Book review: Born to Run

Born To Run by Christopher McDougall coverI’m not a runner. My entire running career consists of my one and only 10K (which I completed in just under 50 minutes by the way). So it would seem odd that I would read a book about running.

On the other hand, friends are one of the recommendation sources for my reading list. In fact, out of all my sources, friends are my favorite, even more than my nemesis – the Amazon recommendation engine. The reason is pretty obvious. My friends and I share many of the same interests.

Therefore, it really isn’t much of a surprise that I ended up reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It was recommended to me by Steve Hudson, a good friend of mine who has been a good source of book recommendations. We’ve been sharing our experiences related to food, diet, and fitness. During one of our discussions, he suggested I read McDougall’s book.  While he’s more of a runner than I am, he still felt that I would enjoy it.

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What I Learned from Reading Food Labels

This is the third post of my personal experience with diet modification after reading books such as Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, Primal Body – Primal Mind, and It Starts with Food. The other posts are Food as Medicine and Weight, it’s all about food, which you can read here and here. As mentioned in a previous post, this post is not medical advice. It is simply my personal experience which you may (or may not) find interesting.

Ingredients label for salt & black pepper pistachiosAs part of my effort to eat healthier, cutting added sugars out of my diet was at the top of my priority list. Little did I know just how difficult this would be. I quickly learned that you had to be careful with anything processed, in a box, or sealed in a bag. When you buy something in that form factor, the question isn’t whether it has sugar. The question is how much.

Here’s just one recent example that shocked me. To change up my routine and add some spice to my pistachio habit, I wanted to give salt & black pepper pistachios a try. When I saw them at Costco, I couldn’t resist and grabbed a bag. Midway through my first serving, something seemed…, well, off. In addition to the pepper seasoning, I was detecting a bit of a sweetness. I didn’t think much of it, but decided to check the ingredients. Bingo! Sugar. Now granted, it was pretty far down the ingredient list, and it wasn’t a lot. But we’re talking about pistachios. Why is there any sugar added?

As it so happens, this is just one example of many.

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Book review: Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon HillAs part of my new routine, I’ve been reading “learning” books in the morning. Many of these books reference other books from where they’ve derived their ideas, or used their concepts as a foundation to build upon. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t add a book to my reading list unless it is mentioned in more than a couple of books. One book that consistently appeared in many of the self improvement books I’ve read recently is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Naturally, it made it to my reading list and moved quickly to the top given the number of mentions.

To say Think and Grow Rich is a classic is an understatement. It was first printed in 1937, and it’s still relevant 80 years later. That makes it more than a classic. It makes it a timeless treasure.

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Weight, it’s all about food

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist. I have no medical training, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. What am I about to share is my personal experience and the results I got when I adjusted my diet based upon the information that I gleaned from Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, Primal Body – Primal Mind, and It Starts with Food. With that out of the way, I would be curious if anyone who reads this has experienced similar results.

Weight scale and tape measureAt my last job, I did an extensive amount of travel. On average, I spent about 2 weeks out of every month on the road. What you don’t notice when you travel that much is how you slowly start packing on the pounds. Sitting on airplanes, the lack of exercise, and the regular eating out does not lend itself to maintaining a healthy weight.

I did my best to stay active and eat properly while I was at home and not on the road. Still yet, I peaked at 180 pounds, which was well above what I consider my fighting weight of 160. After I left the job, I decided I would make an effort to lose the 20 or so pounds that had somehow deposited itself on my body.

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Book review: The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoAn amazing thing happens when you start reading positive, inspirational, motivational readings and books. The infamous Amazon recommendation engine kicks in and starts recommending more. It should be no surprise then that an inspirational classic showed up in one of my Amazon recommendation emails – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I added it to my reading list at some point during the first half of 2016 and decided to make it a priority for 2017.

I enjoyed the story in the book, but that’s not its focus. The primary point is about following your dreams, or your “Personal Legend” as Coelho calls it. I found this post on Paulo Coelho’s blog which is an excellent summary of the 10 Powerful Life Lessons in the book, but here are the top three which I took away from it.

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Food as medicine

High resolution photo from Cecilia Parr via unsplash.comA couple of years ago, I became interested in the link between food and health. What really set me off was when I noticed how much sugar went into everyday foods. For example, I was completely caught off guard when I realized that there were 20g of added sugar in a jar of tomato sauce, per serving! It really got me thinking about what the industrialization of food has done to our diets.

Around that same time, I met someone during a technology meetup at my office. Somehow, the conversation turned to food, and we both lamented over the effects that processed food has over our body. He made a great comment, or observation if you will, when he said that we should treat “food as medicine”. His comment really hit home and got me thinking about our relationship with food.

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Book review: Elon Musk – Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee VanceBack in early 2015, I watched the documentary series, “The Men Who Built America”. It was inspiring to watch how industrialists such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford transformed America during the late 19th and early 20th century. While it can be debated how much came at the expense of the lower and middle classes, the fact remains that their ideas and the businesses they created had a profound impact felt around the world.

On the whole, I am rather disappointed with the innovation in our current generation. Too much energy and money is spent chasing the latest “quick buck” ideas rather than exceptional breakthroughs. Fortunately, there are two clear exceptions in my opinion – Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

I enjoy following and learning about how they have pursued their passions and built companies around their visions. One of my favorite books from 2015 was “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone. It was a fascinating tale of how Jeff Bezos conceived and built Amazon. When I saw that a similar book had been written about Elon Musk, I knew I had to read it.

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Hiking La Jolla Canyon – The Backbone Trail

La Jolla Canyon - Backbone Trail LookoutFor Father’s Day, I wanted to do something family oriented that was more than just going out to eat. Since all of us more or less enjoy the outdoors, I thought a hike would be something fun that we would all enjoy. We’ve done family hikes before, both the Tree of Life Trail and Hollyridge Trail in the Hollywood Hills.

I had always wanted to do a hike in Malibu overlooking the beach. Brad suggested the La Jolla Canyon Trail, which he had done before. As it turns out, we actually hiked the Backbone Trail. Even though it wasn’t the trail we thought we were on, it was still an excellent hike. I would categorize it as a hike of moderate difficulty with a significant change in elevation. It wasn’t as challenging as the Tree of Life, but it was definitely more challenging than the Hollyridge Trail.

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Book review: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. CoveyAfter reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson last year, I decided to make a change in my reading habits this year. Instead of reading one book at a time, I decided to read two books at once. I split my reading list into two pieces – learning books and recreational books. I decided to read the recreational books at night and the learning books in the morning. As Olson said in The Slight Edge, if you read about 10 pages/day from a learning book, you’ll finish it in a month. It went well with Psycho-Cybernetics, so I decided to continue the morning reading with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

To be honest, I’m not sure how or why I hadn’t read 7 Habits already. I’d heard about it and had it recommended to me numerous times, but I never got around to reading it. I finally decided it was time to push it toward the top of my reading list after seeing this post on the Learning A Day blog that I follow. The blog’s author, Rohan, wrote in that post that 7 Habits was the one book that had deepest impact on how he approached life. With a recommendation like that, I wanted to read it to see if it would be just as inspirational for me.

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UCSB ECE189 Capstone Senior Project Day – 2017

Last week, I once again got the opportunity to be a judge for the UCSB ECE189 Capstone project presentations. It’s the fifth year that I’ve been a judge, and it never gets old. The projects are different every year, and the complexity and quality of the projects improves every year. The improvements do not happen by accident or chance. Professor Dr. John Johnson does a great job taking lessons learned from the previous year(s) and incorporating them into the current crop of projects. Bottom line, the quality of this year’s projects is a direct reflection of the effort put into the Capstone projects by Dr. Johnson and his students over the last five years.

This year, six projects were presented. Three were multi-disciplinary projects where multiple departments within the UCSB College of Engineering collaborated. The remaining three projects were contained within the ECE Department and followed the more traditional Capstone project approach.

Here is this year’s synopsis of the projects, the best project winners, and my general thoughts on the class.

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