What is a deal breaker is the quality of pancake it produced. You don’t need an egg, although you are free to add one. All you really need is water. After mixing, you’re supposed to let it set for 5 minutes before pouring onto the griddle. The pancakes cooked up fine, but the finished product is much more like a mutated crepe than a pancake. Pancakes should be fluffy, not spongy. The flavor is okay, but the texture just overrides the okay flavor to provide a disappointing taste experience.
I tried different variations — using milk instead of water both with and without egg — all to no avail. I have a mind to try using a little oil, no egg, and water. But I’m not very hopeful. My experience thus far has certainly been far below expectations. I’m still sold on King Arthur flour, as I continue to experience great baking with it. But their pancake mix? No thanks. I’ll pass and stick with my Krusteaz, a wonderful product from Seattle that has never disappointed me. If it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it.
This morning I attended a presentation about the Fulbright program offered by the US Department of State. I didn’t much about it going in, and honestly more than anything I was attending simply to think about possibilities. As I mentioned in my earlier review of The Professor Is In, I need a Plan B, something to bridge the gap into the full-time teaching job I want.
And as it turns out, the Fulbright program might be a part of that solution for me. The program pays for one year of teaching English in a foreign country or one year of research study in a foreign country that can apply for a master’s or PhD degree or even a post doc. You could even get in on this action a few years after graduation. Recipients are expected to serve as ambassadors of US culture to other nations, and in exchange they get a modest living stipend for a year in a foreign country as well as paid travel to and from.
You need to a have a plan, though. It’s not like you throw your ring in the hat and hope you get sent somewhere great. Your application is essentially no different from a grant proposal, so you propose research in a specific country because something about that country holds an essential element for your research. For example, a biologist studying a species found only in a particular country could propose a research project in that country because only there is found the species that is the focus of the study. In my case, it would be working with a particular researcher. I would propose going to a particular country because in that country lives and works the particular researcher who can foster my research.
I didn’t start my PhD program with the idea of taking my research international, but as I sat listening to the presentation, it all felt right. A peaceful calm and assurance enveloped me. As I have thought about that experience throughout the day, it continued to feel right, like this could be the path for me. I don’t know that it is, but following it makes sense. One thing that sets more qualified candidates for academic positions from the rest of their hopeful competition is an expanded network. The more qualified have recommendations as well as a CV that shows evidence of a network expanding beyond one’s degree granting institution. Simply having a nationwide network would set me apart from the bulk of my competitors, so imagine what an international one would do.
Plus I’m still single and can really more easily accommodate doing this while I still am. And who knows? Going to a foreign country might be what I need to change that! Depending on the country, I might also have access to a healthier diet. I’ve heard over the years people talk about how “polluted” food in the US is. I never gave that much thought until recently. After years of trying to lose weight without much success, I wonder if there isn’t something to that idea.
At any rate, I’ll need to think about this some more. But it could be that an international adventure lies in my future. I’m open to possibility. Maybe this opportunity holds the possibility I really need.
I settled upon something I haven’t done in years. I went to Micky D’s for an apple pie. The whole trip took roughly a quarter hour, and the pie actually tasted better than that fried thing I remember having the last time I got a pie there. I don’t think I’ll be doing it again anytime soon. But it did save the day for me.
And I got a better idea afterwards that I’ll use in the future. Next time I’ll visit a diner for a real piece of pie. Plus I can deviate away from apple if I so desire. I think I will desire!
In preparation for my first viewing, I decided to have a trilogy party. Watching the first two films brought back lots of good memories, and I surprised myself with how much of the dialogue I actually remembered. I found myself laughing at all the great aspects from the first two films: phrases like most non-triumphant, the circular logic Bill and Ted used to decide what to do next, the conversations they had with future/past versions of themselves, the games they played as they fell down the seemingly endlessly deep hole to Hell, how Missy went from dad to dad, and of course the Grim Reaper. Death has to be one of the best comic characters ever.
So I was happy to see Death make a come back in the third film. And he’s still one of the best characters ever! Of course that means Bill and Ted go back to Hell. How else can Death come back into the story? That scene with Bill and Ted asking directions from the two goblins is just priceless. “Yeah, that’s a robot in Hell.” And speaking of robots, the robot in this film is awesome. I love how his name is Dennis, named after the ex of Rufus’s daughter! Brilliant!
While we’re on the subject of robots, what happened to the Good Robot Usses? I mean, they didn’t have to have every character from the previous films in this last one, and I’m not missing Station and his totally huge Martian butt, but what happened to Station’s creation? Did they not survive the 25 years between the second and third films? And what does that say about Station’s place the universe’s greatest scientist?
And what happened to showing the prolonged drop into Hell? That was one of the funnier parts from the second film. I was disappointed to see it cut out of the third, especially given how the film shows the daughters mimicking their fathers with how they speak to each other. Speaking of which, I just couldn’t get into how the daughters kept calling each other “Dude.” I just couldn’t get into that.
I was surprised to get a letter from Amazon today. Yes, that’s right. Amazon sent me snail mail. Naturally I was curious, although I suspected it to be some sort of marketing ploy. But I wasn’t entirely sure about that. Why wouldn’t they just send something like that with email? Wouldn’t that be more environmentally friendly not to mention more cost friendly? Then again, I thought that maybe they were going the snail mail route because the message would stand out more. How many emails does the average person get? Many of them are marketing emails from businesses looking ot generate sales, and people get so many of them (I know I do) that they all just become noise. Sending the message by another way increases the likelihood it will be seen as signal rather than noise.
What I didn’t expect to see was what now looks like an act of desperation. Apparently Amazon monitors the accounts of their customers to see what they are and are not using, and if there is something that bodes poorly in their estimation, they take action to nudge the customer back “in line” with their desire. Of course, all of this is automated. I’m sure they have some AI algorithm identifying the “out of line” customers and then sending out a form letter like the one I received. What I find really interesting is the role their streaming service appears to be playing in their revenue model. They wouldn’t be nudging me in this direction if it didn’t matter to the bottom line.
Of course, as the letter I received shows, I haven’t been using their streaming service, and I don’t plan on it. As I posted earlier, I’ve been reading more from my library. I’ve also ordered some new DVDs from a different site to have an occasional movie night. I wasn’t expecting them for another couple of days (learning the package would take about a week to get here didn’t bother me in the least), but the package actually arrived yesterday. So this letter I received from Amazon doesn’t change what I was going to do in the least. But I do find it interesting. And I wonder what would happen if millions or even just hundreds of thousands of other people would take the same action I took. What would Amazon’s response be? Would we see them in desperation?
And that brings to me the mixed feelings I have now knowing how things are. I’m nearing the end of my third year, which is when I should have everything together. And instead I got Butkus, and I’m not talking Rocky Balboa’s dog. Had I known at the start of my program what I know now, I could have approached my program differently and used my time better, especially during the summers. Now I just have lost opportunity and the sudden realization that Plan A isn’t going to work for me and, if I don’t have Plan B worked out soon, I could potentially be in a worse situation.
Yes, my advisor should have been my advisor, meaning he should have given me the advice I needed to make the best use of my time. But he didn’t. I don’t hold it against him, because the other big lesson I learned from reading this book is that most advisors don’t advise their students effectively. They are part of a system that encourages them to be the way they are or in the very least does not incentivize them to be what they should be. That’s water under the bridge for me. Successful people deal with the world the way that it is, not the way they wish it would be. I’m not going to look behind. I’m going to look forward.
And that brings me to the final big concept I learned from this book. The most competitive candidates have the mindset of a colleague or peer, not a grad student or an adjunct. Looking back at the last couple of years, I readily can see I’ve had the mindset of a grad student, not a colleague or peer. So, as they say in the Old West, it’s time to saddle up. Lock and load! And I’ve got plenty of ammunition in this book that gives very practical hands-on advice for making a 5-year plan and attending to the details of everything that should go into that plan. In fact, I may use it as a daily meditation. Before beginning my workday, I’ll read one chapter in this book. The chapters are small and many in this tome, and reading just one a day will help to keep the practical ideas and mindsets fresh in my mind as well as spur me on to the track my train should be on. Overall, this is a great book and a must read for anyone considering an academic career. 5 out of 5 stars.
Recently I had a hankering for no-bake cookies. I haven’t had any in I don’t know how long, but the craving was definitely there. Or maybe the craving was just for chocolate. At any rate, I decided to make no-bake cookies to scratch that itch.
I had never actually made no-bake cookies before, but it didn’t seem that hard, and in fact it wasn’t. Recipes vary, but they’re all pretty much the same. Still, I decided to modify my first ever batch. I just couldn’t help but experiment. I’m too curious. Plus I wanted to reduce my sugar intake. So half the sugar was gone. Boom. Just like that.
Then I decided to add in a couple of twists. First, I added in dried cherries, which I thought would complement the dark cocoa I was using. I always prefer dark chocolate to any other variety, so I always reach first for it over any other variety. It’s supposedly healthier for you, and even if it’s not, I just love the flavor. Adding dried cherries provided a very good complement to the dark chocolate flavor, although it added some sugar back into the batch. For a recipe calling for 2 cups sugar, I used 1 cup sugar and then added ½ cup dried cherries. I’m going to have to experiment with lowering the sugar content even more in future.
My second modification was to make cookie bars instead of individual cookies. I don’t have the space in my place t put out all the wax paper sheets I would need for even half a batch of individual cookies. Plus bars are always easier to deal with than individual cookies. What I didn’t expect (but should have, being a metallurgist) is the hardened slab that resulted once the batch had finally cooled in the pan. I needed a serious knife to cut off individual bars.
Still, my experiment was a huge success. The cookies taste wonderful. The dark chocolate and cherries go really good together. And best of all, my craving for no-bake cookies is totally gone!
What really fascinated me with the idea of a year of daily 1% improvements is the plot. I went deeper into the math to see detail. For example, how long does it take to get 100% (or 2X) improvement? If you start your daily 1% improvements on January 1, you’ll hit the 2X mark on March 11. You can get twice as good within a single quarter! By the end of Q2, you have 6X improvement. Whether or not you’re familiar with Grant Cardone and his 10X Rule, you’ll hit 10X improvement in you on August 20. A little more than a month later at the end of Q3, you hit 15X improvement. Now you really got momentum, and you fly in Q4, going from 15X to 38X better in just three months. It takes a while to build up, and much of that slow motion is in Q1. But if you can just keep going and build that foundation, you can achieve amazing results in the days to follow.
The other idea that captivated me related to identity. Often when working on improving, we focus on external behavior, because that’s what we really want to see change. I’ve certainly applied that approach religiously in the past. But Clear shows how that’s all backwards. Unless you change your identity to match the new behavior, you’ll sooner or later reject the new behavior because we all are hardwired to act consistently with who we really are. So instead of working from the outside in, we need to work from the inside out. We need to focus on adopting a new identity. So instead of saying, “I will read more,” say, “I am a reader.” Focus on changing the identity, and the behavior will naturally follow.
All throughout the book, Clear ties what modern neuroscience and psychology have to teach us into his approach, so not only is it practical, it leverages the science of your biological hardwiring to your advantage. By working with the way we are naturally designed to function, we can achieve more with doing less. I was so thrilled with what I learned from the book, that I made my own template to help me leverage his approach. Being an engineer, I of course put it into a spreadsheet so I can use it as a template. It’s pretty bare bones right now, and I anticipate the template will evolve as I use it more. But this seems like a good start. To be clear [pun intended], Clear includes all sorts of free materials on his website. I just thought to make my own material so I can adapt it as time goes on for my own use.
There’s more in the book that really opened my mind to a lot of wonderful thoughts, but overall, this book thrills me and fills me with possibilities of achieving all sorts of potential. If you have any interest in achieving goals or establishing any sort of different lifestyle than the one you currently have, pick this book up and read it. You won’t regret it. To the contrary, you’ll be taking a 1% step toward the changed self you want to become.
What drives my decision? The biggest reason is not getting what I’m paying for. The main point of Amazon Prime is 2-day shipping, which increasingly I have not been getting on what I’ve been purchasing on Amazon. Why would I give money for something I’m not getting? If the items simply aren’t available for 2-day shipping, that could be understood. But then what justifies paying for 2-day shipping? What they have available to buy with 2-day shipping means nothing. It’s about what I buy. Increasingly, what I buy isn’t getting to me in 2 days. I really don’t mind waiting longer, but why pay for 2-day shipping when I don’t get it?
I have other reasons for canceling. The largest of those is a desire to spend more time reading. I’ve certainly appreciated seeing a wide variety of films and other video content available through Amazon Prime. But I recently reflected on an awful truth. I have always imagined myself a lover of literature, and over the years I’ve collected my own personal library. And yet the majority of the tomes in that library I’ve never read.
In fact, yesterday I decided to put some numbers to it. I counted the books on each of my shelves and how many I’ve read all the way through. I didn’t include reference books in my count, because who reads the dictionary or the thesaurus? And what I found surprised me. I knew it was bad, just not how bad. Of the 614 non-reference books in my personal library, I’ve read only 211 of them. That’s 34.4%. I’ve watched 100% of my DVD collection and listened to 100% of my CD collection. Yet only about a third of my library I’ve actually read, and I’m a reader and lover of literature? Who am I fooling? Apparently myself, and for quite some time. Getting rid of Amazon Prime means forcing myself to satisfy any desires for entertainment in my library rather than some streaming content. Of course, I can still stream content online through free services. But I’m so sick of ads I’m far more likely to rediscover the love of reading I’ve always had within me.
My other reasons for cancelling are variations of a single theme: Some of these corporations have grown so big and powerful they need to be broken up, and Amazon is probably #1 on that list. Just like the trusts of a little more than a century ago, these companies have shown much more interest in amassing wealth and power than in treating people right, especially the ones who work for them and have made the wealth and power they have possible. How can the little people defend themselves against abuses of that power? Renewing my Amazon Prime subscription means supporting those abuses. Thank you, but no. I’d rather support local businesses. This doesn’t mean I’ll never buy from Amazon again. There may be times when I can’t find what I want anywhere else. But I guarantee I’ll be looking everywhere else before I give them any more of my money.
I remember a friend of mine who first introduced me to Amazon Prime years ago. At the time, she said she couldn’t live without it. As I think about whether or not I’ll be able to live without it going forward, I dare say I’ll manage just fine. In fact, I don’t think I’ll miss that much at all. And if I do end up spending more time reading instead of watching endless video content, I’ll be all the better for it.
In the past I always threw myself at my goals, and that was the problem. I was trying to make too much gain too quickly. I wanted to make huge changes at the level of my dreaming. But the new idea I encountered is that huge changes aren’t made in large steps but in small ones. It’s the aggregation of small wins that make large ones. And so my focus every day should be on doing the little things, achieving the small wins for that day and being patient in not seeing the results I want to see as quickly as I want. If I do that every day, in time I’ll have the large wins of my dreams.
And so this year I changed how I make my goals. I’m still a big dreamer; I can’t help but be anything else. But I decided that my goals for the year should represent just what I want to be at the end of the year. What portion of my big dream do I want to have on December 31? And then for that portion, every day I just focus on the small gain that needs to be made that day. And the next day just focus on the small gain for that day, and so on and so forth.
The idea comes ultimately from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, which I’ll be reviewing later. He says making just a 1% improvement every day will result in being 37X better by the end of the year. I actually did the math and found the number is closer to 38X. I also found some other interesting tidbits. A 1% improvement every day starting on 1 January means that you’ll be 100% better (or have 2X improvement) on 11 March. A couple of more weeks, and that’s the first quarter. By the end of Q2, you have 6X improvement. Whether or not you’re familiar with the work of Grant Cardone and his 10X Rule, you’ll have 10X improvement on 20 August. Just 6 weeks later you have the end of Q3 and 15X improvement. Now you really have momentum, and by the end of Q4 you’re about 38X (or 37.78X) better than at the start of the year.
Having applied these ideas to making my goals for the new year, I already feel a surge of power within me. I feel incredibly encouraged by this new approach, and I anticipate this year to be my most productive year of growth and achievement ever. Here’s to a new year and a new me!
Here you can find news and announcements I want to share. In between I'll include reviews of the books I read. Find me on Goodreads.com for more book reviews.