Texas, Life by the drop

It’s hard to imagine here in Austin, where the most obvious sign of the drought was the ban on fireworks, the new islands in Lake Travis, a few of us even made jokes about being able to set mountain bike races up out there.

In most other parts of Texas, especially West Texas, its not about fun. 2011 was the driest year on record in Texas, Texas lost between 600,000 and a million head of cattle; people were giving away sound horses rather than see them starve. It’s not a 1-year drought, it’s been going 3-4 years and we are not out of it yet.

I sat in the garage when I got home tonight to listen to the end of this 1-hour documentary on KUT. I’ve not done something like that since, oh I’d guess 1984 when I listened to the Howard Stern show and an interview with a politician over the state of baby polyestors used in suits. It was simply hilariously funny, and it was raining outside.

Life By the Drop is a close look at the state of water and drought in Texas, looking both to the past and the future for answers on how the state can manage a growing population amid a shrinking water supply. I’ve been reading tonight on the StateImpact Texas, with audio slideshows, interviews and more. The show is a great cross between news, history, and documentary.

Listen in, and change your water use.

My name in lights; Morally bankrupt

My name will be on the closing credits for the new film about the destruction of the Menie dune system in Scotland by Donald Trump. The Menie dunes were an amazing and beautiful natural habitat before it was targeted for development. I only visited there the once in 2003.

It’s the first time I’ve been involved in film startup funding, and am excited to finally get to see the film “You’ve Been Trumped” when I go back to the UK next month. Anything that can be done to show the hubris of Donald Trump.

The fact the Trump is an asshat isn’t surprising, but what is disappointing is the arrogance of the golfers and the golf industry. Apparently the course, yet to host it’s first tournament, has made the Top-10 in Gold Worlds top course. As always, these polls can be completely influenced, which is what I guess is going on here, but really this is no more than the modern equivalent of hunting for sport and slaughtering animals for trophies in Africa 100 years ago.

The position of Sir Sean Connery remains mystery and the course heads for its opening. Connery is often qouted as a supporter of the golf course and wanting to attend the opening. However this seems to stem back to a number of statements attributed to Connery back when him and longtime buddy and Scots First Minister Alex Salmond were supporters of Trump. If Connery is indeed still a supporter of the course, he must be not just morally bankrupt, but also now financially a hooker and will do tricks for money[penny].

Executive Communication in an instant

My friend, long time colleague and US Immigration green card referee, not to mention sometime commentor on my blog posts, Nigel Dessau, runs a great blog, podcast, video series called the 3-Minute Mentor. Well worth subscribing.

I get lots of instant messaging interrupts, Lync internally, Chatter for internal social media, Facebook, Twitter, even Yahoo from time to time. Today I had an interrupt from a colleague that wanted to get some information over to our Mergers and Acquisitions team, it sounded like a useful idea but it took quite a few interactions to get to the point of what he was asking, why it was interesting a what it applied to. Then after I agreed a couple of to-do’s, and did mine and told him, I closed the chat only for it to spring back open with some additional info and ended with an apology “Sorry…”

Here are my top 3-tips for communicating with anyone over instant messaging, I didn’t check to see if the 3-Minute mentor covered this…

1. In executive communication be clear and concise about what you want, if you can’t, don’t ask 😉
2. Never apologise unless you are asked to, then think twice unless its obvious you’ve made a mistake
3. Never be afraid to ask… there is no such thing as a dumb question, only a dumb executive 🙂

 

Sun God – Ramsey Lewis

I really didn’t know what to expect from Ramsey Lewis, and having never been to the One World Theatre in Austin, my anicipation was high. I wasn’t disappointed.

The One World Theater is the corollary of many of Austins music venues, its small, intimate and and has great sound. The Ramsey Lewis trio, plus Lewis, barely needed amplification and were all very clear. I was in the isle seat, center left just 3-rows back. I bought my Olympus SLR camera and got it in without trouble, but based on an early experience with a woman shooting video, taking pictures was going to be difficult. Besides, I really wanted to just enjoy the music.

Sun Goddess revisitedThe whole evening was more souful than I could have imagined; given the clarity of the music, the proximity of the stage and the small audience. Lewis played a number of his well known tracks including the 60’s classics Wade in the Water and the In Crowd, he also did a fantastic solo piano of Betcha By Golly Wow, a Stylistics song and a Beatles classic, which now, almost a month later, I’ve forgotten. The theater was hushed, Lewis was in fine, lively form, and the piano sounded perfect.

Ultimately, as a true Lewis fanboy, Lewis and some of his older tracks live was the high point of my concert going experiences. Lewis’s 1970 album the Piano Player would have been fantastic to watch them record. Maurice White from Earth, Wind and Fire was the drummer for that album, and the tracks were arranged by Charles Stepney who also arranged those key influential early Earth, Wind and Fire albums. [I even added Lewis version of Golden Slumbers to the wikipedia page since it was missing!]. The other member of the Ramsey Lewis trio on the Piano Player was Cleveland Eaton, one time Count Basie Orchestra leader, who went on to record this seminal jazz/funk/disco classic, Bama Boogie Woogie.

The circle of musical life was complete for me when Lewis later came back on for an encore to play the title track from the album Sun Goddess. I’d heard this back in 1974, the harmonies, the beat, the sound changed my outlook on music and to a degree, my life. A few years after that I got a tattoo, and was a massive Earth, Wind & Fire fan.

After the concert was over I waited quietly outside hoping to get a picture with Ramsey Lewis, he came out about 30-minutes later. A woman appeared from nowhere with a stack of vinyl albums for him to sign, he seemed slightly testy. Then some other guy with an old school 35mm film camera stopped him and asked for a picture; I walked alongside him, thanked him for his great music, told him sun goddess had changed my life; after 2-complete sets, instead of the vibrant guy on stage, Lewis had taken on the demeanor of a 76 year old man, late at night. I didn’t ask for a picture, afterall I’ve got the tattoo.

Lewis did an interview and played piano with the KUT folks while in town. You can hear that here, or download the MP3 here.

How to clean up your grill

I sat around for 6-hours yesterday while waiting, with my attorney, David Hartman, to oppose a planning and zoning application(C22, C23) by the owner of the Polvos Mexican restaurant here in Austin.

While speaking, I mentioned that the restaurant regularly washed their commercial grills in the back yard of the residential house and that the dirty water and fat was washed out, down the driveway and into the gutter, and drains, which empty directly into Town Lake, unfiltered.

The owners representative denied he knew anything about this, or how it could happen. Well here are a series of pictures which show the grill tables being cleaned. They are washed in the large aluminum tub, which is never emptied. After that they scrub them clean with the use of some form of chemicals, they they hose them down.

I’ve no idea what laws, rules are being broken here, but I assume that the act of cleaning the commercial equipment in a residential lot, is as they say on University Challenge, your starter for 10.

The the record, the Planning Commission voted to reject the application, 9-0.

 

Posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

TED and Job Creators

Over the past couple of years I’ve watched a few TED videos, they are often educational, always informative and sometimes even entertaining as well. This one showed up in a Yahoo most watched/recommended list on a sidebar on a web search… I’d never heard of Nick Hanauer, but wikipedia and google search have, and he is is an American entrepreneur and venture capitalist and author of the book, The True Patriot.

Nick adds a great link to the chain in so much as I’m able to explain why the current argument over tax in the US positions the 1% incorrectly, but it also adds to my position about the UKs ongoing problem with its’ service economy and my analogy that it is like “eating your own children”. Nick makes the point that the 1% aka the super-rich are not job creators, the middle class are job creators. “Jobs are a result of an ecosystemic feedback loop between customers and businesses”. If the middle class collapses, then there is no one to buy goods; if there is no one to buy goods then the super-rich can’t create businesses to make, sell goods.

Nick also makes a good point that the super-rich really only add jobs as a last ditch effort, not as a first choice. Watch the whole video, it is only 5:50 and well worth your time.

US Government over performing

Yesterday I received a letter congratulating me on becoming a permanent resident and telling me I’d receive my “green card” within the next 3-weeks. Much to my surprise, it showed up in the mail today, along with a small envelope that said “We recommend use of this envelope to protect your new card and to prevent wireless communication with it.”

So the first thing I did was to scan it with my NFC enabled Google Android phone, didn’t work. Anyway cheers to the USCIS Texas processing center for getting my card out so quickly. I’ve already printed USCIS Form N-400 and will be tracking all my trips outside the USA for the next 5-years. The plan is then to send it the form… I’m not worth Eduardo is, yet, but as one person leaves, another arrives.

Constraint Relief

I have this whole disatation I’ve been working on about the evils of the “bell curve” as a performance measure for technical people. It’s mostly about constraint relief. Today, one of the biggest constraints in my life has been lifted. I received the following in the mail from the US Government Dept. of Homeland Security.

WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The key part says “This is to notify you that your application for permanent residence has been approved. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to permanent resident status in the United States.” – It’s been a long time coming, longer than I’ve known most of my friends in Austin, and it’s the second time it’s been granted, the first time being 1986.

Special thanks go to my sponsor, Dell and my boss Gerry. Also to my references who had to undertake numerous letter writing efforts on my behalf as I switched jobs between IBM and Dell. Thanks to Adrian, Mike, Stephen, Simon, Nigel and Jim.

Fiscal fairness, take the money and run

Early this month I posted this entry on “fiscal fairness” about paying taxes. This week two items have come up that show why the tax avoidance situation has become unsustainable here in the US and in the UK.

First up in the US in the story that Facebook founding backer Eduardo Saverin’s renunciation of his U.S. citizenship. It really doesn’t matter what he says, Eduardo benefit from the system in place here in the US, and now he is about to get billions of US$ from the Facebook IPO, On advice of counsel, he’s established residency in Singapore, where there is no capital-gains tax. Eric Liu has a good piece on time.com

Then there is Vodafone in the UK. In the UK Private Eye, satirical and investigative magazine #1312, the Eye has uncovered evidence of what it says is total collusion between Vodafone and the head of the Tax authorities in the UK. There has been lots of coverage of the let-off of Vodafones tax bill, but this is the first news of a link that shows how they did it. They’ve managed to get of billions of UK pounds in taxes by using an offshore tax haven in Luxembourg, and making billions in interest and paying little or no taxes. The problem with this for the US, is that Vodafone owns 45% stake in Verizon Wireless. Private Eye isn’t online, but here is a summary.

The problem with both these examples is that although they may be legal, although thats questionable, in both cases it is in essence asset stripping the economies that enabled to make the money in the first place. If everyone did the same thing, then the countries that are target of this manipulation prohibit the next generation from benefiting the same infrastructure you did.

Eric includes on his article a saying attributed to Bill Gates sr. You can read it in full here. Eric write this as “Bill Gates Sr., the father of the father of the first great high-tech fortune, often points out that there is no such thing as a self-made man. We need a country where the dream isn’t to escape to a tax-free island but to be like the elder Gates: responsible, reciprocal, and a citizen of the United States”.

Think of it this way, paying tax is buying civilization.