New Year's Virtual Party 2021/2

Welcome, all, to 2021's virtual New Year's Eve retro LiveJournal celebration. 

First, I'd like to pause for a moment and hold space for all those who have suffered or passed on in 2020/2021, whether from Covid-19, other illnesses, injustice, economic chaos, and anything else. I acknowledge it's been a difficult year for many people. 

If the best you could do in these past years was survive and hold onto hope, grace, and mercy, to the possibility of creating a better future, then that's an accomplishment. 

As a way to slow the spread of disease and be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or geographical location, we're celebrating online. 

And we invite everyone to click for free, without providing personal information, on GreaterGood, a network of advertiser-supported sites that donate cash towards hunger relief, environmental preservation, and medical research. https://greatergood.com/clicktogive/ggc/home

So, let's imagine a different, softer, richer, more creative and elegant world. 

The sun blazes overhead, warming us as we wander through the native vegetation and shrubbery. We plant seeds for trees that will either endure over centuries or serve as a temporary flush of beauty and a carbon sink, and we are okay with either possibility. 

We enter a sprawling mansion that's full of many rooms, each in a different architectural style, but blended seamlessly into each other. 

Howard County Museum and former mansion in Indiana, USA
Howard County Museum and former mansion in Indiana, USA
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Retro New Year's Party Invite!

Hey! Is there anyone out there who had a LiveJournal back in the day or who wants to start one up now? I had NYE plans that got upended due to Omicron and would like to throw a retro virtual party on LiveJournal where we chat with each other and virtually describe what we imagine we'd do at an in-person event. This was a tradition of mine back in LiveJournal's heyday, I'd rush home every New Year so I could host this online. 

My old screenname was ladycatherina and my journal's still there. Let me know if you're interested and I'll friend you on LJ so you can show up (anytime between 6pm and 12am PST on New Year's Eve!) Or if we're already LJ-friends, please come and comment to join the party! You're welcome to describe what you're virtually wearing, what you'd like to sing or dance or share (poetry, book recommendations, etc) and the virtual potluck food that you're bringing. 

I'll describe the virtual imaginary party venue and decor and post photos of parties, fireworks, etc and we can trade links to music, photos, and cocktail, fruit juice and snack recipes.


Start with those you know. Yes, them! Social capital for authors.

Penguins in community

Been reading Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s guidebook for nonprofits adjusting to social media, The Networked Nonprofit. Most of the book discusses how to engage in social media as an official organization, when you have employees and schedules and rules. However, there’s one big concept in there which I’d say those using online media need to remember as much as those working mainly offline: social capital.

Social capital involves people becoming inspired to take action because people close to them are. Or, networking by using the resources available among their closest circle of family, friends and coworkers. For example, an unemployed person can draw upon social capital by asking the people they know who are working in their field if they know of any openings. Or, an organization or author can reach out to those they’re already close to or working with in some way for donations and sales.

If you received an email asking for contributions to an animal shelter, you’d probably pay more attention if it came from a friend or family member. Or, if you had money to donate at the end of the month, you’d likely first consider the organizations where you already volunteered or that had served you or those you knew in the past. A nonprofit fundraising seminar I attended a couple years back said that organizations often raised more cash by asking those already on their other mailing lists, who participated with them by volunteering, using services, etc to give than by just going after the wealthiest people to whom they had access.

That’s social capital in action, with the organizations building a relationship with you and those close to you and drawing upon it as a resource to help meet their clients’ needs. And authors can use their social capital to reach out to potential readers.

Rather than targeting random people with information about your book, start with those you already know. And get to know those you ‘sort of know’ better, in a real way that involves helping them and isn’t just about you.

An author is like a nonprofit or company, in that they and their books/products have a concept or basic idea (like a company or nonprofit mission), a style (like a brand), a new idea or need to fill (market niche) and readers, critics, bookstore owners (customers and clients) to serve. And an author, like a nonprofit or company manager, must communicate effectively (or hire someone who does) and stay relevant and financially sustainable in order to keep operating.

For those of you who say you write for the craft and don’t care about audience preferences…that’s fine also, publicity doesn’t have to involve watering down your craft, any more than it would for a high-end custom furniture craftsperson. It’s just a matter of letting the right people, who would appreciate and invest in your writing, know you exist, and developing continuing, mutual relationships with them.

And most authors can build upon social capital in a few ways.

In terms of offline relationships, don’t be afraid to let those closest to you know about your book and where to buy it. Don’t become a one-note monotone and overwhelm them, but don’t ignore them just because they’re your cousin, sister, brother, neighbor, friend, coworker, frisbee or dance team member, etc. Sometimes we try so hard to build a relevant audience, which is good and necessary, but we forget about those we already know. And I’m not saying make them feel they have to buy your book because they know you…just let them know it’s available and don’t assume they won’t.

For online relationships - many people have hundreds of ‘likes’ and fans, followers and Facebook friends. That’s great, but are you investing in those relationships? Do you update your pages and groups with new information at least once a week? That doesn’t have to mean writing a whole other novel online. Just a few helpful or funny links, a guest post from an author in your genre you admire, or a quiz, or a link to a relevant news article or information that would help your readers.

And, are you reaching out to people? Do you comment on other authors’ pages and like and share their work? Readers have room for many favorite authors in their chosen genres, and cross-promotion’s good for authors, to keep up morale in a solitary sport and help each other get noticed. Do you find the groups and pages where your potential readers belong, and engage them in discussion and answer their questions?

If you write fiction, start fun reminiscences about people’s childhood favorite books, or start discussions about the situations your characters face. If you write nonfiction, provide informational links about the topics of your books, and answer people’s questions. Don’t be squeamish about giving free advice, it lets people know you genuinely care about them and your topic, and gives a hint of what’s to come in your book. If you’re a poet, post a few sample poems and spotlight the writing of other poets you admire, and encourage your audience to write and share poetry of their own.

Looking forward to seeing how you build your own social capital! If you’d like help with this process, someone to handle a lot of the work and provide advice, please feel free to visit Authors, Large and Small online here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/authors-large-and-small

After Japanese courtier Sei Shonagon: How to Please Your Literary Publicist

Prose list essay, as inspired by Japanese courtier Sei Shonagon. Her essays are gently humorous, yet she makes a variety of good points.

Things Publicists Appreciate:

Clients who edit their books, more than once, to free them of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Clients who can’t afford editing, who revise their work and use spell check. Clients who can describe their book in two sentences without comparing themselves to famous authors or celebrities. Clients who have some ideas about publicity, but are open to us also having ideas.

Clients who respond promptly to email and phone calls. We know everyone’s busy but you should be reachable within a day or two since the journalists we contact for you also have deadlines. Clients who have open minds about potential audiences and methods of communication, who aren’t too cool for formal writing programs or old-style bloggers, or too traditional for social media. Clients who’ll send their books just as happily to family holiday gift guides as to academic bloggers, who’ll reach out to anyone requesting copies in good faith.

Clients who stay positive without unrealistic expectations. Who can go a few weeks without landing a review or seeing sales go up, who don’t start asking for advice on their wardrobe for going on Oprah. But who don’t get discouraged and abandon the project, and don’t go off into a drunken haze depressed that they’re failures or that the world isn’t good enough for their pure artistic souls.

Clients who stay polite and professional with the other folks we represent. Who know that a blogger or bookstore might do reviews and events with more than one person, and who don’t pick a fight if the other writer’s not their favorite.

Clients who enjoy the process, who ask how things are going, who brainstorm together with us and enjoy the wild adventure that is promoting a book!

Grandma's weird mood swings: the increasing role of emotion in elders' decision making

“I think I’ll just call tomorrow and cancel the appointment. There are lots of doctors around, people shouldn’t just drag me along to some weird person I’ve never heard of.”

This week, Grandma had a regular checkup with her primary care doctor at Kaiser, which we schedule every six months at the doctor’s request. I let Grandma know the day before the appointment, and she got quite upset that my mom had made this decision and given her only a day’s notice.

She later asked several very wise and practical questions about the physician, such as how many years of experience she had and what kind of medicine she practiced. However, no matter how clearly I explained the situation, she still could not remember that she saw this person a couple of times every year.

Wanting to honor and sympathize with her desire for control over her healthcare, I reassured her that the doctor had advanced medical training and plenty of experience, and reminded her that she had been very happy with her over the past years. Also I encouraged her to take the lead in the conversation and bring up any of her issues and concerns during the appointment.

Finally I suggested that Grandma just go and take advantage of the chance to speak with a doctor, since it was already scheduled and couldn’t hurt. Perhaps she saw the logic of that later on her own, although she disagreed verbally.

She eventually went along with us, and the appointment went pretty smoothly, although it took some firm coaxing to get her cleaned up and out the door that morning. But the experience, and similar decisions and statements on Grandma’s part related to clothes, exercises, food etc made me wonder about how aging may affect people’s methods of reasoning and making choices.

It might seem weird or frustrating to some people that someone would find it more important to assert their personal autonomy within the family than to exercise or receive healthcare. But a 2005 study by Drs. Mather and Carstensen, published in Trends in Cognitive Science, suggests that emotions and the pursuit of perceived emotional gratification play a much larger role in the decision making of the elderly than of younger adults.

The researchers compared senior citizens’ views of sample pairs of advertising slogans, and observed a distinct preference for the one with more emotion-laden content, while not observing this effect in younger subjects.The US government’s National Institute of Aging puts out a regular science and psychology report, which in July 2007 linked that study, and a few others by those and other researchers, into a context suggesting that emotional concerns become more crucial to the well-being of seniors as they get older. And no one has ever claimed that emotions are completely rational!

So perhaps it makes sense that at eighty-eight, my extremely practical and calm grandmother now experiences strange mood swings, no longer gets along with everyone, speaks her mind freely, and cares just as much about how information is presented to her as about its context.

And we’ll do our best to be honest yet empathetic with her, figuring out how to help her maintain privacy, dignity, and autonomy as much as possible while keeping her safe and clean.

Mara Mather and Laura Carstensen, “Aging and Motivated Cognition: the Positivity Effect in Attention and Memory,” Trends in Cognitive Science 9, no. 10 (2005): 496-502.

Recruiting more brainpower: the WHO's Dr. Abdinasir Abubakar on how to tackle nodding disease

Thomas Edison said that even seeming dead ends in his early electrical engineering work were steps forward: he’d discovered three thousand materials that couldn’t serve as lightbulb filaments and therefore had gotten closer to finding one that would.

Dr. Abdinasir Abubakar of the World Health Organization might say the same thing about nodding disease research in Uganda and Southern Sudan. Nodding disease, which causes seizures and brain atrophy in children 5-15 years old and is expected to eventually kill thousands of young people in the region, still has no known cause or cure.

When I interviewed him, he outlined several possible causal factors researchers have tested for so far through skin, urine, and blood samples from affected children: various parasitic infections, heavy metal poisoning, metabolic issues, genetic susceptibility to developing illness. So far the only commonality among patients seems to be infection with the Onchocheriasis Volvulus parasitic worm, but that’s prevalent in the region, including in plenty of areas without cases of nodding disease.

Future research directions include looking into the vitamin deficiencies sometimes observed in children with nodding disease and exploring the possible role of several toxic and infectious agents. And community health workers have been taught how to observe and survey families with sick children to collect epidemiological data.

In other words, the world’s leading medical organizations have sent several dedicated experts to look into this condition, but no one has found any conclusive leads. And, while Uganda hosts an international conference this month on nodding disease, no specific funds or organizations or even initiatives have been set aside just for the syndrome.

When asked how the rest of the world could assist with nodding disease research, Dr. Abubakar emphasized the need to recruit qualified scientists.

“Of course, readers and other good Samaritan people can contribute [money] through WHO, UNICEF, local organizations or other research institutions. But more important is the advocacy campaign to sensitize the researchers and clinicians to look into the NS problem and actively participate in the investigations.”

Uganda currently hosts an international conference on nodding disease research and treatment, with governmental and nonprofit researchers in attendance. Hopefully that, and the publicity efforts by Dr. Abubakar and others, will bring more brainpower to the table.

So, right now, maybe it’s up to the scientific communicators, and publicists and advocates, to propel nodding disease research forward by playing a role as vital as that of those working in the laboratory. All of us can inspire those with the necessary technical knowledge to get on board and work together to uncover causes and treatments.
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After the blaze: rescuing old firehoses from landfills

Invented by the ancient Greeks, the firehose represents an essential part of historical and modern lifesaving equipment. However, old hoses decay very slowly in landfills, as the woven polyester and nylon fabrics take awhile to break down.

Safety guidelines encourage fire departments to junk old hoses after about ten years, and some cities are replacing antique linen hoses with newer rubber-lined ones. So there's a constant supply of scrap fire hose material, which some companies now divert from the trash and reuse in creative ways.

Fire Hose Supply, in Richmond, California, sells old and scrap hoses to people and other small businesses for a wide variety of projects. Chicago urban planner and sculptor Theaster Gates uses their recycled fire hose material in his work rebuilding damaged parts of the city's infrastructure. You may view his projects at theastergates.com

Other Fire Hose Supply customers fashion pet care products, clothing, children's playground structures, iPhone cases, purses, exercise equipment, and climbing ropes out of hoses that otherwise would have been thrown away. The antique hoses also find new life as movie or theater props, when they look authentic but no longer hold water or resist flame.

London and other European cities also have growing markets for products from recycled firehoses. This type of environmentally sustainable business venture seems popular and promising.

Readers may visit Fire Hose Supply at http://www.firehosesupply.com for more information on their new and upcycled equipment.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! This is the truly democratic, inclusive holiday...other events this month seem focused on celebrating what some people possess and others don't (money, gifts, a particular faith, family, friends, etc) while everyone gets another year. You can be wealthy with fifteen swimming pools, middle-class, homeless, a student, a traveling bohemian or hippie or hipster or yuppie or tribesperson in sub-Saharan Africa, the greatest saint or the worst criminal or somewhere in between, or an ant or redwood tree or a rock or a Martian. And you still get a chance to forgive and move forward from the past and celebrate the possibility for good, creativity, new possibilities and all kinds of interesting stuff in the upcoming, unpredictable future.

Happy New Year...some songs for everyone's pleasure. Not everyone's tastes, sorry...but the lyrics are meaningful to me in some way.

Katy Perry's Firework: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TI18KxwbMk

PInk's Raise Your Glass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHtms9voyEg

Black Eyed Peas' Gotta Feeling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tiPAvmy3eA

Wallflowers' One Headlight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzIasfqlO1k

Sarah Brightman's War Is Over Now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikqY56XEbkw

Josh Groban's tribute to Vincent Van Gogh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsJzFwGVF5c

Andrea Bocelli's I Believe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_ycWN9vg6Q

Gigi's Utopia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp3EuCCcjdg

Gypsy Devils Orchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MS0tGDsMqs

Falling Slowly, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkFB8f8bzbY

Seasons of Love, from RENT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj7LRuusFqo

And of course, Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights, because this is the time of year that Heathcliff and Catherine find each other on the misty moors: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1pMMIe4hb4

And I Belong to the Earth, from the musical Wuthering Heights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHluVYGYonM
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You're invited to Synchronized Chaos Magazine's reception, July 30th from 5-10 pm at Muddy Waters

All are invited to Synchronized Chaos Magazine’s semiannual reception, held this time at San Francisco’s Muddy Waters Cafe, 521 Valencia Street, Friday July 30th, drop-in from 5 to 10 pm. Walking distance from the 16th and Mission BART. Come network and meet our writers and artists and cultural creatives! All are invited, this event’s open to the public and welcomes people of all ages and interests. Think of it as a career networking event, social gathering, art and writing reception, singles’ event, couples’ night out, all at the same time!

Muddy Waters is a friendly, laid-back coffeehouse with snacks, coffee drinks of all varieties, and no need to dress up Yuppies, hippies, and students and normal folks all welcome, come on out and network and chill and meet some of the artists and writers of Synchronized Chaos Magazine! Please comment if you’re interested in carpooling or need a ride, or if there’s anything else we can do to help you get here as we would be excited and honored to see all of you! And the Mission is not that dangerous at night…I know plenty of people, including plenty of women, who feel very comfortable here. There will be a large crowd in a well-lighted atmosphere.

Link to the coffeehouse, reception is at the FIRST listed address: http://www.muddywaterscoffeehouse.com/locations.htm

By the way, this is a drop-in event, no need for anyone but me to worry about showing up on time or leaving early…and artists and writers, please feel free to bring stories, business cards, small copies of your artwork, etc. Hope to see everyone!