Sunday, April 18, 2021

Review of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel, History

Short Description

Elaborate Description

The Dashwoods have come into an inheritance, but a meager inheritance.  In a status society, conspicuous consumption is needed to fit in.  Showcasing money brings with it status, but money does not buy the thing they seek, happiness.  The sisters and their different personalities need to figure out how to navigate social society.  That means keeping sensibility, even when not feeling well.  Even when meaning well, the way actions and comments are perceived carry weight which are subject to gossip.  It takes practice to align perception and judgment.  Along the way, turmoil and romance ensue.  

As the book was written in the early 19th century, the circumstances are different and can sometimes be difficult to relate to.  Parts of the book have poor flow.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•How is the Dashwood inheritance allocated?
•What use does money have in a status society?
•How do the sister’s personalities differ?
•What role does appearance and perception make on actions and comments? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940152130041
Pages to read:   338
Publication:     2015
1st Edition:      1811
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    1
Content          1
Overall           1



Friday, April 16, 2021

Review of Modern Philosophy, an Introduction by A.R. Lacey

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Philosophies raison d’etre is to think.  To train how to think.  The method of philosophy is reflection.  An a priori account of expectations, as the conclusions arise before experience.  Thinking which questions need be resolved.  Philosophical resolutions create fields of study outside of philosophy, making philosophy appear to not have any resolutions.  Philosophy does not have any particular problems that are under observation, as it is the process in which knowledge progresses.  What is needed are not facts, for knowing facts does not entail its appropriate application.  What is needed is how to think about appropriate application to knowledge.  The author uses a logic approach to teach how to think using the base of communication, the way we use language to discuss everything.

The writing is a bit convoluted and many examples are not very interesting.  As the approach of this book is via the use of language, the author uses sentences to see how their meaning changes based on the way in which it is viewed.  What is missing from the sentences is the context they are in, making much of what is being discussed not very practical.  There are references to how others view a particular explanation to a problem, but they are out of context making it difficult to understand what the author is reflecting to.  To understand much of the book requires background knowledge about the philosophy of language.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What does philosophy study? 
•What is the methodology of philosophy?
•How does language explain how topics are approached? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  0710009356
Pages to read:   221
Publication:     1982
1st Edition:      1982
Format:           Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    1
Content          1
Overall           1


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics, Business
Intriguing Connections = When Intelligence Goes Wrong


Short Description

Elaborate Description

This is a story of ambition gone wrong.  Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes patented an ingenious device which was meant to perform a multitude of blood tests all in a small device while using a small amount of blood.  The problem, there was so many technology and medical problems that made the device ineffective.  Worse, touting the device as accurate and practical caused many people to be harmed by getting unnecessary and wrong treatments that were indicated as needed from the results obtained from the Theranos device.  Theranos was able to keep its operations going by deceiving investors and regulators alike.  A culture of fear was its management style, and silencing anyone who questioned the reality of the technology.  Along the way, showcasing what investigatory reporting is all about.  

A few drops of blood from the finger was all that was needed to be used in the Theranos technology.  The reader would send the data to Theranos, which would analyze the data and send a report to a medical profession.  The whole process was supposed to be done quickly, which would allow patients to alter their medications usage based on the results from the Theranos technology.  

Part of the problem with the technology was that to use only a small amount of blood required diluting the blood to get more volume.  Some dilution can be helpful, but to get enough liquid for the reader to work required diluting the blood sample even more, which reduced the ability to measure the blood precisely.  The engineers and biologists working on the product wanted to use more blood, but even a little bit more was not allowed.   Many of the tests that were needed to be done were incompatible.  As in, using the blood for a particular test meant there was not enough for other tests.  The technology to use the tests themselves were very bulky, which made them hard to miniaturize it.  Even with miniaturizing problems, Holmes then requested even more tests that the technology needed to be able to run.  What mattered to Holmes was the size of the machine, rather than if the machine worked.  

As the technology was nor reliable, to show during investor demonstrations, the results were used from a test when the technology worked.  Making the technology appear to always work.  Sending data after the ‘outliers’ were deleted.  When doing a sales pitch, there were many claims being made about the product working in various locations, military operations, and supported by medical institutions.  Even if no partnership was formed between another firm, that supposed partnership was used to support the companies claim.  For many investors and partnerships, this was a technology that was too good to pass up.  Some people believed in Holmes for the health implications.  For others, it was Holmes’s charisma that swayed many important people to her side.  

There were investors and advisors to partnerships who had wanted to test Theranos technology by doing comparative analysis, and who had asked the appropriate questions.  Most of these people were given a hard time by the decision makers who were enamored in Holmes and believed the claims.  The few times that the Theranos technology got tested indicated that the technology was not as stated as the technology still required needles, it took weeks to get the results, many of the tests were outsourced, and that the tests that were not outsourced were so suspicious that people got completely different results when getting retested by other companies.  

Many people either wanted to be part of Theranos or were taken in by the vision presented.  Most people did not last long in the company.  There was a high turnover rate which involved every position and rank.  Anyone who questioned the technology were either fired or made their life difficult.  To be at the company required absolute loyalty and optimism towards the company.  Dishonestly became a prerequisite.  There were employees who could no longer be party to the ethical and moral misconduct, left the company.  Leaving who were unscrupulous, or who did not have much choice.  Life got even more strenuous for employees with the hiring of Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, Holmes’s romantic partner.  It was Sunny who started to fire people, but he also bullied employees.  Holmes had effectively created an echo chamber around her.  Cutting herself of from reality while only engaging those that were a bad influence.  

Management practices involved compartmentalized information between departments which made communicating the problems and potential solutions difficult.  High confidentiality was required in the company.  Everyone was under constant surveillance as all electronic actions were tracked.  Former employees were frequently being sued or threaten by a perceived threat to Theranos hype. 

One problem that had occurred to the company was due to a family friend.  Richard Fuisz took great lengths to get even with people from whom he perceived offended him, no matter how slight.  Fuisz helped the Holmes out before, so took offence to Elizabeth not asking him advice about the company.  To get revenge, he acquired a patent that Theranos would need later.  Fuisz pride and vanity caused him to try to take down the company.  In an ironic turn of events, Theranos sued Fuisz for something that could not be proven but Fuisz was not willing to pay for the legal fees anymore.  But, it was Fuisz which made contact with a science blogger who made contact with a journalist, the author of the book, John Carreyrou.  It was Carreyrou’s investigation which made salient the problems with Theranos technology.  Theranos lawyers tried to put an end to the investigation, but fortunately they were not successful.  

Over hyping technology is not new to Theranos, it is the culture of Silicon Valley.  The problem with Theranos over hyping was that the technology impacted health, rather than just creating a frustrating mood when the technology did not work.   

The book is generally well written but with too much time spent discussing the company culture of firing employees.  They were used to highlight the reasons for company problems, but the way it was written did not add much value as the situations became repetitive.  The main problem with this book is that the author only express’s directly the views of people who were critical of Theranos, while discussing those who supported Theranos indirectly and usually from a more general perspective.  Showcasing the thoughts of those who supported the Theranos would have been a valuable addition as it would have provided more credibility when discussing their beliefs about Holmes and Theranos technology, but also would have provided guidance on how to avoid being seduced by false promises.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What was the Theranos technology? 
•What were the problems with the technology?
•How was the technology demonstrated to investors? 
•What happened when the technology was tested?
•Why did people believe in the technology?
•What happened to those who questioned the technology?
•How was Theranos managed? 
•How were the labs run?
•What problem did Richard Fuisz have with Elizabeth?
•How did Carreyrou investigate Theranos?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781524731663
Pages to read:   306
Publication:     2020
1st Edition:      2018
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

Friday, April 9, 2021

Review of Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific by Robert D. Kaplan

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics

Short Description

Elaborate Description

China is a rising economic power.  Economically developing countries trade internationally and obtain global interests.  Military might is needed to protect global interests which are based on capitalist prosperity.  South China Sea is important because beneath the various small islands lies oil and natural gas.  Many of the surrounding states have claims on the waters which are in conflict with China’s claims.  The states require the United States for diplomatic and military support.  To reconcile disputed seas will require hard power.  This battleground has no enemies which could be an object of moral fury.  This battleground is for economic reasons.  Showcasing how US guards the global commons of communications which allow for international trade. 

Kaplan makes clear that national values need to be guarded by military power.  Navies are getting more prominence in the South China Sea than armies.  It is more difficult to occupy lands with navies than armies.  Wars can start through petty incidences which are tied to vital interests.  In this case, its territorial disputes and energy supply.  What makes the issue unnerving is China’s buildup of submarines, which is a clear indicator of aggression.  To showcase what the situation is, Kaplan uses brief histories of Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and Philippines. 

A very important topic mired in problems.  The flow of the writing is usually not that good.  There is a confirmation bias against China and in favor of the US.  Seeing China as an aggressor which needs to be contained, while US as defender of world interests.  Although the author indicates minor US transgressions, there is a neglect of the many large US aggressions in world affairs.  The values of US are above reproach in this book as they are so wonderful that other countries would not accept them unless the US to uses military might to enforce them.  As in the author claims that China’s power is influencing international decisions that are less than voluntary, but no reference to what the US does with its influence because of its military power.  Other than aggression and supporting some countries economically, China does not appear to have any positive qualities.  Given that China also depends economically on other nations, the author does not even raise the possibility that China would also be willing to protect world interests.  The book looks at events from strictly divisive perspective which leads to conflict.  Conflict can arise and the author does a wonderful job at discussing the why, but without attributing much reference to potential conflux of international affairs, leave the reader with the mind that war is unavoidable. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why is the South China Sea important?
•Why would a war start in the South China Sea?
•What does US use its military might for?  How about China? 
•How does the US influence world affairs? How does China? 
•Why are there territorial disputes?
•Is the US needed in the South China Sea?
•What do the various naval vehicles politically indicate? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780812994339
Pages to read:   185
Publication:     2014
1st Edition:      2014
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          2
Overall           2


Review of When Doctors Don't Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests by Leana Wen, Joshua M. Kosowsky

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Science, Health Resource

Short Description

Elaborate Description

To diagnose what a patient has requires more than just what the doctor sees, feels, or tests.  It requires the voice of the patient.  The history of the ailment is extremely important to understand what may be causing it.  When doctors don’t listen to their patients, they start to order unnecessary tests and worse still, misdiagnose the problem.  Rather than listen to their patient, doctors rely on pathways, cookbook algorithms that rule out possible causes which doctors believe will reduce the chance of malpractice suits.  But by over-relying on cookbook algorithms and unnecessary tests, they not only create undue stress, but misdiagnose and take more time to get to the appropriate diagnoses.  This is a book for patients to learn that they are partners in their heath care, and for doctors to understand that the patient’s voice is a very valuable source of vital information.

A vital part of medical care is the diagnosis.  The diagnosis is what the patient has that needs to be treated.  Communicating the history of the symptoms and related info provides the doctor with resources to make the diagnosis.  When doctors don’t listen, they do not obtain the information that can make a change the possible diagnosis.  If a diagnosis doesn’t make sense, the patient should help the doctor perform a commonsense check, to make sure the symptoms align with the diagnosis.  Better to rectify a misunderstanding earlier than to get pulled into a wrong diagnosis.  A diagnosis is not the ruled out worst case scenarios.  This book provides a guideline how patients can better communicate with their doctors, and for doctors to learn how to better understand how to talk with patients. 

The history of medicine had practitioner engage with the patient to alleviate the patients’ ailments.  The techniques were inferior and specious, but the care in partnership with the patient and directed at alleviating patients’ woes.  During the 20th century, doctors have gotten two updates which are, 1) a lot more technical tools to use, 2) more formalistic approach to medicine.  With the ability to run tests easily, doctors started to use testing rather than rely on patients’ medical history.  Tests are used as proxy for decision making rather than to supplement decisions.  The cookbook formalistic approach was meant to make the system more systematic and efficient, but doctors started to use the pathways to rule out possible ailments rather than focus on what the patient actually has.  In combination, doctors order unnecessary tests and misdiagnose causing massive inefficiency and lowering medical care quality.  Rather than diagnoses, the doctors tell patients what they do not have.   

Part of the reason that doctors order unnecessary tests is out of defensive medicine.  Doctors order many tests to make sure that they are covered.  As in the tests and routines are thought of as protecting the doctor from malpractice lawyers, as the doctor can claim they followed the standard of care.  However improbable a particular diagnosis is, fear of missing the improbable dominates decision making to the exclusion of patients best-interest.  This system leads to over testing and under diagnosing, with the irony of more suits.  What reduces malpractice suits is actually listening to what the patient has to say and treating them as partners in health.  Tests themselves carry risks such as a CT scan puts the patient under a lot of radiation that increases the risk of cancer.  Patients should ask questions about the tests and of there are alternatives.  

Cookbook medicine is when a doctor follows a strict algorithm, a pathway.  Problems start to occur when the doctor listens for a chief complain to use for a pathway, without listening for more information.  Emphasizing the chief complaint without additional information leads to misdiagnosis because the pathway chosen is not tailored to any given individual.  Chief complaints are usually used as a starting point to rule out ailments rather than diagnose the actual ailment.   When a patient is on a pathway, it obtains inertia, making it hard stop following the pathway as it then requires more justification to stop.  Pathways themselves miss a lot because it is a focus on a singular problem, rather than considering all potential problems. 

Technology and pathways are useful given that the doctor actually has information which indicates the appropriate diagnosis in which case following procedure is best which leads to testing for particular ailments rather than ruling out ailments.  The authors of this book are not asking for patients to mistrust doctors, that technology is useless or should not be used, or that routine has no place in medical practice.  Doctors’ knowledge and experience, technology, and routine have a lot of use when put into appropriate context.  But by not seeing the patient as a partner in health, medical tools are not only less effective, but can be detrimental.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why do doctors not listen to patients?
•Why do patients not question doctors?
•How is a diagnosis made?
•What role does medical history have in a diagnosis?
•How should patients engage their doctors?
•Why do doctors get sued? What changes their chances of being sued?
•Why do doctors rely on tests?
•Do test find what is causing the patient problems?
•Why do doctors use pathways, cookbook medicine?
•What are chief complaints used?  
•Why should doctors listen to their patients?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781250048486
Pages to read:   300
Publication:     2014
1st Edition:      2014
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Review of Vlad the Impaler: Son of Dracul by Alan C. Baird

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel, History

Short Description


Elaborate Description

A story about a ruler of Wallachia.  Vlad’s story is mired in transgressions.  From seeing the betrayal of the Boyars against his father to common crimes.  After gaining his power, any transgression was used as an excuse for the transgressor to be impaled.  A slow and painful death in which the person impaled lived for a short time after being impaled.  Vlad went far to trick people into minor transgressions for which they were impaled for.  By not responding in a way that Vlad had wanted, an individual was likely to be impaled.  The extreme measure fostered a society which had no crimes, but also fostered resentment.  A cautionary tale of fear.  That fear can be a powerful weapon, but cannot be the sole tool in leadership.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•How did Vlad the Impaler become the Impaler?
•For what reasons can an individual be impaled? 
•What were some political themes in the book?
•How do people react seeing other impaled?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940152426786
Pages to read:   44
Publication:     2015
1st Edition:      2015
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          2
Overall           3

Review of The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This review was written by Eugene Kernes
Book can be found in:
Genre = Science, History
Intriguing Connections = The Evolution of Evolution


Short Description

Elaborate Description

To understand life, requires an understanding of genes.  The gene is a basic building block of life.  Representing biological information.  Instructions for processes.  This book follows every step on the way to understanding genetics.  From homunculus to evolution to the double helix.  Each step had many missteps which raised many questions.  But with very hard work, greater understanding of genetics was achieved.  From an abstract idea to physical representation to manipulating genetics.  Science is a tool which depends on how it is used.  Genetic treatments are mired in the tragic history of eugenics.  Fixing risky DNA can lead to many positive results, but genetics are complicated with still so much that is still needed to learn.   

There were many early ideas about hereditary.  During a time, hereditary theories challenged dominant narratives of creation so their investigations were suppressed.  Over time the ideas were permitted which precipitated with evolution.  Adaptation to nature.  Evolution did not explain everything in heredity, as one concern was with blending of the genes.  This led to Mendel empirical tests in which the understanding of dominant and recessive genes came about.  

Eventually the heredity transmission would become applied, called eugenics.  Galton used to term eugenics as artificial selection of genetic traits to better humanity.  There seemed to be benefits to the application coming from the Americans, but many saw potential problem with eugenics which was a culling of the species.  A preventative measure from perception that inferior breed of humans could lead to disaster.  Others saw another tragic future which envisioned a homogenies people in whom many of the things that were considered weaknesses are bred out, to the detriment of society.  Nature produces diversity so that there would be no systematic problems with everyone, but the eugenicists desired a pure society.  Without diversity, species can lose the ability to evolve.  Germany later used what they learned from the eugenicists in America to racially clean Germany, which was a dominant feature of their strategy during WW2.  

Next came finding the location of genetics, in chromosomes.  Looking for the determinants of a phenotype followed.  This is part of where complexity of DNA takes place as a genotype, environment, triggers, and chance all collude to provide a phenotype.  The variations determine the organisms’ attributes.  Variations in genetics are called mutations.  Mutations are neither superior or weaker, but are adapted to a particular environment.  What seems fit in a given environment can be illness in another.  What matters is a match between the organism and the environment.  It isn’t the number of genes that matter, but the sophistication of the gene networks.  

With technological improvements came gene editing.  Using bacteria as a transmitted of DNA, impaired DNA can be repaired.  The eugenicist past haunts genetic manipulation.  Although there are overwhelming ethical questions with gene editing which most scientists are decrying, there are some cases in which gene editing was permitted.  It appears that eugenics no longer has the culling effect, but it may cause people to alter future people’s gene for specific perceived benefits. 

With the understanding of genetics, many scientists looked for social causes in genetics.  From intelligence to gender.  Even though meticulously studies, the genetic causes of particular social inclinations need to be better understood.  Genetics may have some influence in the choices made, but it is drastic to say they explain the choices.  

It is interesting to note that DNA is patentable.  Although DNA is not an invention, it is patented.  After Venter gene patent, there was a land grab for genetics.  Now, many parts of the DNA are owned by various corporations in different countries.  This means that many cures and diseases cannot be studies because of legal issues of owning the information.  

An issue with this book is that it focuses too much on genetics being the cause.  Although Mukherjee shows the complexity of genetics, the problem is that it is written in a deterministic manner.  Sometimes, when showcasing the complexity is important, the author just writes what happened.  There are also some scientific method problems of looking at just genes such as confirmation bias and round-trip fallacy.  The narrowness of the studies causes the scientists to miss a lot of the information that they are not looking for.  The book is generally well written, but sometimes, it requires background knowledge of genetics to understand how everything fits together.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What is a gene?  
•Early forms of hereditary ideas?
•What happens when genes blend?
•What is eugenics? Explain why some people were in favor of eugenics while others opposed eugenics. 
•What is the difference between genotype and phenotype?
•What are mutations in genetics?
•How are genes edited?
•Is intelligence genetic? 
•Why use twins as case studies? 


Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781476733531
Pages to read:   539
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall           4