Book Pairing

Book pairings like wine and cheese pairings have something unique to offer.


Kim Baker went to Afghanistan in 2002 and her book,Whisky Tango Foxtrot, is based on years of reportage while living there. She combines an outsiders view of how American policy looked to Afghanistan as well as an outsiders view of how Afghan politics themselves worked. Her stereoscopic perspective is fascinating.

The Drifter grabbed my attention with it’s arresting yellow and blue cover. Peter Ash returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with “white static” and an inability to be inside walls for very long. He finds relief under the stars far from city lights but the suicide of a military friend calls him back to civilization to help his widow. What he discovers while fixing her porch keeps him city-bound. How he copes with his “white static” while investigating is the best part.

While Whisky Tango Foxtrot investigates the non-fiction side of the Afghan war, The Drifter shows the interior life of a returning vet of that same war. The net result is greater empathy for those who served. Welcome home.

Reflections on Learning

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein


It turns out that passionate curiosity about our own experience is key.

Henry Mintzberg, the John Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal said in an interview “The best way to learn is by reflecting on your own experience.

By being passionately curious about and reflecting on all that I experienced this week, I pulled out some key learnings about learning:

Regular learning is important.

The idea of a “job” is going away. Instead people are hired to do something and move on. For example, the average tenure in a “job” is 2 years. And 40% of the US workforce is contingent which means regularly moving on every 18 months. That means regularly learning new skills, situations, objectives and teams. (You can read more about this in The Future of Work is Here by Josh Bersin, Principle and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte.)

Everything is learnable.

The good news is that everything is learnable. Everything is a skill. Everything can be learned. It may be hard. It may take time. But it can be learned. (Check out Skills vs. Talents by Seth Godin.)

Learn daily

Kelly Palmer, Chief Learning  Officer of Degreed and panelist at a recent Silicon Vikings sponsored event said that work is moving too fast for us to learn periodically. We need to learn daily to keep up.

Hang out with humans

At the same panel, Jenny Dearborn, CLO of SAP, said “Learning happens with humans.” It’s informal. At a separate event, Ashley Goodall, SVP of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco, echoed the same theme: “We develop most in response to human beings.”

He also said, “To make a good guess of the future you have to be a good observer of the present. You have to be a student of work and practice the forensics of work. How does it happen?”  What a great place to practice passionate curiosity!

Food for thought:

  • What are you passionately curious about?
  • What have you learned this week?

Run the World

I was browsing the running section at Powell’s bookstore in Portland. A tiny young woman with long brown hair dressed in a track suit and a tall young coltish many with curly brown hair were staring at a stack of paperback books on the bottom shelf. He reached won, picked up all 4 copies with one hand and holding them triumphantly and looking at her said, “Here’s your book!”

She shyly a burst forth in a beautiful straight pearly white smile the envy of any orthodontist. He put the books back on the shelf and they debated whether she should guerilla sign all the copies. Mostly he talked and she responded in body language.

We swapped spaces on the aisle. I picked one of the books up – Run the World – My 3500 Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe. I recalled my serendipitous 7K race in Barcelona. I loved seeing the city on closed streets and I loved how different they raced there. No bathrooms at the start. We got to run through the Olympic stadium over a springy newly installed track surface which made the piece of the old rock hard olympic track souvenir for participating much more than something for the dump.

I turned to the duo and asked, “So this is your book then?”

The tall man responded, “It’s hot off the press. Only been out for 3 days.” I mentally flagged that he was using one of Cialdini’s seven influencing patterns to help the sale. Moments later 3 more people joined the pair in the aisle.

I flipped to the table of contents. Chapter 2: Kitting Up and Forging Ahead / Greater England and Ireland / 283 miles. Japan, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Australia and New Zealand and Sweden and Finland rounded out the roster all totaling 3500 miles. So many different places to see and run. So many running cultures to explore. I was hooked.

I turned to the group, looked at her tiny self and said, “I’ll buy a copy.” All 5 people turned toward me and in unison said, “Thank you!” Becky Wade, your peeps are awesome!

What I learned later is that Becky had just been through a steeplechase track ordeal. Denied the right to compete at the trails at the last minute because her qualifying race was run on a track that didn’t have a rail, she had attempted to qualify in another race, not reached the qualifying time, appealed the ruling twice, been denied and then found out at the last minute by accident on the Olympic site that she had been admitted. By the time I saw her, she had cancelled and rebooked travel plans, made it to the Trials, raced and not placed. All the more reasons that signs of a successful book launch would have been encouraging.

And the book is fantastic! I read it in 2 days. It’s a dense page-turner chock a block with facts about places, people, cultures, races and new found friends. Becky is a fabulous non-fiction writer, a kind person, a cross-disciplined thinker and an inspiration! And her pre-race play list in the back contains wonderful discoveries in a world where hits from the 80s seem to prevail in public places. I highly recommend!

52 Books Checkpoint

Midway through the year I’m midway through my goal of reading 52 books. And I can say the practice is making a difference. Some examples of the impact include:

  • The biggest change in the first 6 months is that urged on by my friends and readers I’m reading fiction again. Having abstained from fiction for 10 years, this is a big shift.
  • I have great conversations! The book others most frequently mention to me is Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And we chat about how much of her methodology we implemented, how long it took, where we got stuck and how we got unstuck.
  • My clothes are now tailored to fit me thanks to Alison Freer’s How to Get Dressed.
  • I embrace my ultra tidy tendencies thanks to Frederick Backman’s Britt-Marie Was Here. (note: this is a book of fiction!)
  • When I articulate the business model behind The U (University) that I lead at work, people understand it thanks to The Business Model Canvas.

Here’s what I’ve read so far listed most recent first. The links go to my posts about each:

  1. Unashamed by Christine Caine (blog post coming soon)
  2. Divine Collision by Jim Gash (blog post coming soon)
  3. God is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work by Regina Brett
  4. Value Proposition Design by Alex Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur (blog post coming soon)
  5. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
  6. A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
  7. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
  8. The Heart Aroused by David Whyte
  9. My grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry by Frederick Backman
  10. Britt-Marie was Here by Frederick Backman
  11. Maker Spaces by Emily Quinto
  12. Goddesses Never Age by Dr. Christiane Northrup
  13. DIY Characters by Tiger
  14. Do Story by Bobette Buster
  15. Come to Win by Venus Williams
  16. Airplants: The Curious World of Tillandsias by Zenaida Sengo
  17. Makeup: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style and Success, Online and Offline by Michelle Phan
  18. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  19. The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership by Jenni Catron
  20. Make it Happen by Lara Casey
  21. Jolt by Richard Tyler
  22. How to Get Dressed by Alison Freer
  23. Running Your First Ultra by Krissy Moehl
  24. The Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
  25. The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
  26. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  27. Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

On my list for the next 6 months are:

  • A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
  • Moments of Impact by Chris Ertl

What books are you finding interesting?

Happy reading!


Brewing Day

Last summer , in pursuit of my dreams, I took a Brewing Basics: Going Beyond the Kit course at UC Davis and have been learning brewing lessons  ever since including 3 great resources for drinking beer better. Recently, I tried my hand at brewing an American Stout.

Jay at You Brew helped translate the flavor profile that I wanted for my stout into a recipe by pairing his expertise with the Beer Smith calculator. When I showed Jay my list of favorite stouts and porters from my Untapped checkins he was familiar with Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Porter and Crux Fermentation Project Stout so we went from there.  A 15 minute consultation later and I had a custom recipe and soon thereafter, the ingredients.

I added minerals to the hot water before mashing in (adding the grains) to imitate the famous brewing waters of Burton on Trent (in England). This pre-mixed additive contains calcium, carbonate, chlorine, magnesium, sodium chloride and sulfate.


  • .5 oz Burton Water Salts

Next I added the grains. Before this I had to weigh the grains out, then thoroughly mix them together, then mill them to break them open but only slightly.

Grains (40 lbs)

  • 35 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (Thomas Fawcett) for enzyme content, adds little color and flavor, very fermentable
  • 3 lbs Roasted Barley (UK) (550 SRM) for color
  • 1 lb 8 oz Crystal 40, 2 row, Great Western for color and for malt and caramel flavors
  • 1 lb Chocolate Malt (350 SRM) imparts a nutty cocoa-like flavor

I stirred the mash into the hot water (I chose 155 F). It’s more like folding a heavy cake batter from a long distance at first and then it got easier as all the grains got wet. I used a single temperature infusion and held the temperature for an hour.

After mash in (adding the grains to the water) I opened the valve at the bottom of the mash tun and began pumping the water out through the hose on the right to the boil tank. This separated the mash from the grains. Moving the liquid to another vessel is called lautering.

Of course that lowered the water level and I had to sparge (add water from the top) to keep water flowing through the grain and out the bottom. I added water in small quantities at a time so that I didn’t slam the mash bed. Crushing the mash is like squeezing a tea bag after a 3 minute steep. All the tannins come out.

When the water flows through the grain it’s pulled out of the bottom of the mash tun and pumped into a boil tank. That’s where I boiled the wort and added the hops.

You can see my wort had a lot of foam rich dark color.


Next I added the hops during the hour long boil. The hops were in pellet form and while they have a higher utilization rate (35%) than whole hops (10% – 20%), they have a lot of dust. I put them in giant tea bags to keep the hop solids out of the beer. I added:

  • 1.75 oz Herkules (17.3% alpha) 60 mins (added early for bittering rather than aroma, from Germany.) Specific aroma descriptors include robust hoppy with some citrus and melon.)
  • 3.00 oz East Kent Goldings (5.7%) 30 mins. Specific aroma descriptors include smooth and delicate with floral, lavender, spice, honey, earth, lemon and thyme overtones.

Before I cooled the wort I needed to get as much of the finings out of it as possible. To do this I added a floculant or fining agent. I added a Whirlfloc tablet 15 minutes before the end of the boil. Whirlfloc is made of seaweed and purified carrageenan.

Next, I cooled the wort. The slow way is to immerse the wort container in ice. It takes forever! And it’s hard to hit the right temperature for the yeast. A faster way is to use an immersion chiller but this risks contamination because you are putting something in your wort. The fastest way is to run the boiling wort past essentially a radiator through counter current heat exchange. Instant precision cool. And when you add the yeast, they will be happy.

Then I pumped the cooled wort into a container after completely sanitizing it inside and outside including the caps, gaskets and threads. The process is a bit like pumping gas into your car. Except you pump wort into a 15 gallon plastic drum fermenter sometimes called a carboy.

Then I added the yeast.


  • 4 packages Safale American US-05.

This is an American ale yeast producing well balanced beers with low diacetyl and a very clean, crisp end palate. Forms a firm foam head and presents a very good ability to stay in suspension during fermentation.

And that started fermentation!


32 Reasons I Love Paper

Fussing with paper isn’t always great but I still love it. Here are 32 reasons to love paper. What are yours? I’ll add your additional ideas to the list and credit you.

  1. It doesn’t need wifi.
  2. It never has a low battery.
  3. It doesn’t try to e-mail itself to me.
  4. When my hands are full I can hold it between my teeth easily.
  5. Or stuff it in my back pocket and sit down.
  6. It’s always on.
  7. I can read what’s on it in bright sunlight.
  8. It doesn’t disturb my sleep cycles with blue light.
  9. It folds easily.
  10. It doesn’t ring in the middle of the night.
  11. It never says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
  12. It doesn’t track my location.
  13. It doesn’t need a password.
  14. It feels good to touch.
  15. It comes in all sizes from 1″ x 1″ to wall sized.
  16. It can be rolled.
  17. You can glue things to it.
  18. You can cut it.
  19. You can throw it away.
  20. You can truly delete something by burning it.
  21. It flutters with wind.
  22. You can drop it and it doesn’t break.
  23. You don’t have to have an app.
  24. Coffee mug rings mean something on paper.
  25. You can pass notes.
  26. It doesn’t report on where you are.
  27. You don’t have to plug it in.
  28. It never offers to pay for something at random times.
  29. A blank sheet is an open invitation to doodle.
  30. You don’t have to turn it on.
  31. If it’s in book form it reminds you to read it by it’s physical presence.
  32. It’s a material that can be made to move at the speed of thought.

God is Always Hiring

I had read Regina Brett’s first book, God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours, a couple of years ago. I found it in Watermark Books & Cafe, a well-curated thriving independent bookstore in Wichita, KS.  Anne Frey helped me and we’ve been pen pals ever since.

When I saw God is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work in a bookstore in the Raleigh Durham airport, I knew I was in for a treat for my 6 hour flight. Each lesson bears a forthright title like “In this drama of life, there are no small parts.” and “Don’t confuse your work with your worth.”

Each chapter is short, attitude adjusting and often has to do with God. Some examples include “God completes our work” and  “It’s not about what you can do but what God can do through you.”

Brett has been a newspaper columnist for twenty years, fourteen of them for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Many of the lessons were originally published as a newspaper column.