Reading Summary – 2020

It’s that time of year again.

I did manage to get quite a bit more titles in this year AND I have managed to write each summary immediately after finishing the book. Let’s see if I can do better in 2021.

On with the list..

Death –  Dream’s sister has enough content to merit her own book.  I had never read The Time of Your Life or the High Cost of Living and they’re both worth the price of admission.  The icing on the cake was a safer sex PSA brought to you by Death herself assisted by a reluctant John Constantine

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor –  A case study of key milestones and events of the life of Marcus Aurelius through the lens of Stoic Philosophy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques

If Hemingway Wrote Javascript – A charming and diverting series of short and familiar coding exercises told in the style of a myriad of classic and contemporary writers.  Lots of fun and technically challenging at the same time.

Masters of Command – A multi threaded case study in leadership focusing on Alexander the Great, Hannibal Barca, and Julius Caesar.  Detail oriented, if a bit repetitive.  For example, I don’t know how many times I need to be reminded that Hannibal had 37 elephants except for the one time he had 80 or that Hephaestion ‘was perhaps’ Alexander’s lover.   Still a great comparison of these epic and larger than life figures that knew what they wanted and how to win it but never how to stop.

The First American – An incredibly dense and detailed biography of Benjamin Franklin.  Covers his entire life as an author and printer followed by budding scientist and Renaissance Man and ultimately the preeminent American statesman and diplomat.  Would highly recommend to any student of early American history or even those just looking for more detail beyond the brief anecdotes attached to a truly legendary figure.

Enchiridion of Epictetus – A condensed and almost bulleted list of Stoic maxims.  While a classic and worth reading for students of the philosophy interesting in going to the source, I find modernized examples of the same ideas such as The Daily Stoic to be more accessible to modern audiences and more suited to repeat reading.

Brief Answers to the Big Questions – A memorable gift from Stephen Hawking in what would turn out to be the final year of his life.  A sobering and hopeful summary of outstanding questions brought about by previous questions that he strived to help answer.  Dense and technical yet accessible to the layperson reader, in true Hawking style.

Medium Raw – Anthony Bourdain’s follow up to his seminal work: Kitchen Confidential.  Some clarifications and redirection on previous positions as well as some boosting and doubling down of the same.  Engrossing as ever and steeped in his incisive and often caustic insight and wit.

Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s memoir about their experience in Iraq during the Battle of Ramadi.  A distillation of lessons learned that is intended to be applied not only to the battlefields abroad but to professional and personal challenges as well.

Moneyball – Billy Beane has had a lasting impact not just on the Oakland A’s, but baseball as a whole.  I’ve watched most of these players live (Hell.. I’ve got Swisher’s jersey hanging in my closet) so this read was very nostalgic for me.  And Michael Lewis’s mostly-documentarial approach to writing about finance, business and sports hits a sweet spot for me (Ben Mezrich is another author I recommend for similar topics)

The Obstacle Is The Way – One of Ryan Holiday’s core works on Stoicism.   Adjacent to works like Antifragile in reminding us that there is no growth without resistance and often what frustrates or hinders you the most is probably exactly the challenge you currently need.

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell –  The chronicles of Tucker Max, who I’ve never heard of until a friend asked if I’d seen the movie based on this book.  A sweat and booze soaked journey of a motley crew of frat boys at their absolute worst.  I’m not sure I’ve laughed out loud this hard in a while. 

The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World : From Marathon to Waterloo – A classic summary of the decisive battles of the world from antiquity on forward.  Another interesting bit of trivia is that this book is the basis for a verse from the ‘Modern Major-General’ song from The Pirates of Penzance.  There’s apparently a later edition of the book which adds 5 more battles post 1850 as well as a line of simulation wargames covering each.  I’m looking forward to checking those out.

Iron John – Centered around a Grimm’s Fairy Tale, this book incorporates folktale archetypes and stories that predate classical Greek and ancient Egyptian mythologies to lay out a ‘Man’s Journey’.  It borrows heavily from Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung or at least follows the pattern of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a book cited often by George Lucas as an influence for the Star Wars universe.

Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins’ part auto-biography/part motivational work.  This is his personal story of being born into and later escaping from an abusive home into an uncertain future and his transformation of that bad hand into a successful and celebrated military career.  Brutal and raw, the author leaves nothing to hide and everything on the table and dares the reader to do the same.

Dune – THE original classic.  It’s been over 20 years since I’ve read this, but I felt the need for a refresher now that the new movie is coming out.  It was fun to revisit and refresh my memory.  Also interesting how many quotes were copied verbatim to both the Lynch movie and the Sci-Fi channel mini series.

The Score Takes Care Of Itself – A posthumous collection of anecdotes on leadership with a ‘focus on fundamentals’ approach from legendary San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh.  Includes a wealth of personal stories as well as observations and short stories from other sources familiar with the teams journey from a 2-14 object lesson to a 3 time Super Bowl champion (at the time of Walsh’s retirement).  As a Raider fan, this was personal for me in other ways, but was still a fun dose of sports nostalgia.  This book is often cited as a precursor or inspiration for other more modern ‘back to basics’ case studies on leadership and turning around a failing system.

War Is A Racket – An collection of antiwar and isolationist essays written by Gen. Smedley Butler based on his first hand point of view on corporatism and the military-industrial complex.  Short and pulls no punches with some interesting anecdotes about the Bonus Army and the corporatist plot against the FDR administration.  Closes with some cautionary warnings about too much (at the time) American admiration and aping of the fascist systems rising in Italy and Germany.  A worthwhile read.

The Civil War – Caesar’s first hand account of the Roman Civil War beginning with the conflict against the Optimate faction in Rome culminating with the defeat of Pompey in Greece,  his part in the Ptolemaic conflict in Egypt and the final battles against Scipio and Cato in North Africa.  Probably had more footnotes and external references cited than actual pages, but that seems necessary considering the depth available for each event in the timeline that may only get a page or two.  It was also a bit jarring to have the author refer to himself in the third person throughout the account.  Even if this was due to the translation, it shouldn’t surprise me that an icon of vanity and self-promotion like Julius Caesar would default to that.

The First Five – Even though I grew up during the Black Flag/Rollinsband years, my first real introduction to Henry Rollins was his spoken word album Think Tank.  Rollins has a gift for vivid and engaging storytelling that at times qualifies as standup.  Since then, I’ve sought out his other spoken word shows as well as his more recent acting efforts (Check out He Never Died!)  The First Five is a collection of journals, essays and poems from his Black Flag years originally packaged as five separate books.  Angry, vivid and frequently misanthropic, I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone a weak stomach.  To call it emotionally taxing would be an understatement.

I’d love to hear any feedback on this list and invite you to share your own reviews or recommendations.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to

Happy New Year – Happy New Decade

Here’s to a new year!  And not just that, but to an entirely new decade!  If you want to feel a bit surreal and/or old, check out this interesting article of factoids over at Wait But Why

To start off, I’ve been seeing these Decade In Review listicles floating around.  Seemed like a fun little exercise, so here’s mine:

  • 2010 – Welcomed our daughter into the world and went back to college to finish my degree
  • 2011 – Started smoking meat and making homemade spices as a hobby.  Earned my first 4.0 GPA.  Drove cross country from Philadelphia to Wichita.
  • 2012 – Graduated from Fort Hays State – Bachelors in Information Systems
  • 2013 – Broke out of my comfort zone and started coaching youth sports and college recruiting.  Celebrated 10 years of marriage with our own private road trip around Kansas
  • 2014 – Despite having lived in California for several years, finally took Karla and the kiddos on a cable car and hiking through the SF streets
  • 2015 – Rediscovered writing by starting a blog
  • 2016 – Took a family road trip through the Midwest.  Rekindled my tabletop and pen & paper gaming hobbies, making many new friends along the way.
  • 2017 – Embraced my career specialization and spoke for the first time at a global conference
  • 2018 – Traveled to Hawaii, our first time off the mainland.  Sold our home in Kansas, packed up our lives and relocated to Arizona
  • 2019 – Doubled down on my career specialization and earned a promotion.  Said goodbye to our first ‘baby’, Maureen as well as to one of the most influential people in my life.

It’s amazing how time flies and how so many of these memories seem so recent.  My life today doesn’t resemble the life I started in 2010.  I’m sure many of us will have a similar experience in 2030.

Speaking of, what’s next?  In keeping with my guidelines around starting less, I’m looking at improving or finishing what I’ve already started rather than taking on new challenges.

Choose health – As much as I belabor this point and punish myself for failing, I still keep missing the mark.  That’s no reason to give up, just to try it again and try it different.

Learn more – My reading habits have fallen off a bit this year as well as my self study habits.  I’ll be setting aside dedicated time for this in my professional as well as personal studies

Build more – As with my reading habits, my writing habits aren’t doing much better.  Starting off on the right foot, I’ve been setting aside dedicated time for writing and have already submitted a candidate session for Knowledge 20!

Not an ambitious list in the context of beginning a new decade, but I’m thinking embracing a principle of ‘Doing Less to Accomplish More’ will be prudent.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to

Happy New Decade, everyone!

Reading Summary – 2018

It’s that time of year again.

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since my original reading list. I’m pretty sure I’m reading as much as I dare at a time (quality over quantity). One thing I’d like to track this year is how many books I buy/receive v. how many I’ve actually read. For those of us who tend to buy books whimsically and/or recklessly, it might be a good idea to cut down on that pile of shame. (Confession: I’m already -1 on that count)

Anyways, on with the list..

Ghost in the Shell Deluxe Edition Volume 1 – A watershed work of cyberpunk.  I’ve been a fan of the anime since the original release in the 90s.  The original manga does not disappoint.

The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck – Kind of an anti self-help book.  Some interesting premises and ideas around the futility of avoiding discomfort and making systemic changes with that in mind.

Babylons Ashes –  Book 6 of The Expanse.  Continues the arc of the previous book neatly while still taking us on a few tangents to flesh out the after effects of recent events.

The Churn – An Expanse novella.  There’s a set of these, one for each of the lead characters.  This one gives us the backstory of Amos Burton, the Rocinante’s mechanic.

Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes – A collection of (very) funny interpretations of world mythologies and religions.  Think of it as if Cracked wrote a course on comparative religion

Persepolis Rising – Book 7 of The Expanse – This entry takes us forward about a generation past the events of Babylon’s Ashes while still keeping us up to date on familiar characters and introducing some new ones.  Probably one of the weaker offerings of the series but I’m still hungry for more.

The Butcher of Anderson Station – An Expanse Short Story.  Much shorter than The Churn, but still a good read.  Little bit of insight as to how Colonel Fred Johnson got his infamous moniker.

Old Man’s War – This is my first introduction to John Scalzi and I was not disappointed. This book (series) is surely inspired by Heinlien’s Starship Troopers, but without all the bloviating. I’ll be continuing with the series.

Antifragile – IIRC, I read this book as part of a Strenuous Life challenge. An in-depth study of building better systems by microfractures and the idea that there is no strength or growth without resistance.

Blood Meridian – A vivid and nightmarish stream of consciousness using historical events as a backdrop. This was a bit dense and requires some concentration to truly appreciate. It was a nice reminder that just because something is critically acclaimed and makes a lot of Top 10s, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

The Accidental Billionaires – The story of the founding of Facebook. Interesting and familiar but that’s mainly because I already knew the story. Still, if it’s a Ben Mezrich book, I want to read it.

The Ten Day MBA – Very interesting crash course in business.  Brushed up on existing knowledge and learned a few new things

12 Rules to Life – Excellent restatement of common sense principles by controversial personality Jordan Peterson. Accessible and interesting, if a bit long winded. 

 The Professor In The Cage – In the spirit of George Plimpton’s ‘Paper Lion’, this is solid behind the scenes storytelling of the world of fighters.

Skin In The Game – Another one by Nassim NicholasTaleb.  A discussion of evaluating advice based on the risk profile of the advisor.

A Fighter’s Heart – An interesting examination of commonalities across multiple fighting styles from both the fighters and spectators.

No More Mister Nice Guy – Watershed work on breaking unhealthy conditioning and making your needs a priority.  Intended for men but might be valuable to anyone.

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius intended for these musings to be for his own personal reflection.  It’s since become regarded as one of the iconic works of Stoic philosophy.  Suitable for reading beginning to end or for spot reading as desired.

Letters from a Stoic : Volume 1 – Another watershed work of Stoicism.  Written as advice to friends which means the names might require some googling.  Also, the content is a bit repetitive and comes off as a bit flowery and preachy.  I prefer Meditations

This Will Never Happen Again – A collection of essays from David Cain’s website.  Good reads for grounding and motivation

I’d love to hear any feedback on this list and invite you to share your own reviews or recommendations.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to

Blogs I Follow

And now for something completely different…
I’m assuming most people have a set of sites that they check or frequent on a daily basis.   This post is a list of favorites that I have on my feedly app.  I generally sift through these and save some interesting articles to Instapaper for easy access wherever I happen to be.
Coding Horror – Probably THE blog that motivated me to switch to software development full time.  Funny and insightful.
Scott Hanselman makes the short list of any Who’s Who when it comes to Microsoft solutions.  Posts frequently with either interesting ‘What’s New?’ or other content.
Trisha Gee – I had first heard of Trisha during the inaugural HackSummit() conference and her presentation was one of my favorites.  A Java expert and advocate.
John Sonmez – I’d first heard about John after taking a few of his courses on Pluralsight.  After following his blog for a while, I took his Create A Blog course and the result is this site.  Daily new content.
Humor and Personal
Drew Magary – Drew is a writer for several publications including Deadspin and GQ.  We’re about the same age so his posts about parenting and cooking are very relatable.
Wait But Why – I ran across this blog a while back.  Posts feature length articles on cool futurist topics like space exploration and AI.  If you read anything on the site, make time for the four part series on Elon Musk.
The Art of Manliness – I’ve been reading AoM for a few years now.  Very interesting articles on hobbies, fitness, fashion, traditions and more!  This is the site that got me to drop my cartridge razor in favor of a safety razor.  (Highly recommended)
Mr. Money Mustache – Personal finance advice and a must read for anyone considering early (or at least earlier) retirement.
The Daily Stoic – A Ryan Holiday blog.  Stoicism has been enjoying some recent popularity and reference.  This is a good resource for anyone interested in the basics or a deeper dive.
I’d love to hear any feedback on this list and invite you to share your own reviews or recommendations.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to
Thanks for looking in!

Adding Widgets to WordPress

I wanted to flesh out the blog itself a little bit and experiment with WordPress. So, I decided to add some Widgets to the sidebar. These are configurable items that you can arrange alongside other WordPress content like menu and category links. They can be based on plug-ins or can be iFrames or just straight HTML so I’ve added a few examples. Once created, they can be arranged or reordered at will or shown/hidden based on certain conditions such as page or WordPress user properties.


First off, I wanted to brand the blog using the logo from Simple Programmer that I earned by completing the course that launched this blog in the first place. This is a simple hyperlink tag sourcing an image file as the element. To add this, I created a Text widget which allows you to add arbitrary text or html.



Next, I wanted to add a link back to the Github repository I created for a previous entry here. I accomplished this by installing a plug-in called WP Github from the WordPress marketplace. This allows you to add widgets for various GitHub categories such as repos, commits or issues. I’ve added the top level profile widget for now, but you can insert various other widgets specifically for repos or commit history.


Just for fun, I included a link to my Myers-Briggs personality type from 16 Personalities. This quiz and personality typing has been popular at some of the organizations and businesses I’ve worked with, some even going to far as to require employees to post them beside their nameplates. Adding this involved another Text widget. This one is a simple anchor tag referencing an image from the site and linking back to the 16 Personalities website.

Code:  <a href=””><img src=””></a>

My last widget is a bit of personal accountability for me. I’ve struggled with weight for most of my life and have been tracking my weight and eating habits at Livestrong. This is a free service and they also provide a code snippet that points back to your progress on their website. This was accomplished by pasting in the code snippet into another Text widget.


Pretty straightforward stuff, right? As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to

Thanks for looking in!

Enabling Disqus on WordPress

Not too long ago, I was introduced to Disqus for leaving comments.  I do enjoy the idea of tracking threads and discussions from a central tool and the notification mechanism.  Additionally, I just started getting my first spam comments on my previous posts.  (I guess that means I’m a really-real blogger now!)


I’d much rather people were able to leave comments without admin review and were from a trustworthy source, so I decided to go ahead and try setting up Disqus on my blog.


Some quick Google-Fu brought up some tutorials.  Here are the steps straight from  Link


  1. In the left panel of your WordPress admin, select Plugins > Add New
  2. Search for “Disqus” and find the plugin provided by “Disqus”.
  3. Select Install Now > Activate Plugin
  4. Proceed with the onscreen install instructions.
  5. Log into your Disqus account, then choose the forum shortname you would like to install.
Setting this up was ridiculously easy and took me a total of about five minutes. If any of you have ideas for other centralized commenting or have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to


Thanks for looking in!

First Post


Welcome to the first blog post on BenedettiTech!

I started this blog based on a short course I took recently put together by John Sonmez at SimpleProgrammer.  (If you’re a developer not already familiar with John’s work, I would highly recommend checking out his site.). The idea is to walk through the steps to starting a blog and make a commitment to generating content that will boost your skills and your career.
I’ve had SimpleProgrammer on my RSS feed for some time now and read most articles when they come out.  I heard about the course on the site and registration is a single step at

The course consists of a series of emails with steps on how to select a theme for your blog, getting it set up and committing to schedule for future posts.  I’ve selected a focus of C# and general web development since that’s where I spend most of my time and my goal is to become an expert in that space.  But I’m sure there will be some off-topic posts as well.

This site is currently hosted on A Small Orange and uses a scripted install of WordPress installed via a Softaculous script.  I’ll be trying out some of the gadgets that come with this popular blogging software which I hope to cover in future posts.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to

Thanks for looking in!