Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lifelong Running, by Ruth Heidrich

I met Dr. Heidrich earlier this year in Hawaii; her energy and enthusiasm was contagious.  So I was eager to read her most recent book.   The target audience for this easy to read book is an older person - only in that she's clearly not writing for high school or college age folks, although the information would be just as applicable.   Dr. Heidrich is trying to build enough interest in exercise that even the most sedentary of us might climb off the sofa and take a walk outside; she expects that to become a run and a habit.

If you've thought you should get some exercise but had a bunch of good excuses to not go running, this book will help you break through the myths and get yourself going. It is a fast, informative and fun read.

Lifelong Running: Overcome the 11 Myths About Running and Live a Healthier Life

By the way, this is her baseball card. Yes, some people carry business cards, but Ruth Heidrich gives out baseball cards instead!

Killing Faith, by Eric Meyer

The hero of this action / adventure novel is Gabriel de Sade, a NY City detective and former Special Forces operator.   His partner is FBI Agent Faith Ward who, it turns out, has a politically powerful parent.  In this book (the first of the series), they have identified a Russian mafioso as a serial killer operating in New York.  He flees to Russia and our heroes follow.   A Russian Orthodox Bishop just happens to help them out with arms and contacts.  A former Special Forces buddy shows up to help. Action and mayhem ensue.

I can always tell when a writer is faking locations.  Mr. Meyer did a good job, but not good enough, as some UK jargon slipped into the writing.  Which was disorienting, as the story was based in NY.

Killing Faith (A Gabriel De Sade Thriller, Book 1)

Winner Take All, by Barry Eisler

The hero of this novel is an assassin, John Rain.   He was hiding out in Brazil when the CIA get him back to work by offering a hefty fee to kill an Arab gun supplier.   The action moves between Brazil, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Macao.

This is a superficial novel, but a reasonably enjoyable fast read.

Winner Take All (previously published as Rain Storm/Choke Point)

Silent Echo, by JR Rain

Mr. Rain's twist on the standard private investigator mystery novel is that his hero, Jim Booker, is dying of AIDS and lung cancer.   Every page is an agonizing recap of Booker's pain, lack of strength, and misery.

Just say yuck; even outside the downer tone of the novel, it isn't even that interesting of a mystery.

Silent Echo, by J. R. Rain

Flesh Worn Stone, by John Burks

If I had realized this book fell squarely in the horror genre, I'd not have read it.

The hero, Steven, has a wonderful life.  Until his kids are killed and he and his wife are kidnapped, taken to a remote island along with other similar captives.   Leaving this world requires winning the "game" five times, the game meaning committing murder or rape on another victim, or cutting off one's own limb.

He finds out that many of the participants actually paid to end up in this experience.  And learns how it was that he ended up there.

The writing was captivating which is why I read the book to the end.  But I can't recommend it because I'm such an anti-horror reader that I really didn't enjoy it at all.

Flesh Worn Stone (The Game - Book One)

A Cold Day for Murder, by Dana Stabenow

This novel introduces hero Kate Shugak as the first of a series.  The setting is Alaska; Shugak is an Aleut who left her village for an education and career in law enforcement, and who ended up back home.  She's there to hide from the world, sulk and deal with her personal issues, but a case of missing lawmen pulls her out of her cabin to solve the mystery.

This is a very good novel, with a great setting; I also find it educational about the Aleuts and their issues.

A Cold Day for Murder (Kate Shugak #1)

Perfectible Animals: A Dystopian Thriller, by Thomas Norwood

This novel tells the story of a scientist trying to save his wife from illness while weaponizing contagious diseases for the military in a messed-up 2065.   It is almost impossible to read.   I'm not sure what a good editor would do to fix it; maybe just burn it and find a new client.

And oh my gosh, there's a series here... I have no explanation for that.

Perfectible Animals: A Dystopian Thriller (BioGenesis Book 1)

Created, The Destroyer, by Warren Murphy

Ugh.  Think 1940s pulp fiction novel written today.  The hero, Remo Williams, is a NY City police officer who is framed for a murder and about to be executed in prison when he is rescued by the shadowy operation (which framed him in the first place) and trained as an assassin.

This might be interesting if it weren't set in a misogynistic retro world.   It is the first of a series that I will not be reading.

Created, The Destroyer (The Destroyer #1)

The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt

Dr. Goldratt introduces the theory of constraints (TOC) through a very long narrative.  The hero of this story, Al Rogo, is a plant manager with big work problems (and big personal problems too).   His mentor, Jonah, guides him towards an understanding of how to make his plant successful via a measured explanation of TOC so that Rogo (and the reader) can internalize each step as he moves forward.

This is very much lean production or Toyota Production System thinking.  As such, it can apply to virtually any throughput system.

Using a narrative to explain the methodology is a good news / bad news approach.  The good news is that for readers who would find a traditional text on lean manufacturing too dry, or who have trouble mapping the information to their own problems, this probably is a great alternative.   The bad news is that folks who just want to get to the meat of the system have to instead plod through the story line and have no way to just get to the approach directly.

Still, there are good, common sense nuggets in this book.  For example:

  • It takes a while, but Rogo finally realizes how to articulate the goal of his plant.  It is not the internal metrics of pseudo-efficiency, that allow him to take credit for a robot system's high performance even as inventory piles up and deliveries are delayed!  Rather it is:  "To make money by increasing net profit, while simultaneously increasing return on investment, and simultaneously increasing cash flow." [p48]  You might say "doh!" but the story explains how easy it is to miss the big picture.
  • Understanding to goal allows Rogo (12 pages later) to find out that the measurements associated with his goals are throughput, inventory and operational expense.  "Throughput ... is the rate at which the system generates money through sales." [p60]  "Inventory is all the money that the system has invested in purchasing things which it intends to sell." [p60]  "Operational expense... is all the money the system spends in order to turn inventory into throughput." [p61]
  • Eventually (another 26 pages), Rogo learns that he can't get these three measurements into balance without understanding the impact of statistical fluctuations on dependent events. [p88]
  • And so it goes.  For 377 pages.  

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement