9-11 Audio Memorial

I received an email from Kellie Fitzgerald today with a copy of an audio memorial she had put together for a small radio station in Massachusetts. Kellie wrote:

I knew the young woman whose voice is on the last message in the first piece. A reminder that all our connections, however brief are precious…and how while video told the story of what happened to the buildings, sound and audio recordings really told the story of what was happening inside.

As I listened to the 3 minute spot, I flashed back to that surreal day and my eyes filled up with tears. I was was so moved that I asked her for permission to post it in a blog.

Kellie replied:

Thank you for your kind words, that was my reaction…and I just felt the need in my powerless-ness to share. By all means you can share it – with my blessings…I hope the world can be a better place and safe from all human harm….

9-11 Audio Memorial

Kellie Fitzgerald is the voice talent behind lots of commercial audio work. She has taken care of our IVR and voicemail prompts for more than 7 years. You can visit her wesite at www.auroraaudioproductions.com.

Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR

Audio File – Copyright 2011 Aurora Audio Productions (Used with Permission)

Photo Licensed from iStockPhoto

Random Acts of Kindness

Acts of Kindness

Over the course of a three-day span, I witnessed three separate random acts of kindness.  I was pleasantly surprised at what a positive impact they had on my day.

It was a Friday afternoon during rush hour when I was leaving Lowe’s.  As I looked out onto the highway access road from the parking lot, I noticed a truck stopped with its hazard lights on and an older gentleman picking up debris in the road.  He had loaded a new grill into the back of his truck that somehow came loose and fell out onto the road.  There were knobs and small pieces rolling everywhere.  All this was happening over a hill where oncoming traffic would be quickly approaching at 60 miles per hour.  In an instant, two drivers stopped to help.  One man was able to roll what was left of the grill up onto a sidewalk.  A lady stopped to help with the remainder of the pieces in the road.  Luckily, the driver got himself and his truck into a parking lot before oncoming traffic would cause a certain tragedy.  Those good Samaritans didn’t have to stop, but they did.

The next evening, our daughter had her Sweet 16 birthday and we celebrated at The Cheesecake Factory.  When we arrived, we noticed a business colleague having dinner at a nearby booth.  We went over to say hello before we were shown to our table.  We enjoyed dinner very much and finally had to call it a night.  When we asked for the bill, the server told us that our colleague had taken care of it.  She paid for a birthday dinner for someone she just met.  That was totally unexpected and unnecessary, but very much appreciated.  I couldn’t believe it.  What a nice gesture.

The morning after, I hit the drive through at Starbuck’s.  The line was long and my patience was short.  When I finally reached the window, the guy said, “The customer in line ahead of you paid for your coffee.”  He must have seen the puzzled look on my face.  Apparently customers do this from time to time, but it was the first time someone had done it for me.  What a nice thing to do!  This was truly a random act of kindness.  I’ll never be able to thank the person.  I sure felt great when I left Starbuck’s and promised myself I would do the same thing for somebody else next time I’m back.

All of these random acts of kindness were very uplifting and renewed my faith in people.  There really are nice people out there who do nice things without expecting anything in return.  Furthermore, this experience motivated me to become more like those nice people.  Think about how one small random act of kindness can positively impact someone’s day and act on it.  If there were more of this going on, the world would be a much nicer place.

Memorial Day Holds A Special Meaning For Me

Memorial Day 2011

As a retired combat veteran, Memorial Day holds a special meaning to me. I’ve lost friends who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our way of life. While the memory of the personal loss fades with time, the ideals that they believed in have grown stronger.

Seeing the flag raised and hearing the National Anthem played still brings tears to my eyes. I’m beginning to think that only those who have served her and accepted the unlimited liability clause can love her and see her the way we do.

Ronald Reagan may have captured it best in his farewell address to the nation. Reagan said, “I’ve spoken of the Shining City all my political life. …In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

I’m not naïve enough to believe we don’t have problems and challenges, but I do believe that the founding fathers of this great nation had extraordinary vision. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are timeless in their statement of those beliefs.

John F. Kennedy wrote, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR

Spring Comes to North Texas

I love this time of year in North Texas. The temperatures are mild—crisp in the mornings and warm in the afternoons. As March begins so does Spring. I was reminded this morning when I was outside drinking my coffee and watching the dogs run around the yard looking for bunnies to chase.

As I sipped my coffee, I noted the Bradford Pear trees were just getting ready to bloom.  As I took a closer look, I noted a few early blooms glistening in the early morning sun. It was a peaceful moment taking it all in…the smell of the coffee, the sun kissing the blooms, the birds singing.

Spring Comes to North Texas

While I knew that moment would give way to the hustle and bustle of another busy day, I had to sit there and savor the moment. I learned this lesson the hard way as I watched my spouse battle cancer. She survived and both of us look at life differently.

Time is a finite resource. Take a few moments out of your day to look at the beauty around you.

Photo ©2011 Imaged2Sell

Will Rock Stand The Test of Time?

Growing up in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, I remember all the great Rock Bands—Aerosmith, 38 Special, Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix just to name a few.

Sammy Hagar

Live at The Lakewood in Dallas, TX

The 1980’s may have been the best decade for rock with bands like Van Halen, Def Leopard, Whitesnake, Great White, Poison, Kiss, and Bon Jovi.

I went into the Air Force in 1979 and converted to Country for almost twenty years. I missed all of the 1980s rock!  I came back to my roots in 2000 and over the past decade, I’ve been to see all of them and more.

Lately I’ve heard a return to the sounds of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Bands like Three Doors Down, Fuel, Seether, Dokken, Daughtry, Five Finger Death Punch, and Nickelback have all released singles that have that great 70’s and 80’s sound. 

Seether covered Careless Whisper in 2009. They took the George Michael pop song and rocked it out. Five Finger Death Punch’s cover of Bad Company is better than the original in my opinion!

I think there’s a good chance that rock will stand the test of time.

Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR

Houston, The Branch Team Has Landed

Gina and I left Plano at 9 AM this morning headed to Houston for Activerain’s RainCamp conference. After the 4.5 hour ride we landed at Chatter’s in The Heights where we had lunch with friends.

After a nice meal, we took the 15-minute drive down Memorial Drive arriving at the Hilton. We’re on the top floor and have a nice view to the north.

Houston - The Galleria Area

Copyright 2010 - Tom Branch

We’re unpacked and headed out on the town for the evening.  Tomorrow morning is RainCamp and we’re looking forward to the conference and friendship of the day.

Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR

We Modified Our Website Now We Are Getting 404s

We recently converted our blogging platform to WordPress. We did a custom template self-hosted version in order to have it match our primary website in basic design and look.  At some point, we will move the entire website onto the WordPress platform but that’s down the line and the subject of another blog.

We Modified Our Website Now We Are Getting 404s

Licensed from iStockPhoto

We left the original blog online for a while as we moved some of the older posts onto WordPress. When we were done, we deleted the old blog files. All appeared well.

A few days later we were checking our domain in Google’s Webmaster Tools and noted we were getting lots of 404 errors on the old blog posts.  A 404 error tells the world that the “requested page was not found” on the server. Apparently we had developed back-links to the old blog site and Google had indexed many of our blog entries.  We were a bit concerned about all the 404s impacting our ranking on Google and were desperately looking for an answer.

Disclaimer: the rest of this is technical in nature.

We’re running an Apache Server and the answer was both easy and elegant.  In the root directory of an Apache Server is a file named, “.htaccess” and this file can be a powerful tool. Our old blog was in the /blog subdirectory and the new blog was in the /wordpress subdirectory.  We wanted any URL calling a file in the /blog subdirectory to be sent to /wordpress/index.php. 

For example:


Should be redirected to:


We downloaded the existing .htaccess file to my PC, opened it in notepad, and added the following:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^blog/.*$ /wordpress/ [R=301]

Basically, the code tells the server to take any requests for files in /blog/, redirect them to /wordpress/, and report it as a 301 (moved permanently) rather than a 404 (file not found)

We saved the file and uploaded it back to our server. Problem solved!

Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR