Friday, July 24, 2015

Review # 299: No Bull Information: A Humorous Practical Guide to Help Americans Adapt to the Information Age by John Gamble

Description: (book jacket)

          How can even active, informed citizens keep up with, understand, and evaluate the mass of information bombarding us as we move through the 21st century? There are practical steps Americans can take that make it easier to spot information that is worth considering---hence the title of the book---“No Bull Information” or NBI. This NBI crusade has many aspects including deceptive words (encore performance), confusing numbers (a stunning 30% increase in inflation), evasion from politicians (I really hope the Senate will pass the bill). NBI explains tactics used to sneak grossly inaccurate information past even intelligent, well-informed people. NBI is a brief, humorous book with a character, Arnbi, everyone can identify with. NBI first provides ways to spot bogus information and then explains tangible actions you can take, actions that fit your individual situation.


          Dr. John Gamble’s No Bull Information -  A Humorous Practical Guide to Help Americans Adapt to the Information Age, began with a single quote: “Too bad, but “simple” is a square peg that seldom fits into the round hole that is our modern world”; an important reminder that not everything is one sided or without its flaws. In this case, information (on a national scale) is not what it seems due to serious problems in the way that information is presented, understood, and used, especially when it comes to misinformation. In the 21st century, people demand “fast, brief, and simple” access to information at all times, often via social media, texting, computers, TV, or by cell phone, so it’s no great surprise that much of that information is shoddy and/or used to carry an agenda of its own. Sure, getting some bad information may not have massive consequences, but in some cases, getting the wrong idea about something can be a life-or-death situation. This is why Dr. Gamble proposes the No Bull Information (NBI) method, to better equip American citizens to be able to evaluate the information around them in order to make safe/ smart decisions. Clearer, less ambiguous information can lead to an improved government, economy, and quality of living, limiting the number of communication and political breakdowns we see today. According to the book, NBI’s overarching goal is not only to provide the real facts, but to make sure that they are understood in the correct context, because the world is a complex place nowadays. Information is no longer held to the high standards it once was, causing people to question the information they receive; in a sense, becoming indecisive and misanthropic. This is why NBI is needed, to “cut the crap” and allow for real consideration and decision making. I am actually quite surprised by how much I enjoyed Dr. Gamble’s humorous and straight to the point approach. His clever use of Arnbi to express the most important aspects of NBI works well with the chapter-based self-help format, providing ARNBisms, rules, and comic relief. Chapters deal with a vast array of misinformation sources (oversimplification, gray areas, the thinking process, numbers/ statistics, deceptive samplings and rankings, double-meanings, gimmicks, pitch-people, etcetera…), as well as techniques to put NBI into national practice. The book is easy-to-read and understand, with well-researched, supported, and referenced concepts and examples (as footnotes) throughout the book. I like how Dr. Gamble promotes common sense - something that people tend to overlook, especially when they are pressured or stressed. The Survey CARDS are also a really great idea, solidifying each chapter’s biggest points. Overall, I agree with a great deal of what NBI is all about, and will definitely be recommending No Bull Information to other readers who suffer from information overload.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)


" Introductions to books are difficult, especially when writing about a topic as broad as information. This is true for me. I have been a college professor for more than 30 years. I am convinced there are serious problems with the way information is presented and understood. This affects all Americans. I am writing for and to them.

At the most basic level, this book is about facts, basic units of information. I explain how facts are the building blocks of information and understanding. "Fact traps" are everywhere, many very subtle. As you'll see, understanding facts and what to do with them involves far more than recognizing and discarding misinformation. Often that is the easy part. Far more important is understanding facts, where they fit, and what to do with them.

On March 2, 1962, a basketball player scored 100 points in a single game. On the face of it, this seems like quite a big deal. But we must go further and put the fact into context. We need to know this was in the NBA, the premier professional basketball league in the world. The player, Wilt Chamberlain, was one of the greatest players who ever lived. This record has never been matched. It’s only in the context of this additional information that we can truly appreciate what an achievement Chamberlain accomplished in that game.

Americans need to be better equipped to evaluate the massive amounts of information bombarding us. A new type of information literacy must be developed for the Internet age. This is essential to the operation of our democracy and our free market economic system. We need a more astute citizenry, able to make more intelligent judgments if not to leap tall buildings in a single bound. If we don’t achieve this, competition in business will not work properly, election choices will be shortsighted, and our government will not be able to make tough decisions.

Thousands if not millions of people can participate in what I hope will become a mass movement that I call NBI—No-Bull Information. This will reduce the chances of bank bailouts, oil spills, elected officials who ignore scientific proof, and anonymous billionaires who spend obscene amounts of money on election campaigns. My goals might seem unrealistic and na├»ve. Once you read a bit further, I am confident you’ll see this can work and you can be a part of it. The average American is smarter and more analytic than politicians, credit card companies, supermarkets, Super PACs, and TV shows seem to believe. "

About the Author

          Dr. John Gamble is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Law at Penn State’s Behrend College in Erie and Director of Honors Programs. He is the author of approximately 100 publications and recently won Penn State’s most prestigious award for teaching, the Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching.

          Dr. Gamble has stuttered all of his life. As a result, he believes words are precious and should not be taken for granted; this motivated him to write NO BULL INFORMATION. His dream for the book is that parents and grandparents will teach their children and grandchildren NBI techniques and demand clear, concise information from political leaders and service and product providers.

For More Information:
Connect with Dr. Gamble on Facebook.
Find out more about Dr. Gamble at Goodreads.

*** I received this book from the author/ publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 298: Overcoming Anxiety by David John Berndt, PhD


          Psychologist David Berndt, Ph.D., in Overcoming Anxiety, outlines several self-help methods for relief from anxiety and worry. In clear language and a conversational style. Dr. Berndt talks with the reader like he might in a therapy session, and he shares what he has learned from his clients about how to make techniques for anxiety management more effective and helpful..
You will be able to learn:

  • A Self-hypnosis grounding technique in the Ericksonian tradition.
  • Box Breathing, Seven Eleven and similar breathing techniques for anxiety relief.
  • How to stop or interrupt toxic thoughts that keep you locked in anxiety.
  • How to harness and utilize your worries, so they work for you.
  • Relief from anxiety through desensitization and exposure therapy.

          Designed to be used alone as self-help or in conjunction with professional treatment, Dr. Berndt draws upon his experience as a clinician and academic researcher to give accessible help to the reader who wants to understand and manage their anxiety.


       Overcoming Anxiety by David Berndt is a short self-help guidebook that offers readers an array of anxiety relief strategies based on novel therapeutic and cognitive behavioral techniques used by psychologists. It focuses on using proven techniques to overcome anxiety, panic, and dread, without the use of anti-anxiety medications, allowing readers to begin understanding the biological and social aspects of anxiety as a disorder. Topics include: “Managing Anxiety by Coming to Your Senses”, “Breathing Easy”, “Worries That Work”, “Defusing Fears and Anxiety”, “Thinking Clearly”, and “All in Your Head? Physiological Factors in Anxiety, Stress and Panic”; covering both mental and physical facets of the disorder. The format is well-structured and easy-to-understand, but certain areas include more psychological jargon than entirely necessary. That said, the material is still very accessible and can be easily implemented/ modified by readers and/or therapists. Overall, I found this guidebook to be a good resource for people with mild to severe anxiety issues. I myself tend to become anxious at times, and the 54321 technique definitely helped me to relax and focus on other objects (not the stressor), especially when presenting projects at work. Overcoming Anxiety indeed holds a lot of worthy information in its forty-five pages, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for relief from anxiety and associated feelings.

Rating: Bounty's Out (3.75/5)


          “ I am teaching you my version. My modifications of the 54321 grounding technique have been improved and changed by my clients, to fit their needs. I would be pleased if you chose to change the technique somewhat, so that the skill rightly belongs very much to you. 
In fact, I hope you can forget that I taught it to you, and instead give yourself the entire credit. If you do the 54321 senses technique right, it will be yours. You will be comforted not only by your skills, but by the knowledge that there is so much relief available right inside you. 

How and When the Technique Works 

          Before we start, I want to explain a little bit about how it works. This technique is a good way to learn to manage or change any strong feeling. It not only works with anxiety, but with anger as well – in fact it can help with any feeling that is too strong. However, it is not really suited to dealing with sadness, a feeling for which we typically will use other methods. But the five sense technique really has the potential to work like a charm when you are anxious, fearful or worried. 
          This method does not aim to rid you of your anxiety or fear, and it does not - and should not - entirely stop the worry or fretting, or solve all your pressing problems.  What it can do is shrink the troubling feeling so it can be a lot smaller, and not feel so strong and compelling.  
          You don’t necessarily want to lose your feelings of fear or anxiety, because these feelings can be useful. Let me explain why. 
          Anxiety is a signal that something is either already wrong, or about to become a problem, or so you believe. It is like a red or yellow light, at a traffic signal. It tells you, “wait a second, something is up!” When you are afraid, you usually have a good idea about what it is you are afraid of, but with anxiety you don’t even really know what it is. 
          In either case, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of the signal, you just want to make it smaller, and more manageable. The signal is supposed to be useful, and in response to a signal, you are supposed to do something, right? That is what anxiety is – anxiety signals for you to do something. If something frightens you or makes you mad, you will probably want to fix it.
          If you bend your leg too far one direction, you feel pain, and that signal tells you stop bending it. If you cut yourself, you may use the pain signal to remember to clean a wound, and maybe even to get a bandage. But if the pain is too big, then it is not so useful. You need enough of the pain to get the message, but not so much that it will drive you crazy or keep you awake.
The same thing holds true with anxiety. A problem that is worrying you - or that you are afraid of, or dreading - probably needs your attention. But if there is too much anxiety or fear, or too many worries, then you are likely to get overwhelmed and not make use of the anxiety signal to make the needed changes.
          To go back to the traffic light metaphor, if you make use of the yellow light at the signal, then you will likely change your speed - slow down or speed up - in order to avoid a collision. But if the light was so bright that you couldn’t see the intersection well, then that signal is not of much use. It might even cause you to crash, or sit there frozen until someone coming through the intersection hits you.
          So the problem with controlling anxious feelings lies in learning how to shrink - but not get rid of - that big feeling of anxiety. The technique I intend to teach you uses your body’s five senses. It “grounds” the strong feelings in your body, in much the same manner as an electrical ground releases the pent up electrical charge that it drains off. 
          This technique is one method you can use to do neutralize your big unmanageable feelings. It is derived from several different approaches to managing feelings. One approach that is utilized, as part of the 54321 Technique, is self-hypnosis; it is easy to do, and easy to learn just from reading this chapter. As such, the 54321 Technique makes use of some principals from Ericksonian hypnosis, indeed most credit that technique to Milton Erickson's wide Betty. More about that later.
Distraction is another approach I draw upon with the 54321 Technique. The mindfulness literature provides a context that is important as a third body of knowledge I drew upon in refining this technique.

Distraction as Way to Manage Anxiety 

          Think back to the last time you saw a child throwing a temper tantrum. What can you as an adult do that can make the child stop? If your six year old nephew is along on your shopping trip, and he gets it in his head that he wants some extra candy or that chocolate-coated cereal, what can you do?
          Distracting him is one approach that works fairly well. You can distract the child with a serious threat and a loud voice, or maybe with some tickling, but a more pleasant and effective way is to just get them thinking about something else. If your child or nephew is a fan of Disney, you can get them talking about the trip the family has planned for next week to Disneyland. If your eight year old is into collecting coins, you can pull out a pocketful, and soon he will be inspecting your change for their latest treasure. 
          Adults do not have as many temper tantrums, but distraction works as well with their version of these affective storms. Indeed, one of the classic techniques of anxiety management uses distraction at the core of it - you simply find a distraction from the feeling of anxiety and run with it. The idea is this:  if you can find a way to distract yourself - or have someone else distract you - then that distraction takes your mind off the anxiety. Of course something distracting works best when you find the distraction sufficiently interesting, so that it can easily hold your attention. 
          If your child is into Disney, or coin collecting, then that will probably work to divert them from a tantrum. The distraction has to be something they like, are interested in, or that they find compelling for some other reason. It has to be at least as interesting – ideally more so – than the thing causing the tantrum.
          So, too, you will need something quite interesting to divert your anxiety. If you can use distraction to overcome a child's tantrum in the supermarket, surely you can find a way to use the same principal on yourself, if you want to manage your own out of control feelings. The 54321 technique as I teach it uses this principal of distraction, as a core feature, and it teaches you cool ways to distract yourself from your anxiety.
          Using the 54321 technique, you can get really good at finding ways to distract yourself from your anxiety, and that is only one third of the recipe I am preparing for you. 
Mindfulness- Embracing the NOW
          For the purposes of teaching the technique, I will be asking you to get distracted by noticing your world around you, in the here and now, using your five senses. While there are plenty of things you and I can think of that could capture the imagination even more completely, we are all interested in what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste. It is certainly  a lot easier to teach this method if I use something everybody experiences, so I am utilizing these five senses. It just so happens that this is making use of another area of psychology- the mindfulness literature.
          Mindfulness research has shown that paying attention in the here and now to what your senses are experiencing can be a very powerful way to bring your feelings under control...”

About the Author:

          David John Berndt received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Loyola University of Chicago, and was on the faculty at the University Of Chicago Department Of Psychiatry. Berndt has published or presented over 80 papers professionally before moving more recently to Charleston, South Carolina.

          In addition to his professional writing, Doctor Berndt maintains the Psychology Knowledge web site, blogs, and he sees clients in his psychotherapy and marriage counseling practice in his downtown Charleston, SC psychologist office. He recently published a book Overcoming Anxiety.

*** I received this book from the author/ publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review # 297: Shaytan - A Journey into Evil by David S. Arthur

Description: (book jacket)

          India – 1947. In the heart of the jungle, death stalks the night. The authorities claim it is a man-eating leopard. The natives believe it is something far more terrifying—a creature that by day wears the skin of a man, but when craving human flesh becomes the demon…SHAYTAN! While on expedition to India, historical sleuth Richard Quizzenbury and his wife, Emily, suddenly find themselves on the hunt for a killer.
          On their first night in Bombay, Victor informs the Quizzenburys that he has been asked to undertake the hunt for a man-eating leopard that has been terrorizing the inhabitants in a remote
area of the Indian Central Provinces. Victor is the illegitimate son of a wealthy Englishman, now deceased, who was by trade a legendary big game hunter. While Victor has long since rejected his father’s brutal profession, he is himself a skilled hunter and reveals his intent to help the people who are being threatened by the leopard. Although the villagers of the region believe the man-eater is a demon that they call Shaytan, Victor is convinced the leopard is actually being forced to prey on humans due to injury or old age. He wants to capture the animal alive and relocate it to a zoo for scientific study.
           Quite unexpectedly, Victor invites the Quizzenburys to accompany him on the hunt, explaining that his uncle and spiritual mentor, Ashok Kahn of the Forest Guard, will join them as an expert Shikari guide. The Quizzenburys reluctantly agree, hoping Victor will be able to capture the beast as quickly as he anticipates, so they can be free to pursue their travels. However, the hunt for the leopard soon escalates into a terrifying struggle for survival during which many innocent lives are lost, as the hunters – and the Quizzenburys – become the hunted.

Shaytan: A Journey Into Evil is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.


          Having not read David S. Arthur's first book in the Quizzenbury Adventure series (The Kingdom of Keftiu: A Mystery of the Ancient World), I almost waved away the opportunity to read Shaytan: A Journey into Evil. Reading books out of series order is a pet peeve of mine, mostly because complex relationships and character backstories have usually already been dissected in previous books, leaving the new reader at a little bit of a disadvantage. However, after seeing the cover (an old-world eye-catcher) and reading the blurb, I decided to break the norm and give Shaytan a chance; and boy, am I glad I did! The first thing I noticed about Shaytan was the well-researched and descriptive language of the academic - a feast of intellectual verbiage, quotes, notations, and exotic landscapes - all written in first-person journal narration. Some readers may not be used to such a richly detailed and visually striking read, but I loved feeling like I was on the hunt with the Quizzenburys, ready to discover the unexpected around every jungle-strewn curve. Being a word-enthusiast, I found myself taking note of certain words I wanted to add to my own vocabulary, enjoying the feel of such unfamiliar, yet alluring phraseology! As for the characters who conversed in this way, I thought that the journal entries from alternating points-of-view were a great idea. Seeing how Richard and Emily responded to different environments, events, and to each other made the dialogue (and the story as a whole) more realistic, especially when it came to their distinct personalities. Richard's know-it-all, risk-taker, arrogant dreamer approach to the expedition was in strong contrast with his wife's, making for more than a few laughs along the way when the pair's opinions clashed. I was quite literally mesmerized after reading the first couple pages, turning my 50 page per night minimum into a 3 hour reading binge from start to finish. The blurb's promise of thrilling adventure did not disappoint! The climax steadily built page-by-page until I felt that I myself was crouched amidst the dense underbrush, waiting to be devoured. Tense moments led to heart-pounding scenes that left me breathless. I was actually shocked when I finally finished the book (at 4am) and was greedy for more; guess it's a good thing that I still have The Kingdom of Keftiu to read. Overall, Shaytan: A Journey into Evil was a  thoroughly thought-provoking and well-written adventure that I will not soon forget!

Rating: On the Run! (4.5/5)


I am at present in hospital at Timarni Station in the Harda District of the Indian Central Provinces. I am recovering from certain unexplained maladies sustained during our hunting expedition to Gohatti Village and neighboring jungle environs. Although physically weakened, thankfully I have suffered no permanent damage. I am in sound condition and my mental faculties are now fully restored.
During the five weeks I pursued the Gohatti man-eater, six innocent victims met their fate in the jaws of this killer, including my own dear uncle, Ashok Kahn of the Central Provinces Forest Guard. There are those who may argue that my contest with this leopard was a battle between the forces of good and evil. Many have called this beast Shaytan, meaning demon. However, there is nothing to imply the Gohatti man-eater was anything other than a jungle beast doing its best to survive. Why it had developed a preference for human flesh, we shall probably never know.
The evening of my confrontation with the man-eater, I was seated motionless in the forest near a village called Nandwa, with my back against the base of a giant teakwood tree, waiting for the leopard. In front of me was a freshwater pool surrounded by a mature bamboo grove. Thorn barriers had been constructed around me, offering some scant protection. Above me in the tree on a machan, Richard Quizzenbury, my hunting companion, was guarding my back.
We sat patiently while the sun faded and the stars emerged one by one, glistening through the treetops. Algol the Demon Star was just appearing over the mountains and the moon was barely a crescent. Save for this and the light of the stars, we were soon surrounded by complete and utter darkness. My ears were to be my only defense. Should the man-eater come—and I had no doubt that it would come—its attack would be instant and unexpected—as would be my death if my attention flagged. While waiting and listening for the arrival of my adversary, I repeated a charm often recited by my uncle. From all that flies, from all that crawls, from all that prowls the mountain, oh night, protect us.
From all that crawls, indeed. From all that slithers.
I heard the great snake well before I felt its horrible weight against my leg. By the extent of its glide, I had a sense of its length; by the rustle of its passage, an appreciation for its girth. To my horror, I realized that the King of Cobras had come calling. All of my plans suddenly came undone. In my strategy to kill the leopard, I feared that my greatest vulnerability would be the loss of hearing due to wind or rain. Now the very unmistakable sound of the enormous reptile’s approach sent a shudder through every muscle in my body.
The cautious touch of its muzzle against my thigh brought a nearly overwhelming urge to recoil, but I knew the slightest twitch would bring certain and agonizing death. In each hand, I gripped the stock of a rifle. Under such circumstances, they were useless. Cobras hunt by sense of smell, and I had no doubt it could detect my scent; even more so, my fear. While I sat rigid with terror, it probed the space between my legs with its deadly snout, working methodically closer and closer to my groin, inching its heavy body back and forth across my legs with each sweep of its venomous head. I imagined its tongue lapping the air, sampling the sweet smell of its prey and perhaps wondering what manner of creature it had ensnared in its deadly strike zone. I was not something cold and scaled; not some smaller serpent, its habitual feast. I was something much larger and warmer, exuding a peculiar odor from every pore, saturating myself with an alien scent to which the terrible viper was unaccustomed.
At my waist, the cobra suddenly reared upright, its head rising well above me in the moonlight. The great hood was fanned as wide as my two hands. Sensing danger, it opened its mouth and hissed, emitting a foul stench past its lethal fangs. I clenched my eyes, anticipating the spray of its venom, enough to kill a man. But it did not spray, and I braced for the bite. But the bite did not come. I could hear its breathing close before me, slow and purposeful, calming like a mantra.
Breathing in and breathing out. Just like a mantra.
And our breathing became as one, the cobra and I. Breathing in together. Breathing out together. Together we invoked the rhythm that is the vibration of all living things, the perpetual mantra of existence, the breath of the cosmos—the supreme resonance of the Om.
And I concentrated on the Om in order to steel myself. Om, the absolute reality—without beginning without end. Adi Anadi. Embracing all that is. Beyond limit, undeniable, transcendental, indestructible, the wholeness of eternity, the echo of the Brahman.
I opened my eyes to find the terrible reptile looming over me, watching, breathing, swaying side to side, to and fro, hypnotically, its majestic hood expanding and contracting in perfect tempo with our breathing, no longer threatened, no longer threatening. Above its broad head hung the crescent moon, haloing its royal crown with an unearthly aura, casting its shadow full across me. And I prayed to the gods, an ancient charm.
Let not the serpent slay me, O Gods. Reverence be paid to the demon brood! I close together fangs with fang, I close together jaws with jaw. I close together tongue with tongue, I close together mouth with mouth.
Whether or not in answer to my invocation, slowly, imperceptibly, the viper leaned forward, and I prepared myself for the sting. But it did not sting. Rather to my absolute and indescribable horror, it wrapped itself slowly around my neck, not once but three times. Like the serpent on the shoulders of Lord Shiva, it came to rest with its weight full upon me. Its head was erect next to mine, just beside my cheek. I could hear it breathing, and I breathed with it.
Bound in those dreadful coils, I was gripped by the certainty of Samsara, of the soul traveling from one lifetime to the next. Like a man whose death has already come, I felt myself released from my physical bonds into a realm where heaven and earth, reality and nonreality, flowed without form or substance in a never-ending stream of unconscious awareness. Then I whispered the Shiva mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya, the call for deliverance.
O praise to the Three-Eyed One, who increases prosperity, who has a sweet fragrance, who frees the world from all disease and death—liberate me, as the cucumber is easily severed from the vine. O Shiva, grant me immortality!
And I thought of the amulet around my neck—not the bauble given me by a sadhu mystic, but the scaled one, Vasuki the lord of serpents, wound thereabout three times, breathing in my ear, poised to strike its deadly blow; and I heard the words for protection the sadhu had offered me.
Upon the strong is bound the strong, this magic cord, this amulet. This charm, foe-slayer, served by many heroes, strong, powerful, victorious, and mighty, goes bravely forth to meet and ruin witchcraft.
Again, I smelled the breath of the serpent king. I felt a sharp prick upon my cheek, and I sensed its departure from around my neck. And I watched in a daze, as my vision grew dim.
Then, in the void, two red eyes appeared, as red as flame, eyes like fire. And I heard the roaring of the beast, and I fired my guns.
This is what I remember of that night when I stared into the eyes of death. Of these things I can be certain—of these things only.

Maya’s web of illusions is still spinning.

About the Author:

          David S. Arthur is an American novelist with a taste for international adventure and ancient history. THE KINGDOM OF KEFTIU: A MYSTERY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD was David’s first book to feature English historical sleuth, Richard Quizzenbury and his feisty wife, Emily. It is an archaeological adventure set in the Greek islands. His new novel, SHAYTAN–A JOURNEY INTO EVIL, continues the Quizzenbury Adventure series. Before focusing on fiction writing, David enjoyed a long and rewarding career as a writer, producer, and director of hundreds of film and digital video presentations, theatrical performances, concerts, and large scale audience events. David currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
For More Information
Visit David S. Arthur’s website
Connect with David on Facebook and Twitter
Find out more about David at Goodreads
Contact David

*** I received this book from the author/ publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.