My 10 Favorite Books Of The Year – 2015

  • Posted on January 14, 2016
  • by Alan Blume

Insurance Marketing Resource LibraryEach year I write a synopsis of my ten favorite books of the year. My goal is to read across several genres, and I try to read about two books a month. This year I read some great fiction and non-fiction, classics, science fiction, business, technology and poetry. I read five business related books, though none seemed to make it on my top ten list for 2015. For what it’s worth, here were my favorites:

1913: The Eve of War by Paul Ham

A succinct but enlightening overview of how and why World War I began. Beyond perception, politics, panic and patriotism, it’s a review of how royalty sought to retain power by marrying within their own small family circles, and how this and other factors resulted in a disastrous confluence of events instigating World War I.

America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System by Steven Brill

America’s Bitter Pill is an exhaustive and sometimes exhausting look at how PPACA (Obamacare) came into existence. It is a detailed and dense work, informative, enlightening and frustrating, as the reader learns the nuances of Congressional infighting, special interest groups (pharma, bio, medical devices, hospitals, insurers, etc.) political turf wars and politicians quest for power and reelection. Though it sometimes reads as a tome, it is a worthwhile read, and reinforces in great detail America’s concerns about healthcare, special interest groups, lobbyists and Congress.

Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients by Jeremy N. Smith

Chris Murray, founder of the Global Burden of Disease studies, wanted to gain a truer understanding of how we live and how we die. A fascinating introspective about the importance and nuanced challenges in measuring mortality and improving global health.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Pollan helps expose the Western diet for the health nemesis that it truly is, where food has been replaced by nutrients, and fast food has become the norm. He offers insights into a society addicted to sugar and sugar additives, white flour and processed foods, which is resulting in an alarming rise in obesity, diabetes and cancer.  Pollan’s common sense approach to eating is summed up in the beginning of this excellent book, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Mountain Interval by Robert Frost

Mountain Interval is a classic poetry collection written by Robert Frost, which includes some of my favorite Frost poems such as The Road Not Taken, A Patch of Old Snow, and Birches.

  • I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
  • And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
  • Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
  • But dipped its top and set me down again.

Split Second by Douglas E. Richards

This fast and easy read is a techno-thriller which examines what would happen if you could go back in time for just a split second. It includes an interesting discussion about Einstein’s theory of relativity and how the universe would cope with time travel. Richards includes a very entertaining and thought provoking review of how “the Star Trek transporter” would work in theory.

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

When I read this, the third Lewis book I’ve read, it didn’t cross my mind that it could or should be a movie. That said, with Moneyball and The Blind Side already to his credit, a movie version of this interesting book should not arise as a complete surprise. Lewis follows some of the key players in the credit default swap market, including those that bet against collateralized debt obligations. The book moves along nicely considering the somewhat dry and technical characters and subject matter. I found it particularly interesting when those who identified the bad loans and likelihood of collapse were surprised that someone was willing to take the other side of the bet, namely those who believed that the positive real estate market trends would continue.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Not long ago I read The Beautiful and The Damned, and this year decided to revisit The Great Gatsby. It’s a wonderful work by Fitzgerald, though I actually enjoyed the characters in the former more than the latter, there is no doubt that The Great Gatsby deserves the attention it receives. A true classic written by one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

A funny, witty, light and bright comedy which is still amusing over 100 years since its first performance in London in 1895. Wilde covers the gambit in this play, from satire to comedy to intellectual farce. Anyone Wilde showcases his enviable range from this carefree and whimsical play to the dark and disturbing The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Moving from Frost to Longfellow, I revisited the classic epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha. Many may remember the greatly abbreviated children’s version which in reality is just a small section of this epic poem. The poem is a wonderful escape for both children and adults, vivid in imagery and folk lore. It uses trochaic meter, emphasis on the first syllable with four pairs of syllables in each line. This can grow tiresome when reading large expanses of the poem at any given sitting, but does help create a soothing feeling, conveying a feeling of simpler times, which I found appropriate for the poem.

  • By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
  • By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
  • Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
  • Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.

 

And for those who might like to read one of my books, or learn more about marketing, please visit my website: http://startupselling.com/web-marketing-books/

 

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Posted in: B2B Sales & Marketing, Education, Virtual Business
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Can yYou Are What You Eatou identify these foods from their list of ingredients? This should be an easy test, but the ingredients below make it much more challenging. Take the test and see if you can guess the food item. Many nutritionists would argue these are not really food. If we follow Michael Pollan’s advice In Defense of Food,  the processed items below would not meet the criteria for “food”.

  1. WHEAT FLOUR, BARLEY MALT, NIACIN, IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID, WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SOYBEAN OIL, SALT, YEAST, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, CALCIUM PROPIONATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, AMMONIUM SULFATE, CALCIUM SULFATE, SOY LECITHIN.
  2. CHICKEN STOCK, WATER, COOKED RICE, COOKED CHICKEN MEAT, CARROTS, SALT, CHICKEN FAT, POTATO STARCH, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, CELERY, COOKED MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, CHICKEN FLAVOR, ONION POWDER, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, FLAVORING, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, BETA CAROTENE, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, LACTIC ACID, DEHYDRATED GARLIC, CHICKEN POWDER, CHICKEN FAT.
  3. WHOLE GRAIN OAT FLOUR, SUGAR, CORN FLOUR, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, RICE FLOUR, SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, REDUCED IRON, NIACINAMIDE, ZINC OXIDE, BHT, YELLOW 5, YELLOW 6, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID.

Were you able to identify the “food” here? Check out the list below to see if you guessed correctly, and to determine why each food item has a boldfaced ingredient.

  1. SUPERMARKET WHITE BREAD (STOP & SHOP WHITE BREAD)
  2. CAMPBELL’S CLASSIC CHICKEN WITH RICE SOUP (GUESS HOW MUCH SALT IS IN THIS PRODUCT)
  3. LIFE CEREAL FROM QUAKER OATS  (HEALTHY LIFE CEREAL SEEMS LIKE AN OXYMORON)

Notable Notes:

The boldfaced ingredients are common on the top 10 lists of important food additives to avoid.

Campbell’s classic chicken with rice soup has 820mg of sodium for a ½ cup serving, though many people would likely consume a cup. 1,640mg of sodium is all or most of the daily recommended sodium intake, which ranges from 1,500 to 2,300mg.

As consumers become more aware of the benefits of single ingredient foods, and the issues with fast food and the western diet, it’s important to take a look at what many adults and children ingest on a daily basis. Processed foods like the examples above can commonly include 20 ingredients or more.

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Libraries Today – “Liseums” Tomorrow

  • Posted on May 8, 2010
  • by Alan Blume

Town libraries house tens of thousands of books, in relatively convenient locations not far from my home or yours. The New York Public Library system offers about 60 million items (books, videotapes, maps, etc.), over 20 million of these are books. That’s a lot of items which requires a substantial brick and mortar infrastructure and associated staff (counting inventory must be a killer!). According to Wikipedia, “Due to the current 2009 economic crisis, NYPL is facing a $23.2 million funding cut when the new fiscal year begins July 1. This will result in the expected elimination of 465 jobs, and in sharply scaled back branch operating hours.” That’s what happens when your budget exceeds $300 million dollars each year and the city and state government is running at a deficit.

But there is a solution. As all of this printed material and video morphs to digital, why would we need these items to reside in a central location? Does the model make sense anymore? Will continued pressure on government to reduce expenses change the way we think about and use libraries? Are libraries, like the US Post Office, relics of a bygone era that need to be completely reassessed and modernized?

I think libraries will need to transform themselves to remain useful and affordable. Perhaps they will have a few dozen (or even a few hundred) workstations with PCs for people who need to find an online resource, though wireless reading devices with Internet connectivity may become so cheap in the future that literally everyone in a highly developed country will have one. Librarians are likely to become virtual librarians, with a touch of a button they appear on your screen allowing for an instant video chat (that’s already available on line with many major libraries). Surely they will not be needed to sort and stack books, to send out late notices, to collect late fees and organize used book sales. Perhaps libraries will house old books no longer in print, maps and plans that are difficult to digitize, and local historical artifacts for the town, city or region. Some day in the very near future, libraries may become a combination of a library and local museum. I’ll call them “Liseums”. Liseums would integrate local museums with library functions, combining town (or city) historical society museums with libraries, reducing brick and mortar overhead and the associated costs.

Libraries must change to become practical in the future. They may become nationally centralized and online database centric. While researching my recent book, I stopped by my local library to ask a librarian a question. I met Jen in the reference section, and she was very helpful. She subsequently e-mailed me some articles pertaining to regional and national commuting statistics. Of course, if my local (or regional) library was more of an online resource, I could have accomplished the same thing faster and more efficiently through a video chat, web meeting or instant messaging session. In the very near future, I would hope to see my Kindle support online web meetings, Skype type video calling, and library download functionality. I can already download many classic books for free, why not download any book from a library for free (yes I realize that will then create author royalty concerns – but that’s a subject for another day)? Regardless of your perspective on this, I suggest you look for a Liseum near you, sometime in the very near future.

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Posted in: business, Education, Government Spending, Virtual Business
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An article caught my eye this morning about a local Massachusetts Elementary School which is considering an internationally recognized, global education, curriculum. called the International Baccalaureate. Wikepedia states that, “The International Baccalaureate (IB), formerly the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), is an international educational foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.[1] Founded in 1968 in Geneva, IB offers three educational programmes for children ages 3–19.”

According to Dan McDonald of the Metrowest Daily News, “International Baccalaureate exists in 2,827 schools in 138 countries and serves about 778,000 students. Central to the program’s coursework is the examination and analysis of subjects on a global scale.” Does a global approach to education make sense? In our new, “The World is Flat”, highly interconnected globally community, wouldn’t it make sense to incorporate common educational elements across all schools? Can we add weekly web seminars from talented and renowned teachers and subject matter experts from Europe, Asia, The Americas and other regions? Could this virtualization of education reduce costs, improve education and increase awareness? And will the economies of scale of online education result in a gradual but consistent movement to approach education from a more global and virtual perspective? Share your thoughts on this topic – comment away…

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