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

Document History

The above article was originally written on 31 Oct 2015 at 12:05 PM. It was updated on 31 Jul 2022 to convert it to WordPress content blocks format. The embedded Vimeo video was updated for the new block layout.

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. 🙂

Regarding the photo at the top of this page… It was not the result of a request, “Hey doc, can you help me get a selfie posted to Instagram? Take a dozen photos so I can pick the best one. Also, can we adjust the lighting in here?” None of that. Instead, it’s a photo from the U.S. Navy depicting the procedure. 

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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Follow-Up

I got a follow-up call this evening (24 Jul 2015) 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.

Document History

  • 9 Jul 2022. Document converted to WordPress block layout from the Classic WordPress editor block. A mention in the introductory section was added to clarify the source of the featured photo.
  • 24 July 2015. Document created.

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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)

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtMTvvv4fC0?rel=0]

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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Open-Source, Public Domain, Open Access, Collaborative, Universal Design Wellness Protocol

I’m excited to be developing an open-source, public domain, open access, collaborative, universal design wellness protocol to simultaneously address various health issues such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. The glucose numbers you see below of 87 and 88 were over 300 about 7 weeks ago. Over the same time period, I’ve lost about 14 pounds. Blood pressure, once at 141 over 90 is now down to 118 over 79. More astonishing results to be posted in the weeks to come. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the project so far. You can read my latest post online at http://wp.me/p4ilax-h8

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What I Learned as a Radio Shack Store Manager

In the fall of 1986 I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa. With a B.A. in Spanish, and having taken some courses in computer science, I wasn’t sure what my job prospects would be. My girlfriend at the time graduated a semester earlier than I, and had already moved to the San Francisco Bay area where we planned to live.

In December, shortly after graduating, I decided to start job hunting in California. At that time, the job market was tough, and finding something wouldn’t be easy. I had the disadvantage of not being there, and was without any connections in the area.

I looked at the job listings for the area. “Where to begin?” I thought, looking at the various positions available. In that moment, I knew what I wanted to do. Instead of taking what was available, Based on my own interests, I’d choose what business I wanted to work for and then see if they would hire me — even if no job openings existed. This was a strategy that worked for me on several occasions.

Back in 1979, about 7 years earlier, I was in 9th grade, and Radio Shack began selling the Tandy TRS-80 Model I computer. I’d always had an interest in audio systems and electronics, so I’d spend a lot of time at the Radio Shack stores learning about the latest gadgets, tools, and supplies. With computers now available in the store, I began spending a considerable amount of time there, writing software programs on the store computer. Before too long, I knew the store and products fairly well. I got to be a ‘regular’ in the store, and would sometimes help customers. I enjoyed engaging with customers and finding solutions to their needs.

Reflecting on this experience, I decided to see if I could get a job with Radio Shack in San Francisco. I called a store in the area to get the name and phone number of the district manager (the DM). His name was Steve. We ended up talking on the phone, and when he found out I was fluent in Spanish, had computer skills, and was from Iowa, he hired me over the phone to begin immediately — in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Mr. Nguyen, the manager of the store where I first worked, was from Vietnam. I was an assistant manager with hopes of having my own store one day.

Mr. Nguyen was an excellent manager to train under, and we had a really good team at the store. At that time, just about everyone worked on commission. Any tasks not related to making sales, became less of a priority. Cleaning the store, receiving orders, putting merchandise on the shelves, and helping customers with returns or repairs were less desirable tasks since employees weren’t rewarded for these tasks.

As an assistant manager, I was often left managing the store on my own. I decided to create multiple ‘departments’ in the store. So, when a customer needed repairs, rather than being left sniffing their underarms wondering why all the sales people were avoiding them, I’d immediately greet the customer saying, “Welcome! Let me have you work with Bob in our repairs department.”

There was a measure of absurdity in my assertion that we had departments in the store. Radio Shack isn’t JC Penny or Sears, but I wanted to step it up a notch. So, we had a ‘receiving department’ and a ‘custodial department.’ By giving employees accountability over each area, rather than trying to avoid tasks, they took ownership of them.

Based on how well they were doing in their respective areas of responsibility (those tasks with no commission or reward), I would make sure each employee was compensated. I’d wait until I had helped a customer with a huge sale, like a computer or home entertainment system, and then I’d ask Bob to complete the order. That meant Bob, our ‘repairs manager’ would get the commissions for that order.

I wasn’t too concerned about losing income. With so much experience in Radio Shack stores, I’d become a kind of Dancing Wu Li Master of sales. I had memorized every product in the store, and knew the catalog cover to cover. As if by magic, the pages would open to the product I was looking for.

Radio Shack had a training program called the 15 steps to selling. It was quite good, and done right actually could be an effective way to meet people’s needs without selling them stuff they didn’t need. Several of us decided not to focus on maximum sales (and income) but to focus instead on meeting people’s needs, and letting income take care of itself. This approach worked and people flocked to our store.

When a customer would walk in the door, they would begin saying something like, “Do you have…” or “I’m looking for…” and I would cut them off mid sentence and say, “Yes, we have that.” It was mostly for theatrics. Perplexed, they’d continue explaining their need as I gestured them to follow me. Listening to them closely, I’d navigate to the place in the store where we needed to be so that by the time they finished talking, I’d be standing in front of the very product they were looking for, and with a game show host hand gesture, present the item to them.

Occasionally my little stunt would backfire, and the customer would describe something we didn’t have the the store. The other sales people would look on, thinking, “What’s he going to do now?” I was determined to help everyone that came in the door. Sometimes it meant creating a solution by combining adapters and cables to do what the person wanted to do. On one occasion, I had to purchase a soldering kit to solve a customer’s need.

Because sales and commissions weren’t our first priority, and helping the customer was our focus, it didn’t matter how small the item was, or how long it might take to help the customer.

There was a rare occasion when we actually didn’t have what they were looking for. We’d never say, “We don’t have that. Sorry.” Instead, we’d get on the phone and find it for them.

I enjoyed the selling process, and finding just the right product for people. Sometimes we’d be out of a product. “We have just what you need,” I’d say confidently walking toward the display area. Then I’d wave my hand presenting the empty space on the shelf, “What you need is the XB500,” and with much enthusiasm I’d begin to describe all the features the XB500 had to offer. “I’ll buy it!” the customer would say. The entire sales process would transpire without a product. As a neighborhood store, people were happy to stop back a day or two later for items that needed to be ordered.

To make the job a little more fun, we’d use some hackneyed sales techniques and phrases, with exaggerated delivery of lines — like something out of a 1950s television commercial.

The District Manager would stop in and visit us regularly. So, he saw many of these antics, but acknowledge that although our approach was unconventional, it was effective.

Working with Radio Shack, normally it takes two or three years to get into your own store. The training process is lengthy, and a store needs to be available. Within about six months, I was promoted to manager and given my own store in Daly City.

It was a very narrow store with two levels, and not an ideal location. Next door was Matthew’s electronics and entertainment megastore. Inside the store, customers would be given wine and cheese, along with other hors d’oeuvres. Anyone purchasing a television or stereo system would be given a fully assembled bicycle. Matthew’s had a huge advertising budget, and their television commercials from the 1980s can still be found on YouTube.

One day I visited their store. “We’re not in the Mission District anymore,” I thought to myself as I looked around at one of the most impressive displays of electronics I’d ever seen.

“How could I compete with these guys?” I thought.

I saw this as a challenge and growing opportunity. As a teenager, I worked at my mom’s family business an learned a lot of good lessons about hard work and customer service. My mom and step-dad were two of the most successful business people I’ve known — measuring success by how well we care for and serve others. I knew if I could focus on meeting people’s needs, I’d do just fine managing my own store.

Matthew’s brought in customers from around the area who wanted to benefit from their selection and low prices. Sometimes the line would go out the door. Those who were impatient would visit my store instead.

Occasionally I’d get customers in my store because Matthew’s didn’t have what they were looking for. Sometimes I’d replied customer, “Yes, they have that. It’s near the speakers in the back on the right.” I’d memorized their product line and the location of all their merchandise, so sometimes I knew how to find items that newer sales people might not have known about. In these situations, I’d look to my employees and say, “I’ll be right back.” I’d then take the person over to Matthew’s and help them find what they were looking for — all while wearing my Radio Shack Store Manager name tag. The guys at Matthew’s found this quite entertaining. It helped defuse any competitive spirit between our stores. Eventually I had Matthew’s sending me their customers.

Whenever I didn’t have a product someone was looking for, I would continue the sale next door at Matthew’s.

A challenge for my little store was that to get to it from any distance, a person would drive by a dozen other Radio Shack stores. So, to broaden my store’s customer base, I had to do something extraordinary. Over time, word got around and people knew they could get an extra measure of service at our store. We’d get people from as far away as Oakland who would come to have their technical problems solved.

On one occasion, an elderly woman came into my store in search of a phonograph needle that would play 33 and 78 rpm records. Sometimes finding the right needle for a record player would take some effort. It wasn’t always clear what needle would fit. I’d maintained the policy of putting customer needs above commissions, so I wasn’t concerned that this $1 sale might take considerable time. At that moment, I’d be earning about 15 cents per hour. It didn’t matter. I patiently helped this woman, who was very grateful. In fact, she was so grateful that she wrote a letter to Tandy Corporation Headquarters in Texas. That letter got back to my District Manager.

That was a highlight of my career with Radio Shack, and a good way to start off my professional life as a young adult.

I still think back on everything I learned through these various experiences and try to apply those lessons today.

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Breakthrough in Regulating Glucose: How I reduced my blood sugar from 329 to 88

Introduction

To the best of my knowledge, much of what you’re about to read has not been published or discussed anywhere. It’s based on my own personal research and experiences. I’m about to describe some serious failings in how we currently approach regulation of glucose levels and management of diabetes.

Disclaimer

This article is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure. Contact your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your exercise or diet. Everybody is different. What works for one person, may not work for another. The story below is from my own personal experience and interactions with doctors and isn’t intended to provide any conclusive statements about all doctors or the healthcare industry as a whole. These are general observations. Please be sure to read the important advisory at the conclusion of this article.

Most Glucose Readings are Inaccurate

People interested in tracking their blood glucose levels, who have experimented a bit, know that two readings taken at the same time can sometimes be as much 30 points apart. That’s a huge difference. It’s usually because of errors in how the testing is done. However, if you get two readings that are very similar, there’s a likelihood that the average of those two is close to accurate. It may take as many as three readings to know you have an accurate number.

At a cost of up to $1.40 per test strip, most people check their glucose once per day, in the morning, and get only one (probably inaccurate) data point for a 24-hour period. They are left not knowing if their blood glucose increases during the day, or if the morning reading is the highest level for the day.

Having an accurate reading at night and in the morning can help identify conditions such as “The Dawn Phenomenon” and “The Somogyi Effect.” (source)

With only a single morning reading, there’s no awareness about the actual glucose impact of different foods eaten, and no knowledge of how different exercises during the day impact blood sugar levels.

Despite the life saving insight that even just two samples per day could provide, for some reason, insurance companies only pay for one test strip per day.

Glucose Testing Made Financially Accessible

Recently CVS Pharmacy began selling their brand of glucose test strips for $22 per box of 100 strips retail price rather than $140 per box of 100 (what some of the insurance-preferred brand name test strip manufacturers charge). This has really shaken up the industry, and has people asking about the ethics of marking up essential healthcare products to make a 400% increase in profit when people’s lives are at risk.

Now, anyone with $22 can buy a box of 100 test strips and map out what’s causing their diabetes (or high glucose levels), then take corrective action to cure it. Companies trying to sell test strips at inflated prices are undoubtedly upset about this development.

Since I first started investigating and researching this, prices on glucose meter test strips have dropped substantially. Below are listings on Amazon from companies trying to drop their inventory at distressed price reductions of up to 82% off the previous retail price. Click any image for a larger gallery view.

What the Healthcare Industry Tells You

Ask just about any doctor about glucose testing, and they will try to convince you that you don’t need to pay attention to your glucose levels during the day “because the numbers fluctuate so much and are meaningless.”

Yet, anyone actually testing their own glucose levels will quickly learn how their body responds to various kinds of foods and exercises, and the impact of a sedentary lifestyle becomes measurable.

Positive results of varying degrees can be seen in a matter of hours, days, and weeks. Some exercises have a greater impact than others. Depending on the carbs, sugars, glycemic index, and your own unique metabolic processes, different foods will impact your glucose levels differently.

All of this can be learned by strategically performing your own glucose testing.

Clinical Research for $1 Per Day

We’re talking about in-home clinical research that’s about as complicated as an elementary school science project and costs about 45 cents to $1 per day, and it could save lives. Yet, even with the recent 85% drop in cost (for the CVS test strips), insurance companies refuse to pay for it and most doctor’s don’t suggest it.

The fact is that most people are on their own with regard to predictive and preventative care. Even if you go to an integrative medicine doctor, most insurance companies won’t cover exploratory procedures and preventative treatments.

So, in the case of blood sugar management, if you’re wanting to test frequently, you’ll probably need to pay with your own money to get a glucose tester and test strips, because in some cases insurance companies will only cover the cost of brand name testers, and even then they only cover one test strip per day.

It’s up to each individual to clinically study and learn about their own health conditions to develop a personalized wellness regime. This doesn’t mean that you give up on medical care entirely. It means that you dig deeper to learn more about yourself.

Any health plan should be done in collaboration with an practitioner of integrative medicine, and it’s good to continue with a traditional doctor for whatever minimal care is offered by the insurance companies.

Danger! Call your doctor immediately!

About a month ago, my glucose levels were reaching over 300 as you can see in the reading below.

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The standard medical advisory for readings this high is: “Danger. Call your doctor immediately.” (Source: University of Washington)

I was alarmed. I knew I had to do something. So, I did, and below you can see the results before and after about 30 days later.

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Background

I should share some of the background leading up to my high glucose reading. By the way, when I saw the reading above of over 300, I didn’t call my doctor immediately.* Here’s why…

For many years I’ve been periodically testing my blood sugar levels. Year after year, they were normal.

In the fall of 2013, I’d started using a protein drink mix called Muscle Milk. I created a video about the experience. The protein drink does what it promises. It produces amazing levels of energy and strength. However, in the process, it raises cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

However, I didn’t realize what was going on with my health, until several weeks into using the product and I had my annual physical. The doctor immediately declared me to be a diabetic, wanted to put me on high blood pressure medication, and was alarmed about my cholesterol levels. I was really surprised since I’d not previously had trouble with my blood sugar being high. Yet, it was close to 140 according to the lab work. That’s the highest I’d ever seen it.

I explained that I’d been using a nutritional supplement that I suspected had skewed the lab results. I asked if we could wait on the high blood pressure medicine. The doctor reluctantly agreed to wait on the high blood pressure medicine, but insisted that I take Metformin to help regulate my blood sugar.

I thought to myself, “What could go wrong?”

Well, here’s what went wrong.

I started taking the Metformin prescription and noticed my blood sugar levels were increasing. Every few days the numbers were higher. Soon my blood sugar levels were up to 180, then 220, then one day they reached 285 while on the Metformin. “This is crazy,” I thought.

I immediately stopped taking Metformin, and did some online research. I read that “patients taking metformin can also experience high blood sugar.” (source) I’m glad I’d been checking my blood sugar regularly rather than once per day in the morning. Otherwise I might have been unaware of the danger I was in.

For me this was just another disappointing experience where I was trying to play by the rules, and doing what the doctor had ordered, and my condition became worse.

It took me months to bring my blood sugar levels back down. Without much provocation at all, they’d be back up again. The extreme reaction I was having to foods high in sugars and carbs was alarming, but it allowed me to have a very sensitive measurement tool to evaluate a lot of different foods.

Using my own body as a research lab, I tested various foods and exercises to learn more about their impact on glucose levels. By February 2015, the testing was over. It had to be. Eating a typical American diet was resulting in blood sugar levels of over 300.

I gathered all my research from the past year of testing, and put it all to work. The result was a return to normal levels in about 30 days.

I’m going to publish more details about my findings in the coming weeks.

To learn more, read the health section of my March 2015 news update.

Video

Below is an video I discovered on 26 March 2015 (after writing the article above) that seems to confirm some of my own findings. In the video, Dr. Attia states, “I dream of the day when our patients can shed their excess pounds and cure themselves of insulin resistance because as medical professionals we’ve shed our excess mental baggage and cured ourselves of new idea resistance sufficiently to go back to our original ideals. Open minds. The courage to throw out yesterday’s ideas when they don’t appear to be working, and the understanding that scientific truth isn’t final but constantly evolving. Staying true to that path will be better for our patients, and better for science. If obesity is nothing more than a proxy for metabolic illness, what good does it do us to punish those with the proxy.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjJrXHWLP_M?rel=0]

Video Description: “As a young surgeon, Peter Attia felt contempt for a patient with diabetes. She was overweight, he thought, and thus responsible for the fact that she needed a foot amputation. But years later, Attia received an unpleasant medical surprise that led him to wonder: is our understanding of diabetes right? Could the precursors to diabetes cause obesity, and not the other way around? A look at how assumptions may be leading us to wage the wrong medical war.”

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*Advisory. In the experience I described above, I didn’t call my doctor immediately because it was the doctor’s previous advice (I believe) that put me in the situation I was in. I knew I had practices that could bring my blood sugar down. So, I implemented those. I’d read of people with blood sugar levels of 400, 500, or higher who were alive to write about it. There were varying opinions about the significance of a reading over 300. For anyone else in the same situation, I’d suggest that you do call your doctor if your blood sugar is elevated. Also, don’t stop medication simply as a result of reading this article, and don’t ‘experiment’ with foods to the point that they hinder your health. My experience was that the recommended glucose medication made things worse. That’s not necessarily the case with all prescriptions. It’s an exception.