Differences and the Work of Greatness in Our Democracy

If Secretary Clinton and President Obama can move on with grace and dignity as they did in their remarks yesterday, I certainly can move forward too. As President Obama noted, when he welcomes President-elect Trump to the White House today, he will be keeping a tradition most recently demonstrated when President George W. Bush graciously hosted him after the election. The presidency and our democracy are greater than any one individual. I am thankful for that, as it is an important source of our country’s greatness.

Woburn race relations forum panel discussion.

I know many friends and colleagues have strong feelings of disappointment, anger and fear in the wake of President-elect Trump’s surprising victory. This is understandable in light of the many disconcerting comments Candidate Trump made throughout the campaign. I have seen many posts from such people that they are ready to be part of the vigorous, peaceful opposition that is another crucial element of our democracy. Certainly vigilance is warranted to ensure the darker elements of the campaign rhetoric do not come to pass. Other friends and colleagues are moving forward by focusing on caring for their kids, doing their work, and finding ways to make a difference in their community.

I am ultimately a bigger believer in our democracy than any single candidate or elected official. The electorate was very divided this year, often heatedly so. It appears likely that Secretary Clinton may win the popular vote while losing the electoral college.

President-elect Trump clearly generated much greater support on Tuesday than any prognosticator anticipated. Though there were many disconcerting remarks made by Candidate Trump, from that I will not label my fellow Americans who supported Trump. Clearly Candidate Trump connected in a powerful way with many Americans, speaking to real anxieties about our nation and individual circumstances in a rapidly changing world.

The surprising aspect of the election results serves as a reminder of the many divides in our society today. We in deeply blue Massachusetts know little of the struggles of the working class Rust Belt communities that provided the key to Trump’s victory. I will seek to understand more about the underlying issues that led to the election result.

For me, this rancorous election is another of the many divides we have in our society. Too often we surround ourselves with people that think like us and look like us, reinforcing our views and providing little meaningful exposure to significantly different world views. Facebook is clearly not a sufficient public square to engage in meaningful dialogue needed to bridge our divides.

The divides we face are surely not only the red and blue differences that are top of mind this week. Race issues have also shown the deep gaps in understanding we have, with many whites having trouble grasping the fears African American families have for the safety of their sons should they interact with police–to name just one of the many issues of race and difference that have simmered to the surface over the past year.

One reason for the strong disappointment many felt after the election is that it seemed like 2016 would be the year a major glass ceiling would be shattered with the election of our first woman president. I am sure that breakthrough will come soon. But meanwhile we were reminded that sexism still runs deep.

I started by noting that the peaceful transition of power, that begins once again this week, is a hallmark of our democracy. But our greatest source of strength is our collective commitment to democratic values. This includes respect for the will of the majority along with protection of equal rights for all. Protection of those rights always requires vigilance, and that is certainly true today.

Rich or poor, black or white, PhD or GED, we all have an equal vote in the direction of our country. And we have a responsibility to role up our sleeves and do the work needed to have our nation live up to the greatness of its ideals.

Early American communities came together and literally rolled up their sleeves for communal barn raising events. While we may not have barns to be built, we certainly have a need to roll up our sleeves and do the work required by a healthy democracy. After an election cycle with so much emotion and tense disagreement, listening and respecting those with different views and different backgrounds is an essential part of that work. I am committed to being part of this process through our work at Social Capital Inc., and finding opportunities to listen learn from my fellow Americans.

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Lessons from The Innovators [#bookreview]

Walter Isaacson’s book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, is a good read to provide a long view of innovators who made major contributions to bringing us the digital tools we have today. The book was published in 2014, so while it doesn’t bring us right up until today, it does bring us pretty current.

The book starts with early thinkers like Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace who first theorized about what we now know as computers. Then it proceeds through the early development of computers (punch cards, anyone?) and the first steps toward creating the Internet. The Innovators also provides a lot of colorful detail on more recent developments, such as the creation of Wikipedia and Google.

In each chapter, Isaacson gives us a lot of detail on the backstory of the innovators as well as a description as to how the innovation being addressed came to fruition.

If you take anything from reading this book, it is likely to be that important innovations are usually the result of the interplay of ideas and contributions generated by a number of innovators. In some instances, like with the development of Google, this comes as a result of a team of innovators with complimentary skills. In other cases, it is a matter of innovators building of other ideas being generated by others working in the field at the same time. In other words, Isaacson tries to disabuse us of the notion that innovations are likely to come as the result of a single inventor who has a sudden “Eureka” moment.

Occasionally Isaacson delves into technical detail that was lost on this humanities reader, but for the most part, the book is suitable to those interested in the history of innovation without requiring technical expertise.

Isaacson has written a number of other biographies about innovators. I previously enjoyed reading his book on Steve Jobs, which came out shortly after the Apple co-founder passed away.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I would earn a small commission if you choose to order a book using the link. As always, I only feature links to books that I recommend based on my experience.

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seeking some words to grasp after the terrible violence of the week in Dallas, MN, and Baton Rouge; this MLK quote was the first that came to mind.

While investigations need to follow to know the details of the most recent shootings, there is clearly a pattern of black men dying at the hands of police that is cause for anger. Yet most police serve and risk their lives to keep us all safe; and it is incredibly sad to lose officers who were helping to uphold the right to protest injustice.

I pray for the families of all those who have lost loved ones due to this violence. I pray that we as a nation can somehow draw resolve from this violence to work for a more just and safe nation. And rather than waiting for one big answer or change that will solve this, may we all find ways in our everyday lives to create more understanding, to take what steps we can to bring about change and contribute to a more just society–which could simply mean we all have equal opportunity, regardless of skin color, to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I share these thoughts and concerns from a position of privilege. Not the least of these privileges is the ability to feel confident that the police are here to protect me, that I need not fear for my life at a traffic stop.

There is also the privilege of having simple things I can dive into and enjoy and forget for a time all the violence and injustice we see in our world. Cooking a good meal to enjoy with family, I get caught up in the act and forget the good fortune to have regular access to good healthy food. The joy of watching our boys play a big baseball game, oblivious to all else in the world other than the next pitch.

Yes, I will jump into the joys of cooking, baseball and family over the weekend. Yet there will be a heaviness underneath, percolating concern for that state of our world, with an eye to things I might do to help bring about what King referred to as the Beloved Community.

 

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Summer Rain Haiku

Walking in the light warm rain today inspired this little Summer Rain haiku. The last line came to me thinking about another time I was walking on a day like this.

walking in warm rain

summer smells steeped in moisture

skies open up and soak

bench with rain drops from Summer Rain Haiku.

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Easily Switch Between Instagram Accounts

Were you excited to learn you can easily switch between Instagram accounts now? Yes, me too! This posts breaks down the simple steps for switching between Instagram accounts on your phone.

Image by Lotus Carroll, Creative Commons sharing license.

Image by Lotus Carroll, Creative Commons sharing license.

I was excited to learn that you can now easily switch between Instagram accounts. I happened to hear about this from a teen during a social media workshop we were doing recently. I wanted to share this news here on my blog, and show how simple it is to toggle between different accounts on Instagram with the new features that they have added.

Up until recently, Instagram has been in stark contrast to other social media services where it is easy to switch between accounts. For instance, on Twitter I can easily choose which account to tweet from when tweeting from my phone; and can use a service like Hootsuite to choose an account to tweet from on the desktop.

By contrast, to switch from my personal Instagram account @davidbcrowley to the Instagram account for our nonprofit @socialcap, I would have to logout of one account and sign into the other. Of course, that means you have two passwords to remember and type in correctly on your mobile device. If you thumbs and password recall is similar to mine, you would run into the trouble I did switching back in forth. Basically, I wound up using the @socialcap account less and less, and mostly Instagramming from my personal account, mixing some @socialcap related content in with my pictures of food, family and nature.

Now that it is easy to switch between Instagram accounts, I anticipate we will be generating a more regular flow of Instagram content for Social Capital Inc.

How to Switch Between Instagram Accounts

Ok, so I promised you that it is now easy to switch between Instagram accounts. You might well be able to figure it out on your own, but let me break it down for you to make it even easier.

To start out, I am logged into my personal @davidbcrowley Instagram account on my phone, checking out recent photos from accounts I follow, and gleaning insights about the NCAA March Madness brackets. To switch to another account, you must first click on the profile photo in the lower right hand corner (presumably you will see something other than my face in the lower right hand of your screen).

switching between Instagram accounts, step 1.

This takes you to your profile screen. From here, click your account name in the top center of the screen.

switching instagram accounts screen shot.

This option gives you a drop down menu, allowing you to toggle easily between Instagram accounts.

showing how to switch between Instagram accounts

Use the dropdown menu to select the account you want. I had already entered password info for @socialcap as well as my personal account to my phone. If you need to add another account at this point, simply choose the “add account” option to enter the details for that account. But if you already have a second account in your phone, you can simply select that to switch right now.

switching between Instagram accounts demo.

Boom, there we are! In about 5 seconds or less, you are ready to post and engage via your other Instagram account.

For those of us who are managing multiple social media accounts, this ability to switch easily from one Instagram account to another is a big help! Hope you found this useful and enjoy this feature.

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Color Blind Book Review: Breaking the Baseball Color Line Before Jackie Robinson

Color Blind book reviewI’ve been putting most of my blogging energies into Cooking Chat, but I do want to get back into blogging here with some regularity.  A good place to start is with a quick book review of Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line by Tom Dunkel.

Color Blind tells the nearly forgotten history of an integrated semi-pro baseball team from Bismarck, North Dakota, that managed to become one of the most successful baseball teams at its level in the 1930s. There is a great deal of interesting history about baseball in that era and small-town life in the Midwest at the time.

Early in the book, Dunkel does a good job painting the picture of what a big deal local baseball teams were in small cities and towns in places like North Dakota during the 1920s and 1930s. With no televised sports, and professional teams being hundreds of miles away, it was a big deal to have a local team you could watch live. Not to mention how people were seeking a distraction from the struggles of the Depression and Dust Bowl.

The manager of the Bismarck squad, Neil Churchill, did not have a grand vision for social change that led him to recruit black players. He simply wanted to field a competitive baseball team. Though the big leagues were white only during this period of time, semi-pro teams would from time to time recruit top players from the Negro Leagues and other talented African American ballplayers. Churchill went all in with this approach.

By the time the Bismark team was competing for national tournament titles in 1935, the roster was full of some top African American players. Foremost among them was the legendary pitcher Satchell Paige. As a baseball fan, reading Color Blind was a good chance to learn more about this extremely talented pitcher. Unfortunately, learning more about Paige’s skills is bittersweet, as  it serves as a vivid reminder of how much baseball missed by not having some of the best players of the era competing in big leagues. Not to mention how unfair it was to the players; and the book does give some glimpse into how frustrating baseball’s racist policies were to the players.

Churchill and Paige were two very colorful characters that helped make the story of Color blind interesting. There were a few times that the book delved into some detail that I found a bit less interesting, but overall it was an interesting and entertaining read. I would definitely recommend Color Blind to anyone interested in learning more about the history of baseball and its intersection with our country’s history of segregation.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you chose to buy a copy of the book using the link, I would earn a small commission from the purchase.

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#FoodDay2015 Reflections and Links

Linguine with Kale Pesto, celebrating healthy and tasty food.

Sure, if you read my food and wine blog posts on Cooking Chat, much of the focus there is simply on the pure sensory delight of good food, and the aesthetic appeal of a well-presented plate.  Today being Food Day, with a focus on a healthier diet and food system for all, provides a chance for me to put my passion for food in a broader context and reflect upon how my foodie ways connect to other interests, including our work at Social Capital Inc. I noted the post about Food Day at Babson College talked about everyone having a “food story”; essentially this post shares a bit of mine.

I use term “real food” here. I like the way Michael Pollan defines it in Defense of Food–you can get an intro to his take on it in this summary of his book.

Food and place: My food story starts with enjoying healthy and tasty food every day. Enjoying tasty, real food provides immediate gratification to the sense. But really paying attention to the nuances of flavors provides an opportunity to reflect upon what is on our plate, where the food comes from and how it was produced. Good food, in my book, provides a sense of connection to a particular place and the people that care for it.

As much as I love to eat local as much as possible, I also love the way food can transport us to another place. My travel budget is limited, but a good meal celebrating the cuisine of a region along with wine from that area is a way to visit the culture of that place for the evening. Twice a month, I join fellow bloggers in exploring a specific region of France and Italy, sharing recipes and wine pairings that seek to capture the food culture of the area. Most recently, we visited the Cotes du Rhone, and I made this Rustic Chicken and Sausage Stew to pair with a wine from the region.

One of the most important values that undergirds our work at SCI is that place matters, something we need to be reminded of given the amount of time we spend on screens, untethered to place. Enjoying real food that is clearly traceable to specific places and people is a great way to ground ourselves in the tangible world.

Food brings people together: Our work at SCI is about bringing people together in local communities, and valuing the importance of relationships. Coming together to share a good meal is as good a way to build relationships that I can think of.

Waste not: This morning I overcooked my son’s waffle. Too crispy for him, I cooked another without much argument. But I inspected the discarded waffle before tossing it, doctored it up a bit, and enjoyed it with a second up of coffee.  I did this instinctively, muttering “waste not” to myself. Reports that we waste about 40% of the food produced in America are quite disturbing to me, and I work hard to make good use of all the food we purchase. Including taking one for the team and eating what others won’t!

Real food has to taste great: Let’s face it, those of us advocating people eat real food are up against big industries that have figured out how to manipulate salt, sugar and fat to appeal to cravings that have been hardwired into us over the course of evolution (see Michael Moss’s book for more on this). That’s a big focus of mine on Cooking Chat, sharing healthy recipes that taste great. Toward that end, earlier this year I published my first cookbook: Collards & Kale: 20 recipes that will have you loving your greens. I also posted a recipe roundup, 25 Healthy Vegetarian Recipes, tying into today’s Food Day theme “toward a greener diet”.

Collards and Kale Cookbook

More on the Social Capital links: There have always been some natural links between my food interests and our work at SCI, based on the way it brings people together and grounds us in a sense of place. The link is even tighter recently, as our current strategic plan includes a focus on building social capital to promote health and wellness. Thus, we now have several AmeriCorps members based with local food and fitness coalitions, doing great work to promote healthy eating and food access in urban communities. Based on this tie Dan Arrick, SCI AmeriCorps member based at our headquarters, participated in yesterday’s Massachusetts food system event and wrote this blog post, A Need for Low-Hanging Fruit.

OK, I’m going to sign-off now and enjoy the rest of my Food Day! On the menu tonight–ziti with kale pesto and roasted broccoli (for now linking you to another kale pesto recipe, will update!). My 10 year old is participating in a contest at school to see which class is eating the most healthy fruits and veggies, with extra points for local food. Awesome idea, so we will be looking for local broccoli and kale!

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Cape Cod Summer Haikus

Wow, it’s been over a year since I’ve written on this blog! I’ve been focusing my blogging energies over at Cooking Chat, growing the readership and generally improving the quality of the blog. Oh yes, and I published my first cookbook, Collards & Kale.

Strolling along to Chatham’s lighthouse beach this morning on a family walk, Jodi mentioned how for awhile I was very into writing haikus and other poems. I explained to Brendan about the format of a haiku, and then we set about collaborating on some. A fun family activity! See the three haikus from our walk below.

strolling along a Cape Cod beach can inspire poetry, including some fun haikus.

 

***Ocean Breeze

on our way to the beach

scent of the ocean wafts by

thorn attacked Brendan!

***Summer Sun

summer sun beats down

shells glisten amidst the hot sand

Brendan goes on fire!

***Fire in the Valley OK, I did this one solo:

fire in the valley

flames leap branches crackle and burn

rain falls and sizzles

This was fun! Still pretty focused on the food blogging, but will have to pop over here to write a bit more often.

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Two Keys to Doubling Blog Traffic

I’ve been at my Cooking Chat blog for over five years and nearly 500 posts, so when my blog traffic doubled over the past few months, I thought it would be worth a look under the hood to see what was behind the growth. Blogging at Cooking Chat has been a fun project related to my interests in cooking and finding good wines to pair with our food. I put enough time and effort into this blog that I’ve been interested in finding ways to increase readership for Cooking Chat. For quite awhile the blog had been getting under 5,000 views per month. Early in 2014, the traffic was around 3,500, then it climbed to 4,456 in April. For June, traffic had grown to 9,609.

cookingchat chart2

My posting consistency didn’t change much during this period–I continue to post once or twice per week. I turned to my blog stats provided by the Blogger dashboard to try to get some insight as to what was driving my growth. Google was easily my top referring site and referring URL. I suspect continuing to be active on Google+ helps here. Yet I’ve been active on G+ at various levels of frequency since the service was made available, so this wouldn’t seem to explain my recent growth. Considering my site stats along with what I had done differently this spring and early summer led me to conclude there are two primary factors driving the traffic growth:

1) Connecting with a community of bloggers: I’ve always tried to connect with my fellow food and wine bloggers through post comments and engaging on social media. The new ingredient this spring was starting to participate more regularly this spring with the #SundaySupper bloggers. Founded by Isabel Laessig, a.k.a. “Family Foodie”, in 2012, this is a network of food bloggers that does weekly posts on a Sunday Supper theme, along with a live Twitter chat each Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. They have a good setup of a Facebook Group, Pinterest boards, Facebook group and more to create a sense of community among the fellow bloggers.

I’m pretty sure it’s no coincidence that my traffic growth mirrors the period of time I started participating in Sunday Supper, doing at least one #SundaySupper post per month and generally connecting with the community. The posts I’ve done tied into #SundaySupper events have gotten good traffic, and generate much more commenting activity than I typically get. In addition, several Sunday Supper bloggers are among my top referring sites now. Twitter is close to Pinterest for my 2nd best referral source, and I suspect all the shares from my #SundaySupper friends has helped with Twitter link growth.

The lesson here seems to be that connecting with a community of bloggers with similar interests can be a big boost to your blog. I’ve recently been working on a new blogging community, Wine Pairing Weekend, focused on food and wine pairings. The early returns there have been good, with my initial #winePW post topping my June traffic report.

2) Strategic Use of Pinterest: “Food & Drink” is one of the most popular topics on Pinterest, so it’s no surprise that many of my fellow bloggers report it’s one of their best referral sources.  I’ve used Pinterest for a couple years with this in mind, but during the past few months, I’ve gotten more strategic about the photos I add to my blog posts and my pinning frequency. This seems to be paying off, as I’ve seen Pinterest climb in prominence on my blog referral list. I plan to share more in a future post on how I’ve been organizing my Pinterest activity. Meanwhile, here’s a link to my Pinterest profile if you’d like to connect there!

Are you a blogger? What have you found helps boost readership of your blog? Would love to hear your ideas!

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3 Insights from Adam Grant’s “Give and Take”

volunteers packing meals for a food pantry

volunteering can boost our own happiness

Could giving be the key to success? Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success suggests there is some real power to the old maxim that it’s better to give than to receive.  He starts the book by presenting evidence that givers dominate both the top and bottom of the success ladder, and explains that his motivation in writing the book is to “demonstrate that success doesn’t have to come at someone else’s expense.”

Much of the book contrasts the style of givers with two other groups–“takers” and “matchers”. Takers are fairly self-explanatory; matchers refer to people who are motivated by a sense of fairness, and seek to have their giving reciprocated by people they help.

I finished this book a few weeks ago and am just now getting to blog about it. Fortunately, I read the digital version of the book and highlighted 63 excerpts to quickly jog my memory about insights I wanted to share from it.  Below I’ve summarized three insights that stood out for me, in addition to the general point that giving can contribute to our own success. The book is full with insights on professional relationships, social networks and success; so I encourage you to give the book a read for yourself. In addition, you can check out Adam Grant’s website for additional resources on the subject, including an interesting self-assessment tool.

Our networks are strengthened through giving. A giving approach is a powerful way to strengthen our social networks. I had some appreciation for this concept prior to reading the book, but Grant provides interesting detail on how this plays out. For instance, he talks about how “dormant ties”, people we haven’t been in touch with for awhile, are an important source of new ideas and information. This point is consistent with Mark Granovetter’s classic work on the “Strength of Weak Ties” which explained that we are more likely to get job referrals and other resources from people whom we don’t know especially well, who can help us tap into new networks and information. Those close to us, on the other hand, tend to have information similar to what we already know.

Grant presents entrepreneur Adam Rifkin as a compelling example of how a giving approach can lead to success. Rifkin’s giving approach helped get him important leads early and his career, and now he is very intentional about cultivating a network of givers through regular entrepreneur networking events he facilitates. His real aim is to “change our fundamental ideas about how we build our networks and who should benefit from them.

Givers help create strong teams: People who are giving help make teams successful. Grant notes that engineers who freely share ideas without expecting anything back are key drivers in innovation. He also states “Givers are more likely to see interdependence as a source of strength.”

How we give is important. Seeking to explain research that shows givers rank at both the top and bottom in terms of success, Grant explains how we approach giving is important.  He notes that “when people give continually without concern for their own well-being, they’re at risk for poor mental and physical health.” There seems to be a sweet spot for giving. For instance, one Australian study found those volunteering between 100 and 800 hours per year were the happiest; those under or over had worse outcomes.  It’s not just about the amount of hours, but the approach. Grant says that those practicing “otherish giving” reap the best results. Otherish givers aren’t giving selflessly; rather, they understand and seek to fulfill their own needs while giving. Throughout the book, Grant provides many practical suggestions as to how people can practice otherish giving that helps others while contributing to their own success.

Note on links: The links take you to the Amazon pages for the books referenced. I’m part of the Amazon associates network, and get a small portion of sales sent via these links. You get the regular pricing starting from here.

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