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My Pentathlon of Pain for Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC

I’ve been talking about this for a while, but now I’ve finally decided to pull the trigger. From 9/11/15 to 10/11/15 I’m going to engage in what I’ve dubbed Jon’s Pentathlon of Pain to raise money and awareness for Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC. What exactly is it? Actually it’s pretty simple: it’s five physically trying or embarrassing activities that I will undertake to raise money on behalf of the food bank. Here’s how it will work:

  • Someone sponsors me for a certain amount of money and they get to pick the embarrassing or physically challenging thing I will do. For example I jumped in a pool last year wearing a tiara, tutu and high heals and with a slogan painted on my back. In exchange the Blue Ridge Companies gave hundreds of dollars to Second Harvest.
  • Another option is that I will do something trying and people will donate to the food bank after I complete the task. So if I run 15 miles then they’ll donate a dollar a mile – that kind of thing.

So how can you help? Well I’ve already signed up to do the 9/11 World Trade Center memorial stair climb. That’s 110 flights of stairs I will climb and descend on the morning of the 11th. You could agree to donate a certain amount per flight if you’d like. Or you can suggest an activity and have your company sponsor it. I’ll gladly promote your company in the process and every single dollar will go to Second Harvest.

If you want to simply make a donation just visit GoFundMe page I set up for the campaign. Or check out the schedule below and if you see an available slot and you have something crazy or challenging for me to do, then just reach out and see what we can work out!

Schedule of Events

  1. Sep 11, 2015: World Trade Center Memorial Stair climb – I’m gonna climb 100 stories!
  2. Sep 26, 2015: Salem Lake 30K Trail Race – I’ve never run more than 13.1 before and I have NOT been training beyond my normal routine so this is gonna hurt.
  3. To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.
  4. To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.
  5. To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.

Do We Really Want To Be the United Whimps of America?

In the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris we’re seeing some predictable reactions from a segment of our American crowd. They can be boiled down to the following:

  1. If France didn’t have such strong gun control, in other words was more like American, then there’s no way the terrorists could have killed so many people indiscriminately.
  2. If France and the rest of Europe had closed their borders to refugees then the terrorists couldn’t have gotten into the country to do the damage.
  3. We need to immediately stop taking any refugees lest we let in terrorists.

I’m going to tackle these one at a time:

  1. Terrorists who will wear suicide bomb vests, who aren’t afraid to die, won’t be dissuaded by locals with guns. And it’s not like they wear shirts that say “Terrorist!” on them, so the element of surprise is kind of a given. Basically your average gun-wielding citizenry is likely to die quickly or inadvertently kill innocent bystanders in their efforts to fight the terrorists.
  2. Closing the borders might make it more difficult for the terrorists to get in the country, but since these are extremists who spread their ideology like a virus you will never be able to prevent them from recruiting people who are already in the country. In other words these folks are like an airborne virus and closing the borders would be the equivalent of fighting it with band aids.
  3. This is the big one. As a nation we profess to be a safe harbor for the tired, huddled masses. It’s literally inscribed on one of our greatest symbols. Why then, when the time comes to deal with a huge number of desperate people fleeing their homeland as it goes up in flames thanks to a geopolitical catastrophe that we played a large role in creating, do we endeavor to turn them away?

    Using the logic in #1 above, we of all nations should be the most prepared to accept refugees who may be infiltrated by some terrorists. We are absolutely armed to the teeth here, so if anyone is (literally) armed to deal with this crisis it’s us. Why then does our armed citizenry, many of whom are avowed Christians who should be chomping at the bit to help these desperate souls, seem so eager to turn them away? There’s only one answer I can think of and it’s fear, and that’s what boggles my mind. Many of the very same people who insist that profligate gun ownership makes us safer are also screaming that we need to close our borders. If we leave it up to them we will come to be seen as the United States of Whimps and personally I prefer that not to be the case.

    Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think you just open the gates and let everyone in without doing everything you can to screen out potential terrorists or other threats. What I do believe is that as a nation that is supposed to be a world leader we should show true bravery by welcoming those desperate souls, providing them with a shelter in the storm while we lead the world in doing the hard work necessary to annihilate the cancer that is extremism, Islamic and otherwise.

    Leaders don’t shy away from risk, danger and hard work and America now has a choice to make – lead bravely from the front or bolt our doors, turn off the lights, hug our guns and pray that the bogey man outside tries to get in our neighbors’ houses instead of ours.

A Lifetime of Backing the Wrong Player

Sony Betamax PlayerThis story about Sony ending production of Betamax tapes is a reminder that my family has a long history of buying technology products that seem like a winner but end up being an also-ran or downright lemon. Here’s just a small sample:

  • In the mid-70s we had a Ford Pinto (you know, the rolling bomb)
  • Betamax instead of VHS, but it didn’t take us long to convert to VHS
  • I kept my cassette player for years too long because I didn’t want to buy a CD player because I was convinced they’d only be around a couple of years.
  • A few years back my mom was trying to figure out which e-reader to buy for her kids and grandkids. I sagely advised her to go with the Nook.
  • I used Typepad paid service for this blog for almost 10 years before finally moving over to WordPress. Not that Typepad sucked, but it was the Betamax of blog platforms.

Even when I don’t back a total nag, I rarely go for whatever else everyone else is using. To wit:

  • I’ve never had an iPod and have always had generic MP3 players.
  • I’ve never had an iPhone. First it was some Verizon specific bastardization of a smart phone that barely worked, then a Blackberry that I loved and then a series of Droids. My current phone, the LG G4 is da bomb.
  • I’ve never had an iPad. First it was a Samsung Galaxy tablet that I really liked and now a Fire. I’m looking at a Surface for work.
  • Eschewed the Fitbit and went with Garmin’s Vivofit, which I actually think was a winning choice given it’s durability and the fact it works with a standard watch battery – no recharging!

Dealing With the Loss Of a Child In Today’s World

Ask any parent, at least any non-psychopathic parent, what their worst nightmare is and you can rest assured that it’s losing one of their children. It’s literally impossible to fathom what that feels like or to comprehend how someone deals with it. Recently, the oldest son of a local sports icon was killed in a car accident. That’s tragic in and of itself, but it truly hits close to home for me and my wife because that family just moved into a house a quarter mile from ours and we pass it every day. When we’re together one of us will always say something to the effect of “I feel so bad for them. I truly don’t know that I could deal with what they’re dealing with.”

The father of the boy who was killed truly is a local sports hero by the name of Rusty Larue. He played multiple sports for Wake Forest, went on to play pro basketball and has been coaching here locally for the last couple of years. Just this year he was hired to coach the boys basketball team at the high school my kids attended and the alma mater for current NBA great Chris Paul. In other words he’s exactly the kind of guy I would follow on Twitter and so I did. That’s why I saw this when he Tweeted it this afternoon:


You’ll notice that it’s a retweet of a Tweet of his son’s from last year. When I saw this it truly had an impact – a mix of once again feeling sadness for the Larue family and a sense of amazement that they have this trove of memories for their son. Yes, most Twitter and other social media accounts are full of silly, fluffy, spontaneous and utterly mundane comments, pictures, links, etc., but they also contain little pieces of personality from the account owner so when someone is no longer with us we have these reminders about them that are quite different from the letters, pictures and other missives that people left in the past.

After thinking about it some more I began to wonder how the experience of seeing these reminders feels to the parents. Does it provide some solace, or is it a painful reminder of their loss? Maybe both? This is something I never want to find out about first hand as a parent.

Of course we will all lose loved ones in our lives, so while it may be a somewhat different experience than losing a child, we will have these types of reminders from the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.

The Larue’s are well known for their faith, strong family and very supported faith community which I’m sure has been tremendously helpful. My sincere hope is that over time these pieces of their son’s online world, which to this generation is a critical component of their lives, can be  stitched together with the unique memories that the parents carry with them, can provide them with a some amount of solace and sustenance.

I have the same hope for all of us who lose a loved one.

<Note> I should be clear that we do not personally know the Larues. They literally just moved into their house a few months ago and we’ve not had the opportunity to meet them, but of course we would love to if and when the time comes. This was written merely as one father, with children the same age, trying to grasp what it must be like to deal with the loss of a child in today’s world.


Until 11 years ago I’d lived my entire adult life in Northern Virginia and had spent my time commuting to work in some of the worst traffic the United States has to offer. When we moved to the Winston-Salem area it felt like I’d gone to traffic heaven because rush hour literally didn’t exist. We kind of have a “rush quarter hour” but even that doesn’t feature the gridlock you find in most metro areas. Still, it’s all relative and I would regularly hear locals complain about the busy highways and I’d just shake my head and mutter to myself, “You have no idea how good you have it.”

That’s why I felt vindicated by this article relaying the news that our area has the second-best traffic experience (behind only Phoenix) according to data from Google’s WAZE traffic app. Here’s an excerpt:

You’re not just getting there, Friend. You are having a world-class automotive experience — at least according to a newly released study that suggests Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point offer some of the best driving scenarios on the planet.

The metropolitan area finished second, just behind Phoenix, Ariz., in overall driving satisfaction in the study by analysts for Google’s WAZE travel app who compared driving experiences in 32 nations and 167 of the globe’s most mobile communities…

The Triad finished first among the various metros for minimal traffic delays.

Motorists in the region average less than a half hour on the road in a commute that averages about 26 miles, the WAZE study found. A pittance compared to some places in the United States where commuters average more than an hour each way,

Interesting that it ends up my commute is almost exactly the average.

ConvergeSouth Labs – Soooo Many Options


So I’ve written the past couple of days about all the options that are available to ConvergeSouth attendees during the various session time slots. Well, I have to tell you that the “Labs” in the 1:45-3:45 slot are REALLY going to test my decision-making ability because I truly want to see all four. Once you read the descriptions below I think you’ll feel the same way:

Podcast Lab (Mike Dell of Podcast Help Desk) – An active podcaster and consultant for the past 10 years, Mike Dell, from Podcast Help Desk, helps people with the technical side of podcasting. For the last 6 years he has been the lead tech support for RawVoice Inc., parent company of the podcast services company Blubrry.com. He hosts a bi-weekly folk and bluegrass radio show on community radio station WNMC, and is the fill-in news announcer (and sometimes guest) on the morning rock radio show, Omelet and Friends on WKLT FM in Traverse City. In his spare time he enjoys Banjo Picking and Ham Radio.

In the podcasting lab, Mike will give you the best non-geeky explanation of how podcasting works and take you through the hardware you will need for recording. (Both good-enough and the best). We will also cover setting up the dreaded RSS feed, Website (adding podcasting to WordPress) and keeping iTunes and other podcast apps happy with your show. We will cover the best practices for podcasters. When you leave you will have a checklist of items you need to record your first episode and get it listed in iTunes and other directories. If there is time, we will do a Q & A about anything podcasting.

YouTube Lab (Stephanie Carls) – Named a “Twitter Powerhouse” by The Huffington Post, Stephanie Carls shares her passion for social media and technology online and focuses on the ways both are changing the way we live and share information. With her creativity in her videos, she has even landed features in The New York Times and NBC News.

Frequently asked to participate as a spokesperson or digital correspondent, Stephanie has enjoyed working with Cottonelle, Chevrolet (as video host for 2012 SXSW Interactive Festival, Marketwired, Nike Women, Hallmark, GoPro, Nexersys (appearing on CBS “The Doctors“) and more.

In the YouTube lab, Stephanie will give you the extra push and knowledge you need to start your own video presence. Whether that is for yourself, your business, or even both, she will cover how to set up your YouTube channel and begin your journey creating your videos. Equipment needs as well as best practices for publishing and creating your presence will be covered.

Tumblr Sites for Beginners (Ashley Hallenbeck of The Coraddi) – Ashley Hallenbeck is a designer and aspiring jack of all trades. She is the current Director of Promotions for The Coraddi, digital design and animation instructor at The Center for Visual Artists, and is a self-proclaimed sticker genius. She wholly believes that all small businesses can and should have a strong online presence, and that it’s much easier (and cheaper!) to achieve than they might think.

With $15, a little bit of sweat, and minimal tears, you can have a website up and running in a day. No short-codes, no monthly fees, no bologna; Tumblr is the perfect unlikely alternative to WordPress. Its interface is basic enough for beginners, while still being flexible enough for experienced webmasters!

What’s All the Fuss About Squarespace? (Melody Watson) – Few topics elicit more enthusiasm from Melody Watson than coaching Squarespace users to tell their stories online. Discovering this platform literally changed the course of her professional life; she left her community college webmaster position to freelance. Melody collaborates with small business owners, non-profits, and artistic professionals around the country.
Are you looking for a versatile, sophisticated tool that comes with 24/7 support and the canvas on which to create nearly any kind of site you can envision? Do yourself a favor and consider Squarespace. During this lab you will learn about:

  • Selecting the ideal template for specific site needs,
  • Choosing the appropriate kind of page for offering different types of content,
  • Formatting content,
  • Adding photos and graphics,
  • Site-wide design vs. page-based layout and design,
  • Drafting blog posts,
  • Connecting social accounts,
  • Adding a form and collecting the gathered data.

Content that doesn’t fit into the session time-frame will be provided in supplemental resources.

Impressed? I thought you’d be. So if you STILL haven’t registered but would like to you can do so here. Hope to see you there!

ConvergeSouth at 10:45 is Going to Be Happening!


So yesterday I wrote about a tough choice I have to make – which of four great sessions would I choose to attend during the 9:30 time slot at ConvergeSouth? Well my decision is made for me during the 10:45 slot, but if you attend you’ll have to make a choice. So here’s what you have to choose from:

How to Attract, Engage and Convert With Social Media Marketing (Angela Levine of Connect Marketing) – What if there was a system to help you identify a lot of the right people for your marketing message, find them online, get them to give you their email address and eventually convert a portion of them into customers? Many business owners would be happy with JUST getting an email address – let alone one of a pre-qualified lead. Angela will show you a system for using content creation and harnessing the power of two content delivery channels to attract, engage and ultimately convert your target audience.

Field of Dreams – Great movie, terrible content strategy (Ryan Neely of SFW) – “Content is king!” “Brands are publishers!” With all the buzz about content, how can you go wrong? Before you get busy blogging, join Ryan Neely as he walks through what goes into a successful content strategy, essential questions to ask before you get started and examples of different content strategies that have proven effective.

Design in the age of Dribbble (Nick Jones of Tiny Goat) – As designers, we’re living in a time of unprecedented access to inspiration. Sites like Behance and Dribbble provide us with a constant stream of styles to quote, and frameworks like Material Design give us endless shortcuts from blank screen to finished product. So has all that access watered down design? In this talk, Nick Jones will explore the nature of inspiration and try to answer that question. This talk should be part debate for design partisans, and part survey course for design fans.

Okay, this next one is being led by yours truly so you will be forgiven if you skip it – caveat emptor and all that.

Partnerships + Creativity + Social Tools = 150,000 Meals (Jon Lowder of PTAA) – How does a local trade association with a staff of three manage to raise enough money and collect enough food for a local food bank to provide 156,000 meals to the hungry and generate great PR in the process? With creativity, volunteer engagement, partnerships with local media and other organizations, Google docs, social media and a lot of sweat.

So, that’s just one hour of the day at ConvergeSouth and as you can see there’s a lot of “there” there. This really is a great event so if you haven’t already I do recommend you register and attend. Full registration details can be found here.