Happy New Year!

Oh boy did we have fun!

Anu & Marc’s party at their place at North Station was just fabulous. HAPPY NEW YEAR Everyone!


Here we have our favorite Austrian, Marc Vogg, happy host, greeting some rock star in the hallway. You never know who you will meet on Causeway Street!


The Party was a classic. Great food. Fun music. There were toasts. There was interpretive dancing. There was general dancing. There was air guitar. Did I mention the schnapps contest?

We had a great view of the fireworks going off over the Harbor.





My buddy Pete Coleman came in from the burbs where he and his wife Heather were visiting her parents. She would have come but was knocked back from a cold she probably picked up while working late night in Paris, negotiating for Oxfam during COP21 (She is their lead on Climate). Our host Anu is here in the middle. We are all UVMers…well, Heather is thus Pete kinda counts!


They had arranged quite a spread! I can still taste the great combo of olives and cheeses…and other goodies!

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Even the folks at Boston Properties were able to get in on the act and facilitate a little “16” on the Pru Tower!



Can’t even get started with this one [below]!

I heard there were reports of some kind of wandering minstrels taking over the elevators for a couple of rides with the neighboring party-goers…


It was a heckuva party. Thank you Marc & Anu and all the lovely folks who were able to make it out to share the superb celebration.

And then, a new day dawned:


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Dorms for Grownups!

My friend Jas posted this from the Atlantic – regarding microunit complexes with shared amenities in Syracuse.

I like the idea of creating neighborhood-ness in a building, and especially repositioning a failing commercial structure for residential. Probably couldn’t happen in Boston or NYC, but the article is a team in Syracuse, and there are plenty of places like that with trouble in their CBDs.

It seems a lot like Civekos, but still not for social benefit professionals.

I asked Janelle about it and she said “It’s just SRO with ping-pong” and I shouldn’t worry about it. But I am going to worry about it and how to make it happen in 2016!

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Fun Time along the Appalachian Trail: to Sky Meadows


It was the good old Thanksgiving Weekend in DC (metro DC that is) visiting all the Lee clan. On the Saturday, my dad and uncle Tink took a trip out to Virginia to find a hiking trail. Well, I didn’t get us to the originally intended trailhead. And then the one I found didn’t have space for one more car, so we passed by that one too. We were back on a main road and I suddenly saw another little pocket of parking. I knew the AT was crossing the road at some point nearby. Well, we parked and started up the trail that was indeed there. And we found a great place for a ramble!


Take a look at the full collection here.

Up from VA Rt. 17 at Ashby Gap. About an hour to get to the first junction – which then led 20 minutes to open up onto the northern stretches of the Sky Meadows. Then, in the mowed hill-top fields, we wandered another half hour or more to find a lunch spot.







Cool rocks had been set up for the picnic area…IMG_0554



Somewhere out there I think I could see Old Rag – but hard to get in a photo.






Then back the way we came, into the trees.



It was a great time to get out with these two gents. One, generally very talkative, kinda slowed down and enjoyed the wander. The other, generally a bit more kept to himself, started talking about how magical the place was, how he’d never seen such trees, how awesome it was to get out on the trail…! All good!

And then we found the vintage Dr. Pepper vending machine at a farm-stand-market on the way back to Leesburg. Good times!



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Inspiration in DC – Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial

–> I have to admit: I teared up –> We made our way to the Lincoln Memorial and joined the throng of tourists on the steps, looking out. Then the most amazing thing happened. An asian man bent over the inscription in the stone at our feet, opened a bottle of water, and delicately poured it out over the words. The words were “I have a dream” (see below). He proceeded to explain, in a tongue I could not understand, but which was full of care and passion, the story of the March on Washington and that day of August 28, 1963. A couple recognizable terms like “America” and “King” fluttered amid the staccato words and broad gestures of his arms. What I assumed as his family, right in front of us, nodded and acknowledged. He was intent on sharing his knowledge of this big moment in US history. I had never heard the story in that way, I had never been standing there at that spot. It was the best way I could ever hear it. I had never known how truly transcendent that notion is – that as people put down and release themselves from their _differences_, “…all people will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”











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Greenbuild in DC! A Rockin’ Good Time!

After months of anticipation, Greenbuild was happening!

I was thrilled to plan a journey to Washington for this exciting gathering of our tribe of green building professionals. And it lived up to the thrills.

It really got me thinking about how we are going to organize to make a real success of Greenbuild 2017 when it comes to Boston! That is really a motivating force for me and my team.

We rented a house for the Chapter – for a variety of people to stay at and hang out as a base of operations, about two block or 7 minutes north of the Convention Center. It was in the middle of the rapidly changing Shaw neighborhood, which has a lot more history and dynamics to explore. I enjoyed a few new restaurants and looking at all the new development in the NOMA area south of the convention center, north of Union Station. DC is big time. Very cool to visit.

And the convention itself was such a great gathering of good old colleagues – wow! Nice to connect with so many wonderful people from across the country and the world.

You can see a bigger collection of my photos here.

There are a variety of things that happen at Greenbuild. Below is one of the main plenary sessions on affordable housing and sustainable communities. We heard from many within USGBC about the programs we are bringing forth, especially ADVANCE, to support the bigger agenda on that front.


One of the more awesome programs was from this pair from Oakland CA discussing their book “The New Better Off” which went into some of my favorite topics related to cooperatives, the sharing economy and the pairing of sustainability with empowerment. Courtney Martin, gesturing below, is still working on the book but here’s an article on the theme (referencing my fav, Fritz Schumacher).


Here’s the A-Team – Alana, Celis and Grey in front of our AirBnB rental on 8th at P street.


This is the main nexus of the convention center – taken from the main staircase that goes up to the ballroom/plenary halls. Out the doors in the center one spills out towards the vibrant Chinatown area with loads of restaurants and so forth. And the portrait gallery of course.


And here’s the trade show floor. They actually had security preventing people from taking pictures from up above the hall as you enter. But, I, being crafty and quick, found a gap in the wall as the escalator descends and snapped this one. And there you have Brendan Owens (center in black vest), the Director of LEED or whatever he is – big shot in the creation and evolution of LEED. Hi Brendan!

The trade show had a ton of great vendors. Loads of people visiting. It was fun to do the rounds introducing myself to our sponsors and collecting cards of some sponsor leads. I did hear rumors that it wasn’t as well attended as anticipated. It was located 15 minutes from everything, even though it was in the same building. If it had been easier to get to, more people would have attended. I wasn’t sure what the logic was – if it’s harder to get to does that mean people head over and stay longer? Or would there be some benefit of having it closer and people able to come and go more easily? I think the logic played for this one was somehow flawed, but I’m not a convention designer so what do I know!?


Quite importantly, the conference is full of educational sessions for general edification and of course credential maintenance. The session below was on the old chestnut “Green Leasing” and how to avoid the “split incentive” of landlords not caring about energy efficiency upgrade efforts because they are passing it on to tenants and the costs are so little compared to other tenant issues that a lease decision is rarely swayed by anticipated energy costs. One of the messages from Brad Molotsky was that tenants are starting to care when they line up their corporate social responsibility agenda with their property agenda…so let’s get going!


And then, there is of course the networking. The schmoozing at Greenbuild is as good as I have ever known it to be in any industry, but especially vibrant because the people are from all parts of the real estate industry. Very fun and generally caring people – we are all involved in this thing because we care about the mission, the fundamental effort to transform society toward sustainability and the massive effort that changing the industry will take. Below is a group shot from the BOLD Awards party which we brought our MA Chapter peeps to attend. Great times. Some people even did some bowling!


And here is our “Chapter Portrait” from in front of the big GREENBUILD sign. We were a bit harried and rushed here – perhaps we could have done a better job. But here it is. It was great to see all these people even though we knew there were ten times as many from MA at the show. And other parts of New England I’m sure.

We’ll do better at Greenbuild in LA, of course.


This is from one of the big plenaries when the old and new USGBC Boards of Directors were acknowledged and thanked for all their effort on behalf of the organization. Nice work, Team! Our buddy Chris Schaffner of The Green Engineer is waving to us!


And yet the partying continued – this time in the Portrait Gallery’s atrium which was an outdoor courtyard last time I was there. Quite a nice set up indeed! I won’t belabor the point about the parties…you probably should just plan on attending one of these things.

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And here we have “The Rikka!” – Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC CEO, who is stepping down in a year to open up more space for more potential. He has, with the Board, selected Mahesh Ramunajaram (current COO) to take on the CEO position. That must have been quite an interesting effort of discernment.



I can’t leave a blog about a big event in DC without a definitive pic of DC! This is at the Newseum, the great museum about news and reporting and current events right on Pennsylvania Ave near the National Gallery (in center) with the Capitol obvious. It is quite lit up because it is all behind scaffolding – luckily that aids this picture rather than detracting. The Newseum party was really awesome and somehow I scored VIP tickets and go myself into a conversation with the CEO of the sponsor Kohler and Jack Spengler of Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health among others. Always a pleasure to work the crowd and try to get more people to think about what we’ve got going on in Massachusetts.


So do take a look at the bigger collection of pictures on Flickr through the link above, and feel free to ask any questions as we plan involvement in Greenbuild in the next coming years. We are ready to Rock!

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The Carter Ridge – Wet, Cold and Lovely!

At the end of October, the Green Building Mountaineering Club got going again, heading up to the north country to take another jaunt in the woods.

We left at 5am and raced up I-93 through Franconia Notch, up over the Presidentials along Rt. 2 to Gorham and down 16 toward Pinkham Notch.

The destination was the three 4000’+ Carter peaks, North, Middle and DOME, so we could each add to our bagged-peak list. I’m now at 30 of the 48 in NH. Need to schedule a few more hikes!

The crew this time was split as two members could only make it for the day on Saturday. That was Ben Myers (mech. eng. & prop. development) and Peter Zink (prof. of materials science). The rest made it overnight and all the way down on Sunday. That would be Shawn Hesse (architect), Luka Multnovic (building engineer), Ethan Lay-Sleeper (urban planner) and Vince (architect), and myself (broker & promoter).

Here are a few pictures from the trip (I also put a bunch of photos on flickr so you could enjoy):


We found the very cool soil frost phenomena along the trail. Winter is coming!


PZ and G Lee having a laugh during lunch on the top of North Carter.


Great crew up there! Ethan in red cap, Vince, Peter, Luka, Grey, Ben in the shadow, and Shawn!


Although it looks quite like a dome, this is actually the ridge between North and Middle Carter. We would soon bid farewell to the day-hikers and get on toward Zeta Pass and the long hike up to the real Carter Dome. It was still a fine afternoon at this point, but at 3pm the sun is already quite low. And we had…quite a ways to go!


Fine day, and that is Washington’s peak behind me. Nice!


And there’s Madison, Adams and Jefferson. Just a few months ago I was shirtless looking out across the Great Gulf Wilderness (the stuff under Jefferson) – during our Prezzie Traverse. Nice to see the peaks from this near vista.


There were a lot of neat things growing in the rocks along the trail…


And such fine views! That would be Maine out there.



Soon, we would leave the ridge and get to the next pass. With the night coming on, we skipped Mt. Height (I’ve done it already) and proceeded along to the Dome.

Shawn says Yo!


Near the top of the straight shot from Zeta to the Dome, there is a little lookout. Wow. Nice to see the Prezzies from so high. It would be all downhill, finally, from here. I was pretty happy at this moment!


We descended as the cloud cover descended – into some really dicey stuff!











And made it to the pond at Carter Notch. Really sweet to be in here. I’ve actually only been here in deep cloud. Sort of scary. But a great tent site up above this point and we had a great camp dinner. Mac-n-cheese as I recall. A few flasks passed around. Very cold. We had a fire. It rained.

That was a great 11-mile day.


In the morning, still more clouds and mists. We went over to the Carter Notch Hut and made breakfast in their yard. Then we wandered into the Ramparts – these crazy chunks of rock from some certainly interesting geological story…like a playground really. Strange middle-earth trees coming up out of this old giants’ battlefield…



And then we got going again, up up and away onto Wildcat A – the fourth 4000 footer we’d ascend, and the highest of the ridge for Sunday.



Fine day for a stroll up and about.


It was a long slog going down Wildcat’s west side. It had been 45 minutes to jam up to A from the tent site, then about an hour along the ridge. And two hours to go the just-over-a-mile coming down.



But we found a rainbow in the mists:


And finally, off the mountain, we found SaALT – the best restaurant in Gorham, NH. It opened right at 5pm as we arrived and filled rapidly. Mmmm! Good. We devoured about $250 of beer and fabulously fatty food in an hour and a half. Damn Good.


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A Fantastic Time for a Showcase!

On October 1st, my organization, the USGBC MA Chapter, held a fantastic big fundraising event – the Green Building Showcase!



Take a look at more of the photos here.


I really enjoy being the MC for events like this.


I hope you can come to one of these in the future. It is a great community of green building practitioners, all dedicated to the transition of our built environment toward sustainability and social justice. And we like to have a lot of fun!

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The 2015 MS Challenge Walk with my cousins!

Finally I was going to be a part of it – the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Challenge Walk! For ten years now, my cousins Erin and Rainey have been organizing “Team Jenny” on account of their sister who is living with MS.  Every year at Thanksgiving, or any other family gathering like a wedding or when I’m passing through DC where there is a critical mass of my extended family, I have been saying: Yes, I want to be on Team Jenny! And yet, years pass and I haven’t been able to do it. So two years ago I said I would, but then there was a work event that week. So this year I had to bust out all the stops and make it happen.

So, I bought a plane ticket and got my fundraising page organized. I was going to be a part of the Challenge Walk of 2015.

Interesting side note: usually it is in DC, marching past monuments and back and forth across the Potomac. This year, the organizers decided to connect the DC, Maryland, and Philly-area MS Society Chapters and run the event on the Eastern Shore (of Maryland). It was going to be a little different, but I was still game to check it out, as the important thing is to spend time with the cousins.

Thank you to all the generous supporters who enabled me to meet my $1000 fundraising goal!

  • Christopher Avery
  • Margaret Butler
  • Erin Counihan
  • Darien Crimmin
  • John Dimodica
  • Melissa Franks
  • Alex Lee
  • Benny Lee
  • Bruce Lee
  • Doug Levine
  • Errol Mazursky
  • Norie Mozzone
  • Tom Reid
  • Laura Resteghini
  • Charlotte Rohter
  • Elizabeth Saunders
  • Christopher Schaffner
  • Yutaka Tamura
  • Anu Yadav
  • Pramy Yadav
  • Sanjeev Yadav

My team  was delightful. We walked about 12 miles the first day, which was cut short of the original 20mi goal due to torrential rain, and we did about 9 miles the next day. I have to admit, I was a little sore as we wound up really speed-walking on that second day. I’m not used to completely flat courses I guess!

We had a lot of fun; I am looking forward to doing the Challenge Walk again next year!

Thank you to all who helped make it happen, especially Erin and Rainey who organized it all!

This is the vista from the plane of DC proper. I really like DC.


Once in DC, after a quick visit and a couple of work meetings on L street, I got picked up by Erin and her friends who were joining us and we headed out of town, over the Bay Bridge, into the countryside.


Here’s a picture from when I flew out and had a view of the Eastern Shore (looking SE in this pic – where I walked is in the far (top) right of the pic) – this is the piece of land between the Chesapeake and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also known as the DelMarVa Peninsula as it hosts Delaware and chunks of Maryland and Virginia (the southern tip is VA). It’s an interesting place. The bridge is connecting Annapolis to the Eastern Shore and is what all the DC-area people use to get out to the beaches, about 3h w/o traffic from the metro area.


This is what the territory looks like. Lots of soy and cornfields.


Once we got to the hotel later that evening, after dinner in Easton’s cute little village center, we registered and got our kits. It included these lovely purple “Top Crab” shirts for people who had raised over $1000 – so thank you again donors, I am officially indeed a Top Crab!


And we had the official TEAM JENNY shirts as well:


We were all a little giddy about our preparations and all the funny costume pieces. And it was a hoot to be the one dude with all these fabulous ladies!


The next morning, things looked good for a big day out!




Here we are getting ready at the starting line!



It was pretty, there in Cambridge, Maryland, looking into an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay.








It was about 500 walkers from all over the region, organized into various other goofy teams. Not quite Burning Man, but some of the same enthusiasm and friendliness, really!








The path took us through a variety of neighborhoods and at least one upscale golf resort, right along the water. There were a lot of jellyfish in addition to goofballs.


We continued to walk through the winding pathways along water and along highways until…the sky opened up and we had a total washout!


The organizers cancelled the second half of the walk for that first day and we went back to the base – the hotel on the highway. I didn’t have any pictures of this whole episode as I wrapped my camera in a few plastic bags and stopped using it. But it was still pouring when we got back! Below is the hotel’s back parking lot where our revival-style tent was set up for the BBQ.


It was a great meal enjoyed by a bunch of wet walkers, who were still quite cheerful!


After eating, we had a great session hearing testimonials from folks who were also living with MS, who had been recently diagnosed to long-term survivors. We heard stories about what it was like in the 80’s when the only intervention was steroids, to now, where there are a variety of therapies and doctors are much better able to make diagnoses. It was good to hear from survivors, family members, loved ones of departed patients, and other supporters. It was quite moving, really.


The next day was a lot sunnier and things dried out.






The non-walking supporters of Team Jenny had been designated to create a “Rest Stop” for all the walking teams and this was ours in St. Michaels toward the middle of the second day. Jenny and husband Rob were helped by their son Jack, her parents (my aunt & uncle) Maxine & Gene, and various other spouses, offspring and significant others, as you can see below. It was a real peppy rest stop and kept us going through to the end…which was good…because it started raining again!





But we made it to the finish line, got our medallions and get onto the bus. There was actually a local church group singing a variety of songs to welcome us to the final 100 yards.


And we got on the bus and headed back to the hotel, for a final rally and more food, and to dry off again. I can’t wait to get with these folks again for the 2016 Challenge Walk!



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I freaking LOVE HAY

There was this one day, in Austria, when I really fell in love. I’m not talking about the Fraulein from the Gasthof Adler – though my heart did go a-flutter…but…love was in the air for another reason.

It was the smell of HAY!

It was the day we went to the wedding reception of Anu & Marc, up in the mountains of Voralberg. From our base in Feldkirch, I hitched a ride with a delightful pair of guests, Marc’s Hong Kong friend Mar (of Barcelona) and her partner Marc (also Barca). We were heading to Schoppernau, a little village in the middle of nowhere, where we would stay the night after the reception at some hunting lodge even further into nowhere.

It was a gorgeous day, and the sun had been good to the fields this summer. And the grass had grown. And now was time for the local farmers to hit the jam and make the hay come in.

[I posted more photos on flickr here – enjoy the whole reel]



Everywhere, usually on the downhill side of the road, the fields were ready for this, my favorite agricultural activity. Look at those neat windrows of dried grass, ready for baling!


It was clear these parts needed to store up hay for long winters. Every little piece of land, and some I would have not tried to clear, had been, over the centuries, turned into nice hayfields.

Not a lot of veggie growing around here. This was dairy country!

[It was also stunningly beautiful…about the best car ride I’ve had in a while.]


Here are my friends Mar & Marc – we stopped at the pub in town, well, at the base of the gondola. The Bergenbahn. Love the german terminology.

The waiter was a gruff looking but friendly fellow who wanted to practice his spanish – from his days skiing in Argentina. The beers were large and just right for a hot day.

But I was missing haying. Carl Dickson would have fit right in here.



Out behind the pub, in an immense field, I started to realize the differences between haying in Voralberg and haying in Middlesex County.

Notice in the distance a lone figure. He is pushing a massive walk-behind mower, which has a sickle bar as the cutter attachment at the front. The dude is going to cut the field walking on his own two feet!


I was trying to get a shot of a family gathering in the parking area behind me. It was definitely a “hay-huddle” among the older folks and the my-age folks. These people are serious about hay. They even hay their front yard!

Notice the windrows of cut hay on the hillside in the background. I like the massive snow-protective overhang of the barn in the center. Notice the solar panels on the roof behind my head. I like this place a lot.


Here’s another interesting thing. No, not the beautiful mountain in the background, but the little hay-wagon-truck picking up the windrow. It was basically a truck that drives along gobbling up the hay and packing it into a massive bale in the payload. This thing was cruising – 30 seconds to clear a 300m row or something like that. Whew!


Here’s another piece of awesome: the tedder (the instrument that fluffs up the hay by sort of twirling it around – to help it dry the day after it’s been cut) has its own machine – the super low-profile mini-tractor-kart below. With glare shield!

What I’m realizing is that in a place where there is no soil cultivation, no ploughing and so forth, the machinery can be different. You don’t need all the horsepower of a tractor, and thus, you use specialized equipment just for haying. I was amazed.


And the wonders would not cease!

Here’s three generations taking the brought-in hay and helping get it into the barn’s loft – with a special hay elevator! No crappy clackety-clack conveyor chains, here is a hydraulic lift to bring the bundles up into the dry storage for winter. Love this!

[It looks like it’s going into an inn or something – this is an optical illusion of the hotel building closer to me, with the barn behind it. Though I wouldn’t put it past them to have hay storage in the tops of hotels in this town!]


One thing I really like about hay is that it’s like taking summer’s solar energy and capturing it for the critters to eat through the winter. Cheese is like concentrated sunlight. Sun to fields to cows to milk to cheese to YUM!

I can’t say it enough. This was the most magical and delightful landscape I’ve ever been in. Look at all that hay!


And everyone was out and about helping out! I was very close to running over to volunteer…



There goes another little hay-kart, with a rack creating windrows from the downed hay. Probably was only cut the day before – it was so hot and dry out, and this being second cutting, very light and thin.

And what an amazing work setting to be in!

Shortly, I had to catch my ride up to the hunting lodge for the main event of the Weddingmoon – but someday, I’ll have to come back  in late August to be sure I can schedule a little agricultural tourism with the hay farmers of Schoppernau!


I just LOVE HAY!


Extra bonus: the great song from the local band HMBC that one of the wedding guests shared with me: “Vo Mello to ge Schoppernou

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A Special Time in Bugarach, Rousillon, France (Pays de Cathares)

I was lucky to be able to catch up with my old friend from grad school, Ioana Sandi, at her place in the south of France. In the southwest of France. I tend to think of “the South of France” – as in that song by the Grateful Dead, or in a reference in a Bond movie, or in general otherwise, as “somewhere near Nice” or more exotically “somewhere near Frejus” or “St. Tropez…”at any rate not where I’ve actually been recently.

My south of France is the other side of le Midi, the side toward the other erupted mountains of the African/European mash-up, the Pyrenees, the land of d’Oc, or the Languedoc, and this place near Carcassonne…heading up into the foothills…to Aix les Bains…further into the folds…the land of the Cathar Knights…a whole history of separation…but a place of gathering energy…

What I’m getting at is: BUGARACH!


My friend Ioana, originally of Bucharest, bought this place about 5 years ago. I had the privilege of visiting in its first winter when they were just starting to fix it up. Actually it was the second winter, first full winter. And getting from Lisbon to Lyon via Bugarach is another story entirely…for another time.

Now, Ioana, with husband Steven, and little Lydia, have fixed up quite a beautiful spot.


But it was bittersweet to be visiting, because this was now the end of their adventure in France; they were moving back to Britain to find better schooling options for Lydia, and her soon-to-arrive sister. It is wonderful they will be in Stroud, a Berkeley or Portlandia type town between Bristol and Bath, but it is indeed sad to be leaving this spot. I think we’ll all have to rent it from the new owners and visit sometime!

So this weekend I happened to be passing through, I was able to join the neighbors and surrounding friends – locals and expats and travelers like me – for a wonderful fete with plenty of food, songs, and a big fire!


It was wonderful to spend time with them and recall good times in London during our LSE days, and to reconnect about real estate, education, the meaning of life, and all sorts of good things in a short lovely while. Thank you Ioana and Steven! See you soon!


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