Search Results for: books 2020

Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2020

Here are some of my favorites books read in 2020, in no particular order.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Derek Sivers has a great summary of that book. I’ve read the book around the same time when I finished watching The Good Place (which I loved!). Both the book and the series touch on topics I catch myself thinking about often.

The Phoenix Project / The Unicorn Project

I enjoyed both books a lot. I like the novel approach (inspired by The Goal, which is another book I like).

Badass: Making Users Awesome

I absolutely loved this book!! Watch this 2-minute long video. I’ve enjoyed this book so much that it’s one of the books I have on my list to re-read this year.

Total Recall / Losing My Virginity

Those are the autobiographies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Branson, respectively. Two remarkable individuals.

Hell Yeah or No / Your Music and People

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed I mention Derek Sivers quite often. I’ve been following his writings for several years and will continue to do so; he keeps putting out great stuff in a very simple, distilled manner.

The Obstacle is the Way

I’ve been hearing and reading people talk about stoicism a lot over the years, but never really sat down to look more into it, until last year. I’ve enjoyed The Obstacle is the Way, and even gifted a copy to a friend, with page markers on passages that I believe can help him accomplish the dream he’s chasing.

Image by Linus Schütz

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Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2022

Here are my favorites books read in 2022, in no particular order.

A Complaint Free World

In 2022, Improving has started a company-wide initiative called Come Together to “bring Improvers closer, no matter the distance.” Each month had a theme; for instance, January was wellbeing), and April was spirituality. For the latter, one Improver decided to extend the experience by running a book club, and the book chosen was Will Bowen’s A Complaint Free World. That book had been on my radar for a while, so I was glad to join the club.

The book has made me rethink some things:

  • Criticism and sarcasm? Both are a form of complaint.
  • Venting out frustrations? Not a great thing to do.
  • Yelling at an automated voice system? Not great, either, bud.

I took lots of notes and will likely condense some of them into a blog post. For now, here’s one of my favorite quotes on the book:

The squeaky wheel may get the grease. But if it squeaks too much, it ends up getting replaced.

The Untethered Soul

As we wrapped up the book club on A Complaint Free World, the group enjoyed it so much we decided we wanted to run another club on a similar group. After tossing some ideas around, we’ve landed on Michael A. Singer’s The Untethered Soul.

Easy read. I finished it quickly. We’re taking it easy with the book club, having the meetings without rushing it.

I’m glad we’ve picked up this book after the previous one, as it helped me look at similar ideas through different perspectives.

Chapter 12, Taking down the walls, is my absolute favorite. I could see that chapter turned into a movie. Or at least that’s how effective the author was at making me visualize what his words describe.

I wish I could draw that visualization. Since I can’t, I’ll drop an image here to remind me of it.

Atomic Habits

I started reading James Clear’s blog posts a few years before Atomic Habits was published. Some of his posts on identity building and related topics resonated with me, I followed some of his tips, and it made a difference. I read the book as soon as it came out, and it was a great refresher for the content I had already consumed. I either gifted or recommended the book to many people, and a good number of them came back to say they loved it.

Then, a group of Improvers showed interest in reading the book. What do we do then? Book club!

This was one of my favorite book clubs. We had a nicely-sized group, with folks joining from many of our offices.

It was great to hear about the habits different people were trying to either stop or start, their challenges, and also see some us getting teaming up as accountability partners.

Going through the book again while discussing it with such an engaged group of people was absolutely great.

And as it has become a tradition: we’ve wrapped up the club with many of us giving lightning talks to share our main takeaways, offered to another group of Improvers who were interested in hearing it.

Telling you, Improvers are a different breed. It’s part of our culture.

How to Live

How to Live was one of my favorite books in 2021:

It has been only 2 months or so since I’ve read the book, and I’m planning on reading it again very soon

And I did. I started on January 1st.

The 2nd time through was even better. I highlighted different passages, wrote down new notes on old passages, pondered more.

I’ll drop here two of my favorite passages.

On Learning

Teaching and learning are telepathy.
We can connect across oceans and centuries.
Words written by someone long ago and far away can penetrate your mind.
Share what you learn so it can be received by others, even when you are long gone.

On Making Memories

To enjoy your past is to live twice.
Nostalgia is memories minus the pain.
Turn your experiences into stories.

Last year I’ve also run into this great interview with Derek, in which at some point he talks about How to Live. I enjoyed listening because he helped me visualize some points I had missed when I read the book.

Anything You Want

Another re-read. Another one by Derek Sivers. I got an email letting me know the 3rd edition of Anything You Want – 40 lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur was out. I remember I enjoyed reading the 1st edition several years ago, so I figured it was a good time to revisit it. Also, I love Derek’s writing style and approach to book publishing, so I support him and hope he keeps putting out great content.

This book is a very quick read, filled with great gems. Here’s a couple of my favorites:

Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people.

And this one:

Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.

How to Write One Song

Up until I’ve read this book, I don’t think the following words had ever come out of my mouth: “I’m a songwriter”, despite having written many songs.

An Improver mentioned this book to me and I decided to check it out. As I read through it, I thought “hey, I’ve been doing most of those things for years!” So there, I am a songwriter!

Reading the book and trying out some of the techniques was a fun. A few lyrics for my most recent song, “From a Distance”, came out of that.

Since many Improvers ask me about my songwriting process, I created and taught a 3-hour class last year to teach them, focusing on writing lyrics, with some of the activities borrowed from this book. That was a ton of fun! One of the attendees took on the challenge and wrote his own lyrics for “From a Distance“, and we’ll be co-creating a Part 2 for that class, to share with others the lessons we both learned: him writing his first lyrics, and me getting to see my own creation interpreted and heard through a different perspective.

How to be Perfect

I got a little bit obsessed about the TV Series The Good Place. To this date, I watched its 4 seasons 3 times!

A comedy show that talks about philosophy? Does that work? Well, that one worked for me. And its series finale is my favorite one to date.

When I heard that the show’s creator, Michael Schur, was publishing a book to talk what he learned about philosophy and how he used it in the show, I knew I had to read it. I did, and enjoyed it.

My favorite part about the book is the author’s take on happiness and flourishing:

I prefer “flourishing,” because that feels like a bigger deal than “happiness.” We’re talking about the ultimate objective for humans here, and a flourishing person sounds like she’s more fulfilled, complete, and impressive than a “happy” person. There are many times when I’m happy, but I don’t feel like I’m flourishing, really.

Here’s Michael Schur’s “How Ethics Can Help You Make Better Decisions” TED Talk, where he goes over what triggered him to look into philosophy and eventually creating a TV show about it. Fascinating how we can turn our experiences around and make great things out of it.

Specification by Example

This book have been on my radar for a long time. I recommend it to anybody interested in Behavior-Driven Development, Given-When-Then (aka, Gherkin), and related practices.

The Design of Everyday Things

The book Badass: Making Users Awesome was among my favorites both in 2020 and 2021. Lessons learned from the book and applied to my work even inspired me to create a new “UX for Devs” type of talk (here’s a link to a recent presentation).

That book had also recommended several other books, and I decided to pick one of them next: The Design of Everyday Things. And guess what we did at Improving? Yup, book club!

Great attendance and great mix: half of the attendees were developers (including two devs from my own team), and the other half were UX designers. This mix was perfect for different perspectives and experiences to be shared. Having some of my teammates participate was also excellent, as we got to practice lessons learned together, building a common vocabulary, and sharing with the rest of our team.

I took a ton of notes on this one and keep going back to them to further refine my thoughts on what I learned.

Denny Kruep, one of my teammates who participated in the book club, will be presenting lessons learned from his perspective: Improving Software Design with Everyday Things. This is a free virtual talk happening January 18th, at 12pm CSTClick here to register and know more.

The Inner Game of Tennis

This is a great book, not just for those who play tennis; its lessons are valuable to anybody who wants to learn anything, and also to those who enjoy teaching others.

I’ve been playing tennis once a week for a couple of years now, as well as riding my motorcycle at the track almost every weekend. I’m applying lessons I’ve learned from this book to both sports and seeing good results. It’s also making me rethink how I normally teach and coach others, not just in sports, but on anything, really.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

I’d guess a lot of people do and a lot people don’t pick up this book because of its title. I’m not generally offended by language used like that, so I had to pick up this book after getting a good number of recommendations for it.

In nutshell: this book is about deciding what to care about. That simple.

And I like the humor.

Here’s a good video summary by the author himself. Disclaimer: Mark Mason does drop F-bombs.

Working Effective with Legacy Code

I’ve read this book when it first came out and have been recommending it to several developers over the years. I felt a need to read the book again and decide whether I should keep recommending it. Short answer: yes.

And how did I do it? You guessed it right: book club!

The book has aged well for the most part, which speaks a lot to a programming book published so long ago.

Many lessons have stuck with me after all these years and I still apply the techniques almost on a daily basis. Some had been internalized so deeply I forgot I had picked up from this book.

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Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2021

Here are some of my favorites books read in 2021, in no particular order.

Unshakable

I had been planning to review my approach to personal finances and this book helped me quite a bit with that, validating some of the things I’ve been doing for decades, as well as teaching me things I had no clue about and making act on it.

The Art of Mentoring

This was a re-read. I’ve first read this book in 2004 and decided to pick it up again. I’ve enjoyed it as much as the first time through. I really like books that teaches things as a novel (some of my favorites include The Goal, The Phoenix Project, The Unicorn Project).

The Artist’s Way

This book was first recommended to me back in 2016. For years, I kept seeing it recommended by many people whose opinion I value. I finally decided to pick it up and read it, and I’m glad I did it. I’ve gotten a lot out of it, as it helped me improve my journalling, finish lyrics for new original songs, practice my creativity in many aspects, organize and add more clarity to my thoughts, validate my thoughts about hobbies, just to name a few things. It’s the kind of book from which the lessons learn will stick around with me for a long, long time.

The Pragmatic Programmer

I remember reading the first edition of The Pragmatic Programmer in the mid 2000s. I thoroughly enjoyed reading its 20th Anniversary edition with other Improvers in a book club. It was great seeing how many things I’ve learned from that book have stuck with me after all these years. I’m yet to create my “must-read list” for software developers, but this book is very likely to be included.

How to Lead when you’re Not in Charge

This was a book that I had to work hard to read through the author’s style and get what I needed out of the content. While the book was “ok”, it inspired me to write one of my favorite posts last year, as well as it made the core message stuck in my mind: “lead through influence, not through authority”.

Yes, And

After taking classes on Improv and leading some Improv sessions at Improving (I’ve talked about some of those experiences), it was great to have a book club dedicated to this book.

How to Live

One of my favorite books in 2020 was Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, which I heard about through Derek Sivers (the author of two of my favorite books in 2020!). In 2021 he published his own book inspired by the style he learned from “Sum”, and it’s such a great book. When Derek asked his readers to write a review, this is what I sent him:

As I was reading this book, I kept highlighting sentences and paragraphs on it. At times, I noticed I highlighted almost entire chapters! Besides writing my own notes on the pages.

Derek’s skills to boil important thoughts down into something that grabs my attention is insane. It has been only 2 months or so since I’ve read the book, and I’m planning on reading it again very soon, setting aside time for self-reflection.

The year isn’t over yet, but this is already among my favorite books in 2021!

Now that 2021 is over, I can confirm this was one of my favorite books, and I have started reading it again pretty much on January 1st.

Implementing Domain-Driven Design

This one was also part of a book club at Improving. This is a dense book, and it took us 4 months to go through it. The group decided to revisit certain chapters, add meetings after we were done discuss some topics again, and we closed it with a round of lightning talks offered to our internal AppDev community, with the book club members sharing their main takeaways from the book.

It had been a long time since I’ve read Eric Evans’ seminal book on DDD, and it was great to revisit the topic. It was interesting to see some things that I didn’t quite grok when I first read that book but ended up learning through other means over the years.

Rainbow in the Dark

Ronnie James Dio is one of my all-time favorite singers. I’ve listened to his music (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio) since I was a kid, and I continue listening to it with the same level of enjoyment. I’ve picked up this auto-biography to read as soon as it came out.

Fifty Quick Ideas to Improve your User Stories

I have been blogging about user stories, as well as giving talks on the subject and leading a few workshops. This topic has been hot for for several years now. This book validated some of the ideas I’ve been trying out over the years and it also gave me some new ones. Highly recommended! Developers, take a moment to put down that book on JavaScript, C#, (name your language of choice), and read this one instead.

Intro to EventStorming

This book came in handy as I work in a project that includes DDD, CQRS, and Event Sourcing.

Even though I’ve read many books published by LeanPub in the past, this is the first time I have actually read one that isn’t fully finished yet. I enjoyed the experience: many chapters are missing big chunks, but still, I’ve learned enough to enable me to run some EventStorming sessions and get great value from it. This book was also a great compliment to the DDD and the User Stories books mentioned above.

Badass: Making Users Awesome

If you’ve been following my blog, you might remember that this book was featured in my favorite books read in 2020. And here it is again. Yes, it is that good for me.

Since I’ve read it I’ve been putting lessons learned into practice with great success! So much so that I wanted to read it again, and figured I should drag Improvers with me, so I’ve led a book club. The conversations were great, and we’re just about to have a round of lightning talks to share our takeaways with our internal community.

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2020: Annual Review

Time for my traditional Annual Review, which started back in 2015. While some people, understandably, have strong reasons to completely erase 2020 off their minds, I have worked hard to build great memories in the midst of everything that was going on.

So, let’s start from where my 2019: Annual Review ended. At the time, here are the things I said I was working towards:

  • Continue Growing Beyond the Track
  • SportBike Track Riding
  • Solid initiatives at Improving
  • Get better at Spanish

I can check all those boxes! Each one of those are covered below.

What went well in 2020?

Continue growing Beyond the Track: a beautiful, professional logo has been created. I’ve printed cards, which members of my community give out to other riders they meet at the track, strengthening our networking. A new banner has been made for us to fly it at the tracks. The community is growing closer together, great friendships are forming, more and more people are stepping up to help produce content for the monthly meetings (which have successfully continued as online events). Members of the community are making custom leather suits and having the BTT logo put on it. We train together, we grow together.

SportBike Track Riding: I had to adjust the path to achieve my riding goals, and it worked out great given the constraints. I’ve received coaching, and as it turns out, it seems like I’ve also been coaching.

Solid initiatives at Improving: the initiatives I’ve been involved with have been working out well and are growing, and I am very excited and energized to keep working at it.

Get better at Spanish: One of my goals was to give my first talk in Spanish. in June, I experienced synchronicity at its best, as Improving acquired iTexico, and we were joined by 300 professionals whose primary language is Spanish. I gave the talk in December.

Blog posts: I’ve set a new personal record in number of posts published in a single year in the 16 years since I’ve started this blog. Most important, several posts have triggered great conversations, recommendations, networking, thoughts that inspired new posts.

Music: I’ve set a new personal record in number of songs I’ve recorded and published in a year, by putting out two cover songs and three original songs.

Virtual Brown Bag: people have been asking me over the years if I’d be bringing the VBB back. My good old friend George was up for it, and we’ve been hosting the weekly VBBs since April!

Book Reading: I’ve cranked up my reading habits up a notch and set a new personal record of books read in a year. I’ve read some great ones, focused on building my book library, improved my book reading, read some great titles, and my slots for reading-time are something I look up to every day.

Improving’s handle of the situation: I am so happy to be a part of this company. Our leadership’s handle of such a tough situation has been top-notch and inspiring. The care for our people, not just our employees but also our families, the way we lean in to help our clients, the quick shift to continue offering value through weekly virtual events, the way we’ve reinvented ourselves to keep offering high-quality consulting and training. The list goes on and on.

What’s with all those personal records? Those were deliberate. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have worked hard to make sure I’d have great memories to remember 2020 by. Whenever I go through challenges and hardships in the future, I can always come back to this post and remind myself that I have what I need in me to overcome adversities. I do have more highlights, but those are to be kept in my personal records.

What didn’t go so well?

No steady workout routine: much like in previous years, I haven’t been able to keep a steady workout routine. I did really well for several months having a great daily routine, but then I got out of it. I coming up with a plan to tackle that.

Cancellations due to the pandemic: there wasn’t a lot I could have done about this one. Fortunately, I believe I handled it well; the most important things were simply postponed.

Eating habits: both what and when I eat have suffered since the start of the pandemic. Fixing the when should be easy. Fixing the what, not so much for me.

What am I working toward?

Book reading: I plan to keep the same daily habits I’ve sustained since March, and adding a habit to review at least one previoulsy read book every month. I’m looking for lessons that have stuck with me, as well as those I haven’t quite grasped the first time through.

Sharpening technical skills: Most books I’ve been reading aren’t technical. For that end, I plan on going through at least one Pluralsight course every month.

Blogging: I plan on putting out at least one blog post every week, to any of my blogs (this one, the music one, or the Beyond the Track one).

Publishing my book: I want to see the book I’ve been working on published this year. Since this is my first book, it’s been a fun project, learning a lot of things, having frequent conversations with my co-author, and taking my writing skills to a new level.

Keep growing Beyond the Track: similarly to last year, I’ll continue actively working both on my riding skills, as well as growing my community, as well as the experiences I provide it.

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Virtual Brown Bag: October 2020 Summary

Another month full of Virtual Brown Bag meetings in the books and the variety of topics keeps increasing.

Check out what we’ve been up to in October and join us to participate in the conversations as well! Every Thursday, 12-1pm Central Time.

  1. October 29th, 2020

    We talked about Microsoft certifications, past and recent experiences. We also spent some time talking about custom matchers in Cypress.io, and security-related static analysis tools.

  2. October 22nd, 2020

    Great discussion remembering the Alt.NET movement, and also talking about architecture katas.

  3. October 15th, 2020

    Obs and PPT automation, Books (Righting Software, .NET Architecture), DDD, Event Storming, CQRS, REST… great conversation!

  4. October 8th, 2020

    Some more talk about Mmhmm, anti-fatigue mats, home-office setups, nerves-project.org, IoT, Elixir, micro-services and data for dashboards, AWS and AWS Amplify.

  5. October 1st, 2020

    Mmmhmm (virtual camera, setup, experiences), EICAR test string, Spam Pull Requests, things we put in the resumes, databases: when to start thinking and making decisions about them…

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Virtual Brown Bag: August 2020 Summary

The weekly Virtual Brown Bag meetings keep going strong. August was filled with great discussions.

Check it out, and also consider joining us, every Thursday at 12-1pm Central Time! www.VirtualBrownBag.com

  1. August 27th, 2020

    Houston Tech Fest, 3D-printed masks, Code Metrics (messy code), George’s architectural talk and new talk on “computer pioneers you should now about” https://medium.com/a-computer-of-ones-own

  2. August 20th, 2020

    We talked about job searching, code challenges, job interviews, being manager or leaders and how to apply for such job. We wrapped things up with a quick discussion about “Human Code Reviews”.

  3. August 13th, 2020

    Great discussion on books that all software developers should read. Also some talk about this post: “It’s probably time to stop recommending Clean Code”. And to close the meeting of, some geeking out with a Python FizzBuzz implementation.

  4. August 6th, 2020

    Topics we discussed: looking for a job, helping out others, RocketBook, Replacing Jasmine with Jest on Angular projects, test style, Jest Custom Matchers, https://questions.wizardzines.com/

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Virtual Brown Bag: June 2020 Summary

June was another month filled with Virtual Brown Bag meetings every Thursday. Lots of great discussions on a variety of topics. Here’s a summary and links to the videos. Enjoy!

June 4:
We talked about a bunch of stuff this week! Books, Connecting, F# Conf, WebForm/WinForm, Android crash, Racket, FizzBuzz, The QA’s Role in a Scrum Team. George brought up discussion on resumes and interviews It sparked many comments. We’ll bring it back next week. We have even mentioned FoxPro. 🙂

June 11
:
Great chat about resumes! We’ve lost the 2nd half of the discussion due to technical issues, but still, there’s good content in here.

June 18
:
We’ve continued our conversation from last week, talked a little more about resumes, and also job interviews, developer challenges, etc.

June 25:
We talked about upcoming free virtual events, Claudio’s “Trusting IT” call for feedback, the “Badass – Making Users Awesome” book, George’s code challenges, using generators, threading/pipeline operator, and the Rocketbook.

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2022: Annual Review

Picking it up from were I left of on my previous annual review. This year I’m going with a looser format.

Book Reading

I’ve kept and grown my practice of re-reading books.

I had to read The Accounting Game again out of a need to refresh my knowledge in that domain.

A few books I’ve read again because I’ve been recommending them for years and I wanted to know how well they’ve aged:

Both books were revisited in book clubs with my fellow Improvers.

In another book club, we covered Atomic Habits; one of my favorite books since it came out.

A few other books I simply enjoyed a lot and wanted to read again:

Other book clubs we’ve run that were great:

I’ve improved my book reading process by switching it over from Evernote to Obsidian and am very happy with how it’s coming along.

I’ve been having great conversations about the books I’ve read, as well as putting lessons into practice, pondering on them, and getting better.

My “favorite books read in 2023” post will come out soon.

Life at Improving

Most of my team’s scrum meetings (except for the daily scrum) happened in person. We enjoy getting together to have productive conversations, leverage our big whiteboards, and seeing the other Improvers who come into the office.

Yes, we enjoy coming into the office. Fun fact: there are many of us who work from home on certain days, but end up coming into the office at the end of the day to attend to events, classes, user groups, or to simply hang out. One evening, folks came in to join my “how to write a song” class. Another evening, it was a class for those interested in learning how to play ping-pong. Here’s a great place to learn more about out Community and Culture.

Riding

For the first time since 2017, when I first started riding motorcycles at the track, I haven’t ridden a big bike at a big track. I have, however, ridden the mini-bikes a lot!

The Beyond the Track endurance team has raced all season (I joined as many races I could), and we’ve had a lot of fun.

I’ve also decided to do a few sprint races, which I also have enjoyed.

I plan on doing more sprint races in 2023, and our endurance team has already started our pre-season.

Music

I did some work on my music in 2022 and put out one new original song in 2022: From a Distance.

I’ve had some issues with my recording gear that prevented me from making more progress, but that has been addressed and I’ll have another new song coming up pretty soon. I have a nice backlog of music to work on when I decide to make time for it.

Looking at my YouTube channel, I’ve learned that these were the top 2 most viewed videos last year:

  • Reaching Horizons, a cover of one of my favorite Brazilian bands, Angra
  • Running, a metal cover of a dance-pop band from the 80’s (yup, you’ve got to check that out now, I know…)

This Blog

I’ve put out a good number of posts both at the beginning and at the end of the year, and had a 6-month hiatus in between. These are my favorite ones:

I really liked the series on testing that I’ve put out later in the year. Those posts came out of an “Ask me Anything” Lunch and Learn I presented and I thought more people might be interested in those answers. The posts generated some great conversations in different social networks, which triggered the creation of further posts.

Something interesting I found out looking at the analytics:

In the Top 10 most viewed posts, only 3 posts were published in 2022; all other posts have been published many years ago: the 1st and 2nd place in 2017, and the 3rd place in 2010!!

I have a batch of ideas for posts (some already filled with quite a bit of content), so stay tuned.

Speaking

I started the year by putting a request on social network for people to help me get some of my talks booked as a Lunch and Learn for their companies or as a presentation to their communities and user groups. People answered the call and I got pretty busy talking!

I’ve had a lot of fun, learned a lot from the questions people asked me, and am very pleased with how well the content resonated with many.

These are talks I’ve had the most fun and gathered the best reactions:

  • UX for Devs
  • Effective User Stories
  • Context-based Testing

Go here to get the description for those talks or any of my other ones. If you find something you like, plesae send me a request and I can arrange to deliver the talk either virtually or in-person (Houston and surrounding area) for your team and/or company.

Computer

Since mid-2020, I’ve used a Surface Laptop as my main computer to do .NET work, as my old Mac couldn’t handle the load. Later in the year I got me a new Mac M2 and am very pleased with it.

Two highlights:

  • I was up and running, working productively on my main project, within a couple of hours (most of the time was spent migrating data from my old Mac!)
  • The backend code (.NET Core) has close to 1400 tests (both unit and integration). It takes 24 to 28 minutes to run them on my Surface Laptop. It takes a little over 8 minutes on my Mac M2!!

Coolest thing I’ve learned

I’ve learned a ton of things in 2022. Maybe the coolest one was Obsidian. I’ve been gradually either complementing or replacing Evernote with Obsidian. This is huge for me, as I’ve been an Evernote user since 2008 and it has played a huge part on my personal system. I’ll write more blog posts to talk about how this transition is coming along.

Wearables

I haven’t worn wristwatches in a long, long time. Things like the Apple Watch haven’t appealed to me. But in 2022 I decided to try out the Halo View.

After wearing it all year and keeping an eye on the data it provides, these are the things that I like, and which are making me keep it for the time being:

  1. Information about my sleep: I’ve been analyzing my sleeping pattern, the quality of my sleep, how many hours of sleep I’m getting, and then I look for what has either a positive or negative impact on it;
  2. Activity tracking: I’ve both played tennis and ridden at the track almost every week all year long. It’s been interesting seeing how those activities compare against each other, how they affect my sleep and physical condition, etc.

In closing…

2022, that’s a wrap. There are some great things to look up to in 2023, so off we go!

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Improving my Reading System and Leveraging Obsidian

I’ve been working on building my book library and keeping up with my reading habits for years. My process for that has been evolving, and it’s one that I’m moving from Evernote to Obsidian.

My needs:

  • To keep track of what books I own (it has happened that I purchased a book I already owned);
  • To know the formats I own, such as printed, ebook, audiobook. Sometimes I’m listening to an audiobook and realize a printed copy would be better. Sometimes I finish reading a book and want to listen to it to revisit the content;
  • To know what books I’m reading, have read, or that are in my to-read list;
  • To know what books I’ve read in the current year, so I can put together my “Favorite Books I’ve Read in…” blog posts;
  • To know what books I’ve read more than once. Sometimes people ask me for my favorite books, and I want to give them a better informed answer, instead of just relying on what comes to mind first;
  • To know what books are the most recommended to me. It can be through a direct recommendation from friends or co-workers, or maybe through a recommendation found in a book or author I’m enjoying;
  • To find my own notes on the book

This post outlines how I’m now handling all of that. I’m always refining things, but this should describe the core pieces and the direction I’m going. At the bottom of this post you’ll find some resources I’ve used to learn how to put this together.

Tracking recommendations

When I get a book recommendation, I go to Obsidian and invoke the plugin to create a new book note:

The plugin has me type either the book’s name or ISBN. It shows me a list of what it found, I select the one I’m looking for, and complete the operation, which creates a note for me, like so:

I’ve split the window so we can see the markdown down created for the note on the left and the rendered version on the right.

That initial content comes from a template, which I got from the plugin and tweaked to my liking, including the following fields to the metadata you see at the top:

  • status: unread/reading/read
  • formats: ebook/paperback/audiobook
  • recommendations: names and/or places I got the recommendations from
  • finished: the dates when I finished reading the book

I then created a note that uses the Dataview plugin to query my notes and display the results:

The window is split to show the results on the left and the query on the right. Some non-public names are blurried.

The results let me answer the following question: what books have I not ready yet that has more than one recommendation?

Capturing my notes on a book

I take notes on books I’m reading. Whether it’s an ebook or printed book, I highlight passages and write on the book. If it’s an audiobook, I write notes using pen and paper (I actually use a reMarkable, but I’ll save that for another post).

Once I’m done with the book, I review my notes and highlights and consolidate them into that book note I created in Obsidian. My notes include quotes, images, links out to other notes or resources, my own thoughts, etc.

The image above shows my notes on a book on the left and the graph view on the right, which lets me see the connections I have associated with that book.

Tracking books I’ve read or am reading in a given year

As part of my annual review process, I’ve been looking over the books I’ve finished reading in that year and selecting my favorite ones. I put that list out as a blog post, such as this one for 2021. The following note helps me do such reflection:

Again, results on the left, query on the right.

The results include the years when I finished the book; it makes easy for me to see what books I’ve read more than once. Why? Two reasons:

  • When people ask me for book recommendations or my favorite books, I have a better informed answer (instead of just relying on memory);
  • When I see the years when I’ve read a given book, I can draw connections between that and other books or things I had going on around those times

At the bottom of that list (not shown in the capture above), I see a list of books I’m currently reading, which I use when I want to drop in and add a few notes even befor I’m done reading the book.

Listing all books

The simplest query I have is one that lists all books I’ve added:

On that list I can see:

  • All books
  • Their status, cover, and title
  • Recommendations
  • Formats. This one is interesting: if I see a book that’s “unread” and has any kind of format (e.g., ebook), that means I’ve already purchased the book but haven’t read it yet. Also, if I see one like that and it has no recommendations, it just means I’ve heard or seen the book somewhere and want to read it.

About Dataview queries

If you’ve been paying close attention to the queries I’ve shown, you may have noticed the use of two different types of syntax. The reason is the following: for the most simple queries (such as the one to list all books), I use the the standard dataview query; for the queries that need a little more tweaking, I use the dataview javascript API, which provides more granular access to the metadata I’ve added to the notes.

Resources

These are the resources I’ve used to learn how to put together the system outlined in this post.

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Deciding What Book to Read Next

A reading habit can be easily broken if we aren’t sure about what to read next. For many years, that hasn’t been an issue as I’ve been building my book library and there’s always something I can pick up. But how do I decide what to read next?

The easiest approach is to simply pick up a book I want to read and get started. Don’t overthink it. Just do it.

Next best approach is to pick something up that has been referred to me by people who have consistently been giving me good referrals.

Following that, if I’m enjoying a book that I’m reading and the author recommends other books, I add them to my “books wishlist” on Amazon.

When I hear one of my favorite authors have a new book out, I either get it or immediately add it to my wishlist.

Some books have been a referral from multiple sources; I indicate that on my wishlist. If a book has multiple referrals, I put it at the top of my list.

Back in my teenage years when I started reading fiction books in English, I had a practice of starting the next book immediately after finishing the previous one. Over the last several years I simply start reading books whenever I feel like. I don’t wait to finish one before starting another, which means that:

  • I read many books at the same
  • I’m always reading at least one book
  • Some books I finish quickly, others I may go on reading for as long as a few years

How do you decide what book to read next?

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