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Holiday Experts: Thank-you Notes, Tamales, 'Christmaskkah' and More

December 14, 2007

UC Davis has the following experts who can talk about a wide range of holiday topics, from energy-efficient holiday lights and year-end movies to the role of tamales in Mexican-American celebrations and the elements of a good thank-you note.

WRITING A GOOD THANK-YOU NOTE -- Aliki Dragona, an assistant director of the University Writing Program at UC Davis, can talk about the elements of a good thank-you letter (whether written on a computer or with pen and paper). She argues that such notes are more important than ever, and often incorporates a form of thank-you writing in her classes. Dragona specializes in business and technical writing, scientific writing, and writing for K-12 educators. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked UC Davis as one of 15 universities with a "stellar" writing program across disciplines. Contact: Aliki Dragona, University Writing Program, (530) 754-9818, apdragona@ucdavis.edu.

HOLIDAYS, MATERIALISM AND SPIRITUALITY IN AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE -- Jay Mechling, professor emeritus of American studies, can talk about the history and cultural importance of American holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan and Kwanzaa. Mechling is considered one of the most influential academics in American studies. He has frequently commented on the way the mass media and popular culture approach the American tension between materialism and spirituality at this time of year. Contact: Jay Mechling, American Studies, (510) 865-8858, jemechling@ucdavis.edu.

'TIS THE SEASON TO SAVE ENERGY -- Michael Siminovitch, director of the California Lighting Technology Center at UC Davis, can talk about the new light-emitting diode (LED) lights that come in vibrant colors, stay cool to the touch and use less than one-fourth the electricity of old-style incandescent lights. Nine other ideas for saving energy at home without giving up lighting quality or comfort are online at: http://cltc.ucdavis.edu. Contact: Michael Siminovitch, California Lighting Technology Center, (530) 757-3496, mjsiminovitch@ucdavis.edu.

END-OF-YEAR MOVIES -- Dean Simonton, a professor of psychology and an expert on human creativity, has subjected thousands of feature-length, English-language, narrative films to a battery of statistical tests to get at the formulas for cinematic success. Among his findings: Major film awards tend to go to movies that are released in the final months of the year. Studios save their best for winter, when Oscar and other major award nominations accumulate and ballots circulate. Simonton can also talk about what makes a terrible movie, and suggest ways that consumers can sort the good from the bad. He cannot comment on newly released films individually. Contact: Dean Simonton, Psychology, (530) 752-1677, dksimonton@ucdavis.edu.

THE POWER OF GRATITUDE -- Robert Emmons, professor of psychology, has shown that people who count their blessings in daily gratitude journals exercise more regularly, complain of fewer illness symptoms and feel better about their lives overall. Compared with those who chronicle daily hassles, people who take time instead to record their reasons for giving thanks also feel more loving, forgiving, joyful, enthusiastic and optimistic about their futures. Their family and friends report that they seem happier and are more pleasant to be around. Emmons is the author of three popular books about gratitude. The most recent, "Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier," outlines 10 research-based strategies for cultivating a feeling of gratitude throughout the year. Contact: Robert Emmons, Psychology, (530) 752-8844, raemmons@ucdavis.edu.

HOW CONSUMERS MAKE GIFT CHOICES -- Textiles and clothing professor Margaret Rucker can talk about the different perceptions that men and women have when it comes to giving gifts; the gift-giving process and what people value in gifts; and the advantages and disadvantages of Web, catalog and in-store shopping from consumers' points of view. Rucker studies consumer psychology, especially information processing and decision making in the selection and use of clothing and other textile products. Contact: Margaret Rucker, Textiles and Clothing, (530) 752-2018, mhrucker@ucdavis.edu.

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