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Personal Update 202301 | 2 Jan 2023


Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. The photo above is from 18 Dec 2022, looking out the window through condensation at a winter sunrise.

December 2022 Content

There have been 15 new posts to the Resources For Life dot com website for the December 2022. These are mostly year-end reports on various topics with videos. To view these, visit the What’s New page. [View]

Public Interest Outcomes

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed teaching on various tech topics to groups of people at the University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, and at the Iowa City Public Library.

When I think about the need for digital literacy to be available to everyone in our community, I imagine starting a non-profit organization to serve that mission. I’d find board members to guide the organization. I’d seek out donors and corporate sponsors. I’d buy, build, or lease a facility where the digital literacy courses could be offered. I’d hire staff to teach the courses. Curriculum would be developed. There would be a lab with computers and other tech devices that get refreshed every few years as needed.

So often when I envision a new business or non-profit, I realize the goals and outcomes are already being served by an existing entity — usually above and beyond what I could have imagined. The successes and failures have already been experienced. Rather than trying to establish something new, I seek out what’s already established and working — then I support, donate, join, and/or volunteer.

In recent years, I’ve started donating to the Iowa City Public Library to support the series of free tech classes open to the public. [View ICPL Tech Classes]

This is a perfect example of envisioning a public interest outcome, then finding someone who is already achieving that outcome with great efficiency. It’s such a weight off to know that mission is already being served and with such excellence.

Everyone has had the experience of thinking “Wouldn’t it be great to have _____” or “Somebody should really _____.” Quite often, it turns out that what you’re imagining is already being done.

It’s difficult initially to give toward an enterprise where it’s not run precisely as you would run it. Maybe you’ve come up with a great catchy slogan or name for an organization and prefer that over what’s already established. If we can step back, and focus instead on actual outcomes, then the process is less important to us. The same goals are being accomplished.

When I learned that the library was offering tech classes, I suggested they create a dedicated page on the website to list them, and offered some suggestions on how that could be done. Their web person took care of the details. It was an opportunity to have a bit of input and personal influence. It also gave me a web page address to send people to in promoting the classes to my own computer customers and through social media. [View ICPL Tech Classes]

Through giving to the ICPL and perhaps in some way having some influence on the success of the library, I feel like I’m a shareholder of something really valuable.

Another example of “Wouldn’t it be great to have _____” is the idea of having a team of people who serve the retired and senior members of our community. I envisioned this more on the scale of a neighborhood, as “Home Services” that could be offered by able neighbors. On a small scale, close by, there is a lot we can do to help neighbors. I setup a Home Services page on the Resources For Life website. [Learn More] It’s a template for what neighborhoods could establish — basically make the entire city a retirement community, one neighborhood at a time. An organization called TRAIL of Johnson County is doing this county-wide, as a formal non-profit group with many people involved. It’s another example where I’ve decided to donate to an organization that’s already doing the thing I thought would be a good idea. It’s already being done, and being done very well. [Learn More About TRAIL] They now list me as a local resource for those needing tech help.

What’s really nice about Iowa City and Johnson County is that whatever you can think of, it’s probably already being done. You can give and get involved, and feel good about the impact.


My tech writings, buying guides, and support documents for December 2022 are on the Iowa City Tech website featured on the posts page. Only a few new items were added last month. [View]


You can subscribe to be notified of these monthly newsletters [Subscribe] or scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email address where indicated to be notified of every post to this site.


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

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 23 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]

Personal Update 202212 | 1 Dec 2022


Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. The photo above is from a walk at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area in Iowa City on 23 Nov 2022.

Fall 2022 Content

There were 38 new posts to the Resources For Life dot com website for the fall 2022 season (Aug-Sep-Nov). A variety of topics are covered including world news, healthcare, religion, politics, and environmental issues. Some interesting music videos are also featured. I’ll share some of that below. To view all of the fall posts and articles, visit the What’s New page. [View]

Tech Articles

My tech writings, buying guides, and support documents for the fall 2022 season are on the Iowa City Tech website featured on the posts page. [View]

Singing Circle

The video below is from one of the music-related posts for fall 2022. The singer Michal Elia Kamal of the band “Light in Babylon” from Istanbul, Turkey was a guest of a singing circle in Tel Aviv called “Unite in Babylon” performing the Hebrew song “Hinech Yafa” (25 Apr 2018)


You can subscribe to be notified of these monthly newsletters [Subscribe] or scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email address where indicated to be notified of every post to this site.


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

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 22 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]

Personal Update 202211 | 1 Nov 2022


Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. The photo above is from a walk at Lake Macbride on 8 Oct 2022. It’s a nice example of the colors of fall in Iowa.

Resources For Life News

For the Resources For Life website, I’m now providing seasonal newsletters rather than monthly installments. The fall newsletter was posted on 30 Oct 2022. [View]

Tech Recycling

As a result of my tech work, people give me their old computers, electronics, power cords, and other tech accessories. These are items that typically contain plastics and metals that shouldn’t be throw in the trash. If still functional, they may be of use to someone, or should at least be recycled to separate the materials and inner components to be repurposed.

Some devices need to be securely erased or reset before sending to a recycling facility. Working but slightly older devices can be sold on eBay. The selling process requires photos and descriptions for items being sold. I’ve been pleased to have a use for the collection of boxes and envelopes that accumulate from shipments received.

I’m estimating it will take me several months to slowly go through the excess items I have. I’ve created a resource page with recycling information for the Iowa City area to help others who are wanting to get rid of their old tech devices. [View]

Companies like Nimble sell tech accessories made from recycled materials, and with every product sold, they pay the shipping for a pound of your old electronics to be recycled. This seems like a nice full-cycle approach to responsible tech sales. [Learn More] Outfitters like The North Face are also pursuing circularity.

The Circular Business Model is described in Harvard Business Review in this way: “…manufacturing companies are talking about what’s often called the circular economy—in which businesses create supply chains that recover or recycle the resources used to create their products. Shrinking their environmental footprint, trimming operational waste, and using expensive resources more efficiently…” [Source]

These efforts help reduce electronic waste (e-waste) and preserve a cleaner planet for the next generation.

100% Solar Printing and Scanning

Using small-scale solar energy for powering specific devices has been a fun learning experience. I have a single solar panel that generates 65 to 70 watts of power in direct sunlight. The energy is stored in two battery packs of about 500Wh total. Even with the shorter days of fall heading into winter, and the sun getting lower in the sky, there continues to be a surplus of solar power beyond what I can use for the items I’m running on pure solar power.

Other than charging smartphones, small electronics devices, and AA rechargeable batteries, I have two power-hungry devices running on solar power. I have an old Dell laptop computer that pulls about 50-watts when charging (about two hours once a week). I also have a printer that uses about 10-watts with occasional 20-watt loads. When not in use, I turn it off. Since I’m only using it a few minutes a day, it isn’t a significant drain on my available energy.

The ability to print with 100% solar power is enjoyable. I use paper made from sawmill waste chips. The paper is manufactured using wind energy and hydropower. With the print setting usually on draft mode, the ink used is minimal. I make sure to have a small notice on each document printed indicating that the printing is 100% local solar power with eco friendly paper. I feel it’s important to distinguish local solar from energy credits or offsets.

To avoid having piles of paper around my desk and office, I scan all paper documents. This declutters and makes it easy to find items later. Postal mail items, invoices, receipts, notes, and bills are all scanned, shredded, and recycled. Any envelopes, cards, or scraps of usable paper are repurposed rather than recycled.

Free is Too Expensive

I created a website in August called Iowa City Free to help distribute items locally rather than selling them online. I did my best to offer many very nice working new items that are typically in high demand such as webcams, smart speakers, and more. I promoted this to thousands of people. Over several weeks of effort, only one person responded.

It seems that most people want to click a button to order something new online and have it shipped to them. The money isn’t an issue. It’s more a matter of convenience and selection. I can understand that. Another consideration is that people feel they can afford to buy things, and don’t want to deprive someone who is truly needy. “Oh, no. Let someone else have it.” I guess that says something about the community I live in.

Of the people who are financially strained, who might be interested in free items, they find that free is too expensive. They don’t have a means of transportation to come and get free items. I could ship items to needy people, but they have no permanent address. They would like a computer, but have no money for Internet service. There’s a long list of support and resources needed by people who are in difficult circumstances.

For the Iowa City area, we have an organization called CommUnity Crisis Services that offers an array of services and resources to meet people’s needs. That’s probably a better way to get support to those who need it.

An aspect of the Iowa City Free initiative was to also provide simple conveniences to neighbors, particularly those who are elderly. Perhaps someone needs an envelope and stamp, or needs a FAX sent. Simple items and services can be a great help to others and require very little from the person offering them. This aspect of Iowa City Free is further explained on the Home Services web page.

Reverse Flow Currency Economy

The key for a healthy economy is to have money (or value) flowing. The traditional flow of money is from the recipient of a product or service to the provider — consumers buying things.

In the 1970s, the closest experienced to a Google search was provided by Lexis (for legal documents) and Nexis (for magazine articles) — these later merged to become LexisNexis. I was able to test out these services in the early 1970s during their rollout. These services were available for about $100 per hour initially. That’s about $670 per hour in today’s dollars.

By the late 1990s, Google launched a more comprehensive search service for free — equivalent to money (or value) flowing to consumers at a rate of $670 per hour across billions of computer screens. Trillions of dollars in value per day. Lexis still has value for legal research, but most everything else is available on Google, including 10 million miles of 360-degree street view for maps.

Today when searching the Internet, it is possible to earn money or other valuable rewards (such as planting trees or donating cash to non-profit groups). This is an example of reverse flow currency economy.

This past week, natural gas prices dropped below zero in Texas and Europe. I suppose that means people receive checks in the mail instead of bills. Or maybe it’s like the oil industry where profits climb, but consumers pay more at the pump.

In my own business of tech consulting, I’ve had situations where a person needs computer repair services, and I provide them with a replacement computer and the tech support needed to set it up — for free. I regularly have opportunities for profit sharing to benefit my customers — rather than shareholders. Because my customers are my shareholders. Throughout the year, this takes the form of discounts, cash back, gifts, and sometimes tech accessories or peripherals.

It will be interesting to see how our world economy changes in the years ahead with more being available for zero dollars or negative dollars.

Life as a Generalist

I’ve been thinking about how the Iowa City Free website might evolve to serve local needs. Having area services listed in a single place can be helpful, so that’s at least one benefit of the site.

I received a call this morning, midway through writing this article, from someone needing to find a home for some hens. The caller was told by someone to contact me as a community resource person who might know how to find a home for these hens. This was a referral as a result of the Iowa City Free initiative. I was able to provide some guidance. It was nice to be considered as someone with expertise in finding homes for hens.

My life-long full-time vocation has been as a technologist, but I also try to be a modestly informed generalist in a variety of topics. I think this is inspired and strengthened by having a liberal arts education. Whatever a person’s primary career may be, the application of their skills and insights can be expanded by having a broad-based education and familiarity with the world. This broad and global perspective helps me better understand the needs and life of the diverse people I serve.

One day I was on LinkedIn and took a moment to review my list of skills, as submitted by the people who know me. It’s an impressive list of 31 skills. One day I hope to live up to the perception others have of me. Missing from the list is the skill of tech services provider — the one skill that has been my life-long career and specialty. This doesn’t discourage me. My resume and referrals from loyal customers over several decades affirm to me that my tech abilities are recognized and valued. But it’s an interesting example of how we may become known for something other than how we would define ourselves.

Trust in Democracy

Some years ago, I was hired by a group to promote public support of a project. I was very enthusiastic about the project and offered support above and beyond what I was paid for. I believed that the project would be welcomed by our community. It was for improvements to some local government buildings. As is typical with taxpayer-funded projects, there were some people in favor and some people against it.

My feeling was that the strongest and most effective support of the project would be achieved through clearly and fairly offering all perspectives. With approval, I made video recordings of those speaking in opposition to the proposal. I produced videos of their presentations with nicely styled visuals and PowerPoint slides.

I believed if the public could hear a fair, balanced, and effective presentation of all viewpoints, the consensus would be in favor of the project. A super-majority of votes was needed for approval.

I still believe the effort I made was the most effective way to promote the project and give it the best chance of success. Being respectful of people, even if they are in opposition to something you support, is the best choice. Acknowledging good points made by opposition is the most honest and reasonable response. Being rude, insulting, and unfairly trying to discredit someone in opposition angers those who are the target of such treatment and causes one to lose the respect and support of those who are undecided.

Ultimately the project did not receive a super-majority of support. However, had I chosen to engage in ‘dirty politics’ for the promotion of the project, I believe it would not have had as much community support and votes as it did receive.

In many respects Iowa City is a small town. After the election, I would frequently encounter many of the people who had strongly opposed the project. They would stop and engage in a friendly conversation. Some thanked me for my help in opposing the project. I think some people believed I was working in opposition to the project — because I was always friendly, polite, and respectful at public events. They just assumed I must be on their side.

I’ve approached other public initiatives and politics in general with the same perspective. I trust Democracy more than my own subjective opinions and views. It is certainly an effective mechanism to determine what serves the sentiments of a majority. Given a respectful, educated, and informed public, Democracy helps us aggregate a diversity of views and ideas to find what our collective crowd-sourced ‘super-computer’ intellect concludes is an ideal approach to a challenge or goal.

We have a midterm election coming up on November 8. I’ve always waited until Election Day to vote. This year I voted early. I want to make the shift in mindset to vote early. It feels uncomfortable — like celebrating a religious holiday at a convenient day of my own choosing. Similar to observing Passover or Easter in August.

Election Day is the equivalent of a religious holiday for those who value democracy. I think I will always recognize the official day as special and worthy of observance and reflection — perhaps by reading history books or watching movies and documentaries about democracy. It might be nice to have some traditional Election Day ornaments that symbolize the people, places, events, and principles of democracy. It’s an opportunity to revisit high points and low points in the history of democracy, and to think about how we can foster an ecosystem that supports vibrant democracy. The thing about self-governance is that you don’t really notice it or appreciate it. When fascism rises up, you notice that.

We currently have some people who want to leapfrog over democracy. They don’t pursue respectful dialog or value being considerate of others. They believe the most aggressive and heavily-armed people should rule. They have formed militia groups operating independently from and in opposition to government entities. They have spawned extremist individuals and groups. Their dream for America would be marauding hoards of militants vying for power, guided by an ever changing constellation of conspiracy theories.

Below is a two-minute video commentary that summarizes the danger of increased violence in American politics. The video is from 2016, but in today’s political climate, in light of ongoing aggression directed at legislators, this video seems even more relevant. [Source]

As people understand, value, and trust in democracy, we can reduce the trend toward violent uprisings and civil war which is a destructive “continuation of politics by other means.” A peaceful healthy democracy is always better than the alternatives.

Disclaimer: In business and public interest endeavors, I work with a wide spectrum of people who represent various political and social perspectives. I’ve encountered respectful, intelligent, competent, and trustworthy people who come from a variety of backgrounds. So, I’m disinclined to wholly endorse a single narrow group with a blanket statement of approval while rejecting any other group — political, religious, or otherwise. Instead, I support and advance certain values and principles wherever they may be fostered.


You can subscribe to be notified of these monthly newsletters [Subscribe] or scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email address where indicated to be notified of every post to this site.


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

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 22 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]

people discuss about graphs and rates

Consumer News Report — Oct 2022


I’ve had a longtime interest in consumer issues. For many years I operated a consumer advocacy service. In the past, I would encounter an interesting consumer rights case every few months. Now there are sometimes several incidents per week just of my own experiences. I plan to periodically write a summary of encounters that seem worth sharing.

Past Successes

One success I’m proud of is taking on Apple about 10 years ago, in April 2003 when they launched their music service which advertised songs for 99-cents. Many songs were available 99-cents, but some were overpriced. To purchase the song “American Pie” it was necessary to buy the entire album for about $10. I successfully negotiated with the Apple in-house legal counsel to make “American Pie” available for 99-cents to everyone. There was no personal award or benefit to me, other than the satisfaction of the accomplishment. I had other similar victories over the years.

More Difficult to Win

As you’ll read below, it’s become much more difficult to win in cases that should really require little time and effort. These are cases where a customer is clearly being exploited and abused by companies that put profits over people.

Brokerage Firm OVERCHARGE

A few years ago, I signed up for an app that made micro investments possible. Fractions of stock could be purchased without fees. In June 2022, the company announced a plan to begin charging a monthly fee, and perhaps other fees. Existing long-time members were given an opportunity to pay a one-time lifetime membership of about $20 to avoid the monthly fees. I paid the $20 in June.

In September, a few months later, they began charging me a monthly fee. Since I’d paid for the lifetime membership, I requested a refund for the monthly fee.

They agreed to close my account, and sent me the remaining balance, but said they could not refund the membership fee.

I explained that there should not have been a monthly fee charged since I had signed up for the lifetime membership. They agreed the charges theoretically should be refunded, but said they couldn’t provide a refund since my account was closed.

After pressuring them on the matter, they finally agreed to look into the matter and offered to send a check payment. I’m still waiting to receive the check.


This past summer, I signed up for an upgraded credit card that would provide some useful travel benefits exceeding the annual membership cost. This is a global banking institution — not a recent startup or travel membership club.

I was told the annual fee would be waived for the first year. In September, a few months after having received the new card branding, a bill for $250 showed up on the account. I contacted the bank and was told the $250 was an annual cardmember fee. I explained that the representative who upgraded our account said the membership fee would be waived for the first year.

I asked for a refund of the $250, since I was promised there would be no member fee for a year. I wanted to just downgrade the card. I was told that I could not receive a refund, and that the free first year only applied with new accounts. I explained that it wasn’t my fault if I was told incorrect information when the account was upgraded. Given the unusual situation, I asked permission to record the phone call since a dispute would undoubtedly be required.

I was then told that I could not record the call. The representative said they personally would be fine if I recorded the call, but there is a company policy that says consumers can not have any recording of a conversation with a customer service representative.

I explained that I had asked permission to record the previous call in June 2022, and was given permission to record the call, and that I had a recording of that call which included the promise of no member fees for one year.

I explained that not allowing a consumer to make an approved recording of a discussion seemed to be a violation of consumer rights since the company records all calls for their internal use. It would put a customer at a disadvantage. I explained that I planned to pursue that separately as a customer rights issue.

A few minutes later I was told the policy had been changed and that recordings of calls by customers would be okay. I asked where I could find this in writing online, and was told it’s not in writing online for anyone to see, but only internally viewable as policy. Then I was told I could record the phone call.

Eventually, once the call was being recorded and the customer service representative knew I was not going to let go of the issue easily, I was told that I could receive a credit for the $250, and that I could downgrade the card for no fee.

Only after significant effort was I given a refund of the fee.

Grocery Store Sells Old Food

Last month, after returning home from the grocery store, we noticed that some flour we purchased was going to expire in a few days. The expiration date on this brand of flour is usually 12-months in the future, so that suggests the bag we were sold had been sitting on the store shelf for a year.

I took the bag of flour back to the store for a refund. The person working the checkout register said they could not give me a refund. I explained it was purchased just two days prior and showed my receipt. They explained that it was sold at a discount because it was close to the expiration. Since it was a cooking and baking ingredient, I said it would be unlikely that anyone would use it up in just a few days. At least, we were not going to use it that quickly.

I asked to speak with a manager and explained they are selling year-old bags of flour. The manager said they have a policy of no refunds on marked down clearance items.

I decided to call the corporate offices for the grocery store. I explained what happened and was told that there is never an exception to their no refunds policy. They said I should have known about the no refunds policy because it is printed on the receipt. I explained that once a person has the receipt, it is too late to be informed about a no refunds policy. They said the policy was on a certain page of the company website. I explained that customers are not going to read entire websites to learn about return policies before checking out. They said the policy is printed and displayed at the registers. It isn’t. I have photos. They said the policy is displayed on the shelves where the clearance items are. It isn’t. I have photos. It was a long phone call, and became clear they would not budge on this policy. They agreed to send me a $5 coupon, which is only a fraction of what we were charged. I never received it.

I then reported the incident to the Better Business Bureau. I also pointed out that I’d been charged the full price for the clearance item instead of the price marked on the item. I provided a copy of the receipt and photos documenting the various issues of missing signage. After several days, I received a reply from a representative of the company offering to send $50 as compensation for the year-old bag of flour and to cover my time and effort. I’ve not received anything from the company yet.

Restaurant Grumpy Cook

In September, we went to a restaurant, and one of the cooked items was served cold. We asked the server if it could be heated up and cooked a little bit more. They said they would see what could be done.

We assumed the issue was being taken care of. A short while later, the cook came out to our table, visibly upset, and insisted that the food was cooked.

There was no apology. No offer to cook the food more or heat it up.

It was an unpleasant and unusual situation. I gave the restaurant a fair review based on a number of factors, including some positive aspects, but did mention that odd behavior of the cook.

I looked at some of the 1-star negative reviews for the restaurant and saw that other people had similar experiences there.


Bad consumer experiences are becoming more frequent and worse in severity. We are seeing multiple layers of complex hurdles consumers need to jump through to get problems resolved. Despite being told no several times, eventually if a person perseveres they can get what they rightfully deserve. These problems come from more companies putting profits over people. It harms consumers, harms employees, and harms the long-term respect for the companies that are exploiting people.

I plan to keep reporting on consumer issues from my own experiences.

Learn More

In addition to consumers struggling to get treated fairly, small businesses are also struggling to compete with huge corporations like Amazon that steal product and marketing ideas for unfair advantage. The video below from CNBC on 12 Oct 2022 explains this problem in greater detail.

Personal Update 202210 | 2 Oct 2022


Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. The photo above is the view looking southwest from Trumpet Blossom Cafe on 24 Sep 2022. It’s nice to see flowers and pollinators in urban areas.

This month’s update is longer than others from recent months. I hope you enjoy it.


I’ve created a page to share my photography. At present there is a photo that was published in a book about Lake Tahoe. I hope to add more links and materials to the page in the coming months. [View Page]

Tech Tips for Protecting Vision and Hearing

I wrote an article today with some tips on tech devices and settings for protecting vision and hearing. [View]

It’s a topic I’ve written on in the past, but I wanted a refreshed version of the information.

Tea Time

I’ve been drinking more tea lately, and keep several varieties brewed and chilled for drinking throughout the day. Having a variety helps make drinking tea interesting and flavorful. So, I’m less likely to get bored and lose interest.

I have a simplistic way of visually categorizing the teas based on their appearance when brewed. There are a few different common colors that tea might have once brewed.

I like to have a fruity tea on hand. These are not made from tea leaves so they are called a tisane. This is usually red it appearance because of the color from hibiscus and berries which are common ingredients. The chai spiced tisane blends can have an orange or brown color when brewed. I like to have traditional green teas and black teas either hot or cold. Some of the teas have a light green color. Others have a dark traditional tea color.

So, through the day, I can keep drinking a variety of teas, benefiting from their unique properties, and enjoying the variety of flavors.

In recent years, purchasing tea in 1-pound bags as resulted in a surplus of tea. I want to use up the tea that has accumulated and then start trying some new teas.

Spiced Coffee

A tea-adjacent beverage I enjoy is fresh ground local roasted coffee mixed with chai spices like ginger, cinnamon, green cardamom, black pepper, clove, and allspice. Mixed with milk, this results in a delicious spiced coffee similar to Lebanese coffee.

Low Cost Low Power Tech

It’s part of our human nature to want to share experiences.

As a tech enthusiast, I’m interested in devices that can be used by as many people around the world as possible. This is why I’m most excited about devices that are priced economically and have low power requirements to operate.

In my own daily life, relying more on solar power, I’m becoming more interested in low power tech devices. Installing more solar panels really isn’t “the answer” for most homes. A few solar panels are easily purchased and setup, but many people don’t have the space or view of the sky for an array of 5, 10, 20, or more panels. Small-scale solar is more practical, affordable, and possible for people.

Present-day household appliances and electronic devices have very high power demands. The ideal combination would be small-scale solar paired with low power devices. In this month’s update I share about some interesting low-cost low-power devices.

The computer for Everybody

I was able to purchase the Raspberry Pi model 400 computer in March of this year when it was available for $100. It is a keyboard that contains a computer and comes with a mouse. [Learn More]

The Raspberry Pi Foundation states on their products website: “… we make computing accessible and affordable for everybody.”

One of the challenges with making a computer for everybody is that everybody wants one. As a result, they are now in high demand for their practical value, and also as a novelty item. This is driving prices up. They are being sold on Amazon now for about $190. [View]

One of the greatest benefits of the Raspberry Pi computer is that the operating system can be installed and a computer setup in about 3 minutes or less of hands-on time. The setup includes an open-source office suite of software with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation software, an email client, and an Internet browser. The operating system is a version of Linux, so it is compatible with the millions of Linux computers around the world. The interface is similar to Windows, making it easy for most people to use.

The computer uses about 5 watts of power, so it’s a great choice for people using solar power.

Before you ditch your current computer and order a Raspberry Pi, you should know that it’s suited for basic tasks, but most intensive computer users would still need a typical desktop system for their typical workload.

Amazon Kindle Scribe

On 29 Sep 2022, Amazon announced various updated versions of their products and a few new devices. In my opinion, one of the most interesting products announced is a new 10.2-inch Kindle reader with digital ink note taking capabilities. It’s called the Kindle Scribe. It is priced at about $330 to to $420 depending on the configuration. [View]

These devices promise 12 weeks of use between charges based on 30 minutes of reading a day (or 42 hours), or about 3 weeks of writing 30 minutes a day (or 10.5 hours). It’s clear that the battery life estimates in weeks, as provided by Amazon, are based on casual periodic reading and not all-day use of the device.

The battery life for reading is longer due to the special static display technology of Kindle Paper White displays. Writing requires an active display with higher refresh rate, and this uses more power, so the expected runtime on a single charge is less.

The battery life estimates are based on a backlight level setting of 13, but since the Paper White technology generally doesn’t rely on any backlighting, I’m very curious to see what the battery life would be in a real-world daily use scenario without the backlight on.

You’ve heard of people tailoring their driving habits to optimize fuel efficiency, particularly with hybrid vehicles. This is known as Hypermiling. That’s what I want to do with this new Kindle Scribe system to find out if it can be used as an ultra low power alternative to computers — at least for reading and writing, which are two of the most predominant tasks we use computers for.

Depending on the power demands of the Kindle Scribe, it may be an excellent tech device to run entirely from solar power.

All versions of the Scribe include either a basic stylus or an enhanced stylus. This new stylus technology does not use batteries, and does not need charging. By including the stylus for free, Amazon is clearly wanting to entice customers and stand out from Apple — given that an Apple Pencil (stylus) is a separate $130 purchase. [View]

I’ve pre-ordered a lower price Amazon Scribe model with the enhanced stylus for review. I want to do some testing of the device to creatively explore the range of tasks can it perform, and also discover the real-world battery life. The devices will be shipping and available in stores on November 30.

If you mostly use your computer for reading and writing, a Kindle Scribe may be a helpful and simple tool for much of your work.

The Kindle Scribe seems like a good tech device for places in the world with limited electricity and Internet access since it can hold thousands of books and easily run on solar power. As we increasingly see power outages in the United States and elsewhere, having an energy efficient device can be a good device to have available.

For reading without note taking, Amazon is releasing a new Kindle in ten days that will cost $99 and have many tech benefits beyond what a computer can provide. [Learn More]

One Million Views

I was happy to learn that my photos posted to Google Maps have had over one million views. These are mostly posted with my written reviews of businesses, but also include photos of parks and other destinations.

Google Maps gives me access to a much larger audience than my own website or social media services like Facebook that functions as a broker between me and my contacts, requiring that I pay to share posts more thoroughly and effectively with my family and friends.

The photos posted to Google Maps are adequate, but not as sharp as the originals. So, it’s not a way to showcase photos with great clarity and precision, but they are good snapshot quality sufficient for people wanting to get a general idea of visuals. The quality is reduced by Google so the photos require less bandwidth to display and less storage space.

You can view my Google profile page to see the reviews and photos. [View]

The $29 Smart TV

Today I received the new Google Chromecast system. It’s a small $29 device that provides smart TV streaming with HD (High Definition) resolution output of 1920×1080 pixels. [Product Page]

It’s a lower resolution video compared to 4K, but it’s the standard that we’ve come to accept for high definition video over the past 20+ years. A higher resolution 4K version is available for $40 on sale, normally $50. [View]

The 4K resolution system would produce a resolution of commonly 3840×2160, but that’s not needed for lower resolution televisions, and it requires a faster processor, faster internet, and more storage capacity. So, it’s an example of where the lower tech vintage standard may serve just as well as the newer standard.

My interest in this device is prompted by fiber internet service being installed in Iowa City by a Cedar Rapids company called ImOn. [Website]

This has resulted in many people having video streaming tech questions for me. I’m familiar with Roku, Apple TV, and some other streaming options, but I wanted to be familiar with this cheaper $29 option as possibly a better streaming options for people to use.

With a low-power portable flat panel HDMI display, and this smart TV device, it would be possible to have a tiny television that could run on battery power for many days. This interests me because it’s a good device to power with the off-grid solar system I’ve been using.


Last month I switched to solar power for most of my tech devices. A small panel and two battery packs allow me to have unlimited solar-sourced power through overcast days and at night. I’m using solar power for my smartphones and wireless accessories like mice, keyboards, trackpads, headphones, watch, and rechargeable AA batteries.

The power packs have an LCD display to show power input from the solar panel and power output. This makes me more aware of how much wattage is received from the sun, and used with devices.

Because printing and scanning are relatively low power, and used briefly, I am able to do all of my printing and scanning using 100% solar power. I found some paper available at Best Buy that is made from sawmill scraps and produced using wind and solar energy. [View]

I hope to expand on these small measures of progress, starting with an easily attainable foundation of sustainability and growing from there.

This helps meet a goal of using and promoting more sustainable technology choices for the Iowa City Tech initiative. Having portable solar power lets me continue using solar power even when I’m at a remote job site. With multiple consecutive sunny days, I bring computers online and can complete customer service requests with solar power. People are encouraged when I can tell them that all the work on their computer was done using 100% solar power.

Year Month Day Date CODE

With filenames, documents, and even some online posts, I will use a date format that includes the year, month, and day to create a unique serial number for a document that makes it easier to find in my computer or on the web. For this document, since it is a monthly update, I only include the year and month (202210) in the title.

On my computer, I am able to quickly search for items created in October 2022 by searching for 202210. Even when adding contacts to my address book, I will include that date code in the notes so I can easily see a list of new people. This comes up in busy months when I might try to recall the name of a new customer from a few months ago. I can just search on 202207 to find all new customers from July.


Last month, I wrote about the Iowa City Free project. [View Site] The website has a resources page that lists free services in the Iowa City area. [View]

I’ve been trying to give away items for free, but haven’t had much luck with that. For some reason, selling items is an easier way to downsize.

I may begin using eBay as a method for listing items at low prices with a broader audience so it doesn’t take as long to get items to people who need them. People in the Iowa City area can get items for no shipping cost. I may figure out a way to keep the items free for people who request that.

Giving items away is an eco friendly way to downsize because recipients of items do not need to generate the income required to purchase those items new. Generating income typically has a negative impact on the environment (such as traveling to work and using supplies or energy while working).


You can subscribe to be notified of these monthly newsletters [Subscribe] or scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email address where indicated to be notified of every post to this site.


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

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 22 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]

Photo: Below is a photo I took on 16 Sep 2022 at Pikes Peak State Park. [Learn More]

Tech Devices and Settings for Improved Hearing and Vision


Extended exposure to loud audio from tech devices can harm a person’s eardrums and degrade hearing. Bright lights from computers, smartphones, and other devices can fatigue the eyes. However, some devices when properly adjusted can reduce fatigue and injury.

Displays and Vision Care

I use a 42-inch 4K display for my all-day computer work, and on my mobile devices I select the dark mode and night tint to reduce the wavelengths of light, like blue light, known to tire the eyes. Using an oversized display and larger fonts results in a bolder contrast that makes reading very easy even when the brightness on the display is set at a lower level. The end result is less fatigue over extended periods of screen time.

Big screen televisions are commonly found in the 75-inch to 86-inch size. Best Buy has some of the 85-inch and larger displays for about $1,200. [View] That’s a lot of money to pa for a television, but much lower than the smaller television years ago that cost many thousands of dollars.

The benefit of a 42-inch display is that it is considered to be “small” by today’s standards, and for this reason the price is small. This size is available at Costco in the $170 to $300 price range. [View]

audio and Hearing Care

My approach to achieving low-fatigue high-contrast audio is similar to using a big display with big fonts that are easier to read. With audio, using a sub-woofer and high quality studio speakers can ensure that even at low volumes, the full range of sounds can be easily heard. Usually people turn up the volume when there are nuances they are not hearing. This can happen with music or spoken audio. Turning up the volume to the point that you can hear those nuances can result in harmful audio levels for extended listening.

In general, we tend to turn up the volume to hear low frequencies (drums and bass sounds), and we turn up the volume to hear higher frequencies that our ears are less sensitive to.

If the speakers are not easily able to reproduce low frequencies and high frequencies, we turn up the volume even more just to generate those frequencies we are trying to hear. This results in blasting the audio until we can hear the full range of sound, but it harms or fatigues the ears over time.

Good speakers with a sub-woofer need not be a big expense. Best Buy has some in the $60 to $270 price range. [View]

A good pair of headphones would be another option. Headphones can offer noise cancelling and good audio frequency reproduction, allowing for good quality sound at lower volumes. [View]


Look for ways to reduce fatigue and stress injuries across the variety of devices you use regularly. To learn more, visit Iowa City Tech.

A similar article on this topic is available, from Nov 2021, “Tech Tips to Protect Your Eyes and Ears.” [View]

Photo: The photo at the top of the page, and shown below, is of the Advanced Technology Laboratory building at the University of Iowa on 6 Oct 2016.

Personal Update 202209 | 1 Sep 2022


Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. The photo above is from my morning walk today.


This month I will be switching to solar power for most of my tech devices and work-related energy needs. This helps meet a goal of using and promoting more sustainable technology choices for the Iowa City Tech initiative. Having portable solar power lets me continue using solar power even when I’m at a remote job site.

I’m using some products from Jackery. [View] Using a 100W solar power panel, in 3.5 hours the 293Wh Jackery Explorer 300 system can be charged to about 80 percent (234 watts). [View] Presumably the difference between the 350 watts (3.5 hours at 100W) of charging energy and the 234 watts of resulting stored energy reflects the efficiency of the charging process.

The Jackery Explorer 300 is fairly small and light weight, so it can be carried in a backpack or on a bicycle. It allows access to solar generated power in any location at any time of day.

Having two Jackery Explorer 300 systems would allow for one to be in use and another to be charging on alternate days.

I may at some point purchase more of the folding portable 100W solar panels from Jackery (or build my own) which would allow simultaneous charging of multiple battery power storage units, of faster charging of larger ones.

I have access to a very large solar array of panels that produce thousands of watts of power most days. That normally gets pushed back into the grid, but any power captured and retained is more economical than what the power company pays. Using the solar array, it would be possible to use dual charging for the Jackery Explorer 300 and get an 80% charge in about 2 hours.

If you know someone with a solar array who is pushing power back into the grid, they would probably be more than happy to have you pay them the equivalent of 10 cents per kWh rather than getting paid a fraction of that from the power company. If you have an electric car or electric bicycle, this is a way to give yourself the electricity at full value rather than getting paid very little for the power pushed into the grid.

When you pay the power company 10 cents per kWh for electricity, but are only offered 5 cents per kWh for the power you give them, it seems unfair. The pricing is based on the fact that power companies pay wholesale for energy they buy or produce, and they resell it at retail prices. They can’t afford to pay retail prices for energy and resell it at the same price for zero profit. With zero profit they would not be able to pay their employees and maintain the national power grid.

Let’s say you make apple sauce. You can sell it to a grocery store for $3 per pint, and they will sell it for $5 per pint to their customers. Or you can sell that apple sauce directly to people you know for $5 per pint. However, you can’t sell that apple sauce to the grocery store for $5 per pint and have them sell it to other people for $5 per pint. They wouldn’t be able to pay their employees or bills.

Energy from the grid at 10 cents per kWh is fairly inexpensive. A $600 expense for a solar energy source is fairly high. For some people that could be equal to a year of electric bills. It would take some years to bring your solar sourced power cost down to 10 cents per kWh. An advantage of this type of solar powered battery backup system is that it can offer sustained power in an outage, it offers power in locations where no other sources exist, and it offers (hopefully) cleaner power.

DROUGHTS and Floods

Over the past week I was studying recent news of water scarcity and global flooding. I created posts for these topics with video news coverage from recent months. [ Water Scarcity News | Global Flooding News ]

I don’t spend an excessive amount of time going too deep into the details of these and other global crisis news stories, but I do want to be informed about what the rest of the world is going through and consider what can be done to help those who are impacted.

Some of us live in cities and communities not impacted by droughts, floods, fires, war, and other challenges. It seems to me that we have a responsibility to serve people who are struggling around the world.

Iowa City Free

The Little Free Library initiative promotes the installation of small library boxes in local neighborhoods. The “Free” aspect of that project is only a small part of the benefit provided. Of more value than the savings is the convenience of having books to read that are a short walk or bike ride distance for many people. This also helps build community.

Partly inspired by the Little Free Library project, I setup a website this past month called Iowa City Free. [View Site] It has a resources page that lists free services in the Iowa City area. [View] However, the primary goal of the site is to provide a list of free items available. It would be nice for there to be a “Little Free General Store” in neighborhoods across the city. For now, I’m just using the website for distributing items. I’m often given usable electronics and see this as a way to get these items to people who can make use of them.

Giving items away is an eco friendly way to downsize because recipients of items do not need to generate the income required to purchase those items new. Generating income typically has a negative impact on the environment (such as traveling to work and using supplies or energy while working).

Free used items compete well with new items. This reduces consumerism and the manufacturing of new items.

When downsizing, there are a few options depending on the items:

  1. DONATE — Donate to stores like Crowded Closet, Goodwill, or the Habitat ReStore.
  2. GIVE — Give away items that are too big and heavy to ship using eBay and inconvenient to sell.
  3. ORGANIZE — Any items to be kept should be organized so they can be easily found, used, or distributed later.
  4. SELL — Sell items on consignment through stores. [View List] Or, use eBay to sell unique items not likely to be in demand by any buyers in a 100 mile radius. An online service like eBay connects you with millions of potential buyers more likely needing whatever it is that you’re selling.
  5. RECYCLE — Recycle cardboard, plastic, paper, glass, metal, and other items that aren’t usable.

Simplifying and minimalist living is a goal that many people have. The option of giving items away is an important part of downsizing.


You can subscribe to be notified of these monthly newsletters [Subscribe] or scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email address where indicated to be notified of every post to this site.


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

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 22 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]

Personal Update 202208 | 1 Aug 2022


Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. The photo above is from about two years ago, on a nature walk 30 Jun 2020. 

Monthly Summary

The month of July was ver busy with tech work and website work, so I don’t have much new to report.

Google Pixel

This year, on 7 March 2022, security updates for my 2017-model Moto X4 phone were no longer available due to the outdated Android 9 operating system. I was hesitant to continue using a non-secure device given the many security breaches in the news recently.

My plan was to get another Motorola phone, either a Moto G series or Moto X series. I ended up having a need to buy a loaner phone for my tech library, so I purchased a Moto G Power 2022 for about $200 and that went out on loan right away. It lacks NFC for tap-to-pay purchases, but otherwise is a very nice smartphone with 3-day battery. I’ve seen it occasionally go on sale at about $160 on Amazon. I’ll get a chance to review that later upon its return to the tech library later this year.

I ended up getting a Google Pixel 6a as a replacement for my Moto X4. I’ve written a longer article on the topic if you’re interested. I originally included an early draft of the article in this month’s newsletter, but subsequently created a separate post on the topic. [Read Now]


You can subscribe to be notified of these monthly newsletters [Subscribe] or scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email address where indicated to be notified of every post to this site.


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

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 22 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]


Growing up, I didn’t participate in team sports. I didn’t attend sporting events, or watch them on TV. My primary interest was in computers and academic pursuits. I was a bit of a nerd.

It wasn’t until my middle-age adulthood that I finally understood the importance of sports. One day in March 2014, I was scrolling through the list of suggested videos on YouTube. There were the usual videos about building robots and deep space telescopes.

One video caught my attention. It was an ad from Dick’s Sporting Goods, but they weren’t selling anything. The video was part of their “Sports Matter” series of public service announcements about the importance of sports. [See Playlist]

I watched that video, and the next, and began binge watching the entire series of ads in the “Sports Matter” campaign. I’ll include some of those below.

You may already be familiar with the message and lesson conveyed by the videos. They explain in a very personal way, how important sports participation can be for young people.

Team sports are one way young people build valuable relationship skills they can benefit from for a lifetime. Participating in sports may be the only confidence-building experience some young people have if their home life diminishes their self esteem and erodes their confidence.

Positive Impact of TEAM Sports

The stories conveyed in the Dick’s videos are very emotional and compelling, and equally gripping are the statistics shared in the campaign overview video:

  • “Student athletes score higher in social skills like resolving conflict, appreciating diversity, and moral conduct.”
  • “Student athletes are 4 times more likely to graduate High School.”

Despite these benefits, $1.5 billion was cut from youth sport programs in the 2010 to 2011 school year. It was projected that 27% of U.S. public High Schools would not have sports by the year 2020. [Source Video]

My own Lack of Awareness

A few years ago, I was standing in line at a coffee shop. In an effort to be friendly, I turned to the person behind me in line, and noticing they looked rather sporty, I said, “You look like a coach.” He did have that coach vibe.

The man responded, “I am THE coach.” I had to ask a few more question before I realized he was Kirk Frerentz, the head football coach at the University of Iowa. It was a little embarrassing, but he was friendly despite me not recognizing him.

On one occasion I was at the gym for my daily workout, and met a woman who humbly described herself as a former University of Iowa coach. I later learned she’s a well known award winning women’s coach.

A few days ago, I met a woman while on my morning walk. Being friendly, she introduced herself. In our brief conversation I learned she had coached at my high school — a mile down the road from where we were walking. I learned upon asking that she coached over a span of about two decades. Those few tips should have been sufficient for me to recognizer her. Yet, I was oblivious.

Sensing I should have known of her, I later did a Google search and learned she was the recipient of multiple awards and hall of fame recognitions. She wrote a book, The Miracle Season, that became a full-length feature film staring Helen Hunt depicting her work as a coach. It would be like meeting Maya Angelou, and even after being told she writes poetry, not recognizing who she was. This encounter prompted me to revisit what I can do to support youth sports.

Sports Education

My lack of knowledge about basic sports facts is a hinderance, and it’s not something easily corrected late in life. I wish I had learned in school, and perhaps college, some basic information about sports.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa, General Education Requirements ensured I had some basic awareness of foundational subjects.

A simple semester-long course about sports would have been sufficient to learn the essentials about different sports, history of sports, key figures, and the benefits of team sports. Perhaps one day something like that can be available.

Take Positive Action

Investments in youth sports initiatives will generally provide a measurable benefit and payback to individuals, families, schools, communities, and society. Confident and competent team-focused young people generally grown into successful and giving adults.

What I plan to do in my own life, and encourage others to do, is support team sports. It’s an important part of anyone’s “making the world a better place” portfolio of giving.

Here are some of the charitable organizations and foundations established to give more young people access to the valuable experience of participating in team sports.

  • Every Kid Sports [View]
  • Live Like Line Foundation [View]
  • National Council of Youth Sports [View]
  • National Youth Sports Strategy [View]
  • Sports Matter [View]

Learn More

The videos below provide insights into the positive impact that team sports can have for young people. You may want to have some tissues while watching these.

Anchorage, Alaska Hockey (1 Dec 2015, Revised 2 May 2022)

Jerome High School Softball (29 Mar 2022)

Daniel #19 Pitcher (21 Apr 2014)

Lacross — BD #9 Defense (2 Mar 2014)

Harlem Lacrosse (5 Aug 2015)

Document History

I originally posted on this topic in March 2014. [View] I was recently inspired to offer this refreshed writing on the topic in July 2022. The featured photo used at the top of this page is from about a year ago, on 30 June 2021. It’s the view from a favorite walking trail.

Independence Day 2022

Happy 4th of July

Traditionally, Independence Day has been a time when people gather with family and friends to celebrate. It’s a holiday similar to Thanksgiving, but with a political and patriotic theme. Appreciation is shown for those who have fought for the ongoing independence of the country. People reflect on how grateful they are for the freedoms they have.

For those celebrating today, I hope you have a great day.

For those reflecting on the meaning of this day, feel free to read on.

How We Use Our Freedoms

As individuals or as a country, our freedoms come with responsibilities and obligations.

This principle is conveyed in the following quotes:

  • “Instead of thinking that I am born with rights, I choose to think that I was born with obligations to serve past, present, and future generations, and the planet herself.” ~ Cherokee elder, Stan Rushworth. [More]
  • “…we are held responsible for what we have. If we have been blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that we benefit others.” ~ Casey Duhart essay on Luke 12:48 [Source]

Political holidays like Independence Day offer an opportunity to reflect with appreciation on the freedoms we have, and consider how well we are using those freedoms to make the world a better place.

The Good Country Index is a helpful tool for reflecting on a country’s success and how it is measured. It’s a meaningful ‘report card’ to periodically review. [View]

We become more honest with our own self-assessment when we consider specific goals for society. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a good guideline for progress and planning. [View]

A practical way to observe and celebrate Independence Day is to consider how to give of one’s time, money, and resources to help their country and the world be better. Donate financially to organizations that advance freedom, such as independent journalism and education. Look for ways to help strengthen the Columns of Democracy.

Unusual Context for Fourth of July 2022

This year the Fourth of July blends with some other significant events in our country’s history.

In recent weeks, our legislators have been investigating the insurgency of 6 Jan 2021, when an armed group attacked the Capitol. This investigation brings attention to the divisions in the country.

A separate but related event is the decision of the Supreme Court on 24 Jun 2022 whereby women no longer have certain federally protected rights that had been in place for about 50 years. This creates a big rift in the country between states that want to uphold the established law and those who do not. The fallout from the decision is still settling and has many ramifications. [More]

During his time in power, the leader of the insurgency group had installed justices who would generally be loyal to the insurgency group and their views. His name and image continue to be used by loyalists who still see him as their leader. So, when the Supreme Court ruling was announced, there was much celebration of what was considered to be a political victory and proof that their leader still has power, influence, and was still delivering on political promises.

Due to this context and recent events, the usual unity and enthusiasm of Independence Day is slightly muted.

[Photo: The picture featured is a sunrise photo from my morning walk on 4 Jul 2022.]