The Virtual Canuck has moved – note to subscribers!!!!

This post is to announce that I have moved the Virtual Canuck blog that currently resides on Edublogs, to it’s own site at virtualcanuck.ca

I’m making this move – NOT because of dissatisfaction with the services of Jame Farmer and the good folks at EduBlogs, but rather because I’m interested in creating a full fledged web site, rather than a blog alone. To do this I wanted to add WordPress plugins and in the process increase my own WordPress skills.

WordPress seems to be fighting spam by NOT allowing bulk import of email address of subscribers. This means that the 256 subcribers to this list will have to re-subscribe at virtualcanuck.ca by completing the “subscribe form” on the front page.

My apologies for this inconvenience.  I really do hope you take the time to re-subscribe.  In other words DO IT NOW!!!!

Thanks for 10 years of support from EduBlogs.org

Terry Anderson

 

First Week at Riverdale Little Free Library

The Little Free Library has survived its first week- no vandalism, lots of borrowers and depositors, collection growing and 12 new DVDs videos (thanks to Rocky and Eric). The back birdhouse suite is still vacant (I hope I won’t have to remove the No Magpies Need Apply sign) and the building survived its first rain. The children’s collection is a bit sparse but, all in all,  a great week – Thanks to all the patrons.

Two problems to overcome:

First as the Chief Librarian, I get first choice at all deposits. That means I have started 4 books and finished none! It so tempting! The one I’m furthest along is by Heather Robertson and is a biography of Joe Tyrell (think guy who they named the Drumheller dinosaur museum after). He worked for the Geological Survey of Canada and was the first white man to accurately map, survey and prospect the lands east of the Hudson’s Bay in the later part of the 19th Century. One trip he took the train to Edmonton, then down the Athabasca to Ft Chip then through and over a variety of rivers in unexplored tundra to VERY nearly starving, drowning and freezing while paddling 750 miles down Hudson Bay to Ft Churchhill.   The second book is set on a sailboat in False Creek in Vancouver – same place my good friend and sailing buddy Jon moors his boat Whai Wari (Why Worry). Great books but, I must get a handle on this promiscuous reading! (Note: – both books should be available for circulation hopefully sometime in the next few weeks)

Second, every librarian (especially a Chief Librarian) has to be able to organize the collection. I’ve become a bit dissatisfied with the current random disorder. Of course I considered both Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal, but soon realized that I guy who can’t keep his underwear separated from his socks, has little hope of being anywhere near that systematic. I also thought about organizing by height (fits shelves better) or thickness (good for reader time availability) or chronological order of deposit, but discarded these as not being nearly academic enough for 93St! Eventually, I rearranged them into fiction and non-fiction, which seems to work, but I am now have of start a fifth book to ascertain which of the two it is.

Finally a minor miracle at the Library yesterday. Assistant Librarian and Head of Library Aesthetics, Susan spent part of the day trying to figure how she could get a copy of Harper Lee’s new Book – Go Set a Watchman. The book was assigned by her book club. I must say that, like the Chief Librarian, she is quite cheap and tries to avoid buying things if possible. She first checked the Public Library and found they have 97 copies in the system (good) but 587 reserves (bad). She then phoned the Whee Book Inn on Whyte Ave. – no copies in stock. Of course Mr. Amazon would deliver it if but the book club is in less than 2 weeks and she is not a fast reader. So it looked like a trip to Audrey’s Bookstore was required, when miraculously a copy (in excellent collection) appeared that very day in the Little Free Library.

As I stated earlier a great week at the Library!

Little Free Library Opens in Riverdale (Edmonton)

This weekend I opened the Little Free Library I have been building for the past few weeks.  It is a great hit and already I’ve had a couple of nice volumes appear (librarian gets 1st pick!).

I managed to use scraps and pieces from the old house we demolished 20 years on this site to construct the library. The only purchased parts are the door hinges.  I also paid the $40  to officially register with the Little Free Library organization – thus the “official sign” and steward number on the picture.

One problem with building a free library is that I already have requests for 2 more (one for our Unitarian Church). But I did learn a few things during construction.

Here is the “spiel” I posted on the door

Welcome to Rivderdale’s first Little Free Library. This is one of over 30,000 Little Free Libraries located around the world.

The Steward of this library is Terry Anderson (terrya@athabascau.ca). The Library was constructed entirely of re-cycled materials, many of which came from the original house on this site.

You are welcome to deposit or withdraw a book or two. Borrowed books may be lent to a friend or returned to any Free Library in the world.

This library also accepts videos, CDs and DVDs. If you wish, you may leave a note in your deposit with recommendations, instructions or any advice you wish to offer to its next reader.

And a couple of pics

Terry installing libraryLibrary2

 

 

My Retirement Week

I am just recovering this week from a busy, celebration filled week last that I want to share with my blog friends.

The week started by a quick trip to Barcelona, where besides being able to watch FBT Barcelona win the final Champion League match, I was honoured being made a Senior Fellow in the European Distance & E-Learning Network.  I think I am the first person born outside of Europe to receive this honour, so it was a great way to start the week.

The EDEN conference was good (as usual) and it was fun to revisit Barcelona, after Sue and my two month stay there in 2013. No, the Sagrada Familia is not finished, but wonderful new towers are now in place – no photos as I decided to leave my iphone somewhere in the Barcelona airport 🙁

Then back home to do a keynote at our Centre for Distance Education annual conference.  It was a small conference and was I able to mostly re-use themes from previous presentations.  The talk was about the multifaceted topic of Interaction in Distance Education, which I realize has been the major theme of my whole academic career. The picture below shows Mohamed Ally and me with the wonderful painting of the town of Athabasca, that I received as a retirement gift. It was then on to the big event of the
leaf graphicday, the Retirement Party I had organized for myself (with help from many friends)!!

I had watched Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt  as he sat watching the clock on his final day of work, and I wanted to go out with a bigger splash than that! So I invited all the faculty at Athabasca, many friends, my Edmonton relatives, some Unitarians and whomever else I thought might like to come. Now, planning a party with such an open invitation (somehow I forgot the RSVP part!) meant we really didn’t know how many people would come.

We rented the Riverdale House, which is a smallish meeting room above the rink shack at the community league a few houses from where I live.  The idea was to spill out into the park and community gardens, around the House, when we filled up the building. Now, I ordered “no rain” since June in Alberta is the rainiest month – and  we only got a few sprinkles. What I had forgotten to do, was order the outside heat and it was a bit of a chilly evening.

My friend Don brought a sound system, and we heard and laughed at many good stories. Then we did a “jam” with wishot-219hoever brought an instrument. I had my hammer dulcimer, but not having played for a week while in Spain, jet lag and the pressure of the event, meant I was not in top form!  The BBQs made some great food and there was a fair bit left to donate to the Youth Emergency Shelter.

I also dug out a box of what remains of my old toy business and a book case full of books that I had authored or done chapters in, to create a “From wooden toys to online learnin” display.

ishot-217

My main motivation in the party was to bring together the many Alberta friends from far different walks of life and provide them a chance to meet each other. they are all interesting folks- well at least interesting (or boered) enough to come to a party For me!!! – and to a degree I think it succeeded.

Of course, I was asked what next?  As I said in a previous post, I’ve got a number of projects on the go, a couple of keynotes booked for this fall and I hope time for time for bike riding, blogging, skiing, music and developing new hobbies and ways to serve.

 

At risk of using this blog more than I usually do to ‘blow my own horn’ I want to end this post with two of the many very kind (and often too generous) emails and cards (thanks) that I received. My first Doctor student, Stuart Berry wrote on his blog:

I understand that you are officially retiring from Athabasca University and I am sorry I cannot be at your farewell party. I would, however, like to pass on my best wishes as well as some thoughts with regards to the impact you have had upon my life and career, and through a similar lens, what impact I know you have had on the lives on many students throughout your academic career.

I was your first doctoral student. We met for the first time at Athabasca in August of 2008 during the cohort weeklong residency. You had earlier written to me and proposed you and I might be a good fit for my proposed research interests. I was over-the-moon as I knew you by reputation and the thought of having the Canada Research Chair in Distance Education as my potential dissertation supervisor was, I thought, a dream come true. In retrospect, this was a dream come true, but for many reasons that at the time I did not nor could not appreciate or imagine.

In our six years together as mentor and student I was frustrated yet continuously encouraged by you to find the limits of my academic capacity. I was nurtured and supported in the opening of doors, the ramifications of which neither you nor I fully appreciated at the time, yet you did not blink. You continued to be excited with and for me in this journey. You were always present. You taught me about the whole idea of presence, not just through your daily academic work with students and your prolific publishing record but most of all by you being everything and more you talk about and tell us in your very public writings: You live as you speak and write. I never once felt anything other than your continual presence throughout my doctoral journey.

I saw impenetrable walls. You waited patiently for me to see these obstacles through different eyes knowing when I understood what was needed to be known, the walls would become new knowledge and understanding and would cease to be perceived barriers. I know at times I resisted your shaping and your gentle nudgings. Maybe that is just part of the journey but as I have had the time and space to revisit and re-examine my six year journey with you I feel what stands out most is your gentle, open, and unhurried approach to dealing with the challenges we all face everyday.

Your list of accomplishments is quite legendary. If I have learned anything from you it is this: we are all working together for a common purpose; our hearts and minds need to be ever open; the work we do in education is for everyone and not a select few; and, most of all, the journey is the gift. I thank you for allowing me to be part of that journey.

It has been an honour and a pleasure and I wish you a long, healthy, and happy next phase of your life, especially sharing it with your wonderful Susan.

Stu

Comments like Stu’s make me really appreciate the opportunity to be a teacher.

I’ll end with the email from Athabasca Medieval Studies professor Marc Cels.  Marc didn’t realize this, but Susan and I are great admires if Hildegard of Bingen. In fact in 2003 we made a special stop in Bingen on a driving trip through Germany.  He wrote and attached the picture of one of Hidegard’s visions below:

I regret that I won’t be able to attend your shing-ding this evening as I’m feeling under the weather. I really wanted to come to give you a proper send-off and to express my gratitude for all that you’ve done for AU, your sage advice, your example the you have given us, and your particular assistance to me and our colleagues at the Centre for Humanities. I wish you well with your next projects and hope that retirement will allow you to focus on what you enjoy and to put aside what distracts!

You’ve acted as a sort of DE Guardian Angel or Patron Saint at AU, so I offer you an electronic icon of the woman who I think should be the official patron saint of D.E. (I just haven’t gotten around to writing the Vatican): Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). I assign students of my medieval history course a sample of her writings and book illustrations. This German abbess is famous for receiving divine revelations (the ultimate form of DE!) and sharing them broadly, having founded several monasteries or convents with busy scriptoria. Though a woman and a nun barred from the cathedral schools and nascent universities, she provided herself with a good education, excelling as a composer of music, writer of plays, poet, mystic, philosopher/scientist, preacher and a critical commentator on the affairs of her day (by a copious correspondence). Her advice was sought out by popes and emperors. The image is from her book of visions, the Liber Scivias, and I believe the manuscript was illustrated by the “Visual Designers” under her direction, so this is close to a self-portrait. It shows the mystic receiving a divine vision and recording it on her tablet with the help of her discrete clerical secretary.

So, you see, the perfect model for a DE scholar! Thanks again for being our flesh-and-blood model, Terry.

Hildegard_von_Bingen

Unitarian Chalice Wheel

In this post I “show off” the carving I had commissioned from I Ketut Weda, a local woodcarver in Ubud, Bali.  Unitarians are proud to both recognize and acknowledge the many spiritual paths followed by other Unitarians and by other citizens of this planet.

The carving has it’s centre a flaming chalice. The chalice is the most common Unitarian Universalist symbol. The chalice or cup represents nurturing and support, the flame represents the energy and contribution of light to social justice and learning.  Around the circle are 8 symbols of the the world’s most well known religious movements.

Westwood Unitarian Chalice Wheel

The 8 symbols on the  Chalice Wheel Represent (clockwise from top)

  1. Jewish Star of David
  2. Christian Cross
  3. Islam Star and Crescent Moon
  4. Hindu Om/Aum
  5. Buddhist Dharma Wheel
  6. Pagan Pentagram Star
  7. Taoist Ying/Yang
  8. Aboriginal Medicine Wheel

The carving below now hangs in the Westwood Unitarian Congregation in Edmonton and of course you are invited to come and see it and to join us on any Sunday morning!

 

Is Blogging worth it for the aspiring academic?

After spending most of yesterday catching up on blogs, Facebook posts, twitter and linked in, I began to wonder if it was worth it and how I would I would measure the value (in academic terms) of my day. First of all I should note that the day was a pleasant one, with a few good articles uncovered, a joke or three, time wasted trying to find closed articles mentioned in open repositories, a few new slides for upcoming keynotes, updates on a number of colleagues, some interesting conference to keep in mind and a great of peripheral knowledge that I have no idea if it will ever have any use.  But was it worth it??

Like most academics, I’m evaluated annually based on three expectations:

1. publishing peer reviewed articles – how many depends on the discipline and the institution, but a quick scan of my CV shows 53 articles in 11 years or more than 4 a year.  Throwing book chapters and full books in adds more brownie points.

2. Teaching – At Athabasca in our graduate program the normal load is only 3 semester courses per year, so I get off quite lightly. We do however have many MEd and EdD students to supervise.  The quality of the courses and my teaching is not assessed very rigorously- as long as there are no students pounding on the Dean’s door.

‘3. Service – a large number of activities falls under this criteria, but certainly suffering through administrative and academic committees meetings within the university counts as well as public service activities. Fortunately at Athabasca, most meetings in our “distributed workplace” are help online or on telephone, so I shameless multi-tasked through many meetings.

The relative weight of each of these three is both arguable and varies at different institutions. But most Canadian universities seem to be weighted around 40/40/20%.

Now how did my net activities relate to these measurable outcomes?  Certainly one can make a note in one’s annual report about how many blog posts you have posted, how many Twitter followers you have engaged and if your how many hits on your presentations in Slideshare or YouTube – but these don’t count for much in themselves. And worse, they may be seen by faculty evaluation committees (especially those members who do not have a significant Net presence) as a waste of academic time.

I did bump into articles that were recommended on Twitter – I think for three of them I downloaded the citation into my reference manager- hopefully for appearance in future articles. Thus, some potential benefit to my publishing work for this year. I also tweeted and blogged, and copied the URLs into a research course that I am continuously updating -teaching work. And finally  my tweets and posts are bringing some limited fame and acknowledgement to Athabasca University and the Centre for Distance Education where I work- public service.  But pretty hard to make direct measurements of these activities on the ‘big three’ listed above.

Finally I had an interesting discussion with a colleague yesterday, musing about this issue and heard the very familiar complaint that he can hardly keep up with email and just doesn’t have time or interest in more net activities – reading or writing. Unless of course, he gets a filtered recommendation on something from myself or other colleagues.

So, today I wondering how the question of how much effect does Net presence and activity have on academic careers could be empirically resolved. Of course, it isn’t very likely that a control group, longitudinal  experiment could be done, so one would likely have to settled for correlational data. But what data counts – Number of posts? number of followers? Number of “retweets”? and what would be the dependent variables- time to promotion to tenure and/or full professor, number of keynote and invited presentations?, number of articles pushed? number of citations or H-index from Google Scholar?  Probably the H-index would be easiest, but there are many questions about Google Scholar- none of which are resolved by the lack of transparency in the way items get counted.i

I can certainly think of super star academics (- in our field George Siemens, Grainne Conole, Tony Bates, Steve Wheeler and dana boyd come mind) who have good academic ratings and are very active on a number of platforms. But I can think of an equal number of strong academics (Randy Garrison, Manuel Castells, Michael Moore and Phil Abrami)  who to my knowledge have no or very limited net presence. Looking at the names I’ve listed I see there MAY be a small correlation with age, but certainly there are many exceptions.

So let me throw this out to researchers on the net. How do you measure the value of net presence on academic career success?

Hmmm, I wonder what the academic value of this musing has been.

 

 

3 Bears Story

I had the pleasure of driving from my home in Edmonton through the Rocky Mountains and back en route to the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education in Kamloops BC.  It was a great trip partly because I got to show this spectaual scenery to two friends – Albert Sangra form the Open University of Catalonia and Stefan Stenbom from  KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

I’ve been going to the Rockies since I was a kid and my parents served as house parents in a number of Canadian Youth Hostels on the road from Banff to Jasper.  Arguably this Ice Fields Parkway is one of, if not the most scienic paved highway in the world. Despite the many trips I’ve made to the mountains, I have never seen a live grizzly bear (though many black bears).  Perhpas just to impress my European friends on this trip we saw not one, but two grizzlies and a black bear thrown in for good measure – a regular mountain safari!

Grizzly #1
Grizzly #1
Grizzly #2

Black Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second grizzly was a bit further away, but showed off his height a couple of times by standing up on his hind paws to scratch his back on a tree.

Of course we had to take the giant snow machine ride up onto Athabasca Glacier (sadly in retreat these years) and ventured out on to the new GlacierSkywalk– a glass floored walkway cantilevered  918 feet above the valley floor.

IMG_9295
On the Athabasca Glacier
Glacier Skywalk
Glacier Skywalk

All in all a great spring trip, with good friends – one of whom, Stefan, is a great photographer!

My Solstice Epistle – Personal

A break from tradition and sending this annual post publicly this year.

Dec. 2013

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Family

Fast away another year has passed and it is time to recollect and share our lives with those we see too little of!  Thus the Annual Christmas/Solstice Epistle below:

The year 2013 began with reflective time as we mourned the passing of my Mother and Grandmother Ethel. In many ways she was “ready to go” but after she died,  I realized I may not have been ready to let her go. In any case, life goes on, but it was a different Christmas and New Years without her.

My first trip of the year  was to do a keynote at a Thailand E-Learning Conference in Bangkok that turned to be somewhat eventful. The weeks before, Sue and I had attended a study on Buddhism at our Unitarian Congregation and learned that the First Noble Truth was that all life is suffering. Being a relatively healthy, happy, overconfident, middle (barely) aged guy, I had to put my hand up and say that I didn’t really think of my life as all suffering. A week later in Northern Thailand I was struck down with an acute gastritis attack and spent 2.5 days in a hotel room watching Thai television and suffering!!

I survived the winter with a bit of skiing, a few good books, a bit of music (I’m picking away at the hammer dulcimer lately) and the usual teaching, marking and grad student advising. Sue continues to work at her two counseling positions. She is a partner in the Community Counseling Centre and sees a diverse set of clients with a host of concerns and issues. Her initial focus on suicide issues has expanded with her practice to include couples, family and individual counseling. She also travels to Leduc once a week for work with Karuni a variety of clients at a counseling service run by a friend.

Solanna has remained in Vancouver and is now working at The BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/Aides research and is a qualitative research working on assessing a variety of strategies for AIDES control and prevention. Her partner Andres, successfully completed a Web Design program at BCIT and has been developing web sites for a variety of clients.  His latest was a 3 month contract to develop a Spanish web site for the World Bank and he is now in Washington DC fulfilling that contract.  Both Solanna and Andres will be home for the holiday so we look forward to hearing of their adventures in the US capital.

Leif continues to pursue his degree in Philosophy and Psychology at Grant McEwen University.  He spent a good summer tree planting in Central BC and then rented a small apartment in an historic apartment building in Rossdale, not far from our home.

Our long term tenant Dwight has moved out to his own apartment after 12 years with us, and we are relieved to say that he seems to be doing OK on his own. So, the Anderson nest is empty and we are enjoying the freedom associated with that and have a spare bedroom.

Our big event from the past year was to accept an offer to be a visiting professor for two months at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona Spain. Barcelona is a truly amazing City and we fell in love with the architecture (especially the Sagrada Familia Basilica), the people, the food and the climate. We had our first taste of high-rise living, on the 20th floor of an apartment overlooking the city and the harbour. My work tasks at UOC included giving 5 talks, consulting with a variety of masters, PhD and project teams and leading an evaluation team for their E-Learn Centre. This was our longest time away from Canada and it was a great change and opportunity for both touristing and getting to know our Catalonian colleagues and their families.  Despite our challenges with the Spanish Internet servers, and with lots of help from our Catalonian friends, Sue was also able to maintain contact with 7 of her clients using telephone and Skype.

The summer found us for 10 great days with Susan’s Father at his cabin near Blind River, Ont.  He is well and we connected with Susan’s brothers.  We had a great drive back home across the prairies. However, WARNING don’t get home with 1 Audio CD left (of 10 in the series) in a such a gripping novel, that you can’t now bother to find out the ending.

My summer continued with a week bare-boating a 30 Catalonia sailboat out of Nanimo and except for the Captain (me) running us aground briefly it was a great trip.  Finally, all four of the Anderson Bros and their partners rendezvoused in Canmore for a week of bicycle riding, hikes, hot tubs, laughs and talks. I was relieved to actually try an extended bike trip (well 30 kms. anyways) and find it was fun, and not too taxing. Of course, I didn’t try to pass my younger brothers!

This Fall found us back at work, busy with Westwood Unitarian Church activities (Sue is on the Board and I edit the newsletter). I was also back on the keynote circuit with visits in Mexico, Costa Rica, China, Germany and Spain.

Which brings us back to preparations for the coming festivities.

We hope this Season is special for you and your families and that you find the peace, the quiet and the rest of many warm winter evenings.

All the best!

Terry

Two Days, three Museums, two Cathedrals and 576 Kms on the Costa Del Azaharhone

This is my first blog post from my 2 month position as a visiting professor at the open University of Catalonia (UOC). UOC is a 100% distance University (like Athabasca U.) but founded not as a correspondence university, but as an online university in 1997.  There is a large open university (UNAD) in Madrid but UOC was founded with a mission to teach in Catalonian (think Quebec) – though to reach the Latin American market they teach in Spanish and of course, some graduate programs in the lingua franca – English.

My tasks at the University are to meet with grad students about their thesis, meet with various faculty about “hot” research topics of the day -notably MOOCs and do presentations at 4 conferences.  UOC has an E-Learn Research Centre which undertakes and champions elearning research, teaches a Masters and a PhD program in E-learning and is responsible for faculty development at the University. I chair the E-learn Centre’s International Advisory Committee which meets annually (next week) to provide assessment and other collegial advice to the Centre and to the University.  The rest of the time, I chat informally with staff – who are very helpful whenever Sue and I get into problems and thanks to the Internet, keep up my duties at Athabasca – time shifted by 8 hours.

Susan has had six or so sessions by telephone with her counseling clients, but getting to SKYPE video conferencing has been a problem to date from home. Speaking of which, the University rented us a great apartment (our first experience of high rise living) on the 20th floor.  As I write I get a terrific view of the boats anchored off the Barcelona harbour, the old Gothic quarter, the mind blowing Gaudi Sagrada Familie and the Tibidabo mountain that broods over the City. Hopefully tomorrow, we get Internet at home – and I can post this blog!

The title of this blog comes from our most recent trip to Valencia. We have twice rented cars and driven first North – Costa Blanca and last weekend south to Valencia. We began last weekend’s adventure, by me forgetting we had the car for Friday evening and arriving on Saturday morning  to pick up the car, but they were all out of GPS systems. But we had the faithful Iphone (more later) so we ventured forth with and the car rental map and my faithful navigator Sue (when she remembers to put on her reading glasses on) guiding the adventure. Continue reading

God’s Hotel: A doctor, a hospital and a pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine

A book review:

I stumbled onto this book in the public library and I guess the title first attracted me.  But fear not, the book does no proselytizing and contains no fantasy stories, nor stories of religious delusions, nor superstitions.  Rather, the story is a learned critique of modern scientific medicine, has a glimpse into Hildegard of Benign – the 12 century patron saint of holistic health types and nova spiritual seekers, and it provides a wealth of personal and informed insight into the politics of American health care for the poor. Add to this mix, an account of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and you have a great auto-autobiography.

This is the story of a Victoria Sweet, a modern physician, experienced in American hospital care, who embarks on a PhD study  of  the “slow medicine” and the Four Humours that constituted medical diagnosis and treatment throughout the middle ages up until the mid 19th century, when modern ideas and doctor supremacy became “best practices”.  Dr Sweet of course doesn’t get to, nor does she aspire to turn her back on the many diagnostic and treatments provided by modern medicine, yet she describes her growing awareness of the need for compassion, hands on physical examinations and just sitting with patients.

God’s Hotel, is a euphemism for the charitable almshouse, first established by medieval monks and nuns for the care of those not able to care for themselves and with no family to care for them.  These low tech county hospitals have all but disappeared in America, but were once an established part of social care giving in each county in the USA.  Dr Sweet shares  insights as a ward doctor at San Francisco’s Laguna Honda hospital as it is transformed from a long term, but active rural treatment hospital complete with gardens and barns into a modern public hospital. As you might suspect, the transformation is not all positive!

Two things I most enjoyed about the book were the way Dr Sweet recounts the lessons that individual patients (and the occasional hospital administrator) taught her as her job as a hospital doctor evolved. Secondly, was the etymological references that are sprinkled through the text, reminding me of how much our language, in addition to our practices are influenced by older understandings of medicine, politics and the world.

This book will make an ideal read (or a gift) for anyone involved in health care –either traditional or “new age”. For those outside of health care, like myself, it helped me to appreciate the lessons of life taught by the ‘bad girls and boys’, (patients with long histories of substance and life style abuse),  the administrators, the terminally ill and those with nowhere else to go. Highly recommended.