Virginia Commonwealth University

Map of FourSquare Deals Around Richmond

Posted: July 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Social Media | No Comments »

FourSquare is a social networking site that allows users to “check in” at locations with their mobile devices. When someone checks in at a place more than any other user, he or she becomes the “mayor” of that establishment. Being a mayor, or earning other titles, can pay off. This map shows businesses in Richmond that offer rewards to frequent FourSquare-savvy visitors.


View FourSquare Deals in Richmond, Va. in a larger map


Social Media Business Strategy Is Trying To Catch Up To Technology And Demand

Posted: July 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Social Media | No Comments »

Scott Dickens, president of Rocket Pop Media, said part of his job is educating businesses about social media.

Doug Callahan
Virginia Commonwealth University

RICHMOND  |  “I don’t think anyone’s doing it right yet,” said Kira Siddall, a social media strategist for Siddall Advertising. “You can’t do it right because as soon as someone does it right, it changes.”

The “it” that Siddall was speaking of is social media, and its proper application for businesses. With the June 28 launch of Google+, the search engine giant’s attempt at social networking, it’s hard to disagree. In just two weeks, the number of registered users had reached 10 million, and speculation is rising that it will be a serious threat to Facebook. And while Facebook might seem untouchable, it’s noteworthy that MySpace once seemed the same way.

So it’s no surprise that businesses have spent the last few years scrambling to find the best way to use social media to their benefit. But so far, no one seems to know exactly what that means, and there are still a lot of businesses doing it wrong.

“The state is a mess,” said Siddall, who‘s also a founding board member of the Social Media Club of Richmond. “It’s everyone trying to figure it out.”

Scott Dickens is one Richmond resident who’s helping people try to figure it out. As president of RocketPop Media, he and his employees plan, implement and manage social media campaigns for local businesses. And he said he definitely sees a lot of people who need some guidance.

“A lot of our clients are small organizations, entrepreneurial organizations, regional business that have anywhere from 10 to a couple hundred employees,” Dickens said. “And most of them don’t understand the strategy behind social interaction online. They think of it as one-way communication, as a mechanism for getting press out there. There’s a lot of shouting from the mountaintop, so to speak.”

Dickens stressed the importance of using social media as a two-way conversation with customers.

“Part of our job is education and making people understand that to utilize social media, you actually have to be social,” Dickens said.

Dr. Marcus Messner, a professor at VCU’s School of Mass Communication, has published academic studies about the adoption of social media. He said that thinking of social media as one-way communication is the biggest mistake businesses make.

“What companies do wrong is that they do not have two-way communication,” Messner said.

“You can really engage your customers if you have two-way communication,” he said. “But then, of course, you talk about staff. If you want this two-way communication you need to have designated staff members and employees that are doing this.”

A recent study from Pew Internet and American Life Project found evidence to back these assertions from Dickens and Messner. The study, developed from a survey of 2,303 Americans, found that Internet users are more likely to be active in voluntary groups or organizations. In fact, 82% of users said that they had been active in such groups in the last 30 days, compared with 71% of non-users. It stands to reason today’s Internet users want to participate and be a part of something, so companies should take advantage of that opportunity to interact and engage. You can check out the data from “The Social Side of the Internet” from Pew Internet and American Life Project here. And here is the accompanying survey questionnaire. If you don’t have Excel, try using this viewer from Microsoft.

The staffing issue is one that can hold a company back from using social media for maximum communication potential.

“A lot of companies that are new on social media, you see that somebody is designated, and that person is doing that at 4:45,” Messner said. “Before the person goes home, you see a flow of tweets coming out. And of course, that’s better than nothing, but that’s not really engaging in social media. And the community will not value that.”

“They have to be engaged, either through an organization like us or an internal resource like staff that they hired to do it,” Dickens said. “But probably not an intern and probably not in 10 minutes a day.”

Partly because of these issues, some businesses are still reluctant to even get in the social media game. But some local businesspeople said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I wish there was more reluctance because not everybody belongs there,” Siddall said.

Nathan Hughes, vice president of Bandazian and Holden Real Estate and a founding board member of the Social Media Club of Richmond, agreed with Siddall that social media isn’t for everyone. He said it’s largely an issue of sensitivity.

“I’ve seen executives of major corporations really lose it online,” Hughes said. “And those people obviously aren’t suited to be on there. And if they don’t have a little bit thicker skin, then they need to not be on there because it’s very transparent and people are going to complain about you.”

Leslie Bradshaw is the co-founder, president, and chief operating officer of JESS3, a creative agency that specializes in data visualization. Wall Street Journal named her one of “Tech’s Top Women Under 30,” and she cemented her position as an expert on the business of social media last month when she served as editor of the Social Media ProBook. She said that another mistake that companies make is having a lack of strategy.

“It’s one thing to be there and it’s quite another to be objective driven and to have measurements and have real results,” Bradshaw said.

“People say ‘I want a million fans.’ And they do that because they want to prove viability in the marketplace and they want to have more fans than their competitors,” Bradshaw said. “But I always ask, ‘What are you going to do with those fans?’ I mean, you’ve essentially invited a million people over to your house for a party and the expression is, ‘What are you going to feed them?’”

But Dickens of RocketPop Media said that social media is still new, and that businesses will surely figure out the best way to use it eventually.

“I think it’s in its infancy,” Dickens said. “I think the most creative organizations are using it to strike new conversations with their customers and find new ways of communicating with them. And I don’t think that’s going to get worse; I think it’s going to get better as the tools get refined.”

And Bradshaw said that future business leaders will have a huge head-start.

“It will be a native extension of their leadership,” Bradshaw said. “Social media will not be something that has to be retrofitted. It will just be the way we’ve always done things. That’s really where it’s headed. I’d say that’s still a generation or so away but the leaders of today grew up with television. The leaders of tomorrow grew up with cell phones. The leaders of the day after tomorrow grew up with social media.”


Social Media In Richmond (Audio Interviews)

Posted: July 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Social Media | No Comments »

Jeff Hartman, marketing coordinator for Ross Publishing, talks about using social media in the senior industry.

Dr. Marcus Messner, professor at VCU’s School of Mass Communication, talks about return on investment for social media.

Kira Siddall, founding board member of the Social Media Club of Richmond, talks about the club.

Nathan Hughes, founding board member of the Social Media Club of Richmond, has some advice for businesses getting into social media.

Shana Meganck, public relations professional and PHD student, talks about the growth of social media in the PR world.

Stephanie Polickoski, advertising major at VCU, talks about the social media class she’s taking this summer.

Subaru Might Be Making A Mistake By Not Responding To Social Media Push

Posted: June 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Social Media | No Comments »


The Holy Land Away From Home: Richmond’s Jewish Community And Its Connection To Israel

Posted: May 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

The Holy Land Away From Home: Richmond’s Jewish Community And Its Connection To Israel from Doug Callahan on Vimeo.

Doug Callahan and Eric Steigleder

The rabbis we spoke to represent these Jewish movements:
Reform:  Less emphasis on strict, biblical requirements. But in recent years, Reform Judaism has taken a more traditional turn.
Conservative: Somewhere between Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism. There is a stronger emphasis on traditional practices than Reform, but more progressive than Orthodox.
Orthodox: Highly traditional. Worship services are conducted in Hebrew. There is a belief in the divine creation of the Torah.
Chabad-Lubavitch: An offshoot of Hasidic Judaism with traditional leanings. There is a strong emphasis on intellectualism.

“There’s no such thing as a monolithic view,” Reform Rabbi Jesse Gallop said.

Indeed, Jews in Richmond are nothing if not nuanced. While the vast majority of the community expressed support for Israel, they differed in the extent of their support and the reasoning behind it. In developing their connection to the land, members of the community pull from different combinations of religion, culture, and history.

From the birth of monotheism to the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948, the land of Israel has served as a religious and cultural bastion of Jewish identity. It is because of this rich history that many modern Jews have placed Israel at the center of their religious faith and political worldview.

This support has been brought into sharp focus following the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa. Beginning with the overthrow of the Tunisian regime and quickly followed by the toppling of Egypt’s government, the extent to which these popular uprisings will affect Israel has yet to be seen.

With widespread revolts in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and an entrenched, NATO-supported opposition leading a military campaign against the Libyan government, Israel’s future safety has been called into question by many supporters.

Senator John McCain voiced such a concern to Greta Van Susteren, saying, “Israel is in danger of being surrounded by countries that are against the very existence of Israel, are governed by radical organizations.”

This unwavering support of Israel is nothing new for American political leaders, and it’s certainly not uncommon for American Jews.

According to a 2010 Brandeis University study, some 63 percent of those surveyed who identify as Jewish said that they “felt ‘very much’ or ‘somewhat’ connected to Israel,” while 75 percent stated that “caring about Israel” was integral to their Jewish cultural heritage.

The same holds true here in Richmond, where the small but active Jewish community feels a strong connection to the land, even from 6,000 miles away.

According to executive director of the Richmond Jewish Community Center Jordan Shenker, the Jewish community in Richmond is relatively small, numbering only 10,000 individuals.

“When you have a minority population in that range of minority,” Shenker said, “you have some verifiable challenges to say ‘how do you build community?’”

But Rabbi Yossel Kranz, executive director of Chabad of Virginia, pointed out that although the community is small, it is extremely active.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Richmond Jewish community is one that is very involved,” Kranz said. “As diverse as we may be, everybody is involved. Everybody participates.”

This involvement dates back to Virginia’s colonial era, according to Virginia Commonwealth University’s World Religions website.

Isaiah Isaacs, the first Jewish resident of Richmond to appear in historical records, was a Revolutionary War veteran and patriot. Isaacs was also a merchant, and following the war, he and a partner founded a business which came to be known by locals as “The Jews Store.”

In 1789, Richmond became the home of Beth Shalom, only the sixth Jewish synagogue in the country at the time.

This history of Jewish involvement in the history of Richmond carries over in the Civil War as well. As president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis’ secretary of state, secretary of war, and attorney general were all Jewish.

The Jewish population in Richmond has continued to grow and thrive, as evidenced by the number of temples, schools, and organizations that have appeared to cater to what has been identified as a relatively small group.

With such an active minority, it’s not surprising that the issue of Israel would be one Richmond Jewish leaders would be more than willing to discuss. Indeed, the very existence of a Jewish state has been at the forefront of Jewish life the world over.

Fol­low­ing Israel’s dec­la­ra­tion of inde­pen­dence in 1948, armies from Syria, Lebanon, Jor­dan, Iraq, and Egypt led an inva­sion into the newly-formed nation to defend what they viewed as the Pales­tin­ian home­land. An armistice signed in 1949 estab­lished an uncer­tain peace between Israel and its neighbors.

In 1967, Dur­ing the Six Day War, Israel was again embroiled in con­flict with Syria, Egypt and Jor­dan. With the con­clu­sion of hos­til­i­ties, Israel gained con­trol of the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Penin­sula and the West Bank.

Con­flict reared its head once again in 1973 dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War, in which Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in an effort to recoup land lost in the Six Day War. The fight­ing ended when cease­fire agree­ments were signed the fol­low­ing year.

The Camp David Accords, signed by Pres­i­dent Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Min­is­ter Men­achem Begin of Israel in 1979, estab­lished peace between the two coun­tries. Under the terms of the agree­ment, Egypt would rec­og­nize Israel as a legit­i­mate state, and Israel would sur­ren­der con­trol of the Sinai Penin­sula to Egypt.

In 1982, fol­low­ing increased ten­sions with the Pales­tin­ian Lib­er­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion (PLO), Israel invaded Lebanon. In 1987, Pales­tini­ans led the first intifadah, a pop­u­lar upris­ing in response to Israeli occu­pa­tion. This was fol­lowed by a sec­ond intifadah in 2000.

The Oslo Accords, a treaty signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993, estab­lished the prece­dent that both par­ties would rec­og­nize the oth­ers right to exist. How­ever, it was not enough to stave off this sec­ond upris­ing, nor has it calmed ten­sions between the two groups.

With this long and ardu­ous his­tory, it makes sense that many Israelis, as well as a large con­tin­gent of Dias­pora Jews (mem­bers of the Jew­ish faith liv­ing out­side of Israel) take the bib­li­cal com­mand­ment to occupy the Holy Land seriously.

Jonathan Waybright, professor of world studies at VCU, has studied Israel extensively. He said the religious reasons for the Jewish connection to land is simple, and it can be found in religious text.

“The land is the promise,” Waybright said. “You can read in lots of places in the Bible that God promises the land, and the Jews are to take possession of it . . . So it’s the promised land for Judaism and for Jews.”

However, Waybright said that the history of the area makes the issue much more complex.

“It’s a little bit more tricky, historically,” Waybright said, “because lots of little people seem to be getting pushed around the block in the world. And Judaism felt that it got pushed around a little bit, and it’s now pushing back into that land.”

Reform Rabbi Jesse Gallop of Congregation Beth Ahabah said, “When Israel was founded, through the Six Day War, up into the seventies, there was a view of Israel as an underdog.”

“As Israel has stabilized and strengthened,” Gallop continued, “it has become a first world country, with great medicine, technology, stable economics. And especially during the 90s, when it started to make peace with its neighbors, there was a euphoria like, ‘wow, no longer is it the weak little cousin. It can hold its own.’”

Conservative Rabbi Gary Creditor cautioned that although Israel has grown by leaps and bounds, it still has its fair share of enemies. Therefore, though he said that disagreements with Israeli policy are legitimate, he feels he must maintain strong support for the nation of Israel.

“Because there are those who not just disagree with Israel, but want to see Israel destroyed,” Creditor said.

For America’s part, governmental policy has long showed a strong support for the state of Israel. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has provided close to $3 billion to Israel every year since 1985.

Waybright suggested that the stance is one based on security.

“It’s in our best safety interest to have an anchor in the Middle East,” Waybright said.

However, he also insisted that he doesn’t know the real reason for America’s support, and that very few people truly understand the politics involved.

“No matter what local Jews may be doing here,” Waybright said, “they’re certainly supporting the lobby all over the states that is interested in gaining billions of dollars from the United States. Whether it’s right or wrong, I don’t know.”


View Israel in a larger map


Tradition In Transition: Libbie, Grove, And Patterson

Posted: March 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

Businesses near the corner of Libbie Avenue and Grove Avenue. Photo by Doug Callahan

“We’re different from Carytown,” said Leigh Dobbins-Johnson. “We’re different from Short pump. We’re eclectic here.”

Dobbins-Johnson is co-owner of Shops at 5807, in the Patterson and Libbie Business District, nestled between Richmond’s West End and Fan District. The area, just like its neighbor, Libbie and Grove, is steeped in history and tradition, with many independently-owned shops and restaurants. But now, the two are coming together and looking to change.

“Right now, LIbbie and Grove and Patterson and Libbie function as two separate associations,” said Sally Ashby, marketing director for Carreras Jewelers and president of the Libbie and Grove Business Association. “But our future vision is to connect the two because the corridor down Libbie is expanding into more business and retail. The houses are being sold and it’s being developed into a more commercial space down Libbie toward Patterson so we believe that in a couple of years, there will be a direct path to the shops and businesses on Patterson. So working together connects all of this area and gives us more strength as a whole.”

Sally Ashby of Carreras Jewelers was also a part of another revamping of the Libbie and Grove Business Association, bringing it online and helping it embrace social media. Watch her talk about it here:

A part of this new connection is a large project that would revamp the image of both areas, make them more pedestrian friendly, and make them more conducive to growing businesses.

It started with Elliot Harrigan, a local developer who is a member of the Patterson and Libbie Business District. Harrigan wanted to see the area become more cohesive, so he contacted Project For Public Spaces, a non-profit organization that has been doing these sorts of projects for around 35 years.

“Elliot has done some work with PPS before and he brought them to Richmond and they gave us a brief overview about a year ago,” Dobbins-Johnson said. “So we’ve kept in contact with them. Meanwhile, we’ve been working with the city trying to get them interested in helping fund some of the projects we’re trying to do. Then we realized it had become a bigger project than just boulevard banners and trying to create a little identity for us.”

Leigh Dobbins-Johnson is a co-owner of Shops at 5807, and is active in the Patterson and Libbie Business District. She discusses her hopes for the area in this video:

Dobbins-Johnson said that the city was happy to have PPS involved, since they could provide the business owners with some realistic, short-term guidelines to start with. But before anything can really change, there will have to be some changes to the city’s master plan.

“The way we implement projects here at the city is to have them included in our master plan, which is our legal guide to land use projects and redevelopment in the city,” said John Taylor, a Richmond city planner. “And once something is adopted by the city, then funding can flow.”

Richmond city planner John Taylor is working with the two business districts on their renewal project. Listen to him talk about the process in more detail here:

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Taylor and Councilman Bruce Tyler, have been strong supporters of the idea.

“Libbie Avenue is changing,” Taylor said. “Developers and property owners are having to jump through many hoops to get special permits. For example, it’s changing from residential to office, but it takes about 6 to 9 months for those permits to be acquired.”

But for now, Taylor and Dobbins-Johnson agree that the business districts should focus on small, easy changes that could be implemented without much delay.

“Beautification,” Taylor said. “The Libbie Patterson merchants association received some funding and approval to do some signage to say that you’re entering the Libbie/Grove, Libbie/Patterson residential area. So those are going to be quick. Additional trash cans and benches at the bus stops. That’s easy. Some landscaping is going to be done. Starting to create a sense of place”

After that, Dobbins-Johnson said they are looking to make some changes to the traffic patterns in the area.

“It’s got a lot of problems that are inherent in the way the road is set up” said Dobbins-Johnson. “You come down the hill if you’re going east on Patterson and traffic tends to speed up, even though the speed limit is only 25 miles an hour. We know that we have some kind of traffic calming just to get people to slow down and take a look at our surroundings. We would like to have better street signs, different lighting, some crosswalks. If you’ve ever tried to cross the street here, you know that you’re taking you life in your hands.”

These are exactly the kinds of undertakings that PPS specializes in.

“We are there, working with communities to upgrade the quality of their lives,” said Norman Mintz, a senior director at PPS. “Particularly with an emphasis on how people use and enjoy public space to the fullest.”

Mintz was called onto the scene by Phillip Myrick, who is the lead on the project. Mintz said that his specialty is getting the retail merchants involved.

“Something that PPS prides itself in doing is to primarily look at what the community is looking to do and what they’re looking for and getting them involved in whatever we do,” Mintz said. “It’s always been that way and it’s probably more and more our philosophy to include the community. It’s Richmond, they know it best, and they’re going to be the ones left looking at the recommendations. Perhaps we can guide them in a second phase or maybe even a third phase, who knows? But right now, this is basically a fact finding, understanding, and introductory visit and then we’ll go from there.”

But some business-owners say that the biggest problem isn’t with the traffic patterns or lack of identity. Patrick Heaney, owner of Mango Salon and member of the Libbie and Grove Business Association, said that he is most concerned with parking. With 75 employees, around 4,000 customers a month, and very little parking, he has reason to be more concerned with that issue than with beautification.

“Those are cosmetic, quick fixes,” Heaney said. “It’s like ‘you have cancer, go take an aspirin.’ That’s how I look at it. If we don’t solve the parking, that cancer will grow and grow and grow and it will be harder for all these merchants to survive.”

Mango Salon Owner Patrick Heaney is active in the Libbie Grove Business Association. He shared some history of the area. Listen here:

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But Mintz, Myrick, and Heaney himself all acknowledged that there really isn’t much of a literal lack of parking. The problem is that the ones that do exist are all reserved, and carry with them the threat of being towed. So, it seems that parking is another issue on which merchants will have to work together.

And Mintz was also quick to point out that these things take time, and told business-owners to stay positive.

“This is a process,” Mintz said. “We like to think that it has begun, and it should continue forever. This is something that is not only for you but for your kids.”

View Libbie, Grove, and Patterson in a larger map


As If Bald Guys Didn’t Have Enough Problems, Propecia Might Cause Permanent Impotence

Posted: March 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bald Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

www.simpsoncrazy.com

So, if previous entries to this blog haven’t convinced you to not waste your time with the current slew of baldness medications, this should. ABC News reported recently that a number of these drugs could cause a severe sexual side effect: the effect of no sex at all.

That’s right. Finasteride, or you might know it as Proscar or Propecia, is now suspected to cause erectile dysfunction. But the good news is the side effect only lasts FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

So how does it work, thereby making it not work? ABC News reported:

“The drugs block an enzyme that converts the male sex hormone testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which is toxic to hair follicles, but important for healthy sexual functioning.”

Dihydrotestosterone. Can’t live with it, can’t get an erection without it.

As evidence that this is not an entirely new problem, there are support groups online, such as propeciahelp.com, which boasts over 1,000 members that have reported these side effects.

But what is coming as a surprise to many is that the effects do not always go away once the drug is out of the patient’s system. Dr. Andrew Rynne runs a sexual health clinic in Ireland, and he said that he has seen Propecia and similar drugs have the effect of making men “continue to suffer from sexual anesthesia,” in which “all sexual pleasure and feelings have been obliterated for all time.”

Yeesh. Give it to ’em straight, doc.

And the sexual effect usually seems to show up with an equally unwelcome friend. Abdulmaged M. Traish, a professor of biochemistry and urology at Boston University School of Medicine, said:

“We found out that we’re really ignoring the important part, especially those in whom the problem becomes persistent. That’s the group that everybody forgot. We have to worry about the consequences for people who are going to suffer – even after they discontinue the drug – from continuous loss of libido and potential depression.”

Ah, yes. Impotence and depression. The chicken and the egg, folks.

In fact, Dr. Michael Irwig, an endocrinologist at George Washington University, said that he has even met men who have become suicidal due to the effects of these drugs. In a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Irwig interviewed 71 men who suffered from the side effects after going off finasteride. He found that that after an average of 40 months off the drug, they were still suffering from the negative sexual effects. The report said:

“94% developed low libido, 92% developed erectile dysfunction, 92% developed decreased arousal, and 69% developed problems with orgasm.”

Irwig also noted that part of the problem is that doctors don’t know about it, since there hasn’t been much published about it.

Class action lawsuits have been brought against Merck, the company behind Propecia, so hopefully not many more will have to suffer.

In the meantime, this is all the more reason to stay bald and proud. Well, at least until that stem-cell treatment comes through.


“Shave me, I’m Irish” should be your slogan this year

Posted: March 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bald Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

http://www.stbaldricks.org/

Sure, this blog is usually just a space for bald-related whining and self-deprecating jokes. Oh, and the occasional attempt at understanding medical science or the human psyche. But forget all that today, because ’tis the season to go bald for a reason. That’s right, St. Baldrick’s Day is approaching, and there are more serious afflictions than male-pattern baldness.

Note: The blog will go back to its normal, ridiculous form next week. Pinky swear.

But anyway, St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a charity organization that raises money to fight children’s cancer through head shaving events across the country. According to the official St. Baldrick’s website:

On March 17, 2000, reinsurance executives John Bender, Tim Kenny and Enda McDonnell turned their industry’s St. Patrick’s Day party into a head-shaving event to benefit kids with cancer. Their 20 “shavee” recruits planned to raise “$17,000 on the 17th.” Instead, they raised over $104,000!

From those modest beginnings grew a global craze, and they said that they have since raised over $90 million for the cause.

According to ABC 2 in Baltimore, the foundation has already raised $3 million this year alone.

And the cause is certainly one worth getting behind, and even shedding some hair for. According to the American Cancer Society last year:

About 10,700 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Because of major treatment advances, 80% of these children will survive 5 years or more. This is a huge increase from before the 1970s, when the 5-year survival rate was less than 50%.

Despite its rarity and the major advances in treatment and supportive care, cancer is still the leading cause of death from disease in children younger than 15 years old. About 1,340 children are expected to die from cancer in 2010.

So seriously, what’s a little hair for a cause like this? After all, even Major League pitchers are doing it. And don’t say that it doesn’t count because they wear hats.

There are a couple St. Baldrick’s events here in Richmond this weekend. St. Patty’s Palooza is going on in Innsbrook to benefit the charity, and you can hit up vtkev02@gmail.com if you want to sign up to be shaved or if you just want to help out.

And the Church Hill Irish Festival will also feature a shaving event and raise money for St. Baldricks. You can check that event out at the Facebook page.

The money raised by the head-shaving events goes to fund scholarships, fellowships, researchers, and more. If you donate, you can easily see where the money went on the official website.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, even though it’s hard to think of anything but green beer and whiskey, it might be time to think about a good cause like this. Besides, there’s a good chance you might wake up the next morning with a shaved head anyway.


She said what bald men were already thinking and weeping about

Posted: February 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bald Blog | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

Oh, Tatiana Boncompagni. You cut to the core.

For those who missed it, Boncompagni wrote a stirring (read: depressing) article for The New York Times recently. In the wake of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton, she took the opportunity to explore the psychology of balding men and the possible increased urgency they feel to find and secure a mate. She asked:

“Is it possible that the 28-year-old prince felt an urge to lock up a commitment from Ms. Middleton because his heart-throb status might be beginning to disappear with the hair? If so, what must the rest of the not-so-princely men in the world feel when youthful looks begin to fade?”

Saturn’s rings! She’s right! What will become of the chrome-domed masses? The noble, once-loved people will be forced to roam the Earth alone. There’s blood on your hands, Mr. Darwin!

Kidding.

But she does bring up some valid points. For instance, women have developed an increased financial independence over the last century or so. Thus, it stands to reason that the fairer sex would start to develop a more rigorous screening method.

Full pockets? Sure, but how full is his scalp?

However, she seemed to think that until recently, women had a monopoly on body image issues and insecurities. AND she attempts to comfort the poor men afflicted with the horrible sickness of balding by reminding readers that Michael Jordan and Bruce Willis are both bald and beloved.

So, women will overlook baldness. Phew. All you have to do is be one of the greatest athletes of all time or JOHN flippin’ MCLANE.

Gawker’s Adrian Chen responded to the article with a sort-of-sarcastic post of his own, saying, “If any bald readers weren’t yet considering suicide, they certainly were after finishing it.”

But on a positive note, the comment section for Chen’s post lit up with women coming to the defense of baldies, even posting photos of shiny, sexy dudes as proof.

So it appears that Boncompagni forgot that there are actually women out there who think bald men are attractive.

Those sickos.

And in her analysis, she also overlooked another factor in human mating. There is mounting evidence that women don’t care about looks if you’ve got swagger.

As image consultant Amanda Sanders told WebMD:

“I hate to say this, but nothing is less attractive than a man with thin hair who is trying to hang on to it. I seldom see anyone with a toupee or hair weave or hair plugs who looks fabulous. It always looks fake, and I think that’s a put-off. Women find it more attractive when a man has more confidence in himself, so a balding man should just embrace being bald.”

So there you have it. Let your bald flag fly. Some women will dig it, and some will shun you. But really, how would that be different from regular life?

Besides, in the immortal words of Wayne Campbell, “Marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries.”


New Advances In Baldness Treatment! Maybe! In The Distant Future!

Posted: February 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bald Blog | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Solidarity. (Photo by Doug Callahan)

Science might be a step closer to curing an ailment that has confounded doctors and depressed men for millennia. A condition that will serve as the topic for this whole blog. Baldness.

There have been several theories as to why people go bald through the years, such as a general vibe of contempt from the universe or horrible mistakes made in a past life. But while questions of fate and karma might be more fun to ponder, it seems that the baldness mystery could be better placed within a more practical debate in our nation’s dialogue: stem cell research.

For a background on the issue, the National Institutes of Health describe male pattern baldness as such:

Each hair sits in a cavity in the skin called a follicle. Baldness in men occurs when the follicle shrinks over time, resulting in shorter and finer hair. The end result is a very small follicle with no hair inside. Ordinarily, hair should grow back. However, in men who are balding, the follicle fails to grow a new hair. Why this occurs is not well understood, but it is related to your genes and male sex hormones.

In a fully functioning, non-balding scalp, stem cells form progenitor cells, which are then charged with the duty of producing a thick, luxurious mane. The most accepted attempt at explaining baldness up to this point was the death of these stem cells. But a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation has turned that argument on its head.

On its smooth, hairless head.

George Cotsarelis, chairman of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s dermatology department and co-author of the study, told Health Day that the stem cells are only malfunctioning. And if they’re only malfunctioning, that means they’re still there, and they might respond to treatment!

To figure this out, the researchers took samples of tissue from scalps of both variety and tested them for evidence of dead stem cells. They found that hairy scalp tissue and bald scalp tissue had about the same amount of stem cells. But there was one difference: the bald scalp tissue had significantly fewer progenitor cells. (Remember? The ones that grow hair.)

So a bald scalp isn’t a stem cell graveyard. It’s just a big, comfy couch where they lazily neglect their job.

Or, as the researchers put it in the study:

Surprisingly, we found that a well-demarcated population of cells expressing high levels of both CD200 and ITGA6 was markedly decreased in haired versus bald scalp (Figure 2, D–F; 2.3% ± 0.7% vs. 0.28% ± 0.1%, P = 0.005, n = 9). This population represented 10.0% ± 0.1% (n = 9) of the entire CD200+ population; to our knowledge, it has not been studied previously.

Right?

Anyway, Cotsarelis told Health Day, “Now that we have identified the problem we can try to better understand how to get a stem cell to make and activate a progenitor cells. And then we should be able to develop new ways of treating baldness.”

So what’s the treatment? And when’s it coming?

They don’t know. And probably not for a long time.

As Cotsarelis put it, “Taking something from the lab to the clinic often takes decades, so there’s no treatment around the corner. It’s really going to take quite a while to figure this out.”

Awesome.