Tag Archives: learning

Blinkist: Staying Current in a Break-Neck World

Overview of Blinkist

I’ve been using Blinkist for well over a year now and am quite happy with it. There are free accounts (one Blink available to read each day selected by Blinkist) but I’m a paying subscriber ($4.16/mo.), I’m a little tempted to go Premium ($6.66/mo.) just to gain the ability to export my highlights to Evernote,[1] but for now, I’m being good.

Photo of Book, Glasses, and Phone
Image thanks to Dariusz Sankowski

What Blinkist does is summarize important non-fiction books which generally take 10-20 mins. to read. It allows one to be familiar with the book without investing hours into it.

I also use it to figure out which books I really want to read. It is great to read a brief summary and quickly see whether a full reading will be productive.

Blinkist is accessible on smartphone, tablet, and via desktops/laptops. I tend to read most frequently on my smartphone.

Guide to This Post

You’ve already made it through a quick overview of Blinkist, but there is still a lot of material I’ll be covering, so here is a quick guide to what follows so you can jump around if you so desire:

  1. Blinkist Features I Love
  2. Small Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist – This main consists of inconsistencies in their user interface – features aren’t available on mobile that are on full web, and vice versa.
  3. Big Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist – I have three specific features I’d like to see in Blinkist to make it more useful.
  4. Blinks I’ve Read That Convinced Me I Should Read the Book
  5. Books I Don’t Feel the Need to Read After Reading Blinks
  6. Blinks I’m Currently Reading
  7. Blinks I’m Most Eager to Read

Blinkist Features I Love

  • Favoriting – If you like a Blink you can favorite it. I use this to keep a list of books I want to buy / read in full.
  • Highlighting – I love being able to highlight portions. I actually have OCD and my highlighting is more than a bit compulsive, but I’m still happy to have the feature.
  • Introductions – Provide a brief introduction to the book, oftentimes highlighting the books major topics, and usually including a small bio of the author.
  • Final Summaries – Sums up the main point(s) of the book, recommends a related book to read.

Small Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist

  • The ability to take notes like one can on the Amazon Kindle.
  • Consistent features across devices, e.g.
    • Web App Lacks:
      • Ability to add to one’s To Read list.
      • Ability to add tags to a blink.
      • Ability to add Blink to favorites.
      • Ability to delete book from Currently Reading.
      • Ability to listen to audio.
    • Mobile App Lacks
      • Ability to add via the wish list items for Blinkist to create Blinks of.
      • Ability to buy book from currently reading list.
      • Finished List of Blinks completed.
    •  from the web app.
  • The introductory material (especially the blurb about the author), quotes, and heading sentences for each “page” to be highlightable.
  • When highlighting on the mobile app, sometimes the arrows allowing one to expand or contract the selection never appear (I find this inconsistently happens when selected the first [or last?] word in a line).

Big Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist

There are several rather large changes I’d like to see Blinkist bring about. All three have to do with making the Blinks more productive and useful.

First, there is the need for page references. Right now one knows the Blink is about the book, but not the particular pages or even chapters being referred to. Ideally, there should be chapter and/or page references for all the major points the Blink summarizes so one can pick up the actual book and quickly read the specific section one wants to read more deeply, rather than needing to browse the entire book.

Second, it would be great if there were quotes from the book summarizing each of the major points the book makes. These could be footnotes included in the Blink. They’d allow us to read controversial viewpoints in the author’s own words.

Finally, it would be great to be given resources to see what the critics of the book say. For example, Noam Chomsky criticizes American Foreign Policy in Rogue States, but how would his opponents rebut his arguments?

Another, even more important example is those books dealing with health and psychology. Authors make statements but it is unclear their sources or whether this is the author’s own opinion of scientific consensus.

Blinks I’ve Read That Convinced Me I Should Read the Book

  • (3) Jennifer Kahnweiler. The Introverted Leader.
  • (1) Dr. Eric Berne. Games People Play.
  • (3) William James. The Varieties of Religious Experience.
  • (5) Dr. David Perlmutter. Grain Brain.
  • (5) Dr. William E. Paul.
  • (4) Noam Chomsky. Rogue States.
  • (4) Leonard Mlodinow. Subliminal.
  • (5) Atif Mian and Amir Sufi. House of Debt.
  • (5) Giula Enders. Gut.
  • (4) Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth.
  • (3) C.L.R. James. The Black Jacobins.
  • (2) Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • (4) Tim Spector. The Diet Myth.
  • (3) Roy F. Baumeister and John Tiernye. Willpower.
  • (4) Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail.
  • (3) Susan Cain. Quiet.

Books I Don’t Feel the Need to Read After Reading Blinks

  • Dr. David Perlmutter with Kristin Loberg. Brain Maker.
  • Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. The Peter Principle.
  • James Rickards. The Death of Money.
  • Carl Zimmer. A Planet of Viruses.
  • Michael Alvear. Make a Killing on Kindle.
  • Timothy Snyder. Bloodlands.
  • Tim Ferris. The 4-Hour Workweek.
  • Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. What’s Mine Is Yours.
  • Walter Isaacson. Einstein.
  • Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller. Attached.
  • Margaret Cheney. Tesla.
  • Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold. Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming.
  • Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. Triggers.
  • Jon Ronson. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
  • Alex Epstein. The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.
  • Christopher Hitchens. The Trial of Henry Kissinger.
  • Christopher Clark. The Sleepwalkers.
  • Chris Brogan. The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.
  • John Lanchester. I.O.U.
  • Benjamin Graham and comments by… The Intelligent Investor.
  • Philip Zimbardo. The Lucifer Effect.
  • Gary Taubes. Why We Get Fat.
  • Suki Kim. Without You There Is No Us.
  • Thomas Paine. Common Sense.
  • Edward W. Said. Orientalism.
  • Phillip Coggan. Paper Promises.
  • Edward D. Kleinbard. We Are Better Than This.
  • Kevin Roose. Young Money.
  • Ha-Joon Chang. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.
  • Kabir Sehgal. Coined.
  • Ha-Joon Change. Economics: The User’s Guide.
  • Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky. How Much is Enough?
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto.
  • Eric D. Beinhocker. The Origin of Wealth.
  • Karl Pillemer. 30 Lessons for Loving.
  • Niall Ferguson. The Ascent of Money.
  • Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. Sex at Dawn.
  • Masha Gessen. The Man Without a Face.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince.

Blinks I’m Currently Reading

  • Stephanie Coontz. Marriage, a History.
  • Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Poor Economics.
  • Ha-Joon Chang. Kicking Away the Ladder.
  • Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. The Upside of Your Dark Side.
  • Karen Piper. The Price of Thirst.
  • Jeffrey A. Leberman, Ogi Ogas. Shrinks.
  • Steven Pinker. The Better Angels of Our Nature.
  • Adam Braun. The Promise of a Pencil.
  • Seth Godin. Tribes.
  • Lawrence Lessig. Free Culture.

Blinks I Am Most Eager to Read

  • Tom Rath. StrengthsFinder 2.0.
  • David Richo. Daring to Trust.
  • Oliver Sacks. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales.
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin. Team of Rivals.
  • Mark Goulston. Talking to Crazy.
  • Donella H. Meadows. Thinking in Systems.
  • Dr. Richard Bandler, Alessio Roberti and… The Ultimate Introduction to NLP.
  • Noam Chomsky. Failed States.
  • Jeremy Rifkin. The Zero Marginal Cost Society.
  • Ori Brafman. Sway.
  • Walter Mischel. The Marshmallow Test.
  • Helen Fisher. Why We Love.
  • Robert Karen. Becoming Attached.
  • Brene Brown. Rising Strong.
  • Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon. A General Theory of Love.
  • Ray Kurzweil. The Singularity Is Near.
  • Josh Kaufman. The Personal MBA.
  • Richard Koch. Living the 80/20 Way.
  • Brian Tracy. Eat That Frog!
  • Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Childhood Disrupted.
  • Laura Putnam. Workplace Wellness That Works.
  • Patrick M. Lencioni. The Advantage.
  • Ron Friedman. The Best Place to Work.
  • Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence.
  • Dr. Frank Luntz. Words That Work.

I Make Money

I try to write only was is worth reading and to only recommend products I believe in,still I figure you deserve to know that I will get paid if you sign up for Blinkist through one of the links on this page.

  1. [1]Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with Evernote. I wish there was something else that worked better than it did, but I haven’t found it. Microsoft OneNote seems significantly clunkier.

Medieval II: Total War.

Video Gaming has become a major part of our culture. Today, whether played individually or in groups (whether locally or via the internet) gaming has become as much a part of our culture as professional sports or television. Mario and Halo among other games have established themselves as bona fide cultural icons.

I’m a picky gamer. My personal preferred genre is turn-based, historical strategy/tactical wargames. A mouthful, huh? Why do I like these games so much?

Medieval: Total War 2
Medieval: Total War 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • They offer an educational experience with (generally) highly detailed maps and historically accurate units and commanders.
  • They offer a intellectually stimulating experience require the use of significant analytical skills to determine the best methods to victory.
  • They offer significantly more hours of gameplay than most other genres of games, especially simple-one path games like most first person shooters (FPS).

Within this genre one game that stands out as an excellent example and worthwhile purchase as an entertaining and educational resource is Creative Assembly’s Medieval II: Total War. This game is part of a old (in gaming years) and venerable line of “Total War” games beginning with Shogun: Total War and most recently culminating in Empire: Total War. While the graphics and artificial intelligence have improved with the years, the basic gameplay has stayed remarkably the same.

Each Total War game represents a distinct historical period – in the instance of Medieval the period is somewhat obvious – it covers the medieval time period (e.g. crusades, early discovery of the new world). One takes command of any of a variety of historical nations and oversees one’s countries progress – first at a strategic level that includes town management, technology development, political negotiations, and military recruitment. Then when combat occurs one has the choice to enter into the tactical arena and to command one’s troops in beautifully rendered 3D worlds through a pausable real-time interface (bringing the best of cinematic historical combat with the intellectual challenge of turn-based combat).

I’ve never exhausted the bounds of a Total War game. Playing as each nation is a unique experience. Each nation has its own unique historical advantages and disadvantages (e.g. England must rely upon naval power while nations in Eastern Europe face continuous threats to varied influxing enemies) and playing through a single nation’s history in a single game can be a process of scores – if not hundreds of hours. Medieval II: Total War is not a game one sits down and plays in a day or a week or even a month – its meant to last month after month (for the casual, moderate gamer) and then one has only finished the game as that nation!

Medieval II: Total War also have a worthwhile expansion pack called Kingdoms which retrofits some features in Medieval II: Total War along with adding several additional campaigns (each of which could be a game in and of itself) including the Crusades, Americas (early conquistadors, inter-tribal warfare), Teutonic, and Britannia.

MII:TW is now available at bargain prices…as are older titles in the same series. So go to Amazon and grab both titles for less than $20 (the cost of two movie tickets, or four dvd rentals): Medieval II Gold Pack (Total War, Total War Kingdoms). Yes, of course, I get a referral fee – but seriously – these games are awesome. 🙂

Bible.org – For studying and living Christianity.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Image via Wikipedia

For those who are Christians or who are interested in understanding Christianity, there are few sites on the internet more valuable in learning and growing than the Biblical Studies Foundation (bible.org). While the resources available to understand and practice Christianity are extensive generally, the availability and freedom with which the BSF makes its resources available is practically unparalleled. I have used the BSF site for years and continue to utilize it regularly and rave about its magnificent capabilities.

Let’s take a look at a few of the BSF’s many features:

  • New English Translation (NET) – A brand new translation of the Old and New Testaments from the original manuscripts. The NET is readable and yet precise, but what really makes the translation stand apart is the 70k+/- footnotes that are throughout the text. These footnotes are not commentary on the text but rather explain the translators decisions, especially on controversial verses. They offer deep insight into the original texts and are an amazing aid to the bible student or translator.
  • Book Commentaries – Contemporary commentaries written by sincere bible students/scholars are freely available on the BSF website. While there is great value in the two thousand years of commentary we have on Scripture, these commentaries offer an additional perspective including the latest manuscript and archaeological evidence, contemporary illustrations and applications, and so on while maintaining fidelity to the Scriptures.
  • The Theology Program (TTP) – An extensive theological training program meant for churches to utilize in training lay individuals in theology. The course is in-depth, practical, and understandable. Its meant to help those who want to push on in their theological understanding but cannot afford the expense or time commitments of a college education at this juncture in their lives.

These are only a few of so many wonderful things you will find at the BSF. I insist, you must visit!

Mental Health Reading List (Part I) – Introduction.

I am fascinated by mental illness. Part of this comes from an interest in just about everything that is abnormal or unusual. Part of it comes from the constant battle to understand and improve myself. I have childhood onset obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as well as struggling with depressive episodes. I have spent years battling and learning about my disorders. That said, I am convinced that raising knowledge about mental illness, especially amongst those who are or desire to be leaders, is essential to doing things more effectively in the future than we have in the past. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to become psychiatrists or psychologists – but rather that anyone of us who wants to be a leader should seek to understand the general nature of mental illness as well as its most common manifestations.

To be mentally ill is not always (or even generally) to have a complete break with reality. Individuals such as myself (and many others) make up the majority of sufferers from mental illness. We function rather normally on a day-to-day basis. The truth is that mental illness can be extremely subtle and yet heavily damaging. As leaders we need to increase our ability to see the subtle signs of mental illness and help those we love and lead get the assistance they need from professional practitioners. This is not about taking someone who is non-functional and bringing them to a point of functioning, rather it is about taking individuals who are functioning (perhaps ourselves) and removing (or smoothing out) the roadblocks that hinder them.

Will you really meet that many mentally ill individuals? Absolutely. According to the National Institute of Mental Health over 25% of adults in the United States are suffering from a mental disorder right now. That is nearing 60 million people in the United States alone. Granted, it is around 1/4th of this number who suffer from severe mental disorders in the U.S., but this means that around 1 out of 4 individuals have at least a mild mental illness and 1 out of 16 have a serious mental illness.

In this series of blog posts my intentions is to point to some general resources on mental health that can serve as quick primers on the nature of mental disorders as well as specific resources on the most common mental disorders. I hope you will consider joining me in studying and understanding this rapidly expanding field so we can better love and lead those around us. I especially urge religious leaders to become involved in this study. As leaders we must work on our ability to differentiate spiritual and physical ailments and assist our congregants in receiving the correct assistance.