On renewal


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


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.

Which podcasts I’m listening to these days

Some of you know I recently started podcast. It's a medium I was vaguely aware of until a couple of years ago, and I am now a...let's call it avid consumer of the medium.

In addition to my own, here is a list of the podcasts I'm currently enjoying (in alphabetical order). I encourage your recommendations in the comments section.

The Art of Manliness — Brett McKay interviews experts and authors on things that make us better employees, entrepreneurs, parents and healthy adults. Usually around 40 minutes, sometimes longer, and always an interesting listen.
Astonishing Legends — In-depth storytelling about myths, legends and secret societies. Sometimes publishes irregularly as research requires; these guys really knock it out of the park, sometimes in multi-part series.
Bertcast — Comedian Bert Kreischer was once called the top partier in America. The movie "Van Wilder" is (loosely) based on his college "career." He's a good guy with a great laugh, and he invites other comics into his man cave for conversations. Running times are anywhere from one to three hours.
Brew/Drink/Run — Still one of my favorites. They talk about beer, running and homebrewing. And sometimes books. Sort of.
The Church of What's Happening Now — Before he was an actor and comedian, Joey Diaz was a felon. No, really. Drugs, kidnapping, burglary...he's also a big music fan and he enjoys taking advantage of California's medical marijuana laws. Not for everybody (language, sexuality), but I really enjoy it.
The Creative Coast — A short (10 minutes or so) conversation with a Savannah-area entrepreneur every week. The audio quality is often poor, but I've learned a lot.
The Drunken Metaphysical — Curt and Ginny drink and talk about stuff like ghosts and ghouls. Lots of fun.
The Drunken Taoist — Daniele Bolleli and Rich Evirs discuss...well, everything, sometimes with a guest. Two guys talking history, politics, pop culture and martial arts. Plus, Bolleli's accent is adorable.
Duncan Trussell Family Hour — Again, not for everybody, but Trussell is a comedian, believer in the singularity and spiritual believer in meditation, float tanks and psychedelics. Typically converses with like-minded people of all stripes, from comedians to sculptors to priests.
History on Fire — Daniele Bolleli (of The Drunken Taoist) gives us his take on history. This is not a competitor to Hardcore History, but is a reasonable replacement for those of us who can't stick with topics for the 16 hours Dan Carlin often gives them.
Intensely Positive — My friend Kelvin Ringold has a motivational podcast. Go check it out.
It's All Happening — Zach Leary (son of Timothy) is a filmmaker, spiritualist and kirtan musician. He has one of the most soothing voices in the medium and converses with like-minded people. Usually comes in around an hour.
The Joe Rogan Experience — Joe Rogan is a standup comic who was host of "Fear Factor" and before that was on "Newsradio." He is a hunter, evangelist for psychedelics, a UFC commentator and generally curious guy. He has conversations with all kinds of people, from fellow comedians to former crooked cops to geologists to Olympic marathoners. Episodes range up to three hours and are available on video as well.
Ku and the Gang — Esther Ku is a comedian who chats with other comedians. Definitely not for everybody; in fact, I only listen to the first half. She starts pretty much every show with a discussion about bowel movements, and after the conversation ends masturbates to orgasm.
The Masonic Roundtable — Five U.S. Freemasons discuss the Craft, sometimes with guests. The show is run live each Tuesday night via Google Hangout, and the guys take questions and comments via social media. Open to the public, but topics are typically only going to be of interest to Masons or the Masonically curious.
The Moment — Writer and director Brian Koppelman interviews his favorite musicians, actors and writers. Episodes are usually around an hour long.
Shotclog — Comedian Doug Stanhope and a barrage of colorful characters hang out, mostly drunk, on Stanhope's property in Bisbee, Arizona. They're a bunch of rabble-rousers and frequently the podcasts are just a bunch of people being ridiculous. It's highly entertaining.
Snap Judgment — An independently produced public radio show, Snap is stories set to music, sometimes live and improvised, sometimes recorded and produced. Always fun. About 56 minutes, it's also broadcast on many NPR affiliates across the country.
This Won't Hurt a Bit — A medical show featuring two actual doctors. They have fun with common questions about stuff like exercise, smoking and such.
The Tim Ferriss Show — Tim Ferriss is an author and self-experimenter. He shoots for efficiency and fast learning/assimilation. He interviews a wide variety of people from all walks of life.
#WeThePeople Live — A political roundtable done, most frequently, live in a bar. Host Josh Zepps used to do this for Huffington Post and took the show out on its own.
Whence Came You? — A Masonic podcast detailing history, esoterics, famous Freemasons and Masonic anecdotes. About a half hour most weeks, closer to an hour when the conversation moves to the esoteric. Open to the public and has a wider target audience, especially if you have a wish to explore the mystical. Host Robert Johnson is one of the hosts of The Masonic Roundtable
The Winding Stairs — A podcast by Juan Sepulveda, one of the hosts of The Masonic Roundtable. Sepulveda takes the lessons of Freemasonry and applies them to everyday life. Open to the public and probably good for anyone who wishes to be a better human.
WTF — Marc Maron's podcast is a twice-weekly interview show that for years was the standard-bearer of the medium. He only keeps the latest 50 free, so get in there early. He's interviewed hundreds of interesting people (he's recently passed Episode #700), almost all of them in his Los Angeles-area garage, including President Obama. He also re-releases interviews when someone dies, so even though I've only been listening for a couple of years, I was treated to his interviews with Robin Williams and Garry Shandling, among others.

Date Night Savannah: Fire & Wine at Foxy Loxy

I was lucky enough to get a Saturday evening off recently and saw a post from one of my favorite cafes in the neighborhood, Foxy Loxy.

It turns out that every Saturday night from 7-11, they put together some s'mores kits, knock half off their bottles of wine, and light two fire pits in their courtyard.

It really is a beautiful, relaxing night with great people-watching. We shared a bottle of rosé and skipped the s'mores, but if we'd gone with the dessert in addition to the wine, we would have come in under $30 for a lovely evening together.

You can bet anytime I take a day shift instead of my usual evening shift on a Saturday, you can find us in the courtyard at Foxy Loxy for a couple of hours. Hope to catch you there!

Guess what? I’m launching a podcast!


I've finally decided to launch a podcast. It's been in the works for a while. I had to learn some stuff. I had to make some decisions on platforms, equipment, what it's going to be, if and how it's going to make money and all that stuff.

Anyway, I'm excited to get it started.

The introductory episode is Episode 0; you can find it here. Episode 1: Impossible, is also up, here.

Go to podcasts page for subscription information.

I'm also launching a Patreon campaign with it. Go check it out.

Scam alert: Craigslist sale items

I wanted to tell you about this Craigslist scam someone tried on us. We ended up losing a little bit of money on the sale item, but didn't end up losing any actual cash or getting involved in much legal stuff (we wound up sending everything to the local police, but didn't need to get involved beyond sending them our records).

I'm providing this as something to watch out for, especially as some people start to clear out old stuff after holiday presents and clean out old stuff as they make their resolutions.

So, here goes.

We listed a washer/dryer on Craigslist for $200. We had little luck and finally agreed to let a purchaser send a check; he said he'd send a bank check with a little extra money for his movers, who would be in touch to arrange pickup.

When the check arrived, we found that it wasn't a bank check – it was a printed check drawn on a business account in New York. The check had been mailed from Florida, and was for $1,450 – fully $1,250 more than the asking price for the appliances. I looked up the business, and it was listed as a property restoration firm with $120,000 in annual sales.

It was immediately evident to me that it was a counterfeit check. While the business name and address on the check matched the listing and the routing number matched the bank the check was drawn on, no one is entrusting strangers with over 1% of their annual intake.

After receiving the check, I sent a message to the "purchaser" to say that the check was received and that I wasn't comfortable with the amount, and that I would return it. He said not to worry about it, that was fine.

That's when I knew for sure it was a scam, and I tucked the check in a drawer and cut off communication with the "purchaser."

He tried to get us over the next couple of days, saying that he got confirmation from the bank that the funds had cleared from the deposit, then that the mover would like funds through Western Union as an advance (he named an individual in Chicago) and then finally a couple of messages to say that the check had cleared and he was suspicious that I hadn't returned his messages.

I learned through a mutual LinkedIn contact that the person listed as owner/partner of the business listed on the check had had both his email and LinkedIn accounts hacked over the past couple of years, and his contacts regularly received spam messages.

Officers with the fraud department at Savannah-Chatham Metro PD assure me this is a common scam, and I've turned over all the info I have to them. Good luck with your Craigslisting this season.

Bringing conversation back into our lives

Aristotle was...pretty good at conversing.

Aristotle was...pretty good at conversing.

One of my favorite things about Freemasonry is what many organizations (including churches and the like) call "fellowship." In modern-day English, we call it "hanging out." When we're not in a formal meeting (or sitting formally at prayer, for instance), we're still gathered with like-minded folk, eating, drinking and, most of all, talking.

As someone who works from home and communicates with my coworkers via an online chat if we need to (sometimes we just sit around independently and work for 45 minutes or so without saying anything), I don't have an opportunity to grab lunch with a coworker or chat with someone at the water cooler or coffee pot.

And, in fact, in turns out, even people who do work in offices together aren't talking to each other as much as they used to. Same with people who sit around the dinner table, staring at their phones instead of talking to each other.

Author Sherry Turkle has been writing about it for a while now. She has a new book called Reclaiming Conversation, which is about bringing conversation back into our lives.

It's an extension, really, of work she did for another book on being alone, even if we're connected. Here's her TED talk on it from 2012.

She talks more about the new book on the Art of Manliness podcast.

In the lessons of the second degree of Freemasonry, we learn about the seven liberal arts and sciences we should really study to become well-rounded humans. Of the seven, three really relate to conversation: logic, grammar and rhetoric.

I won't go into detail here, not because there's anything secret in the ritual, but because practicing the art of conversation is so much more important than sitting by yourself reading this. But if you want want to learn more, The Masonic Roundtable has great discussions on each: