2020 – Year in review for the blog

2020 marked my eighth year of blogging. Through the end of last year, I’ve published 511 posts for an average of ~65 posts/year, which I’m happy with.

As I like to do at the start of each year, here’s a look back on the year that was and a look forward to goals for 2021. In the meantime, here are the links to past editions of the annual review:

Let’s dig in with a look at traffic.

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Book review: In Moments Like These

Book cover for In Moments Like These by Dr. David Jeremiah

I enjoyed reading the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young during 2019. It helped me grow stronger in my faith and relationship with Christ. I liked it so much that I wanted to continue reading a devotional during 2020, which turned out to be a good thing given all that’s happened over the past year.

I had noticed during 2019 that my mother was reading the devotional In Moments Like These by Dr. David Jeremiah. She liked it a lot. So much so, that when I told her I wanted to read another devotional in 2020, she bought me a copy. Therefore, my decision on a devotional for 2020 was an easy one.

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Books to read in 2021

Looking for books to read this year? Then, do I have a list of recommendations for you. As I’ve done in prior years, this year’s list is broken down into General Recommendations, Personal Development books, Business Reads, and a collection of what I like to call Fun Reads.

Since I did a better job this year of balancing my fiction and non-fiction titles, this year’s recommendations are strong mix of recreational and serious reads. Keep in mind that my tastes lean towards technology and science fiction, so most of the books on the list are from those genres.

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Book review: Change Agent

Book cover for Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

I read a lot of near-term, hard science fiction. Hard doesn’t mean difficult. Hard means that it’s a realistic view of how technology could evolve in the near future, which is any time within the next 50 years.

A consistent theme in these books revolves around artificial intelligence. Specifically, it’s the threat posed by a runaway, super-intelligent AI that would threaten humanity’s existence. While the stories are fiction, the threat is real. Numerous technologists have warned about it, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk.

Another technological threat that doesn’t get as much attention is genetic editing. The technology is more commonly referred to as CRISPR. In simple terms, CRISPR gene editing involves changing the genetic structure of a living organism, humans included. While there are numerous positive uses for genetic editing such as vaccine development, the technology can also be used for nefarious purposes.

In his book Change Agent, author Daniel Suarez explores a near-future where gene editing technologies such as CRISPR are readily available. It raises a myriad of ethical questions. Should people be able to select and determine the personalities and capabilities of their children? What happens when the genetic structure of a person is changed, especially if it happens without their permission or knowledge?

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Book review: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor – The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

Book cover for How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donal Robertson

Is it possible that philosophical and behavioral concepts practiced and taught over 2,000 years ago are still valid today?

Let’s consider a modern psychotherapy known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). CBT is a treatment that modern psychologists use to help those who struggle with depression and anxiety. Using CBT, people are taught techniques and approaches to change destructive behaviors and thought patterns that trigger negative emotions.

As it turns out, many of these techniques are not new. They stem from ancient philosophical teachings, primarily those of Stoicism. In his book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, psychotherapist and trainer Donald Robertson shows how the actions and practices of ancient Stoics, focusing primarily on Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, are fundamentally similar to the techniques taught through CBT.

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Five sourdough discard ideas

Jar of sourdough discard

One of the by-products of growing your own sourdough starter is discard. As any experienced bread baker will tell you, you’re going to end up with a lot of it. And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT of it. Since I don’t like throwing food away, I needed a plan for it, which is one of the top lessons I learned from growing a sourdough starter.

As it goes with just about anything, sourdough discard can be a problem or an opportunity. I like taking an optimistic approach to life, so I chose to treat my sourdough discard as an opportunity, an opportunity to practice my baking skills.

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The Contented Mind

Who doesn’t want to be happy? I suspect we all do.

All of us have a natural desire and tendency to want to be happy. Usually, our happiness is dependent on something. For example, how often do we say I’ll be happy when I have money, when I’m married, when I get that job, when I get a promotion, when I have a new car, when….

We are happy when our ‘when’ happens, but it doesn’t last. Happiness is temporal. It’s a point in time, an emotion. It comes. It goes. It’s not permanent.

Instead of wishing for happiness, we are better off choosing to be content. When we are content, we enable ourselves to experience happiness. As such, contentment is a precondition to being happy.

Contentment is not a point in time. It is an underlying condition that is present within everyone, at all times. Contentment means being at peace with yourself, your surroundings, your place in life. It is a state of mind that we can choose, or not choose, to be in.

If being content is a condition we can choose, how does one cultivate a contented mind?

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