#TryPod

There's a lot of stuff floating around in my head for more extensive blog posts coming up — I've done some deeper looking into our brains, I've recently read Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, and I didsome more window shopping at the library.

But I wanted to talk a bit about #TryPod this morning. It's a month-long endeavor to push podcasts as a medium.

If you're not on board with podcasts yet, give one a try. If you have a smart phone, you probably have a podcast app built in, and there are plenty more that are easily installed.

Here are a few to check out outside of the biggest mainstream ones:
Josh: The Podcast — That's my podcast. It comes out on Thursdays.
JKWD (Josh & Kelvin World Domination) — A podcast I do with the great Kelvin Ringold. It comes out Mondays.
Another Round — Tracy and Heben bring a whole lot for ignorant white dudes like me to learn
We the People Live — Josh Zepps talks politics with comedians and others
Pod Save America — Some Obama staffers offer inside-inside politics. It's slanted way Dem, but how often do you hear people speak who have worked on a presidential staff?

If you're already a podcast listener, what are some of your favorites?

Dining Savannah: Alligator Soul

Today, the 14th of February, marks the seventh anniversary of my first date with my lovely wife.

Valentine's Day. That should be easy enough to remember, right?

This year, we decided to celebrate at a Savannah institution, Alligator Soul. They had a New Orleans-inspired menu for Valentine's Day.

Let's start right off with this is a place that knows how to treat diners. They took our coats, sat us 15 minutes ahead of our reservation and brought us a little take-home gift with our names on the sticker.

Our server, Robert, knew both the food and drink menus.

I started with a Sazerac, my go-to cocktail when I'm at anew place. Not my favorite version in town, but it paired really nicely with the carving board we picked as a starter. [Robert also recommend a cocktail for the Mrs., which she enjoyed, but there's a story with it.]

We were treated to an amuse-bouche of cajun beans with dried chorizo, and here's where that cocktail story comes in. The cocktail itself was lemon and cherry and a booze or two, and milady tried it immediately after the very lively amuse-bouche. She said it didn't taste like anything, and she handed it over. I took a sip of water and tasted it, and told her she was out of her mind.

Lesson: Cleanse your palate. After doing that, she was quite happy 🙂

The carving board came with a bleu, a cheddar, and something Robert called "gruyere-style." All three cheeses were from Georgia, as were the meats — bone marrow (a first for both of us), some rich, creamy pork belly and an added alligator sausage. Mustard, balsamic, grapes, pear, honey and three kinds of bread (toast, lavash and papadam) accompanied the meat and cheese.

The Mrs. had a perfectly prepared bacon-wrapped filet (medium-rare), while I opted for the game bird special, a medium-rare squab. I was undecided between the squab and the duck, but I'm glad Robert recommended the squab, because, frankly, I can go to my local grocery store, turn on my oven and roast a duck. Squab is probably not going to be on very many menus I see in my life.

As we dove into dinner, Robert found milady a riesling (she's a white-wine drinker, despite the steak) that she was happy with, and I tried what they call a gentleman's flight — a rye, sour-mash and bourbon whiskey sampler.

For dessert, the Mrs. opted for a chocolate parfait with amaretto creme, served in a champagne flute, while I went for the banana beignets, served warm over vanilla ice cream.

We were in a small room with several other couples, and we all got to talking, which, in my experience, is fairly uncommon at a restaurant of this caliber. Among other things, we discussed where everyone was from, eating something like squab, and my pants.

If you can fit it in your budget ($45 was a reasonable gratuity for our meal), I'd highly recommend a visit while you're in town.

My wife got me the best #pants ever ❤😀👍

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

How to get your FBI file

So here's a thing I did: Asked for my FBI file.

Certain kinds of government records are available to the public, but you have to ask. The types of records required to be made public are outlined in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Among those are certain types of investigations (the FBI handles law enforcement inside the United States; the CIA, by charter, is not allowed to operate within the US — I'm not so naive to think they might not be, but that's the way the agency was designed).

Some FOIA requests come in so often, the FBI has just gone ahead and posted them. You can just go read what the FBI has on Al Capone or Jackie Robinson or Martin Luther King Jr. or Marilyn Monroe, should you need a rabbit hole to go down for a few hours. Or a week.

You can request a file on yourself or any dead person. You need some law enforcement reason or court order to allow you to request information on another living person (for example, you couldn't ask for my file).

You can do so by letter or online — this page explains how.

They'll do two hours of research for free; you'll tell them when you submit your request the maximum amount you're willing to spend on the request if it takes longer than that.

The electronic request system is available Monday - Friday from 4am through 10pm Eastern.

I sent away electronically for my file on a Wednesday afternoon, and had a letter the following Monday saying the FBI had no information on me they were required to share under the Freedom of Information Act, but they could neither confirm nor deny there could be other records or investigations on me (no kidding).

Aside: I worked at a federally chartered bank from 1997-2000, so I know there's a folder somewhere with my fingerprints. I have no idea if there's anything else in that folder.

For fun, here's the letter they sent me. Emphasis (bold) mine; incorrect usages theirs.

Dear Mr. Shear,
 
This is in response to your Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request.
 
Based on the information you provided, we conducted a search of the Central Records System. We were unable to identify main file records responsive to the FOIA. If you have additional information pertaining to the subject that you belivee was of investigative interest to the Bureau, please provide us the details and we will conduct an additional search.
 
By standard FBI proactice and pursuant to FOIA exemption (b)(7)(E) and Privacy Act exemption (j)(2) [5 U.S.C. §§ 552/552a (b)(7)(E), (j)(2)], this response neither confirms nor denies the existence of your subject's name on any watch lists.
 
For your information, Congress excluded three discrete categories of law enforcement and national security records from the requirements of the FOIA. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(c) (2006 & Supp. IV (2010). This response is limited to those records that are subject to the requirements of the FOIA. This is a standard notification that is given to all our requesters and should not be taken as an indication that excluded records do, or do not, exist.
 
For questions regarding our determinations, visit the www.fbi.gov/foia website under "Contact Us." The FOIPA Request Number listed above has been assigned to your request. Please use this number in all correspondence concerning your request. Your patience is appreciated.
 
You may file an appeal by writing to the Director, Office of Information Policy (OIP), United States Department of Justice, Suite 11050, 1425 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20530-0001, or you may submit an appeal through OIP's FOIAonline portal by creating an account on the following web site: https://foiaonline.regulations.gov/foia/action/public/home. Your appeal must be postmarked or electronically transmitted within ninety (90) days from the date of this letter in order to be considered timely. If you submit your appeal by mail, both the letter and the envelope should be clealy marked "Freedom of Information Act Appeal." Please cite the FOIPA Request Number assigned to your request so that it may be easily identified.
 
You may seek dispute resolution services by contacting the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at 877-684-6448 or by emailing ogis@nara.gov. Alternatively, you may contact the FBI's FOIA Public Liaison by emailing foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov. If you submit your dispute resolution correspondence by email, the subject heading should clearly state "Dispute Resolution Services." Please also cite the FOIPA Request Number assigned to your request so that it may be easily identified.
 
Enclosed for your information is a copy of the FBI Fact Sheet and Explanation of Exemptions.
 
Sincerely,
[Signed]
David M. Hardy
Section Chief,
Record/Information
 Dissemination Section
Records Management Division

Enclosure

Enclosed: FBI Fact Sheet, Explanation of Exemptions.

See ya, 2016, you weird year, you. A right guid-willy waught for 2017!

Lemmy checked out at the end of 2015 after a short and almost entirely unpublicized bout with cancer. He may have foreseen something that was coming in 2016.

We opened the year saying goodbye to David Bowie and closed the year electing a reality TV star president.

We also said goodbye to the likes of Abe Vigoda and John Glenn and Umberto Eco and Harper Lee and Alan Rickman and Antonin Scalia and Nancy Reagan and Morley Safer and Garry Shandling and Merle Haggard and Prince and Muhammad Ali and Elie Wiesel and Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Michael and Fyvush Finkel and Alan Thicke and Garry Marshall and Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and Edward Albee and Glenn Frey and Leonard Cohen and Gene Wilder and Leon Russell and Gwen Ifill and Florence Henderson and Fidel Castro.

It was like The Great Hand-off. So many people who shaped news, entertainment and politics for the past 40-plus years are gone. They left it for us to figure it out. I don't have a lot of hope, but am hoping to be proven wrong on that.

We also said goodbye to too many people shot by toddlers, because the "gun rights" people and the "gun control" people are too stubborn to talk to each other about gun safety.

We started with white guys with guns taking over a remote wildlife reserve and ended with people coming together to try to save a Native community while getting fire-hosed in freezing temperatures.

We learned nothing about police-community relations.

Zika was a thing for a minute. And that's a scary thing that gives babies tiny heads. Remember Zika? Yeah, that was this year, and you totally didn't even think about it when you thought of 2016.

It was a crazy year for me. I started a podcast, then started another podcast, then ran a thousand miles. I got laid off and un-laid off.

Some of my favorite posts from the year (read: these took a lot of work and I haven't linked to them yet):

Lessons in leadership from Jocko Willink: Extreme Ownership and beyond
Election reform and the evolving myth of Two Americas (hint: there aren't just two)
What's the way out? Research in media, racism and lobotomies
The truth about media bias and what you should consider when listening to criticism of media
Unbiased vs. objective: The real role of media

What's ahead for 2017

I'm a little afraid for the world right now. I fear empowered white nationalists following both a Brexit vote and a Trump election. I fear we don't understand context and that our memories are too short. I fear that we're choosing teams, protecting our tribes and forgetting that we're one species.

But I'm also optimistic. People have a good habit of surprising me sometimes. So, here's to 2017.

Gratitude, and another year

I turn 40 on Sunday (that's tomorrow, if you're keeping track).

I knew I wasn't going to do a "40 things I've learned in 40 years" post. That seems awfully arrogant. I started on a "40 things I've learned in my 40th year" post, figuring I'd point out that there's so much to learn. That still felt a little too BuzzFeedy.

Not that I have anything against BuzzFeed. Y'all seem like a great group of folks. And I know you have a serious news division, too, but too little, too late, I'm afraid. Just I can't even take your serious news seriously because you're making most of your money from listicles. Which are not as good as popsicles. Except the ones with pictures of dogs. And sometimes cats. Maybe if we're talking green popsicles.

I seem to have gone somewhere different. Sigh.

Anyway, I'm 40. I have nothing figured out. I have some advice if you want it. I have some insight if you want it. Mostly that's just from living through some stuff. Don't eat a pile of refried beans before you get on a fast-moving carnival ride. If you're going to be home later than you thought, call your mother or your wife or whomever needs to know. Use the Oxford comma sparingly, if at all.

These tips probably aren't going to change your life. Like I said, I don't have anything figured out. I've learned some stuff. I've learned a lot of it in just the past year. I'm pretty sure I'm always going to be learning stuff.

I can tell you, though, that I'm grateful to have made it this far, for the life I have and the people I get to share it with.

And thank you for being here. I appreciate it. Have a great week.

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On renewal

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We mark today the turning of the Jewish calendar to a new year.

The way the calendar works, actually, the new year holiday began Sunday evening at sundown and continues until this evening at sundown.

The 10 days that begin with the opening of the holiday mark a period of reflection in my faith, culminating with Yom Kippur, known for its day-long (sundown-to-sundown) fast.

The Jewish calendar is a lunar one, which likely dates back to the way the Bible is written: "...and there was evening, and there was morning, a first day." Maybe it's from before that. Phases of the moon and the path of rotation through the stars are much easier to detect than are phases of the sun, particularly in an equatorial environment when the seasons would have changed only subtly.

Shortly after Yom Kippur — about a week, typically — we celebrate Sukkot, a harvest feast. A week after that, we celebrate Simchat Torah, reaching the end of a cycle of reading the Torah. The Torah is the Bible laid out in a scroll. Each Sabbath we read a prescribed portion, and Simchat Torah marks the time when we finish one reading of the Torah, wind it all the way back to the beginning, and start anew.

It's a month-long welcoming of the new year, both somber and celebratory.

We say to each other as we turn the calendar, "A good year. May you be written." As in, may you be written in the Book of Life. Jewish belief is that God has a book, and over the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, God writes in the names of the people who will live for the next year.

Don't look at me funny. These beliefs date back almost six thousand years. You think putting candles in a tree to celebrate the birth of a guy who was executed and disappeared from a tomb three days later is better? We can reserve the discussion of superstitions and wars and stuff for another time.

I know I typically do a post at the end of December every year, looking back at the year ending. That becomes more of a roundup, I think, while this late-summer or early-fall holiday really provides that period of reflection for me that a lot of people account for heading toward resolutions for January.

I also think this makes more sense for a calendar, switching the year as we gather our food for the cold season, giving the ground a rest before our spring planting.

Running water tends to be my reflection point during this season, so you'll probably find me out at Tybee, toes in the water, staring off toward the horizon, thinking.

Happy birthday, Jenny

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On the first of August, I sat down to work, and found my mouse was difficult to move. I should mention that's unusual. It's a laser mouse, I have a fairly smooth non-reflective mouse pad, and my wrist is in fine shape.

It turns out there was a sweet note from my wife, Jenny, who decided August was going to be "love notes for Josh" month.

Awesome, right? Definitely. She always is.

It's Jenny's birthday. So, happy birthday, my love.

If you're looking for something to get Jenny for her birthday, might I suggest liking her Facebook page and following her on Twitter?

Still one of my favorites, this song was the recessional at our wedding.

Seth Godin on decommoditizing yourself, dropping your entitlement, and the loss of head starts

I've been working my way through the 30 Days of Genius interviews on CreativeLive, and, surprise, Seth Godin's stood out to me.

If you're not familiar with Seth Godin, please go spend two days watching and reading some of his stuff. This all right here is not important; it's just talking points from this interview.

Godin's altMBA »

Chase Jarvis, photographer and founder of CreativeLive, interviews Godin. Here are some of the points I think are important.

• There is no secret; there is no right answer.
• Genius is an ancient term for the voice in your head. No one's a genius, we all have a genius.
• Fear is hard-wired into us, but sometimes it's just wrong — a presentation at work is nothing like the Spanish Inquisition, even though we have the same reaction to it.
• Most people are talented. If you're doing banal work, you're afraid to use your talent.
• Overwhelm a platform with generosity. If you stay off the ship because you're worried about a wreck, you're still off the ship when it's successful.
• We live in a world right now where we don't need to be picked — by an employer, by a publisher, etc.

Jarvis: I love that your prescriptions are so simple.
Seth: But hard to do.

• Are you just doing something to get more famous? If so, why? If you couldn't see your numbers, would you still do it? For example, are you only trying to grow your Twitter followers because you can see the number of Twitter followers you have?
• We're living in the most crowded creative time ever. You're not entitled to attention or leverage, but you can earn it.
• Build art that doesn't work unless you share it. The first guy who had a fax machine couldn't do anything with it until someone else had a fax machine.
• Anything worth doing is worth doing because you changed someone else. If we don't make a change happen, what did we do? Sharing will happen naturally when you change someone. "The Laramie Project" was a play about gay rights, and you and I have heard of it because it changed the people who saw it and they wanted to share it.
• Our public education system isn't designed to create innovation. It was started by industrialists to grow a workforce with similar education who is trained to sit at a desk all day, and hasn't changed since. We have summers off because we needed time to pick crops.
• [To work around the problems of public education]: Parents need to tell kids that straight A's aren't the point. Ask, "What problem have you solved today?" Kids have to answer that before they're allowed to do their homework.
• If you can't buy into "it might not work," you have to trick yourself into it.
• Have a practice. If you go in for surgery, you want the surgeon to do things the same way every time. Similarly, when it comes to daily practices, there's no one practice that's demonstrably better than another, but having a practice is important.
• Now that the world has changed, don't get frustrated. If you want to be treated like a non-commodity, don't act like a commodity.
• Take responsibility for what you do. It's not your boss's fault, not your parents' fault.
• Don't do great things tomorrow, do them today.

Reminder: Own your job, and you’re entitled to work hard


"Hard work is just preparation for a lucky day," Sir Mix-a-Lot tells Chase Jarvis

I was supposed to be unemployed today.

Long story, but I went over it in the bonus material of Episode 11 of the podcast (bonus material available with a donation at Patreon).

Short version: I had the opportunity to mail it in, but I didn't. I remembered something I wrote some 4.5 years ago. Someone was paying me money, and they deserved my best.

I'm going to leave this bit right here about how you're entitled to work hard, but not to much else in this life. Deal with it.

Happy Memorial Day


Veterans section at Bonaventure Cemetery. See more photos from Bonaventure.

Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day, has been around since during the Civil War. In fact, the first celebration was exactly 154 years, ago, on May 30 of 1862.

To all those who have served and we've lost, we promise not to forget. To all those who have served and are still with us, we thank you.