Saturday, December 21, 2013

Great Music for the Season

CHRISTMAS (the album by husband and wife Phillips/Gullahorn) is a wonderfully pleasant surprise! Don't get me wrong, both Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn are gifted musicians, singers, and songwriters, but it's just another Christmas album, right? At first, I expected this would be... You know...the obligatory 8 to 10 songs, with standards everyone new twists, just jolly-jingle fun.

Not the case here. There are some classics, and there aren't many new twists on these, but the arrangements allow the lyrics to be heard in a new way. Plus, the original songs on the album are moving and powerful.

And...even if all of the other songs were horrible (which of course, they are not), the album would still be worth the price for the enhanced version of "It's Cold Outside." You've never heard this song so realistically done...especially between a husband and wife. Let's just say that gifting your wife with a less than desirable gift may be enough reason for a guy to be begging to come in even if it weren't cold outside. You've got to hear this version!

Download these 12 tracks and enjoy!

You can find the download available at The Rabbit Room or Amazon.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bots Dominate Web Traffic: A Question of Click Ethics for Bloggers

You've probably seen the article headlines like this one from Time Tech that suggests "more than 60 percent of all Internet traffic now comes from bots." Maybe you saw the PC World article that stated that "nearly half of those bots are up to no good."

While many bloggers and surfers read this and feel concern about security issues such as malware and viruses, there are others who view it as a grand opportunity to work the robotic system for an increase in web traffic. For example, I recently read this article that outlines strategies for increasing your web traffic without paying for advertising. The suggested strategies key on words, phrases, and links that will draw the attention of bots busy about the work of indexing, searching for copyright infringements (on the positive side), or hacking, hi-jacking or impersonating (on the negative).

So, as a blogger, I want to be sure that I frequent my own site to be sure it has not been attacked; I want to be sure my virus protection and malware protection are up to date and active; and I want to ask myself a question about my purpose as a blogger. Here is the question: Do I blog to articulate important ideas, to share opinions or personal experiences, or to generate traffic in an effort to generate passive income?

There's nothing wrong with utilizing the internet for income, but I think we have to beware of the blurry lines of pragmatism. For example, I can compose blog titles like Miley Cyrus Does it Again or How to Go to College for Free that mislead or focus on sensationalism in order to get a click-- and most clicks will be from robots, and while that may increase traffic on my blog, I must realize that my credibility and reputation is at stake. Are a few robotic clicks worth it?

Do you have any thoughts on the issue?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Are You About?: Have you Honed an Elevator Pitch?

In business, we often hear the importance of having an elevator pitch.  If you're not sure what this is, here's an article that does a good job of explaining how to craft one. Obviously, an elevator pitch only gets better with time.  Not only will you tweak and modify it over time, but you will begin to own it.  It will become a succinct proclamation of what you are about.

As you work on yours, remember to keep it short, personal, focused and engaging... much like this well known pitch.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Merry Christmas, Brian Wilson!

Yesterday, I heard an NPR review of the latest Beach Boys box set, Made in California. The review was honest, fair, and somewhat somber.  Thoughts of the Beach Boys' music is usually anything but somber, but a critical view of their 51 years as a band leaves one thinking about those early bloomers that we all have known-- like the basketball player who (arriving at 6' tall in the 8th grade while everyone else is 5'6") dominates for a season or two and then spends the next four years in athletic decline.

Yes, it's somewhat sad that the kings of surf music for the most part ran out of creative steam in the late-60's and did their best to ride the wave of the early hits as long as possible.  Regardless, no one can argue against the fact that the band responsible for Surfin' Safari and Pet Sounds is one of the most influential groups of all Americana. The harmonious sound they crafted became their brand, and echos of that sound continue to show up in songs, in a subliminal attempt to capture that wide-eyed, youthful vibe.

As the review wrapped up, and I pondered what could have been if Brian Wilson had remained well and able to develop as a creative artist, I again felt a little mournful for the band whose sound projected fun, but whose story reflects tragedy.  I thought about their influence on Mike Roe who wrote a tribute  of sorts with his band-mates in The Lost Dogs.  I thought about the incredible blog post Ben Shive wrote two years ago about Smile for the Rabbit Room. I thought about the hundreds of times that I've sung along with those harmonies and smiled.  All that to say, Merry Christmas, Brian Wilson.  Thank you and the rest of the band for giving America 51
years of music to enjoy.

Is there something better than "You're Welcome"...Really?

Last month, I read an article that suggested not using the phrase "you're welcome," after someone says "thank you."  The article was a response to someone who suggested to say instead, "I'm sure you'd do the same thing for me." I have to admit that I was turned off by this brash, egotistical, what's in it for me? language.

Adam Grant, the author of the article, decided to use the basic suggested approach, but tweak it by saying, "I'm sure you'd do the same thing for someone else."  Ok, somewhat better. It's not quite as much focused on how much you now owe me thinking.

I only mention this article here because I believe that words matter, and that we should strive to choose words that most effectively communicate.  With that in mind, I get tired of using the phrase "you're welcome."  Sometimes, I process through what the phrase really means.  In fact, (I hate to admit this) I have researched it online to get a better understanding.  I'm not sure that it is the clearest or best choice for receiving someone's gratitude, but I do know that it's much, much better than the all too common "no problem."  I'm not going to rant about that phrase again-- you can read my previously posted rant on my blog.

I also know this: when I drove thru at Chik-fil-a earlier this evening and said "thank you," I cannot imagine that the young lady working the drive-thru would have responded with, "I'm sure you would have done the same for someone else." When I imagine this, I think: what does that mean?

If you think of a better response than "you're welcome," please let me know.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Thoughts on Seabiscuit: There's Something Worse than a Bad Leg

As Seabiscuit was returning to racing form, there was much concern and question as to whether Red Pollard would be ready to ride.  Both the horse and the jockey had suffered serious injuries, but Pollard's leg was beyond serious.  No doctor would even consider releasing him to ever ride another horse, much less race one.  Howard (the owner), Smith (the trainer), and even Pollard himself knew that any kind of fall or collision would cripple the jockey. Yet, Pollard would not take no for an answer. He wanted more than anything to race and win with Seabiscuit.

As Howard struggled with his decision, he spoke with Pollard's friend, journalist David Alexander.  During their conversation, Alexander asked Howard what his plans were for the race.

"'If Red breaks that leg again,' Howard said soberly, 'it will cripple him for life.'

Alexander told him that maybe it was better to break a man's leg than his heart" (366).

Pollard would ride and win the race.

This reminds me an old truth:
The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it?  (Proverbs 18:14)

Handle people's hearts and dreams carefully.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thoughts on Seabiscuit: Elements of a Comeback

Seabiscuit is a fascinating story with many lessons; one of those lessons is presented in "Chapter 21: A Long, Hard Pull." Virtually everyone had given up on both the horse and the jockey after each sustained serious injury.  They were both deemed "washed up."  There were three elements, though, that contributed to their comeback.

First, they had time to heal.  Hillenbrand writes, "Slowly, painfully, horse and rider healed" (349). In this case, the comeback depended on physical healing.  In other cases, a person's comeback may also involve emotional and, perhaps, spiritual health.  While the healing process was frustrating for jockey, horse, trainer and owner, it could not be rushed.  Each had to face each new day with an expectant hope that healing would come.  In time, it would indeed arrive.

Next, the comeback needed a plan.  As both the rider and the horse improved, the rehabilitation strategy was increased.  Again, Hillenbrand writes, " Pollard had learned a thing or two about training from Smith, and he managed Seabiscuit's rehabilitation carefully.  By early summer, walking turned to a gentle canter, first a mile, then two, then three" (351).  There was a vision and a plan for bringing them back to health, back to competing.  It didn't happen overnight, but gradually the plan set the stage for a comeback.

Finally, the team had hope and a desire to win. Even though the general public expected that Seabiscuit would never race again, Team Howard held on to the hope that he would.  That hope was not some pipe dream, but was based on the past experiences of a proven winner.  The past, though, was not enough.  In order to complete the comeback, a desire to win was necessary.  Marcella Howard noticed this on her trips to the barn when "Seabiscuit was pacing around his stall... When he paused, he directed his gaze at the horizon, distracted.  [Charles] Howard saw that look and knew what it meant, 'You knew he wanted to race again,' he said, 'more than anything else in the world'" (352).  Both Seabiscuit and Pollard desperately want to race again.  That driving desire, along with time, and a plan, brought about one of the greatest comebacks in American history.