Winter Cold Weather Bicycle Riding

For many years I was a year-round cyclist. Then after spending two years living and working downtown in Iowa City, I stopped riding as much. After that, since the summer of 2011, living on a bus route made it tempting to just let someone else do the driving on rainy days or during cold icy snowstorms. So, I transitioned to becoming a recreational fair-weather cyclist.

Heading into this winter, I decided to return to bicycling year-round. This required outfitting my bicycle with some special modifications.

One of the first things I noticed when bicycling in sub-zero temperatures was that the shifting mechanism for my bike would freeze up. I was able to get a special double-sleve shifting cable. This means the shifting cable goes through a sealed cable that is inside another cable. So, the shifting is smooth and responsive in extreme conditions.

Very low windchill temperatures are especially severe on a bicycle. If you’re riding into the wind, frostbite conditions happen much faster. Dermatologists use liquid nitrogen to burn and remove skin. The procedure is painful. That’s how unprotected skin feels in high winds and sub-zero temperatures. So, it’s important to be well covered and insulated.

In the winter, I tend to carry more things with me. On my bike ride to the gym, I need to pack my exercise shoes separately, and wear winter boots for my ride. So, I purchased some oversized side-bags for my rear bike rack. These are also helpful at any time of the year when needing to carry extra items.

With icy roads, normal bike tires may not have the necessary traction, so I had some winter tires put on my bike. They have silica embedded in the rubber. The gritty sand in the tires, along with softer than normal rubber, helps ensure better control on slick roads.

With all of these upgrades, I’m now able to venture out in just about any weather. As a result, I’m enjoying the outdoors more, and taking some photos I might not otherwise have taken. Bike riding is also great for promoting health and wellness.

How having a personal blog influences my writing.

Writing Over the Years

I’ve always enjoyed writing. Over the years I’ve gone from writing by hand, to typing, to using a word processor, then using a computer, then printed newsletters. By the late 1990s my writing was distributed by email as a monthly email newsletter. In recent years, I’ve been putting my writings on the web as articles. Most of these are on the ResourcesForLife website.

The Invisible Author

Over the past 20 years, much of my writing has not been in first person, but instead written to avoid the presence of the author’s voice or comment in the writing.

Some of my writing is technical and instructional which lends itself more to an encyclopedia-type of writing style. For other writing, I try to keep it subjective, sharing various views on a topic – so it’s not just a writing style but a mindset of staying open to ideas and presenting them in a fair and balanced way. Being more removed helps.

For web pages that create the structure of a website, the style of writing needed is relatively dry and informative without the need for opinion.

For these reasons, I’ve used an approach to writing where the author is invisible in the writing.

Creating a Personal Presence Online

A few years back, I launched the AboutGregJohnson.com website as a place to share more personal writings and have a personal presence on the web. The broad social commentaries and technical writings still go elsewhere, but the more personal writings or sharing of photography goes on the personal website.

Personal Brand

The personal website is also a place to solidify what people refer to today as their ‘personal brand’ – which is a fancy business-like way of talking about how people come to assess what you’re interested in, what you value, and what your values are.

With a personal website I can distance myself from my writings on politics, religion, or other controversial topics by putting them on the Resources for Life website along with a lot of other writings.

I don’t put those on my personal website because people who don’t know me may begin to form an assessment about who I am and what my views are based on just a few writings – not knowing that I sometimes will write strongly in support of various viewpoints.

My writings are often not meant to make a person believe what I believe, or manipulate them into doing what I want, but more intended to get people thinking deeper, and opening up to understand the views of others. It’s as much an exercise for myself as it is for the reader.

I try to avoid satire and sarcasm in my writing, especially writings that I plan to have on my personal website because it’s easy for people to misunderstand or take things the wrong way. Some articles stand on their own, but often a reader needs to have a broader understanding of the author and what they’ve written before to better understand what’s being written.

Having Followers

Something that’s kept me from having a personal blog over the years has been that question that we all probably ask, “Who would be interested in what I have to say?”

One way I’ve been able to get over that hurdle is to realize that maybe nobody will read what I share, but I should write anyway if I enjoy it. Think about the process of keeping a journal or writing poetry that you never share with anyone. We shouldn’t measure the value of something based on how many people will see it.

One of the reasons I like journaling and logging life experiences through writings, photography, and digital scrapbooking is because it provides me with a way to better reflect on the past.

Considering the Audience

Over the years, I’ve become friends with a broad range of people with different viewpoints and interests. When I write, I try to think about how various people might react to what I’m sharing, and I write accordingly which helps me be more fair and balanced with my writing.

Information Overload and Inbox Relief

One of the reasons for my monthly newsletters was to relieve people from having too much in their inbox from me. I thought it would be nice to have a single email each month on a variety of topics so people could catch up on news without receiving a bunch of messages and clutter from me. I thought I’d be more likely to be heard if I only said something once a month. This has become even more important with the flood of social media content. So, I continue the monthly newsletter as a way to share what’s most important from the past month and for the month to come.

Accountability

As much as we complain about a lack of civility in the online world, with cyber bullying and other problems, a trend that’s made people more civil in their online discussions and writings is removing anonymity. Years ago, it was common for people to use anonymous online personas and profiles. This gave rise to people being less civilized because they couldn’t be judged or criticized for what they were saying and doing online. Today, Facebook, Google, and others have helped to establish the standard of having user accounts that accurately represent real people.

I think when we write from a personal blog, under our own name, we’re motivated to make an additional effort to be considerate of others.

Casual Clothes are Comfortable

Just as casual clothes are comfortable, writing a personal blog post is more comfortable. When I’m writing an article for a website with more exposure, on a topic likely to raise some interest, there’s a little more pressure on. With a personal blog, the audience is smaller, and typically among friends and family. Occasionally a typo will get past me. Someone (usually my brother Sherman) will thankfully let me know. It’s a place to write a little more freely in that regard.

Building a Collection of Writings

Sometimes I write an article in response to a question someone has, such as “What’s the best printer to buy?” I’ll do some research, write an article, and send the person the link knowing that others will likely find the article of interest as well.

Sometimes I’ll write on a topic that nobody has asked me about, but later I’ll have someone ask and it’s nice to be able to say, “Oh, I’ve done some research on that and wrote an article. Here’s the link.” Sometimes the timing is uncanny. I’ll be in a conversation with someone, and they will ask about a topic, and with a surprised look I’ll reply, “I just wrote an article about that yesterday!”

If I’ve taken many hours to research a topic, and provide links to resources, then these articles can help save people time and access a greater amount of high quality information.

Organic Responsive Writing

Even after posting an article, I’ll often go back and expand on a writing to clarify a point or add some additional commentary. Sometimes this is in response to feedback I’m getting on an article. This kind of ‘workshopping’ helps make my writing better and engages those who read to influence and shape the final outcome. Another technique I use for refining my writing is to use the text to speech feature on my iPhone and have articles read back to me. Often we will hear something in a writing that we might overlook if reviewing it visually.

Keeping a Writing Journal

During the day, I might think of a topic I want to write on. I’ll sometimes just write a single sentence and maybe a few points. Then later I might add to that note. Once I’ve considered the topic sufficiently, I’ll spend time writing on that topic. Sometimes, I’ll wake up in the morning, and have a topic come to mind that I want to write on even without previously exploring the topic, but I’ll write on it anyway. There’s a momentum, energy, and effectiveness found in writing about a topic you feel an increased interest in.

Morning Writing

My preferred time to write is in the morning around 5AM after waking up before the business of the workday begins. It’s a time when my mind is clear. There are no interruptions and fewer distractions. I’ll often have a single topic that comes to mind that I want to write on. Sometimes a few topics will come to mind, but usually one that I commit to. It could be something related to current news, or a general topic of interest. Sometimes it’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while or exploring in my writing journal.

Thanks!

I appreciate everyone who takes time to read my writings. Thanks for taking an interest. I hope you find them helpful.

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Request for LinkedIn Recommendations

Greetings!

I’m updating my LinkedIn profile and am looking for recommendations from colleagues and clients. If we’ve worked together, it would be great to have a recommendation from you.

Many of you have voluntarily endorsed me in various categories of expertise and experience. For that I’m very appreciative.

What I’m looking for now are written recommendations. I’ve provided some simple three-step instructions below.

Feel free to contact me if I can do the same favor for you. If you’d prefer, you can just email me a recommendation to be posted on my website (under Testimonials). Thanks for your help!

Cheers,

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Six Blind People, One Elephant, and the Iowa City Council Race

Uncommon Alliances

I recently wrote an article about the upcoming Iowa City Council election. I felt it was necessary to explain why I was supporting Rockne Cole — a candidate who has opposed all the development projects and TIF awards that I’ve supported over the past few years.

As you’ll read in the article, it’s not so much what Rockne’s politics are, but how Rockne’s politics are, that earned my support. We disagree on some issues. Yet, Rockne is the nicest person you’ll ever disagree with.

Rockne is largely opposed to TIF usage, I’ve written in favor of controlled TIF use. Rockne was opposed to the Park@201 project. I wrote a lengthy article defending Park@201 and it’s developer. Yet there are also many things that Rockne and I agree on which make him appealing as a City Council member. Take a look at my article and his website to learn more.

I believe we can create value through uncommon alliances. Keep reading further to learn more about what I mean.

Building a Better Democracy

It’s always been important to me to have people in my life who challenge my views and ideas. I feel it helps me make better, more informed decisions. It motivates me to dig deeper into issues. It helps me find possible faults or weaknesses in my own positions.

In government, governance, and politics, whether at the local level or higher, I think we all realize the value of diversity. As long as people can be civil, it’s really valuable to have a mix of opinions and viewpoints.

You may be familiar with the parable of the blind people and the elephant. The illustration below conveys the basic message of the parable. In the Jain version of the story there are six people. Other versions have only four people.

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Faith in Democracy is to trust that if we work together, intentionally bringing together representatives of diverse views and agendas, we can arrive at a better understanding and help build a better world. We can be united despite our differences.

As Pope Francis has stated:

“It sometimes happens that complete information is not put on the table; a selection is made on the basis of particular interests, be they politico-economic or ideological. This makes it difficult to reach a balanced and prudent judgement on different questions, one which takes into account all the pertinent variables. Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected…can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good, present and future.” ~ Pope Francis, quote from Laudato Si — On Care for Our Common Home (see on Google Books)*

We all need each other. We’re all responsible for one another. The video below illustrates this principle.

So, with these things in mind, I feel it’s important to build a diverse City Council for Iowa City that reflects and represents all members of our community.

Self-Limited Political Influence

I have several businesses that I’ve built up over the years, and those have also grown into various newsletters and social networks. In addition, there are the real-world relationships that have developed over time. I’m hesitant to use these connections and resources for potentially polarizing political causes. First of all, the people who’ve helped me succeed over the years are very diverse — conservative, liberal, religious, non-religious, wealthy, minimum wage earners, etc.

It’s one thing to take a position as a business owner, but to use the business influence, resources, and connections as a platform for advancing certain political causes is something to be careful about. Although not a formal co-op, I maintain the belief that much of what I have, that was collectively built, should be considered collectively owned. I wouldn’t want to fully and unreservedly use the entirety of my collective resources to promote anything that isn’t universally accepted. So, mostly I promote things like education, wellness, racial justice, and sustainability that just about everyone agrees on.

What I’m left with is the belief that the best thing I can do is to foster greater public engagement in the democratic process by informing, inspiring, and motivating people to be involved. I try to add my own voice and opinions along the way, but mainly I don’t want to see any group or individual silenced, marginalized, or ignored.

In forming my own opinions, and refining them, I try to check-in with others who are ‘examining the elephant’ of the world around us.

I’m not one of the billionaire class, but if I were, I’d like to think that I would choose to have roughly the same political influence as the average citizen. I wouldn’t want use my billions to hijack the democratic process, because I know that we’re all blindly trying to understand what the world is about, and only together, through listening to one another, will we come to a more clear understanding.

This is why, I expend the surplus of my time, energy, and resources on infusing the democratic process and getting more people involved.

We’re all at Risk of Being Insular and Isolated

It’s the nature of our day-to-day life and work to be somewhat insular. Unless we’re intentional about reaching out to ‘the other’ we will mostly be surrounded by people who think and live how we do. I’m a business person, so when I hear that 63 downtown business owners, are collectively endorsing Tim ConroyScott McDonoughRick Dobyns, and Michelle Payne, I understand that. I ‘get’ it. I might be endorsing that group of candidates too if I had a downtown business.

As a business owner, many of the people I interact with as friends or clients are business owners (many of them downtown). My main base of customers are people who can afford typical consulting rates for technology support. They aren’t minimum wage earners.

I don’t think the downtown business owners are intentionally organizing as a monolithic voting block to prop-up downtown business-friendly candidates out of an effort to gain a controlling majority of our local city’s governance and thus ensure future TIF money to be invested downtown. Instead, I think what’s happening is that people tend to join with others who have similar interests, and when they join together they probably vote similarly.

Downtown business owners live in our neighborhoods and have the same interests we do — with the added understandable incentive to see more tax money invested into the downtown area. That makes total sense.

How Can the Average Person Have Influence?

For about 5 to 10 hours of consulting time work per week, I offer a sliding scale and do some volunteer work for people and local public interest groups who are on a limited budget. This helps me connect with a broader and more diverse group of people than I might otherwise meet. I tend to do my own informal poling of people to get an idea of what public opinions are on various topics, and I’m often surprised by what I learn. It helps broaden my understanding.

When I heard about the 63 downtown business owners endorsing the establishment-approved candidates, it made me think that it would be hard for the average person to influence local politics.

For our local City Council election, there’s a $100 limit on what a candidate can receive from any one supporter. That $100 is less of a sacrifice for those who have means. So, wealthy supporters of candidates are not as strained when giving. Furthermore, people who are ‘connected’ have resources that can help them have a greater impact. Their friends and supporters also have resources. In other words, 63 business owners will have more influence in local politics than 63 minimum wage earners. Despite there being a $100 limit on cash giving, the impact a wealthy person is potentially greater than the impact that a person without means or connections can have. In addition, many low income laborers (the working poor) maintain two or more jobs, so they aren’t even able to volunteer much time to any campaign.

For these reasons, I look for ways to level the playing field and give people a greater voice who might otherwise be marginalized and ignored. Returning to the elephant parable, it’s not enough to have diversity of viewpoints. We must also do what we can to make sure that the diversity of voices are heard, listened to, and genuinely considered.

Thank You

I want to thank everyone who continues to support me personally as well as those who support my various businesses. My goal is always to promote fairness, inclusion, clarity, and dialog.

~ Greg

My Visit to the UIHC Center for Digestive Diseases Gastroenterology Colonoscopy Clinic

People Apparently Like Healthcare Stories

I like to write and share stories, but I’ve been shy about sharing my healthcare experiences. I guess in part because it seems ‘personal’ and also because I can’t imagine that anyone other than family and close friends would really be interested.

Two weeks ago I went to the emergency room with a sever abdominal pain, which eventually turned out not to be life threatening. I apparently pulled an abdominal muscle. Yet, I thought the experience was worth sharing. The ER team was really exceptional, and they deserved a word of thanks.

A few days later, that story had over 5,000 readers around the world and was shared over 1,000 times on Facebook. It was then I realized that people apparently do have an interest in such stories. So, for those who are interested, here’s another amazing tale from the world of healthcare. 🙂

A Nurse with 57 Years Experience

This past week I went to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for a routine colonoscopy at the Colonoscopy Clinic in the Center for Digestive Diseases Gastroenterology. The clinic seemed very organized and well staffed. As a result, the entire process went as scheduled, despite having many patients in the clinic who were there for various reasons. The nursing staff and doctors with were cheerful and friendly which made the experience more relaxing and pleasant.

I typically don’t like needles. Who does, right? What makes things worse is that my veins are very uncooperative. Even if I drink lots of fluids the night before, most nurses and even trained phlebotomists have a very difficult time finding a good vein. There’s usually lots of tapping on the arm. Then they inevitably say, “Let’s take a look at the other arm,” which ends up being just as bad. On one occasion, it took five different people trying various poking strategies before one was able to get a semi-cooperative vein. That’s a lot of poking.

The night before the colonoscopy procedure, the preparation requires no intake of any food or fluid, even water. So, midway through the following morning, I was super thirsty and very dehydrated.

My primary concern at that point was wondering how they would find a vein for the IV given how dehydrated I was.

Fortunately, I ended up with a nurse who had over 57 years of experience. She was 77 years old, but looked decades younger. We had a pleasant and calming conversation that alleviated my fears. Then when it came time for the needle, I was so relaxed I barely felt it. Amazingly, she got a vein on the first poke, in the inside bend of the elbow where everyone else usually gives up.

We went through the rest of the basic preparations before the procedure which didn’t take long. The IV initially has saline solution to rehydrate the body. Later on prior to the procedure, a pain killer and twilight anesthesia (for conscious sedation) are administered through the IV.

Benefits of a Colonoscopy

Sometime after turning 50-years-old, most people will get a colonoscopy — a fairly simple, quick, and usually painless procedure that can save your life.

Each year in the United States, approximately 50,000 people die of colon cancer, which is ample motivation for getting this procedure that usually eliminates at-risk tissue before any cancer can form.

The most difficult part is the preparation which typically begins two days before the procedure. Your doctor will provide detailed instructions unique for your test situation. There are food restrictions as much as four days before the procedure.

The Colonoscopy Preparation – Four Milestones

There are four significant milestones during the two-day colonoscopy preparation. These instructions may change depending on the procedure and clinic, but here’s what I followed.

  1. Magnesium Citrate. Two days before the procedure, the guidelines state, “drink one bottle of Magnesium Citrate after your evening meal.” It’s a carbonated beverage that comes in a few different flavors. Taken with ice it’s actually not too bad. Before too long, it takes effect in a very noticeable way — and after a few trips to the bathroom you’ll feel totally emptied out. By nighttime you’ll probably be tired and very ready to sleep.
  2. Fasting from Food. After drinking the Magnesium Citrate, there is to be no food. So, a liquid fast begins and lasts about 36 hours. You might want to stay home the day before the procedure because being on a clear liquid diet can make you feel drained of energy and you may have trouble focusing.
  3. Colon Lavage Solution. The night before the colonoscopy procedure, you’ll be instructed to drink a gallon of salty tasting laxative solution that’s created by shaking a powder mix with water. This is probably the most difficult part of the entire experience. The guidelines request that you drink a cup of this solution every 10 minutes over several hours between 4 PM and 7 PM. At first you’ll be able to keep up.
  4. Fasting from Liquid. By evening you will have been without any food for 24 hours, and your body will have no food reserves remaining to be digested or processed. So, it’s an intense fasting experience. I use a sleep tracker, and noticed in the report the next morning some significant improvements with sleep quality, duration, and reduced restlessness. It’s believed that going to sleep on a full stomach with intestines full can result in restless sleep. So, having the stomach and intestines empty may help with sleep. It also helps to be thoroughly exhausted.

The Colonoscopy Procedure

In the preparation area there were about a dozen hospital beds, each with a privacy curtain all in one big open room. I’d not been in a situation like that before where many people were receiving care simultaneously. In retrospect, I think it helped reduce anxiety to have a dozen other people getting prepped for similar procedures. There’s something about a bit unnerving about going through an experience alone. Being with others reinforces the sense that it’s just a typical every-day procedure.

Once I was prepped for the procedure, I was wheeled (in the hospital bed) to the procedure room. As I recall there were three people including the doctor. An oxygen tube was provided (to the nose) probably because the sedation causes shallow breathing. There was also a blood pressure cuff and finger pulse/oxygen monitor.

Depending on how heavily sedated you are, the last thing you remember might be the nurse administering the anesthesia through the IV.

When I woke, I was in the hospital bed in same location as where I’d been prepped. I was a little groggy at first, and then woke slowly. The anesthesia continues to have a calming influence throughout the day. It’s recommended that you not drive or even take public transit for 24 hours after the procedure.

All the Benefits of a Juice Fast Cleanse

Something I’d not anticipated was the energy boost that followed during the days after the colonoscopy. This may be the result of higher nutrient absorption into the body (due to a cleaned out intestine). it’s true that the body is regularly drained of energy from being filled with food most of the time that requires processing. So, emptying it out occasionally is a nice respite.

I’ve done various intense fasts in the past, but that was many years ago. So, I’d forgotten about how the body can have so much more energy during and after a fast.

I was glad I took a day before and a day after the procedure to stay home and rest. It helped make the entire process less stressful.

Overall I’m really glad I had the procedure, and pleased with the care provided by everyone in the clinic. I’m really grateful for the amazing nurse I had helping me before the procedure. I definitely won’t be as anxious when it comes time for the next exam.

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UPDATE

24 July 2015. I got a follow-up call this evening from the doctor who performed the colonoscopy. It was nice to learn that there’s nothing to be concerned about. For some healthcare clinics, there’s no follow-up phone call. Instead a letter goes out, or there’s an update in the online medical service portal (MyChart for UIHC). Having a phone call was a nice personal touch.

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* The Gastroenterology Center at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is located at 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242.

Virginia Tech, Tiny Houses, and Distance Education in Higher Ed

Virginia Tech is utilizing distance education technologies to bring specialists into the classroom.  On 14 April 2015, I had the opportunity to be a visiting guest for a sustainability course taught by Luke Juran. Using Skype I was able to present and interact with the students in the course. Below is a photo from our Skype session.

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I’ve been inspired by the increased interest in tiny houses among students and faculty in higher education. Those focusing on sustainability and urban planning are incorporating smaller and more efficient living spaces into our built spaces. This tells me that we’re reaching a point of critical mass within the small house movement.

As a technology support specialist at the University of Iowa, I enjoy exploring how we can utilize technology for enhancing education. At the University of Iowa, through the Division of Continuing Education, courses are offered through Distance and Online Education.

Continuing education typically delivers certificates, degrees, and professional training to people with full-time jobs who do their studying in the evenings and weekends. In addition to schedule conflicts, people pursuing their career may find their ideal career location doesn’t put them close to the educational institution of their choice. So, distance education provides a great service.

In the past I assisted in teaching a course that utilized various classrooms on campus with multi-camera and multi-microphone systems to enhance the connection with an instructor in California.

More recently I had an opportunity to provide some technical support for a course being conducted by the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and Ohio State University. The course, Two Koreas: Political Economy and Regional Rivalry, had students on three campuses participating.

Combining the on-campus experience with efficiencies of distance and online technologies, creates the best of both worlds. The in-class experience gives students a chance to meet in person. The online component helps expand the campus to include a richer diversity of students and draw from a wider selection of faculty.

Tolerance of Those Who Are Intolerant, Racist, and Bigoted

Many years ago, I was walking to shul on Shabbos with a Jewish friend and we were discussing anti-Semitism. At the time, there’d been a rise in world-wide attacks on synagogues and an increase in anti-Semitic propaganda. We talked about the futility of direct engagement with hateful intolerant racists and bigots.

I looked at my friend and said, “I think the best response to anti-Semitism is more Judaism.” Having more people living an authentic and compassionate Judaism engaged in acts of kindness and Tikkun Olam is the best antidote for anti-Semitism.

I’m not Jewish, but over the years I’ve periodically participated in the faith and found it to be thought provoking, inspiring, and a source of wisdom for how to live a more abundant life. During times of persecution, being intentional about supporting and connecting with Jewish community seems like a good thing to do. Promoting acceptance and understanding is always a good choice.

A few years ago, in one community suffering from a wave of anti-Jewish attacks, hundreds of households put menorahs in their windows as a gesture of solidarity. This also made it difficult for any one household to be singled out.

Unfortunately, ignorance, bigotry, hatred, and intolerance seem to be part of the same parasitic disease that has continued to harm humanity over the centuries. We imagine that society will advance beyond these things. That’s the hope at least. Yet, dormant intolerance rises again, like some kind of recurring skin rash.

Today, hate crimes against blacks are on the rise. Innocent unarmed black people are getting shot in the streets in broad daylight. “Someone call the police!” might be a reasonable response, except it’s the police who are doing the shooting.

Muslims are probably tied for first place with regard to persecution and being misunderstood, at least in America.

The LGBT community continues to struggle for their rights in the face of intolerance and hatred.

What’s the appropriate response?

Negative stereotypes and misrepresentations in the news serve as fertilizer for hatred and misunderstanding. So, an appropriate and effective response is to flood the media and social media with positive images and positive portrayals of blacks, Jews, Muslims, gays, and people from any other persecuted or misunderstood minority group. This can help counteract the negativity of harmful propaganda.

It’s important for young people growing up to have healthy and positive views about themselves and others. If you’re part of a minority group — it’s important to grow up seeing that you are part of a group that is prosperous, successful, accepted, and respected.

Positive portrayals in advertising, movies, television, and popular media can go a long way to instill confidence in young people, as explained in this quote from Whoopi Goldberg:

“Well, when I was nine years old Star Trek came on. I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.” ~ Whoopi Goldberg

If you’re part of the majority, it’s important to have repeated positive images and portrayals of minorities that you might not otherwise have contact with.

A recent high profile incident regarding LGBT intolerance is the story about Memories Pizza of Walkerton, Indiana. This is the restaurant that refused to cater a same-sex wedding. Overnight, the small town pizza shop became the target of a verbal firestorm of vitriolic language expressing anger and hatred over their intolerance of same-sex marriage. Their Facebook page continues to be inundated with hateful responses to their position on same-sex marriage.

In the midst of the backlash of anger, a lesbian couple from California sent a $20 donation to the pizza shop. According to a report in the Huffington Post on 18 April 2015:

Courtney Hoffman, who is a California resident, said she hoped her $20 donation would be seen as an apology for the “hate and intolerance” that has been directed at Memories Pizza, and added that she “fully” supports the pizzeria owners’ right to “stand up” for their beliefs, TheBlaze first reported.

“My girlfriend and I are small business owners, and we think there is a difference between operating in a public market space and then attaching the name of your business to a private event,” she said in the interview, which can be found here. “If we were asked to set up at an anti-gay marriage rally, I mean, we would have to decline.”

Hoffman, who operates a small kettle corn stand with her girlfriend, also noted, “If we can remember that differences don’t equal maliciousness, and try to find what we have in common … maybe we can move beyond threats of violence and have open discussions of the things that we don’t agree on.”

Courtney Hoffman’s action above is an excellent example of effective activism. It’s also a genuine and sincere act of kindness that hopefully can open doors, build bridges, promote understanding, and bring about positive social change.

It’s probably human nature to respond ‘in kind’ to whatever comes our way. If someone yells at us, we yell back. If they call us names, we call them names. The problem, of course, is that this causes us to get sucked into engaging in the very same behavior that we’re protesting.

It turns out that the owner of Memories Pizza is not vehemently anti-gay, but simply doesn’t support gay marriage. While that may sound moderately anti-gay to some people, there is a difference. Had the pizza owner met some nice married gay couples, he might have changed his stance on gay marriage. Unfortunately, voices of reason and and understanding were drowned out by all the hateful responses.

In the midst of these conflicts, I wonder to myself, “Why do we become intolerant of people who are intolerant of people to show that being intolerant is wrong?”

Courtney’s example reminds us to take the higher road. We can stop protesting what we’re against and instead boldly and bravely live out what we are for.

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Additional Reflections

It’s relevant to point out that there’s a growing subculture of conservative evangelical Christians who probably feel that they are a misunderstood minority — being portrayed by the media as an extremist and hateful people who are bitter and “clinging to guns or religion.”

In April 2008, President Barack Obama stated about evangelical conservatives:

“…it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” (source)

Obama isn’t alone in this viewpoint. His statement reflects how conservative evangelicals are often portrayed by mainstream media.

In the same way the media focuses on Muslim religious extremists and militants, it also focuses on Christian religious extremists and militants. Religious conservatives (of any religion) are generally portrayed as angry, isolated, uneducated, and bitter — a group that nobody would want to belong to.

Interestingly, what are perceived to be the most ‘religious’ evangelicals are actually very outspoken against religion. There’s a belief among many Christians that religious structures of worship, thought, interaction, and living hinder the influence of the Holy Spirit. The subtleties and nuances of the faith and ‘a relationship with Jesus’ are found in living out a less religiously-structured worship and life of faith. Religion with its huge administrative top-down institutions, detailed doxology, and written prayer books becomes something larger and noisier than the still small voice — and thus a distraction.

In an interview on the Jon Stewart show, Mike Huckabee proclaimed “I’m a conservative, but I’m not angry about it.”

Huckabee was known for that statement because he’d use it in may speeches and television interviews. It was an important clarification to make since people like him are otherwise being portrayed as angry at the world.

There are many evangelical conservatives who aren’t uneducated, angry, or bitter. They just want to have the freedom to live their own life in a conservative religious way.

So, ironically, a group that’s often portrayed as the oppressor (conservative evangelicals), actually isn’t that large in number and is itself in danger of being an oppressed or misunderstood minority group. In some respects, conservative evangelicals are an endangered sub-culture that no longer have a cultural ecosystem to support and affirm its existence.

It’s not the case anymore that “the man” is keeping a certain group down, but we have disagreeing factions of minority groups and special interests who are all to some degree oppressed by another — fighting over jobs, political influence, and power.

The Importance of Digital Storytelling Through Social Media

Digital storytelling through social media is increasingly becoming an essential component of outreach for organizations and businesses. It’s especially important in higher education.

  • Informing. It’s how we inform the public and those within our institution about the work we do.
  • Hiring. It’s how we get the attention and interest of potential staff and instructors seeking employment.
  • Recruiting. It’s how we reach prospective students.
  • Fundraising. It’s how we inspire alumni and others from the community to give.
  • Motivating. It’s how we inspire ourselves to be encouraged about the work we do.
  • Documenting. It’s how we journal our experiences to create a collective institutional memory and history. These stories can document the what and how of processes.
  • Educating. In addition to telling stories, we can share about the process. This becomes an educational, transparent, and open-source way of equipping others to tell their stories.

Below are some photos from recent work I’ve been doing in the area of digital storytelling, and sharing the behind the scenes experiences of how we’re documenting our work — what technology and process is used.

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Michael O’Hara (center). Greg Johnson (behind camera at left). Developing an informational video for the Marcé Society.
Neema Loy shares about her @FulbrightPrgrm experience @UIOWA teaching ‪#‎Swahili‬ with the @DWLLC_UIOWA
Neema Loy shares about her @FulbrightPrgrm experience @UIOWA teaching ‪#‎Swahili‬ with the @DWLLC_UIOWA

Ambient Light Planning for Urban Public Spaces (Video)

Greg Johnson of IowaCityArchitecture.com discusses strategies for managing ambient natural light in urban and public spaces.

This is a companion video to the article on urban planning strategies to enhance available light. The image below and other examples can be found in the video.

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DIY Glucose Stress Test Results

Amazing! Just did a DIY glucose stress test with 47 grams of highly bioavailable liquid caffeinated sugar (one bottle of Starbucks Mocha Coconut Frappuccino) and two Dark Chocolate Kind Bars (32 grams of carbs). Over 100 grams of carbs in the past few hours. Glucose levels barely increased. This indicates healthy glucose control and proper insulin response. Learn more http://wp.me/p4ilax-h8

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