Category Archives: Books

NEVER eat alone?

When I’m not otherwise occupied in the world of Westeros, I occasionally read “practical” stuff.

never eat alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Some takeaways:


2. You’ll be far more fulfilled and successful if you fill your professional and personal lives with meaningful relationships.  Relationships first.

3. Connecting is all about helping people.  Always be looking for ways to help a sister out by introducing her to a contact, sharing a link, telling a joke.  If you help someone with Health, Wealth, or Children especially, they will love you forever.

4. Networking should not be a whole other side job – invite people to things you were going to do anyway: eating, exercising, clubbing, church, etc.  Dinner at your home is the ultimate!

5. When you can’t clone yourself, clone the event.  Have 5 people to meet in one weekend?  Invite them all out to the same happy hour!

6. Your network is a muscle, not a bank account.  Use it often and it will grow stronger, not smaller.

7. When you give a speech, you’re an instant celebrity.  When you go to a conference, be a presenter.  Otherwise, be the first person to ask a question afterwards – you get residual spotlight on you that way, making people want to meet you.

Fun Fact: Paul Revere was well liked in his town and the next ones.  Hence he was entrusted with the task of notifying the people of the British approach.  Furthermore, his friendship with the sexton of the church gave him access to the tower where he hung his lanterns.

This book starts out great.  A few chapters in, I was convinced that no man is an island, and that connecting is an important, maybe THE most important, key to success and happiness.  I was ready to drink in the wisdom and transform my life!

By the middle though, Never Eat Alone becomes overwhelming.  It’s full of tactics upon tactics, so much so that you don’t see how anyone could manage it.  By the end, Ferrazzi admits that he makes HUNDREDS of phone calls a DAY, just to “touch base” with the thousand+ people in his network.  He finds time for this when walking around or riding in cabs.  He maintains lists of people to touch base with monthly, quarterly, or yearly.  He holds large dinner parties at his home every month.  He sends emails from the bathroom (um, tmi).  He reads the newspaper every day so he’s ready to converse.  He flies first class because you can make excellent business contacts there.  Basically, he makes you want to give up.

But don’t give up!  The key here is to read this more as a textbook to be mastered one chapter at a time.  For now, I’ll be focusing on Chapter 11: Never Eat Alone, Chapter 13: Follow Up or Fail, and Chapter 22: Be Interesting. :)

Anyone want to do lunch this week?

Last Friday Night

I had a lot going on Friday night.

1. Netbook (Toshiba NB505), being used here as a book prop thing.

2. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.  Winter is coming.

3. Sidewinder gaming mouse, photo-bombing

4. The Art of Computer Programming, by Donald Knuth.  Also a photo stowaway.

5. Water bottle.  Hydration is important when nerding out.

6. The heart shaped box formerly known as the heart shaped box of M&Ms.

And the Star of the Show:

7. “Back-of-envelope” calculations. This was some critically important Jack Bauer shiznatch. I was working out what had a bigger effect on population growth – number of children you have or the age you are when you have them.  Answer: it’s complicated.  But I CAN tell you that if you’re worried about your spawn footprint being Yeti-sized you can make a big difference by waiting longer to have kids. I can also tell you that I was beside myself about having an original thought for once!

All around a pretty exciting night – I’m sorry you couldn’t all be there!

Water Cooler: Monday Edition

This is the story of my EPIC Sunday.  Told differently, it might sound like I slept in, ate some food, read a book, and watched some TV.  But taking a closer look, we might just find out that it’s a tale of love and loss, triumph and defeat, celebration and learning…

Act 1: The Kitchen

9:45 am – Wake up, then sit in bed reading Pillars of the Earth #epicreadingsession

11:00 – Get out of bed

11:30 – Decide to make waffles for the first time ever using the George Foreman waffle maker attachment.  Without consulting any experts, I decide that waffles are just pancakes but made in a waffle maker.  This turns out to be true, sort of.

First interesting discovery of the day: making pancake batter from Krusteaux pancake mix is extremely easy!  Like, easier than toast.  Matt makes pancakes all the time, even on weekdays, and I always thought he was quite the thankless superhero for going through the trouble.  But I now understand why he is so happy to make them, it literally is “just add water”.  Illusion: shattered.

As easy as it is to make the mix, I forget to Pam spray the waffle iron so I ended up with a huge sticky morass of waffle goo on every surface with no edible middle.  I manage to salvage about 2 forkfuls of waffle mush, which we split amongst ourselves.  I spend the next hour picking and scraping waffle guts out of the crevices.  It takes me so long that I probably could have saved time by using the dishwasher instead.

12:45 PMWaffles: Round 2.  Pam sprayed the heck out of the GF and got two big square waffles.  Food at last!

Now that I look it up, you are supposed to add some oil to pancake mix to transform it into waffle mix.  Specifically to avoid waffle/waffle-iron quagmire.  Oops!

There were failures and major delays, but I bested breakfast and came out on top.  The day is mine! #epicvictory

Act 2: The Living Room

1:00 - We watch the World Series of Poker on ESPN3.  The final two sitting are a 22 year old German student and a 35 year old Czech chessmaster.  They are staring each other down and having the least chatty poker-off I’ve ever seen.  It occurs to me poker is a chat-free, every man for himself, serious, age-agnostic, (mostly) skill-based game.  I think I might just love playing poker.  World Series of Poker 2020, here I come!  #epicadventuresofthefuture

(ASIDE: Apparently, online poker is felonious in Washington state.  Jail time, really?)

2:20 - Afraid that my Sunday is going stupidly, I start to freak out.  It’s pointed out to me that I’ve already done 2 epic things that I could talk about at the water cooler (1: bested my waffle maker, 2: decided to become poker champion).  I am appeased.

2:30 - Pullup practice.  Right now I’m working up to doing 4 negative chin-ups (where you start over the bar and try to go down slowly, palms facing you).  Someday when I’ve mastered that I’ll move on to negative pull-ups. #cuemontage

Act 3: The Streets

3:30 - Head to cafe with Matt to have lunch and read books.  Instead, we end up discussing our epic life plans (yes that was the actual terminology used) over a hummus and falafel plate while monitoring the 49ers/Giants game on the tiny tv over the bar.  It is extra delicious, but we have insufficient pita.

We learn some very important things on our phones:  1) Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. both played for the Mariners in the 90-91 season.   2) Eli and Peyton Manning’s dad was also an NFL quarterback.  3) There are no (male) sports where the average height is under 6’1.  Not even cricket (actually cricket turns out to be a very tall sport).  We decide this makes total sense, because who would invent a sport where bigger (and stronger and faster) isn’t better?

7:00 - Cafe closes, and the game is tied up at 17-17 with 3 minutes left in the fourth.  We walk into another nearby cafe which is standing room only to watch the remainder of the game.

By the way, I never had any interest in football until last weekend when I unexpectedly watched the end of an exciting home team victory at a sports bar.  So, despite not really knowing anything about the sport, I get to watch yesterday’s game go into overtime and learn the new post-season overtime rules.

It occurs to me that football is a primal, brutal, do-or-die sport, which is akin to a Braveheart battle scene re-imagined for the 21st century.  Despite loving sometime liking watching it, I think I might just hate playing football.

The 49ers lose 17-20, but I learn a lot and dream up many plays with names such as The Battering Ram and The Tumbler.  Oh, I’m sure nobody has thought of these before and I’m about to revolutionize the sport… #getreadyworld 

Act 4: Back Home

8:00 - Saute up an onion veggie side dish to go with some leftover pineapple black bean enchiladas.  The whole thing turns out to be the most delicious, most square-looking meal I’ve made in the past year.  #ironchef

9:15 - We decide to go out for dessert.  By which I mean, get a slice of chocolate cake at Safeway.  I also get a bottle of diet orange soda.  Rare but delicious, like elvish bread.

Act 5: Finally

I finish off my day by fixing my Mac (I’m a PC, so I’m not good with it and end up breaking it sometimes), and reading a hundred more pages of Pillars of the Earth.  That book tells an epic story of love and loss, triumph and defeat, celebration and learning.  It is also 1000 pages and reading it is a feat in and of itself.  #epic-fest.

And that’s the tale of my Sunday.

What did you do this weekend?

Pillars of the Earth: A Partial Book Report

Over the holidays, I pilfered this book from my parents’ home:

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett – from Oprah’s book club!

I’m only a quarter of the way through (it’s 973 pages!), but even the exposition has made for an interesting read.  Though the story is based in 12th century Europe, the characters have the same thoughts and motivations as modern people – which shouldn’t be a surprise, but is.  Especially when they are totally oblivious to how rough their lives are, at least compared to how similarly poor/rich people live today.

It can take weeks if not months for villagers to find out about the death of a king, because that information is dispersed mostly through church gatherings.  Peasants don’t have horses, so they wander by foot from town to town looking for work and food.  They are concerned with surviving the winter, feeding their families, and little else. They get by on apples and ale, and if they’re lucky, hibernating squirrels.

Ken Follett touches on this in the book’s introduction:

The builders had no power tools, they did not understand the mathematics of structural engineering, and they were poor: the richest of princes did not live as well as say, a prisoner in a modern jail.  Yet they put up some of the most beautiful buildings that have ever existed, and they built them so well that they are still here, hundreds of years later, for us to study and marvel at.

Granting that the novel was written in 1989 and not 1189, we have to take the lifestyle depictions and characterization with a grain of salt.  Even so, it feels totally believable that characters who are called “ugly” are actually hard to look at – covered in burns and boils like Freddy Krueger.  Young people with fine clothes and good health are described as “handsome.”

It occurs to me that the vast majority of people living in the world today would be considered pretty hot back then.  After all we have antibiotics, mirrors, the agricultural revolution, and Nike.

From the TV Miniseries.
Waaay unrealistically attractive

Take me back in time, and my beauty would capture a king!  Of course my gold-digging could at best yield a man who had never used Gillette or Old Spice, and a castle sans electricity, running water, or frozen pizza.  That’s a dealbreaker, ladies!