About Last Night – Portland Folk Festival 2024

Portland Folk Festival 2024

A fun thing happened last night – and it couldn’t have without a lot of different things coming together at once. It all started with an email yesterday afternoon.

I was preparing for an evening of pre-storm pj’s and a movie. Cozy. Warm. Home. Instead, I said “Yes!” and off I headed into a night of fun and adventure. Normally, receiving some gifted tickets to something wouldn’t warrant a blog entry, but there’s more fun to share.  On the way to the show, I got a follow-up email that there was a second ticket available. This led to me scrambling to find someone to go with.

I turned to my Constant Contact mobile app (I was on the bus into town at this point) and sent a note to my “Tag along at the last minute” list – to see if anyone wanted to join me. That only turned up a friend from Seattle saying hi. But the fact that I could do this felt very fun and sometimes it works like a charm.

I got into the Crystal Ballroom and there were vendors and seating and fewer people than I’d ever shared that room and dance floor with. It was super sweet and people were in a great mood. The music was lovely, too. I got to hobnob with some Portland music legends – Worth, and Louie Longmier – both folks I’d been wanting to meet over the years. The artists also seemed really pleased to be playing for this festival. The Festival raises money for homeless projects around Portland.

Music Portland was there and I got to speak with one of their board members, Rose Gerber, who shared what the organization needs volunteer-wise. I may plug in and help.  Also, $ raised by the event is going to All Good Northwest.

I ended up talking to the folks at Shady Pines Radio and they invited one of their staff to take the extra ticket and she showed up with a big smile on her face!

At the end of the night, the person who had gifted me the ticket introduced herself and we shared a Lyft home.  What a fine way to spend the evening than home alone! And a Folk Festival – in Winter! I hope they do a Summer one – I’ll help and volunteer!!!

They’ve canceled tonight (Saturday’s show), but intend to pull it all together for Sunday. I’ll likely go! Join me!

It all started because someone I don’t know but who is on my email list (who receives my newsletters) reached out to me. Albert smiling.

PS – I did some live streaming (not fantastic quality, but hey) on my Facebook account here.

PPS – Here’s a Spotify playlist of the many groups that play this festival!

Plushrooms! the vendors were great!

Here’s a write-up of part two which was smooshed into one day a few weeks later. It was a great day and I took some pics and videos located here.

song a day

you can give Song a Day a try. A new song every day for 232 days.




My Chess History and Love of Chess

I first started playing chess when I was just a lad. My Dad taught me the moves and I quickly caught up to him. I’ve continued to play over the years and I think this is one of the passions that helped me make it through the pandemic over the last couple of years.  I wanted to share some of my thoughts about chess and why it’s such a fantastic game and some of my history with it. 

After playing chess as a child, I ended up playing many games with a mentor I had in my early teen years. Lee and I would play games while listening to the latest records he collected – Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and lots of our folk heroes of the day. These included David Bromberg, John Hartford, and Steve Goodman – three artists which were also touring a lot in the area during those times. This combination of sitting with a friend and playing chess and listening to great music continues in my life to this day.

I eventually moved to New York City and studied from 1980-1984 at NYU in Greenwich Village. The main park in the Village is Washington Square Park. This park is known for many things – it was a place for music and good times in the 60s and when I got there that vibe continued. Washington Square Park also hosts a wonderful corner with many built-in chess boards and seating for dozens of games. The area also boasted a number of chess stores where one could buy a board and pieces but also rent time at a table and easily find opponents (almost always men) to challenge to a game. This was especially useful during winter months and at night, though I also remember playing chess in the park at night in warmer weather times. Between the park and these shops (one was open 24 hours if I remember correctly), I spent a fair amount of my free time during my college days playing chess. I noticed I didn’t see too many other students on these boards.

The scene in Washington Square Park around the chess boards has always been fun. There’s a lot of kibitzing that goes on and some people play for money, though it’s usually just a dollar or two. I probably got my tuchas handed to me more than I won in those days, but it was a free and fun way to pass the time and keep my mind sharp. I love seeing how many of the videos of people playing trash-talking chess sharks in parks take place in New York City. It’s a great way for me to relive the scenes of my youth and every once in a while I think I see someone I’ve played with. But those guys were mostly older than me and are probably not the ones featured in the videos.

I’m also a musician, so I’m used to challenging my mind with that different language, too. Chess adds one more layer to my active mind. I wish I were better at other languages – I’ve tried learning many and I hardly know enough to order a cup of coffee in most. OK, that’s not completely true – I can do more with German, but in Spanish, my speaking is pretty limited unless I’m in a Spanish-speaking country for a while. Then it picks back up.

Back to chess and current times. About a year before the pandemic hit us I had been playing chess against a friend who beat me most of the time. He started telling me about how he was learning from better players online via videos they would do – playing while annotating their games. I got pretty into this and found myself watching more than I was playing. But I think it was important that I spent this time researching the game and learning some information about opening moves (also known as openings). At this point, I’m still watching these games, but luckily I’ve gone to playing more than watching.

During the pandemic, I signed up with chess.com and have been playing there almost exclusively since. I still play over-the-board games, too, but I have about 11 games going at one time on chess.com – feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to connect with me and play. I’m there under my own name so I’m not hard to find and challenge! Some of my favorite games right now online are with my 2 nephews who are on the East Coast. This has become a way I keep in touch with them and it’s also been interesting to see them develop as players.

When the Queen’s Gambit came out I rushed to watch it and I figured that would lead to a lot more chess playing in the world. That may have happened. It’s a strange universe, the chess world. I enjoy playing the most, but watching people who are advanced in the game is certainly interesting, too.

I encourage you to learn how to play chess. It’s fairly easy to learn and it will help you stay sharp as you age. And who knows, maybe one day we can hang out and play together!

Have a great one, Albert

Virtual Memorials Run Well

Virtual MemorialsMaui Tree

In the past few months I’ve been asked to help with 3 virtual services. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned. If you would like my help with a virtual memorial please reach out.  

  1. Probably as with the rest of life, every virtual experience is different and none of them go perfectly. As much as you practice and prepare know that there will be hiccups. They probably do something to humanize the experience rather than put a dent in it. That said, mostly I’ve seen these events be really sweet experiences where people share what they loved about their loved one. Participants have come away surprised at what a lovely experience a virtual memorial can be. 
  2. Do hold a tech run-through – try out things like sharing the screen to show a slideshow and practice spotlighting people and muting people if it’s going to be a big group so that the main person speaking can be heard.
  3. Make sure that the main person who is overseeing the event understands well how to use Zoom or whatever platform you’re using. Also, ideally, hand this role off to a professional or at least not someone who is close to the loved one – so they can experience the memorial and relax into it. 
  4. Know that the event will probably go better than you can imagine. People will share in all sorts of unexpected ways. Every time I’ve run one of these I’ve noticed that the events have a natural flow and really seem satisfying to the people who attend. 
  5. Given that not everyone is an expert with Zoom, it makes sense to hold a short training session early on in the event. In this I highlight how one can change or add their name if they want to; how to use the chat feature; how to turn off one’s video so that connectivity is improved in some cases; how to mute oneself; how to raise your hand; and different ways of viewing – speaker vs. gallery view, for instance. As Zoom continues to change, so does the short tutorial. 
  6. Decide in advance whether you want to record the session or not – and perhaps let participants know if they’re being recorded. 
  7. podcast on the topic 3.28.21 led me to Memories.net


“We hired Albert to help our family host a Celebration of Life Zoom service for my mother in law. We needed to get organized quickly and invited over 100 people to attend and share stories. We also wanted a live music element. Albert could not have been more skilled and helpful every step of the way. He pulled off a seamless event; and he was lovely to work with. We couldn’t be more grateful! Highly recommend using his services.”  
“Albert helped facilitate a virtual memorial service for my Uncle. It was such a relief to not have to worry about the technology during the service and to have his support for new Zoom users at the service. Albert has a solid understanding of Zoom’s setting and options and helped improve the event. He was kind and responsive and a huge help during a challenging time.”

From the Songwriter Soiree Website – some tips on using Zoom.


Using Zoom for the First Time? Here is a good INTRODUCTION VIDEO on how to join a meeting!

  1. MAKE SURE YOU ARE MUTED (you will be muted upon entry).

  2. Top right of screen: speaker view or gallery view – try those out.

  3. You can click on a person’s square and pin them – then you’ll see them big.

  4. At the bottom is a chat function – you can use that to chat with others individually or everyone at once.

  5. Zoom usually works better using a laptop or desktop over a phone – and on a computer it likes the Chrome browser. With a phone you don’t get all the bells and whistles you would get with the other devices.

  6. Please keep your camera steady.

  7. Confidentiality is important – and I’ll always remind people of this. No screen-shots, no recording. (unless there is consent by the whole group).

  8. If you come in late or don’t quite get the instructions, try your best to listen and follow along 🙂

  9. Scroll around on the screen and see what you see and teach yourself how to use Zoom. Like many programs – it works differently on different platforms. Don’t get hung up on the tech – notice who’s speaking and focus on that.


  1. Use just one mic for both guitar and voice. Using more than one input causes phase cancellation of common frequencies.

  2. Before joining, make the following adjustments to your ZOOM audio:

  3. Go to your ZOOM preferences>settings>Audio. Uncheck “Automatically adjust microphone settings.” (test this out).

  4. Go to Preferences>Settings>Audio>Advanced>Audio Processing: Under “Suppress Persistent Background Noise” AND Suppress Intermittent Background Noise” Select “DISABLE.”

  5. Also check “Show in meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone. You will then have an option on your Zoom chats on the top left of the screen. Press “Enable Original Sound” during the meeting to use your sound setup the way you intended. Try it out first and have someone hear the difference. It’s a big one.

  6. Now you will see a button in the upper-left corner during the meeting, which lets your turn Original Sound on or off. We recommend you turn it on when you will be playing an instrument. You may need to turn it off when you are speaking or singing without playing an instrument.

  7.  Start your own meeting in the App and record yourself.   When you end the meeting, the software will compile a video that you can watch and listen to.  You will only sound as good online as that recording. Make audio input adjustments to reduce distortion and test again.

  8. Please consider doing a test beforehand with another friend using zoom to test your sound.

  9. Play around with volume and or position from the mic to get the best sound.

  10. What has worked well for many: Using a Mac audio interface for audio input with a good quality microphone with compression and EQ being applied through interface software. But use what you have! The built in mic can be just fine.


Facebook Friend Culling


Cartoon by the wonderful Andy Singer!

Tending Your Lists

After watching The Social Dilemma I became overwhelmed with a desire to both spend less time on FB and also to lessen the # of friends I have on there. I explained this in my 10.11.2020 The Eleven newsletter thusly:

“Years ago I followed the advice of a fellow marketer regarding social media and accepted the friendships of thousands of people I didn’t know. The idea was that everyone would become an audience for my marketing business (part of which was teaching classes on how to use social media). Over the years my work has shifted away from social media, and after watching the new documentary The Social Dilemma, it occurred to me that it is a great time to reconsider the # of “friends” I have = 4,470.
I recommend doing this next step
A couple of days ago on FB I clicked on “friends”. From that viewpoint, one can see all of the people one is connected to. Then, I started culling. I’m at 2,330. It’s interesting. Beyond saying goodbye to a lot of people I barely know (if at all), I’m also coming across people who I haven’t thought of in a while and am reaching out to say hi and reconnect. I’ve always found FB useful as a networking/staying-in-touch tool.
I thought I’d share this since I’m finding the process interesting. If I’ve culled you and you want back in just send me a friend request :)”

10.22.2020: 741 FB friends.  Some observations and upsides

  1. My FB newsfeed is entirely different now. It’s filled with postings from people I know. It’s also moving a lot more slowly. I still use FB Purity which allows one to customize your FB experience – for instance, I see things in the order they’re posted. Install this app and you will be a happier FB user = no advertising.
  2. Having so many FB friends played into some of my weaknesses. I kept a lot of people on there thinking – ah, potential date when that was really not the case 🙂  Or, staying friends with certain celebrities – what actual good was that doing me?  I detached from a number of people who have close to 5K friends (actually, Michael Lerner who had 5,000 🙂  It’s not that I don’t love these people anymore, I just won’t see them in my newsfeed 🙂  This is true for both the people who I never met and those who I did years and years ago – old HS connections who I have no reason to stay in touch with; people who I burned with or shared a night with on the playa in 2003… All great memories and I still get to keep those, and I know that I can always find people if I want to 🙂
  3. There is definitely an addictive quality to FB like they talk about in the Social Dilemma, and as I unfriended people I could feel the pressure to not do this. FB actually makes it difficult to unfriend people. There’s a way they make the actual move to unfriend someone when you’re looking at your friends from the “friends” page difficult. The pull-down menu jiggles and is hard to actually click on!  They are so clever.  They also stopped me two times when I hit the “700 unfriendings in one day” limit. I got a message that my account had been blocked and I’d have to run through a series of steps to reconnect. It was super eerie, but I suppose not a bad thing, either.
  4. I also partly went through this effort to get to the other side and see what life is like for most people. I often hear from someone – you probably saw my recent important update on FB.  I never did. Never. So, perhaps now I’ll be a little more in touch with the people I’m closer with. We’ll see 🙂  I partly want to really keep moving away from FB and towards more IRL experiences – even with Covid keeping us apart.
  5. FB is very useful for introducing people to one another. With a smaller group of friends, I’ll probably be able to see people I’m closer to stand out more and be able to help them more. I just noticed when I posted this blog post to FB that the people who popped up to respond were a closer set of friends than usual – and I was able to see the power of the people I’ve kept around.
  6. Oooh, this means that I’ll see a lot fewer people whose birthday is today 🙂  I love wishing people happy birthday and having an email that goes to those on my list on their birthday which people love. Now, way fewer people to wade through. Love this.
  7. Yeah, I think having my group of friends on FB be the ones I’m closer with is going to be a good thing. Whew, a little relief there that this wasn’t a huge mistake 🙂
  8. 10.23.2020: I’m noticing a few things I hadn’t noticed before—way fewer notifications. Way fewer friends online to chat to. That part has gone from 3-500 people to 77 right now 11:30 am.
  9. 10.27.2020 – I still post to FB, but I notice that the responses are from people I’m closer to – this has changed the quality of my responses.  Also, I notice my newsfeed has so much less on it, it’s a lot more attractive to check 🙂
  10. 1.30.2021 – I’m segmenting my lists – I’ve written about making FB Friends lists in the past – it’s still a useful thing. Having a smaller list to look through brings me face-to-face with a lot richer collection (to me) of faces.  Reminding me who to reach out to and causing more connection through that. 
  11. 1.2.23 – I’m finding I’m also taking time to send happy New Year’s greetings to those with whom I feel drawn to do that with. That’s a sweet side effect – bringing me closer to those who I do want to stay connected with – and perhaps deepening our connection. 
  12. 1.2.23 – I’m probably repeating myself – but this year I’m noticing quite a few of my friends have passed away. People I really loved a lot. This gives me a moment to send them a lovely NYE note and well wishes. I like doing that. It’s been quite a day.
  13. 10.19.23 – I’ve heard from close friends and relatives over the years “Well, you must have seen my important post about X?” For years, no, there was no way for me to see their important posts. So, recently, I’ve unfollowed just about every one of my FB friends. This took me a while to do, but has led to a feed that is now full of the people’s posts who I’m closest to. It’s probably more of what Facebook intends for people to experience. Since I also use Facebook Purity (highly recommended), I don’t see advertising, and also see the most recent posts first (one of the FB Purity settings that you can set). So, I’m having a much better Facebook experience after all of this cutting and pruning! Feel free to add any thoughts in the comments section below.

I’m sure I’ll add more insights to this article as I have them. I feel like I’ve just landed in a new place and I’m excited to see how it’s different. So far it feels calmer.

Downsides to doing this:

  1. A thought I’ve had over the years is that when I’m older (70+) I’ll probably want to spend more time reconnecting with people who titillated me once upon a time. I just said goodbye to lots of people, so I won’t have the easily accessible group that I had 2 weeks ago to choose from.
  2. My FB live concerts will not reach as many people and have the chance to spread. I’ve noticed as I’ve played some recent FB live shows that I haven’t had the bigger audience I’ve become accustomed to. Oh well 🙂
  3. My business offerings might not have as wide a reach via the newsfeed as they once did. Oh well 🙂  Luckily, I’ve been building my email list like gangbusters over the years 🙂

Thanks for listening. I’d love to know your thoughts. Please leave them in the comments area below.

Happy Facebooking. Happy living. Albert

PS – Next up, same thing for LinkedIn 🙂 – 1.30.2021 – I’ve decided not to do this on LinkedIn, especially now that they’ve put together Lunchclub.

PPS – 10.23.2020 – Ooooh, under settings look what I found! More places to limit the FB monster’s reach into my life 🙂 

12.16.2020 – I was in a video discussion related to this topic with Gary Ware and Apryl Schlueter.

1.2.23 – Happy New Year – I find myself doing another culling today. It really feels very freeing. There are tons of people who aren’t using FB very much. Removing them from my friend’s list feels like a little shedding that is clearing. I recommend doing this once a  year at least. 

Building Neighborhood Resiliency

Stronger Neighborhoods

This is a list of items from a Nextdoor.com post I started in 2016 on Building Neighborhood Resiliency. If you have more resources, please send them along. Thanks.

Building Neighborhood Resiliency

As the snow is here – in Australia it looks warm and sunny 🙂 I just got this newsletter from an Australian group called Good Hoods. (2022 – not sure they still exist)

Here’s what they wrote:

“Dear Albert, During the recent Discovery Tour around Australia we met some great people and heard about amazing initiatives working to build community connection and resilience. We now have a network of passionate resilience experts, including yourself, and together we believe we can create a nation that is ready for anything. Following the tour, we have been thinking through how we can continue to help people connect and come together. We know that resilience is a process and something that grows over time. One of the first steps we all can take is to connect with others so we feel a sense of belonging. That’s why we are launching Good ‘Hoods – a new initiative to help create connections and a sense of pride in where you live. We want to connect people who want to work together to create more resilient communities, and share initiatives so the good continues to grow. We have shared some of the great initiatives from the tour that you may want to replicate in your community, see a sneak peek below:

Street BBQ: there’s nothing like a good BBQ to bring people together. We’re encouraging our people to say that first hello to their neighbors this summer, and we want to share the resources with you too. To help get you to get started we’re giving the first 200 to register their own street BBQ a $50 supermarket voucher. These first resources are based on what we heard would be helpful.

Sincerely, Jacki Johnson
Group Executive People,
Performance and Reputation Insurance Australia Group

SNEAK PEEK One of the great initiatives we heard about. Learn about this and others on the Good ‘Hoods website. In 2010 and 2012, floods devastated Uranquinty. So a local group, Progress Association, worked with the NSW SES to devise a disaster response plan to minimize damage from future floods. Find out more.


Interesting, I just found this collection of recently collated resources on this topic, today.

Related, this just in. Nick Licata was an incredible member of the Seattle City Council.

This comes from Jim Diers, who used to be the head of the Dept. of Neighborhoods in Seattle and who’s gone on to do great work & writing…


Jim Diers Community Builder

A fundamental principle of community organizing is to start where the people are. The closer you engage people to where they live, the more likely they are to get involved. You should be able to get successively larger turnouts for gatherings at the neighborhood, city, state, and national levels, but the percentage of the population engaged will most likely be the highest at the street, block, building, or floor level. Why? Because the farther the action is from where someone lives, the more likely they are to expect others to take responsibility. If it’s on their street, however, who will step up if they don’t? Logistics like transportation and child care are so much easier. And, their participation will generate peer pressure for the rest of the neighbors to join in. Most importantly, neighbors are likely to enjoy immediate and ongoing benefits from their participation due to the small scale and the relationships that are built with people who are so accessible. There’s no need to expend energy on bylaws, minutes, treasurer’s reports, nominating committees, and Roberts Rules of Order; the focus is on community.

The Opzoomeren Movement

I recently witnessed the potential of block organizing in Rotterdam where the Opzoomeren movement has taken hold. It started in 1994 when the residents of Opzoomer Street got fed up waiting for the local government to address problems of crime and blight. They came to realize that there was much that the neighbors themselves could do, and they decided to take action. Today, about 1600 streets are following their example. Neighbors come together to do whatever is most important to them whether that is caring for latchkey children and housebound elders, planting trees and gardens, or organizing street parties. Because half of Rotterdam’s population is immigrants, neighbors are often engaged in teaching one another Dutch. On many of the streets, neighbors have gathered to discuss how they can best support one another. They develop a code of conduct that is prominently displayed on a large sign. No two signs are the same although there are some frequent themes.

A typical sign reads 1. We say hello and welcome new neighbors. 2. We take part in all kinds of street activities. 3. We help each other with childcare. 4. We keep our neighborhood clean and safe.

Each May, all of the streets celebrate Opzoomeren Day. In order to be recognized as part of the movement, a street must undertake at least four events or projects each year. An Opzoomeren bus is available for neighbors to use as a pop-up café, gallery, workshop site, or whatever.

The Limitation of Block/Neighborhood Watch Programs

Of course, street-level organizing is not a new idea. Practically everywhere I go, there are long-standing crime prevention groups known as block or neighborhood watch. Seattle has had one of the most successful block-watch programs. First organized in 1972, the Police Department now claims that approximately 3000 blocks, or 30% of the city, are participating. In August of each year, about 1400 block parties are held in observance of National Night Out Against Crime. The shortcoming of the program, however, is its singular focus on crime. Neighbors typically get engaged when it is too late – after there have been house break-ins or other safety issues. They call the Police Department for support and are taught how to install security systems and watch out for strangers. After that initial meeting, the group often becomes dormant until there is another crime wave. Police departments typically fail to understand that the safest blocks are the ones that focus not on safety but on building community. Rather than simply teach people how to be secure in their homes and watch for strangers, residents should be encouraged to get out of their homes and connect with neighbors on a regular basis. It is much more sustainable for people to engage with one another around their wide range of interests rather than the police department’s narrow public safety agenda. That’s another key aspect of starting where the people are.

In recognition of this, New Zealand’s program has morphed from neighborhood watch to Neighborhood Support. Neighbors Provide Mutual Support There is so much that neighbors can do to connect with one another and provide mutual support. Emergency planning is one such activity. Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel told me that one of the most important lessons from their devastating earthquakes was the importance of neighbors knowing one another. With limited emergency workers and many impassable roads, most Christchurch residents were totally dependent on the skills, resources, and care of their neighbors in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes. I now live on Vashon Island, Washington which is highly susceptible to earthquakes. Over 200 groups of five to fifteen households each have self-organized in this rural community in order to develop and implement emergency plans. Frequent power outages and other winter storm damage provide ample opportunity to practice mutual support. On our street, for example, some neighbors used their chainsaws to remove downed trees while others prepared a kind of stone soup; the ingredients came from everyone’s thawing freezers and the stew was prepared and served in a warm house equipped with a generator.

Fortunately, we didn’t need the skills and knowledge of the physician who is also part of our group. There are so many other ways in which neighbors can support one another on a daily basis. On some streets, elders have buddies who check on them each day and provide the transportation and maintenance that enables them to stay in their homes. And, for young parents, there are babysitting cooperatives. Neighbors share their expertise with one another whether that involves technology, recycling, gardening, auto mechanics, or whatever. I visited a street in Garland, Texas where many of the neighbors worked in the construction trades – there was at least one carpenter, plumber, electrician, bricklayer, and roofer. They conducted regular work parties to help one another with their house projects. Those who lacked the skills to help with construction prepared lunch or supervised the children. A couple of the neighbors had built bars in their back yards so that everyone could socialize after a day of work.

The Value of Bumping Places

Gathering spaces are essential to building community. I like to call them bumping places because the best way to build relationships is to have places where neighbors can bump into one another on a regular basis. The closer those bumping places are to where you live, the more likely it is that you will continually bump into the same people. There are many opportunities to create bumping places on a street. A vacant lot or underutilized yard can be converted into a community garden or pocket park. A little free library combined with a bench becomes an instant bumping place.

In the Taiwan village of Tugo, residents have turned their front yards into small parks with tables that are shared with their neighbors. I met a man in Matsudo, Japan who had given up his valuable private parking place in order to redevelop it as a community gathering place complete with seating, fountain, and artwork created by the children of the neighborhood. In the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, neighbors converted their intersection into what they call Share-It Square, a most unusual bumping place. They painted a large mural in the intersection in order to slow traffic and provide a sense of place. Then, at each corner, they built a cob structure including a bench, a community bulletin board, a children’s playhouse, and a place where people can deposit and retrieve all sorts of free items. There is also a stand for a thermos of hot tea that entices neighbors to sip and talk together.

The Share-It Square neighbors didn’t seek the city’s permission before they painted the intersection, because they knew they wouldn’t get it. The project has been so successful, though, that the City of Portland now permits similar projects in other neighborhoods. And, the idea of painting intersections has spread around the world from the Cathedral neighborhood in Sioux Falls to the Riccarton neighborhood of Christchurch.

Connecting Neighbors through Events

Events are another way to connect neighbors at the street level. On the Fourth of July in Tacoma, Washington, residents are encouraged to barbeque in their front yards as a way of welcoming neighbors to join them. In other places, neighbors are invited to watch movies projected onto the side of someone’s house. Several rural communities in Australia have festivals in which all of the households along the road are encouraged to create unique scarecrows out of straw; neighbors walk the road together enjoying one another’s creativity. In Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario, there are several neighborhoods in which the houses have large front porches. They hold annual concerts featuring a band on each porch. Neighbors are invited to sit on the lawn and enjoy the music. I attended one such event that featured 44 bands with very different styles of music playing on 22 porches over the course of an afternoon.

Building Blocks for Larger Civic Action

Street-level organizing can produce the building blocks needed for larger civic action. Some neighborhood associations develop a broad base of participation by having their board members elected from each street. The street representative’s job is to ensure good two-way communication and to mobilize their constituency as needed. The City of Redmond, Washington used this decentralized approach to maximize public input into policy decisions. Rather than rely solely on the testimony of the “usual suspects” who attend public hearings, they produced videos on key issues under consideration. Those videos were made available for house meetings at the block level and the ensuing discussions engaged people who would never think of speaking in the city council chambers. Feedback from the house meetings helped inform decision-making by elected officials.

Oftentimes, the best way to build a campaign is house by house and block by block. For example, on the issue of climate change, neighbors can be given a menu of actions for reducing their family’s carbon footprint. Each action is worth a certain number of points. If the family can demonstrate sufficient points, they are given a yard sign identifying them as a green household. When green signs start spreading up and down the street, everyone is more likely to want to get on board. Similar approaches have been utilized in creating drug-free, nuclear-free, and hate-free zones. One of the best things about block organizing and one of the greatest challenges is that the neighbors often have more differences (e.g. race, culture, age, religion, politics, career) than are likely to be found in other types of communities that are organized around a common identity or interest. Some local places celebrate the unity of their diversity through common signage.

The residents of the Croft Place apartments in Seattle’s Delridge neighborhood did that as each family painted a placard hung above their door featuring their name and representing their culture. Similarly, on a street in Taiwan’s Taoyuan City, each household has a placard depicting the kind of work that their family does. In Roombeek, a suburb of Enschede in the Netherlands, houses on one street each have a display case showcasing what is special about the family that lives there. Agencies as Facilitators of Local Connections Street organizing works best when it starts with the interests of the residents themselves, but there is a role that outside agencies can play in helping to foster connections. In Lawrence, Massachusetts, for example, a community development corporation trained interested residents on how to build a block organization. Upon completion of the training, the participants were given vouchers to acquire the ingredients for three dinners that they hosted for their neighbors. Over dinner, they discussed their dreams, challenges and gifts and developed plans for supporting one another. The resulting block organizations also proved to be a good vehicle for voter registration and turnout.

In Portland, Oregon, a non-profit called City Repair provides a mobile bumping place known as the T-Horse. When the converted van arrives on a street, gigantic wings are installed on either side of the T-Horse to provide protection from sun or rain. Inside the van, they make tea and serve it to the neighbors who sit on cushions under the wings and get to know one another.

Many cities make it very difficult to organize street parties due to the time and expense involved in acquiring the required food handling and street closure permits. But some local governments, like Airdrie and Grande Prairie, Alberta and Burlington, Ontario, realize that they have an interest in building community. They make the regulatory process as simple as possible and even supply block party toolkits that include equipment and/or money to help with the event. The City of Seattle has a Small Sparks fund which facilitates residents who feel isolated to connect with their neighbors. For example, one mother and her child with disabilities used the money to purchase a wagon that they pulled door to door as a magazine exchange. Another individual noticed that all of the falling apples on her street were attracting rats, so she purchased a press and invited her neighbors to help make cider. A lonely senior in a high-rise apartment invited the neighbors in the surrounding houses to the community room on the top floor where they had a great time folding paper airplanes and tossing them out the window.

Many cities throughout the world sponsor a Neighbor Day as a way to encourage and celebrate caring neighbors. Among other things, the City of Seattle organizes a contest for students to depict pictures of caring neighbors. The winning entry gets printed on the cover of a greeting card and the inside message simply says, “Thank you, neighbor!” Thousands of people utilize these cards as an excuse to visit their neighbors and let them know that they are appreciated.

Building community in dense, high-rise housing can be challenging, but again, agencies can play a role in facilitating connections. Over 80 percent of Singapore’s population lives in multi-story buildings constructed and managed by the Housing Development Board (HDB). HDB has made community building a priority. They include community gathering spaces in their developments and make funds available to support community-driven place-making projects. An annual Buildathon trains practitioners on how to work in ways that are community-led, and a Community Week recognizes good neighbors and exemplary community projects.

A promising, relatively new tool for block organizing is the Abundant Community Initiative being implemented by the City of Edmonton and other municipalities. Utilizing a strengths-based approach, Block Connectors are recruited and trained to have conversations that uncover the gifts, needs, passions, and dreams of their neighbors. The information and relationships that emerge through this process lead to the formation of interest and activity groups, skills exchanges, and a vision for the neighborhood. The work is done under the auspices of the local community leagues and helps them to be more deeply rooted in each of their neighborhoods. Thus, neighborhood associations and agencies alike are learning that a top-down approach to citizen engagement doesn’t work. If you really want to get broad and inclusive participation, you need to start where people are – as close to their home and their heart as possible. Of course, starting where people are, also entails starting with their language and culture and with their pre-existing networks, but those are topics for future blogs.

Albert: “I love this paragraph: “Police departments typically fail to understand that the safest blocks are the ones that focus not on safety but on building community. Rather than simply teach people how to be secure in their homes and watch for strangers, residents should be encouraged to get out of their homes and connect with neighbors on a regular basis. It is much more sustainable for people to engage with one another around their wide range of interests rather than the police department’s narrow public safety agenda. That’s another key aspect of starting where the people are. In recognition of this, New Zealand’s program has morphed from neighborhood watch to Neighborhood Support.”
This fellow from Eugene passed away last April 2016. It’s good to read about people who spent their lives making a difference in their communities. “Wilde says, “Most of his background and activism centered around community resilience. How can our communities be as strong and resilient as possible? How are we operating within our communities to make it accessible and equitable for all its members?”
this one just in from the UK. Good to know there is good change happening in the world. http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170502-the-fascinating-activities-of-community-pubs-in-britain “Across the country, community-owned pubs are hosting activities like massage, lullabies for babies and financial advice. Could this model save Britain’s locals?”
This looks like an interesting conference in this vein. I’m glad to know things like this are happening. I am curious if anything like it is happening closer to home. And, if not…. hmmmm http://permacultureconvergence.com.webserver.vera.asdf456.com/
I’ve been thinking about ways we can recover from Eagle Creek and other wildfires. One way to do that and make some friends at the same time is to plant trees. Here’s the latest news from Friends of Trees. http://www.icontact-archive.com/DYP8HvoHJg78BLyDIOBUWwAA02LM5rCk?w=4
Here’s a new Permaculture resource: Andrew Millison: I am sharing a free open-source textbook I wrote for my Advanced Permaculture Design for Climate Resilience course. This book is essentially about climate classification systems, climate change projections, finding analogous climates to your own around the world, and how to design for resilience from extreme climate and weather events. Please feel free to check it out and I hope it can be helpful to you! Here’s the table of contents: Part 1: Climate Assessment Climate Climate Classification Systems The Climate Analogue Tool Climate Analogue Examples Climate Change Projections Climate Change Analogue Examples Part 2: Design Strategies for Climate Resilience Drought, Heat, and Erratic Rainfall Wildfire Tropical Cyclone Effects Sea Level Rise and Flooding
Introducing the Eco-School Network We’re thrilled to launch the Eco-School Network as a nonprofit that equips parents and students in Northwest Oregon to lead the change toward sustainability. After incubation through the Center for Earth Leadership, our stellar parent leaders now engage 25,000 students/per year in preserving a healthy environment for all through school gardens, waste reduction, and walk and bike-to-school programs. https://www.facebook.com/theEcoSchoolNetwork/
We Need Each Other: Building Gift Community: Our book is part of an emerging “gift culture” worldview. It is a manual for designing a personal community based on the gifts that each person brings. Focusing on non-residential, place-based, and committed community, we present tools to support and fortify the longing of the human heart for intimate, conscious connection. https://amzn.to/2SDuxDJ Indiegogo happening till end of today! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/time-for-tribe-home-study-course–2#/
I’m not exactly sure where to file this. And, what we as a neighborhood could collectively do to stem the impact of climate change. Drive smaller cars? Stop driving altogether? Leave trees standing? Stop using gas-powered leaf blowers? Walk more. Bike more. Take the bus more. Stop ordering from Amazon. Buy local. Buy nothing. Anyway, this article got me thinking. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/opinion/kerry-climate-change-trump.html
Here’s an article on why kids playing outside is a good thing. https://www.outsideonline.com/2373141/how-outdoors-makes-your-kids-smarter
A new world record was set by India planting millions of trees in one day. I wonder if Oregon could beat this record? “1.5 Million Volunteers Plant 66 Million Trees in 12 Hours, Breaking Guinness World Record” https://www.ecowatch.com/india-trees-world-record-2452569239.html
https://portlandassembly.com/joinus/ – thanks to my neighbor, Jamie, for this reference. There is no one coming to save us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Our lives and our cities are shaped by the forces of global capital, which can only produce social oppression and ecological destruction. To address these persistent issues, we’re building resilient networks of cooperation – block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood – to determine the conditions of our existence together.
an interesting documentary. Added to my watchlist. https://www.netflix.com/watch/80126507
This seems a good place for this. Improving our emotional health will build our community. And lead to better health for ourselves, too. https://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7VUpYpTwI8 The 100 things challenge | Dave Bruno | TEDxClaremontColleges Dave is the author of The 100 Thing Challenge, a book that documents his challenge to live with less than 100 personal items for a year. Dave challenges our conceptualization of The American Dream and asks us what is truly necessary to live a fulfilled and happy life. – I found this after reading The Art of Non-Conformity (great book!)
Thanks, Greta!

I’m not sure exactly where this one goes, but it’s such a sweet way to connect with your neighbors. https://www.facebook.com/carla.akkaoui/posts/10156251903035811

Here’s something that’s happening on this topic in SF. https://www.empowersf.org/

This article just got shared on LinkedIn. Seems relevant today and going forward. HOW TO BE EXPERIENTIAL DURING A TIME OF ISOLATION https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-experiential-during-time-isolation-jeffrey-abramson/

This looks very useful right now. https://mailchi.mp/mednet/ucla-longevity-center-new-brain-boosters-series-1082869?e=cd2dfa390c

Staying Safe and Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Friends of the UCLA Longevity Center, I hope that all of you are safe and healthy during the challenging coronavirus pandemic. The Longevity Center has transitioned the Senior Scholars program to online learning, while all other educational programs have been temporarily suspended as we look to the feasibility of moving to offer our programs online using video conferencing platforms (e.g., Zoom). With the uncertainty and evolving impact of COVID-19, it is natural to experience anxiety, and like any emotion, anxiety can spread from person to person. Moreover, many of us are following current recommendations for social distancing, which will limit the community’s spread of the virus but also presents its own challenges with isolation and loneliness. You may wish to keep in mind some of the following tips to reduce the mental health risks during this incredibly challenging time:

Be cautious about unreliable sources of misinformation in the media. Rumors and distortions increase stress and anxiety levels. Turn to trusted sources of information so you can remain up-to-date on emerging situations. Anyone overwhelmed with emotions should contact a mental health professional for assistance. Our UCLA clinics have rapidly shifted to telepsychiatry to respect social distancing efforts and continue to deliver mental health care. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be unnecessarily upsetting so taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, especially on social media, will help to reduce illness worries.

For those who are sheltering in place, keep in mind that it can lead to isolation and loneliness, which increases the risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. To overcome isolation, stay in touch with friends and family by phone, or even better, use social media and videoconferencing platforms (e.g., Skype, Zoom, Facetime). Keep to your daily routine as much as possible. If you are telecommuting for work, be sure to take your usual lunch break and maintain your daily habits. Try to remain positive. Just as anxiety can spread from person to person, so can optimism and a positive outlook. Rather than focus on worse-case scenarios, keep in mind what you are grateful about during these trying times. If you are feeling anxious, take deep breaths, stretch, do some yoga, or meditate. Try to eat well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid excessive alcohol use. Staying physically active is important. Below are some resources you may find helpful, but be sure to check with your doctor before starting new exercises, which may need to be modified if too difficult.

Chair Exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BcPHWGQO44
Gentle Chair Exercises: Sitting Only https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCTYAFTAaU0
Gentle Chair Exercises: Sitting and Standing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qK3EDJC_HZI

For the latest information on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) please check the following resources. Talk about your concerns with people you trust: sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the true risk to yourself and people you care about will reduce your anxiety. Follow CDC recommendations to help prevent the spread of symptoms through social distancing; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering coughs and sneezes; cleaning and disinfecting touched objects and surfaces, and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. With our Longevity Center memory and healthy lifestyle classes temporarily suspended, check out some of the computer programs and websites for improving memory and other cognitive abilities, including Dakim Brain Fitness (www.dakim.com or 310-566-1350), Posit Science and Brain HQ (www.brainhq.com or 866-599-6463), and Lumosity (www.lumosity.com). If you haven’t already, consider reading about how to keep your brain and body healthy as you age. I have written several books (e.g., 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain, The Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Program, The Small Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease) and there are many other excellent books on these topics (e.g., Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer, Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being by Andrew Weil).

You may benefit from relaxation practices that could help reduce levels of stress. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (http://marc.ucla.edu/) provides education and support for people interested in learning methods to pay attention to present moment experiences with openness. Several apps that provide meditation can be downloaded to a smartphone as well (e.g., UCLA Mindful, Insight Timer, Calm, Insight LA).

To keep your mind stimulated, take a virtual field trip by visiting zoos, museums, mars, and more online and check out some of these webcams for an adventure from home: National Park Service: Hawai’i volcanoes https://www.nps.gov/havo/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm Iceland: Hekla: https://www.livefromiceland.is/webcams/hekla/ Borcay Beach, Philippines: https://www.earthcam.com/world/philippines/boracay/?cam=boracay_hd Philippine coral reef cam: https://www.calacademy.org/learn-explore/animal-webcams/philippine-coral-reef-cam Venice Italy: https://www.webcamtaxi.com/en/italy/veneto/bacino-san-marco.html Northern Lights: https://www.webcamtaxi.com/en/canada/manitoba/churchill-northern-lights.html Nagasaki Harbor: https://www.webcamtaxi.com/en/japan/nagasaki/nagasaki-harbor.html Audubon Society https://explore.org/livecams/national-audubon-society/ Animal/wildlife cams and Zen cams Africa: http://www.africam.com/wildlife/ Puffin cam: https://explore.org/livecams/national-audubon-society/puffin-loafing-ledge-cam Bald Eagle: https://explore.org/livecams/national-audubon-society/puffin-loafing-ledge-cam Zen: NASA Space Station Cam: https://explore.org/livecams/player/zen-den/international-space-station Zen: Tropical Reef Cam https://explore.org/livecams/under-the-water/pacific-aquarium-tropical-reef-camera For more information from trusted resources visit: UCLA Health COVID-19 updates Los Angeles County Department of Public Health California Department of Public Health The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention World Health Organization Sincerely, Gary W. Small, M.D. Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging Professor of Psychiatry & BioBehavioral Sciences Director, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry Director, UCLA Longevity Center www.longevity.ucla.edu

5.18.2020 Albert: Something that keeps occurring to me – perhaps it’s occurring to you, too – is that just about everyone who you see right now is probably a nearby neighbor. We don’t have a lot of people from out of the area – Airbnb, out-of-town guests. Yet people hardly take a moment to say hello. I think there might be some value in slowing down a bit and noticing who is passing you by. I understand that it’s not the easiest time to meet your neighbors, but it’s not impossible. One value to know who lives around you is that they might end up becoming a friend. I haven’t thought this all the way through, but I have a feeling that if we were all to take a little more time to notice who is around us it could be a good way to strengthen the neighborhood. Perhaps this idea deserves its own thread. For now, I’ll leave it here.

Living Together Guidelines

Willow Cottage Basic Guidelines

by Andrine de la Rocha, Massage Therapist

Welcome to Willow Cottage! We’re happy that you’ll be joining us for a time. In order to make your stay more wonderful for everyone, please be mindful of these basic guidelines, and feel free to ask questions if you’re unsure about how they apply to you – they do apply to you, regardless of your status as resident, guest or family member. These are not ALL the rules, but basic rules of thumb which will help you to know how we roll. We request that you read this document and agree to the basic rules if you choose to stay. If you are uncomfortable with or don’t agree with the guidelines in this document, please tell us so we can negotiate terms that work for everyone.

We value friendship: Join In!

  • come to meals (even if you didn’t cook)
  • join us for movies in the living room
  • play fun games with us
  • offer to help us with yard work, cooking, cleaning
  • join us on walks, bike rides, yoga, running
  • tell us about yourself and/or ask us about ourselves
  • respectfully discuss politics and religion

We value contribution & reciprocity: Chip In!

  • clean up after yourself
  • clean up after someone else
  • wash dishes, or put them in the dishwasher
  • unload the dishwasher and dish rack
  • wipe off the counter, table, cutting board, stovetop
  • sweep the floor, wash a sink, scrub a tub or toilet
  • offer to cook a meal
  • buy groceries if you can
  • if you use something up, replace it, tell someone, or at least write it on the grocery list
  • help clean up after meals

We value order and beauty: Keep Things Tidy!

  • keep your personal belongings in your personal space, not the public spaces
  • if you feel compelled to move something, please put it back where you found it
  • if you want to borrow something, ask before using it and return it in good condition
  • if you break something, fix it or tell someone who can get it fixed
  • offer to help fix it, or help pay to have it fixed or replaced
  • consider taking off your shoes when entering the house to preserve our beautiful refinished floors; there are shoe racks in the hallway and many slippers available

We value safety and security: Be Aware and Secure!

  • lock the door when you go out and at night when going to bed
  • lock the garage if you use it to keep bicycles secure
  • introduce yourself to people so we know who belongs in the house

We value health: Respect Others’ Needs!

  • use only unscented products and avoid toxic cleaners & other allergens that trigger illness
  • don’t smoke cigarettes, cigars, pipes or anything else on the property
  • don’t bring animals into the house without explicit permission
  • please keep pork and shellfish out of the house
  • if you are cooking, ask about dietary restrictions (and ask for help if needed)
  • keep all illegal substances off of our property

Our House is a Resonant Musical Instrument: Sound Carries Unusually Well:

  • keep noise to a minimum between 10pm and 9am
  • please be gentle when closing doors; keeping your hand on the doorknob will help keep doors from slamming
  • walk quietly on the stairs, and anywhere on the 3rd floor

We value the Earth: Conserve!

  • Reuse, Recycle & Compost
  • avoid packaging when making purchases
  • bring your own shopping bags and containers to the store
  • sort your trash before filling our tiny garbage can
  • ask if you’re not sure about how to dispose of something
  • take large amounts of recycling directly to the outdoor can
  • turn off lights & fans when you leave a room
  • take shorter showers, turn off taps to conserve water
  • close windows in cold weather

We value communication: Talk to Us!

  • if you don’t know where something goes, ask!
  • if you don’t know how to use an appliance, ask!
  • if you would like to have visitors, let us know when, for how long & introduce us
  • for guests staying more than 1 or 2 nights, please ask permission
  • please be responsible for your guests following the basic guidelines
  • if you will be gone for several days, please let us know so we don’t worry

Related: Make sure you’re getting your Vitamin T right now!