Notes from reading The Nones by Ryan P. Burge

Cover of the book The Nones

The Nones by Ryan P. Burge is about the rise in Americans who are not affiliated with any religious group; the author calls this group of American’s “Nones” as a short hand. In addition to being an academic, the writer is also a Christian Pastor, so he writes with an eye towards understanding how a church can be relevant to this group.

The rise in Americans that don’t identify with any religious tradition is really striking. In the 1990s, just 20 years ago, less than 10% of Americans identified as not…

My notes and reflections on reading High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

The cover of the book High Conflict by Amanda Ripley. Subtitle: Why we get trapped and how we get out.
High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

When I was young, I heard older married people in my life talk about how to fight well with each other. I had no idea what this actually meant, but back then it seemed like the pinnacle of maturity to me. Fighting I knew, but doing it well seemed impossible.

High Conflict is a book about how to fight well, not just within a marriage, but as a person and a society. If the idea of fighting well in any of those contexts seems as impossible to you as it did to a younger version of me, then this is…

A scientist fills test tubes with a purple liquid. A tray of test tubes with different colored liquids is in front of her.
Photo by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash

This past week I’ve been helping a friend apply for funding from the Department of Energy. I don’t bring a lot to the table from a technical perspective, but I can look for places where someone who hasn’t been thinking about the topic all day for months on might lose the thread. I hope I’m being helpful.

It just so happened that this was also the week that ChinaTalk did a podcast on how to do R&D right with Ben Reinhardt. The combination of the two has me thinking a lot about funding mechanisms.

One of the themes of the…

A book about the Sonderfall Schweiz (Special case of Switzerland)

The Swiss flag on a grassy ridge among the Swiss Alps
Beautiful Switzerland

In the introduction to Why Switzerland? the author, Dr. Jonathan Steinberg, introduces two motivating questions for the book:
1. Why does Switzerland, a country without a national language or religion, exist at all?
2. Why should we care about it and what can we learn from it?

Gnocchi, sausage, spinach, and mushrooms fresh out of the oven

My wife discovered this discovered this recipe from thekitchn last year and it immediately became a part of our rotation.

Since we started making it, we’ve adapted it quite a bit into something different, but that we love a lot. I thought I’d share it so others can make it too.


  • Sausage ← 2 or 3 large links. Our choice of sausage varies, but mild or Italian sausage should be fine, as would ground sausage
  • Gnocchi ← frozen or fresh. 1 pound or 500 grams, minced
  • Mushrooms ← 1 pound or 500 grams. …

How it works and why I love it

The Matterhorn in between a Valais canton flag and a Swiss flag
Beautiful Switzerland

I’ve been living in Switzerland for more than 2 years now. There are many things I love about my host country, but probably the most unexpected one is the waste and recycling system. It’s pragmatic and effective and I’d like to see cities and towns in the US, my home country, adopt it.

The system is built upon the principles of self reliance and individual responsibility. The Swiss don’t want to trash their beautiful country and they don’t want to be reliant on other countries to take their waste and recycling¹. Therefore…

2020 has been a no good, very bad year. In no particular order, here are some things that I enjoyed in the midst of it.

Hiking above the Engadin Valley in Switzerland, one of my favorite places I visited in 2020


Things I read

The Browser. A daily digest of five recommended articles, a podcast, and a video on… basically anything, as long as it’s interesting. Consistently introduces me to things I love learning about. Some of my favorite discoveries from it include:

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

The business performance that impresses me from the past decade is Disney+.

Over the course of 2016–2018, with the cable and movie business under threat and Netflix and HBO are looming, Bob Iger surveys the landscape and decides that Disney needs to get in the game. He goes out and buys a bunch of different media franchises (Star Wars, Fox), a technology layer (BAMTech) and then wraps it together into a complete consumer offering that feels complete at launch in 2020.

This basically never works! It’s difficult for a start-up to do something like this, but it happens, because the…

My notes and reflections from reading Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

One day a couple of months ago, it occurred to me that day that my job requires me to do a lot of negotiating. With this in mind, I decided I should invest some time in learning how to negotiate better. After looking around some online, I picked up Never Split the Difference. I’m really glad I decided to read this book. It provides practical instruction on how to negotiate that I’ve already been able to put into practice.

The author, Chris Voss, is a former FBI hostage negotiator and is clearly someone who has been personally involved in hundreds…

Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

The NBA offseason is upon us. Teams and the league are both regrouping after one of the most unique seasons in the league’s history. There’s the usual off-season speculation (the draft, free agency) and some unusual off-season speculation (how they salary cap will handle the dip in revenue, what the cause of declining ratings is, when next season will begin).

I want to add another item to the list: the NBA App.

The NBA app (and website), is where many of us with league pass spend a lot of our time during the season. To say that it is a…

James Edward Dillard

operating a bit outside the lines

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