Thursday, November 24, 2005

Title: The Oculi Incident
Author: Regis Schilken
Publisher: TurnKey Press
ISBN: 0976498138
Genre: Fiction/Religion/Christianity/Mystery
No. of Pages: 348
Presentation: Paperback

This novel attempts to portray the ever-raging conflict between good and evil, between altruism and greed, through a religious setting. The story takes place in a Catholic Church. A cross is sent for renovation to a nearby monastery. Brother Anthony who is doing the renovation disappears suddenly without a trace. Nothing much is made of the mystery because it is not too uncommon for Fathers and Brothers to get bored of the monastery life and disappear to surface under a different name and lead the so-called 'normal' life. No one is beyond temptation.

7 years later, suddenly a 'miracle' starts taking place in the Church where the restored cross is installed. Tears start forming from the eyes of the statue of Jesus Christ. When investigation is attempted, deaths start taking place and threats are held out. The connection between the renovation of the cross (and the body of Jesus) and the present miracle is lost on the people because of the time gap.

Pastor Paul Logue’s gut instinct keeps telling him that the few drops of water that fall from the eyes of the statue suspended in the old, Gothic Church are probably a diabolical human ruse or possibly a display of Lucifer himself. But for simple believers and to his Bishop, the word miracle arises in the mind and it spreads like a raging fire fanned by the media’s unquenchable desire for sensationalism. The unique occurrences at his church quickly become national phenomena. Money pours into church coffers as droves of curiosity seekers, tourists, and religious believers visit Saint Martin’s to glimpse the miracle cross and to leave behind extremely generous donations. The mystery is finally solved by the help of a policeman and his live-in partner, a school teacher. They are aided by an young woman in the police department and an intelligent technician working for the villain.

The author succeeds in conveying a few ideas through the characters of this interesting book. Firstly miracles do take place. But all apparent miracles are not necessarily real and thus need to be investigated thoroughly. The forces that are trying to bring about the miracle, human or otherwise will not keep quiet when the investigation is attempted and will try to thwart the same through threats, murder etc., It is not necessary for a human being to believe in Church to be good, and it is entirely possible for an evil person to be in the robes of religion, since normally suspicion doesn't point there.

The story is written well and till half of the book, the suspense of who could have done the killings is well maintained. Though the villains are identified fairly early in the book, the plot keeps unfolding nicely and a good climax is presented. The end is quite mysterious.

The physics behind the formation of the water drops is fairly simple and is well presented. To lay people, the science could indeed be mystifying and magical. I felt that graphic descriptions of love making are out of place in such a book. The story stands quite well without such descriptions. The characters are well developed and look plausible. The effects of war and violence combined with the innate greed could certainly make a man inhuman.

All in all, it is a good read.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Title: The Alcohol Blackout
Sub-title: Walking, Talking, Unconscious... and Lethal
Authors: Donal F.Sweeney, M.D. with Robert A. Liston
Publisher: Mnemosyne Press, Santa Barbara
ISBN: 0-9747943-0-9
Genre: Non-Fiction/Medicine/Neuroscience/Law/Psyciatry/
Pesentation: Soft Cover
No. of Pages: 221

What happens when one consumes alcohol? Several things can happen. A sense of euphoria, a high, then loss of coordination, blackout, passout etc. All other stages except blackout are well understood and are well documented. Common people also are aware of almost all these stages but when it comes to blackout, it seems that the knowledge and awareness is rather low. Dr. Donal F. Sweeney, M.D., a board certified doctor of internal medicine, chest disease and addiction medicine, set out in this book to fill this gap in the knowledge. Together with Robert A. Liston, a former newspaperman and magazine journalist, Dr.Sweeney deals with a complex subject in a faily clear and cogent manner.

The authors define what is a blackout and explain what factors probably cause the blackout, the difference between a blackout and a fadeout, the difference between a blackout and a passout, the probable mechanism of a blackout and its implications in the legal systems of a country. They forcefully argue the need for further research into a subject that is not well undestood by the community of scientists (including doctors and psycologists, psychiatrists etc.), lawyers, police and the judges. A good number of cases involving alcohol induced blackout are presented. The difference between immediate memory and short term memory is crucial in understanding the phenomenon of alcohol blackout. The case of Henry, who was operated for epileptic seizures and was left with only immediate memory and no short term memory made interesting and poignant reading. The parallel between alcohol blackout and Henry's lack of memory is really striking. The comparison between drug induced blackout and alcohol blackout is also interesting, esp. because of the difference in terms of the type of memory and duration affected.

While the treatment of memory and its formation and the description of brain anatomy and the role of neurotransmitters etc., may need rereading and or additional reading (for which the authors do supplement the book with a list of resources), the subject matter and its treatment is not beyond the understanding capacity of an educated layman.

Dr.Sweeney is frank and forthright in his views on the subject and while he is no lawyer, his analysis of Paul Cox's case, made me think that he could have made an excellent lawyer or detective if he ever wanted! I feel that he would make an excellent expert witness now for many cases of alcohol blackout related crimes.

The print quality is average and the editing could be better. You will be able to check out the contents, excerpts etc., at a local book store or at Amazon and similar on-line bookstores and so will be able to make a fairly quick decision to buy the book or not.

I would strongly recommend this book to you if you need to deal with the problem of alcohol blackout in any capacity, including as a friend, a policeman, a lawyer etc.

About myself: I am a physicist and a metallurgist, not a medical man. Thus I am a lay reader as far as health books are concerned. I have tasted alcohol out of curiosity but luckily came of a possible addiction at an early stage. I never experienced a blackout myself. However, I have taken up this book because I am interested in health (partly because of my own health challenges) for long. I have studied Homeopathy, Biochemic (Schussler's) Tissue Remedies, Bach Flower Remedies, Reiki (I am a certified Usui Reiki Master Healer), Crystal Healing etc. I would strongly advise you to seek the advice of a health professional when trying to understand and implement any knowledge gained from books.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Title: The Time Has Come - The Book of Grace - Part One
Author: Barbara Oleynick
ISBN: 978-0-9755922-5-0 and 0-9755922-5-4
Publisher: Synergy Books
No. of Pages: 188
Category: Fiction/Spiritual
Presentation: Hardbound with dust jacket

The photograph of a small baby with chubby cheeks and beautiful eyes calls to you from the front cover of this book. If you are called or destined to respond, you will read this book, like I did. This books gets to the core of the reader, the heart. It certainly did to me. Made me cry at several places with its intense narration of the lack of love and the consequent cruelty of a man to a fellow man (I am using that word in its most general form, which encompasses man, woman and child). The author certainly knows how to grip the reader's imagination and she made me feel as if I was there when all that she describes was happening.

Well, let me give a brief peek into the story. The story is about Grace, God's grace to be specific, which was sent to earth in the form of Grace, a baby born to an unwed child of 14, Rachel, who didn't even know that she was pregnant and who didn't know how she became pregnant. And the baby's arrival is known to a wise old woman Gyada and is heralded by the appearance of a bright star. She was waiting for a long time and her role is to teach her. The baby is abandoned by the child mother and is picked up again through a Divine Plan, by Albert, a large hearted man, whose wife Henna is equally loving. The two brought into the world children, who in turn are loving, thus emphasizing the role of good upbringing. But even where love is lacking, God sometimes has His/Her own plan like in the case of Rachel. Rachel proves a loving and forgiving daughter and a wonderfully loving sister to Stefi, whom she brings up like a mother since her biological mother is addicted to drugs and uncontrolled sex. Rachel's mother kills her younger daughter Stefi in a fit of uncontrolled rage, possibly drug induced. She repents and is forgiven. Rachel is directed by the same Divine force that is responsible for Grace's adoption by Albert and Henna to go searching for her baby and naturally is welcomed with open arms by the couple.

Rachel grows up to become a qualified medical doctor and Grace becomes a miraculous healer. She saves another baby Jeffrey, the grandson of Albert when he was just a few months old. When she is about ten years old, Grace performs another healing miracle by healing a man with multiple stab wounds. She continues to help others and the climax for this particular part comes when she saves a train from being blown up in a terrorist attack, set in 2008.

Barbara is at her best when she is narrating scenes of love and interestingly scenes of great sorrow like when Rachel was delivering her baby not knowing what is happening, another small child being attended in the Emergency Room by a desperate team whose members cry when they fail, Stefi's death and Rachel's desperate attempts to save her sister and similar incidents. When she comes to the part where she describes the decaying social order, the increasing incidence of crime, the way children are being ill-treated etc., she sounds more like a preacher and like a narrator of a documentary film. The philosophy that she tries to share is really not new and is more eastern though the western world did have similar thinkers but lost most of that knowledge in the mad rush for materialism. Now the eastern societies are pursuing similar agenda and the societies are paying the price. Barbara seems to send a message through her novel that if sufficient number of people work more from her heart than from their minds (which are more logical and self-seeking) and thus share the love (sharing material possessions comes as a natural act when the heart is full of love), the world can still be saved from a total disaster.

You will read this book if you are destined to read. After reading, how you will feel is dependent upon how much dogmatic your belief systems are. If you are spiritual and believe in the oneness of Universe, you will resonate with some of the ideas presented by the author.

As I wrote, the author has a good style and really grips you in the first part of her book. The later part is as mentioned a little more in a documentary or reporter style. Still, fairly readable.

The editing of the book left much to be desired. It didn't interfere too much with my ability to understand but left me wondering at the state of English in US colleges and universities.


About me: Swamy is a part of my given name, Venkateswara Swamy Swarna. Swarna is the family name and is the name of a small village in Andhra Pradesh, India, from which my ancestors hail. Venkateswara Swamy is the name of the presiding Deity at Tirumala Tirupati, the richest temple of India and the second richest religious institution in the world. It is the tradition in Hindu families to name the children after Gods and Goddesses, with the optimism that the child does develop the divine qualities. I am clarifying this since Swamy is also used as a respectful title for Sadhus, Sants and Sanyasis (monks) in India and thus sometimes I am confused with such monks. I am not a monk. I am a physicist and a metallurgist, a Quality Assurance specialist and am presently working in a full time job in a large organization, at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. The views expressed are of course my own and my organization has no connection to it.
Title: Lean Strategies for Product Development
Sub-Title: Achieving Breakthrough Performance in Bringing Products to Market
Author: Clifford Fiore
Publisher: ASQ Quality Press ( and
Publisher's Catalog No: H1205
ISBN: 0-87389-604-1
No. of Pages: 96
Genre: Non-Fiction/Management/Industrial Efficiency/Product Development

"Lean Strategies for Product Development" is a small, beautifully printed soft-cover paperback that you could pick up and read while waiting for your flight in the airport and may be finish by the time you reach your destination after about an hour. However, you may need to reread it a couple of times to really appreciate and fully absorb the important concepts presented therein. In 11 chapters spread over just 62 pages, Cliff succeeds in presenting lucidly some very important concepts and methodologies for faster and better product development. These are aptly called Lean Strategies since they tend to make the organization lean by reducing flab and wastage of resources. An analogy that comes to mind is how a small torpedo boat is much more nimble when compared to a bulky aircraft carrier, or how a lean and fit man can outrun and outmanouver a flabby, overweight opponent in boxing. The need for faster, leaner product development teams that can come up with smart and cost-effective designs to withstand intense competition is very well brought out.

The book resembles the well-known business novel "The Goal" in style, though the story line is not as strong as that book. The tone is quite conversational and most of the time, the text is easy to follow. The examples are quite meaningful and with only a little rereading, it is possible for the strategy to be understood. The contents and a sample chapter of the book can be accessed by clicking on the following link:

In addition to the 11 chapters, the book has appendices including a Glossary, Product Development Approach Summary, Examples of Waste, Value Stream Map Examples, Common Product Development Problems, Product Development Maturity Path, References and at the very end, a very useful index.

I especially liked the chapters on Modular design, Platform Design and The Lean and Six Sigma Connection. I also liked Cliff's emphasis on the imperative need to capture knowledge (Knowledge Management if you prefer). I feel many of the existing organizations, even large ones, neglect
this area. As Ken Hawkins, the Project Engineer of Donetics in the book rightly remarks, knowledge goes into a black-hole, never to come out again!

As an editor, I found a few places where I felt that the text could have been edited better. But in general, there is no difficulty in understanding the message.

All in all, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to individuals, organizations and libraries.


About the reviewer: Swamy is a Physicist and a metallurgist by education and has spent almost all of 37 years in Quality Control, Quality Assurance with special emphasis on various aspects of material testing. His other interests include training and general management. Presently he is actively involved in Human Resource Development and Corporate Communications in a large organiza- tion in India. The above views are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of his orga- nization.