins professors newly elected to the National Academy of Sciences. The others are <strong>Timothy Heckman</strong>, a professor and chairman of the <strong>Krieger School</strong>'s Department of Physics and Astronomy; <strong>Kenneth Kinzler</strong>, a professor of oncology and co-director of the Ludwig Center at the Kimmel Cancer Center; and <strong>Geraldine Seydoux</strong>, a professor in the <strong>School of Medicine</strong>'s Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>, the university's website designed and developed by staff members in the <strong>Office of Communications</strong>, received three prizes: a People's Voice Webby Award in the School/University category and two American Business Awards, or Stevies—a gold in the Non-Profit Organizations category and a silver in the Best Overall Design category.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Midori</strong> was named a Distinguished Visiting Artist at <strong>Peabody Institute</strong> for the 2016–17 season. The legendary violinist will visit the school to conduct master classes at both the Conservatory and Preparatory.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>The National Cancer Institute named cancer immunologist Elizabeth Jaffee, of the School of Medicine, as one of three co-chairs of an NCI blue ribbon panel. The 28-member group and other experts will help guide Vice President Joe Biden's $1 billion moonshot to cure cancer.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Alexis Battle</strong>, an assistant professor in the <strong>Whiting School</strong>'s Department of Computer Science, is one of 15 researchers in the chemical and biological sciences who have been named 2016 Searle Scholars. She will receive $300,000 in flexible funding to support her work during the next three years.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Peter Agre</strong>, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute, received the Kober Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Association of American Physicians. The AAP also elected as new members eight professors in the schools of <strong>Medicine</strong> and <strong>Public Health</strong>: <strong>William Bishai</strong>, <strong>Richard Chaisson</strong>, <strong>Josef Coresh</strong>, <strong>Diane Griffin</strong>, <strong>Elizabeth Jaffee</strong>, <strong>Peter Pronovost</strong>, <strong>Robert Siliciano</strong>, and <strong>Suzanne Topalian</strong>.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>George Kennedy</strong>, head coach of the men's and women's swim teams since 1985, has been honored with the 2016 Speedo Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Michael Fried</strong>, a professor in the Humanities Center in the <strong>Krieger School</strong>, was named by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, an honor that recognizes Fried's decades of important scholarship in the areas of French painting, art criticism, and literature.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Carey Business School</strong> named <strong>Phillip Phan</strong> the inaugural Alonzo and Virginia Decker Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship. Phan holds a joint appointment in the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at the <strong>School of Medicine</strong>.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Andrea Gielen</strong>, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy in the <strong>Bloomberg School</strong>, received the 2016 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award for preventing injuries among women and children.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Michael Shields</strong>, an assistant professor in Civil Engineering in the <strong>Whiting School</strong>, and <strong>Tamer Zaki</strong>, an associate professor in the school's Department of Mechanical Engineering, have each been selected to receive a 2016 Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Rebecca Schulman</strong>, an assistant professor in the <strong>Whiting School</strong>'s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is among 49 young scientists across the country to be awarded grants from the U.S. Energy Department's Office of Science under the agency's Early Career Research Program. She will receive $750,000 over the next five years for work on designing hydrogels, polymer materials resilient to different types of damage.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Peabody</strong> Composition faculty member <strong>Sean Shepherd</strong> was honored with an Arts and Letters Award in Music by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Marc Kamionkowski</strong>, a professor of physics and astronomy in the <strong>Krieger School</strong>, was elected a fellow of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>The team behind NASA's <strong>APL</strong>-based New Horizons mission to Pluto continues to garner awards. Recently, it received <em>Aviation Week</em>'s 2016 Laureate Award for space exploration, the American Astronomical Society's Neil Armstrong Space Flight Achievement Award, the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy from the National Space Club, the National Air and Space Museum's Trophy for Current Achievement, and an international Edison Award for Science.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p><strong>Paul Pineau</strong> was appointed vice president and general counsel of Johns Hopkins University. Pineau, who has held the position on an interim basis since August, will lead the General Counsel's Office, providing legal advice to the trustees, leadership, and all university divisions and assisting in the development and implementation of university policy.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Renovations to the Apocalypse mural reawaken its message <h3>"Let's wake this campus up …"</h3> <p><em>—Reverend Chester Wickwire<br /> to Bob Hieronimus, back when<br /> peace and love were cool</em></p> <p>The dean of Baltimore muralists at 72, Robert Hieronimus took on his first commission almost 50 years ago: the word <em>SOUL</em> in flaming letters on a black-owned nightclub near downtown Baltimore. While on the scaffolding, Hieronimus says, he heard shouting from passing vehicles, white men enraged that a white guy was working for a black boss. His second mural was a clown on the side of a grocery story in Ocean City, Maryland. With mural number three—started in late summer 1968, completed in February 1969, and recently restored—Hieronimus came into his own: a groovy piece of poignancy and provocation called <em>Apocalypse</em>.</p> <p>"The mural's central theme is 'We the People,' 99 percent of us challenging corporate America—the 1 percent. That's what needs to be understood today," says Hieronimus. Ancient birds and pyramids; brains that take the shape of crabs; the depths of Atlantis plumbed; and Stars of David above what looks like a ring of pomegranates (not unlike prayer beads) near a human arm. The mural looks as though Hieronimus documented his every dream of the distant past and more distant planets.</p> <p>Of his many projects, including a psychedelic VW hippie bus immortalized at Woodstock, Hieronimus calls <em>Apocalypse</em> his favorite and deepest work. "The message is that history is cyclical, that the global environmental upheaval we are facing has happened many times before and will continue to repeat until we learn to live in balance and peace," says Hieronimus.</p> <p>The 2,700-square-foot mural had not fared well over the past half-century. "It was in total disrepair," says Hieronimus. "Entire areas had been whited out. Shelves had been screwed into the alcoves, so for years you couldn't see parts of the mural. The walls were weak, so we had to plaster again after taking out the shelves."</p> <p>Unveiled once again during Johns Hopkins 2016 Alumni Weekend, <em>Apocalypse</em>—and its message of caution—has graced Levering Hall, covering every wall of the room that holds it, for nearly 50 years. Its overhaul cost an estimated $70,000, according to Hieronimus, known to friends as Doctor Bob (he holds a PhD in psychology). The university contributed $10,000, along with scaffolding, supplies, and $12,000 in new lighting and furniture for the room, home to the university's after-school tutoring program for Baltimore City elementary school students. The remaining funds came from the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds and a contribution from Doctor Bob's wife, Zohara Meyerhoff Hieronimus.</p> <p>Doctor Bob was aided in the restoration by a team of Baltimore graduate students, and he proudly notes that each person who helped him restore the mural earned a minimum of $20 an hour. Justin Williams, a senior lecturer in the Whiting School's Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, acted as foreman of the restoration project. Williams has worked with Hieronimus in the past, notably on a larger-than-life mural of larger-than-life legends (Bob Dylan, Gandhi, Bob Marley, and others) on the side of a Greenmount Avenue building in Waverly, Baltimore. "Justin literally stumbled into our partnership one day while walking by the [Waverly mural] when we were restoring it," says Hieronimus. "Turns out this engineer is also a talented artist and a good manager." Williams went on to help Hieronimus with three other murals and two "art car" projects, in which psychedelic designs give otherwise normal vehicles a colorful makeover.</p> <p>Williams, who has taught at Johns Hopkins for the past 12 years, was asked if the new generation shared the values expressed in Doctor Bob's art. "We're seeing a lot of it now," he says. "There's a higher level of planetary consciousness; you see it with the popularity of Bernie Sanders with young people. Progressive ideas are alive and well." Those ideas, along with highlights of student activism at the university through the decades, were celebrated at the unveiling, which included remarks from Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels and a presentation by Stuart W. Leslie, a professor in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences who is writing a history of the university.</p> <p>In previous interviews, Leslie noted that thousands of people have "walked right by the <em>Apocalypse</em> mural without taking the time to look at it." Like so much activism that took place at Homewood in the era when Jimi Hendrix (whom Hieronimus befriended) electrified "The Star-Spangled Banner," <em>Apocalypse</em> is rooted in the spirit of the incomparable Johns Hopkins chaplain Chester Wickwire, who died in 2008 after more than 50 years serving Johns Hopkins. "Chester commissioned the mural and gave me total freedom to tell people that America was going in the wrong direction," says Hieronimus. "I had no idea how true the message was going to remain all these years later."</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Boxed founder Chieh Haung shares lessons in entrepreneurship <p><strong>Chieh Huang, A&S '03, is the CEO of Boxed.</strong></p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column has-caption"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p> <span class="visuallyhidden">Image caption:</span> Chieh Huang calls commerce “the last bastion of offline behavior.” His bulk goods retail app, Boxed, seeks to change that. </p> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Photograph courtesy of Boxed </p> </div> </div> <p>Chieh Huang, A&S '03, has never shied away from going against the grain. After college, he taught English in rural Japan while his peers built traditional careers. He returned to convention—law school and a firm in New York—but realized the grind to make partner was not for him. Instead, he moved into a friend's basement and co-founded a mobile game studio that was eventually acquired by gaming giant Zynga. After two years running that company's New York office, Huang returned to entrepreneurship once more, packing it in for a garage in New Jersey where he founded Boxed in 2013. The bulk goods online retailer lets shoppers pick up wholesale deals on everything from paper towels to peanut butter, primarily through its mobile app.</p> <p><strong>How did your previous experience inform Boxed?</strong><br /> First-time entrepreneurs just solve a problem and hope it goes well. With repeat entrepreneurs, you not only solve a problem, you look for changes taking place in the world that become tailwinds to help the business exponentially grow. With our mobile game, we made a good game that we wanted to play, and we went out and did it. With Boxed, we not only wanted to solve a problem for people who didn't have the means—like a car—or the time to go to a brick-and-mortar BJ's or Sam's Club, we saw that everything was going to go mobile, including commerce. This last bastion of offline behavior is going to go online. Those are the tailwinds—that change that will come and hopefully will be in our sales over the next five or 10 years.</p> <p><strong>Why did you choose to sell bulk package goods?</strong><br /> It's a function of growing up in Jersey. Every other weekend I went with my parents to what was Price Club at that time. What I found when I moved into Manhattan with my own family was that we didn't have the physical means to access a wholesale club anymore. I thought: Who else has the same problem I do? That was the genesis of the idea. We did it on mobile not only because of what we saw at Zynga, where they didn't make the transition to mobile fast enough, but also because of the demographics. Sixty percent of wholesale club members today are boomers or seniors; that demographic is aging pretty rapidly. Is there a service for a younger generation that's going to have the buying power to purchase wholesale goods over the next five to 10 years or so? That was how we picked not only bulk goods but also to do it on a mobile device.</p> <p><strong>How did people react when they heard about Boxed?</strong><br /> On the first day, we hired two interns and I told them this is what we're going to do. After they heard, one of the interns quit on the spot. That was how some people reacted. Three years ago, people were not buying things on their phones yet. So it was met with a lot of skepticism and scrutiny, and rightly so. Those were tough times in the beginning.</p> <p><strong>How did you overcome that skepticism, particularly with funders?</strong><br /> It was a confluence of three factors. First, we were lucky enough that we had a successful outcome at our last company. So people said, "I think this is a dumb idea, but if anyone's going to figure it out it will be you." Second, I told them that only 1.5 percent of consumer packaged goods sales happen online. Even if the industry gets to 5 percent online, there's a gigantic opportunity. And what, over the next five to 10 years, is not going to be online? Third, I showed them our ride with Zynga, that there's an opportunity for mobile in just about every consumer vertical. That's where consumers are going, but, for one reason or another, not everyone is capitalizing on it.</p> <p><strong>What are the lessons you've learned about how to manage your brand in a fast-growing company?</strong><br /> Don't lose sight of who you are and what type of culture you want the company to have. From garage to now, we've raised close to $150 million, so it's easy to just fill seats with people who are really good but don't fit well with the company, or fill seats with warm bodies so the work can get done. But I feel like that's where you really lose your way. For us, taking our time and vetting people and then taking the time once they're here to really integrate them into the culture has been important.</p> <p><strong>You've offered to send the children of your employees to college. Why?</strong><br /> When we opened up one of our facilities in a depressed area of Atlanta and I went there, of all the people we hired, only one person could afford private transportation. I thought, 'How in clear conscience can you operate a company where people can't afford a car, yet the company is in the news for raising all this money?' Then I thought about how I was blessed to be in the position I'm in today. I looked back, and it really was the focus on education. If you're an hourly employee, are your kids going to be able to afford a $45,000 college tuition bill even if they're hardworking and smart enough to go? The answer in America right now is probably no. So how do we help them break out of that cycle? If Boxed is a success, I'll have more stock and more funds than I'll ever need in my life. If you think about any major retailer in America and you think about the founding CEOs of those companies, if you divided their net worth in half, that could pay for many, many, many tuitions.</p> <p><strong>Why be an entrepreneur?</strong><br /> What I've realized is that life is great when you find a marriage of what you're good at and what you enjoy. Sometimes, you might find one or the other. But finding the two is where I think life really blossoms. I was lucky enough to get the chance to try my hand at something I really loved—building something from the ground up and being an entrepreneur. And I was awfully fortunate that I found I am pretty good at it.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 School of Medicine Class of 1970 goes on humanitarian trip to Cuba <p>They call themselves the Blaze of Glory class, a title plucked from a letter of admonishment written by the dean and circulated among the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Class of 1970. Too many students seemed restless in the last quarter of their final year, the letter read, but if they buckled down, they could go out in a blaze of glory. Come May 1970, the students walked across the graduation stage, and though they now practice in places as varied as Myanmar and Mexico, the nickname—and camaraderie—stuck.</p> <p>While the classmates continue to keep in touch and attend typical reunions, a number of them also travel together, with a trip to Central Europe in the books and one to Iceland planned for August.</p> <p>Most recently, though, the group's focus turned outward, with a humanitarian trip to Cuba. Ron Oser, Med '70, and his wife, Donna—an organizer of many reunions—suggested the trip after hearing classmate Bob Lerer, Med '70, speak at an alumni event. They learned that Lerer, a pediatrician and the commissioner of public health for Butler County, Ohio, had come with his family to the United States from Cuba at age 14, shortly after the Cuban Revolution, and that his Johns Hopkins classmates played a key role in his acclimation to American culture. The physician told the audience about how, for 20 years, he's organized trips to Cuba to deliver medical instruments and supplies, and bring expert lecturers to hospitals in need.</p> <p>When Oser posed the idea of a Blaze of Glory trip to Cuba, Lerer saw an opportunity to give back to the classmates who supported him in a time of self-doubt. "These people really cocooned me, and they took care of me at a time when I was a really insecure guy at school," Lerer says. "I wanted them to have an outstanding experience." He secured the necessary clearances for the trip, contacted medical facilities, and arranged for Cuban families to offer homestays for a portion of the trip, while the Osers garnered interest from other classmates. In early March, 14 Class of 1970 classmates and 12 family members landed in Havana.</p> <p>Cuba has one of the highest densities of doctors per capita in the world, Lerer says, but its hospitals often lack essential tools, such as surgical supplies and up-to-date textbooks. The group brought thousands of dollars in supplies and expertise to three autism programs, a nursing home, and a national cancer hospital, among other places. Lerer's long-standing relationships with the Cuban medical community permitted a behind-the-scenes experience. "Going with somebody who was familiar with the country and bringing supplies to people who had no supplies was much more worthwhile than going just as a tourist," Ron Oser says.</p> <p>And that's exactly how the Blaze of Glory alumni wanted to see Cuba—unmasked, re-emerging, and full of possibility. "We had a class of amazing idealism," Lerer says. "And that idealism, that desire to change the world, stayed with the class."</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 The NAG Jay, forever young <p>As assistant director of editorial services for Johns Hopkins Medicine, Neil A. Grauer, A&S '69, has written a pair of weighty tomes—<em>Leading the Way: A History of Johns Hopkins Medicine</em> and <em>The Special Field: A History of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins</em>. They represent over 10 pounds of astute, historical scholarship. And yet he's perhaps best known for a drawing he tossed off in 45 minutes as freshman.</p> <p>It was a cartoon blue jay. Yes, that jay. The scrappy sweater-clad bird (known to those in the know as the NAG Jay) that's become the official unofficial school mascot. Though this is the sixth season it appears on the lacrosse team's helmets, the bird engages in all manner of activities, from playing in the pep band to being Dr. Jay and wearing a stethoscope. The cartoon can be seen on hats, shirts, gym bags, umbrellas, even limited edition Nike shoes. The Alumni Association is currently selling the drawing on belts, dog collars, and other goods to celebrate its big 5-0. And at least 20 people sport the doodle every day—they have NAG Jay tattoos.</p> <p>"Fifty years ago I never dreamed we'd still be talking about this bird," says Grauer. He was a self-taught political cartoonist back in 1966 when Caleb Deschanel—then Hopkins <em>News-Letter</em> co-editor and today an Academy Award–nominated cinematographer—asked him to create a cartoon blue jay to comment on things around campus, such as high book prices and parking problems (things never change, apparently). The bird really took flight a year later when it was used for a sports column called the Jay's Nest, thus beginning its long association with athletics. A common theme was the blue jay beating up another school's mascot.</p> <p>Grauer continues to draw the jay to this day, and though the bird is now old enough for an AARP card, "he remains eternally youthful," his creator says. For this third-generation Johns Hopkins grad who never misses a home lacrosse game, having his whimsical doodle alive and flapping after a half century is a curious—and wonderful—thing. "One could have a hell of a lot worse legacy," Grauer concludes.</p> <p><em>Order your NAG Jay gear at <a href=""></a>.</em></p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Alumni Association launches GoHopOnline networking site <p>Art history major Elizabeth Glass set a networking plan in motion early this year. She hoped to find someone to provide advice (and maybe a job offer) in the months leading up to her December graduation. So when launched in late February—replacing Johns Hopkins Connect as the university's online alumni directory—she rushed to sign up. Glass immediately saw the benefits of the new service, which now makes identifying appropriate mentors easy. "Pretty much everyone is on LinkedIn in this day and age, and trying to find Hopkins alumni is difficult because there's an ocean of alumni and you're looking for a few specific fish," Glass says. "It's very hard to filter through all those people to find someone willing to help."</p> <p>With a quick GoHopOnline search, Glass found a recent graduate who works in the development office at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she assists with fundraising and donation efforts. Within days, the two connected by email and had a half-hour phone chat. After that conversation, Glass found she was interested in a line of museum-related work she'd never considered before.</p> <p>With more than 200,000 alumni around the world, the university's goal for GoHopOnline is to create a digital space where students and alumni can interact. It's simple to log on with an email address or through Facebook and LinkedIn, and registering via LinkedIn moves profile information automatically. The site is dynamic, too, allowing members to upload photos and give status updates, with rotating feeds about Johns Hopkins news and events. Moving forward, GoHopOnline will expand to include a mobile app and the creation of themed groups that users can join (based on geographic region or area of interest, for example). But perhaps the most noteworthy feature is that alumni can check boxes to indicate how they're willing to aid others professionally, whether it's reviewing résumés, conducting mock interviews, or just answering questions. According to Susan deMuth, executive director of Alumni Relations, 80 percent of alumni members so far have agreed to be mentors. "This venue allows alumni to raise their hands and volunteer to help," she says. "It makes it much easier to reach out to people."</p> <p>For Bryan McMillan, Bus '00, '02 (MBA), chair of the Alumni Council's Student Engagement Committee, the site is a way to involve students as soon as they arrive on campus. But McMillan, who runs a global consultancy firm in Columbia, Maryland, doesn't see the service as a tool for young people only. He believes it's a boon for well-established bosses as well, who need to replace baby boomers as they edge toward retirement. "We need a pipeline of critical thinkers and people on top of their game," he says. "And Hopkins is putting those kinds of graduates out there. GoHopOnline has great value for everyone."</p> <p><strong>Register at <a href=""></a>.</strong></p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Changing an 'abysmal' stat <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Photograph by Natalie McCray Krauz </p> </div> </div> <p>Fewer than 2 percent of professional classical musicians in the U.S. are African-American, according to the League of American Orchestras. Terrance Patterson, Peab '89, has a word for this stat: "abysmal." It's what led him to found the Ritz Chamber Players in his native Jacksonville, Florida, in 2002. The all-African-American chamber orchestra gives dozens of free performances a year, does educational outreach in schools, and plays Beethoven and Brahms alongside the works of black composers, like George Theophilus Walker.</p> <p>Patterson fell in love with the classical canon as a child listening to the radio. But he worries that black youngsters can feel alienated when they first attend a concert. "They see no one that looks like them onstage—there's no one to tell them that we are invited to participate in this art form," he says. "We want to start down a path of diversity, not only on the stage but in the audience as well." BRENNEN JENSEN</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Stories for STEM Girls <p>When Jean Fan, Engr '13, began her PhD program in bioinformatics at Harvard University in 2013, she made a troubling observation: She was the only woman in her program. Women occupy only about a quarter of the jobs in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—a statistic Fan hopes to change through storytelling. Fan's nonprofit, CuSTEMized, encourages girls to imagine themselves in STEM careers by creating a personalized book and poster in which they are the protagonist. "You can read books about a character who's really awesome, but there's always this notion that she's special, that she can do this because she's awesome and you're not," Fan said. "But this is about you. This says 'I believe you can do this.'"</p> <p>Fan aims to scale up the organization in 2016 by designing new books and products and delivering more books to classrooms. Not everyone will enter a STEM field, Fan says, but all students can benefit from the critical thinking methods these subjects encourage. ALISON HENRY</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Class Notes <h3>1952</h3> <p><strong>Alan F. Hofmann, A&S '52, Med '55,</strong> was named a Jubeldoktor by Lund University in Sweden in honor of the jubilee anniversary of his 1965 degree from the university's Department of Physiological Chemistry. He is now professor emeritus of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.</p> <h3>1953</h3> <p><strong>Gilbert Wise, A&S '53, Med '57,</strong> is a clinical professor of urology at Weill Cornell Medical College and an attending urologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.</p> <h3>1956</h3> <p><strong>Stephen F. Jacobs, A&S '56 (PhD),</strong> is a professor emeritus at the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona. He created a wavy diffraction grating, a contraption atop Tucson City Hall that separates the colors of the light spectrum, splashing a rainbow across the downtown.</p> <h3>1960</h3> <p><strong>Gershon J. Spector, A&S '60,</strong> is a professor emeritus of head and neck surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. His former residents and medical students honored him by endowing an annual lecture at the medical school, the G.J. Spector Lecture in Experimental Oncology.</p> <h3>1966</h3> <p><strong>Renato Barahona Arévalo, A&S '66,</strong> is a professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He taught Spanish and early modern European history until his retirement in 2010.</p> <p><strong>Nan M. Phifer, A&S '66 (MLA),</strong> memoirist and author, led Joys and Sorrows Reconciled: A Lively Life-Review Workshop for the American Society on Aging's Aging in America conference in Washington, D.C., on March 21.</p> <p><strong>Douglas G. Pohl, A&S '66,</strong> retired in 2012 from the faculty of Georgia College but continued teaching in the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy as a professor emeritus until 2015. He lives with his wife, Gail, in Milledgeville, Georgia, where he volunteers as a guide for the town's historic trolley tour.</p> <h3>1969</h3> <p><strong>Robert J. Friedman, A&S '69,</strong> member of the Latin music group Mambo Combo, offered ukulele lessons in the spring at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore.</p> <h3>1972</h3> <p><strong>Romesh C. Batra, Engr '72 (PhD),</strong> who holds the Clifton C. Garvin Professorship of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Virginia Tech, received a 2015 American Society of Mechanical Engineers honorary membership.</p> <p><strong>Jeffrey H. Scherr, A&S '72,</strong> a principal at Kramon & Graham law firm, was named a 2016 Maryland Super Lawyer for his work in real estate law.</p> <h3>1974</h3> <p><strong>Charles N. "Chip" Kahn, A&S '74,</strong> president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, received the 2016 National Healthcare Award from B'nai B'rith International for leadership in the health care industry.</p> <p><strong>K. Scott Starks, A&S '74,</strong> a retired orthopedic surgeon, was elected in 2015 to serve on the board of trustees for Dosher Memorial Hospital in Southport, North Carolina. He and his wife, Becky, live on Bald Head Island.</p> <h3>1978</h3> <p><strong>Anthony M. Miele, A&S '78,</strong> an insurance attorney, was promoted to assistant vice president and senior product manager at the Crum & Forster Enterprise in New York. He recently received a doctoral degree in mathematics education from Columbia University.</p> <h3>1979</h3> <p><strong>Stuart W. Davidson, A&S '79,</strong> a partner with the Philadelphia labor and employment law firm Willig, Williams & Davidson, was appointed in January to chair the Professionals Committee of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.</p> <p><strong>Brian S. Goodman, A&S '79,</strong> a principal at Kramon & Graham law firm, was named a 2016 Maryland Super Lawyer for the eighth straight year.</p> <h3>1981</h3> <p><strong>Paul Avgerinos, Peab '81,</strong> a double bassist, won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. <em>Grace</em> was released on Round Sky Music in August 2015.</p> <p><strong>Roger S. Blumenthal, A&S '81, HS '88, Med '88 (PGF), '92 (PGF),</strong> is a Johns Hopkins professor of medicine and the director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. He is an avid golfer and tennis player and makes it to most home lacrosse games. He and his wife, Wendy, have one son.</p> <p><strong>Paula E. Boggs, A&S '81,</strong> retired in 2012 as general counsel and secretary of Starbucks after 10 years, got married, and became a mom. She now performs with the Paula Boggs Band, which released its second CD in March 2015. Boggs has served for 18 years as a Johns Hopkins trustee.</p> <h3>1983</h3> <p><strong>Chien-Jen Chen, SPH '83 (ScD),</strong> took office in May as vice president of Taiwan. He is a renowned epidemiologist credited with suppressing the 2003 epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome in his island nation.</p> <p><strong>Jay S. Rand, A&S '83,</strong> became a partner of the New York–based media, entertainment, and advertising law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz in March. He also serves as co-chair of the firm's Corporate & Finance Group.</p> <h3>1986</h3> <p><strong>Donna Marie Glover, Bus '86 (MAS),</strong> joined Ober Kaler in March as an associate in the law firm's Baltimore employment group.</p> <h3>1988</h3> <p><strong>Hollis Day, A&S '88,</strong> was appointed chief of geriatrics at Boston Medical Center in December 2015 and will hold a faculty appointment at Boston University School of Medicine.</p> <h3>1989</h3> <p><strong>Sagar Lonial, A&S '89,</strong> an expert in the biology and treatment of patients with multiple myeloma, was named chair of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology within Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute.</p> <h3>1992</h3> <p><strong>Michael Gilligan, Engr '92,</strong> became a partner in the Mergers and Acquisitions and Securities Group of law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel. Working out of the New York office, he focuses on public and private merger and acquisition transactions.</p> <h3>1993</h3> <p><strong>Lisa Butler, Bus '93 (MS),</strong> joined Florida-based global technology solutions company MotionPoint as vice president of strategy in February.</p> <p><strong>Adnan A. Hyder, SPH '93, '98 (PhD),</strong> is a commissioner for Reframing Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries for the Poorest Billion: A Lancet Commission, established by the NCDI Poverty Commission. He is a professor and associate chair of International Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.</p> <p><strong>Marc N. Steren, A&S '93,</strong> co-director of the Georgetown University Summer Launch program, received the 2015 National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation's Entrepreneur Educator Award and the 2015 David S. Stone Excellence in Teaching award.</p> <h3>1994</h3> <p><strong>Barbara A. White, A&S '94,</strong> was promoted to chief strategy officer for Arc Aspicio, a management consulting and information technology firm based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on homeland security and intelligence.</p> <h3>1996</h3> <p><strong>Sarah Chan, Peab '96 (MM),</strong> presented a solo piano recital at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in December 2015 and performed in January at St. James's Piccadilly church in London. She is an assistant professor of music at California State University, Stanislaus.</p> <p><strong>Melanie Harris Higgins, A&S '96, SAIS '96,</strong> head of the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland, New Zealand, lives with her scuba diving partner and husband of 13 years, Paul, who is currently working in Chengdu, China.</p> <h3>1997</h3> <p><strong>Sharonne R. Bonardi, Bus '97 (Cert), '00 (MBA),</strong> was appointed Maryland's first African-American deputy comptroller in 2015. She had served as the office's director of compliance since 2009.</p> <p><strong>Kaumudi Kay Kapoor, Bus '97 (MS),</strong> president of AT&T Government Solutions, was named to <em>WashingtonExec</em> magazine's inaugural list of Top 30 Executives to Watch. In February 2015, she chaired the Greater Washington Heart Ball, which raised more than $1 million for cardiovascular research and local outreach by the American Heart Association.</p> <h3>1998</h3> <p><strong>David Breau, Engr '98,</strong> is general counsel for Straight Path Communications, a company that deals with wireless and computer network communications intellectual property, in Glen Allen, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>David J. Davies, SAIS Nanj '98 (Cert),</strong> has been named the incoming American co-director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, in Nanjing, China, effective July 2016.</p> <h3>1999</h3> <p><strong>Maria C. Sheetz, Bus '99 (MBA),</strong> became senior director of National Sales and Industry Alliances for Amtrak in January.</p> <h3>2000</h3> <p><strong>Traci Thompson Ferguson, Med '00,</strong> was appointed to the National Quality Forum's Disparities Standing Committee, which seeks to eliminate health care disparities through measurement, in December 2015. She is chief medical director of medical management at WellCare Health Plans.</p> <p><strong>Carmen Peralta, Med '00,</strong> is co-founder and executive director of the Kidney Health Research Collaborative, jointly based at the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Peralta is a nephrologist and associate professor of medicine.</p> <p><strong>William G. Kirst, A&S '00,</strong> joined West Monroe Partners in Seattle as a senior manager in the business consulting firm's Operations Excellence practice. </p> <p><strong>Gilda Martinez-Alba, Ed '00 (MS), '05 (Cert), '05 (EdD),</strong> became the Provost Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion and the director of the graduate reading program at Towson University in 2015.</p> <h3>2001</h3> <p><strong>Eva Chen, A&S '01,</strong> former editor-in-chief of <em>Lucky</em> magazine, is now head of fashion partnerships for Instagram.</p> <p><strong>Jared N. Klein, A&S '01,</strong> founded the Law Offices of Jared N. Klein in 2015. The Philadelphia practice focuses on zoning, land use, and real estate.</p> <h3>2002</h3> <p><strong>Hussein Akhavannik, Engr '02, '04 (MS),</strong> was promoted to partner at the Washington, D.C., law office of BakerHostetler. A member of the Intellectual Property Group, Akhavannik focuses on patent prosecution and portfolio management related to the electrical, computer, medical, and mechanical arts.</p> <p><strong>Margaux Coady Soeffker, A&S '02,</strong> a family law attorney with Terzich & Ort, was named a 2015 Minnesota Rising Star by Super Lawyers.</p> <h3>2003</h3> <p><strong>Cory Donovan, Bus '03 (MBA),</strong> launched FurAlert, a free mobile app that allows pet owners to alert nearby users when a pet goes missing.</p> <h3>2005</h3> <p><strong>Duane A. Carey, Bus '05 (MBA),</strong> was appointed to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's One Maryland Blue Ribbon Commission to help streamline state procurement policy. Carey is president of Maryland Business for Responsive Government and is president of IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations.</p> <p><strong>Gene E. Green, Bus '05 (Cert), '08 (MBA),</strong> was named president and CEO of South Shore Health System of South Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 2015.</p> <p><strong>Clifford E. Hawkins, Bus '05 (MBA),</strong> earned the Certified Fraud Examiner credential from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.</p> <h3>2007</h3> <p><strong>Zachary S. Pfister, A&S '07 (MAG/MBA),</strong> was promoted in January to senior policy adviser at federal lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.</p> <h3>2010</h3> <p><strong>Zhifei Li, Engr '10 (PhD),</strong> is founder and CEO of Mobvoi, a Beijing-based startup that created TicWatch, China's answer to Apple Watch and Android Wear.</p> <p><strong>J. Travis Mitchell, Bus '10 (MS),</strong> joined Bayer Corporation's Pittsburgh-area headquarters in January as the U.S. corporate real estate manager.</p> <p><strong>Smita Mohan, Engr '10,</strong> is engaged to be married to <strong>Brent Dolan, A&S '11,</strong> on October 2, 2016.</p> <p><strong>Alexandra R. Rosenwasser, A&S '10,</strong> was hired as marketing and events coordinator at <em>Baltimore</em> magazine in December 2015.</p> <p><strong>Leah Zambetti Ryan, Engr '10,</strong> and Michael Ryan Jr., were married on July 25, 2015, at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic church in Osterville, Massachusetts. <strong>Kaitlin Davis Mosca, A&S '11,</strong> was matron of honor; <strong>Dea Lovy, Engr '10, '11 (MSE),</strong> was maid of honor. The bride and groom currently reside in Malmo, Sweden, for a one-year leadership development program through Leah's employer, Skanska USA Building.</p> <h3>2011</h3> <p><strong>Stephanie Geddie, Ed '11 (Cert), '11 (MS),</strong> was one of seven finalists for the 2015–2016 Maryland Teacher of the Year Award. She is a kindergarten instructional team leader at the Laurel Woods Elementary School in Laurel, Maryland, and is a co-founder of Building Blocks Network, a parent outreach program.</p> <p><strong>C. Jimmy Lin, SPH '11, Med '12 (MD/PhD),</strong> a pioneer in the early detection of cancer, was named one of 10 TED Senior Fellows for 2016. He was a TED Fellow in 2012 and has delivered talks at the annual technology, education, and design conference since 2013.</p> <p><strong>Kelly Mack, A&S '11 (MA),</strong> a vice president at Environics Communications' Washington, D.C., office, was named the 2016 vice president of Washington Women in Public Relations.</p> <p><strong>Robin A. Thottungal, A&S '11 (MA),</strong> was appointed to serve as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's first chief data scientist, focused on creating and implementing analytical approaches to decision making across the agency.</p> <h3>2012</h3> <p><strong>Carrie Grady, A&S '12,</strong> and <strong>Zachary Matuzsan, A&S '12,</strong> became engaged to be married in January. They met during their freshman year as members of the Hopkins Emergency Response Organization.</p> <p><strong>Ted Simpson, Bus '12 (MS/MBA),</strong> was hired as a senior director for Huron Consulting Group, a global management consulting company serving the health care, education, life sciences, law, and finance industries.</p> <p><strong>Carrie A. Scott, Bus '12 (MBA/MS ITS),</strong> a data management technology veteran, was promoted in February to vice president at Washington, D.C., management consulting firm Kenesis Corporate and Information Consulting.</p> <h3>2013</h3> <p><strong>Lianne Marie Gonsalves, SPH '13,</strong> is a technical officer at the World Health Organization's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, where she leads research in the area of adolescent sexual and reproductive health.</p> <p><strong>Norman Huynh, Peab '13 (MM),</strong> has been named the Oregon Symphony's new Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Associate Conductor and will assume his duties in Portland, Oregon, on August 1.</p> <p><strong>Sebastian Seiguer, Bus '13 (MBA),</strong> is CEO of emocha Mobile Health, a mobile health platform for remote patient management. The company, located in the FastForward East business innovation hub, made the <em>Journal of mHealth</em> Global Digital Health 100 Award List for 2015.</p> <h3>2014</h3> <p><strong>Brian A. Gerardo, Bus '14 (MBA),</strong> is executive director and co-founder of the Baltimore Dance Crews Project, a nonprofit that received a $60,000 grant from the Open Society Institute of Baltimore as part of its 2015 Community Fellows program. Gerardo started the project as an after-school club inspired by his passion for hip-hop dance; it has since reached thousands of Baltimore youth.</p> <p><strong>Peggy Houng, A&S '14, Peab '14,</strong> won second prize for her harp performance in the 2015/2016 Enkor International Music Competition.</p> <p><strong>Alex Mullen, Engr '14,</strong> is the 2015 World Memory Champion and the Guinness World Record Holder for most digits memorized in an hour: 3,029. He lives with his wife, Cathy Chen, in their home state of Mississippi, where they are both medical students at the University of Mississippi. The couple helps others apply memory techniques to learning at</p> <h3>2015</h3> <p><strong>Scott A. Miller II, Peab '15 (MM),</strong> a composer, educator, and bassist, is working on a commission from the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra and is a composition fellow for the 2016 Aspen Music Festival and School.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 In Memoriam <p><strong>Hershner Cross, A&S '37,</strong> December 15, 2015, Hanover, New Hampshire.</p> <p><strong>Harold Goodman, A&S '40,</strong> February 22, Richmond, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>Myrle Neistadt Freedman, Peab '41 (Cert), Bus '42,</strong> December 13, 2015, Raleigh, North Carolina.</p> <p><strong>Howard S. Hall, Engr '41,</strong> December 8, 2015, Parkville, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Donald Hurst Wilson Jr., A&S '42,</strong> January 10, Timonium, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Alan B. Groh, Engr '43,</strong> December 5, 2015, San Diego.</p> <p><strong>Joseph T. Stegmaier, Engr '43, '48 (PhD),</strong> October 17, 2015, Alexandria, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>J. Carroll Tulloss, Engr '43,</strong> December 11, 2015, Harrisonburg, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>James S. Martin, Med '46,</strong> January 1, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>William G. Carson, Engr '48 (MCE), '51 (PhD),</strong> November 28, 2015, Medford, New Jersey.</p> <p><strong>Stanley Kaufman, Engr '48, '57 (MSE),</strong> January 2, Ellicott City, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Jane M. Kearns, Nurs '49 (Cert),</strong> January 14, Milwaukee.</p> <p><strong>Laddie L. Stahl, Engr '50 (MSE),</strong> November 25, 2015, Rexford, New York.</p> <p><strong>Stanley Tocker, A&S '50,</strong> October 29, 2015, Wilmington, Delaware.</p> <p><strong>Laurence Finberg, HS '51,</strong> January 22, San Francisco.</p> <p><strong>Herman H. Pinkerton Jr., Med '51,</strong> December 5, 2015, Raleigh, North Carolina.</p> <p><strong>William A. Bowling Jr., A&S '52,</strong> November 7, 2015, Jacksonville, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Thomas E. Durney, Engr '52,</strong> November 18, 2015, Frostburg, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Gardner N. Moulton, HS '52,</strong> December 4, 2015, Bangor, Maine.</p> <p><strong>Taft R. Phoebus, A&S '52,</strong> November 17, 2015, Sparks Glencoe, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Frank S. Blanton Jr., HS '53,</strong> December 6, 2015, Bristol, Tennessee.</p> <p><strong>Donald Straus, Med '53, HS '58,</strong> December 15, 2015, Adamstown, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Joseph A. Puzzo, A&S '54,</strong> November 11, 2015, Milford, Connecticut.</p> <p><strong>John N. Steward, Med '54,</strong> November 2, 2015, Torrance, California.</p> <p><strong>Patricia G. Gibbs, Nurs '55,</strong> November 20, 2015, Pembroke, Massachusetts.</p> <p><strong>Kenneth E. Miller, A&S '55 (PhD),</strong> January 15, Madison, New Jersey.</p> <p><strong>Jerome Kowal, Med '56,</strong> December 23, 2015, Cleveland.</p> <p><strong>David W. Krogmann, A&S '57 (PhD),</strong> January 22, West Lafayette, Indiana.</p> <p><strong>James S. Irvine, A&S '58 (PhD),</strong> January 9, Medford, New Jersey.</p> <p><strong>Jesse M. Suit Jr., A&S '58,</strong> February 4, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>William H.B. Howard, A&S '59,</strong> January 10, Joppa, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Thomas M. Lucke, Engr '59,</strong> January 25, Winter Haven, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Harvey L. Meyers Jr., Med '59,</strong> November 25, 2015, Beecher, Illinois.</p> <p><strong>Leo James Clark, Engr '60, '66 (MSE),</strong> October 20, 2015, Silver Spring, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Charles F. Beasman Sr., Engr '60 (Cert), '62, '67,</strong> December 8, 2015, Bradenton, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Gustavo A. Colon, A&S '60,</strong> November 12, 2015, Metairie, Louisiana.</p> <p><strong>James E. Bleadingheiser, SPH '61,</strong> January 21, Gaithersburg, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Daniel J. O'Sullivan, A&S '62 (MA),</strong> December 21, 2015, Red Bank, New Jersey.</p> <p><strong>George A. Cooke, A&S '63,</strong> January 28, Madison, Georgia.</p> <p><strong>Alfred Finck, Med '63 (PGF),</strong> February 6, Melrose Park, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>Wilson J. Browning Jr., A&S '64,</strong> January 7, Norfolk, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>Robert H. Drachman, Med '64 (PGF),</strong> January 21, Tinmouth, Vermont.</p> <p><strong>Loren H. Goehner, Ed '64 (MEd),</strong> December 16, 2015, Bel Air, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>James G. Kelly Jr., Engr '64,</strong> November 23, 2015, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.</p> <p><strong>David H. Amler, A&S '65,</strong> February 11, White Plains, New York.</p> <p><strong>Garth R. MacKenzie, A&S '67, Bus '71, '77 (MAS),</strong> January 13, Millersville, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Wilfred J. Brownlow, SPH '68,</strong> December 12, 2015, Huron, Ohio.</p> <p><strong>Thomas L. O'Dea, A&S '69,</strong> December 28, 2016, Richmond, Virginia.</p> <p><strong>Eric L. Hildebrand, A&S '72, SPH '89 (PhD),</strong> January 6, Baltimore.</p> <p><strong>Richard G. Kennard, Ed '72 (Cert),</strong> December 22, 2015, Bel Air, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Dorothy A. Pember, Bus '72,</strong> December 30, 2015, Crisfield, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Zdzislawa A. Coleman, A&S '73 (PhD),</strong> January 1, Chicago.</p> <p><strong>Ardin H. Marschel, A&S '74 (MS),</strong> January 2, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.</p> <p><strong>Elizabeth C. Yancey, A&S '74 (MLA),</strong> December 22, 2015, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>Carl I. Hutton, A&S '76 (MS),</strong> January 19, Palm Bay, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Stephanie Kornprobst Wester, Ed '76 (MEd),</strong> February 2, Gainesville, Florida.</p> <p><strong>Erno R. Bernheisel, A&S '79 (MLA),</strong> October 31, 2015, Pikesville, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Elaine B. Snyder, Med '81 (MMH),</strong> February 13, Baltimore.</p> <p><strong>Charles Annecillo, SPH '82 (ScD),</strong> January 1, Bowie, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Larry R. Pennington, HS '82,</strong> November 5, 2015, Oklahoma City.</p> <p><strong>Joseph John Marotta, Med '84,</strong> February 8, Menands, New York.</p> <p><strong>Frank W. Crast, SPH '85,</strong> November 21, 2015, McKinney, Texas.</p> <p><strong>John L. Kuntz, A&S '85 (MLA), Ed '89 (Cert),</strong> November 21, 2015, Summerville, South Carolina.</p> <p><strong>David L. Huso, Med '87 (PGF), SPH '89 (PhD),</strong> January 27, Hereford, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Gilbert L. Wilson, Bus '91 (MS),</strong> November 22, 2015, Charlotte, North Carolina.</p> <p><strong>Jason S. Goldfeder, Med '95,</strong> December 9, 2015, St. Louis.</p> <p><strong>Maria V. Harris, Ed '95 (MS),</strong> December 30, 2015, Wareham, Massachusetts.</p> <p><strong>Jennifer B. Waltrip, Ed '95 (MS),</strong> January 20, Frederick, Maryland.</p> <p><strong>Phillip Grow, Bus '02 (MS),</strong> January 22, Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.</p> <p><strong>Nathan E. Johnson, A&S '15 (MA),</strong> October 28, 2015, Baltimore.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Winging it <p>I stood outside one of the world's biggest toy companies. I was confused, angry, and weeping. I had spent the past six years building the content department from scratch. And now I had been downsized. It was 2008, and there were layoffs everywhere.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Katie Edwards </p> </div> </div> <p>The stock market had tanked, taking my savings with it. I was 33, jobless, and directionless.</p> <p>My position had paid well, and it was fun to tell people I worked with Elmo and SpongeBob, but I was building other people's brands rather than creating my own. Still—this job wasn't supposed to break up with me. I was supposed to break up with it. I had no idea what to do next, but I knew I wanted it to be fun.</p> <p>I enrolled in an improv class. At my first performance in September 2009, I stood on an empty stage, lined up alongside my classmates against a black wall. I stared out at the audience, petrified. Our teacher reminded us to "yes, and" one another. That's the key to improv, he told us. You agree with your scene partner's choices, and then you build on them. Our teacher asked for a suggestion from the audience. And just like that, my first show began on the stage of the famed Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.</p> <p>Ben walked on stage. Haley followed. Haley asked Ben for help with her taxes. Ben responded, "I only do taxes for animals." I dropped to the floor, transformed into a cat, and slinked into the scene. I heard a big laugh. I was invigorated.</p> <p>Improv forced me to grapple with uncertainty. It also introduced me to a community of sharp, funny people who were busting their butts to pursue their creative goals. It was inspiring. And slowly, the lessons learned onstage started seeping into my life.</p> <p>Yes, and … a couple of years later, my new husband quit his art director job at a top New York City ad agency to start a toy and game company with me. Our parents said we were insane. We probably were. Galactic Sneeze was born.</p> <p>Yes, and … something else was born. We brought our newborn daughter home from the hospital in November 2011. There was no instruction manual (and no maternity leave).</p> <p>Yes, and … we spent our nights brainstorming game ideas. We spent our days freelancing to fund our business. We passed the baby back and forth. In September 2013, we launched our first party game, Schmovie.</p> <p>Yes, and … we're about to debut our new adult party game, Spank the Yeti, on Kickstarter.</p> <p>Yes, and … we've pitched dozens of concepts to toy companies. Some will be hitting store shelves soon. 99 percent of our inventions never see the light of day. But that 1 percent feels pretty fantastic.</p> <p>As for tomorrow: Yes, we have no idea. And I'm sure it will be fun.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins students know how to have fun <p>Skits, tennis, turtles, banjos, men in neckties standing in water—Johns Hopkins students have amused themselves in a variety of ways over the decades. Here's a sampling from university archives.</p>