Nine Pints by Rose George

This year hasn’t gone well for me in terms of keeping up with my writing routine. I’ve been spending lots of time reading data-related topics and practicing coding challenges to improve my technical skills as a data engineer. This along with my job moving to work from home 6 months ago due to COVID has made it challenging to keep up with my habits.

As I type and reflect, this made me further understand the importance of setting achievable goals and adjusting your mindset when your day to day routine is affected. Due to me moving out and gyms being closed due to COIVD, my goals of practicing piano and working out became hard to achieve. As I started to not keep up with these habits, it also negatively impacted my discipline to accomplish the rest of my weekly goals.

I’ve reflected on my goals and redefined it so it’s achievable and relevant. I’ll start with a low baseline and turn on the intensity after I’m accustomed to the frequency of the habits I’ve set for myself. Besides this, I’m going to dive back into meditation as I felt like I was not as good at dealing with distractions compared to when I was meditating. Hopefully, if you are in a similar scenario, you can also reflect and redefine your goals to see if this can help you get back to your routine.

BLOOD-PINTS

The first book I’ve read while working from home is Nine Pints by Rose George. It’s a book about blood which drew my interest as it’s such a vital part of me which I know so little about. Rose covered topics which includes the usage of leeches, blood transfusions, HIV, and menstruation.

Rose George is an English journalist and writer best known for her non-fiction, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. Rose’s ability to dive deep into a topic and her persistence to understands really shines through as she traveled to India, Nepal, South Africa, and the Canadian prairies to conduct her research.

Rose started out with a visit to a leech farm in Wales. The connection between leeches and blood seems apparent, however, I was still amazed to learn that leeches were widely used as a medical instrument and at times treated like a cure-all prescription in the 1800s. And even though it’s not popular now, leeches are still being used medically due to its natural abilities to increase blood circulation and to break up blood clots.

Moving to Canada, Rose investigated the business side of blood as well as the ethical and safety aspect of selling blood and plasma. When corporations are allowed to profit off of blood, they can take advantage of people in need and target people in poor neighborhoods. By paying the donors, it will also entice people to lie about their medical status which will put unsafe blood in the pipeline to be transfused.

Rose then went into great depth to talk about menstruation. It’s very insightful to learn about all the troubles that come with menstruation. For developing countries, this can be a huge issue. When Rose was in Nepal, she discovered that there’s a tradition of women having to sleep in slacks during their period due to the belief of women bringing bad luck when menstruating. A lot of the women interviewed were firm believers of the tradition as it’s usually passed down from their family and so engrained in their culture. Rose further talked about how unaffordable sanitary pads are to women in some regions which force women to use whatever they can find instead which can often lead to infections and diseases due to poor hygiene. This further highlights the importance of further education on menstruation especially in developing countries.

Nine Pints is a very informative and insightful book on blood. It shines light on many aspects of blood that my review doesn’t cover. I’ll definitely recommend this book if you want to learn more about blood or want to read a different topic.

I started my blog as a way to document my learnings and improve my writing after I’ve read Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk, but I must say I really do enjoy writing again. 🙂

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

It depends on the genre and the occasion, but when people ask me for my book recommendations, Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, and Educated by Tara Westover were often the first books that came to my mind. Now I’m adding Bad Blood to that list, if not at the top of the list.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley by John Carreyrou details the rise and fall of Theranos, a multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes. Holmes was a Stanford dropout with a vision to make lab testing quicker and more accessible by requiring blood samples as small as a single drop. With the ease of the sampling procedure and the proclaimed 4 hours on average test result completion time, Theranos’s revolutionary device would allow lab testing to be done more frequently and for doctors to adjust drug prescriptions sooner if needed. This can lead to the early detection of diseases and save lives. Holmes’s charisma, determination, and relentless drive along with Theranos’s proprietary lab testing device attracted multiple credible investors and vaulted Theranos to a $10 billion peak valuation. There was only one problem. The technology never worked.

Despite Theranos’s high turnover rate and the apparent technology issues known internally, Theranos’s problems never made it to the public. With a culture of secrecy and intimidation, employees are often isolated from other departments. The computer network is closely monitored and confidentiality agreements are often presented when employees leave. In 2014, Holmes started gaining more popularity and appeared on the covers of reputable media companies including Fortune, Forbes, and the New York Times. However, Holmes and Theranos’s fate started to change when John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal received a tip from Adam Clapper, a pathologist who ran an industry blog.

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John Carreyrou is a two times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist best known for his reporting on corporate scandals. Carreyrou started investigating Theranos in late 2015 after he finished “Medicare Unmasked”, a project that forced the American government to release important Medicare data kept secret for decades.

The journey to uncover the truth behind Theranos’s deceptions was challenging to say the least. Barely any employees who’ve worked for Theranos in the past were willing to answer Carreyrou’s calls due to fear of reprimand from Holmes. And many of the few sources who were willing to speak on the condition of anonymity went silent after Holmes discovered their identities. Carreyrou himself was pressured multiple times to drop the story. When that didn’t work Holmes turned to Rupert Murdoch, the founder of The Wall Street Journal’s parent company who also happens to be the biggest investor in Theranos in 2015, to kill the story. Luckily Rupert rejected Holmes’s request citing that he trusted the paper’s editors to handle the matter fairly. The relentlessness that Holmes showed in shutting down this story further speaks to Carreyrou’s amazing investigative efforts.

Even though Bad Blood is a non-fiction but the clarity of facts and people’s accounts are so well encompassing that it feels like Carreyrou was looped in on every email and phone call. However, what I’m most impressed by is how matter of factly Carreyrou was able to tell this story. Carreyrou was able to cast his opinion aside and simply let the readers make their own conclusions with the series of facts presented.

I’ll say this is my most enjoyable read ever. The storyline is so compact and thrilling that it’s hard to put down the book. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do if you decide to learn how Holmes and Theranos were able to fake its way to a $10 billion valuation despite being in one of the most highly regulated industries.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂