Reinventing the Wheel

Integrating the internet into in-person shows with ease and comfort. Mostly.

I have had couple of interesting conversations with stamp collectors over the last couple years about how to integrate the internet philatelic world into in-person shows.

Here are some thoughts. Please, please, let me know if you don’t like something. And if you have an idea too. Let’s make this a conversation. I certainly don’t know everything!

As a hobby, we did a pretty good job of moving online during the pandemic emergency, but now that face-to-face gatherings are again possible, many organizations are going back to their old, comfortable ways of doing things, and abandoning the new hobbyists who came aboard by way of social media and websites.

There is some lipservice to those people by some organizations. They found that there was an audience for YouTube videos, and some are still holding meetings on Zoom.

But they don’t seem to have yet figured out how to also continue supporting those who can’t travel, don’t have local clubs, or have no other resources to draw upon.

One particular issue I personally have is with in-person shows. And I have some thoughts. This has long been a pet peeve in all sorts of my worlds.

I was at the Chicago World Science Fiction Convention in 2001 when the very first virtual guest appeared. It was, of course, Arthur C. Clarke, who both wrote 2001: A Space Odyssy, and invented the communications satellite by which he appeared from Sri Lanka.

I thought that was great! We could now, moderately easily, start inviting people from around the world to speak at all sorts of conventions. It’s now been done via internet by all sorts of organizations, bringing in world leaders who can’t attend in person for security reasons, or others who might not find the expense affordable but were deemed important to their program.

And I’ve seen this done really well. I’ve been to additional science fiction conventions when the guest of honor was suddenly unable to attend, but could participate virtually.

There has also been an astronaut guest of honor who attended from the international space station.

So – one way to integrate the internet into in-person conventions is to invite virtual speakers. Yeah, you could have them just speak in an independent Zoom talk or something, but having an audience in the room while someone is giving a live talk is a different experience.

Project that talk onto a screen. Do it on zoom or the like. Let people on the zoom call and in the room ask questions and participate.

I know, though, that many convention centers and hotels have lousy cell service, and no free wifi. It’s not going to be possible to do that for every show. But if you could get a world renown expert appearing “live via satellite” (or equivalent), it could be a cool draw.

Can you have live interaction with a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society from Society headquarters? Can you do it with the Digital Philatelist from Australia? How about both on a panel?

The opposite is also true. Filming (“videoing”) some of the talks (I’d love all of them, but I’m semi-realistic) and putting them online can expand your audience. Even if you can’t stream live, putting them online as fast as possible (within a few days) of the convention would go along way toward attracting internet dwellers.

If you charge admission for the in-person show, you could even put those talks behind a paywall. Everyone who attended gets them free, everyone else pays a buck or two.

Other things that can be done to accommodate the internet philatelist include putting yourself on Twitter. Easy to do, but then you need to put out content.

Content could be as easy as copying stuff from your free newsletter or blog and sending it out. Add a few “here’s a picture of Cindy who helps out with refreshments during show organization meetings,” and you have a feed.

Put together an “official” hashtag. Those are those things with what used to be called a pound sign (#) in front of them. USE it. Put it on everything you send out – newsletters, tweets, blogposts. #BobCollectsStamps

Hashtags is one way internet users can organize information. In most social media apps, you can search for a hashtag like #bacon, and find out everything that’s been posted about bacon.

One thing you want to avoid is someone making up their own hashtag about your show. They will anyway, but you don’t want it to be the overwhelming one online. “StampShowTrash” is not something you want to find out people have to search for to get info on your show.

Update your website. Frequently. Make it a priority. A Lot of people will be looking for it and at it for the latest information. Make sure it’s user friendly.

Use a widget and embed your Twitter feed onto the front of page of your website. At the very least, include a link to all your social media on the front page.

Do your best to get website links for all your bourse vendors, sponsors, and anyone else that helps or supplies you. Even your table-supplier. Unless they put it in their contract, just tell them you’re going to do it and do it. It costs nothing, and they will like you for it.

Make sure you have a contact email. Answer your email. Make sure SOMEONE alive reads and responds to every piece of email you get (except spam, of course). A day or two is often an acceptable delay, but the internet moves at the speed of light, not the speed of molasses. Two days is a LONG time on line.

Oh, and respond to other online communications too, even if it’s a auto reply saying they have to use the email address.

That might seem like a lot, but there’s a little more simple stuff that can be done.

Find out early what wifi is available in your venues, hotels and convention centers. If it’s paid, or free, or nonexistent. Publicize that information, EVEN (especially) if it’s nonexistent.

I would MUCH prefer to show up knowing that I’m going to have to step outside to make a phone call, or get my email, than finding out an hour in. Or thinking I just can’t find the right network because there are three “MyVenue” networks but none of them are public.

This goes for cell service too. I’ve been in one convention center that had cell service on one landing of one stairway because there was a correct-facing window there. The second year there were signs to that stairwell and nobody was grumbling like the first year.

Provide room for an internet meet-up. We don’t have a formal internet stamp club. But we’re everywhere. Schedule at least one, early on, where there can be a meet-and-great for internet philatelists.

We won’t have to wander the halls wondering who is a twitter follower of ours. We can make in-person friends that we can see again and again throughout the show.

Put up a selfie station. Everybody loves selfie stations – well, those below a certain age do. They used to be called photo-ops and everybody loved them.

They can be as simple as making a poster-sized stamp, laminate it to a board, and cut out a hole to put a face through. The huge number of US portrait stamps come to mind as something to do this with.

Have you seen my logo? Take a US no. 1 or a Penny Black, cut the center out, and let everyone put their face in there and have their picture taken. Adjust that to your national taste, of course.

Or get more elaborate. Have a first day ceremony? Use that stamp. Put them up in a couple different places.

But! Make sure your show name is above, and official hashtag is written in big letters right below the stamp! How many people can you get to put that online for you?

Give them that hashtag and your show may even trend on Instagram by the end of the day. It’s possible.

Now, for some more daring stuff.

Put us in the programming. Have an “Internet for Philatelists” talk. “Online Exhibits 101.” If you’ve got one, how about “meet your local online celebrity “? Think broadly. Maybe two audience members will show up. Just don’t put them at the beginning or end of the day. Play nice.

On your vendor/bourse applications, add a checkbox asking if they will make themselves available for social media interviews. They can set parameters, but are they willing to be asked?

Do the same with your speakers, and people representing clubs.

Compile that into a list. Don’t indicate they _will_ , just that they’re willing.

Depending on how big your show list, post it somewhere or hand it out to registrants who have checked a similar box on their form asking if they are a social media media.

We online hobbyists fall between normal attendees and the mainstream media attendees. Some of us are torn about registering as “media” because we only want to take a few pictures and post them, but we might want want to grab and interview with someone if we’re told they might be open to it.

Just request us to mention the show! Most of us are happy to oblige if you’ve made an effort to make us feel welcome. We might do it anyway, but we’ll feel good being asked.

We may have a plan, maybe not. But having a list of those willing might mean we don’t bug those unwilling.

You might also consider having a couple of chairs somewhere, with a big plant and a neutral background (with your name and hashtag). Tape off some area so we can ask people to stay behind the lines, which protects our tripod. Social media people could sign up to use it for, say, 15 minutes, and do an interview out of the way of the crowds.

And we become part of the show if you have some standing room around the chairs.

Finally, exhibits.

Ask all your exhibitors to provide scans of their exhibits to put up online. Putting them up “forever” would of course be ideal for most of us online, but show-time plus X would be great. X equaling a week or a month or whatever.

If they can’t provide scans but are willing, find someone to do it, or at least take reasonable photos of the exhibits.

I don’t know if there’s a real central repository for exhibits. If the national clubs aren’t doing that, it’s a shame. I know some, including the APS has some donated exhibits on paper, but as of this writing they may not be collecting digital exhibits. I hope they will.

The big dreams.

Would I like there to be more? Of course.

Complete live-streaming of everything. Complete catalogs of all the bourse vendors, with 24/7 chat and buying. Security camera-like footage of the hall. Two way communication with the talks and meetings.

Do I think it will happen? Not until we’re all attending virtually with interactive holograms.

For now, I’d be very happy to see some of these steps taken.

So: What’s your show’s twitter name and hashtag? I’ll send it out.

One final note to show runners. This blog has a subscription base of 1,500 people. My overall audience seems to be over 2,000.

I’m small potatoes in the online philatelic world. But wouldn’t you love the problem of 1/3 of just my readers visiting or at least talking positively about your show? No promises, but think about that possibility.

Have a kitten.

Solstice June 21, 2022

The Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere occurs this year at 9:14am on June 21, 2022 (UT or Greenwich Time). The Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere occurs at the same time. That will be 2;14am Pacific, 5:14am Eastern time in the USA.

This is the time that the sun will have reached it’s farthest point north in the sky for the year. At the north pole, the sun will be closest it comes to directly overhead.

Though scientifically an actual moment in time, the Solstice has been popularized as covering the whole day. It is considered the actual first day (in the north) of the summer season, despite whatever our calendars or weather is telling us.

Issued June 18, 2021, this solar science series of stamps celebrates our growing knowledge or our nearby glowing orb.

It is also the longest (northern) span of daylight of the year. How long your daylight will last depends on your distance from the equator. The farther away from the equator, the more daylight hours you will have. The daylight at the equator doesn’t vary much from 12 hours at any time of year.

The Solstice is caused by the tilt of the Earth relative to the plane of it’s orbit. At the northern Summer Solstice, the north pole points as directly to the sun as it possibly can. At the northern Winter Solstice (around December 21) the south pole will be pointing as directly as it gets toward the sun.

Many people believe that in the north it is hot around this time of year because we are closer to the sun. In our orbit, however, the north’s Summer Solstice occurs when the Earth is farthest from the Sun. We’re just tilted toward it, which is the actual reason for the heat.

The southern hemisphere’s Summer Solstice (in December) is in the part of the Earth’s orbit when the planet is closest to the Sun.

The solstices have been important to many cultures around the world for tens of thousands of years. Astronomical calendars have been found all over the world that use the solstices as an important point in time.

For some cultures it might have meant time to plant, or time to start storing food for winter, or some other thing. But if tracked, the time the sun changes direction from moving northward to moving southward is a relatively easy marker to notice.

American Eagle Day

US official stamp showing Eagle, 13 arrows, and 13 olive leaves

June 20 is National American Eagle Day in the United States of America.

American Eagle Day is a special day to commemorate the anniversary of the Bald Eagle’s selection as our National Symbol by the Second Continental Congress on June 20, 1782.

Airmail stamp designed by Philatelist Franklin D. Roosevelt (who happened to be President at the time). Scott C23

It is also a day to celebrate its return to America’s skies after near extinction due to the use of DDT and other pesticides.

The Bald Eagle is endemic (occurs only) to North America. It is a sea eagle, a small group of eagle species that live primarily near water and are adapted to hunt fish.

Scott C67

All sea eagles have relatively longer beaks, without feathers covering much of it. This helps keep the bill area free of fish waste and oils that could stick and attract pests or allow the growth of bacteria.

They also have roughly scaled feet, and strongly hooked claws that help hold fish.

1991 Flying Eagle with Olympic Rings. Scott 2542

The distinctive white feathers of the adult Bald Eagle are actually camouflage. Seen from below, the lighter parts may confuse fish or other prey as to the shape of the “thing in the sky,” delaying the response to a predator.

All adult sea eagles have white tails, but the Bald Eagle is the only one with a fully white head.

1998 Priority mail stamp. Scott 2122

The name Bald Eagle, of course, is a misnomer. They do have fully feathered beds. “Balde” is an Old English word meaning white, and was used by the first English explorers to see the bird.

The earliest use of the Bald Eagle as an American symbol was apparently in 1776 in Massachusetts.

It was adopted because of the supposed characteristics of the bird, being brave, noble, and fierce. And in sympathy with the Eagle symbols of most European powers.

In reality, eagles are predators and carrion eaters, who have no qualms about getting a meal the easiest way possible.

Bald Eagles regularly steal food from each other, and from the smaller Osprey which also hunts fish. They also have no problems eating leftovers from bears, wolves, or other predators. And one of the best places to see a group of Bald Eagles is at garbage dumps outside some west coast cities.

“A” rate stamp, issued in 1978 for 15 cents. The first of several stylized Eagle non-nondenominational stamps issued in a time of rapidly increasing postage rates. Scott 1735

But as can be seen in the stamps shown here, they’re still a magnificent predator, and can really look the part of majestic.

And Benjamin Franklin did Not, by the way, oppose the choice. His essay in favor of the Turkey was partly, at least, tongue-in-cheek. He didn’t like the design of the original Eagle symbol, and wrote to his daughter that the “eagle” looked more like a Turkey.

365 Stamps 110: Flag Day

Today, June 14, is Flag Day in the USA.

It celebrates the adoption of the “Stars and Stripes” flag design of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.

Scott US 2114 Flag over Capitol 22c 1985

The original design had one star and one stripe for each Colony/State. Great Britain was debating with us at the time which designation we would have.

The first international recognition of the Stars and Stripes came when it received its first salute from another country on February 14, 1778. A French ship saluted a ship commanded by John Paul Jones. Naval ships regularly salute one another, but this is the first time it was done under this flag.

The Second Flag Act was passed on January 13, 1794, increasing the Stars and Stripes to 15 of each, for two new states. After that new states would only receive stars and the stripes were cut back to only 13 for the original 13 states.

That flag was the version flown at Ft McHenry during the War of 1812, that inspired Francis Scott Key to write his Poem “The Star Spangled Banner,” which became the national anthem.

That same flag can now be seen at the National Museum of American History on the Mall in Washington D.C.

365 Project 109: Happy Birthday Judy Garland

Judy Garland was born on June 10, 1922 as Frances Ethel Gumm, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She died on June 22, 1969 at her house in London.

She appeared on a couple of U.S. stamps, on this 2006 stamp she appears as herself rather than as one of her film characters.

Judy Garland, US Sct#4077, issued 2007

She and her sisters performed as the Gumm Sisters, and made their film debut in a short called The Big Revue (1929). They performed in several more shorts through 1935, and on the vaudeville stage during that time as well.

Comedian George Jessel played the Oriental Theater in Chicago with them in 1934, and was instrumental in renaming them as the Garland Sisters. Judy became Judy shortly after that.

Judy was signed to MGM studios at age thirteen in September 1935 immediately upon auditioning for the head of the studio Louis B. Mayer.

Being that awkward tween age, the studio had a difficult time placing her, and the studio felt her looks weren’t up to leading lady status. They settled on a Girl-Next-Door look for her, and she played that role in several films in the thirties.

She became the literal girl next door in an Andy Hardy film opposite Mickey Rooney when she became the neighbor girl in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) which set her on a path to costar in many films with him.

In 1938, at 16, she was given the part of Dorothy Gale in the the MGM Musical The Wizard of Oz (1939), after they couldn’t arrange to borrow Shirley Temple from Fox. Apparently the producers wanted Garland, but Mayer insisted on trying for Temple.

That film propelled her to the status of household name and box office star, and better parts began to come her way. It also won her a special Juvenile academy award (Oscar). She also won several Grammys and a special Tony, as well as a Golden Globe. She also got several non-competitive special awards.

Garland claimed that MGM studios provided their child actors with amphetamines and barbiturates so they could cope with the press of making films with rapid turn-over. Mikey Rooney disputed that, claiming that Garland was alone in deciding to take the drugs.

Regardless, she fell into addiction and that caused her health and professional problems for the rest of her life.

Judy Garland was a marvelous interviewee, and talk show guest. The audience, at least, was never sure what would come out of her mouth. Her sense of humor was something else.

Below is a video of some classic Judy Garland as herself on the Jack Paar Show (which became the Tonight Show). This is from May 7, 1967. Judy comes is on from time-marks 2:20 to 11:30.

Judy Garland had two daughters, Liza Minelli and Lorna Luft, and a son, Joey Luft. She was married 5 times, and divorced 4. Her fifth husband was Mickey Deans, who survived her.

In her career she had 40 film acting credits from 1929-1971, and 172 soundtrack credits.

Ultimately, her death was ruled an accidental overdose, despite there being no evidence of pills in her stomach, and there not being a unusual number of pills missing from the prescription bottles. Doctors concluded it was the slow accumulation of the effects of so many years of use that finally her body couldn’t take any more.

Rumors of suicide have circulated since her death, but there is no evidence her death was intentional.

On the evening of June 21, 1969, the first significant tornado of a 6 day outbreak was an F3 storm that severely damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and businesses in Salina, Kansas. It caused minor damage to an additional 500 homes, and injured 60 people. Because of the time difference, it was already June 22 in London, where Judy Garland was found dead.

Earth Day, Earthrise

Today is the 52nd Earth Day.

Enjoy it!

This stamp features an image taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft while while making the first manned circumnavigation of the moon. They didn’t go into orbit, but just around it before heading back to earth.

The original image, below, is titled Earthrise.

Bill Anders traveled with astronauts Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell. He was born on October 17, 1933 in British Hong Kong. They were the first people to go beyond earth’s orbit, taking their flight in December 1968.

Unlike other images of the earth, I think this one hit a lot of people because it shows no just the planet in blank space, but shows the view from another world.

On this day, and every day, remember that so far, this is the only place we have.

Dia de Muertos/Day of the Dead 2021

New Video on YouTube

These are new stamps from the U S Postal Service to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

I acquired these stamps to give away, at the request of a fellow collector, so while these are my scans, they are no longer my stamps. They now live in the U.K. I should have ordered some for myself, but I didn’t.

Luis Fitch designed and illustrated these delightful stamps depicting four “Sugar Skulls.”

Fitch grew up in Tijuana, where he started collecting stamps before the age of 12. His family later moved to San Diego, and he had the idea of designing a U.S. Postage stamp when he was 18, asked at the local Post Office, and got a brochure about how to submit designs. He submitted, but was turned down.

Then Antonio Alcalá, the USPS Creative Director, called Fitch on his birthday in October of 2019 and they talked about doing the stamps. Alcalá had seen his artwork at a show in Chicago.

Speeding through the process that usually takes 3 to 6 years, the stamps were issued Sep. 30, 2021.

The first day ceremony was held at the El Paso Museum of Art, in El Paso, Texas.

The four stamps feature four designs of Calaveras, a girl, a boy, a man, and a woman. They are meant to represent a family, indicating the family nature of the holiday, and the primary importance of family in the Mexican culture.

The Dia de Muertos celebrations lasts two days. November 1st, which coincides with the Catholic All Saint’s Day, is a celebration of children who have passed away. November 2nd, All Soul’s Day is for the remembrance of adults.

Traditional calaveras, despite the English name “Sugar Skulls,” are produced to be seen, not eaten, and may contain many inedible ingredients and decorations. They have been produced since at least 1630, when the Spanish frowned in the continued use of real human skulls.

Calaveras can be used as general decoration, or placed on the family Ofrenda, the offering alter for their specific dead to be honored. If honoring a specific person, the name of the person is written on the forehead.

Edible sugar skulls are also produced, they are not meant for the Ofrenda.

The depiction of human skulls was used fairly frequently in indigenous art in northern Central America. Rather than being morbid, those depictions represent rebirth into the new phase of existence, this is a celebration, not a part of the sadness of mourning.

The holiday observance started in, and is primarily celebrated in Mexico, but has spread not only into the USA, but is gaining ground around the world. Among other places, Wellington, New Zealand, and Prague, in the Czech Republic have large public celebrations.

I’m not aware that they’ve been issued Scott catalog numbers yet, but they should be in the low 5600s.

I hope you enjoy these stamps as much as I did.

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