Family Living Memories Tracy Loftesness

A Very Special Day

On this day ten years ago, we gathered as a family at a nearby restaurant to celebrate our cherished daughter Tracy‘s birthday. We shared a wonderful lunch together – laughing, reminiscing, and simply enjoying each other’s company, as families do on such special occasions. After lunch, we went for a leisurely walk and then visited a nearby art museum.

Looking back on that beautiful day this morning, it seems like only yesterday – yet, when I woke up this morning, I didn’t have any specific memories of the occasion. That’s what happens as the years have passed and the vividness of that day ten years ago has softened in my mind. But the memories came rushing back when I came across a few photographs of that day that were like opening old windows to the past, instantly transporting me back to the moments we hold so dear. A “magic carpet”!

Now I can still see Tracy’s effervescent smile, a reflection of her unique zest for life. As always her eyes sparkled with a vibrancy that seemed to capture the very essence of her spirit. She always “lit up the room” with her good cheer – something we’ll always remember even though we don’t have her here to celebrate with today.

“Memories are like magic. They take you back to a time and place, and make you feel as if you were still there.” Today, for me, that special time and place is ten years ago with our family gathered together celebrating her beautiful birthday!

Creativity Living Photography - Black & White

Uncovering Hidden Value

Leveraging the “Sawdust” of Your Creative Process

person holding chainsaw
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

For creatives, the byproducts of our work often get swept aside once the main project is complete. The unused sketches, raw demo recordings, or half-baked concepts – these become the “sawdust” we leave behind after building something new. But what if we viewed these creative leftovers through a different lens?

Rather than discarding the residual materials from your creative process, consider how they could hold untapped potential. Just as a woodworker’s sawdust can be repurposed into revenue-generating products, you may be able to extract value from the fragments left over from your projects.

By sifting through the unused ideas, experiments, and prototypes you accumulate, hidden opportunities can emerge. Could an alternate lyric or melody from a recording session work in a new song? Might those rough product sketches contain the seed of a fresh design? With the right perspective, your leftovers can become ingredients for future work.

This philosophy of maximizing resources aligns with Jay Clouse‘s emphasis on reframing challenges. By bringing a spirit of creative reuse to the byproducts of your efforts, you can uncover new possibilities where you once saw waste.

For photographers, the sawdust metaphor could apply to all the unused or discarded photos from a shoot. Rather than deleting the outtakes, putting in time to review these images with fresh eyes may reveal some gems. Photos you initially disregarded due to small flaws could potentially be salvaged through editing. Or alternate angles could lend themselves to new creative compositions. By taking the time to re-examine your photo “sawdust”, you may find shots that warrant a second look. With some targeted post-processing or creative cropping, those photos destined for the trash could end up being featured in your portfolio. Just like a carpenter transforming sawdust into useful material, photographers have the power to find merit in the images they may have previously discarded or overlooked. I’m often surprised when I look back at old photos and see an image with “new eyes” – for me that joy is one of the best parts of photography.

So challenge yourself to regularly revisit the “sawdust” of your creative process. You may discover surprising connections that spark your next big idea. With some imagination, everyone has the capacity to transform their leftovers into treasure.

Books Kevin Kelly Living

The Magical World of Kevin Kelly

One of my favorite writers, Kevin Kelly, is out with a new book titled “Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I Knew Earlier“. This book is based on several of his earlier annual blog posts that he began writing on his 68th birthday about “some things he had learned about life that he wished he had known earlier.”

On my morning walk this morning I began listening to Tim Ferriss’ recent interview of Kelly and it immediately triggered a bunch of ideas in my mind – even before they began discussing his new book! Among them (just during the first 15 minutes) were:

  • The bet he made 20 years ago about the decline of world population by the year 2060. He had observed that modern people, on average, are not having more than two kids per couple which is below the replacement rate required to maintain, let alone grow, population. Google Bard notes that “the global fertility rate has been declining for decades. In 1960, the global fertility rate was 5.0 births per woman. Today, it is 2.5 births per woman. This decline in fertility rates is due to a number of factors, including improved education and healthcare, as well as the increasing availability of contraception.
  • His notion that if you can find 1,000 people who are passionate about your work (1,000 true fans), you can make a living as a creator. Ferriss wrote about this idea in one of his books and helped popularize the notion. Kelly comments that “every day people write to me, and meet me, and say, “Yes, I have been able to do that,” inspired someone by hearing of that possibility.
  • The Whole Earth Catalog and his friendship with Stewart Brand. He described the Catalog this way: Steve Jobs famously called it “the internet before there was an internet.” It was internet printed on newsprint because it was reader generated. It was one of those big books that you could get lost in – analogous to how you can get lost on the Internet while looking up some piece of information.

Kelly has such a creative mind! He has been a joy for me to follow and enjoy for many years. My listen on my morning walk to this interview just highlighted that again for me. He’s just fun (and stimulating) to listen to (and read!).

He continues to blog regularly and to write as Senior Maverick for Wired which he helped co-found many years ago. He writes one article per year for Wired – his most recent being about generative AI image tools: Picture Limitless Creativity at Your Fingertips. Even though I read several of his earlier birthday blog posts of advice, I look forward to reading his new book when it is published later this week. Oh by the way, it appears that today is his birthday!

Living San Francisco/California Weather

Suddenly All at Once

We’ve had one rough winter in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not rough in the sense that many have living in much more extreme winter conditions. But rough for us.

It seems like we’ve been waiting and waiting for spring to arrive and every time we thought it might be around the corner we took another jag into either an atmospheric river bringing heavy rains and wind from Hawaii to a spin-off low making its way down from Alaska bringing more cold air.

Then suddenly it changed. Yesterday was the first truly glorious spring day with bright sun and temperatures approaching 80 degrees. It took a long time but it seems spring has finally arrived!

And all of this winter’s rain seems to have finally dented California’s multi year drought problem. That’s a good thing!

Living Memories Tracy Loftesness

Tracy Ellen Loftesness

In my post “Back to the Future” in January I wrote about the passing of our daughter Tracy just before Christmas 2022. Here is her obituary.


Tracy Ellen Loftesness passed away on December 20, 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska after a courageous battle with esophageal cancer.

Tracy was born on August 18, 1971 in Daly City, CA to Scott and Linda Loftesness. After moves to the east coast and midwest, the family settled in Morgan Hill where Tracy attended Britton MS and Live Oak HS. She played tennis and basketball, joined FBLA, and was in the youth group and choirs at Advent Lutheran Church.

Tracy attended San Francisco State before transferring to Harvard University, earning a BA in Slavic Studies in 1993. She studied at Boalt Law at UC Berkeley, graduating with a JD in 1998. Tracy began a successful law career working at Littler Mendelson, Brobeck, and Hopkins & Carley before joining the research group that became Inventus. Tracy was highly respected by her colleagues for her work ethic, sharp mind, and leadership abilities.

Tracy loved languages, studying Spanish, French, Russian, and a bit of Arabic and German. She honed her Russian skills during a college summer session in Moscow, which included her first (and only) skydiving jump. Tracy later spent a year in Paris honing her French and working as a translator.

Tracy met Joseph Baumler in 2009 during a trip to New Orleans. From NOLA to San Jose to Castro Valley to Genoa, Nebraska,Tracy and Joseph shared 14 years of love and adventure. They enjoyed hiking, catering, and spending time with family and their beloved pit bull, Maggie.

Tracy was known for her generosity, offering steadfast support to any friend or family member in need. She was an advocate for change and, inspired by her grandmother Elizabeth, was an active member of Zonta International. Tracy was a leader and a tireless fundraiser in the Silicon Valley chapter of Zonta and an advisor to the Berkeley chapter.

Despite facing a difficult illness, Tracy never lost her spirit or determination. Her grace, humor, and optimism in the face of adversity is an inspiration to all of us.

Donations in Tracy’s memory may be made to two organizations Tracy was passionate about – Zonta International and Underdog Animal Rescue.

Tracy is survived by Joseph, her mother Linda, father Scott, brother David, sister Kari, her beloved dog Maggie, and many extended family members. We will miss her deeply, as will her friends, colleagues, and all those who had the privilege of knowing her. Tracy’s memory lives on through the lives she touched, the love she shared, and the acts of kindness and generosity done in her honor.

Living Tracy Loftesness

Back to a Better Future

Half Moon Bay – 2006

Last year, in my first blog post titled “Life is a Contact Sheet“, I said:

Happy New Year! Let’s work towards better outcomes in 2022 than we had in 2021! Like most I’m looking forward to leaving 2021 behind and excited about what the future could bring! Now onward to my first post of this new year!

While I was excited for what 2022 might bring, I now look back on this past year with much sadness – as the hopes of me and many others just didn’t happen and way too much sadness and gloom came into our world instead.

Late last month, our daughter Tracy passed away – the victim of a very aggressive cancer that was identified only weeks before and which failed to yield to treatment. Tracy was the true adventurer in our family – and her spirit lives on to inspire us towards a better future. We have really appreciated all of the kind words and shared memories from so many who knew Tracy.

New Year’s Eve each year is our Dad’s birthday – bringing back so many memories of our times with him. 2022 was his 101st birthday. He also loved Tracy very much.

Of course there we some bright spots in 2022 too – although it’s difficult at times to remember those and to keep them in perspective. The challenge – and ultimately our reward, of course – is to remember that life is full of these ups and downs.

So here’s hoping for a better future in 2023 – we’ll hug our loved ones tighter, try to do a better job being good friends, and savor those good moments and memories when they come along. Onward!

In November 2010, Tracy and I took a cooking class at Village Pub in Woodside – learning how to cook a Thanksgiving feast. We had such a good time that day – a great memory.

Books Living Musings

Turning Off the Braindead Megaphone

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

Way back in 2007, author George Saunders published his first book of essays with the curious title of The Braindead Megaphone. In the title essay, he describes going to a very enjoyable party where the guests are all having a great time – until another guy shows up with a megaphone in his hands and starts talking about random stuff – like how the flowers bloom in early springtime and more. The megaphone guy’s stupid voice drowns out the many otherwise enjoyable conversations being had among the guests.

I read that essay for the first time a few weeks ago – and found it to be a beautiful reminder of the influence that loud voices can have on us and on how we feel. For me, TV news has become that megaphone guy ruining the party. Who needs that?

In his latest book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, Saunders writes about how a writer can be likened to a music producer sitting in front of one of those big mixing boards connected to many different microphones picking up the sounds of the many instruments and voices. The mixing board has rows of fader switches to adjust the sound coming from those many different sources – the music producer uses those faders to “mix” those sounds into the final production.

Photo by Drew Patrick Miller on Unsplash

Saunders writes that “a story can be thought of as a version of that mixing board, only with thousands of fader switches on it—thousands of decision points.” The author’s role is to adjust the levels of those faders to create the best story. Doing so, Saunders counsels, involves a repetitive revision process – “going through a story again and again, microtuning the adjustment of the existing fader switches…” to make the story the best it can be.

Saunders’ mixing board is a metaphor for life – for how we go through our days, constantly adjusting up or down the many inputs that make up our daily experiences. Choosing to play a video game involves cranking up that fader switch while turning down other activities competing for our time. Taking a photowalk to help refocus and experience the world differently is another mixing board adjustment. So many other inputs are part of that big mixing board of our life.

Each day our mixing board gets tweaked – hopefully producing pleasing “music” that’s delightful to us. But some days there may be a cacophony of sounds (experiences) instead – with our mixing board somehow mis-adjusted and out of whack. That’s when it’s time to step back and re-examine our inputs and re-adjust them – or to find new ones to add to our mix or to eliminate others.

About a year ago I made a choice for my life mixing board – choosing to eliminate the input of television news. I turned the volume completely down on my mental mixing board, choosing to eliminate that input from my life. My choice to do so resulted mostly from my frustrations with the events occurring in our country during that time – events that I couldn’t influence and which I didn’t need to have repeated over and over again. So I flipped that switch and the TV news was gone.

One other thought. Many years ago I remember the book titled Steps to an Ecology of Mind by Gregory Bateson. While the content of the book was a bit over my head, that title has always stuck with me. What are the steps that might lead to an improved ecology of my mind? A year ago eliminating television news as a regular input in my life was one of those steps. One that has worked out very well for me.

Books Living Music Photography

Life is a Contact Sheet

Happy New Year! Let’s work towards better outcomes in 2022 than we had in 2021! Like most I’m looking forward to leaving 2021 behind and excited about what the future could bring! Now onward to my first post of this new year!

While away for the Thanksgiving holiday I started watching the Beatles’ Get Back documentary on Disney+ while in a garage in Sonoma county. We had gone away with family and this spot was a great escape for the Thanksgiving weekend. Sometimes the place where you watch a TV show or read a book becomes it’s own memory riding alongside the show or the book in your mind.

Get Back is the remastered version by Peter Jackson that looks and sounds really good – especially given the vintage of the film that it’s based on.

Recently I was on a morning walk listening to the Holiday Special edition of the In The Hive podcast with Joe Hagen and Emily Jane Fox. Joe hosts a great segment talking to Don Was of Bluenote Records about the therapeutic beauty of listening to jazz music (especially in these Covid times). Don commented about the Beatles’ Get Back documentary – about how fascinating it was to see the Beatles working through their creative process – oh so many takes! – before they get to their final result. It was quite interesting to see them working and collaborating together – and just how much time and effort was involved in their creative process.

While I was listening to Joe and Don talking about Get Back, their comments brought to mind that Get Back is really just another metaphor for what photographers know as a contact sheet – the capture of all of the images which are winnowed down to get to a final image choice or two – or sometimes none at all.

Here’s an example of a photographer’s contact sheet:

Magnum has a wonderful book of contact sheets from many of its great photographers. When you leaf through that book you realize just how the creative process takes to work and image and reach the photographer’s ideal result.

But isn’t that process of iteration fundamental to any creative pursuit? Writing, photography, music, you name it. And, isn’t that iteration process what living itself involves? Once in a while we see the iterative steps in action when artists like the Beatles or the Magnum photographers share a behind the scenes look at how they got to their final work product. Those are special learning opportunities worth paying attention to!

Watch Get Back and you’ll find it fascinating but also a bit frustrating to see just how many steps can be required! You can see the same kind of process when you browse through Magnum’s Contact Sheets!

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

Dale Carnegie

Science seldom proceeds in the straightforward logical manner imagined by outsiders.

James D. Watson
Family Living Memories

Carl J. Loftesness – 100 years

My Dad was born on Dec 31, 1921 – exactly 100 years ago today. He passed away at the age of 88 but left us with so many great memories of good times shared with all our family. It’s a great day to remember all he did for us along the way as we keep him in our hearts.

This photo is one of my favorites. I was too young to remember the moment but I will always remember the bike and my Dad’s joy in getting me to ride it so many years ago!

Carl and Scott Loftesness

Books Living

Life in these United States

woman in white long sleeve shirt standing near white and gray house during daytime
Photo by Julian Jagtenberg on

A couple of commentaries I read today really brought home to me some of what’s happening to life in these United States. Both of these articles strike me as like the other:

Zen and the Art of #VanLife Influencing

The problem of getting old is an old problem, which means there are plenty of established ways of coping. The new problem, the one harder to deal with, is the diminishing possibilities for our species. Settling down means something different now, because there is no long term. The best one can hope for is a temporary pocket of equilibrium, to be enjoyed while it lasts, and then mercilessly abandoned. …

I grew up in Portland, and I love it. Here’s why I’m never moving back, even though I can work from anywhere.

…what links the vanlifers, the influencers and the get-rich-quick kids isn’t laziness or dreams of going viral, but rather a sense of precarity that they see all around them, whether in campgrounds filled with the homeless, in the ongoing climate disasters and now in a pandemic that has isolated them from their friends. …

In other news, I’ve recently discovered Ted Kooser (thanks to the By the Book profile of author William Kent Krueger in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review). Kooser’s known for his plainsong poetry about the Great Plains. I’m really enjoying his prose – in particular his great memoir about life in rural Nebraska: Local Wonders. Highly recommended – his evocative sentences are a real delight to read!

Contrary to what out-of-state tourists might tell you, Nebraska isn’t  flat but slightly tilted, like a long church basement table with the legs on one end not perfectly snapped in place, not quite enough of a slant for the tuna-and-potato-chip casserole to slide off into the Missouri River. The high end is closest to the Rockies, and the entire state is made up of gravel, sand, and silt that ran off the front range over millions of years. …