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Dennis Littrell (SoCal/NorCal/Maui)

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A Future Uncertain: The Path to a Post-Market Economy
A Future Uncertain: The Path to a Post-Market Economy
by Gregg David
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound and exciting look at the economic world past, present, and to come, 11 Jan. 2016
This is an enormously exciting book. I might even say it is an astonishment. Written by a non-academic economist, an aerospace engineer with a Master’s degree in Engineering from the University of Liverpool, it reads like a refreshing wave of sanity. Gregg David’s opus is 704 pages long replete with endnotes and references that make it clear that this is one heck of a “hobby” (as he characterized it to me). This is a transformative work with ideas and information that every educated person should know delivered in a style shorn of most of the usual academic econ jargon.

David is an engineer but he doesn’t write like an engineer. He writes a like a highly informed journalist with a keen creative mind set. I confess I am only through about 100 of the 704 pages, but I felt I just had to get a review out since this is the most interesting book on economics that I have ever read.

Here are a couple of tidbits to give you an idea of what I am talking about:

“Graham Hill, CEO of architectural and design firm Life Edited has commented upon how the explosion of belongings available to us has outstripped our ability to store it. In the USA there is currently a $22 billion industry devoted to the storage of personal goods which either cannot be stored at home, or are no longer wanted at home.

“The absurdity of this scenario beggars belief. Large proportions of people now buy possessions for which they have no room or immediate requirement for, in order to pay to store these items in a unit on the other side of the city.” (p. 91)

The quote is from Chapter 1.3 “The Culture of Consumption,” the very title of which gives you an idea of where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going. David recalls built-in obsolescence leading to the consumptive society as early as the 19th century. He recalls how Henry Ford some years later tried to continue selling his Model T automobile (“any color as long as it’s black”) without changes from year to year but had to reverse strategy when other car manufactures came out with new models every third year or so even though the changes were superficial and/or stylistic. This “perceived obsolescence” became the driving force behind “cyclical consumption” (p. 47) and a highly significant “engine of economics.”

David notes that “obsolescence is not necessarily a good or bad thing” (p. 51) while pointing to four types of obsolescence:

Technological obsolescence
Functional obsolescence
Planned obsolescence
Perceived obsolescence

As I see it, the major driving force in the contemporary economy is technological obsolescence. Things don’t grow old and break down; they don’t necessarily go out of style (although there is plenty of that); nor is planned obsolescence even necessary for many products and services. As David observes “a product which is continually and purposefully re-launched with incrementally improved technologies is one which is planned for technological obsolescence.” (p. 52)

Another interesting idea in just this first one-seventh of the book is that of the “flawed consumer” who lacks fluency in “the language of goods.” “In essence ... [this language] demands that consumers be dissatisfied to some degree, as a fully satisfied consumer will naturally desire to consume less; this is anathema to a market predicated on perpetual production, perpetual labour and infinite growth.” (p. 81) The “flawed” part refers to those who have not the coin to buy what they have been taught to desire, and they are embarrassed. They are unemployed or underemployed and are experiencing an “aspiration gap.” (p. 83) In a larger sense the malcontented young men of the Middle East who engage in terrorism are the most extreme example of the flawed consumer. They see what people in other parts of the world can buy and use and feel they have nothing to lose and little to live for and so their sense of right and wrong becomes corrupted.

And then there is the idea of the consumer as an addict. David writes: “Shopping in a consumer society is marketed as a pleasurable pastime which can improve mood or act as a reward for hard work.” (p. 86) There is also the idea of “neophilia” (from sociologist Colin Campbell) in which the addiction is for products and services that are new, pristine and perhaps shiny. (p. 86)

Finally I want to point to the idea that in the consumer society the average individual is not as significant as a voter as he or she is as a consumer of products and services.

I will update this review as I finish reading the book. I am excited to see where David is going with reference to “A Post-Market Economy” which I imagine will demand the kind of sustainability not consistent with today’s economic reality.

--Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

The Mysterious World of the Human Genome
The Mysterious World of the Human Genome
by Frank Ryan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.94

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep, thorough, and a bit overwhelming, 22 July 2015
One of the things that becomes clear in reading this fascinating book is that sequencing the human genome in 2001 was really just a small step toward understanding the human genome. Another bit of sobering clarity presented here (and perhaps of even more importance) concerns how we as a species are going to use that knowledge for good or ill as we genetically engineer (or not) the human genome.

The central theme of the book concerns two highly significant and somewhat amazing discoveries that are leading us to the modern understanding of how biological inheritance really works and how complex it is. The role of epigenetics (one of Dr. Ryan’s favorite subjects) and the significance of symbiosis in human heredity are highlighted and placed under careful scrutiny. Ryan in part sees epigenetics as “software” to the “hardware” of the genes.

And this brings me to a wider theme, that of living things working together symbiotically as they form an ever evolving ecology. When I first began to study evolution many years ago the idea of cooperation—symbiosis—among microbes, plants and animals was thought to be just a minor part of the overall picture of evolution. We now know that cooperation among species is much more important than a superficial notion of a “selfish gene.” Instead of calling the gene “selfish” better would be to recognize that the gene has a quality of enlightened self-interest and can turn its enemies into friends. Would that our phenotypes were always so clever!

Ryan defines “symbiosis” in the broadest sense of the term to include the early parasitic relationships that are unstable to relationships that neither harm nor help the partners to mutualism in which one or both partners benefit. Perhaps the most important example of mutualism is the relationship between plants and their fungal partners. Ryan calls this an “intimate symbiosis, with the plant supplying the fungus with carbohydrates for energy and the fungus supplying the plant with water and minerals.” (p. 148)

But before the central theme comes a little history. Ryan begins with Oswald T. Avery to whom the book is dedicated and others as he recalls their early work toward discovering the means through which biological characteristics are inherited. They discovered DNA. He follows this up with a very readable account of how James Watson, Francis Crick and Rosaline Franklin discovered the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953 (with a little (perhaps inadvertent) help from, among others, Linus Pauling!). Ryan makes the people come to life and provides some detail not given in Watson’s famous book The Double Helix.

Ryan then recounts the race to the actual sequencing of the human genome, a race that ended in something like a dead heat between entrepreneur J. Craig Venter’s Celera Genomics and the National Institutes of Health’s Human Genome Project led by James Watson.

The middle part of the book gets more technical as Ryan attempts a crash course in genetics for the layman along with an update on the latest findings and understandings. I found this part of the book challenging to say the least, and a bit amazing. The fact “that roughly 9 per cent of our human genome is now made up of retroviral DNA” (p. 162) gives one pause. As Ryan explains, an analysis of viral coding in our DNA allows us to look back in time and gain insights into “the great wilderness of the prehistory” while telling us about ancient invasions from viruses that infected our ancestors. The earliest known of these human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) entered the human genome “somewhere around 30 million years ago.” (p. 222)

In some way our defense mechanisms were able to take in the viral code and turn it into something positive or at least neutralize it. And now like fossils in our genes the code remains, although in some cases it has been put to positive use. Strange. Ryan sees this as “powerful supportive evidence for virus-human symbiosis at genomic level.” (p. 169) It reminds me of the famous discovery by Lynn Margulis that the mitochondria that power our cells were once invaders that we somehow came to terms with by forming a mutually beneficial symbiosis.

Not so technical and very enlightening is Ryan’s concept of “genomic creativity.” He uses the acronym “MESH” for what he sees as the four distinct mechanisms of evolutionary change. They are “mutation, epigenetics, symbiosis and hybridisation.” (p. 145) Thus our idea of how evolution works has been greatly augmented since the time of Darwin or even from a couple of decades ago.

The next part of the book is about the prehistory and how we evolved from Homo erectus along with three other now extinct humans: Homo neanderthalensis, Homo floresiensis, and the most recently discovered “mysterious species,” Denisova hominins. I read with great interest about the latest discoveries via DNA analysis and other evidence (“archaeogenetic calculations”—see p. 219) on how the Neanderthal went extinct and especially what we now know about what the Neanderthal looked like (light skin, probably blond or reddish hair, blue or otherwise light-colored eyes), cogitated (brain bigger than ours with verbal modules), and lived (made thatched huts, made water craft, displayed symbolic ability etc.). Incidentally according to Ryan the Neanderthal is not extinct “but live[s] on as an integral part of our own hereditary pedigree.” (p. 272) In other words we mated with the Neanderthal and our greater numbers absorbed them, and now thirty or forty thousand years later their characteristics have been reduced to about four percent of our genome. In particular I am proud to know (thanks to 23 and Me) that my genome is 3.1% Neanderthal. That’s the 99th percentile!

This part of the book was of particular interest to me as Ryan goes back into the human prehistory and shows us what we have learned due to genetic analysis. The past is literally coded in our genes. Genomic analysis is shedding light on the discussion about how and when we came out of Africa. Also very interesting is the possibility of “a near-extinction event” that reduced the human “population to less than 10,000 individuals, and some think it may have been as few as 1,000.” (See pages 221-222.)

The final part of the book is about how our knowledge and understanding of our genome will change us, our societies and our evolutionary trajectory. Ryan touches on the controversies to come concerning genetic engineering of the human genome as he reveals that the first artificial genome (bacterial) has already been constructed, and that the first human embryo engineered. (See the final chapter, “The Fifth Element.”)

--Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

Dawn of Deception: Part I in the David Nbeke Series: Volume 1
Dawn of Deception: Part I in the David Nbeke Series: Volume 1
by Dan Fletcher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page burner about ivory and rhino horn poaching in Kenya, 13 Jun. 2015
This is an action/adventure thriller set in Kenya in 1996. It involves the most evil of evil villains, a sadistic psychopath who kills, tortures, and otherwise abuses with the kind of sick joy that would embarrass the arch fiend himself. The novel also features a very human but very brave and righteous hero who can take punishment with robotic strength.
At stake are the elephants and rhinos who are being hunted and slaughtered for the Chinese pseudo medicine trade in ivory and horns. Think of the worst sort of third-world graft and corruption and multiply that by a factor of ten and you have Dan Fletcher’s Kenyan government at its despotic worst. How accurate this is I don’t know, but the pure atmospheric and psychological veracity spun out of Fletcher’s laptop suggests that he knows very well what he’s writing about.
The prose is as vivid as the veldt after the rains and as intense as first love and primeval hatred. The scenes of mayhem, murder, and torture fairly challenge belief; and the way the beaten and tortured scream and spit back at their assailants may make the reader believe they have super human strength or are practicing the most amazing stupidity. These people are action-adventure types in the extreme. They are—both the good and the bad guys, and one woman—almost beyond belief.
I’m guessing that most readers will feel compelled to turn the pages until the very end since this is a tale of good versus an evil so vile that the reader must find the man with the two-headed golden amulet hanging from his neck dead in a most horrible way, perhaps caught in an elephant trap would be poetic justice.
Well, maybe that will happen or maybe a rhinoceros will gore him or maybe only something similar or maybe the evil Maliki will be alive for the second installment of Fletcher’s trilogy. At any rate this would make a fantastic movie in which the audience can find identification and a type of catharsis.

Naked Determination, 41 Stories About Overcoming Fear
Naked Determination, 41 Stories About Overcoming Fear
Price: £3.92

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively deep memoir, 20 Sept. 2013
This is a collection of 41 stories or personal essays--petite memoirs actually--from the life of the author. Hausmann's intent is to inspire others to overcome adversity and to meet life's challenges. She shows us how she did it (with a little help from friends and family).

This is also a book of lessons about life and afterthoughts on how to live life in the fullest sense, and how to create our happiness in the face of adversary and just plain bad luck.

What Hausmann does in addition to inspiring is to recall for the reader her psychological experiences as she lived these events. She could watch uncaring as a large bottle of red cranberry juice spilled out onto the floor because she was so deeply into mourning due to the death of a loved one.

Some of it is a bit corny, like "Know Your Dream Destination" (relearned lesson from "Knowing Your Destination") or "You Must Ask for Your Dream" (from the story about working with director Franz Novotny). And some of it really is blatant (if not exactly "naked") determination. For example, fifteen-year-old Gisela got her grandmother to accompany her on a long bus trip to Moscow by nagging her daily for MONTHS. By the way, the afterthought to that story is surprisingly about logistics! Hausmann quotes General Omar Bradley as saying, "Amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics." Why? Because it's a long, long ways from France to Moscow as Napoleon learned the hard way and as Hausmann was able to experience vicariously by traveling across the vast Russian countryside with her grandmother.

Yes, a lot of this is about traveling--to Tibet, to Los Angeles, to Russia, to China, etc., but it's also about people and what "Gisy" learned from them. And yes it is about affairs and love.

From reading this I would say that the secret to Hausmann's success is hard work and the ability to see things in a positive light whenever possible. Too fat? Can't sleep? Solution: enroll in a gym that stays open 24/7 and when you have two a.m. insomnia, get up and work out for an hour and a half. This made Gisela feel almost studly. Further result: "So I took myself a new lover and had fun." Yes, Hausmann can be strikingly candid.

One of the things that struck me about his book was how much Hausmann revealed about herself, both intentionally and by-the-by. She is with Walt Whitman in that she celebrates herself openly without blatant bragging. We all should be proud of ourselves (and a lot of this book IS about building self-esteem) but we should also realize as Hausmann has that we can only be proud of ourselves if we do the best we can as often as we can.

Finally I was amused by Hausmann's story about "the Casablanca Principle" in which she assuages herself as she breaks up with a boyfriend by using this famous line from the Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman film: "We'll always have Paris." The idea of emphasizing the good times together is typical of Hausmann's attitude toward life. I was amused because after I broke up with a girlfriend with whom I had travelled a bit in the U.S., she liked to say with a smile, recalling the Bogart line,"We'll always have Colby, Kansas" (where we stayed one night).

By the way, I say that this book is "deceptively deep" because of what Hausmann ultimately reveals about herself.

All in all this is a most interesting memoir from a woman who knows the world and herself.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)"

Labor Pains
Labor Pains
Price: £3.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very funny, 20 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Labor Pains (Kindle Edition)
Kevin Taylor, Huggins's first person narrator of this over-the-top novel about working for a large insurance company, is a slacker who hates his job at Schuster, Thompkins, and Dykes. (That would be "STD" if you get the reference.) He's the kind of guy who can tell you in colorful language all about the shortcomings of his fellow cubical dweebs while inadvertently revealing his own flaws. Thus Kevin is what is known in literature as an "unreliable narrator," in this case he is something like "the naif" who (quoting from Wikipedia) is "a narrator whose perception is immature or limited through his or her point of view" such as Huckleberry Finn or Holden Caulfield. It's a nice technique and Huggins handles it superbly.

Kevin's problem is that he seems both aware and unaware of his shortcomings. We've all known people who are absolutely blind to their faults but seem to have extrasensory vision and a fine gift of gab when it comes to the faults of others. Huggins' protagonist is a richly drawn example.

The novel is filled with all sorts of not entirely bright, sit com comical and crude sorts of characters like "Creepy Bathroom Chuck" who likes to follow people into the bathroom, and homeless Robbie Brown who mimics singer Bobby Brown of "My Prerogative" fame and manages to steal Kevin's...well, read the book and see how this improbability works out.

The plot is rather aimless like a coming-of-ager in the beginning but then centers around Kevin's need to get a promotion at STD. A fellow worker helps him out with various outrageous schemes that get the competition fired. But mainly this funny and somewhat crude novel is a satirical burlesque on the modern office environment and its denizens written in a way that makes it clear the Huggins cleverly made it all up as he went along.

--Dennis Littrell, author of the novel "Teddy and Teri" and other works
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 7, 2016 11:29 AM BST

Teach Yourself Visually Complete WordPress (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
Teach Yourself Visually Complete WordPress (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
by Janet Majure
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the guides I've seen, 31 Aug. 2013
There's not much I can add to what others have said about this excellent guide. It's enormously detailed and pretty much a classic of the step by step "dummies" kind of "how to" approach. The "visual" part refers to all the screen shots for just about every click you'll have to make to set up your blog. Every step is numbered. The only problem with the book is keeping it open as you type and click. (An old fashioned book holder does the job.)

Note that this is the 2013 edition. There were a couple of earlier editions that I haven't seen.

The main thing I want to say is that I wish I had had this book when I set up my WordPress blog two years ago. It would have saved me a lot of time and tedium.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"

Writing Great Emails is Not Art - 9 Ways to get there
Writing Great Emails is Not Art - 9 Ways to get there

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but I have some reservations, 25 Aug. 2013
I get a lot of emails from people wanting me to review their books. I don't answer about half of them. Why? Mostly because I know I wouldn't be interested in their book, but sometimes because the email is not personal enough. Some just have the generic greeting "Hi." Others have taken the trouble to greet me by name. That helps. But what really will get me to answer the email (and maybe even take a look at their book) is if they are able to say something relevant about my reviews or something else I've written.

Be personal, and that is what Gisela Hausmann advises.

Okay, but how did she get me to answer her email? She greeted me with "Dear Dennis," but did not mention anything she'd read that I had written. Normally that would be a turn off. However her email was short and to the point, but even so I would not have responded except for the fact that I was curious about a 16-page book on how to write effective emails. In other words her "to the point" technique did not hurt her, but what sold me was the product itself--or rather the anticipation of it.

After reminding the reader how important email communication has become, Hausmann sensibly addresses each part of an email, subject line, greeting, body, and signature in turn. She gives do's and don'ts with examples. For example, she writes: "There is no faster way to say `I don't really care about you...' than misspelling a person's name." That is correct. Everybody has an intimate relationship with their name. Spell it right. That means double check. Always.

Her most important tip of the whole book is (in caps) "READ EMAILS OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF!" I put this in partly because I don't believe it's the most important tip in the book, although it's definitely a good idea, especially if the email is very important to you. I won't give what I think is the most important tip since I want to keep my review shorter than the book! I'll let the reader buy the book and find out. I will say I like her daughter's very clever take on why you should never use "sincerely" in closing.

Now, here are three places where my view is a little different than that of the very careful Gisela Hausmann:

First, I don't think that the slowness of opening snail mail made it more exciting. What made it more exciting relative to today's email is that it was much rarer.

Second, I don't necessarily open the anticipated "good stuff" in my emails first as Hausmann believes most people do. Usually I quickly get rid of the boring stuff and then open what I think will be interesting email. But then I don't have to wade through a hundred emails a day.

Third, I don't have the time to phone ahead first when emailing somebody I don't know and who doesn't know me. But this is definitely a good idea if the email you are going to send is very important to you. Problem: why should they answer the phone in the first place?

Hausmann opines that putting numbers in the subject line attracts the reader's attention. Never thought of that. Probably true. Her example of changing the subject line of an email from

"case Robert Smith, Pennsylvania Ave"


"Case# 123456 *case Robert Smith, Pennsylvania Ave"

does appear more eye-catching, but leaving in the superfluous second "case" looks careless.

All in all this is an easy to read little book with good information presented in an agreeable manner.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"

Facebook Diet, The : 50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug With a Digital Detox (The Unplug Series)
Facebook Diet, The : 50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug With a Digital Detox (The Unplug Series)
by Gemini Adams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.19

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I think we'll need "The Facebook Boot Camp", 16 Aug. 2013
It sure is nice to read a book in ten minutes. I looked at all the pictures too. Cute. Some funny shtick. No page numbers. Maximum words per page: about 30.

I liked the cartoons, most of them anyway. For example the one with the woman in bed with a repetitive strain injury and her wrist in a kind of cast but with her legs sticking out from under the covers and her big toe on a laptop at the foot of her bed... Or this line: "Still single, you stalk your ex-lovers to find out if they're married, separated, divorced, or if they've become a pansexual with a foot fetish."

I imagine that you get the picture: cartoonist Gemini Adams (nice Sixties first name) having cute, harmless fun with Facebook devotees--or let's face the facts: addicts.

--Okay we're at a Facebook Anonymous meeting. The on-camera reporter whispers as he looks into the camera.

"This is really scary stuff. Marriages destroyed, children held back in school, lives ruined... Wait! Here's one now about to speak."

The camera shows Sally Social standing up and admitting that she is powerless against the addictive lure of Facebook and that only a Higher Power can save her. Heads nod solemnly.

Cut to Mark Zuckerberg in a gray T-shirt standing outside the meeting room.

Reporter: aren't you worried about this? I mean, won't people cut back on their Facebook useage?"

Zuckerberg laughs. Grins broadly. "No," he says. Smiles confidently.

Cut back to the meeting room. Sally is still standing and now she says she has made the decision to turn her life over to a Higher Power. Speaking very carefully and trembling she announces "I am turning my life over to...Mark Zuckerberg!"

<Muffled, coughed, embarrassed cheers.>

Cut back to outside the meeting room where we catch a shot of a smiling Mark Zuckerberg as he walks off with little devil's horns coming out of the sides of his head.

(Uh, this teleplay is not in the book.)

A digital detox diet is recommended near the end of the book, but of course impossible to follow. Maybe there should be a Betty Ford clinic for Facebook addicts or a seriously in your face Facebook Boot Camp.

Or, what the heck, undergo a massive makeover and go back to high school.

Bottom line here: this book makes a cute gift for that very special someone you haven't seen in person in months.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"

Heist and High
Heist and High
by Anthony Curcio
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story of crime and multiple drug addiction, 7 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Heist and High (Paperback)
I was very pleasantly surprised at just how good this tale of addiction, crime, punishment, and (possible) rehabilitation turned out to be. I had read co-author Dane Batty's previous venture into the true crime genre ("Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber" 2010) and it was good. This one is even better.

Author Anthony Curcio himself is the subject so this is as much a memoir as it is a true crime saga. Curcio is that kind of attractive and athletic golden boy who is good at just about everything he puts his mind to, the kind of guy who from childhood gets away with way too much just because people tend to like him and forgive his transgressions. Unfortunately he has one fatal flaw, addiction. He managed to addict himself to pain pills, alcohol, cocaine, and adrenaline rushes while ingesting a wide variety of other pharmaceuticals. At one point he was spending $350 a day on drugs or over $127,000 a year.

His personality is manic-depressive. When he's flying he can do anything; when he's down he is suicidal. And of course the drugs only made things massively worse.

The central event in the book is the Brinks armored car robbery that took place in Monroe, Washington in 2008. Curcio got away with something like $400,000. It was a painstaking-planned heist with several original touches that caught the media's attention.

Curcio put an ad in Craig's list and got over a dozen guys to dress as he would be dressed in blue landscaper's outfits. They were instructed to show up in the parking lot near the bank just before the Brinks truck would arrive thereby providing cover for Curcio's get away--which, by the way was via a nearby stream on an inner tube. You may have seen a reenactment of this crime in a recently broadcasted segment on TV's 20/20. The segment is probably archived at their web site. I saw it. It's worth viewing.

But what this book is really about is Curcio's spiral from high school heart throb and star athlete (and class clown) to the very depths of depravity as he desperately scrounges, lies, cheats, schemes and steals to support a massive drug habit, the likes of which I have never read about before. Batty interviewed Curcio in prison. He also interviewed his wife Emily. Every page screams authenticity. The prose just runs under your eyes as you quickly turn the pages. I read the book in a single day.

Some observations: At one point Curcio totally identified himself as a criminal citing the criminality of bankers and others in power. Part of this was just a rationalization that allowed him to commit crimes without guilt. But part of it is what millions of people genuinely feel: they have been cheated, lied to and stolen from. For some there's the sense that it's all a jungle and the tiger does not feel it is wrong to eat the lamb.

The material on being in prison was strikingly vivid as Curcio depicted the mentality of the prisoners and their guards and the various hells he went through. The authenticity reminded me of Jimmy A. Lerner's excellent "You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish" (2002). In some ways Curcio's account is even better. You won't want to miss knowing what it's like to spend weeks in a tiny cell with a crazed white supremacist as hundreds of cockroaches crawl all over your body.

As in many true crime tales we have the ever-suffering, ever-naïve, ever in denial wife. Her name is Emily and she and Curcio were sweethearts from the eighth grade. He had shown such promise and she loved him so much... Yet she is heroic in the way she works to hold her family together at all costs. Near the end she learns of Curcio's many infidelities and demands that he come clean and tell her the truth. It is a bit strange that these infidelities (which, incidentally, are NOT written about in the book) was what hurt her the most. Not the stealing, the neglect, the shame, the fear--no it was his unfaithfulness. In her demand that he confess all we see a power struggle between husband and wife. In the final analysis he apparently does confess all and I would say she won.

And maybe her amazing ability to stay with Curcio and her ability to forgive him will in the long run be rewarded. Curcio got out of prison in 2013 and there is the hope that he can conquer the bipolar demons that haunt him without spiraling back into drug addiction. He is a talented man and although a criminal, he is not the kind of criminal that wants to hurt people. He is a flawed human being who may yet use his talent in socially responsible ways.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Dennis Littrell's True Crime Companion"

Winning Poker Systems
Winning Poker Systems
by Norman Zadeh
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Mainly of historical value for serious poker players, 31 July 2013
This review is from: Winning Poker Systems (Hardcover)
This is a curious and mostly obsolete book that is out of print and nearly certain to stay that way. It is obsolete because, with the exception of seven-card stud, the games that Zadeh covers are seldom offered either in public clubs or on the Internet. Hold'em is not even mentioned.

I have a copy of the book that I bought when it came out in 1973, a copy that is a bit the worst for wear since I studied Zadeh's recommendations for draw poker and made notes in the book. At the time draw poker was the only game legal in the public card rooms of California. Hold`em and seven card stud were made legal in the late eighties.

In 1973 this was almost certainly the best book on poker ever published and certainly the most scientific. Zadeh received a PhD in Applied Mathematics from UC, Berkeley when he was 22-years-old. The book is filled with very exacting tables showing minimum hands by position for opening and calling. Here is a list of the games covered:

Draw poker, pass and out
Draw poker, jacks or better to open
Five- six- and seven-card stud
Five- six- and seven-card stud for low
High-low seven card stud
High-low draw

Additionally there is a chapter on "Best Strategies" (in general) including deceptive plays and poker psychology, and another on more advanced strategies (again in general for all poker games). Zadeh's recommendations are insightful and rigorous as would be expected from a mathematician who is an expert in game theory.

The book was written mainly for players in the public card rooms of California which is why draw poker jacks or better to open and lowball are emphasized. They were the most popular games spread in those days since hold'em and stud did not become legal in California until the late 1980s. As I understand it, for obscure reasons sometime in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century the California legislature banned poker games with exposed cards. The ban was only lifted in the 1980s as hold'em became the most popular poker game.

I began playing draw poker in the Gardena clubs in the 1960s while I was attending UCLA. I started at the one and two dollar game and eventually wound up playing at the biggest game they had, the "twenty straight" which was regularly spread at the Horseshoe Club and the Rainbow Club. In those days California law prohibited games with any bet bigger than twenty dollars. And therein lies a tale that relates to Zadeh's strategies for draw poker.

By the time his book came out I had played and studied the draw game for thousands of hours. I figured out all the important odds and devised strategies that were very successful. I had discovered one thing that almost nobody else knew and that was you could open the pot with much weaker hands that most of the pros ("Gardena rounders") thought profitable. Knowing this secret allowed me to jump from the five and ten game over the ten and twenty game to the twenty straight game almost overnight. I can recall playing in the biggest game and seeing the pros at a nearby ten and twenty game looking over at me curiously wondering how I had gotten so good so fast.

Zadeh, with whom I played a couple of times, also figured out that the correct strategy for opening the pot was to open as weak as a pair of queens under the gun! No Gardena rounder would ever do that. But Zadeh's opening strategy was incomplete and incorrect for the twenty straight game because he hadn't factored in the fact that there was only a single twenty dollar bet after the draw instead of the normal double bet in the other games (as required by law). This made your risk less relative to the size of the antes. I discovered that you could open with naked jacks under the gun and turn a profit.

Also incomplete in Zadeh's book is the importance and effect the "bug" (a joker that could be used as an ace or as a wild card in a straight or flush) had on the game. Even in the games like the ten and twenty where there was a double bet after the draw it was profitable to open with jacks under the gun IF you also held the bug in your hand.

By the way, Zadeh is now known as Norm Zada. Through various enterprises including running a hedge fund and founding the magazine "Perfect 10," he has become a very rich man.

If you have a pristine copy of this book, keep it. Someday it might be worth a pretty penny.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "How to Win at Hearts on Your Computer"

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