Friday, March 19, 2010

"Tales from the Dad Side" Review

  • Title:  "Tales from the Dad Side"
  • Author:  Steve Doocy
  • Finished:  January 28, 2009
  • Synopsis:  Steve Doocy tells his view of fatherhood from both his childhood and adult perspective (with a very quirky sense of humor).  Here is the description of the book from Doocy's website.
  • Impression of the book:  I found the book to be mildly amusing, but not nearly as funny as others who have read it.  As Kristy will tell you, most people don't "get" my sense of humor or my jokes.  I am ok with that, and it tells me that this book is probably much better than I would give it credit for being.
  • Read Again Scale:  1
    • One time through this book was enough for me.  I will likely pass it along to one of my siblings to get their thoughts on it.
  • Read Another Book by the Same Author: 2
    • Doocy is not really my style of writer or humorist.
This book was a Christmas gift.  I must admit that I would not have picked this one up at the bookstore.  I don't feel like I wasted the time spent reading the stories that Doocy included.  In fact, I appreciate the effort that he put into trying to pass along gems that might help other dads.  As I said earlier, other people have liked this book much more than I did.  If you like Doocy on Fox & Friends, you will probably like this book.  It is also a real quick read, so even if you don't end up liking the book, you will be done with it in a couple of days.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So, Preventive Medicine Saves Money?

I have been carrying an article with me around the country over the last year or so.  It was written in February 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The "Perspective" asks the question, "Does preventative care save money?"  The writers conclude that most of the political rhetoric about the possible dollars that could be saved by prevention is "overreaching."

The authors make it clear that vaccinations, smoking cessation, low cost screening for a disease (when a cost effective treatment for the disease exists), and avoiding misuse of alcohol DO save money. However, they also point out that expensive high-tech treatments for some diseases might be a more cost effective use of medical care.  I think that the most interesting statement in the article is the following:

  • "Although some preventive measures do save money, the vast majority reviewed in the health economics literature do not. Careful analysis of the costs and benefits of specific interventions, rather than broad generalizations, is critical."  (emphasis added)
I am pretty sure that this finding is counter-intuitive to most of our feelings on the subject.  Somehow, we believe that knowing we have a disease before the effects start to mess with our systems is better for us in the long run (both in terms of health and economics) while the medical research demonstrates that this is not true.  In any case, I thought I would toss this question out for discussion:
  • "Is an ounce of prevention REALLY worth a pound of cure?"
Let me know your opinion.

Whether we like it or not, our future medical care providers (whether private doctors, HMOs, or the federal government) will be looking at some of the issues raised in this short article.  In fact, the "quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs)" discussed in the article are essentially the means by which all socialized medical systems ration care.  I really don't like to think that my health care decisions will be made by someone looking up the QALYs of a particular treatment before deciding to allocate the funds for it.  I like the ability to make that decision myself.  In any case, how much freedom do you think we will have when our heart, lungs, knees, and backs become line items in the federal budget?

Quite frankly, I think a lot of sickness could be prevented if we just stopped talking about a takeover of our health care system by the government.  I know that my blood pressure would be lower if we did.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy" Review

  • Title:  "The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy"
  • Author:  Gus Malzahn
  • Finished:  January 5, 2009
  • Synopsis:  This short book is written for coaches interested in implementing the Hurry-Up, No-Huddle offense (HUNH).  Malzahn discuss both his reasons for jumping feet first into this offense and his implementation of the system at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Arkansas.   
  • Impression of the book:  As the brother of a football coach, I wanted to understand some of the pros and cons of implementing this type of offense.  If you are going to read a book about fast-paced high school football, this is the one to tackle (pun intended, Josh).
  • Read Again Scale:  10
  • Read Another Book by the Same Author: 5
    • If Malzahn ever decides to tell the story of his time at Arkansas, then I would read it.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn't read another book by him.
This is the first (and only) football coaching book that I have ever read.  Malzahn is clearly writing for coaches, but the material is accessible to someone who watches a lot of football.  Malzahn is definitely a gifted offensive coach, and his coaching decisions (discussed in the book) demonstrate that he is willing to go against conventional wisdom.  I think he also demonstrates that conservative football strategy based on defense and ball control thinking will have to be "re-thunk" in the next few years.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Every Dead Thing" Review

  • Title:  "Every Dead Thing"
  • Author:  John Connolly
  • Finished:  March 6, 2010 
  • Synopsis:  The John Connolly website has an excellent synopsis of the book
  • Impression of the book:  This book fills in the back story that I missed when I read "Dark Hollow."  The story is gripping as murders and dead bodies seem to surround Charlie "Bird" Parker wherever he goes. His attempts to get away from the hunt for the "Traveling Man" (who killed his wife and daughter) lead him to solve the mystery of another 30 year old series of murders.  Bird is never far from the Traveling Man who seems to know everything he does (and more). "Every Dead Thing" contains elements of the mystical (New Orleans style "voodoo") while mixing in regular, old fashioned detective thriller fundamentals.  I really enjoyed this book.
  • Read Again Scale:  8
    • If I stumble across this one at the library again, I will definitely consider bringing it home.
  • Read Another Book by the Same Author:  10
    • After reading a second book by Connolly, I will definitely look for others.
This is a fascinating story of a detective who has his wife and daughter murdered.  The very thought of a police officer's family being dragged into this kind of story makes Bird's actions totally understandable. He lives the worst nightmare of a cop, but he isn't dreaming. It is a story of Bird dealing with grief and guilt over his family's death while hunting, and being hunted by, serial killers.  I would recommend this book for those that like a good murder mystery/detective story.  Again, the warning about trouble sleeping after reading this novel goes along with Connolly's work.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"The Sinner" Review

  • Title:  "The Sinner"
  • Author:  Tess Gerritsen
  • Finished:  April 5, 2009
  • Synopsis:  As with the previous reviews of Gerritsen books, the synopsis is probably best handled by linking to Gerritsen's webpage or the Amazon page for the book.
  • Impression of the book:  This Rizzoli and Isles story is the most recent book by Gerritsen that I have read.  Unfortunately, it is also the least memorable of the ones I have read.  Dr. Isles is dealing with an ex-husband and both Rizzoli and Isles face a lot of non-practicing Catholic guilt.  These aspects of the novel never really drew me into the story. Without these sidelines, the medical mystery would have been very entertaining.  As it is, this was my least favorite of the 4 Rizzoli/Isles books that I have read thus far.
  • Read Again Scale:  5
    • Like the previous three Gerritsen novels, a definite maybe on the re-read scale.  It depends on what else is going on in the house.
  • Read Another Book by the Same Author:  10
    • Since I am reviewing a 4th book by this author, you have a pretty good idea that I will read her work again.
The distractions from the main storyline do add depth to Gerritsen's characters as they develop through the series.  However, I would have preferred that she stick with story at hand.  It was an entertaining book, but I believe that the attempts at defining Isles and Rizzoli more thoroughly cooled me on reading any more book in the series over the last 11 months.  Eventually, I will get back to Gerritsen's medical mysteries because she really does tell great stories. Once again, I need to caution that the subject matter of Gerritsen's books can cause some to lose sleep. 

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    "The Ambler Warning" Review

    • Title:  "The Ambler Warning"
    • Author: Robert Ludlum
    • Finished:  February 25, 2010
    • Synopsis:  Harrison (Hal) Ambler, a State Department Consular Operations agent, finds himself in a high security psychiatric facility. While in ConOps, Ambler was an extremely valuable member of the "Political Stabilization Unit" because he is basically a human lie detector. Ambler has been so drugged/confused by the staff that he doesn't even know who he is anymore. With the help of a nurse, Ambler escapes the facility and begins trying to put together the pieces of his life that led to his incarceration. Now that he has escaped, Ambler has to avoid both recapture by those who put him in the facility and death by the security forces that he has tangled with over the years.  He is also struggling to prevent an assassination that may start another World War.
    • Impression of the book:  This novel was a classic Ludlum story - a covert agent of the U.S. government on the run and surrounded by enemies he can't know.  The agent can't trust his "friends" or his enemies.  I think that Ludlum (or his ghostwriter to finish this one) is the best at weaving the complicated storyline that makes a great spy thriller.  Of the 26 novels that Ludlum wrote/outlined/story-boarded, I would put this one in the top 10.
    • Read Again Scale:  7
      • I occasionally find myself to the Ludlum section of the library, and when I am there, I often pick up a new novel plus one that I have read before.
    • Read Another Book by the Same Author:  10
      • I think this is actually the last novel to be legitimately attributed to Ludlum.  His name has basically became a trademark or brand after his death.
    While reading a Ludlum novel, you always feel like you have read this story before. I think the familiarity with the "shadow elements" in all his works is what produces that deja vu. Clearly, I have been hooked on the overly complicated conspiracies that Ludlum cranked out before his death for a long time (since about 6th grade). I have read most of his novels and probably have about half of them in hardback.  If you like spy thrillers, this one is a good read. It is also a pretty good one to introduce someone new to the genre to the twists and turns of a good spy novel.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    "Dune" by Frank Herbert

    • Title:  "Dune"
    • Author:  Frank Herbert
    • Finished:  January 25, 2009
    • Synopsis:  There is a lot of stuff in this science fiction classic.  The Wikipedia entry that discusses "Dune" does a pretty good job on the synopsis.
    • Impression of the book:  In about 1984, Mom bought me a torn-up paperback at a yard sale (I was 11).  When I say torn-up, I am mean the cover was ripped off and the 1st page or 2 had sections missing.  That book turned out to be one of my all-time favorite novels: "Dune".  Dune is widely recognized as classic science fiction along with books like "Brave New World," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Frankenstein," and "The Martian Chronicles." I was able to immerse myself into a human (mostly) universe many thousands of years into the future spread across many galaxies. That escape was exactly what I needed at that time and is probably why I return to it every so often. The story had aspects that I didn't understand when I first read it (e.g., addiction, political intrigue and corruption, and religious fanaticism), but the story was compelling enough for my limited experience to grasp and enjoy.  Each time I return to this novel, I find something new. 
    • Read Again Scale:  10
      • I have re-read this book about every 5 years since the age of 11.
    • Read Another Book by the Same Author:  10
      • Frank Herbert is probably my favorite sci-fi author.
    The original "Dune" chronicles stand out as the one science fiction series that always holds my attention.  There is a lot depth in this book that doesn't become clear until you have read some of the later additions to the series. The movies and mini-series made from this book and series have never really been able to bring the scope of the ideas in the book to the screen. If you like science fiction and haven't read this book, you are missing some of the best writing (and story) in the genre. However, if you don't enjoy sci-fi, take a pass on this book and series.

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