What Are You Leaving Behind?

What are you leaving behind?

via Seth’s Blog by Seth Godin on 5/26/12

Trail after wildfire, Davis Mtns. Texas

I love watching contrails, those streams of white frozen exhaust that jets leave behind. It’s a temporary track in the sand, and then the sun melts them and they’re gone.

Go to Montana and you might see the tracks dinosaurs left a bazillion years ago. Same sort of travel, very different half-life of their passage.

All day long you’re emailing or tweeting or liking or meeting… and every once in a while, something tangible is produced. But is there a mark of your passage? Fifty years later, we might hear a demo tape or an outtake of something a musician scratched together while making an album. Often, though, there’s no trace.

I’m fascinated by blogs like this one, which are basically public notes and coffee breaks by a brilliant designer in between her ‘real’ work. Unlike tweets, which vanish, Tina’s posts are here for a long time and much easier to share and bookmark. Her trail becomes useful not just to her, but to everyone who is interested.

What would happen if you took ten minutes of coffeebreak downtime every day and produced an online artifact instead? What if your collected thoughts about your industry became an ebook or a series of useful instructions or pages or videos?

What if we all did that?

Photo Essay: Mexico’s Drug War – 50,000 Dead In 6 Years

A masked Mexican soldier patrols the streets of Veracruz, on October 10, 2011. Soldiers of the Army, Navy and members of Federal Police patrol the streets of the city as part of “Veracruz Safe Operation” after a rising tide of violence plaguing this tourist city. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

 

This is what the unwinnable “war on drugs” looks like.  Look at it.  This is what we are doing.  All sides profit from the carnage – the cartels, the law enforcement and incarceration industry, the politicians, the military-industrial complex.  Money drives this reign of terror from all angles and there is no incentive to change the status-quo because the money just keeps coming.  It’s all about the money.  This is a genocide and our so-called representatives in government have blood on their hands because they won’t even have the conversation about legalization.  Portugal legalized drugs and their drug abuse declined by 50%.  I don’t do drugs but I have a conscience.  Look at these photos and say you don’t care.   http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/05/mexicos-drug-war-50-000-dead-in-6-years/100299/

Adventures in the City: Anjela gets her wallet stolen

Anjela got her wallet stolen Friday. We’re not sure if it got lifted from her purse or fell out somehow but within minutes of her last seeing it someone started using credit cards at a Target store in N Austin, charging $1200. Also within minutes I got a call from USAA fraud department asking if we had made these charges and if we had our cards in our possession. I had mine so I called Anjela. “Of course I have it, I just… Shit! My wallet’s gone!!” Luckily she doesn’t carry much in her wallet: a few credit/debit cards, her driver’s license, insurance cards, a couple rewards cards, a store gift card, a “lucky” $2 bill. We started making calls. The process for canceling the cards was quick and painless. New cards are on their way. She was very near the driver’s license office so she went directly and got a new DL. En route she called the police and, surprisingly to me, they were interested, assigned a case number and detective, asked us to contact them if the credit card companies could give us any details about when and where the cards had been used. They were appreciative when Anjela called back and gave them this information and said they would use it to look at the security footage to see if they could identify the culprit. I kind of figured in a city of this size the cops just wouldn’t really pursue something like this. I’m glad they do and hope they catch the person(s).

The hardest thing was to wrap our head around “How does someone do that?” If they lifted the wallet then that’s one thing, but if it fell out how does someone see it, pick it up and think “Yeah! Let’s steal some shit!” It’s hard to understand. What if it was their wallet?

But it gets better… About 8:30pm I got a phone call. “Is this Todd Jagger? Do you have a wife or girlfriend named Anjela Garcia? I found her wallet in a Target bag on 183.” He sounded older, very Texas country. I asked if we could meet him. He said he was at Mehl’s Motel on N Lamar near Airport Blvd. I vaguely remembered some seedy motels in that area. But he gave me his name and his phone number, told me what he was wearing and that he’d be outside. Before we left I told Anjela she should call the police and let them know someone found her wallet. She did and they told her, “Do not go there without a police escort. Go near the location, call 911 and give them your case number and wait for a patrolman.” We were kind of torn on this. I mean sure, the guy may or may not be associated with the thieves. Certainly he was hoping for a reward though he didn’t ask or even mention it on the phone. Probably just a guy trying to do the right thing. We didn’t want to jam him up with the cops, y’know? We decided, “Well, let’s just drive by and have a look. If it looks cheesy we’ll call the cops.”

Mehl’s Motel is an old 1950’s motor court, the kind that has a single lane arch-covered entrance and exit. You hardly notice it in the slow gentrification of that area of Austin. It was very run down, very dark, looked very dicey. There was no way I was going to drive or walk in there. We went to a new BBQ restaurant a half block away and called the police. We still felt conflicted about putting something like this in motion but it seemed like the only reasonable course. They said a patrolman was on the way. It took a bit longer than we thought it would but about 13 minutes later I saw a patrol car coming down Lamar. I tried to get his attention but he drove past, passed the motel then turned around and drove past us the other way, then turned around again and came into the parking lot. I guess he was checking things out. He was a big guy, 6’3″ 230 lbs. He almost crushed my hand with his handshake without even trying. We told him that the guy seemed like he was trying to do the right thing and we didn’t want to cause any trouble for him. The officer said, “Yeah, you want to think people are okay but the sad thing is you just don’t know. You’ve got to be careful. I’ve been working this area for a long time and, well, Mehl’s Motel isn’t the La Quinta, you know. He may be the one who stole it, you just don’t know. Let’s roll over there and talk to him.”

He didn’t drive into the court either. He parked the patrol car in front of the complex. Immediately people started scattering, movement in the shadows of the motor court, a guy briskly left the complex trying to look nonchalant as he walked away from the patrol car at a clip. Taking the cue we didn’t pull in either, we parked on the street next door. As the big cop walked into the court and more people saw him they shuffled inside rooms shutting the doors behind them. It was a little surreal, like a scene from a movie. He found the room and the man came out. He wasn’t nervous or upset that we had brought an officer with us. I kind of apologized saying we already had a case and they told us we needed to bring an officer. He said no problem. He handed Anjela a Target bag with just the cards in it, no wallet. Most of the cards were there but not all. The main thing was her driver’s license – we didn’t want that out there for identity theft ease. I guess the thieves probably took out any cards they thought they could use and tossed the wallet with her insurance and store cards, then tossed the bag with the cards after when they realized they had been flagged stolen. Of course it’s also possible the man was involved somehow. The cop took the man’s ID and asked us to wait by his car. I handed the man $50, thanked him and shook his hand. He didn’t seem like a thief. He said “I just thought ‘What if I had lost my wallet, I’d want someone to do the same.'”

So that’s the kind of stuff that happens in the city. I guess it can happen anywhere but you just don’t think it’s going to happen to you. From memory can you name everything in your wallet? What about the account numbers and numbers to call? Right now, take everything out of your wallet and take a picture of it or put it on a scanner – front and back. If you have neither of those write the numbers down. Don’t carry your social security card or any little pieces of paper with passwords, PINs or personal information. Do have a contact phone number. Use gift cards right away – they can’t be traced or replaced. Have an alternate credit card somewhere so you aren’t left without resources. And watch out for thieves.

Spotify Needs to Free Itself From Facebook

 

I’m a big fan of Spotify.  I’ve fully bought in to the subscription model for music (with a couple caveats: album art/liner notes and completeness of library).  As long as the catalog is overwhelming and has the music I want to hear then I’m 100% in.  I’d much rather pay $5-10/mo. to have everything than $12-18 a CD, no question about it.  This is the way music is going, accept it, enjoy it.

That’s why when I first heard of Spotify I started getting interested.  Yeah, I had tried Pandora and Slacker and Rdio but they didn’t connect.  I could see blog posts about and screenshots of Spotify and read what the CEO said.  I wanted it.  But I couldn’t have it.  No licensing for the US.  I knew some folks had gotten early US access but I didn’t know how.  I read where a few resourceful people had done some “things” to get access.  Ironically I knew that our CD The Border Blasters “Blast From The Past” was available on Spotify (through our distribution deal with CDBaby).  I knew this because I’ve gotten paid for people who stream or download our music via Spotify.  It’s pennies, to be sure, but those are folks who are probably fans now and they weren’t before.  I call that a win.  And that’s another rant for another time.

When the service launched in the US I was stoked.  Finally!  I got an early invitation and signed up.  Yup, it’s good.  Damn good.  Yup, their Americana and Roots catalog is a little thin but there is a lot they *do* have.  Some stuff I’d never seen before.  For the last month or so of doing the Border Blast Revue on KRTS I was programming the show about 75% via Spotify.  It was wonderful to have access to some of the new major label releases that never serviced our small station and some super small stuff that somehow made it into their library.

Then Spotify announced the partnership with Facebook.  “Uh oh…”  Now you *have* to have a Facebook account to get a Spotify account.  I guess Spotify needed the cash infusion.  I’ve heard they are hemorrhaging cash and that the major labels structured ridiculous and horrible deals to get access to their catalogs.  A chunk of ownership by Facebook bought them some life for their US launch.

But unless they get out of the deal with Facebook, or at least give the option of having an account without Facebook, I believe that relationship might also create serious long term problems for Spotify.

I think the bloom is off the rose for Facebook.  I’m on there but I rarely post anything.  I just don’t like the fact that I’m not the customer – I’m the product.  Sure it’s great to see what everyone is doing and find old friends and stuff.  Everyone is there.  But people are getting hip to the constant invasions of privacy and the commoditization of our personal lives for the big corporations.  I don’t think anyone thinks Zuckerberg or the Facebook behemoth has our interests at heart.  They sure don’t have a motto like “Don’t Be Evil.” (Of course, whether or not Google lives up to that motto is certainly open for debate…)

It’s really too bad that Google didn’t make the deal with Spotify instead.  Maybe they tried and couldn’t work the deal I don’t know.  Maybe they were too invested already in their own Google Music service.  But I really think that was a missed opportunity for Google.  It could have been exactly the shot in the arm that Google+ needed.

I’ve tried to talk several of my friends into getting Spotify.  They would love it; I know they would.  But they say “No way!” to Facebook.  Spotify may be tapping into the masses on Facebook but by doing so they are shutting the door on probably an equal number of potential customers who will never, ever sign up on Facebook.  And unless Spotify can make their service available to anyone, not just Facebook members, it’s going to decline along with Facebook.

I guess the positive spin on this is that there is still a void, an opportunity.  I thought Spotify was going to be the holy grail of music subscription: Everything ever recorded available any time to anyone for an affordable monthly fee. That’s the goal.  That’s what Spotify said it wanted to be.  They aren’t there yet.  And the Facebook deal hobbles getting there perhaps as much as it helped them.  But I know if someone builds that they’ll own the music world.

Adios, Amigos

It’s been a tough fall losing friends.  Each time it happens I try to remind myself that every day is a gift and to use it wisely, to try and progress ever so slightly towards a better world and to help others, too.  The reminder is easy.  Doing it isn’t.  But let’s take a minute and remember some of our friends who’ve left this earth.

Doyle Bramhall, Sr.

We had the great pleasure of getting to know Doyle Bramhall over the last few years after he moved to Alpine.  What stood out for me about Doyle was his genuine graciousness and camaraderie.  We had the honor of playing with him at Padre’s.  There was no ego, it was as if everyone on stage was old friends – he was totally at ease musically and personally with those around him, and that came through in the music and the performance.  He was an amazing musician and I wish I would have the pleasure of playing music with and just being around him more often.

 

Tim Henderson

It’s true that Townes Van Zandt used to call Tim Henderson for advice when a song he was writing wasn’t coming together like he wanted.  Tim approached songwriting with the same precision and detail as his day job writing technical manuals for Tracor and Texas Instruments.  He could tell you the difference between a “refrain,” a “bridge” and a “chorus” and where you would want to use one or the other and why.  Not only that but he was damn funny.  I could sit and listen to his stories for hours – and did.  J.C. was right when he said he was loved by all who knew him.

 

Drew Castaneda

Drew Castenada was the banjo player on our bluegrass version of Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder The Come” from The Border Blasters’ “Blast From The Past” CD, and my friend since Country Day School kindergarten in Austin in the early 1960s and he was in all our bands through the 1980s.  Drew was probably the most technical musician in our bunch – if he heard a banjo break he wanted to emulate he would sit down and figure it out note by note and practice it until he could play it perfectly.   It saddens me greatly say but Drew fell on hard times, mainly due to troubles with addiction.  Booze mostly.  It took a hard toll on him personally and professionally.  But the Drew I’ll remember, always, is the one we had so goddam many good times with.  Not just playing music but fishing (we’d go down to Town Lake with a pole and a six pack of Pearl beer, find snails in the brush and pull perch out all afternoon; “light perchin'” we called it), driving around as kids, talking about philosophy and girls) – I’ve missed that Drew for a long time.

Joe Gracey mixing “Blast From The Past” at Lone Star Studios, Austin, Texas

What can you say about Joe Gracey that hasn’t already been said?  Joe was the engineer and co-producer for “Blast From The Past” and was also a friend.  JR built him a wine cellar at this place in Spicewood to pay off his fees from the session.  I corresponded with Joe fairly regularly and kinda became better friends with him via email once that became common.  I helped him and Kimmie with some of their technical web stuff (and still host their web sites).  Joe once sent an email or blog post where he mentioned “the best liquor I ever had was a bottle of bootleg ‘sotol’ Todd Jagger brought back from Big Bend.”  I remember that bottle and it was good.  Bought at the Park Bar in Boquillas Mexico – they would put the booze in whatever containers they had, this one in a Wesson bottle.  Joe was one of the undisputed founders of the Austin music scene.  I fondly remember his rapid-fire insight, jokes, rants and cussing on whatever brand of  ‘magic slate’ he could find – Barbie, X-Men, Care Bears, My Little Pony…  and can still hear his long-lost voice signing off KOKE-FM (“Super Roper Radio”): “Drink plenty of water, stay off yer feet and come when you can.”  Thanks Joe.

Clockwise from top left: Todd, TJ McFarland, JR, Joe Gracey, Phil Johnson

Are you telling your customers (or fans) to go away?

When the phone rings at your store do you just let it ring? When a customer walks through your door do you ignore them? Probably not. But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you don’t reply to business (or fan!) emails. It’s mind-boggling how many companies simply ignore their emails. Over the last week I’ve sent email inquiries to two companies I would like to hand some cash to and neither have replied. Both of these email inquiries were from their “Contact Us” page.  Sadly this response, or lack thereof actually, is more the norm than the exception.

Customers, or potential customers, don’t necessarily expect super-quick responses to emails (although doing so demonstrates your respect for your customers and a high level of customer service), but they *do* expect a response. When you let email inquiries go into the black hole you are telling people, “Go Away!” – a) I’m too busy for you; b) I don’t care about your business; or c) Somebody told me I need a web page but I have no idea how to use it. None of these are great for your business or building your fanbase.

Either use your business email or get rid of it. It’s that simple.

#Occupy

  So here’s the deal: The guys (and gals) who work on Wall Street and for brokerage houses know that they’ve been complicit in the largest redistribution of wealth to the top 1% since before the Great Depression. They’re not stupid. They know the damage it’s doing to our economy, the middle class, heck even themselves. I know a few folks that work for brokerage firms and they sincerely acknowledge that the repeal of Glass-Steagall and other financial deregulation was horrible for their industry and the economy.  And it made a select few of them obscenely rich; they joined the 1%. They see that and many get sucked in to the game. They want to be the guy who makes that multi-billion-dollar score, to move up the ladder, to be one of the 1%.  You can’t blame them, wouldn’t you?  It’s all the more difficult because their jobs, their future, depends on joining the culture that enables this kind of greed.

Imagine you were let loose on the floor of a casino with somebody else’s money and you get to invent game.  You get to make the rules of the game – rules that are so complicated most humans cannot even understand them.  In fact, you don’t even have to tell anyone what the game is.  You make wild crazy bets.  When you win you keep the money, and when you lose, well, it’s not your money so who cares?  That’s EXACTLY what our financial system is.

It’s a system destined ultimately to fail but the greedy just want to extract as much as they can before it implodes. Then they say “The money’s gone. Nothing I can do.” It’s legalized robbery, plain and simple.

No matter how they try to spin it our lawmakers – both Democrat and Republican, Executive and Congress, even the Judicial – have done virtually nothing to change it.  In fact they promote it because they are complicit themselves.  They don’t represent you or me, they represent those who fund their campaigns.

But most people in the financial industry are not part of that. They are honest professionals who know that proper and strong regulation is not only necessary to keep things humming along profitably, as it did for the more than half a century before Glass-Steagall was repealed, but in all reality essential to keep the system from blowing up completely. Again.

But what can those good & honest folks in the financial industry do?

They can add their voice. Speak up against the corruption from the inside.

Get on the right side of history and be proud to tell your kids you took a stand to help make our country great again.

Steve Jobs

I’m not the only person who has compared the loss of Steve Jobs to losing John Lennon. Precious few humans alter the course of humanity with their gift and their genius. Jobs did that for sure. And when we lose someone like that there is Before, and there is After. There is a real and palpable void that can never be filled. And there is that brief moment when we reflect on our own lives, our own mortality and what we have done, or not, to make the world a better place. Hold on to that. Carry it with you every day. Wake up to it every morning.

A few of my favorite quotes from around the web.

“There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.” – Barack Obama

“If Steve Jobs were alive, he’d be going to work.” – Bob Lefsetz

“It’s one thing to miss someone, to feel a void when they’re gone. It’s another to do something with their legacy, to honor them through your actions. Steve devoted his professional life to giving us (you, me and a billion other people) the most powerful device ever available to an ordinary person. Everything in our world is different because of the device you’re reading this on.

What are we going to do with it?” – Seth Godin

Imagine.

A new CCC

One of the things I’m most thankful for about spending the last couple years with my Mom and Bob before their passing was spending hours talking to them about their lives.  I wish I would have recorded some of it.

Bob told us of looking for work during the Depression.  FDR was already in and had ramped up the great recovery for the nation.  The best jobs were the ones as part of that recovery; building the great dams, roads, bridges.  And those with the Civilian Conservation Corp building our state and national parks, forest roads and other infrastructure.  Bob got a job in Washington state planting trees.  I don’t know whether the planting was done to reforest clearcutting, a fire, or what, it doesn’t matter.

He talked about having a toe-sack full of seedlings and a kind of a long bladed hoe.  You would take a few steps, whack the hoe into the ground to make a small hole, put a seedling in the hoe, then step on the divot with your other foot – all in one fluid motion; 50-75 men heading up a hill in a line all doing this same dance, the seedlings replenished when their sacks were empty.  They were told the trees would be ready to harvest in about 80 years, right about now in fact.

That was the mindset of that time:  We’re putting men to work now, creating something that our generation will not benefit from, and maybe not even our children but their children.  It’s good for us and it’s good for the country.

How far we’ve gone off course from that kind of mentality.  If it doesn’t work right now, today, then we shouldn’t do it.

The truth, of course, is that short-term fixes rarely work now or tomorrow.  Why do we keep trying them?

As I drive around Summit County, Colorado, certainly one of the most beautiful places on god’s earth, everywhere you look you see the forest devastated by pine beetles.  In some places 3/4 of the trees are dead.

This year I see there have been some (I assume) US Forest Service crews cutting the dead trees and stacking them in large piles.  This has only been done in a very few areas easily accesible by vehicles.  On the one hand it’s kind of weird to see large acreage devoid of pine trees, with just a few firs, aspens and other non-pines.  On the other it looks like an amazing opportunity to do just what our grandfathers did when they put people to work in the 1930’s.

We need a new CCC.  There are many thousands of men and women ready to build this country back up again.  Let’s put them to work.  One project, of a grand scale but worth every penny, would be to cut the dead trees.  Make biofuel energy from them. Replant new trees.  It’s a multi-year project with both long and short-term benefits.

Why can’t we think big any more?

The Give-A-Shit Button is mostly off, it seems

Seems like a majority of people I run into on a daily basis just don’t give a shit – about their job, about customer service, about doing the right thing, basic courtesy or pretty much everything. Not everyone but most folks. Just this morning I was treated to several examples of this, two in the same store (Academy on Research Blvd); a situation that would make one believe the give-a-shit button is turned off at the management level as well. If you run a business you depend on customers. If your customers do not feel like they matter why should they shop at your store? Seems pretty basic to me but apparently it’s an advanced concept in today’s world.