In addition to working in technology, I enjoy observing trends and watching up-and-coming technologies. Blockchain is one of those new technologies that I’ve been watching closely over the last couple of years. General, as well as my interest in blockchain has risen due to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. While I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies (a rant I’ll post some other time), I am fascinated and keenly interested in blockchain. So much so that I felt it was worth the effort to read a book on the subject, which led me to The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology by William Mougayar.
A lot of people mistakenly think that blockchain is just another name for cryptocurrency. In reality, crytpocurrencies are just one application that is made possible because of blockchain technology. Blockchain enables cryptocurrencies. So if I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies, why am I interested in blockchain?
I have a love-hate relationship with the Amazon recommendation engine. There are times when I get email recommendations that leave me scratching my head, saying “What the…?” And then there are other times when I feel like it knows me better than I do.
For example, I love the short story genre and feel it is underrepresented in books these days. It feels like so many authors and publishers are focused on prolonged series. Now it could be my ADHD speaking, but there’s something to be said for a captivating short story. So when I got an email from Amazon saying they created a new short story series focused on science fiction by the genre’s up and coming authors, called Forward, I was intrigued.
Favorite genre? Check.
Favorite authors? Check.
Short stories? Check.
Available to Prime members for free (via borrowing)? Double check.
Count me in. Since Blake Crouch has become one of my favorite authors as of late, I decided I would start with his contribution to the series, Summer Frost.
I’ve written about this before, but I’m always amazed at how deep you can go into any one genre or subject when reading. Here’s a case in point. I like to read personal improvement books, especially those that help me set priorities, get things done, and, on the whole, manage myself better. I’d have to go pretty far back to find the first book I read on the topic, but the genre only seems to get deeper and wider the more books I read in it. Whether it’s exploring other books by the same author, references to other books embedded in the ones I’m reading, recommendations by friends, families, or blogs I follow, or my ultimate nemesis, the Amazon recommendation engine, the quantity of books that I can read on the subject never ends.
It should be no surprise then that I happened upon The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch. I added the book to my reading list after I saw it referenced in Ninja Selling by Larry Kendall. I’ve found that when a book you really like makes reference to other books, you generally can’t go wrong reading them.
My favorite reading genre is science fiction. I especially like the stories that use current technology as the basis for the plot, or build off current technology trends. Stories based on hard science fiction both engage and captivate my imagination. Zero Hour by Eamon Ambrose fits into that category.
Zero Hour is a post apocalyptic glimpse into the future. It examines the consequences of an artificial general intelligence that goes into a runaway improvement state, meaning it becomes smarter at a faster and faster rate. It’s a condition often referred to as the technical singularity – the point at which machines become smarter than humans.
As part of my reading, I like coming back to my favorite authors, of which A.G. Riddle is one. I’ve read and enjoyed his trilogy The Origin Mystery and his stand-alone novel Departure. Both were well written, action-packed, and contained enough near-term, hard science fiction concepts to keep my imagination engaged. Pandemic was the next A.G. Riddle work to make its way onto my reading list.
Computers perform a lot of tasks that we used to do manually and continue to take over more of the things we do every day. We use computers to perform basic arithmetic operations for us. They check and even auto-correct our spelling mistakes (not always as intended). Google reads maps for us, gives us directions, and even tells us when we’ll arrive based on traffic conditions. Computers can fly planes. They can drive cars. They can even perform many simple, and even some complex medical operations.
In the book The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us, Nicholas Carr examines the role computers play in our lives and asks an important question: What are the impacts and consequences of the growing levels of automation on our behaviors, learning, and overall development as humans?
I started playing golf when I was in high school. For years, I believed the key to going low was having the perfect swing, mastering different shots, and practicing endlessly. I spent time at the driving range pounding balls just because, on the putting green batting balls around aimlessly, and even around the pitching green thinking it might help. I watched the golf channel and read Golf magazine to pick up tips to perfect my swing. On the course, I’d focus on keeping my head down, eye on the ball, left arm straight, and all that jazz. What did I have to show for my efforts?
OK. Maybe that’s being a little dramatic. It probably helped some, but even after all that time and effort, I still struggled to consistently break 100. On a good day, I might break 90. I didn’t make major improvements in my game until I realized it wasn’t the physical part of the game that was holding me back. It was the mental side. As the great Arnold Palmer once said, “Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears.”
So if this is indeed the case, and who am I to argue with Arnie, what does one do? Well, if you’re like me, you search out material (i.e. books) to help you study and learn how to control and improve your mental approach to the game. It’s one of the reasons why I decided to read Mind Over Golf by Dr. Richard Coop. The book was mentioned in Maxwell Maltz’s classic work Psycho-Cybernetics, which is a personal favorite of mine, as a great way to improve your mental approach to the game, as well as life in general. With a recommendation that strong, I had to add it to my reading list.
I don’t read much historical fiction. When a friend highly recommended the book Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, I’ll confess that I was a little hesitant to add it to my reading list. Since my friend was so enthusiastic about the book, I figured it was worth giving it a shot. It took me a couple of years to finally getting around to reading it, and I’m very glad that I did.
Orphan Train is based on Kline’s historical research into trains that carried orphans from major East Coast cities into the Midwestern states during later 1800’s and early 1900’s. According to Kline’s portrayal in the book, many of the orphans did not want to leave, were transported against their will, and were apprehensive and afraid about what would happen to them. At first, I found it hard to believe that such a thing would and could exist, but it’s true. If you do a Google search on the topic, you’ll find many websites dedicated to preserving their history, as well as an informative overview article that you can read on Wikipedia by clicking here.
How would you respond if someone asked you what you believe in? What if they asked you why you believe it? If they questioned your answers, how far would you be willing to go to defend your beliefs? Would you give up your freedom? If you were persecuted, tortured, or sentenced to death, would you maintain or abandon your faith?
These are the questions that author Shusaku Endo explores in Silence. He portrays the lives of two Portuguese Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in the 17th century during the height of Japan’s persecution of Christians. They go there in search of their former mentor, who they fear has apostacized, or renounced his belief in the Christian faith.
One of my reading genres is leadership and management books. I like to pick up one of these books occasionally to stay current. There’s a good chance I’ll also learn a thing or two along the way.
There are a lot of generic books on management out there, but not a lot focused on technical management. And when it comes to software engineering, the number get even smaller. Therefore, when Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager by Michael Lopp showed up in an Amazon email, I had to add it to my reading list. I was looking forward to the insight given the amount of experience Lopp has leading technical teams at Silicon Valley companies such as Borland, Apple, Pinterest, Netscape, and Slack.