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Personal Update 201912 | 31 Dec 2019 | Tuesday

GREETINGS!

Happy New Year! Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. To signup to receive monthly notifications from me, please click here.

The photo at the top of this page was taken using the wide angle lens on the iPhone 11 Pro and then processed using the Dallas filter effect in the Prisma photo app.

LAS VEGAS

This month I had a chance to visit Las Vegas for the first time. Makur and I spent about four days there seeing the city and surrounding areas. I went there with some negative expectations which were mostly based on what I’d seen in movies. Some of those expectations were reinforced, but there were some unexpected positive aspects to Vegas that really made the visit worthwhile.

We booked a room in a “smoke-free” hotel/casino. Upon checking in, we were told that getting to our smoke-free room involved going through a smoke-filled casino. We’d also been warned at check-in, “Don’t touch the Pringles container in the room. There is a sensor on it, and you’ll get charged $15 if it’s moved even slightly.”

As we made our way through the casino, I could see what looked like impoverished senior citizens with a small bottle of whisky or bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, spending their social security checks on slot machines. With us were parents with children, toddlers, and newborn babies in strollers, all making their way through the wall of smoke to their own smoke-free rooms. Once we reached our room, there was a very strong offensive room freshener smell that didn’t seem to fade away.

In the streets of the city, the smoke was made stronger by the addition of marijuana and cigar smoke blended with the fumes from the open over-sized alcoholic beverages that people carried with them from one venue to another. After four days in the city, I had developed a smoker’s cough. I imagined that my lungs must have become like those of a 90-year-old 2-pack-a-day smoker. I eventually went to the doctor about my cough and found my oxygen level had declined to below a normal level (94% instead of my usual 98%). In addition to the 7000+ chemicals found in second-hand smoke, there were additional pollutants from the cars, trucks, and the airport adjacent to the city. In the photo below, you can see the thick layer of smog that blankets the city.

20191222-las-vegas-smog

Despite the drawbacks I’ve described above, there was a lot I really liked about the city.

The things I saw people doing in Las Vegas would be illegal in Iowa City. People carrying open drinks, selling marijuana, smoking marijuana, smoking cigarettes, advertising “girls” for rent, and gambling. But because those things were legal in Las Vegas, the police presence seemed very minimal or even non-existent. The environment there created a feeling of everyone being welcome. A Muslim woman wearing a burka was on the same street with barely clothed Vegas show girls. Despite marijuana being legal, there weren’t masses of people lining up to purchase. Legalization just means you need fewer police. The city streets seemed quite peaceful and people were happy.

We found a very nice organic vegan restaurant and many places selling fresh-made vegetable drinks. A variety of food energy bars were available. Many Starbucks locations were available. Delicious spring water was available in gallon sizes at Walgreens and CVS near the hotel, so we could stay super hydrated. The Las Vegas Strip is about 4.2 miles from one end to the other. So, over 8 miles both ways, including many stairs to climb where escalators were broken leading to mandatory skywalks. It was a good workout.

There were oxygen bars where people could breath fresh oxygen infused air, and also boutiques where you could get an IV infusion of water and electrolytes directly into your veins.

We enjoyed seeing Red Rock Canyon to the west and also the Hoover Dam area to the east of Las Vegas. You can see some photos from those areas in the gallery further down the page.

Las Vegas has over 150,000 hotel rooms with some hotels having more than 5,000 rooms. Many of the hotels cost billions of dollars to build and some have what seem like cities within them – indoor depictions of European towns with evening sky and real gondola rides. There are exclusive luxury brand shops which might only be available in places like New York and London. For example, the PRADA store was selling a new designer water bottle for $500 (water sold separately). Another designer store had baseball caps for $350. It’s a city of extreme extravagance. Yet, if you know what you’re doing, and avoid the traps, you can have an enjoyable and economical visit.

Experiencing Las Vegas made me appreciate Iowa City even more. Iowa City is like a Las Vegas for people who like bike trails, nature, breweries, coffee shops, great food, yoga, education, and the arts. Iowa City is its own kind of overwhelming extravagance.

PHOTOGRAPHY

In the fall of 2018 I’d been using an iPhone 7 from 2016, and it stopped working just weeks before the new iPhone X models were to be announced. Because I’m very dependent on my phone for my work, I wasn’t able to wait a few weeks for the new phones and I ended up getting a year-old model iPhone X from 2017.

My broken iPhone 7 was eventually replaced by Apple under warranty with an identical one, but that process took about a week.

I’m typically a year or two behind on my phone model. So, this month I decided to trade in the old 2017 iPhone X for an iPhone 11 Pro Max which is a larger iPhone that has three lenses. The larger size phone offers good battery life, and the lenses provide better quality photos than previous iPhones. There is a standard lens, a zoom lens, and a wide angle lens. These work for photos and also for video. Unless someone is planning to sell enlarged prints at an art festival, smartphones these days are sufficient for sharing life’s events with friends and family.

What I really appreciate about the three lenses in the new iPhone is that I can get some photos that I previously would not have been able to take. Most of the photos in the gallery below were taken with the wide angle lens. Using a regular lens and walking backwards to get everything in the photo wouldn’t have been possible.

Click on any image below for a larger gallery view.

THANKS!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

20120224fr-greg-signature

Want More News? For additional news and updates, you can click here to subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Personal Update 201911 | 30 Nov 2019 | Saturday

GREETINGS!

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. To signup to receive monthly notifications from me, please click here.

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS

I enjoy making instructional videos. This month I posted a few more on my YouTube channel. These videos are usually inspired by tech support questions people have for me. By posting a video, they get an answer to their question and others can benefit as well.

SMALL HOUSES

It’s been 10 years since I lived in my tiny house on wheels, but I continue to stay involved in the small house movement. This month I gave a presentation about the small house movement and answered some questions from those attending. Below is a video of the event.

 

THANKS!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

20120224fr-greg-signature

Want More News? For additional news and updates, you can click here to subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Tiny House Talk with Greg Johnson (2 Nov 2019)

Greg Johnson of the Small House Society talks about the tiny house movement over the past 19 years. This event took place at the Public Library in Hiawatha, Iowa. 

Personal Update 201910 | 31 Oct 2019 | Thursday

GREETINGS!

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. To signup to receive monthly notifications from me, please click here.

BIKE WEBSITES

In the summer of 2017, I setup some websites to promote bicycling: BikeWorkLife.com, IowaCityBikeTrails.com and BikeIowaCity.com. This summer I transferred ownership and management of the Bike Iowa City website to the Coralville / Iowa City area visitors bureau Think Iowa City. My hope is that having a team manage that site will help it grow further than I could take it on my own. I donated the site and the companion social media accounts. It was a good feeling to be able to make that contribution to promote local cycling efforts. I’ll continue to develop the Bike Work Life and Iowa City Bike Trails websites.

WRITINGS

In October I wrote two articles. One about Media Reform and another about an Apple MacOS Catalina error. I also created an election 2020 survey. Feel free to take the survey if you’re interested.

THANKS!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

20120224fr-greg-signature

Want More News? For additional news and updates, you can click here to subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Personal Update 201909 | 1 Sep 2019 | Sunday

GREETINGS!

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. To signup to receive monthly notifications from me, please click here.

SAINT LOUIS VISIT

I’ve posted some photos from a recent visit to Saint Louis. Click here to view the gallery. I’m trying to be better about sharing photos soon after returning from trips.

CAR CARE VIDEO

After a while without any videos posted, I created one about vehicle care. I’ll embed the video here. The direct link is https://youtu.be/hNAktUmH2Z8

Note: I’d initially posted the video with YouTube ads turned on, but I’ve now turned off ads so a good number of people can see it ad free. Once it’s had a some views, I’ll put ads back on for the long-term. I thought that having ads might allow the video to get more exposure – assuming Google favors videos that make them ad revenue. I didn’t notice any benefit to having ads on.

THANKS!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

20120224fr-greg-signature

Want More News? For additional news and updates, you can click here to subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Saint Louis Art Museum (30 Aug 2019)

Here are some photos from a brief visit to the Saint Louis Art Museum. These don’t do justice to everything the museum has to offer. You’ll find several photos of a staircase which are experiments with shutter speed and exposure.

These aren’t my best photos, but mostly snapshots of impressions. These are reduced to 1280 width from the original images If you’d like something in higher resolution let me know. I’ve provided captions with titles and artist names where possible. Enjoy.

Personal Update 201908 | 18 Aug 2019 | Sunday

GREETINGS!

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. To signup to receive monthly notifications from me, please click here.

APPLE CARD

It’s likely you’ve not heard about Apple’s new credit card yet. It’s not had as much publicity as their computers, and the card itself isn’t yet fully available to the public. Apple began sending out a limited number of early invitations for the card on August 6 and I received an invitation on August 8. I presume these invitations will continue to trickle out over the next two weeks until the official launch.

I wrote an article about the Apple Card and some problems people were having during this soft launch. The article has had a relatively small number of readers — about 160 people mostly from the U.S. who have specifically searched on an error message to find my article which was published quietly. Nobody else will likely see the article unless they search on that error.

I believe there are multiple problems with the Apple Card launch process which make it a very valuable learning experience for anyone considering launching a new product or service.

If you’d like an inside look at the product launch process and some of the issues encountered feel free to read the article. [More…]

TRANSPORTATION

In my newsletter last month, I shared about my upgrade in transportation. I’ve been riding an electric bicycle much of the time that gets the equivalent of about 1,300 miles per gallon equivalent. In other words, for what you might spend on a gallon of gas, for the same amount of money in electricity, I can go about 1,300 miles. When I’m not on the bicycle, I’ve been driving a Subaru Ascent with semi-autonomous driving. That’s really been helping reduce driving fatigue for all the consulting related traveling I’m doing. The combination of the two modes of transportation has been a great improvement.

WASTE AUDIT

While at the University of Iowa, I was on the Green Team for the departments I worked with. In case you’ve not heard the term before, a Green Team is a group focused on sustainability efforts for an organization or business unit.

During that time we conducted a waste audit which involves going through entire dumpsters of garbage and separated the waste into categories. Then an assessment was made regarding how much of the waste being sent to landfill could have been recycled or composted. From the audit we could measure how much we were recycling of our total waste stream.

This month I decided to start my own in-home waste audit which focuses on actionable data to reduce our contribution to landfill. We already recycle all our glass, paper, plastic, cardboard, and metal, and we live in a partially solar powered complex. But I’d like to do more. To get a baseline to measure progress, I’m using a simple luggage scale to monitor how many pounds of garbage we dispose of that goes to landfill. The strap from the luggage scale can quickly measure the kitchen trash bag as I lift it. I enter that data into a spreadsheet along with the weight and volume of materials we’re recycling, and the weight of compost. This way, I can calculate how many pounds of garbage we produce in a month, and begin to measure success at reducing that. It’s a very quick and easy collection of valuable data that just takes a second when you’re taking out the trash.

A simple set of goals might be to increase our recyclable materials and biodegradable food compost. Right? Well, actually, no.

I’d like to see us reduce our recycling and compost.

Compost is a great thing. It’s better than putting food in landfills. But not having food waste is even better. I try to prepare meals with the goal of reducing food waste.

From my perspective having an increase in recyclable materials simply reflects that we’re not shopping in the bulk isle at the grocery store with reusable containers. We’re buying products packaged in containers that, even if they can be recycled, are very costly to repurpose. So, I want to slowly phase-in reusable containers and bulk items. Today I noticed that our natural food store (the New Pioneer Co-op) has a bulk foods frozen section. This makes it possible to buy frozen foods in reusable containers. In the photo below you can see that these bulk frozen items are pre-made meals which even further reduces container and packaging waste.

20190818su1153-bulk-frozen-foods-new-pioneer-coop-IMG_4226

WELLNESS

I’ve been sticking to a low-carb, low-sugar, high protein diet with lots of leafy green veggies — and that seems to be producing good results. I’m also continuing with a home workout program that includes yoga, meditation, strength training, and walking.

THANKS!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

20120224fr-greg-signature

Want More News? For additional news and updates, you can click here to subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Personal Update 201907 | 31 Jul 2019 | Wednesday

GREETINGS!

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. To signup to receive monthly notifications from me, please click here.

TRANSPORTATION

This month there has been a big change to my transportation situation. I’ll begin with some context.

One of my favorite vehicles to own was a 1993 Geo Metro that could get over 40MPG due to its small size and 3 cylinder engine. The Geo Metro replaced a very large, very heavy, 8-cylinder powered car that was getting 12 miles per gallon. So, what I saved in gas every month more than paid for the Geo Metro. It was easy to park, fun to drive, and surprisingly roomy. After putting over 220,000 miles on that car, I eventually retired it to a junkyard and began riding my bicycle full-time — a task made easier by having a short and predictable daily commute over about 15 years.

For many years, I didn’t own a car. I would rent a car when needed for longer road trips, take a taxi, or use public transit, but most of the time, I’d ride my bike. After some years went by, I began driving a leased Toyota Corolla, then a Honda CRV, and in 2016 started driving a Subaru Forester.

In the past few years of doing full-time consulting, I had intentionally been limiting my work to people and businesses that were easy to reach on a bicycle. I also was trying not to take on projects that required filling up a car with heavy equipment. People would deliver computers to my home instead. It was possible to run the business 90% by bicycle, but I was limiting my work quite a bit. I was reducing my own carbon footprint, but that was mostly just shifting the driving and carbon output to others.

In 2018, I realized that being on the bike so much can result in some health problems such as skin cancer, cataracts, and possible bicycle accidents. I also realized that using the car when practical could allow me to take on more work and serve more people. So, I began using the car more.

While the bike had its potential negative effects on health, so did the car. Driving so much was making me more sedentary. I began to notice some stiffness, and even ankle soreness from so much back and forth between the brake and accelerator – which is common with in-town driving.

For the past few years, I’ve been driving a 2016 Subaru Forester. It’s a very small SUV-style vehicle that’s a little taller than its station-wagon inspired sibling, the Subaru Outback. The Forester was great for hauling computers and its small size allowed it to have impressive fuel efficiency for an all-wheel-drive vehicle. However, with more daily driving, I was finding the legroom to be a bit cramped, and the road noise would make it hard to dictate or hear on the phone sometimes. I was hoping for something a little larger. Last year, Subaru started making a slightly larger Forester-like vehicle called the Ascent. The entry model is roughly the same cost as a higher Forester trim package.

In addition to being very quiet, and having more legroom, the Ascent has some additional features that reduce driving fatigue, especially the ankle fatigue from the repetitive stress of braking and accelerating. There’s a brake-hold feature, so the brake will stay held on once you stop at a light even without your foot on the brake. That’s a big help. Also, in-town and on the highway, the automated driving assistance features are very helpful. The car can accelerate, stop, and resume to a normal speed without use of the accelerator or brake pedal. There’s a learning curve to having some of the driving tasks handled by artificial intelligence. It’s like sharing the driving with someone who has their feet on the brake and accelerator while you have your hands on the steering wheel. It’s not quite like fully autonomous driving, but there’s definitely less fatigue. In just the first few days of driving the car I’m noticing that all the driving fatigue and signs of repetitive stress are gone. I’ll probably create a video and write an article about the Ascent to share more about its other features.

You might think the Ascent is the big transportation news from this month, but there’s more. I’ve been riding the same bike for many years – a heavy slow bike that emphasizes comfort and posture over pedaling efficiency. I’ve enjoyed that bike, but it was more exhausting to ride than a lighter more efficient bike. As a result, it was less practical to ride longer distances. On days when I had a lot of client work to do, I would just drive instead of riding the bike.

About two weeks ago, I purchased an electric bike that is really quite amazing. With the electric motor assisting, it’s possible to keep up with traffic on most in-town streets – so drivers are not suddenly coming up upon you. It’s those sudden surprises that distracted drivers aren’t prepared for, but when you’re riding with the flow of traffic, drivers have more time to see you and respond as needed. The extra boost of having a plug-in electric bike means that it’s possible to say yes to biking more often, even when errands and work take you farther away. It’s not a problem on an electric bike. So, now I’m running more errands and doing more consulting work on the bike, in less time. That’s less time in the heat and sunlight. I can arrive where I’m going without breaking too much of a sweat. Because it’s a bicycle, I can still take bike trails which are usually more direct than driving routes around town. Most destinations are reachable in less time on the bike than they are by car. With bike lanes to avoid traffic and more convenient parking for bicycles, the bike is really an appealing choice.

Riding the electric bike feels like riding a very expensive lightweight racing bike with biking shoes clipped to the pedals and narrow tires with 110 pounds of air pressure. All the expense to make a bike lighter, the discomfort of leaning over to reduce wind resistance, and the slick spandex biking clothing are not needed. The electric motor makes the 50-pound bicycle feel like a 15-pound bicycle. It makes hills feel like they aren’t so steep. It’s like everywhere you ride you have a 30 mile per hour tailwind.

The combination of a more comfortable car, and faster bicycle, has really made a huge difference for my biking and driving experience. I’ll be able to better enjoy my driving while needing the car less now that I have a speedy bike.

WELLNESS

My improvised home workout is going well. I’ve been able to recreate the gym membership experience at home using tension bands and a few inexpensive free weights. Before strength training, I’m still starting the day with yoga, meditation, and then a morning walk/run that lasts about 20 minutes.

I’m maintaining a low-carb, low-sugar, high-protein diet with incremental fasting. I don’t have any fixed targets for intake, but generally, I’m consuming 20 grams of carbs per meal, 5 grams of sugar per meal, and 50 to 70 grams of protein per day. So, nothing too extreme. My sugar intake occasionally is higher if I have fruit. I count all forms of sugar and equivalents, not just refined sugar. To keep my carb intake low, I avoid bread, rice, pasta, beans, potatoes, chips, and other non-essentials that are high in carbs. This is a flexible diet that’s easy for me to stick to. As of this month, I’ve reached my lowest body weight in more than 6 years. The weight loss is slow and gradual, which is a good thing for long-term success.

THANKS!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

20120224fr-greg-signature

Want More News? For additional news and updates, you can click here to subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Personal Update 201906 | 30 June 2019 | Sunday

GREETINGS!

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. To signup to receive monthly notifications from me, please click here.

WELLNESS

This past month I developed a strength training program that I can do at home with a few dumbbells, kettlebells, and exercise bands. Using these inexpensive items, I’ve been saving time and won’t need to pay for gym membership. I feel like my workout is better and its nice having the ability to take my workout on the road when traveling. In addition to the strength training program, I have also been walking instead of using an elliptical machine. I’ve been seeing better results that from my workouts at the gym.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been cutting back on my carbohydrate intake, so no rice, beans, bread, pasta, or sweets. I’ve written about this in the past, but only recently have a renewed interest in this eating plan. I’ve also started tracking my water intake with a goal of 64 ounces per day.

RESOURCES FOR LIFE

I made a slight redesign to the Resources for Life website. The logo is centered at the top of the page and the menu is centered underneath. For the mobile view of the site, there’s a drop-down menu.

TECH WRITINGS

I’ve written some tech tip guides this past month. You can find them along with some other writings on the Resources for Life news page.

THANKS!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

20120224fr-greg-signature

 

Want More News? For additional news and updates, you can click here to subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Personal Update 201905 | 31 May 2019 | Friday

Greetings!

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. To signup to receive monthly notifications from me, please click here.

Wellness

This month I adjusted my workout routine. In the past, I was lifting about 13,000 pounds every morning for a cumulative of over 250,000 pounds per month. Now I’m lifting only 8,940 pounds each workout and only going a few days a week — sometimes skipping three to four days for rest in between workouts.

By exercising two or three days and then resting two or three days, I am able to have several days of recovery time. According to my body analysis scale, this process helps increase muscle mass by avoiding ongoing muscle breakdown.

Another aspect of having a more flexible and casual workout routine is that I can place a higher priority on sleep and if there’s a morning when I’m short on sleep, instead of waking at 5M to get to the gym early, I can sleep in a bit and make sure I’m fully rested.

As far as wellness metrics and outcomes, sleep seems to be more critical than exercise if given a choice.

Thanks!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

20120224fr-greg-signature

Want More News? For additional news and updates, you can click here to subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter.

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.