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Aaron C. Brown RSS Feed (New York, New York United States)

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Crushing Low Stakes Poker: How to Make $1,000s Playing Low Stakes Sit 'n Gos, Vol. 2: Heads-Up
Crushing Low Stakes Poker: How to Make $1,000s Playing Low Stakes Sit 'n Gos, Vol. 2: Heads-Up
by Mike Turner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.97
11 used & new from $8.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent follow on to volume 1, August 24, 2014
Volume 1 of Crushing Low Stakes poker is a great way to move up from ABC poker to winning poker. It concentrates on low-stakes ($10 or so buy-in) Sit 'n Gos, which offer opportunities to exercise the basics of winning poker, without the complexities or challenges found at higher stakes. The poker may be easy, but you still need skills like attention, discipline, strategy and bankroll management; and you still need to know how to use appropriate software tools. It's a lot harder to learn these things if you're struggling to master mid stakes poker at the same time.

Volume 2 is a nice half step on the way to higher stakes. It concentrates on heads-up poker, which can mean either heads-up matches, or the final elimination in a tournament (given typical prize distributions, winning the final heads-up portion can be almost as important and getting to the final two). It builds on the skills from volume 1, but now you likely are playing with a somewhat better players, and certainly one who is paying more attention to you. We're still talking low stakes, and if you've followed the author's advice, you're not at a table with the best low stakes player in the world, but you still have to add more detection and deception to your game.

Like the first volume, this book is clear and authoritative. It's short and easy to understand, even for a beginner, although I recommend reading volume 1 first and playing in some Sit 'n Gos until you're a consistent winner, even if your intention is to become a heads up specialist.

Also like volume 1, volume 2 doesn't just tell you how to beat low stakes games, it teaches you why things work. This is extra work you don't need if you're never venturing out of low stakes. Moreover the reason people lose at low stakes poker is not that no one ever told them how to play better, it's either that they don't want to play better, or are not capable of playing better. If either of those two things are your problem, this book will not help. It's not a rah-rah halftime speech to inspire you, it's basic poker knowledge. I recommend this book for people who want to become successful poker players. If you have the will, the author will show you the way.

The Complete Cosmicomics
The Complete Cosmicomics
by Italo Calvino
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, witty, human stories, August 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Like some other reviewers, I have stumbled upon some of the stories in this collection over many years, and found them delightful and original. I consider them to be science fiction short stories rather than postwar experimental literature, fitting squarely in the playful, absurdist tradition of authors like Robert Sheckley and Paul di Filippo, or even Philip K. Dick on one of his sunnier days.

Each story begins with a scientific fact or hypothesis, usually a recent one at the time the story was written. The author uses it as a springboard for poetic comic imaginings. Although the characters are not human, in fact in many cases their nature is not even described, the comedy is strictly humanist. These are tales of curiosity, wonder, romance and foibles. There is a deep respect for the science even when it is twisted in fantastic ways. The author strives to find some human-scale meaning to the ideas. Like a cartoon in which a character runs over a cliff but only begins to fall when he realizes there is no ground below him, the stories show us a subjective reality we can recognize, while maintaining the logic of physics in the end.

After reading the complete collection through, I am forced to admit that I prefer them one at a time, coming unexpectedly. They are wonderfully stimulating diversions, but they don't build to anything larger. There is significant overlap among the stories, similar portions retold, the same themes revisited with only minor differences. By all means get this book, but I recommend reading one story a week rather than reading them one after the other. By the way, if you enjoy reading aloud, these are excellent choices except for the unpronounceable names. I have found some children really love them, although most do not.

I did dislike the introduction. Its author, who also translated some of the stories and I think edited the collection, dismisses the idea that these stories qualify as science fiction because that genre, "usually dealt with a dystopian future, with human protagonists pitted against other forces and creatures,. . .[while] cosmicomic tales were set mostly in the remote past, at the dawn of the universe, with a protagonist, Qfwfq, who was clearly not always human." I suspect the statement is considering only 1950s drive-in science fiction movies, and even among those films you can find utopian, dystopian and anytopian stories in the future, the past, the present or often without reference to human time lines. There are human on human, human on non-human and pure non-human stories. It's not even accurate about cosmicomic stories. Some are at the dawn of the universe but most are more recent (although almost all either in the past or unrelated to human time lines). Qfwfg is seldom biologically human but usually psychologically human. In fact, one way to think about a number of the stories is they imagine the closest possible approximation to humanity that could have observed directly the events that we know about only indirectly through science.

I recommend these stories highly, but I personally gained little from having them in a complete edition with introduction.

House of a Thousand Hearts
House of a Thousand Hearts
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Shows plenty of talent, needs originality and focus, August 14, 2014
I'm honestly not sure what this novella is supposed to be. At times it seems like a darkly humorous pastiche of over-the-top Gothic horror stories from Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto to Stephen King's It, with a cover reminiscent of Charles Addams. There are surrealistic riffs in the style of Edward Gorey, and unnamed organic evil spawning Lovecraftian horrors in ancient twisting tunnels. The title is an obvious reference to Rob Zombie's debut slasher-fest House of 1000 Corpses, from which the author takes some set pieces.

Although the author is a talented mimic, the relation of this story to the originals is superficial. It does not lay the groundwork necessary for the extravagant devices to function, it relies on reader familiarity with Gothic convention. And for all the squishy distasteful props, there is no real darkness in the tale. Lonely little girl becomes tough single Mom, discovers family secret and spectacularly underarms herself to battle evil in defense of her kids (she doesn't bring a knife to a gun fight, she brings a knife to Armageddon).

Since I don't know what the author is trying to do, I can't tell stylistic choices from flaws. There are outrageously misplaced modifiers, pronouns without antecedents and archaic sentence structures. I don't know if it's part of the joke or if the author slept through English class. "Periodically, they would peek around her and become caught in the driver's horribly blue eyes, who would stare back, unflinching." Does this imply the eyes are independent sentient beings? Or is it the driver who stares back and doesn't flinch? "She knew that what she remembered would not be when they crossed over onto the property." Does that mean she will remember some other time? Or that her memory of the past will become false when she crosses the border? Or that she remembers something that no longer exists, and that the non-existence will become obvious on the property? Is a this style, facetious, overcomplex, casual, discordant and subtle? Or bad grammar?

A related example is the author's use of phrases like "oft treaded". It seems deliberately discordant, "oft trod" or "often treaded" are consistent. This sort of thing creates the pastiche feel, I don't know if it is deliberate or not.

There are physical inconsistencies in the story which could be surrealism or sloppiness. A carriage arrives at the heroine's door and she refuses to get on. The driver says "farewell" and that he will tell the sender of her decision. In the next paragraph the heroine is in the carriage with her children, and we later learn she has packed food and baggage. Are we supposed to assume further events occurred that were not described? That the heroine has no freedom of choice and reality goes down a path independent of her decisions? Or that the author made a mistake? Later in the book the heroine rushes from her bedroom in a panic to save her children in the next room. We have been told there is a connecting door between the rooms, but the heroine rushes into the hallway. These kinds of things matter because the entire appeal of the story is mood deriving from the physical environment. There is frequent interleaving of dreams and reality, memory and perception, physical and spiritual events. Are inconsistencies a way to stir the pot even more? Or lack of editing?

In summary, the author has borrowed from a rich trove of sources, and has a fine ear for combining them in elegant phrases. But he is using specialists' tools that require a masterful literary voice so the reader trusts that depths are intended. This novella needs a lot more work to enter the ballpark where mastery played minor league ball at the beginning of its career. Or perhaps it is that the author needs a more focused idea of what he wants to create. The other problem is a complete lack of original aspects. Even a gimmick would be welcome, but a really good work requires some core elements that haven't been done long ago and imitated to death. You can lard your building with all sorts of Gothic embellishments--flying buttresses and gargoyles--but it first needs to serve a purpose and have a design.

Fans of the genres mentioned in this review will find this short, clever novella entertaining. They will enjoy spotting references and in-jokes, and admire the skill with which the author has rendered some classic elements. But temporary and mild amusement is all they will get. Non-fans will find nothing here.

Why Do Buses Come in Threes?: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life
Why Do Buses Come in Threes?: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life
Price: $6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational and fun, August 14, 2014
This is an excellent book, but not as good as The Hidden Mathematics of Sport by the same authors. Both books consist of independent chapters speculating about everyday phenomena analyzed with mathematics. The mathematics are serious applications from a variety of fields, algebra, number theory, topology, graph theory and others; but are explained in terms nearly anyone can understand. In most cases the problems have to be simplified to be tractable, so there are few results of direct practical interest, but the modeling is solid enough that the mathematics yields genuine insight.

The Kindle edition is clear and readable, but some of the illustrations are hard to make out and the text is often ragged. There aren't a lot of formulae in the book, but the ones that are there are not set particularly attractively or legibly. There is no use of Kindle features.

On a scale of 0, stupid questions that only an imagination-killing bureaucrat charged with indoctrinating math would choose to dress up a boring computation question, to 1, problems of elegant beauty that seize the imagination and repay a lifetime of intense contemplation, this book averages somewhere around 0.75. That's close to the limit that is possible for books anyone can understand and that are closely related to practical everyday experience. One of the things I like better about The Hidden Mathematics of Sport is it averages closer to 0.80. If you instead rate by how interesting the problems are from a practical perspective, the rating is more like 0.50, but there is a wide range. This is probably higher than the level reached in Sport, but that book is enlivened by an obvious deep spectator's passion for sports. There's no evidence in this book that the authors have any particular concern about when buses arrive, how to make toast efficiently or whether the golden ratio figured in the design of the Parthenon. In this kind of book, I find that whether the author is enthusiastic about the topic matters more than whether the reader is. The last reason to prefer Sport is it contains appendices that go into technical detail about the solutions, detail that is omitted for general readability in the text. This book lacks that important feature.

Getting back to the good stuff, the book is written with an easy charm that draws the reader in even for some of the duller parts. It puts just enough time into each topic to generate and repay interest, then moves on before anything becomes tedious. Readers will undoubtedly find parts they want to learn more about, they will have no problem finding more material. If you are an accomplished mathematician you will find the math trivial, but can still find delight in the application and the clever prose. If you are a complete mathphobe, you can still enjoy this book and may shed some of your distaste and fear. People in between will find it both fun and educational.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well built, for people who need that, August 12, 2014
This is a thick, shielded connector, much heavier than the usual lightning charger cables. Both USB and lightning end are solid and plug in tightly. The ten-foot length makes it handy if you want to use your device while it is charging and don't have an outlet or computer located conveniently. It's also a good choice if you're running the cable a short distance to give a permanent connection. On the other hand, it's overbuilt for most charging needs. You're not going to stick it in your pocket, and if you do have a convenient outlet or computer the length of heavy cable will just get in the way.

I recommend this highly for people who need the sturdy length, and the price is certainly right. However I think most people will do better with a shorter, lighter cable.

Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy - and What We Can Do About It
Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy - and What We Can Do About It
Price: $14.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One half of the middle of an argument, August 11, 2014
This book is a little like overhearing one side of a telephone argument, starting in the middle. You figure out the authors' general position quickly, but you're not sure what the other side is, or exactly what either side wants to do about anything. The writing is clear taken paragraph by paragraph, but the organization on a larger scale is baffling.

This is not a coherent or persuasive account of gold standard economics. If that's what you're looking for, The New International Money Game is an excellent choice and the same author has written a more accessible one as well, concentrating on personal finance: Your Money and Your Life. Exorbitant Privilege is a middle-of-the-road version.

Money is a mildly entertaining, somewhat repetitious, policy rant, but it will be familiar to most people who are likely to pick it up. If you want rants, I recommend either Dollar Collapse or The Death of Money. I don't say they're based on sounder economics or give better advice, but they're more original, up-to-date and fun.

My guess is this material was intended for a longer, better-organized book but was rushed into print for some reason, or perhaps the authors lost interest.

The Jungle Animal's Conflict: Conflict Resolution for Young Children
The Jungle Animal's Conflict: Conflict Resolution for Young Children
Price: $0.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Not an engaging children's story, not an appropriate teaching book, August 11, 2014
This is a very short book apparently intended to be read to children around the age of five, for the purpose of teaching conflict resolution rather than entertainment or general education. The vocabulary and sentence structure level is not consistent, children developed enough to recognize all the words will find the grammar and story too infantile.

It begins with a picture of a savanna and the words, "It's very hot in the jungle, and there's very little water." If "jungle" means tropical rain forest, there's plenty of water. If it means merely impenetrably dense forest, then there may be only moderate amounts of water, but in that case it won't be hot. One thing "jungle" doesn't mean is the flat grassland pictured, and most of the animals pictures would never be found in a jungle. Perhaps this doesn't matter for the purpose of the book, but I see no reason to misinform children.

The conflict in the story concerns a small waterhole, but its nature is never made explicit. For older children, this could be an opportunity to use imagination to fill in the blanks. Is it too crowded for everyone to drink at once? Are some animals draining or fouling it? Do some animals eat other animals that come to drink? However any child for whom the conflict resolution story is appropriate is likely not advanced enough to understand the ellipsis.

A lion asserts that he should be able to drink whenever he wants. That's a reasonable starting point, I expected another character to explain to him that his freedom caused problems for others, so he should compromise. Instead the conflict is "resolved" by a menacing gorilla telling the lion he is not friendly. The message seems to be that conflicts are resolved by physical domination without having to answer objections of weaker animals. There's no vote or acclamation. The gorilla gets angry and gets his way, which happens to be a schedule in which animals are sorted by groups, each of which gets to drink once per week. Why the segregation by type? What about the animals that can't go a week without drinking in the hot climate? Why does conflict resolution require a top-down regimentation?

The point of the book seems to be to criticize the lion for asserting rights. That makes sense if the book is to be read to a child who acts too selfishly, with too little consideration for others. But it could be exactly the wrong message for a child who does not speak up for himself or herself enough, or one who fails to respect other children's rights. Moreover, the book makes no effort to show the possible bad things that can result from selfishness.

The gorilla forgets to include the snakes, who then "mess up everyone's day". It's not clear why the snakes would be unhappy. The gorilla's rules are a restriction on use, the snakes are forgotten so they can do whatever they did before, with less crowding to worry about. More importantly, the book also seems to endorse this conflict resolution strategy, make everyone else miserable until the chimp solves your problem for you.

All the animals are explicitly identified as male, but girls have conflict resolution issues as well.

The drawings look like public domain vector images, out-of-scale animals are pasted onto a generic background with no interaction or perspective. When the pictures appear in-line, the style is quite different. This is not likely to engage children, and certainly won't appeal to their parents.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2014 11:20 AM PDT

HUNGER FOR ATLANTIS (Work of Art Series, Book 1)
HUNGER FOR ATLANTIS (Work of Art Series, Book 1)
Price: $0.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The author has something to say, but needs an editor, August 9, 2014
I notice that some reviewers liked this book a lot. What seemed like wooden and amateurish writing to me, struck them as original and stylish. Clearly, that's a matter of taste. For me, I have trouble appreciating the virtues of this book. I'd like to see it after an editor had cut out half the words, corrected the grammar and tightened the story. Dialog is a particular problem, it is unrealistic and directed at the reader rather than the character supposedly being addressed.

The story itself is clearly a vehicle for making some points. No one will have much interest in either the plot or the characters. The strength of the book is the ideas, which do come though clearly. However, they could be expressed either in a much shorter essay, or a much more compelling work of fiction.

Given the range of opinions about this book, you'll have to make up your own mind. As always.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2014 11:10 AM PDT

Deliberate Deceit (Deceit Series Book 1)
Deliberate Deceit (Deceit Series Book 1)
Price: $3.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Wooden conventional thriller, August 9, 2014
Obviously lots of people liked this book, so perhaps you should go with the majority view. But speaking for myself, I found it amateurish and far too long. The plot is entirely conventional, every character and scene reminds you of a movie, and generally not a good movie. No one is going to find it remotely realistic. It's a serviceable story, but there's little original or interesting about it.

There are too many characters who talk too much in wooden, unrealistic speeches about things both participants should already know. Instead of crisp dialog to show us the characters and advance the story, we get conversations that are really directed at the reader, to let him know things that have already happened. Then there are long background asides in the third person.

Neither the characters nor the action ever come to life, you can feel the author pushing them around mechanically. There are no obvious plot holes or loose ends (assuming you accept the usual thriller conventions) but there's nothing you'll remember five minutes after closing the book.

There is some good stuff here, an editor could probably make a three or four star book out of this. And as mentioned at the beginning, it clearly satisfies some people's taste, so maybe you'll like it better than I did.

The Professional Freelancer
The Professional Freelancer
Price: $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars The jokes keep coming, the story languishes, August 9, 2014
Imagine a Woody Allen character nervously running on with irrelevant funny asides, or a stand-up comic spinning a story about ordering at Starbucks into a three-minute monologue, but for an entire book.The author is very talented, the one liners keep their wit and sparkle up far longer than you might imagine possible.They even transcend the cheap crack to sketch at least the outline of the main character. But they do get in the way of character development, plot, theme, setting and conflict. This isn't a novel, it's a cleverly constructed short story padded to excessive length with slapstick and artifice.

Personally, I found it tiresome after the first few pages. The protagonist slips and hits his head. Why? For a laugh, there's no reason for it to happen and it doesn't matter to the story. It's the literary equivalent of a car chase or explosion in a Hollywood actioner. Things keep happening, again, and again, and again; but little actually happens. It's not directionless, the author has embedded the chaos in a tight minimalist plot. But he clearly cares far more about the laughs along the way than where anything is going.

I see that most other reviewers liked the book, they appreciated both the humor and the story. So it probably comes down to taste. If you like your fun fast and furious, and this book catches you right, you could have a great time. If not, you should find another book. Personally, I'd like to see this author get a bit more serious so the verbal pyrotechnics set off a good story with real characters instead of flash-bang for its own sake. He's clearly got the talent to do it. Until then, I'll leave him to his fans.

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