Monday, December 21, 2015

A Science Guy’s Almanac #14: Kazoos! Re: December 18, 1981

In the early 1980s, vocabulary was a big thing in my biology classes. A “Word of the Day” was displayed under the clock. Whenever the word was introduced during the period, I would announce the event with a kazoo fanfare. There was a massive 150-word vocabulary matching test at the end of the school year. But the kazoo became the focus.
Vintage Kazoo. Under the blue stopper is a piece of waxed paper. Good kazoos have a removable plug so you can replace soggy, torn waxed paper when necessary. Hum in the small end and a marvelous kazoo sound exits the big end. Dust on the blue plug is optional. My personal kazoo, now unlocatable, was metal with a removable plug.
Because of what was most likely jealousy on their part for not being part of the WOD announcements, in the fall of 1981 my Biology II class decided they wanted a Christmas Kazoo Choir.
First Kazoo Band. Preppie was the dress code that year. Notice my "Mustard Man" outfit.
First Kazoo Band – Christmas 1981

The “Bio II All-Kazoo Marching Band and Christmas Choir” was born out of what I’m sure was an attempt by my students to get out of some hard work. But, since they did work very hard in my class, and I’m always up for a performance, I okayed the idea.

One of the larger bands practicing their finale. 
For 8 or 9 years, my classes spent minutes rehearsing holiday tunes: Deck the Halls, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Ending. It was the same choreography every year. See below.
 Each song had choreography. While playing “he began to walk around” in Frosty, students would place one finger on the top of their heads and spin in a circle. At the ending of Rudolph, students formed a impressionistic Christmas tree.

Big ending after "We wish you a Merry Christmas." 
Click the above text to see this group performing LIVE!
 Rudolph had a soloist for the Santa part. “Santa came to say” was kazooed by the whole band. Then, in a dramatic moment, it’s difficult to describe, our soloist would step forward while the other students pointed their kazoos at her/him while the soloist played, “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Ending "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." This year I wore a red shirt, scarf, and a green vest.
 The dress code for the band was a year-by-year decision. You can see that Santa hats were the most common. Most classes went red/green, but the first group chose "preppie" as their theme. I think it speaks volumes that no other bad chose to follow their lead.
Kazooing in a Science classroom. That's me in the Santa suit.

 Bottom line: We would march around campus performing our playlist for teachers who had asked us to come. We always started at the office, where we were a perennial hit. One year, a Jewish student played a Hanukkah song as a solo to “balance out the season.”

Article in the school newspaper, The Royal Page, circa 1988
The Kazoo Band made one non-holiday appearance. In the late 1980’s, my kids wanted to perform at Homecoming. Word got around. By the Homecoming night, we had more band members, including dozens of alumni, than the Marching Monarchs. Our theme was “Masters of Kazooniverse” in a tribute to He-Man, a television hero of the time. I didn’t want to embarrass our school band with a huge crowd of kazoo-ers, so we never did that again.

Next blog: Calling !
Next Almanac: A Science Guy’s Almanac #14: 

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The First San Diego Writers Unite! Meeting and Amazon Free eBook Promotions!

The First San Diego Writers Unite! Meeting and Amazon Free eBook Promotions!

The first part of the title of this blog is a bait and switch line. That was not my intent. However, as time progressed, I felt that this blog space would be better filled with more information about one of my publicity experiments than with extensive information about the Writers Unite! meeting.

There will be a Writers Unite! meeting in San Diego in early February. Tentative information:
Date: February 6, 2016
Time: 10:30AM-12:00PM
Location: Liberty Station Conference Center // 2600 Laning Road, San Diego, CA 92106
Agenda: The focus of this meeting will be how authors can support one another in using Amazon’s policies to our advantage.
The description of the event will be expanded in one of my January blog posts.

The focus of this blog now switches to a “things I think I learned by running an Amazon promotion for my books” modality.

When I received a Tweet asking if I would download a free eBook and review it in exchange for a review of my eBook, Idea FarmingA Science Guy’s Read on Writing, I agreed.

Then I realized I needed to get the potential reviewer a free copy of Idea Farming.

Ultimately, I decided to run a promotion on Kindle. NOTE: Your book must be enrolled in KDP Select to do this! Starting from the home page after signing into Kindle Direct, I selected Promotion and Merchandising from the left menu.

Then I clicked on Free Promotions in the list that appeared.

The page that opens contains clear instructions for setting up your promotion.

You go to your Bookshelf. NOTE: Depending on how you login, you might be able to start here. If you can see Bookshelf in the top menu when you sign in, you can start here.

Click on the Promote and advertise button.

Select Free Book Promotion

Unfortunately, I got the idea for this blog entry after I did the promotion and my books are not eligible to sign up for another Free Book Promotion or Kindle Countdown Deal until the next Kindle Direct Enrollment Period for my book. Your books are enrolled in Kindle Direct for three-month periods beginning on your first enrollment date. You can do one promotion per enrollment period. As far as I can tell, if you don’t cancel the Kindle Direct enrollment the enrollment automatically rolls over to the next quarter. At least, I’ve not had to re-enroll any of my books.

Once you have the menu for setting your promotion, you follow the steps to select a start and end date for your promotion. Your promotions can run up to a total of five days during any enrollment period.

Results of My Free eBook Promotion
I advertised my promotion on Twitter and Facebook. I scheduled ten tweets/day, two per book, for each of the days of the promotion through Hootsuite. I posted on my FB page, my Author FB page and on five groups to which I belong. I did a total of fourteen posts on Facebook.

I promoted five of my books for five consecutive days of Free Downloads. You can see by the graph above that there was a low point on the third day. I will break my future Free Promotions into a three-day segment and a four-day segment the following week to try and avoid that.

During that period, there were 436 total downloads. I was pleased with those numbers.

Next blog (in two weeks): More on the results of Free eBook Promotion

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Monday, December 7, 2015

A Science Guy’s Almanac #13: Voices and Stories Re: Any day in one of my classrooms 1973-2015

A Science Guy’s Almanac #13: Voices and Stories Re: Any day in one of my classrooms 1973-2015
I have been blessed by God with two traits that have made my life in the classroom much less traumatic than it might have been. First, I enjoy being in front of people. Conversely, I really do not like “one-on-one” conversations, except with friends. This trait has allowed me the freedom to express myself in a variety of ways while teaching. For example, I use several different voices to indicate emotions ranging from confusion (a slightly high-pitched voice asks a question many students want to ask but won’t for fear of embarrassment) to decision-making (a southern drawl states a concept or conclusion with gen-u-ine ah-thor-it-y). 

Click here for a sampling of vocalizations!
Another trait that distinguishes my teaching is my ability to “drop into character” at various times. During instruction on meiosis, I assume the persona of a Southern Gospel Preacher. My students are encouraged to “believe the rule” [the Law of Segregation]. To inspire true belief, the class chants “one chromosome from each homologous pair goes to each sex cell” at least once per class period during the entire genetics unit while I implore them to “Say it like you mean it!” and “That was pathetic. You still sound a lot like heathen nonbelievers!” And, ultimately, when the whole class chants with appropriate gusto and expression, my students hear, “Hallelujah! You have seen the light!”
When doing our gel electrophoresis lab, “Officer Radtke, Downtown Precinct,” complete with Lt. Colombo-like jacket and felt fedora, pays a call to the lab looking for the “squints” who were assigned the task of helping the overworked police lab solve a crime. Of course, Officer Radtke has a Brooklyn accent as he demands results so he can arrest “the poip-a-tra-tuh.”

I am always looking for new ways to peak student interest. Towards that end, in addition to voices and persona, I describe the term endoplasmic reticulum as “the best word in biology” and pronounce it with rolling r’s and a haughty tone. My students are told that if they respond expressively with this term when asked by parents “What did you learn in school today?” that it could buy them several days of not having to deal with that question.
I provide my students with “the ultimate excuse”: All naturally occurring processes proceed in such a way that the entropy of the system increases. They are told that this excuse is a great way to avoid cleaning their room—unless their parents have any science knowledge and know that is only true without an outside energy being added to the system—by them!
I have no qualms including personal stories to illustrate biological concepts. For example, I refer to my children in this way: one of my sons is adopted; the other is, as I say, “organic.” I also use many references to my various injuries and surgeries to illustrate various points of biological interest.
The second of my “inherited traits” that help me be effective is this: I have the innate ability to sense when I am “losing an audience.” Some teachers, and far too many “speakers,” just cannot seem to grasp when their students/audience are no longer on the same page that they are on. Much classroom management boils down to, as Charles Kounin named it, “withitness”—the ability to know what is going on all around the class at any one time. For years, I could not have articulated why my management issues were so much less dramatic than others with whom I taught. After 23 years, while preparing lessons for one of my first teacher education classes at Point Loma Nazarene University, I read Kounin’s management ideas. A light went on—I knew I was a “with it” teacher.
A third element of my success is not one I was blessed to have innately. I make a concerted attempt to be aware of new information on how the human brain learns. This consciously began at a session on the human brain at an NSTA conference in the mid-1980s. In what I now know to be a constructivist approach to learning, I began to rethink, redesign, and implement specific classroom strategies that work cooperatively with students' brains. The results have been beneficial to my students and gratifying for me.
Excerpted from:

Chapter 45: Let “You” Show Through – by C. R. Downing – Pages 295-300

Next blog: Calling !
Next Almanac: Kazoos! Re: December 18, 1981

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Writers Unite! Calling all independent and self-published writers!

Writers Unite! Calling all independent and self-published writers!

I have experience as both a self-published and independent press published author. Both offered wonderful opportunities, and I’m glad that I was able to successfully publish books via both pathways.

I’d anticipated having to work on publicity for my self-published books. But, one of my big surprises was the lack of advertising done by my independent publishing house on behalf of either of my books. Best Science Fiction Book award Traveler’s HOT L won was based on my entry, not the publisher’s. There was no mention of that award on their catalog web page either.

I’ve worked very hard at attracting Twitter followers. I’ve stalled out in the mid-1700 area because of Twitter’s policy of limiting the number of accounts I can follow to 2000 until I have 2000 followers.

I’m on Facebook nearly every day as C. R. Downing by using Hootsuite to schedule posts. I also schedule tweets via Hootsuite.

Perhaps you noticed the primary delivery system of the electronic publicity for my books is… ME!

If you are like me, you’ve worked hard at getting exposure for your book. But you and I have limited venues for such exposure without paying large sums of money.

I work with a wonderful publicist, Sherry Frazier. She suggested the following idea to unite a common group and, more immediately, provide a way to promote our books to many, many more people than I can contact via social media. is the best place to get your book noticed. However, if you don’t have significant numbers of reviews and sales, you only get noticed if someone searches for your title or genre.

How can we indie writers increase our numbers in both of those required elements?

There is a “movement” for indie authors. Known as Writers Unite! Working together to review, promote and sell books, this is a nationwide series of independent events that will be able to share contact information between one another.

In January of 2016, I’ll be hosting the first Writer’s Unite! group meeting for authors local to the San Diego, California area. Of course anyone is welcome, but the event itself will be held on a Saturday morning in San Diego.

My elevator speech for the event is:
This is a time when, for a modest investment of money and time, you will have a chance to help other authors raise their Amazon rankings while they help you raise yours.

I get no special treatment. I’m in the same boat as the rest of us Indies. Come back next blog for specifics on the day and time. Also, I’ll provide an outline of the process.

I look forward to hearing from you. If you live outside a reasonable driving area for a San Diego event, maybe we can work something out for a distance-membership concept…

Next blog (in two weeks): The First San Diego Writers Unite! Meeting

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