Change Agent

Change AgentChange Agent by Daniel Suarez
Published by Dutton Books on April 18th 2017
Pages: 416
My Rating: four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Daniel Suarez delivers an exhilarating sci-fi thriller exploring a potential future where CRISPR genetic editing allows the human species to control evolution itself.

On a crowded train platform, Interpol agent Kenneth Durand feels the sting of a needle— and his transformation begins. . . .    In 2045 Kenneth Durand leads Interpol’s most effective team against genetic crime, hunting down black market labs that perform "vanity edits" on human embryos for a price. These illegal procedures augment embryos in ways that are rapidly accelerating human evolution—preying on human-trafficking victims to experiment and advance their technology.   With the worlds of genetic crime and human trafficking converging, Durand and his fellow Interpol agents discover that one figure looms behind it all: Marcus Demang Wyckes, leader of a powerful and sophisticated cartel known as the Huli jing.   But the Huli jing have identified Durand, too. After being forcibly dosed with a radical new change agent, Durand wakes from a coma weeks later to find he’s been genetically transformed into someone else—his most wanted suspect: Wyckes.   Now a fugitive, pursued through the genetic underworld by his former colleagues and the police, Durand is determined to restore his original DNA by locating the source of the mysterious—and highly valuable—change agent. But Durand hasn’t anticipated just how difficult locating his enemy will be. With the technology to genetically edit the living, Wyckes and his Huli jing could be anyone and everyone—and they have plans to undermine identity itself.

I really enjoyed the first Suarez book I read (Kill Decision) so was excited when I saw this was published.

This book takes from the same playbook in that it is a near-future thriller where the author takes a current technology and extrapolates a possible future. The result is a fun ride through a tech fun house. This book tickles my tech taste bud, but also heaps on a helping of international locations as the main character is based in Singapore and travels through Southeast Asia.

This is a fun book read or something to listen to while doing house chores.

**Spoilers ahead you’ve been warned**

I hadn’t heard of CRISPR technology, but did some research on it after reading the book. I found a few articles and a TED talk about it. It looks cool, but boy howdy will it spur some heavy debate because of what it does. As with most technologies the application of the tool is more important than the tool itself. This tech could be used to make food that feeds a growing population, or, as in the book, as a camouflage technique for an international criminal syndicate. Who knows.

This was book number 29 of 52 for 2017.

Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things

Sneaky Uses for Everyday ThingsSneaky Uses for Everyday Things by Cy Tymony
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing on September 2nd 2003
Pages: 176
My Rating: three-stars

Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things is a valuable resource for transforming ordinary objects into the extraordinary. With over 80 solutions and bonus applications at your disposal, you will be ready for almost any situation.

Do you know how to make something that can tell whether the $20 bill in your wallet is a fake? Or how to generate battery power with simple household items? Or how to create your own home security system? Science-savvy author Cy Tymony does. And now you can learn how to create these things and more than 40 other handy gadgets and gizmos in Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things. More than a simple do-it-yourself guide, this quirky collection is a valuable resource for transforming ordinary objects into the extraordinary. With over 80 solutions and bonus applications at your disposal, you will be ready for almost any situation. Included are survival, security, self-defense, and silly applications that are just plain fun. You'll be seen as a superhero as you amaze your friends by:

* Transforming a simple FM radio into a device that enables you to eavesdrop on tower-to-air conversations.

* Creating your own personalized electronic greeting cards.

* Making a compact fire extinguisher from items typically found in a kitchen pantry.

* Thwarting intruders with a single rubber band.

By using run-of-the-mill household items and the easy-to-follow instructions and diagrams within, you'll be able to complete most projects in just a few minutes. Whether you use Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things as a practical tool to build useful devices, a fun little fantasy escape, or as a trivia guide to impress friends and family, this book is sure to be a reference favorite for years to come.

This was my second paper-copy book of the year after Silence. The book was clever and had some interesting “uses” for things, but none of them made me want to put the book down, go get the “thing”, and try to recreate what the author described.

I’m writing this 5 months after I read the book and I can only remember that the book included a way to make glue (maybe?).

There’s probably better sources online for content like this. I’m interested in the Maker movement and doing cool stuff with every day items, but didn’t learn much from reading this book.

This was book number 6 of 52 for 2017.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ckThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
on September 13th 2016
My Rating: two-stars

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Mason doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—"not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault." Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.

Provocative title. Dud of a book.

The first 15% of this book I was dialed in and picking up what Manson was putting down. I was nodding along with his concept of lowering the number of things that one individual can “give an F” about and enjoying the shade thrown at current social norms.

But, right about 16% through the book the bottom falls out. The book becomes a level of boring reserved for DMV waiting lines. We get it author, you like the F word, but it doesn’t improve your writing.

Many people like to criticize bloggers-turned-authors that their writing style doesn’t translate from short 800 word blogs to 300 page books. This book is a classic example of that criticism.

I gave this book two stars because I was genuinely disappointed I chose to read this book.

This was book number 19 of 52 for 2017.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted WorldDeep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Published by Grand Central Publishing on January 5th 2016
Pages: 296
My Rating: five-stars

One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you'll achieve extraordinary results.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there's a better way.

In Deep Work, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four "rules," for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.

A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, Deep Work takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories-from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air-and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. Deep Work is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.

I listened to the audio version of this book while walking in the morning before work. It was like lying back in one of the chairs from The Matrix and getting a direct brain feed of some skill. It was very energizing!

This book came to me at a great point of my year and business life. It was the beginning of the year so was open to changes in routine and I was feeling very distracted and unable to get work done.

I want to buy the paper copy of this book and keep it as a reference and get the audio so I can re-listen during my morning walks.

Over the past half year I’ve started to apply some of the concepts taught in the book and they have helped me be more profitable and less stressed in running my businesses.

This is a must read for just about anyone in any type of profession.

This was book number 2 of 52 for 2017.

A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of MagicA Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Published by Tor Books on February 24th 2015
Pages: 400
My Rating: three-stars

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

Shades of Magic series
A Darker Shade of Magic
A Gathering of Shadows
A Conjuring of Light

I enjoyed the combination of magic, medieval, and parallel worlds that the book introduces. I like Kell, Lila, and Rhy in the story, but felt that they each were too flat as characters on their own.

Kell as the melancholy reluctant hero, Rhy as the richie-rich party boy, and Lila as the street rat with a heart of gold. It was all too thin.

The parallel Londons construction was very interesting. The “fighting with magic” part came up more WWF than actual feats of strength.

This was book number 1 of 52 for 2017.


Slaughterhouse-FiveSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
on January 1st 1970
Pages: 275
My Rating: five-stars

Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don't let the ease of reading fool you - Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters."

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy - and humor.

I read Slaughterhouse Five for three reasons: 1) I had recently read a few fiction books with stories about magic, 2) I wanted to know what the title meant and 3) I had some faint memory of seeing Kurt Vonnegut in a movie and wasn’t sure if it was true. Note: it was the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield classic “Back to School” where Vonnegut makes a cameo as himself.

The book often shows up on “banned books” lists so this added to my interest in reading it.

*** Spoilers ahead ***

All I knew about the book was the phrase “Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time” and I had no idea what that meant. As I continued reading the book it became clear and when the time-travel showed up as a plot device I was hooked.

The parts of the book that made the biggest impact on me were when people would die and the narrator would say the well-worn words “So it goes.”

When Mrs. Pilgrim dies of carbon monoxide poisoning because she kept driving her car after getting in an accident while on the way to see Billy in the hospital after he was in a plane crash, :deep breath:, there are so many emotions going in opposite directions I think it represents how ridiculous death is and seemingly how random and unfeeling the Universe can be.

And when people die around Billy during his time in World War II either in battle, the POW camp, or in the fire bombing of Dresden, the same random+unfeeling music starts to play.

The book eventually described the reason behind it’s title and it’s devastating. A few days after I finished the book Amanda and I watched a Rick Steves travel show where he visits Dresden. In Rick’s upbeat narration that plays over video of a sunny city with beautiful buildings and city squares he mentions the WWII fire bombing. It was a nice follow-up to the book to know that the city and people were able to rebuild.

This was book number 25 of 52 for 2017.

The Alchemist

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Alan R. Clarke
Published by HarperCollins on May 1st 1993
Pages: 197
My Rating: four-stars

Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

This book was on the “always available” list at my library so I grabbed it. I didn’t know anything about it when I started to read it.

After I read the book I saw all the polarizing reviews on Goodreads. There were condemning 1 star reviews and lauding 5 star reviews. I can see why there is such a divide and I think the problem with either side of the review spectrum is they want to apply the book as a blueprint to their lives.

I didn’t read the book as a self-help manual, but just as a story. Santiago’s story is interesting and there are some parts to be inspired by and some parts that are eye-roll worthy. I do see the hints of other stories showing throughout.

Overall I’m glad I read it, and I enjoyed the experience, but I won’t be highlighting and memorizing any passages to apply to my life anytime soon. I get that type of inspiration in other places.

This was book number 27 of 52 for 2017.

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the GlobeAt Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider
Published by Thomas Nelson on April 18th 2017
Pages: 288

As Tsh Oxenreider, author of Notes From a Blue Bike, chronicles her family’s adventure around the world—seeing, smelling, and tasting the widely varying cultures along the way—she discovers what it truly means to be at home.

In her late thirties and as a mom to three kids under age ten, Tsh Oxenreider and her husband decided to spend a rather ordinary nine months in an extraordinary way: traveling the corners of the earth to see, together, the places they’ve always wanted to explore. This book chronicles their global journey from China to Thailand to Australia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, France, Croatia, and beyond, as they fill their days with train schedules, world-schooling the kids, and working from anywhere. Told with wit and candor, Oxenreider invites us on a worldwide adventure without the cost of a ticket; to discover people, places, and stories worth knowing about; to find peace in the places we call home; and to learn that, as the Thai say, in the end, we are all “same same but different.”


My wife and I have some experience crossing continents and living abroad with small children and that might be why the book didn’t resonate with us. We’ve already embraced the concept of work, school, and travel existing together instead of one or two of them pushing the others out of the realm of possibility. The thought of selling everything we own and living out of a backpack makes our heart rate faster in a good way.

That might be why this book was such a struggle to finish.

The author and her family spent the (school not full) year of travel either being exhausted because scheduling too much travel, drinking coffee, stating how expensive travel is (duh), or just “hanging with friends in exotic locations” which is the equivalent of subjecting the reader to a slideshow of boring vacation pictures.

Modern nomadic life isn’t a novelty anymore so I expected either a deeper understanding of the world or at least details on the feasibility of long term location independence with kids.

There was hardly any insight into the people or places they traveled to unless it was the people serving them in some way. If you choose to read the book don’t expect to gain any understanding about any of the countries you couldn’t gain from a travel brochure.

The author says she feels dissatisfied when she’s in America and not traveling, but also feels dissatisfied when she’s traveling and doesn’t have a home. I’m only dissatisfied with the time I spent reading this book.

This was book number 26 of 52 for 2017.

Using Splice for Super Simple Vlog Editing


I have had a bit of a problem lately.

It’s not a huge Earth shattering existential crisis of faith or anything like that. Just a small recurring nuisance of a problem that makes you purse your lips when you think of it, then it fades away after a few seconds to hide in the recesses of your brain until the next opportunity to bug you.

My problem is with my vlog workflow and the process of getting a video out into the world. I talked about why I started vlogging here.

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Reading More


I wrote a post two years ago about how my wife inspires me and she keeps on doing it. This time she’s inspired me by the number of books she reads in a year.

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Email Marketing: Learning by Subscribing


Over the past week I’ve subscribed to about 20 newsletters of people and companies that I use regularly, have listened to on a podcast, or offer some kind of course relevant to me.

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A Good Week


Normally we focus too much on bad events or things lacking in our lives. Too much of social media lately has been taken over by negativity. Instead of giving in to negativity I want to remember to be thankful and show gratitude for things in my life that are good.

It’s Friday and looking back on the past seven days I can see it was a really good week and I have a lot to be thankful for!

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Sowing Musical Seeds


Growing up my family did a lot of fun stuff, but playing instruments wasn’t one of them. Through my youth I focused more on sports and computers over music.

When I moved back home after a few years in college and joined a church where some of my friends played instruments I got the idea to learn to play an instrument.

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Quitting When You’re On Top


Casey Neistat racked up over 490 videos, 5.8 million subscribers, and hundreds of millions of views while daily vlogging.

And ten days ago he quit.

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The Final Lap of 2016


My wife and I start each year with a goals meeting. We find someone to watch the kids for a few hours, go to a coffee shop, and look to the past and to the future. We discuss what we accomplished in the previous year and what we would like to accomplish in the upcoming year. It’s a great time to reflect and dream together.

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