Book review: The Wizard and the Prophet

Book cover for The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann

To shape the future, one must study history. How we got here. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann is one such history lesson worth studying. The book chronicles the lives of two men whom you have likely never heard of that played a very influential part in shaping the trajectory of modern society around the world.

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Rise of the Machines

Photo by Xu Haiwei on Unsplash -

The hype around AI (artificial intelligence) is off the charts. People are not only talking about it but actively using AI-driven tools like ChatGPT. The big tech companies – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, NVidia, et al – are making huge investments in it.

In my lifetime, I’ve lived through what I would consider to be three major technology shifts – the transition to PCs, the emergence of the internet, and the shift to mobile phones or, more generally, mobile computing. With AI, it would appear that we are on the verge of the next major technology shift. In fact, one could convincingly argue that it’s already well underway.

While there are valid reasons to be concerned about the development of AI and calls to pause its development, there’s also plenty of opportunities, which is the focus of this post.

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Book review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Book cover for Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

There are books on my reading list that have languished there for years. I’ve been trying to do a better job prioritizing these older books over the latest, shiny new object. However, there are times when a book looks to good to bury on my list. I don’t do it as often as I used to, but I add those books and put them at or near the top of the list. Usually, the book is either highly recommended by friends, by an author I like, or getting really good reviews.

Such was the case with Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. I kept seeing the book near the top of the charts on Goodreads, and it was continually appearing in my Amazon recommendations. Plus, it was a little outside the types of books I normally read, and I figured it would be worth stretching my boundaries a bit.

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Why doing the hard things matter

I can still remember the day my oldest daughter asked me why she should take calculus in high school. When she said she wasn’t going to need it in college or for her job, I didn’t have a good answer. Sure, I used high school calculus to get my engineering degree, but that’s the last time I remember doing a derivative, integral, or derivative matrix.

Since I didn’t have a good answer, she ended up skipping math her senior year. I couldn’t come up with a good answer for my other kids as they went through high school either, although they ended up taking math through their senior year. I suppose they gave in to peer pressure.

To be honest, I’ve always wondered why I was required (i.e forced) to take certain classes in high school and college. Why does an electrical engineer need to know Chemistry, Thermodynamics, and Materials Science?

It wasn’t until I came across this post by Nat Eliason, Proof You Can Do Hard Things, that the answer became obvious. It’s too bad I hadn’t realized it years ago.

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Book review: The Wandering Earth

Book cover for The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu

Between the books on my usual reading list, I like to include short stories. I find it a good way to experience new authors to see if I may be interested in exploring their longer form works. Short stories can also be an interesting format. Writers have a limited amount of space to explore an idea, expand a plot, and develop characters. I like seeing how an author creatively utilizes the short story form.

For my latest short story reading, I choose The Wandering Earth. Rather than a single story, it is a collection ten short stories by science fiction author Cixin Liu.

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Meditation and faith

I began meditating regularly around the beginning of 2019. It’s hard to believe that I’ve kept at it for over four years. I’ve written about my meditation experience in the past, which you can read about it in these prior posts if you’re interested:

Just because I’ve meditated for four years doesn’t make me an expert on the subject, nor do I profess to be one. However, I have learned a lot through the practice, both about myself, and the connection between meditation and faith.

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Book review: The Humans

Book cover for The Humans: A Novel by Matt Haig

If an extra-terrestrial being were to arrive on our planet, what would they think of humans? What would be their reaction to what we eat, what we drink, what we wear, the music we listen to, the concept of love, and how we interact with our pets? Would they embrace the way we live, or would they be repulsed by it.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, and one that author Matt Haig explores in his book The Humans: A Novel.

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Golfing in Northern Michigan: Arcadia Bluffs, Forest Dunes, and more

Arcadia Bluffs Clubhouse

Brad and I like to do a golf trip every year. This year, we decided to go to Northern Michigan. It was going to be hard to surpass the experience of our last two trips – The Monterey Peninsula and Bandon Dunes. In fact, I’m not sure anywhere, outside of a trip to Scotland or Ireland, would compare to those locations, each of which I would highly recommend. Northern Michigan, on the other hand, wasn’t anywhere near the top of my list of golf destinations. In fact, it wasn’t even on my list. Needless to say, my expectations were pretty low.

For the trip, we did a little research, broke out Golf Digest’s list of top public golf courses, and did some asking around. We put together a list of courses that included Forest Dunes, Garland Lodge & Golf Resort, Grand Traverse Resort, and Arcadia Bluffs.

Before getting into the details, let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised.

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Book review: Across the Sand

Book cover for Across the Sand by Hugh Howy

Hugh Howey is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been a fan ever since I read Wool and the rest of the Silo Series. His works fit nicely into my favorite reading genre, science fiction, but that’s not what I like most about his books. I really enjoy the writing. More than anything, Hugh Howey is a storyteller. He has a knack for immersing you into whatever environment he’s created, connecting you with the characters and making you feel like you’re a part of the story.

It had been a few years since I read one of Howey’s books. If the notes on my blog are accurate, it would have been near the end of 2019 when I read Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue. I wasn’t avoiding him over this time, he just hadn’t released any new material. When Across the Sand appeared in one of my Amazon newsletter recommendations last year, I was beyond excited. I immediately added it to my reading list and made sure that it would be near the top of my list for 2023.

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My Volunteer Experience at the US Open

US Open sign on the hillside below the 4th tee at Los Angeles Country Club

The moment I heard that the USGA had chosen Los Angeles Country Club to host the Mens US Open Golf Championship, I knew I wanted to go. I just had to given how close I live to the course. I’d been to a major golf tournament venue before, but that was a practice round at the Masters back in 2018. It was an over-the-top experience, but I wanted to attend a major during the tournament rounds, and the US Open has been an event on my “to attend” bucket list.

When rumors started to swirl that the USGA would be limiting ticket sales to the tournament, I decided to sign-up as a volunteer. One of the perks of volunteering is that you get access to the grounds on both the days of your volunteer shifts and the days you’re off. Yes, I had to pay for the volunteer gear (which, by the way, is very nice), but it’s a small amount compared to what I would have paid for a ticket. In my mind, the cost of the gear and my time would be worth the experience.

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