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Kill as Few Patients as Possible: And Fifty-Six Other Essays on How to Be the World's Best Doctor
Kill as Few Patients as Possible: And Fifty-Six Other Essays on How to Be the World's Best Doctor
by Oscar London
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.48
93 used & new from $5.80

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb Anecdotes, March 14, 2012
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As a patient, I enjoyed Oscar London's take on the highlights of how to succeed as a doctor, mostly by not failing miserably. I was so entertained and convinced of its practical value that I gave a copy to our General Practitioner.


National Geographic Traveler: Costa Rica
National Geographic Traveler: Costa Rica
by Christopher Baker
Edition: Paperback
111 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Enough Detail, Some Good Sidebars, March 14, 2012
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To get the most from our trip, I bought the Fodor's, Frommer's and National Geographic guides to Costa Rica. We got the most benefit from the Fodor's, in conjunction with TripAdvisor(dot)com. I gave the Frommer's to a less-well-prepared traveler on the trip, since it largely reproduced the Fodor's information.

The National Geo guide contained few details about specific recommendations for hotels and restaurants, making it only moderately useful as a tour guide. However, it does offer far more about the parks, types of animals, and other interesting aspects of the country, such as scenic drives, scuba dives, and beaches than the other guides we tried. And as you'd expect, the photographs are terrific.

As an additional reference, this is a valuable complement. Just don't rely on it to plan your complete itinerary.


Roger Zelazny's The Dawn of Amber (Dawn of Amber Trilogy Book 1)
Roger Zelazny's The Dawn of Amber (Dawn of Amber Trilogy Book 1)
Price: $8.49

38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stilted, Clichéd, and Implausible, March 14, 2012
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It's hard to know where to start. So, here is an unprioritized and partial list of the problems in this book.

1. Authenticity - This isn't Zelazny's anything. The writer borrows some ideas from the real Amber series, but the title is misleading in its attribution to Zelazny. You are buying a book by Betancourt, if you're buying anything.

2. Terminology - Betancourt invents several terms, and misuses others, for no fathomable reason. Some examples:

a. 'Hell-creature'- What's wrong with just 'demon' or 'devil'? Why invent another term that awkwardly combines two inadequate words that represent only vague aspects of the item to make a new word? It's fine in German, but totally unnecessary in English. Perhaps a Thesaurus might help...

b. 'Lieutenant' - This officer rank is, in every Earthbound army, the lowest rank of commissioned officer. It's awarded to graduates of officer academies in the Army and Marines. In Betancourt's usage, it takes 10 years or more to reach, and there are only a dozen of them in the Army (imagine four-star generals or field marshals). This usage is simply confusing. If we can assume the native language of the characters isn't English anyway, the author can do us the favor of using accurate translations to make comprehension easier, instead of trying to impress us with his lexical (re-)imagination of existing English terms. Or he can invent something genuinely novel, like, say, 'Oberman'. Ironically, the term 'lieutenant' in French actually means 'placeholder', so it's literally begging for improvement; instead, Betancourt subjects it to abuse.

c. 'More-than-able' - The word the author is looking for is 'capable'. And there is no 'more-than' variation, any more than there is for 'pregnant'; you're either capable, or you're not.

3. Time - In multiple cases, descriptions of time are woefully distorted. For example, Betancourt asks us to imagine that a single second is implausibly long:

a. "I enjoyed a second's break...When I glanced over at Dworkin, I noticed, ... No sense letting the break go to waste, I thought,... Bending, I pulled a small knife from my boot sheath and flipped it underhand..." [followed by more observations of Dworkin's defense, before the break is over]. That's a _really long_ second.

b. "They fell back for a second..." 'Help will be here soon,' I said. 'We just have to hold them off for a few more minutes." This is followed by Dworkin's reply, some rummaging in a pouch, some muttering, and the retrieval of an object. Meanwhile, the horsemen are apparently in some kind of suspended animation, or politely waiting until their enemies can rearm, or the two heroes both speak (and Dworkin rummages and mutters) at incredible speed. And the reinforcements they're expecting are visible at the end of the street - if they need a few minutes to reach the skirmish, they probably won't be much help anyway.

Given this usage, I'm guessing, but I bet that Betancourt is the kind of guy who says, "Hang on a second," then takes off and doesn't reappear for half an hour.

4. Plausibility - Frequently, the continuity is flawed, claimed observations are impossible, or the declared purposes/strategies of the characters are simply forgotten. A few examples:

a. Betancourt's hero, Obere, tells us that he hears his thin and aged ally, Dworkin, grunt once or twice in the middle of a swordfight with 19 screaming horsemen. (What keen ears you have, my dear...)

b. In the skirmish sequence mentioned above, Obere pulls a knife from his boot when he already has a knife in one hand and a sword in the other. Wouldn't you just throw the first knife, before pulling out the second? And how do you throw a knife when you're already holding two weapons? Tuck one under your other arm?

c. "'We must get our backs to a wallJ,' (sic) Dworkin cried. 'Don't let them surround us...' And then two pages later, "...he darted between their horses..." But I thought you said...

d. "Fighting with two blades was the best defense for a man on foot. You could keep the horse at bay with the knife..." Simply laughable. To keep a horse at bay with a blade, you need a pike or spear, or a rifle with a bayonet attached. You can't reach him with a knife before he strikes you with his hooves, or simply knocks you down and runs you over. And even if you could, you can't penetrate deeply enough with a knife in the parts you can reach to do any substantial damage, assuming he's been trained to keep his head and neck clear. Betancourt clearly knows nothing about cavalry/infantry combat, indicating either that he does poor research, or that he doesn't care enough about the subject to do it at all.

e. "At that second, the building behind us exploded. The force of it knocked me flat to the ground... flames shot a hundred feet into the air... The heat was incredible. From somewhere inside I heard a woman screaming." So, she survived a concussive blast and is now in a furnace, and she has enough air and the presence of mind to scream? I'm not morbid, but it's not just the heat (observed from _across the street_) that's incredible. And to add insult to injury, "I started for the door... 'I love her!' I screamed. 'I love her--'" Wait a minute - you expect us to believe that a veteran soldier would attempt to enter _a blast site that's also an inferno_? His eyebrows would burn off before he reached the front door. It's hard to cultivate respect, let alone affection, for such an abject idiot. And the dialogue could use some polishing...

5. Description - The language is stilted and poorly crafted, as if the editor had been asleep and the writer on a Red Bull jag. Some examples:

a. "...his sword and knife a darting blur, as he darted between their horses to parry and stab." If the sword and knife are a blur, how do you know they're darting? And since we're using multiple medieval weapons anyway, why not throw some actual darts in the same sentence for the literal trifecta?

b. "The clatter of iron-shod wheels..." I'm pretty sure you 'shoe' horses, and 'clad' wheels. You only put shoes on something with feet, in general (though there are exceptions).

c. "'Obere, no!' He had a crazed, almost desperate look in his eye." I don't know about you, but in my world people pass 'desperate' on the way to 'crazed', not the other way around. Clearly, in Betancourt's world, there are a lot more crazies than desperate people.

d. "...he howled with uncontrollable laughter..." (As opposed to what? Howling with _controllable_ laughter??) and soon aftwerwards, "That sent him howling again." Without the term 'laughter' here, the metaphor becomes a bit too literal, and it's hard not to imagine the character literally howling, rather than laughing.

6. Typos - Here are a few that should have been easy to catch:

a. "'You don't know that]'" (sic)

b. "We must get our backs to a wallJ'" (sic, including the unmatched quotation mark ')

c. After I got a general sense of the quality of typesetting and proofing, I started looking for "1" and "l" characters where "I" was correct. Sure enough, I found:
- "And l (sic) owe much to your training." Yes, that's an 'l', not an 'I'.
- "1'd (sic) lost too many good men..." This time, it's a numeral '1', and a bona-fide cliche.

Well, that's plenty, and it's only page 11. You may have noticed that I used several quotes twice, illustrating that there are multiple problems in the same sentence or even phrase. Think of someone playing an out-of-tune piano (and missing a lot of the notes) while blowing on a kazoo, and you get the idea. Not entertaining, not convincing, moderately painful, and somewhat desperate.

Betancourt has other works to his name, such as a single episode in the Double Helix series of Star Trek Next Generation books, and a 3-part Hercules series (what self-respecting fantasy author doesn't?), plus some editorial works on H.P. Lovecraft, all clearly marking him as a band-wagoneer extraordinaire. In just a few pages, he's already earned a place on my hallowed Authors Black List.

Fortunately, I got the book in the Kindle version, which is _free_ to Amazon Prime members. I'm going to delete it; save yourself the exercise (and money). I'm going to look for an authentic Zelazny work next.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2014 3:47 AM PST


Forcing Chess Moves: The Key to Better Calculation
Forcing Chess Moves: The Key to Better Calculation
by Charles Hertan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.72
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Formula for (More) Success in Chess Tactics, April 11, 2011
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I agree with all of Amari's points but one (who the target audience should be), and congratulate him/her on a very astute assessment. In particular, I also do not think that the pragmatic player can assess all of the forcing moves in every position deeply; Hertan asserts that these include all checks, captures and threats, and as Amari points out, this can be a bewilderingly large set of options. In fact, the great Australian player CJS Purdy was a strong proponent of such methodical analysis at the board, and was himself notoriously prone to time-trouble during games.

As a more practical (and methodologically sound) approach, I recommend Per Ostman's Your Best Move: A Structured Approach to Move Selection in Chess, which offers a disciplined approach to choosing any chess move. His work builds on the foundation laid by GM Andrew Soltis in his book How to Choose a Chess Move (Batsford Chess Books).

He deals with the subject of combinations in a bare 17 pages, but notes that the key to tactical success is in _recognizing patterns that suggest a combination_, and analyzing them methodically.

There are three flaws to an approach that relies on pattern recognition, and they must be compensated for. The first is that you have to have seen and memorized a pattern in order to recognize it. If you forgot (or never studied) a similar combination, you will miss it when it appears at the board. The second is the Einstellung effect, described very effectively by the same GM Andrew Soltis in a recent Chess Life magazine article of the same name: a player thinks they recognize a known pattern at the board, but fails to notice at least one significant difference from the standard pattern that makes the combination flawed, or simply not the best move. The third is that if the combination is actually unique, pattern recognition cannot help you.

Therefore, you still need to apply analysis to each position, to be able to visualize the critical positions in each variation where further options must be selected (branches), and to evaluate the final position to assess whether it is both quiescent/quiet, and the best outcome.

What Hertan's work does is to emphasize these last points, and to suggest that the pruning of candidate moves must not be done too hastily, just because the opponent appears to have an immediate refutation. First, he says, as long as it is forcing, each seemingly-fruitless candidate move should be evaluated to _see if the opponent's refutation is valid_. In other words, sometimes, we discard (or fail to consider at all) a move simply because it looks blatantly stupid, when in fact there is a clever comeback to the opponent's apparent refutation that actually makes the combination sound after all; a _refutation of the refutation_, if you will.

I also agree with Amari that Hertan's term of "computer eyes" is a bit misconstrued - he is simply postulating that a) we have to be willing to make an exhaustive effort, b) we have to reach a quiescent position in the analysis before coming to an assessment of the value of a candidate move, and c) we have to examine all possible _refutations of apparent refutations_. However, I am sympathetic to Hertan's attempt to communicate an idea to players who may be very young or even computer-phobic, and calling the approach "parsing" or "scanning" might seem a bit sterile, even if it is more technically consistent with what chess engines do.

Alexander Kotov (in Think Like A Grandmaster: Algebraic Edition (Algebraic Classics Series)), Per Ostman (cited above) and Andrew Soltis all agree with Hertan that examining the forcing moves is a requirement in every position. This is simply because a) one of them may be winning, and b) it is relatively easy, since the opponent's options are (by definition) limited. Where they may differ with Hertman, in my view, is that they are open to the idea that _some forcing moves are suggested by pattern recognition_, while others are not. Those that fit a pattern should be examined first; it's just more efficient. However, if there are simply too many forcing moves for the time allotted and no pattern seems to fit, then after expending an appropriate amount of time and effort the player should simply make a reasonably good move and punch the clock.

The key here is effective time management. Chess is not about perfection; it is about "satisficing" - playing good enough moves, and the best ones where that is practical. Dan Heisman, in one of his Novice Nook articles at the Chess Cafe (paste [...] into your browser), gave very simple advice about time management, including:
- you must manage your time to improve your performance
- you should budget your time for each move, and monitor your rate of play
- if you are playing too slowly, you should find the cause, eliminate it, and learn to play faster

If you attempt to do exactly as Hertan advises, you could well end up in time trouble, as Purdy (and many others) have. The key is to temper the approach with intuition that can steer you in the right direction regarding which (forcing) moves to analyze deeply, and which ones to dismiss after a quick assessment. That intuition can be strengthened through tactical exercises, in order to build up your pattern recognition capabilities.

I disagree with Amari, however, that this book will add greater value to players "whose tactical approach runs ... in a rut", but that it might still be of value to beginners as a first book on tactics. There simply isn't time in a chess game to analyze all the possible combinations; time has to be economized by relying on a large number of tactical patterns. So, it should remain the beginner's first tactical task to learn patterns - lots of them. Pattern recognition represents the single greatest resource in time management during a game. Along with Michael de la Maza in his book Rapid Chess Improvement (Everyman Chess) and others, I hold the classical view that pattern recognition training will supply the best practical results for beginners, and continue to do so even for intermediate players, in terms of won or saved games, until they are at least A-class players. That is the level at which endgame technique, strategy and opening preparation begin to separate the winners from the losers, because their tactical ability is roughly equal.

This means that Hertan's book should _supplement_ this training, not _supplant_ it for intermediate players, and that it should not be used by beginners _at all_. In fact, I would not recommend reading Hertan's book until you have completed at least 2,000 unique tactical problems, including checkmates. Although this is admittedly an arbitrary hurdle set only on the basis of my experience and intuition, it has been estimated that a Grandmaster recognizes over 100,000 patterns, so it's not particurlarly high if you want to play well. Also (I base this opinion on the published research of others on effective memorization methods), you should repeat the ones that you missed at intervals of no less than 1 week until you can solve them. You should be able to solve at least 50% of the ones you missed the first time _before you move on to Hertan's book_. That will ensure that you have an adequate foundation of combinational patterns to use your time well enough in a game to have time left over for Hertan's refinements, and that when analyzing forcing moves, you will see the combinations that are present.

I also disagree that it will mostly benefit those whose tactical approach runs somewhat in a rut; firstly because this implies that the player is making the same mistakes repeatedly (this requires a different solution), and secondly because it implies that those who do not feel they are in a rut would not benefit at all.

If mistakes are being repeated, then the answer is more study of problems containing the type of combination that failed (or was missed by the player but found by the opponent), plus more tactical visualization practice. The answer is _not to spend more time in calculating forcing moves during games_, which is what Hertan is advising. You either recognize a combinational pattern, or you don't, and if you missed it during one game, you will not recognize it when calculating variations during another game if you still haven't learned the pattern. Unless you are playing too fast and losing games with plenty of time left on the clock, you won't even have time for Hertan's technique.

If the combinations are being missed by both players but found by chess software in post-game analysis, and you have time on the clock when you lose, then Hertan's method applies - try to see what the chess engine sees.

If the combinations are being missed by both players, but no post-game analysis by chess software is ever done, then _no one will ever know they were there_. Here, however, Hertan's method should still apply, since if the player uses Hertan's method, then the _refutation of a refutation_ situations may be discovered by the player at the board when they occur. But that's a bit iffy, and takes a lot more time and effort than the pattern-recognition approach...

This suggests that the best approach would be a hybrid of pattern recognition and 'computer eyes':
a) study patterns regularly, and in each new cycle add a focus on the types where you have made mistakes in the past
b) develop the ability to calculate forcing moves to the final quiescent position, including variations that contain possible refutations of apparent refutations
c) play many training games, note the types of tactics that you missed but the opponent found, or that you miscalculated, and analyze them afterward with chess software
d) use the results of c) to feed a)
e) if you discover in c) a type of tactic for which you cannot find any prior patterns, post a comment here - if it is in fact unique, the chess world wants to hear from you. Unique combinations _do exist_, but they are very rare (or at least, the chess playing community thinks they are...).

I also disagree that the presentation would be improved by converting the book to training software, for three reasons. First, a player _should_ be able to solve problems using diagrams as well as (s)he can at the board - the visualization process used for calculating variations is the same. In fact, good players often look _away from the board_ when visualizing variations, so that they are not subject to "ghosts", where a piece that has moved in a variation appears to be in its original position, because that's where it is on the board at the moment. (Once you can see the whole board in your head without looking at it (admittedly, not an easy feat), you are well on your way to becoming a master.) This means that the initial position information could come from a diagram, a board, or a computer screen - it doesn't matter, since what counts is what you see in your imagination while calculating a variation.

If you still rely on looking at a diagram or board while visualizing variations, many trainers advise that you use an actual board and pieces to solve problems, so that you remove any artifact of diagram-dependence (such as familiarity with the fonts used in the diagrams, lack of perspective and shadows, etc.). Once you have analyzed the variation, they recommend that you then move the pieces to prove it works; this reinforces the action that would take place at the board, and improves your retention of the sequence of moves in the combination.

Using 3D chess software can help avoid diagram-dependence, but still introduces representational artifacts that might hide the pattern when it appears in actual pieces at an actual board (such as perfectly-centered pieces, artificially-consistent orientation of the knights, simplistic shading, lack of parallax/panning of the view, etc.). If you use software, you should use it in 3D, make sure the pieces are off-center and randomly-oriented, add shadows, and pan the board during analysis, to reproduce as much of the effect of the real thing as possible.

Second, with chess software there is the temptation to move the pieces after merely guessing to see if the combination works, because there is no cost to the trial-and-error habit - the pieces can be reset instantaneously. With an actual board, there's effort involved in resetting the pieces, so the cost of an analysis mistake is non-trivial. Sometimes, pain is a good thing.

Third, there is the unfortunate (and despicable) practice of bootlegging digital media that deprives authors and publishers of hard-earned rewards for their work. One chess author indicated to me (from his personal experience) that the financial difference between releasing a work in print-only vs in digital media is a substantial part of the cost of a college education in the USA, and the losses were entirely due to bootlegging. I love and use digital chess media, but I can't claim that it is in the author's interest to provide them in every case where paper is a viable alternative, at least until paper becomes obsolete (which should happen sometime in December, 2012).

That said, if you can resist the temptation to "fiddle with" the combination while using chess software to see if your idea works, then by all means use it. To do this, give yourself only one attempt, and if you fail it, review the correct sequence of moves immediately, and then force yourself to retry the combination a week later - no retries in the meantime. Then, repeat each successfully-completed exercise with a real chess set, to make sure nothing was lost in the translation to the board.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2012 9:24 PM PDT


The Seven Deadly Chess Sins (Scotland's Youngest Grandmaster Discusses the Most Common Ca)
The Seven Deadly Chess Sins (Scotland's Youngest Grandmaster Discusses the Most Common Ca)
by Jonathan Rowson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.46
84 used & new from $2.74

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confusing for the reader, an embarrassment for Oxford, June 13, 2010
Hmmm. I'm a fairly widely-read guy (Ivy League, English school, etc.), but Rowson is clearly more widely-read than I am. And he makes a point in this book of demonstrating that. In fact, much of the book appears to be an attempt to make the point that he has a lot of exposure to interesting intellectual ideas from a wide variety of sources, and that he senses (no word stronger than that can apply) that almost all of them ought to be applicable to chess.

In attempting to integrate existential philosophy, particle physics and the like into chess where they clearly don't belong, he proposes that, in short, we think too much when playing chess. However, there are times when we "blink", which is essentially overlooking the time when we need to think a lot. Contradictory, you say? Funny you should mention it.

I can't do justice to the problems this book has in failing to a) settle on a premise, b) communicate that premise, c) identify evidence to support the premise, and d) come to a logical conclusion. If writing a chess book were a 100-metre race, this would be a drunk's meandering ramble by moonlight through the park and off the bridge into the duck pond.

For a more comprehensive, objective, evidence-based critique, I happily refer you to Taylor Kingston's assessment at chesscafe(dot)com:

[...] - (just change the '(dot)' to a '.')

Here's a sample of Kingston's assessment:

[...Rowson hedges: "McDonald went on to say that
`Every chess-player, weak or strong, has to decide whether as a rule he should trust his intuition when it disagrees with his calculation...'
In so far as this is true, I (Rowson) recommend that you trust your intuition as a rule but
you do need both to play chess well so don't make your trust in intuition an excuse for lazy calculation!"
(emphasis added). In other words your feelings are right, except when they're wrong. Bill Clinton on his best day could not have waffled any better.]

As you can see, Kingston's review is insightful, incisive, and extremely well-written with plenty of citations; Rowson's work can only lay claim to the last quality, and that to a fault. The ideas in it are not even half-baked; in fact, they're not fit to put in a pan together. In short, Kingston draws the inevitable conclusion that this ambivalent, indecisive, speculative self-indulgent tome justly deserves the stake-through-the-heart treatment. It returns us to the Victorian definition of a "visionary" as one who suffers from delusional visions.

Perhaps Oxford should put a humility test on the entrance exam to avoid future embarrassment, though there's ample evidence (Palliser is one example) that the university's not at fault for the poor quality of some of their graduates' work. They merely provided Rowson the ammunition; he's the one who decides to go off half-cocked.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 27, 2010 2:01 PM PST


Winning Chess the Easy Way with Susan Polgar, Vol. 2: Learn How to Create a Plan in the Opening, Middle & Endgame
Winning Chess the Easy Way with Susan Polgar, Vol. 2: Learn How to Create a Plan in the Opening, Middle & Endgame
Offered by OnlineChessLessonsNET
Price: $14.96
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, and deceptively reviewed, October 16, 2007
Notice that the reviews are wildy skewed on this work (and its twins). That means there's a camp of people who rate it as a 2 or worse, and a camp that rate it as a 5. The only time that ever happens is when the author and their co-conspirators are trying to combat bad reviews by posting spurious and biased 5-star reviews under pseudonyms. See below for the proof of this manipulative and deceptive practice.

First, here are some of the details of why this "work" earned poor reviews. You will notice that the 5-star reviews give no specifics or details, they just praise the stuff in general.

Michael Domlin: "...None of the priciples of planning are ever envisaged.." That's not just odd, it represents deceptive advertising, since the subject of this video is _learning how to create a plan_.

A Kid's Review: "You see those 7 openings? If you don't know how to play them, then those 7 chapters aren't gonna help you. And if you do know how to play them, then they won't either, because you should already know what the plan is in the opening that you're playing. And she races through them, makes it kind of confusing to follow."

But you also find (by other reviewers, using the same moniker):

A Kid's Review: "...Excellent instruction on planning..."
A Kid's Review: "...I learned how to create sound plans in chess from watching this DVD."

Contradictory, you say? And (as stated earlier) lacking in detail? Well, we're not done yet.

You also see:

A Kid's Review: ["Videos Chug and Sputter"] "...I would have to characterize this set of videos as bad as well, even though the producers had deep pocket books."

but also (different reviewer, same alias):
A Kid's Review: "...This is the highest quality chess DVD on the market."

Oscar Cantana: "...The quality is excellent....It's the most professionally done chess DVD ever."

A Kid's Review: "I also like the very high recording quality."

Another contradiction! But we're still not done...:

A Kid's Review: "I find this DVD exciting and quite educational."
A Kid's Review: "...It's entertaining and educational..."
A Kid's Review: "...Exciting, fun, easy to learn from, just simply perfect."

Well, there are no contradictions here, just a run on the terms "exciting", "entertaining" and "educational". These are vague and (if you read the low-star reviews) absolutely unsubstantiated claims.

If you read that Kid's Review ["Videos Chug and Sputter"], you get:

"...With two people, the discussion does not skip along, it chugs and it sputters. It is very formal and very rigid. This is because there is a pause as the moves are translated from the mouth of Paul Truong, who reads: 'Pawn to e4' ...

(pause)

...to the hand of Susan Polgar who then moves the piece to e4 <as Paul shuffles his papers>. She then pauses again before saying...

(pause)

...'This is a good move, the pawn attacks a central square.'

It would be quicker and better to omit Paul Truong, and just have Susan move the pawn to e4, while she starts explaning why this is a good move."

Does this sound exciting, entertaining to you? How would it seem to a kid?

Now the proof of the deception: I took the trouble to look at the other reviews posted by the adult reviewers, and found something interesting:

Melania ["I can't wait for the next volume."] has reviewed only the 5 Susan Polgar videos - nothing else. And all of the comments on each video are identical, including the "I can't wait" line. Strangely, all of the reviews were written on 12/20/2005, so obviously, she didn't have to wait between the time of writing one review and the next, and already had all of the videos in hand. So the line is obviously pure deception.

Vendala ["The quality of the video is fantastic."] has reviewed only the first 4 of the 5 Susan Polgar videos - nothing else. All are identical, and were written on 12/19/2005 (compare to Melania). Reviewers who review only one product, and whose statements simply contradict the criticisms in vague terms, are usually phantoms set up to try to cancel out the bad reviews. This reviewer follows the 'phantom' pattern perfectly.

Oscar Cantana ["The quality is excellent. The contents are dynamic. It's the most professionally done chess DVD ever."] has reviewed the first 3 of the 5 Susan Polgar videos. Again, the comments are identical.

Oh, he does review 2 other chess books, but with only a couple of sentences. Kasparov's "Greatest Chess Games, Vol 1" gets "...I'm a Kasparov fan. This book contains an excellent collection of Mr. Kasparov's games. My only complaint is its high price." [The book costs a whole $1.50 more than any of the three Polgar videos.] The claim is vague and unsubstantiated (to the point of being a tautology - the author in question was the longest running World Champion in history, so you'd have to be an editorial idiot to fail to produce an excellent collection). These empty and vapid book reviews are clearly intended to camouflage the phantom nature of the reviewer, and their only purpose for existing is to try to give the reviewer some credibility when they 5-star the Polgar DVD's. They fail miserably.

Cantana does take the time to criticize Alexandra Kosteniuk's "How I became a Grandmaster at Age 14" in eight sentences, two of which have grammatical errors. Others will note that Polgar and Kosteniuk are, of course, rivals. So, this review is actually spiteful, besides being posted under a pseudonym. Surely this is the lowest form of cowardice in a review, attempting to mask bias by using an alias, and singling out your rivals for criticism.

And all of Cantana's reviews were written either on 12/12/2005, or 3 days later, on 12/15/2005 (compare to Vendala, Melania, etc.). This is the attribute that guarantees that a group of reviewers are phantoms - they do all their work on the same day, and usually within a week of the others.

Now, on to Ann Venutolo: "...Well done, simple to understand, very good quality...."]. Why do you say that? What's the evidence for these claims? Wendy's put it best: "Where's the beef??"

Ms Venutolo reviews all 5 Polgar videos, all of the reviews are copy and paste jobs, and they all have the same date: 12/9/2005. She apparently is committing the same deception as Melania, since she also uses the same telltale line again, "I can't wait for the next volume." Here's another clear indication that one person is posing as multiple reviewers - cut and paste jobs in one reviewer's work and then using the same idiomatic phrase under two or more pseudonyms.

Ms Venutolo also reviews 2 other books. One is Mr Kasparov's book, Garry Kasparov's Greatest Chess Games, v1". This is the same one Mr Cantana reviewed; even the subjects of the camouflage reviews are identical! In it, 'she' claims: "Kasparov has produced countless incredible games. Unfortunately, this author didn't do a good job with the analysis." Do you know anyone who criticizes the World Champion's analysis without being a titled player themselves? I don't. And there are no examples of the supposedly flawed analysis - hardly a credible statement, given the source's lack of credentials and the review's lack of evidence.

Finally, JStallings wrote: "This is simply the best chess instructional DVD series ever!" (S)he reviewed... all 5 Polgar videos, 1 Polgar book, and ... nothing else. All the Polgar video reviews are dated May 11, 2005. In order to make this claim at all, you would have to know about all of the other DVD's... Does JS seriously expect us to believe they have cataloged, let alone reviewed _all_ of the chess instructional DVD's that exist? Again, no evidence, a wildly exaggerated claim, and no specifics. Obviously, simply an attempt to cancel out a bad review.

Do you see patterns here? Does it also sound to you like these identities are merely disguises for one or two reviewers who attempted to promoted these videos using deceptive claims, and a chop-shop cut-and-paste reviewing technique that smacks of lack of attention to quality and detail? Would you agree that even the deception itself is insultingly simplistic and poorly executed? If so, do you think the same work ethic could possibly produce a high-quality instructional DVD?

I urge you to read ALL of the reviews, and form your own conclusions. There's more here than meets the eye, but not much.

No other reviewer gave the videos more than 3 stars, and most were much less. The _unbiased_ camp has clearly panned this work, and for good reasons that they are happy to explain. The other camp fails to provide evidence of their claims, and has only thinly disguised who's at work and what they're up to. Obviously, it's no good.


Applied Project Management: Best Practices on Implementation
Applied Project Management: Best Practices on Implementation
by Harold Kerzner
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from $0.55

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst Textbook Ever, August 25, 2007
I had to get this book for a project management class. It was the worst-written textbook I have ever read. It repeats itself constantly, with exercises repeating what is (poorly) explained in the body of the chapter. Constant bullet-point lists have multiple points that present (cryptically) the same point. The text is disjointedly written.

Kerzner is apparently involved in the PMI testing process, and therefore a name. But this textbook was universally reviled by my fellow students. I can't recommend another book because I haven't looked further, but I _can_ urge you to find another title.


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