Book review: The Glass Cage – How Our Computers Are Changing Us

Book cover for The Glass Cage by Nicholas CarrComputers 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?

Continue reading

Urban Hiking in San Francisco: The Steps

Gregg Borodaty at the Hidden Garden Steps Sign in San FranciscoOne of the best ways to explore a city, in my opinion, is to hit the pavement and walk around it. Even better if you’re able to discover interesting landmarks and do some sightseeing along the way. Fortunately, when you travel to San Francisco, there is no shortage of great walks around the city and the surrounding communities.

For this hike, we’re going to head out to the Sunset District / Golden Gate Heights area on the west side of the San Francisco peninsula. This is a relatively short hike of just over a mile where you will encounter two landmarks that are off the beaten path – the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps and Hidden Garden Steps. The steps are amazing feats of artistry with intricate tile work creating a beautiful mosaic from the bottom to the top of the stairways. In between the two stops, we’re going to climb up to the lookout in Grandview Park. It’s a bit of a climb to get to the top, but it’s worth it on a clear day. You’ll get a nearly 360-degree view that spans the San Francisco city skyline, San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate, Lands End, and the Pacific Ocean. Let’s get started.

Continue reading

Book review: Mind Over Golf

Mind Over Golf book coverI 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?

Nothing.

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.

Continue reading

Teaching a Teen to Drive – The Open Road

The Open Road Drive route in Google MapsAfter covering the introductory drives outlined in the first post of the series, the new driver should be comfortable behind the wheel, and you should be comfortable riding in the passenger seat and giving instructions. If all is going well, then you are ready to head out onto the open road.

For my first extended drive, I like to introduce the teen driver to a little bit of everything. We’ll drive on some straight, lightly traveled two lane roads; cover a busier road that requires varying speeds, changing lanes, and staying alert for odd situations; explore our first canyon; and spend time on the freeway.

Continue reading

Book review: Orphan Train

Book cover for Orphan Train by Christina Baker KlineI 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.

Continue reading

Teaching a Teen to Drive: The Introduction

This is the first in my series of drives I use to teach a new driver. The description and overview of the series can be read by clicking here.

When I’m teaching a teen to drive, the first drive is actually a series of drives. My goals at the beginning of this process are:

  • Go over the ground rules outlined in my first post to make sure we are on the same page
  • Allow the teen driver to get comfortable with setting up the car and the controls – adjusting the seat; adjusting mirrors; setting the steering wheel position; location of headlight controls, turn signals, hazards, parking brake operation
  • Make sure the teen driver knows location of brake and gas pedals – yes, it may seem basic, but remember this is their first time
  • Develop spatial awareness, meaning the teen driver knows the front of the car extends beyond what they can see and demonstrate the concept of blind spots by standing outside the car while the teen sits in the car using the mirrors

Once we’re good with the initial phase, then I move on to driving the car by first having the teen driver get comfortable using the gas and brake, especially understanding the pedal pressure required to move the car and stop it. I also go over the concept that an automatic drive car will start to move (when on a flat surface) as soon as you take your foot off the brake.

Continue reading

Book review: Silence

Book cover for Silence by Shusaku EndoHow 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.

Continue reading

Urban Hiking in San Francisco: Lands End

When someone mentions San Francisco, what comes to mind? I’m sure you think of The Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Tower, Alcatraz Island, and Chinatown. One item missing from that list that might surprise you is hiking.

I visited the city twice this past summer and was amazed at the number and quality of the hikes that are so easily accessible from right inside the city. I’m going to put together a few posts documenting the hikes starting with Lands End.

Panoramic image of The Golden Gate taken from Lands End Lookout Continue reading

Book review: Managing Humans – Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager

Book cover for Managin Humans by Michael LoppOne 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.

Continue reading

San Francisco restaurants

Golden Gate view from Land's EndWhen it comes to the restaurant scene, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities to visit and explore. There are so many excellent choices that it can be overwhelming.

I had the opportunity to visit the city twice during the summer of 2019. To avoid being overwhelmed, I did my research and selected my restaurant targets ahead of time. I stayed away from the popular tourist spots as much as possible and focused on the neighborhood scene. These are the hidden gems that won’t show up on a typical Yelp search for ‘Best restaurants in San Francisco.’ They also have more character and atmosphere, and they won’t break the bank provided you go easy on the drinks, wine, and dessert, which is easier said than done!

Here are the 10 best restaurants I ate at this summer in San Francisco. As an added bonus, I’ve also appended coffee and ice cream recommendations – two of my favorite food indulgences.

Continue reading