#BookReview: Metabolical by Robert Lustig

Interesting Concept. Remarkable Honesty. Questionable Science. First, I gotta mention that the author intentionally left out the Bibliography, claiming it would run to 70 pages and add $5 to the cost of the book, so he instead put it on the website of the book. Which is an interesting idea, but part of his reasoning was also that this would allow users to click the links and see the sources directly… which eReader users can already do in an appropriately linked (re: fully publication-ready) bibliography. But he discusses this in the very introduction of the book, which sets the tone for how frankly he expresses his views throughout. Still, to this reader this was an attempt to obfuscate the sources at best, and was thus an automatic star reduction.

The other lost star comes from the at times questionable science. Rather than actually discussing various claims made by those with competing ideas, he simply claims massive conspiracies from Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Government, and whoever else he can try to conveniently scapegoat. And then he completely ignores the economic and social sciences in his recommendations for measures that would make Josef Stalin blanch at just how extreme this author wants to dictate to the masses.

Still, the ideas – while ultimately not truly novel and ultimately self serving as he *just happens* to run a nonprofit advocating these very positions – are interesting and explained in quite a bit of detail, from the chemical and cellular all the way up to the global. Making this a worthy text to read and consider… just don’t buy the farm based on just this one book, and make sure you seek out competing narratives to fill in the author’s inconsistencies. Recommended.

This review of Metabolical by Robert Lustig was originally written on June 20, 2021.

#BookReview: No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

Interesting Look At Business Practices Less Common Than Many Claim. Let me be clear here: I am a 14+ year professional software developer in my “day job”. I’ve worked for very small companies with barely 100 people and owned by a single person all the way to one of the largest companies on the planet (Fortune 50). And because I’ve had a 14 year career in this field as of 2021, that means this has all been done since NetFlix has been doing its thing.

And yet while I’ve heard that the Valley works a bit differently than the East Coast / Southern companies I’ve worked for, I’d never heard of several of the policies Hastings and Meyer discuss in this text. For this developer, most of them sound *phenomenal*, and I would *love* to work in environments that had them. Though there are others – “Adequate performance is given a generous severance” in particular – that would exacerbate issues I’ve already had at times in my career. Here, Hastings explains the reasons he adopted these policies at NetFlix and how they have grown over the company’s existence. Meyer provides a degree of “outsider feedback” going around interviewing people at all levels from Hastings to the janitors and examining the claims Hastings makes.

Overall, this is a solid business book explaining these policies, why NetFlix chose them, why other businesses should – or should not, in certain situations – and how they can begin to be implemented in any company. More for Executives than heads down coders or low level team leads, though there are some interesting points even at those levels. It is absolutely something business leaders should read and ponder, and it is a good primer for those who may want to push for similar changes in their own companies. Very much recommended.

This review of No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer was originally written on June 18, 2021.

#BookReview: Drug Use For Grownups by Carl Hart

Interesting Perspective Marred By Bias And Lack Of Scholarly Rigor. Let me state up front: I am a former Libertarian Party official at the State and local level, and an avowed anarchist to boot. I fully concur with Dr. Hart’s position that all drugs should be fully decriminalized. And it was this agreement that had me initially wanting to rate this book at a full 5*.

But considering the actual arguments and the actual text presented, I cannot claim to be an objective judge of the merits of the books I’m reading if I did that. Because there are definite problems with this book that I’ve called out in no uncertain terms when I *didn’t* agree with the author’s positions – and thus I cannot ignore them here, when I do largely agree with the author’s positions.

Specifically, there is quite a bit of anti-white “they’re all just a bunch of racist pieces of shit” strawmen commentary in this text. Numerous cases where Hart blames racism rather than applying Hanlon’s Razor or even looking for alternative, non-race based reasonings for his opponents’ positions. And having been on both sides of this debate at different times in my life, I can testify as a fellow Son of the South (rural exurbs outside Atlanta vs Hart’s coming of age in urban Miami) that there *are* several other rationales other than the racism Hart claims is at the heart of all anti-drug laws.

Further, barely 12% of this text is bibliography, despite Hart claiming numerous times “I know I’m going to have to present some evidence here since this is not a commonly held position”. More often than not, rather than actually examining studies showing various harms from various substances, Hart dismisses them with the hand wave of a professor more concerned with getting his own point across, “there is no basis for that claim, we’re moving on”.

I actually enjoyed the less formal tone of the presentation here, as it made the book overall far more readable than some academics make their narratives. I simply wish the narrative were more substantive.

Recommended.

This review of Drug Use For Grownups by Carl Hart was originally written on June 18, 2021.

#BookReview: A Lot Like Love by Jennifer Snow

A Lot Going On – And Yet It All Works. This turned out to be one of two romance novels I was reading at the same time, that release about a week apart, that both featured single dads and their only children. So that was interesting as far as my own reading went, but not overly relevant to what you, the reader of my review, want to know about. ๐Ÿ˜€

Here, Snow packs quite a bit into a fairly Hallmarkie romance. Which as I’ve noted before, there is a *massive* market for, so I totally get why she went this particular route. (Particularly when given her other creative outlets such as her satirical Housewife Chronicles books and her *dark* alter-ego J.M. Winchester.) We get a female coder – more common than some might have you believe, but still accurately portrayed both in real life and in this text as a male dominated field. We get an overbearing boss – which happens at all levels of coding, from the small companies our female lead works for here to the biggest companies on the planet. (I happen to currently work for a Forbes 50 company in the tech field, though to be honest my bosses are quite awesome here. :D) We get a tween girl whose dad doesn’t fully understand her, who wants to do one thing – in this case, write code – and yet whose dad is pushing her to more “typical” activities. We get the small town businessman dad whose business is struggling and who has many issues of his own, both from being a former NFL star and from having his wife die several years prior to the events here. We even get a hint of a long-ago romance and long-lost love via another side story. And we get the classic Hallmarkie former high school frenemy who shows up again… and may not be all that is remembered or presented. So like I said, a LOT going on, particularly for a 300 ish page book.

And yet, in classic Hallmarkie/ Snow style, it really does all work. It is (mostly) pretty damn realistic, despite what a few other reviewers claim, including several messy moments. It hits all the notes that any romance reader will want to see, yes, including a few sex scenes – oral (both ways) and full penetration – and the requisite-for-the-genre happy ending.

A truly excellent tale and a fine way to pass some time sitting in the shade or on a lounger whiling the summer away. Very much recommended.

This review of A Lot Like Love by Jennifer Snow was originally written on June 17, 2021.

#BookReview: Rock The Boat by Beck Dorey-Stein

Great (Summer) Read. This is one of those books that is a great read at any time of the year, but by the end feels particularly like the great “end of summer” movies of old such as American Pie. Largely taking place over the course of one summer, with its titular event the week after Labor Day, this book follows three former high school friends as they rediscover themselves and each other now in their early 30s. Dorey-Stein does a remarkable job of showing inherently flawed – and thus, realistic – characters just trying to live their lives and rebuild old friendships in the wake of various personal tragedies and struggles, all with a smattering of laugh out loud hilarity and heart breaking poignancy. One of those books and stories with a great deal of catharsis and resetting, perfect for the “let’s get back to work” period there at the end of summer – or any time one needs such a feeling. Very much recommended.

This review of Rock The Boat by Beck Dorey-Stein was originally written on June 17, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Far Gone by Danielle Girard

This week we’re looking at a compelling mystery that keeps things refreshingly realistic – if completely twisted. This week we’re looking at Far Gone by Danielle Girard.

Compelling Mystery. This is one of those mysteries that has so much going on that it could feel disjointed in a lesser storyteller’s hands, but Girard manages to make it work quite well. We get the story primarily through three perspectives – Hannah, who witnesses a murder in her opening scene, Lily, a nurse who is a former kidnapping victim who is now working to rebuild her life, and Kylie, the detective who helped Lily in the first book and who here is investigating the murder. Girard manages to keep the pace of the reveals driving through the narrative, all while maintaining plausibly realistic scenarios. Indeed, even the ending is surprisingly refreshing in its realism on all fronts – despite what some activists would have liked. Truly a great story told very well. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Between You And Me by Carol Mason

Domestic Drama With A Touch Of Loss Lake. This is an engaging, real, and honestly a bit depressing look at the trials and travails of your first marriage being your partner’s second marriage and coming into a situation where they already had a family with another person while you’re still growing and working to establish yourself outside of the marriage as well. In that vein, Mason was startlingly real, including all of the various messy issues that can come up and even showing how finding a place to find support or even just vent can be crucial. The ties to Lake Union stablemate Amber Cowie’s Loss Lake… well, in the title of my review of that book, I proclaimed “Screw You (In The Best Possible Ways), Amber Cowie” – which I still chuckle at and produced a few good laughs by those in the know. And if you do know why I wrote that, know that you’ll be saying the same thing to Ms. Mason for similar (though to be clear, not identical) reasons. And that’s all I’m saying about that. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I suggest you go read *both* books. ๐Ÿ˜€

Seriously, this tale was excellently done on a topic and with particulars that I’d never seen done quite this way before, and that is always something I seek out and love to find. Mason executed everything beautifully, and you’ll find yourself constantly reading to see what comes next. You just may want something a bit more bubble gum for your *next* read. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

This review of Between You And Me by Carol Mason was originally written on June 13, 2021.

#BookReview: The Debt Trap by Josh Mitchell

Before You Talk About The Student Loan Problem, Read This Book. Here, Mitchell does a phenomenal job of going from the very beginning – before World War I even – and showing just how the student loan problem grew from a well-intentioned idea into the massive debt bomb that we are now struggling with at all levels. Other than one short, couple of pages – if that – section near the end, Mitchell keeps all personal ideas and politics out of the narrative, instead focusing on as objective a reporting of the events as they unfolded as I’ve ever seen. Indeed, there are only two things that I can think to ding him on at all here, and neither one quite warrants a star reduction:

1) Throughout the narrative, particularly once his timeline gets into the 1990s and 2000s eras, Mitchell doesn’t account for the rise of State-sponsored lottery-funded scholarship programs. Though upon a bit of research, it seems that these only exist primarily in the Southeast: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia. Though I’ve lived in three of those States and had my college funded by Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship – it is at least plausible that anyone living outside of those States, or without close friends or family in them, has never heard of these programs. (And yet even with HOPE, I still managed to amass a $20K student debt load that had ballooned to nearly $40K before I began actively repaying it – upon threat of legal action – largely due to exactly the forces Mitchell describes in this text, but mostly because I was an idiotic 18yo and it was “free money”. Though I’m proud to note that as of this moment, I have less than the various forgiveness amounts that are being bandied about in DC – which Mitchell also covers, in a near up-to-the-minute fashion, even 2 months before publication of this book. An amount that I *will* pay off before the current suspension of interest – signed by President Trump and extended by President Biden – expires, currently slated for less than two months after this book is published.)

2) The Bibliography is a bit scant at only about 15% of the text, though there is a decent portion of the book – focusing on a singular case study in recurring episodes throughout the narrative – where Mitchell conducted extensive interviews and examinations of the relevant documents personally.

Overall truly an excellent, objective look at the history and many factors that have created today’s student loan problem. And as GI Joe once said, “knowing is half the battle”. Very much recommended.

This review of The Debt Trap by Josh Mitchell was originally written on June 12, 2021.

#BookReview: Exploding Turkeys and Spare Trousers by Ken Pasternak

Travels and Aphorisms. This is one of those quick, read any way you want type books that you can read straight through or you can read a short chapter in a few hurried minutes, in any order you want. Those familiar with Christian daily devotional books will recognize the overall format, though this is a purely secular book based on Pasternak’s near 50 years of travelling all over the globe as a high level corporate businessman. Filled with short yet interesting stories, many of them apparently already shared on his LinkedIn page in nearly the same (200 ish word) length, this is a great book for someone looking for a light read or a businessman looking for a business-oriented read with some solid truths in that space. Very much recommended.|

This review of Exploding Turkeys and Spare Trousers by Ken Pasternak was originally written on June 11, 2021.

#BookReview: After Cooling by Eric Dean Wilson

Interesting History Marred By Marxist Politics And Alarmist Propaganda. In the description of this book, it is claimed that we will get a look at history, science, road trip, and philosophy as it relates to Freon and its history. Well, the philosophy is avowed Marxism (even quoting Marx directly to begin one of the sections) and the “science” is mostly alarmist “Global Cooling” / “Global Warming” / “Climate Change” junk wherein he cites in part some of the very studies that Stephen Koonin’s Unsettled – released just weeks earlier – shows to be problematic at best. And unlike Wilson, Koonin is an actual climate scientist, one who worked at a high level under Barack Obama, no less. Instead, Wilson outright declares that it is the stuff of nightmares to think that any form of warming is natural, that man *must* be the cause of *all* warming and that we *must* thus be able to stop it.

These factors noted – and seriously, if you can’t stomach a fatal dose of Marxist ideology, don’t bother reading this book – the history presented here, even while presented fully rooted in anti-white, anti-capitalist screed form, is actually interesting and worthy of discovery by those who may not be aware of it, such as myself when going into this book. The road trip episodes that frame each section are interesting in and of themselves, as Wilson tags along with a friend who is buying up stockpiles of Freon American Pickers style in order to destroy them to claim the carbon credits under California’s Cap and Trade system.

There is a compelling story to tell in the need for better ways to cool and comfort, and there are promising techs and strategies that don’t rely on Marxism and government mandate to achieve them. Unfortunately this book ignores all of this.

Finally, the citations and bibliography… are minimal, for such fantastical claims, accounting for barely 15% of the text, and are rarely directly cited within the narrative itself.

It is because of all of these factors that I am quite comfortable with the 2* – without the history and road trip, it would have been half even that – and would be lower than even that, were such possible on review sites. Not recommended.

This review of After Cooling by Eric Dean Wilson was originally written on June 11, 2021.