Book review: Pandora’s Star

Book cover for Pandora's Star by Peter Hamilton

Projecting technology ten years into the future is a challenging task. Just look back over the last 10 years. The advances in phones, tablets, electric vehicles, home networking, machine learning, and medicine have been amazing. As a wise person once told me, we over estimate how technology will advance over the next year, but we under estimate the advances 10 years in the future.

So imagine projecting technology advances hundreds of years into the future. Impossible, you say? Well, Peter Hamilton takes a shot at in Pandora’s Star, the first book of the Commonwealth Saga.

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PC upgrade: The 2020 edition

Fractal Node 202 mini-ITX PC

I like building my own computers. Why do I do it?

I enjoy customizing my computer, setting the specs, and selecting the parts. More importantly, I like understanding what’s going on under the hood. If something goes wrong with the machine, there’s a better chance that I’ll be able to fix it.

I built my first PC in 2005. It worked well and lasted over 8 years. In fact, had it not been for Microsoft ending support for Windows XP, I probably would have kept the machine a few years longer. You can see the parts list for that first machine along with that of its replacement by clicking here.

I’ve built several computers since then, both for myself and family members. I doubt that I will ever go back to buying an off-the-shelf desktop PC again.

My latest build is a compact PC in a mini-ITX form factor, which is what I’ve used for my last few builds. Unlike in the past, you don’t have to compromise on performance when building a machine with a small footprint. To see just how far things have come, here’s a rundown of the new machine and a comparison to the one it replaced.

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Book review: Building a Story Brand

Book cover for Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

I’d been vaguely aware that the ability to tell a good story was important to building your business. People like to be entertained. People can relate to stories.

What I didn’t understand was how to tell a good story. In the past, when I’ve tried to tell a story about my business, it fell flat. It was a meandering tale that I had a hard time condensing into a narrative that would capture someone’s attention. Basically, my stories lacked structure.

It turns out there is a formula that good books and movies use to tell a story. I had no clear concept of this formula until a close friend suggested I read Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. In his book, Miller walks you through the formula that writers use to capture and keep their audience’s attention. As he does so, he shows you how you can apply it to create a strong brand message and grow your business.

So how do you tell a good story, why does the ability to tell a good story matter, and how does it help you grow your business?

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San Francisco: Coffee

Inevitably, whether for business or pleasure, I end up visiting the city of San Francisco at least 2-3 times a year. While I’m not the biggest fan of Northern California, I love the city. The sites, the history, the restaurants, the hiking – it has it all.

Like most big cities, San Franciscans take their coffee seriously, which I appreciate and enjoy. I’m always adding a place or two to my rotation of favorite coffee shops when I’m in town.

This past visit was no exception. I found two more places that are sure to be regulars in my San Francisco coffee rotation.

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Tales from the Test Kitchen: Baking vs Cooking

I enjoy tinkering and experimenting in the kitchen. Some of it is driven by my desire to maintain family recipes for apple pie and pierogies. Most if it is a desire to find ways to improve upon some of my favorite foods such as chocolate chips cookies, guacamole, and pasta. I also like to help Lisa cook a new dish for dinner every now and then, although it’s been a lot more ‘then’ than ‘now’ as of late.

When I tell people about my hobby, they tell me that I must like to cook. When I tell them I prefer baking, the typical response is, “aren’t they the same thing?”

While it might seem that way, they are two totally different things. Allow me to explain.

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A lesson in marketing from a common kitchen utensil

Zulay kitchen bench scraper

I’ve recently become captivated by the process of baking my own bread. My kitchen is well-equipped, but not necessarily for making bread. After watching a few instructional bread baking videos on YouTube, I realized that I was missing a very basic but important tool for handling bread dough – a bench scraper.

The bench scraper is a flat, wide, stainless steel blade with a handle on one of the wider sides. In the world of kitchen utensils, it’s a commodity. There’s really nothing special about it. There isn’t a whole lot of differentiation. Therefore, I expected price would be the primary factor in my purchase selection.

Off I ventured onto Amazon in search of a ‘kitchen bench scraper.’ Of course, I was inundated with dozens and dozens of results. And as you would expect for a commodity item, the prices were pretty similar. They were almost all grouped around $10, plus-or-minus a couple of bucks. So how to pick one?

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Book review: The Big Leap

Book cover for The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Life is full of ups and downs. It seems like a fundamental law of life. When things are going well, something bad happens. And when things aren’t, they can’t get any worse. They can only get better, right?

What if there was a way to break this law? Would it be possible for one to experience an abundance of good things in life? Is it possible that we are at the root cause of the valleys in life because we don’t know how to handle or are afraid of achieving ever higher levels of success?

In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks explores how we define the limits of our success. He examines the actions and tricks our minds play to keep us in our comfort zone, or ‘Our Zone of Excellence’ as he likes to call it. Above all, he proposes that we are capable of enjoying ever increasing levels of success and love in our life. He shows how we can make the big leap into our ‘Zone of Genius.’

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Lessons from the Test Kitchen: The Kitchen Scale

kitchen scale

There are lots of tools and techniques you can use to get more consistent results from your baking or cooking. One of the easiest is to use a kitchen scale.

In the past, kitchen scales were rarely used by amateur cooks and hobbyists. The main reasons were convenience and cost. Older kitchen scales were bulky, took up a lot of shelf and counter space, and did not always provide accurate measurements. For those that looked good and worked well, the cost was prohibitive.

Well, times have changed. Today’s kitchen scales are compact, easy to use, highly accurate, and economical. As with most everything else these days, they have been transformed by the digital age, and they are easy to get. A search on Amazon for ‘kitchen scale’ yields dozens of results, with most available for less than $20.

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Book review: Recursion

Book cover for Recursion by Blake Crouch

If you’ve spent anytime on my blog, you know that I am a fan of Blake Crouch. Wayward Pines, Dark Matter, Summer Frost, Abandon. I’ve liked them all. He is one of my favorite science fiction writers of this generation.

His latest work, Recursion, has been on my reading list since it came out last year. I was determined to get it to this year, but it was a ways down the list. When my oldest daughter told me she finished reading it, I decided it was time to move it up in the queue. And when my middle daughter said she wanted to read it too, well, that sealed it. I moved Recursion to the top of the heap.

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Off to new adventures

Lisa, Courtney and Gregg Borodaty

To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach them to soar on their own.

It’s a saying I first heard last year at Brad’s wedding. His wife’s father spoke those words to everyone at the reception pointing out that while he was sad to see his daughter go, he was happy for her because she was not his to keep.

Those words stuck with me, and they’ve been ringing in my head over the past few weeks as our third child prepared to head north to start her new job. While I’d love to keep her with us at home (along with her older sister and brother), it’s not the right thing to do. We spend years working with our kids so they can venture out of the nest to live on their own. While it’s hard to let them go, when they leave it means we’ve done our job.

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