Why I Don’t Read Introductions

Today, I decided to get a library card at the Oxford Public Library. I cancelled my Scribd subscription, since membership is increasing. Whi...

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Why I Don’t Read Introductions

Today, I decided to get a library card at the Oxford Public Library. I cancelled my Scribd subscription, since membership is increasing. While getting books for my youngest, I saw a Toni Morrison book, Recitatif. Checking it out, I was excited. It’s short, so I knew I could read it quickly. 

When I returned home, I curled up in my bed to start reading. I decided to read the introduction. Sighs. The introduction had quotes from the actual text. I kept reading. Then, I glanced ahead and noticed that the introduction was half the book. 😠

So, I stopped reading the introduction. Now, the joy of discovering this book is gone. I can’t help but to determine who’s black and who’s white because of that discussion in the introduction. Unconsciously, I keep trying to figure that out and ignoring the actual plot of the short.

Normally, I skip the introductions of texts. They often have biases based on the writer’s understanding of the text. Introductions give away so much of a text in their explanations that it can ruin the experience for me. 

So, I’m curious. Do you read the introduction of a book? 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Guest Post: It's All in Your Head by Joseph D. Pianka MD

Behind the scenes look at how my book came about and the first scene of the book:

The events described in the opening chapter really happened, and I tried to describe what I was going through to the best of my ability. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted each of us in different ways, but it also affected our way of life and perceptions as a society in general. Our lives haven't been the same since, and we seem so far from getting back on track. Furthermore, the virus, in terms of variants, simply hasn't gone away. I believe those who suffered the loss of loved ones or became personally ill were most impacted; however, those in the healthcare industry were hit particularly hard as well. I think, in a moment of recognition of my own human frailty, in what for me was a perfect storm during what seemed the darkest moments of the early days of the pandemic, I unexpectedly discovered my own path to salvation in writing.
This also involved some pretty heavy-duty soul searching, confronting some inner demons that had been hanging around for far too long, and the eventual re-discovery of all that was most important to me; thereby, allowing me the opportunity to start anew and grow. There is an old saying, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” This idea, combined with my physician instincts if you will, kicked into overdrive, and I decided to lay it all on the line, hoping my experiences would ultimately benefit some of the patients I cared for in my practice who might face unique challenges of their own. And why stop there? Why not lay it on the line for all the world to see? My personal philosophy has always been that I would never regret the things I tried and failed, including writing this book, but would always regret opportunities and experiences I let pass me by. I sincerely hope this touches some lives in a positive way. If so, I would consider it a success. I’m donating all profits from book sales to Ukraine relief.

On the significance of my cover art:

This is actually an interesting story. When my book was first published, I wasn't crazy about the original cover. It never moved me, but being an absolute inexperienced novice in the writing and publishing space, what did I know? Plus, it had a retro feel that I thought might be complementary to my numerous references to past events and distant memories. The idea of rejecting it and waiting months for a revision seemed more than I could bear, so I eventually accepted it. It was publicist Marika Flatt, who, during our initial conversation, point blank said, “Hey, what's with this cover? This won't do and has to go.” I immediately knew she was right. It didn't reflect me or the message I was trying to send whatsoever.
So, I was introduced to the graphics company Mexelina. I sent them a brief summary of the book, bio, and what I had in mind, and they absolutely nailed it, first shot, with very few modifications. The concept of fitting the puzzle piece into the brain made up of stars against the backdrop of an infinite universe of possibilities is the vision of the book in a nutshell. If you combine the apparent overall dark color scheme with the faint glimmer of light on the horizon, this encapsulates absolutely everything I wanted to convey. Finally, the silhouette of the individual on the rock could essentially be me on numerous trips and excursions throughout my life but could also represent absolutely any individual who holds the book in their hands. 

Top ten things you didn't know about the book:

1.   Although there are many song lyrics directly quoted or referred to in the text, there are many more buried and not referenced within the text as well.
2.   The book has inspired the concept of a medical documentary addressing provider burnout now in the early production phase.
3.   The earliest intent of the work was intended to be a simple handout for my patients including some helpful nutrition and exercise tips.
4.   The book was not initially intended to be a bio-narrative. 
5.   Completing the publication process has been my greatest professional challenge to date but also one of my greatest learning experiences.
6.   Even after publication, I have a difficult time considering myself a writer.
7.   I have writer insecurity.
8.   Although I don't fear criticism or questioning of my beliefs or ideas, I do care what people think.
9.   Most patients who have read the book and provided me with feedback were most impressed by my willingness to express vulnerability.
10.  I was approached by an individual who received and started reading the book on what she described as her darkest day, and it helped her eventually find her way. For this reason, I will always be grateful and consider the book a great success.

About the Book: 

It's All In Your Head

A Guide to Health, Fitness, and Discovery in the New Normal

by Joseph D. Pianka, MD

The world is full of sexy advertisements, revolutionary gadgets, and cutting-edge diets which all promise instant results. But these ads, gadgets, and diets target a small subset of young, highly motivated, advanced enthusiasts, and they often don’t address the real health and fitness issues that plague a larger aspect of society: obesity, anxiety and depression, liver disease, substance abuse, poor self-care practices. The vast majority of people often don’t have the time to complete fitness regimens or the personalized motivation to stick with specialized diets.

Joseph D. Pianka wants to start a conversation about everyday concepts that have made an enormous difference for both himself and his patients. He strives to reach as many people as possible who may be overwhelmed, confused, or intimidated by the abundance of diet and fitness regimens available and to educate and motivate them to discover fitness practices which complement their lives and balance among all the regular activities they enjoy. It's All in Your Head was written directly for everyday individuals with busy lives and varied hobbies. Rather than another "how to" manual, it is a "why to" guide through the complicated space of fitness and nutrition. Incorporating the fundamental principles universal to successful diet and fitness programs and teaching self-motivation skills, It’s All in Your Head unlocks doors to previously unrecognized potential and the ability to maintain fitness dreams. 

About the Author 

Joseph D. Pianka, MD, FACP, FACG, has been a board-certified practicing gastroenterologist in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, for over twenty years. He has always found ways to rise above the dark moments medical practitioners face through his athletic hobbies and focus on family, but early in the COVID-19 pandemic, he fell into a spiral at the prospect of being unable to care for those who depended on him. With a television announcing early statistics about pandemic mortality playing in the background while he learned that a significant portion of his practice—and ability to care for patients—was being restricted, he had an emotional breakdown. Facing physician burnout and depression, Pianka decided to sit down and write an outline about staying fit and healthy in a seemingly chaotic existence, and he kept writing until the sun came out (literally and metaphorically). What began as a simple reference guide for his patients, conceptualized prior to the COVID- 19 pandemic, evolved into an unexpected second career as an inspirational writer. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Book Review: How to Be Better at Almost Everything by Pat Flynn

How to Be Better At Almost Everything book cover

Book: How to Be Better at Almost Everything: Learn Anything Quickly, Stack Your Skills, Dominate
Author: Pat Flynn
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟(5 Stars)

How to Be Better at Almost Everything fits perfectly in my theme for this year: Transformation. I turned 40 this year, and I am working on being the best version of myself. Having been familiar with Pat because of his podcast, I decided to download it via Scribd.

How to Be Better at Almost Anything intrigued me because it suggested skill stacking. Pat provides autobiographical details to illustrate how to successfully get better at a different set of skills, while not being a perfectionist. I like the idea of being a generalist, as Pat describes himself. The ideology surrounding generalism contrasts with being a specialist. In my new role, I am understanding more and more the importance of having a generalist approach to my role. 

Flynn also reiterated the importance of the 80/20 ideology, but he applied it to skill stacking with the suggestion to limit skill development to nothing more than 80 percent. Interestingly enough, I think that the idea of getting good at tasks/skills that are needed is very helpful. I have found myself focusing on improving very specific skillsets or learning new skills for specific tasks at work. How to Be Better at Almost Everything is truly useful in this aspect.

What I like the most about How to Be Better at Almost Everything is its practicality and that it is not being sold as a quick fix. Having listened to and read a lot of self-help books, I believe this book is perfect for people in new roles or who are involved in unfamiliar tasks. This book helps you figure out how to get ahead while completing what you need to do. I also believe people who are productivity addicts, like myself, will appreciate a new perspective to complete their goals.


It's one of the biggest lies you've probably heard your entire life: Mastering one specific skill set is the key to success. That may have been true 20 years ago, but in today's global economy, being the best at a single thing just doesn't cut it anymore.

Think about those people who somehow manage to be amazing at everything they do - the multi-millionaire CEO with the bodybuilder physique or the rock star with legions of adoring fans. We all quietly envy them from time to time - how do they manage to be so much better at life?

It’s tempting to believe they've achieved greatness because they're the very best in their field... or think that maybe it's just dumb luck. But it's much more than that. They've defied traditional perceptions of success by acquiring and applying multiple skills to make themselves valuable to others. They’ve become generalists.

In How to Be Better at Almost Everything, best-selling author, fitness expert, entrepreneur, and professional business coach Pat Flynn shares the secrets to learning (almost) every skill, from marketing to music to martial arts to writing and relationships, teaching how to combine interests to achieve greatness in any field. His direct, “Generalist” approach to self-improvement gives you the tools you need to make your mark on the world and make buckets of money - without losing your soul.

Discover how to:

Learn any skill with only an hour of practice a day through repetition and resistance.
Package all your passions into a single toolkit for success with skill stacking
Turn those passions into paychecks by transforming yourself into a person of interest.

In today’s fast-paced, constantly evolving world, it’s no longer good enough to have a single specialty. To really get ahead you need a diverse portfolio of hidden talents you can pull from your back pocket at a moment’s notice. How to Be Better at Almost Everything teaches you how to gain a competitive edge in both your professional life and personal life.

Purchase the How to Be Better at Almost Everything by Pat Flynn

Friday, July 01, 2022

Book Review: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way

Book: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way
Author: Robert Maurer
Format: eBook
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟(5 Stars)
Every since I visited the Toyota Plant in Mississippi, I have been fascinated with their productivity systems, especially Kaizen. Therefore, when I discovered One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, I knew I would enjoy it. This book fed into my addiction to productivity and understanding of how to implement changes to enhance my productivity. 

The book is a quick read, and it focuses adequately addresses the concept of Kaizen, a Japanese phenomenon that emphasizes continuous improvement. 

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way highlights five specific strategies to apply Kaizen to your life. Each of the strategies has a chapter that explains it in detail. These strategies are:
  • Taking small actions
  • Asking small questions
  • Thinking small thoughts
  • Solving small problems
  • Bestowing small rewards
  • Recognizing small but crucial moments others ignore.
This book provides numerous books to help illustrate the significance of making small changes to enhance your productivity and life. I liked this book because it shared the importance of incremental change to ensure that it lasts. We often read self-help books that recommend drastic changes, but these books often fail to help the reader make sustainable change. I am glad that Dr. Maurer adequately tackles how to make sustainable change in this book.


Improve your life fearlessly with this essential guide to kaizen—the art of making great and lasting change through small, steady steps.

The philosophy is simple: Great change is made through small steps. And the science is irrefutable: Small steps circumvent the brain's built-in resistance to new behavior.

No matter what the goal—losing weight, quitting smoking, writing a novel, starting an exercise program, or meeting the love of your life—the powerful technique of kaizen is the way to achieve it. Written by psychologist and kaizen expert Dr. Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life is the simple but potent guide to easing into new habits—and turning your life around. Learn how to overcome fear and procrastination with his 7 Small Steps—including how to Think Small Thoughts, Take Small Actions, and Solve Small Problems—to steadily build your confidence and make insurmountable-seeming goals suddenly feel doable.

Dr. Maurer also shows how to visualize virtual change so that real change can come more easily. Why small rewards lead to big returns. And how great discoveries are made by paying attention to the little details most of us overlook. His simple regiment is your path to continuous improvement for anything from losing weight to quitting smoking, paying off debt, or conquering shyness and meeting new people. Rooted in the two-thousand-year-old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching—“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”—here is the way to change your life without fear, without failure, and start on a new path of easy, continuous improvement.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Guest Post: No Spring Chicken by Francine Falk-Allen

Five Things Your Mom, Dad or Disabled Friend May Not Be Telling You
by Francine Falk Allen

Everyone eventually has physical challenges as he or she ages. Many of my girlfriends and I started having arthritis or other painful hand issues as early as our late 50’s or early 60’s, and we sure did not consider ourselves old! I have had a mostly paralyzed leg from polio since I was three, so am aware of hidden difficulties, and also know that people with disabilities or physical challenges often don’t like to bring them up. Frequently people feel that admitting these issues is also conceding to aging, or that people don’t want to hear about physical problems. Well, no one likes to hear a lot of grousing, but it’s important to know if our relatives or friends need a little compassion or assistance.

  1. Pain or weakness are not always obvious. People have different pain tolerances, and sometimes people will put up with pain and try to hide it until there is physical detriment which might not be reversible. Tendinitis (painful tendon) can be healed with rest and physical therapy, and tendinosis (permanent damage to a tendon) requires making adjustments to live with it. If your friend or relative is limping a little, that’s almost always due to pain or weakness. Please don’t say, “Oh don’t let it bother you, just keep walking.” Shorten the hike and kindly ask what the problem is. A trip to a doctor may be in order.
  2. People in wheelchairs hate to be patted on the head, just as deaf people don’t like to be shouted at. These are condescending actions. Patting someone on the head when they are seated is treating them like a child or a pet. Additionally, it’s hard on one’s neck to talk to people at length when they are standing above you. So sit down in a chair where you’ll have direct eye contact and relate on a more equal basis; if it’s just a brief set of comments, squat next to the person.
  3. Many disabled or challenged people hate to ask for help unless it’s a dire circumstance, such as a fall. I need assistance much of the time, and rather than ask for it constantly, I save up my requests for the most significant needs. Mom may find shopping more difficult, or not be able to lift things as “light” as ten pounds. I finally learned to ask for carrying out help at the market, rather than keeping up the pretense that I didn’t need help. When someone casually asks, “Need a hand?” it’s easy to say “Yes.”
  4.  “I don’t want to be seen on a mobility scooter but I sure wish I didn’t have to walk this far.” When I realized I was starting to need a scooter, I was an accountant and went to three-day tax seminars, which were held at huge convention centers or hotels. It’s never been easy for me to walk the distances other people can, and these big venues became exhausting for me. But I had a biased mindset that people who used scooters were either obese and lazy, or giving up on themselves, and that walking was always good for me and others. I had a prejudice about disabilities, even though I had one! Walking is not always good for people if it causes pain or exhaustion. I tried renting scooters on vacations, and had a much better time! I eventually bought a folding one that comes apart which I can lift into my trunk. Mine is a TravelScoot, but there are others; some are heavier and good for rougher terrain but may require a helper, a van, or a lift in order to transport them. I saw a guy with a nifty golf-cart-looking one recently; it was red, streamlined, had a windshield and roof, and would be good for the two-mile distance from my home to our nearest shopping center.
  5. “This house (and/or garden) has gotten too difficult for me to maintain, but I love my home and don’t want to think about moving.” This can be a tough one. If you notice that your mom’s or friend’s place is looking a little dirtier, messier or shabbier than it did in the past, there are a few approaches I’d suggest. One is to offer to chip in when you visit, or offer a particular time when you could come by for an hour to help clean, sort, or whatever. If there’s money to pay for extra help, you might say, “I have a great cleaning lady/gardener/handyman I think you would love; I’ll leave the phone number for you,” or offer to make the call. (Word to the wise: My 82-year-old mom refused help from her church, though her eyesight was so bad that she couldn’t see the dirt. She was too proud to have a “stranger” come in.) If things have gone beyond needing just a little help, it’s time to address finding a new and easier home environment; this is especially true if memory becomes an issue. Bring up these kinds of conversations far in advance of when a move or change is needed. Sometimes parents don’t feel comfortable with their adult kids “nosing through the checkbook” or changing things in the home, so a good way to begin this is to offer to help in small ways so that the parent (or friend) feels safe with your participation. We all love our homes to be bastions of privacy and safety. Abrupt changes are especially unsettling the older we become.
Some things about aging are welcome: the freedom from a full-time job, or having time to read or see friends more often. But physical difficulties will come to all of us, and they always feel they’ve come too soon. Your gentle non-invasive inquiries about someone’s needs will likely be welcomed and generate a closer relationship!

Question and Answer with Author

  • Tell us about your new book. 

No Spring Chicken addresses what we all face eventually: aging and the physical difficulties that can ensue. 

I’m a polio survivor who knows a thing or two about living with a disability and offer my take on how to navigate the complications aging brings with equanimity (and a sense of humor). Part I is a jaunt through accessible travel pleasures and pitfalls; Part II addresses the adaptations caregivers can make for a mutually rewarding relationship with their loved ones, plus advice for physically challenged and aging persons themselves regarding exercise, diet, pain management, mobility, care tips and more; and Part III discusses the rewards of engaging with support groups sharing similar issues, with a little activism and advocacy for good measure.

I’m told it’s accessible and wryly funny and is a fun and informative guide to living your best and longest life―whatever your physical challenges, and whatever your age.

  • What inspired you to write it? 

Well, again, I have a lifetime of experience to share about how to take care of oneself with a physical challenge, handicap, or disability and enjoy life as much as possible at the same time. I thought it would be useful to those facing the later years of life, or even younger people with a disability, or family and friends who are perhaps stumped about how to face their loved one’s challenges.

  • What is the one aspect that you hope readers learn from it? 

I hope they take away that there is almost always something we can do to improve at least one aspect of our condition, if not many, and to keep functioning as best we can in order to enjoy whatever opportunities present themselves to us.

  • As family members age, what should we keep in mind? 

That they are the same people they have always been with the same needs and desires, and they want to keep participating in life to the extent possible. Also, generally, aging people could use a little or even a lot of assistance, but most of us hate to ask, and only ask when it’s a dire necessity. There are exceptions of course, but most people I know prefer to be as independent as possible. So chipping in more than you used to without an air of “You should have asked me for help” or “Mom, you aren’t keeping your house clean enough anymore” is likely to be appreciated.

Website and Social Media:

Monday, June 28, 2021

Book Highlight: Cheyenne Summer by Terry Mort

The Battle of Beecher Island: A History 

Pegasus | $27.95 | Hardcover | 352 pages | 6 x 9” | 9781643137100 | July 6th, 2021

"Mort bases his detailed, page-turning account largely on recollections by Forsyth and by Cheyenne warrior George Bent, creating a nuanced portrayal of a battle that epitomizes the struggle to settle the Plains. A rich addition to the popular military history of the late-18th-century frontier." 

KirkusStarred Review

About the Book

During the morning hours of September 17, 1868, on a sandbar in the middle of the Republican River in eastern Colorado, a large group of Cheyenne and Sioux soldiers attacked 50 civilian scouts, signaling the start of one of the hardest fought battles in the annals of the American frontier. In Cheyenne Summer - The Battle of Beecher Island: A History (Pegasus | July 6th, 2021), a navy veteran and acclaimed author Terry Mort presents a stunning, detailed account of this untold chapter of American history, the Battle of Beecher Island.   


In the years after the Civil War, the completion of a railroad connecting the states on both coasts was a national priority. At the same time, the railroad - and the settlements along its route - posed a direct threat to Indigenous people. The Army, drastically reduced in size since the end of the war, was charged with keeping the peace, prompting General Phillip Sheridan to hire civilian frontiersmen to supplement his forces. After a week of scouting, a group of these frontiersmen, finding themselves at the limit of their supplies, were attacked by a force of as many as six hundred Cheyenne and Sioux warriors. 


When the smoke cleared after four days of fighting, half of the scouts and nine Cheyenne warriors were killed or wounded, including the famous fighter, Roman Nose. The commanding officer, Major George Forsyth, was finally able to send two scouts back to the nearby Fort Wallace on foot while the rest held out on the island for nine more days. All were on the verge of starvation when the 10th Cavalry—one of the Army’s two African American units nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers”—came riding to their rescue with a field ambulance and medical supplies. 


Though the Battle of Beecher Island was a small incident in US history, its story is exemplary of the Western frontier—exhibiting the heroism of warriors on either side of the dramatic conflict.  

“The Wrath of Cochise is compact, crisply written and provocative. Simply as a narrative of Western warfare, Mr. Mort's lucid, often beautifully written book is a pleasure to read. But he also poses questions that take his story to a deeper, morally challenging plane.”  

– The Wall Street Journal 


 “A well-done chronicle of a harsh war fought in a harsh environment.”  

– Booklist 


 “Meticulously written. Mort makes a fascinating read of every subject he takes up.” 

 – The Associated Press 


 “A unique biography of Ernest Hemingway’s decision to volunteer to hunt German U-boats in the Gulf Stream—it was this quest that would shape much of The Old Man and the Sea.  A rewarding read about the inner workings of an artistic mind.”  

– Kirkus Reviews 


 “Epic in scope. Terry Mort tells the story of a little-known period in the life of one of America’s greatest novelists.”  

– Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War 

About the Author

Terry Mort did his undergraduate work in English literature at Princeton University and his graduate work at the University of Michigan. After school he served as an officer in the navy, specializing in navigation and gunnery. His service included a lengthy deployment to Vietnam. He is the author of five novels, a book on fly-fishing, and most recently The Hemingway Patrols, a non-fiction account of Ernest Hemingway’s anti-U boat patrols off Cuba during WWII. He has also edited works by Mark Twain, Jack London, and Zane Grey. He lives in Sonoita, Arizona, and Durango, Colorado.