Homemade – The best way to eat pasta

Homemade pasta - cooked and drainedA little over a year ago, I made the decision to curb my carb intake significantly. Yes, it was a choice. I was so influenced by the books Grain Brain and Wheat Belly that I decided it was best to cut out breads and grain-based products. It was tough for the first month or two. I like bread, and I missed it.

Fast forward a year later, and I’ve gotten over it. I don’t miss bread. I don’t miss grains either, with one exception. Pasta was one meal I just couldn’t give up. Spaghetti dinners are a staple around our house. With our homemade sauce, I just couldn’t let go. I had to find some way, any way, that I could rationalize and enjoy a good bowl of noodles drenched in marinara and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

How did I rationalize my decision to eat pasta? We make it ourselves. Granted, it’s still eating wheat, but I choose the ingredients.

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Book review: The Belial Stone

The Belial Stone by R.D. BradyThere were 25 books on my 2016 reading list. I was only able to get through 21 of them before the clock struck midnight on December 31st. The four remaining books were ones I had been very interested in reading, so I carried them over to 2017. The Belial Stone by R.D. Brady was one of those books. It was number 23 on my list from last year, and number 2 on my 2017 reading list.

I’ve been trying to document where I get my reading recommendations from so I can track the best sources. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a source marked for The Belial Stone. According to Amazon, I purchased it back in May, 2015. Since I have a hard time remembering what I did this morning, my best guess is that I found it through an Amazon source of some kind. It was either through their Daily Deals, the Sci-fi newsletter, or my ultimate nemesis – the Amazon recommendation engine.

In any case, I was looking forward to The Belial Stone when it rose to the top of my reading list. It checked many boxes of the types of books I like to read. It fit into the science fiction genre and was by an author I hadn’t read before. I really enjoy books that fit into the latter category. It’s fun discovering new authors, especially those who could become sources of additional book recommendations.

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Are We Living in a Democracy or Oligarchy?

The first presidential election that I voted in was 1992. George Bush was running for re-election against democratic challenger Bill Clinton and Texas businessman Ross Perot. Nearly 25 years later, our most recent election had another Clinton running for office. Within those 25 years, we’ve also had another Bush as president and yet another Bush who attempted his own presidential bid in 2016.

After thinking about it, it occurred to me that a Bush or Clinton has been involved in every presidential election since 1980 with the exception of 2012. They have either been the Republican or Democratic choice for president, been involved in the primaries, or been on the ticket as vice-president. Put another way, a Bush, a Clinton, or both has been a part of 9 of the past 10 presidential elections.

The prominence of these two families in American politics made me question, are we living in a democracy or an oligarchy?

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Book review: Rocket Fuel

Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman and Mark C. WintersWith a title like Rocket Fuel, you would think my latest read was an epic science fiction adventure. Turns out, it was a business read, but I knew that going in. The full title of Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters book is Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want From Your Business. Yes, it’s a mouthful. But it also provides an accurate description of the book.

I grabbed the book through an Amazon Daily Deal back in September 2015. The book was somewhere on my reading wish list, and Amazon had a deal on business books where they were literally giving it away. I snatched the book for no charge and added it into my 2016 reading list. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it to Book #22 last year, so Rocket Fuel rolled over to the top of my reading list for 2017.

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The Beard – Never Say Never

Gregg Borodaty and "The Beard"The internal conversation went a little like this:

January 2016 – “OK, so I wasn’t going to grow it again this year, but I did. This time let’s retire the beard for a few years, for real.”

October 2016 – “I guess I should grow it out again. This time I’ll start earlier and keep it trimmed much shorter.”

November 2016 – “Short is good, but I should let it grow out over the end of year holidays.”

December 2016 – “Letting it grow out wasn’t such a good idea. Let’s cut it back for the beginning of the new year.”

January 2017 – “I don’t know why I did this again. This time around, I’m serious about retiring it.”

So yeah, I was a little all over the place this year. The lead-in photo was the longest and thickest it got. That photo was taken around the end of 2016. To be honest, I’m not sure why I let it go, but I did. After that, I cut it back and wore the look below for the first two weeks of this year.

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Book review: The Slight Edge – Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success & Happiness

The Slight Edge by Jeff OlsonOur society has become obsessed with the overnight sensation. We are entranced by the performer who sings with perfection, the star athlete who makes all the right moves at the right time, and the businessman who comes out of nowhere to build a massively successful business. We focus on the outcome. We attribute them to being gifted with special talents. It makes one pause. Are successful people simply lucky, or is there a path or formula that anyone can follow in order to succeed?

While luck may play a role in one’s success, I’ve come to believe that there is more to it. For example, in order to take advantage of luck, one has to be ready and prepared when the opportunity presents itself. In many cases, a person creates their own luck. So what is it a person does to reach such high levels of achievement, success and happiness? The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success & Happiness by Jeff Olson sets out to provide answers to this question.

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My 2017 reading list

I just finished organizing my book wish list. It’s grown to nearly 180 books. if you look at my reading pace, around 25 books a year over the last three years, I have seven years worth of books in my queue. Given the pace at which I add books to my list, there are books I will never get to. Therefore, I have to have a system for creating and prioritizing my annual reading list.

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Book review: Half Way Home

Half Way Home by Hugh HoweyEvery project we do won’t be our best. We all have off days. Just look at professional athletes. Jordan Speith doesn’t win every golf tournament. Novak Djokivic doesn’t win every tennis match. Even someone as unstoppable as Serena Williams doesn’t win every major.

I’m a huge fan of Hugh Howey. I was introduced to his work through Wool, Shift and Dust (aka The Silo Series). I really enjoyed Sand, Beacon 23, and his short stories. One of my reading themes for the last year was to read more Hugh Howey. I was looking forward to Half Way Home when I saw it reach the top of my 2016 reading list.

Unfortunately, I walked away let down. Let me explain why.

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Books to read – the 2017 edition

After coming up woefully short of my reading goal of 36 books in 2015, I set a goal of 30 for last year. I managed to get in 25. It’s the same number I completed in 2015, and just shy of the 27 I read in 2014. Out of the 25 books I read last year, the good news is that 21 of them came from my 2016 reading list. It’s good sign that I managed to stay true to my plan for the year. I attribute it to having goals, reading themes, and trusted sources that I use to populate the list. I’m going to use the same process for my 2017 reading list, which I will be publishing in the next few days.

Even though the number of books read in 2016 were the same as 2015, it felt like 2016 was a more productive year for reading. I read quite a few good books. Here’s the best of the bunch that I would recommend you add to your reading list for the upcoming year. As in the past, I’ve broken the list into General Recommendations, Business Books, and Fun Reads.

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Book review: Upside Down Selling

Upside Down Selling by Ian AltmanI got a lot out of the book Same Side Selling by Jack Quarles and Ian Altman. It was one of my Must Reads in 2015 and one of my top business books to read for 2016. What I liked most about their approach was that, unlike most sales books, they don’t focus on driving the client to ‘yes’. They encourage you to examine your business model’s strengths and weaknesses, understand what customer problem(s) your solution or product solves, and identify your target clients. As I wrote back in July 2015, they don’t teach closing techniques:

Instead, they take a long-term view to the sales process and drive the delivery of value to the customer as the basis for a long-term relationship.

In other words, they propose an approach where the seller offers value by working together with the buyer to build a solution, or offer a product, that solves a buyer’s specific problem.

Given how much I liked the book, I decided to grab a copy of Altman’s Upside Down Selling.

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