Inspired by a conversation with my mother
As we move forward in all the uncertainty, there is a great fear among the masses. Perhaps, it’s the middle to senior aged, since they can remember walking into a store to purchase an item. The younger generations have grown up in the online age and don’t need to acclimate.
“I’m too old to order something without trying it on first.”
Rest assured that as online access grows and the brick and mortar shopping experience dwindles, there is a connective tissue that ties this online shopping transition to the past. Like an old friend who shows up on your doorstep with a new haircut. The discomfort of not knowing is eased by a familiarity that exists, it just has to be sought out and brought into the light.
In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward produced the first mail order catalog geared to the general public. This was followed by other large names such as Hammacher Schlemmer and eventually, what might be the most famous one of all time, the Sears & Roebuck catalog. From JC Penney to Victoria Secret, long before home computing and the internet, mail order catalogs flourished. Companies like car parts giant JC Whitney made its mark on the world from between the pages of mail order catalogs.
Why did this surge in mail order catalogs grow into a multi-million-dollar business? Simple economics of supply and demand. People wanted to shop and most of them didn’t have cars. Getting down town or to a major city, to the brick and mortars, was too difficult or too time consuming. The telephone at that time made it simple to order items directly from the catalogs.
The world then saw the advent of the home computer and it was a game changer. In 1995, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s guru, opened for business. He may have been the first to see the potential online scalability of the mail order catalog. Today Jeff has taken the internet catalog well beyond its mail order predecessor, threatening the mere existence of some brick and mortar establishments.
Let’s move forward to 2020. We are all now quarantined at home and travel to the brick and mortars is not an option. The online catalog industry already has its foothold. Demand for home delivery has found its worth in a new way. Yes, there is the option to order online and drive to a store to pick up the item, but fear has gone viral. We’re in lock down and the only way to shop safely is via the internet catalog. The term “internet catalog” does not sound common, but a look at the myriad of shopping websites where you can buy just about anything looks a great deal like a digital version of a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Everything you could ever want is in one place.
“I never thought I would have to do this in my lifetime.”
For all who are fighting the online catalog shopping reality, it might sit on your pallet a bit easier if you make the correlation that as child you may have watched your parents or grandparents place orders from mail order catalogs. If you’re old enough, you may have placed a phone order from a mail order catalog yourself. A feeling of nostalgia could replace the angst you feel about having to shop online. Truth is that making purchases via an online catalog, takes less effort than the mail order catalogs ever did. One more fact that might help take the edge off of online catalog shopping is that while mail order catalog items took weeks to show up, today most online orders are on your doorstep in seven days or less.
As the new world might bring many fears with it, shopping doesn’t have to be one of them. This time looking to the past can ease the transition to the future. It’s like riding a bicycle. You never forget, you just need to practice a bit in the beginning. By the way, you can buy a bicycle online too.
For more on the history of mail order catalogs visit
3. History of Amazon https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/amazon-opens-for-business
I usually write blogs that share a conglomeration of information on a topic I come across, but this is more of an op-ed observation mixed with some insight.
As the number of COVID-19 articles begins to decrease, the reading of what’s left continues to decline at about 29%, with readers spending 40 seconds, on average, reading the article. Fatigue is the leading analytical explanation ( ChartBeat ).
There has been an uptick in the number of searches for words like empathy and hope. I would venture that this is a patterned movement towards healing and towards looking forward.
Perhaps a new compassion is setting in upon us. I have noticed that while people are keeping their distance (for the most part), there is a unified mood of kindness towards each other. This is the reaction we often see portrayed in movies where large populations are forced to live in unbearable conditions and then emerge to find a new world. Logan’s Run comes to mind. If you’re too young to remember it, you may want to watch it. I purposely picked an old movie to show that the reaction is not a new one, but more of one that we have forgotten for generations.
Human interaction beyond the immediate family is now at a different level. Why is this?
Neighbors are more willing to stand on the sidewalk or in the street, to engage in a conversation. Strangers are more courteous to one another. People are generally thinking more kindly. Yes, there are still the outliers for whom there has been an adverse reaction, but in general, there has been this trend toward empathy.
It is human nature to want to be social and want to be part of a larger something. We have all been deprived of this because of a microscopic enemy, and this brings us to the point of commonality. For the first time in generations, we have been bound together by a common foe. We can all relate to this as we have all been impacted. Do not under estimate the power of common ground. But what is next? This is perhaps the most crucial question humankind can ask. We have been given a chance to regain our humanity, though at great expense. We are unmistakably linked together now. There is no denying this.
Stores will reopen, schools will go back into sessions, people will return to work, how will we act?
Putting aside all the precautionary measures and the fear, what will we do with this second chance?
These are the questions that we must answer. We were a world torn apart by fear and mistrust of one another, and then we were forced (are forced) to fight a common enemy, one that seeks to attack indiscriminately.
Has this experience increased our resolve for a more empathetic humanity, or will we go back to the before and wait for the next rage?
I choose us. I choose to stand in the street or on the sidewalk to converse with neighbors. I choose empathy. What do you choose?
Let me know your thoughts, please.
Many things affect our day as we move through it, but, I found that "Joe" plays such an important role for so many of us. So, let's take a moment and find out why. Maybe we'll learn something and have some fun along the way.
The discovery of coffee and how it made its way around the world is exciting. If it were not for the keen observation of Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder, many of the coffee drinkers of the world would still be drinking tea. Or as it were back then, the choice of morning drink, beer or wine.
Let's get on with the story. In the ninth century, Kaldi found that when his goats ate the berries from a particular species of plant (Coffea), they became energized and did not sleep at night. He took the beans to the local abbot and reported his findings. The abbot created a mixture of water and the berries. He found that when he drank the liquid, he could stay alert during the long evening prayers. The abbot shared his discovery with the monks of other monasteries.
The word of this elixir spread east to the Arabian Peninsula. The new drink made its way to Arabia through the Port of Mocha, and thus the name Mocha become synonymous with coffee and is still used today to describe a type of coffee. Qahveh khaneh was the name given to the popular public meeting spots where one could enjoy music, news, exchange views, and of course, drink coffee. These were the first coffee houses. By the fifteenth century, the coffee plant was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia. By the sixteenth century, coffee had become popular in Egypt, Persia, Turkey, and Syria.
“The first cup is for the guest, the second for enjoyment, the third for the sword.” — Old Arabic Saying
As many visitors came to Mecca in the seventh century, coffee, or as it was commonly called “the wine of Araby,” spread to Europe. When it first arrived in Europe, coffee was thought to be the work of the devil and gained the dubious name “the bitter invention of Satan.”
Even with all the fear over coffee, Europe could not resist it. “Penny Universities” were popping up everywhere. This was the name coined for the coffee houses that totted a cup of coffee for just a penny. They quickly became places to exchange intellectual thought. Since coffee was replacing beer and wine as the morning drink, patrons began to find themselves more alert and stimulated to think and while they worked.
Nancy Astor, Britain's first MP: "If I were your wife I would poison in your coffee.
Winston Churchill: "Nancy, if I were your husband I would drink it."
Coffee reached the new world through New Amsterdam. We now call it New York (by the way, it was renamed by the British). Coffee houses rapidly sprang to life, but it wasn’t until 1773 and the uprising concerning high tea taxes (The Boston Tea Party) that America made coffee its drink of choice.
"Coffee - the favorite drink of the civilized world."
- Thomas Jefferson
Today coffee is the second largest commodity in the world. Oil still sits atop the throne. For a more in-depth look at the history of coffee, please follow the links to the websites I used to create this story. I assure you the details are a good read.
Coffee has become such an essential part of our world; it’s funny how goats first found this little berry (processed into a bean). So, the next time you see a goat, tip the to-go cup of "Joe" in your hand and say thank you.
I apologize for sneaking in some literature in the form of coffee quotes. After all, I am an author.
“Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks?”
— Steven Wright
Today is more of an op-ed than anything else. And it isn't a piece on COVD-19. As we are sequestered in our homes riding out the storm, we are destined to find thing to keep ourselves busy. Binge-watching all our favorite shows and turning to new ones out of boredom, we all have our phones, iPad, or laptops in our hands as we continue the search the internet battling against the urge to leave our home. I look at this as an opportunity for all of us who use social media platforms to make contacts, push our wares, and introduce ourselves to the world as this new something or someone.
According to Statica.com, as of February 2020, 4.54 billion people use the internet worldwide. That's fifty-nine percent of the world's population. Now factor in that was before people were obligated to stay home. There are no post-pandemic numbers at this time. I'll bet that the numbers have gone up drastically.
Oberlo reports that each internet user spends six hours, thirty minutes a day on the internet. 81% of US adults go on the internet daily. Lastly, $4.2 trillion will be spent on e-commerce in 2020. It should be noted that these last set of numbers were also pre-pandemic.
Why tell you all this? Because as an author, influencer, or any social media entrepreneur, the need to understand that people are at home and searching the internet for anything to keep their minds busy is pure gold.
If you are trying to build a social media presence, now is your fifteen minutes of fame (Andy Warhol). If you are promoting a new book, a course, or a podcast - Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, and whatever other platforms you can think of should have your full attention.
The success of our internet campaigns is not tied to the pandemic, but to the time and effort we are willing to put in. It is my theory that internet use is at a peak and making use of this peak is an opportunity.
Stay in your lane and at a distance. Be safe in these times. If you must share yourself with others do it safely, do it through the internet.
Have you ever heard the term Pechakucha (Pe-chuk-a-cha)? Pechakucha is Japanese, meaning "chit chat" and the best way to understand it is on the Pechakucha website. It is "show and tell" for adults - with a twist.
So why am I blogging about a Pechakucha?
Because I live and thrive in the world of storytelling. And not knowing about Pechakucha presentations is like missing an arm or leg, or at least a few digits. Have I piqued your interest yet?
A bit of history is necessary before we dive into why doing a Pechakucha presentation. In 2003, architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Tokyo's Klein Dytham Architecture invented the Pechakucha presentation. Their goal was to create a way to maximize the exchange of ideas while keeping the audience's attention by streamlining long design presentations. Basically, twenty PowerPoint slides, created by the presenter, are flashed onto a screen for twenty seconds each. The slides automatically advance, giving the presenter a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds to make presentation. The Pechakucha method is currently being implemented in schools, business, and at what is known as Pechakucha Nights (PKN). There are one thousand cities worldwide that have PKNs. Klein and Dytham held their first PKN in Tokyo at the SuperDeluxe.
Who and where are PKNs held?
The general format for PKN events is the same, but some hosts add their own twist to the event. A few years ago, I attended a Pechakucha event called Spark Exchange, hosted by Pire Associates Architects in New Haven, CT. At this event there were a handful of wonderfully creative, invited presenters. Then host Laura Pirie challenged the audience members to participate. A random slide flashed onto the screen and an audience member had twenty seconds to tell the story of that slide. The entire night was a success.
Recently I attended a PKN where a presenter spoke about her fear of heights while hiking in Peru to Machu Picchu. Another explained how he created a community-building concept called Dinner Stories to bring ten housemates closer. I left the event totally inspired and have signed up to present at the June New Haven PKN.
Why is the Pechakucha important?
We all have stories to tell about our life's experiences. The Pechakucha provides an avenue to share our tales, inspire people, and develop interest in something we are doing. Remember that Klein and Dytham first created the Pechakucha presentation format as a business tool. PKN is a way to share what inspires you, an experience you had, or promote what you love to do. As an author, I can see the potential of sharing my work with groups of people and grow my reader list at the same time. Klein and Dytham were onto something. Google Pechakucha with your local city's name to see if there is one near you. If not, start one yourself by going on the Pechakucha website to register.
I recommend going to a local PKN first. You won't be disappointed. What's most astonishing is the diversity of presenters and topics. From aliens to zookeepers, inspirational to comical, you never know what's going to be coming your way. The presentations are always informative and if you're not interested, it's okay; there will be a new one along in just under seven minutes.
If you're wondering, speaking this blog takes about 5min 34sec. Add in a few deep breaths, perhaps a long dramatic pause, and you're at the 6min 40sec Pechakucha presentation limit.
Don't wait; be a Pechakucha presenter today!
That is the Question
It seems that the consumer has been answering this question for some time.
In an online article recently posted by the BBC culture section, they noted that audiobook use is on the rise while the book industry finds its numbers on the decline. According to Deloitte, the audiobook market expects to see a growth of 25% in 2020.
Forbes magazine (7/2019)- The audiobook industry has been seeing this 25% yearly growth rate since 2016. Forbes continues by saying that double-digit growth numbers have been on the rise for the last seven years.
The numbers don’t seem to lie. It is well known that America’s major brick and mortar bookstore, Barnes&Noble has been reporting a decline in yearly sales for the better part of a decade. While they do carry an audiobook section, it can’t compete with the ease that the online aspect offers. INC. magazine states that Barnes&Noble has a new CEO with a proven track history. For more on CEO, James Daunt, and his refreshing approach for Barnes&Noble visit INC. or The New York Times.
Why is the audiobook industry seeing such tremendous growth?
Online sales, even in the printed book industry, have made international markets more available, but it’s the instant gratification that may be the driving force. We live in a world that has become much smaller, so the consumer has many more options than say just thirty years ago.
Second on the list is TIME. Having to Commute, fast pace lives, the advent of working multiple part-time jobs, and the like, don’t allow consumers the luxury needed to sit and read for long periods. Audiobooks allow for multi-tasking to occur. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. How can someone get the true essence of a book when they are multi-taking. Well, you may be showing your age. Many kids and college students today study for exams while singing along to songs chiming through earbuds.
The BBC article notes that there is a rising concern about screen time usage. This is more related to television than phones or computer devices. Perhaps the rise in audiobook use is some type of subliminal need to stay connected and not wasting time in front of a television screen.
Good E-reader states that another factor for the rise in audiobooks is mental health. We live in a stressful world, and the audiobook format can be used to quiet our inner voice and mute our internal dialogue. It has been known for years that reading to a child from day one can help in speech development and bonding with parents. Audiobooks are nostalgic and can trigger a feeling of being read to as a child.
Who are the audiobookers?
The Guardian reports that individuals between 25-44 make up the largest population contributing to audiobook sales. Of those, the majority are men. What do they like to listen to? The genres cover science fiction, fantasy, the classics, self-help, history, and science
The 65+ crowd make up another significant facet of the audiobook industry. Vision conditions may be the factor here. Well, after all, that’s where it all started. A little history of the audiobook format is worth mentioning. They were first called “talking books.” The talking book was developed in 1931 by a joint venture between the American Foundation for the Blind and the Library of Congress. Talking books were initially recorded on long play vinyl known as LP(s). In 1963 the cassette was invented replacing the LP format and allowing local libraries to carry the new technology. In 1994, the term “Audiobook” became the official name. 2004 saw the replacement of the audiobook cassette with its successor, the compact disc (CD). By 2009 the downloadable audiobook surpassed the CD version and a new era was born. For a more detailed history, visit the Audio Publishers Association.
Podcasts should also be mentioned as they have played a role in the growth of the audiobook industry. The most obvious is that the shorter audio version (podcasts) has left the consumer willing to try some longer formats. There is a natural progression or merely a curiosity to see if they like it. In any event, the increase in podcast use spikes at the same time as audiobooks. You can decide.
The audiobook boom has also created a growing revenue stream for many new audiobook recording companies and narrator careers. If you have the tech or the voice, you could cash in.
To Audiobook or Not to Audiobook?
The answer is up to you, whether you’re the author or the consumer.
All artists, and by artists, I mean every one of us, can create in some way form or fashion. Our own creativity is as unique as our fingerprint. Creativeness isn't limited to words, drawings, or music; it includes necessity, ingenuity, and the ability to see past what already exists. Creativity is discovery in whatever form it takes.
Having said all this about being creative, what happens when we become stuck? When we lose our desire or misplace our will to create. Maybe it's because we've narrowed our vision, or fallen prey to outside influences. This triggers anxiety and our creativity withers, or we decide to push harder.
Let's take a look at the first option: The withering of creativity -Alexander Den Heijer stated: "When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower." For those who are not familiar with Den Heijer, he has written a very insightful book called Nothing You Don't Already Know. The point is that we need to take a look at what is stifling our creativity. What around us is taking over and wilting us? Has our environment changed, or does it no longer suit our needs? We are influenced by what we surround ourselves with. That statement leads a truth; we are in control of what and who we chose to have around us. We create our environment.
The second step is a bit harder. Why have we let the external affect the internal so drastically? Creativity comes from within. Our ability to create is personal. Whether it's writing an elegantly crafted sentence, stringing together just the right combination of musical notes to a song, or engineering the most ingenious mathematical equation, it's personal. It becomes necessary to look inward to see what may be blocking us. Emily Rose Barr in a blog for nosidebar.com depicts looking describes steps to take to look inward. She gives five easy steps on how to get back to who you are. These steps are an excellent place to start regaining your creative flow.
How about that second option: Let' push harder and push through it. Wellness author Christine Arylo, in a blog at Huffpost.com writes:
The challenge is that most of us don't know we are pushing ourselves too hard until we have already gotten to the "bad place" -- the land of the crabby, the self-critical and the unhappy version of ourselves. The first step in transforming self-induced pressure to a more supportive, sustainable way of living is awareness, knowing the signs for when we are pushing ourselves too hard.
Arylo depicts there are five signs we are pushing too hard. I will not cover those five signs, but the link to the blog is live by clicking on Huffpost.com hyperlink.
If we are unable to craft with the mastery that we've become accustomed to and now we add the pressure of pushing harder, the only thing we have created is a downward spiral. Pushing ourselves harder; an old school thought is not the way. The flip side of that; letting ourselves "off the hook," some would call this a more modern approach, is also not the way. Both methods are ways of deterring us from looking at the root of the matter.
The Answer: Take a look at what has changed to cause the rift in our creative self. See why it has affected us so and find a creative way back. Yes, I said a creative way back. After all, that is our nature.
An important note- asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of authentic power. Not asking for help is a weakness. It causes us to stay hidden in the shadows, silently suffering.
Creativity is a gift we all possess and it manifests itself in hundreds of thousands of ways. If you get in a rut or forget your passion for being creative, use that which comes naturally to you to find a way back. Know that you have it within you to do so. Your creativity is your expression; share it with the world.
I usually stay away from political issues because they can be such a sticky topic, but I thought I couldn’t keep quiet anymore. As a nation, we have fought in many wars to defend those who could not protect themselves and we did this in the name of humanity. It doesn’t matter what your point of view is on the border, jobs, or your political position; the right to be treated with decency and as a fellow human is a must. We fought each other to free slaves, we fought others to free nations from injustices, and now we have become the monsters that we set out to destroy. Where has the line of humanity that we don’t cross gone? Is nothing out of bounds?
No water, no showers, little food, separation of families. Does any of this sound familiar to you? I am ashamed not only as a nation but as an individual. As a nation, we talk and talk about these intolerable acts and we do nothing. As individuals, we talk and go to court to talk some more. It’s time to let them out of the cages. It’s as simple as that. Open the gates, reunite the families, and destroy the monster that we have become as a nation.
Today we are a nation that is pitted against itself and those less fortunate are paying the price. We are no longer the United States but have become the Divided States. Political jockeying and outdoing each other has become the norm. Is this the new American dream?
We have prided ourselves as a nation of freedom for all. The last part has become a lie. How can we call ourselves the land of the free when we cage those who seek it? We have forgotten, or choose to ignore that none of us originated on this land. That we are the very proof that immigration to a new land can work. Generations ago our relatives endured the turmoil of coming to a new land and now we are so willing to pass that punishment onto those seeking the very same thing. Have we learned nothing?
I would like to hear your thoughts, not your political views but your opinions on the loss of our humanity. They are human beings, mothers, fathers, and children. I ask one question. Where has the line gone?
Networking Groups, join them, don't join them. This has been a question I have been asked many times when I was a doctor. As an author, I now ask myself this question. Yesterday I decided to go to a networking group (I was invited). My motivation was to promote my debut novel, Green Haven, especially the crowdfunding campaign I have been pushing so hard. Like everyone else I went to this to self promote, make business connections and sell my up coming wares.
Honestly, I was forcing myself to go. I don't like to sell; as a doctor, most of my business was from referrals. Now I have to sell. I did. What I found interesting was that I enjoyed the connection beyond the business part of it. I did make good business relationships but I also made some new friends I had lunch with one today and we found that even though our businesses may not compliment each other, our connections will work in both our favors.
So why share all this? Because networking can happen on many levels. I ask that you remain open to seeing every possible level an any given time. Networking groups? Yes visit them, their not all the same. Find one or two or twelve, if you have the time. The trick is to make more than a business venture and be willing to give and maybe get somewhere down the road.
That was my give. Now I'll ask for my get. Please network with me and share my crowdfunding campaign and please donate. Time is crucial so don't wait. Plus there are some interesting gifts. You could see your name in print or help me name a character in my next novel (already under construction).
The writing of a good story, whether it is a novel, short story or essay, has a common link between the author and the reader. This commonality lies in the emotion that is bestowed by the author and to the reader.
The author is charged with creating a picture that is locked in place in the reader's mind. How is this done? The key is emotion. Anyone can explain events that may occur, but only when there becomes a connection to that story is the reader engaged and invested in that story.
The reader longs to be tied to the story, unable to pull themselves away from it. As an author we must enlist emotions; joy, fear, anger, sadness, hatred, love, the list could be endless. Every reader and every author experiences emotions daily; put them into play in your writing. Use them to lock the reader into the story.
The secret is to take the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. Different character actions, different settings and different events within a story to guide the reader through various different emotions at any given moment. This keeps the reader glued to the story.
A character’s reaction to an event, their body language, their speech, their emotions, all can be used to allow the reader to become invested in that character. If a character is feeling emotional pain, you want your reader to feel that emotional pain, therefore you, as the author, must feel it too.
The description of a scene can play just as an important role in cementing a reader’s emotions into the story. The more vivid the wording of the scene the more the reader can visualize the scene and the more they become invested in the scene. Their emotions take over.
Events in a story line can be used to trigger emotions in the reader. Readers associate with events in a story line because they may have had a similar event or know someone who has had a similar event. They are already emotionally tied to the event in their memory. Another way is to take away something from the reader that they may have already become invested in, such as a character or object within the story. Loss is a powerful emotion.
There are many ways to keep the reader emotionally tied to the story. It is the craft of the author to portray these emotions through the written word. As an author read what you write and decide if you're getting the emotional point across to the reader. If so, you’re creating a wondrous experience for the reader.
"Writing is the flow of life through words on a page. We all have this talent to share." Luca DiMatteo