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Picking Winners: A Horseplayer's Guide
Picking Winners: A Horseplayer's Guide
by Andrew Beyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.99
133 used & new from $0.01

33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Priceless Education in Analytical Methodology, November 16, 2005
The last time I went to the races I was five or so, and went to a track just outside Chicago on a beautiful, sunny day. I placed three bets on two races, cashed on none of them, and was thoroughly bored for all but about 2:22 1/5 of the afternoon. As I often did any time I wanted something, I began to pout; knowing I would get what I wanted. I wanted, more than anything else I could imagine at that time, to leave that awful, boring place, and never return.

Almost twenty years later, the writing of one man, published 30 years ago, has done what, just yesterday, seemed impossible, and completely reversed my perception of this sport.

Until reading this fascinating account of horse racing and it's amazing intricacies, I was among those to criticize nearly every facet of the "event" (never one to dignify it as a sport). You name it, I probably disagreed with it: the physical treatment of the horses both during training and races, the drugs that were unquestionably prolific in use, the jockeys' voices becoming unnaturally high as a result of their ghastly profession, the addict gamblers wasting what should be productive lives in the grandstands at some racetrack, and those same gamblers who seemed to care more about horses than people. Nothing about it impressed me and everything about it disgusted me. And when Tony Kornheiser, on both his radio and television sports shows, openly considered and argued Secretariat to be one of the 50 top athletes of all time, well, that was, to me, the most laughable, offensive comment I had ever heard from a sports analyst, on any previous topic. When ESPN dignified his opinions by naming five horseracing-related athletes in their Top 100 All-Century list, including Secretariat (at No. 35, just ahead of Oscar Robertson, Mickey Mantle, Ben Hogan and Walter Payton), I could only shake my head in disbelief. I was appalled. I simply could not understand how anyone, let alone any group as respectable as ESPN, could be so irrational. That was five years ago, but my views had not changed.

Then I read "Picking Winners". I had just finished reading the chapters covering the speed rating process when, on page 158, I read, "romanticists could appreciate Secretariat for his strength, his grace, his exciting style of running. But for me the most awesome moment of his career came two days after the Belmont Stakes, when I sat down with paper, pencil, and the Belmont charts, calculated my track variant and wrote down the number 148 for the eighth race that day. For a true addict, speed figures are the most beautiful part of the game."

Upon reading this, I went back and read it again; and then I read it again; and then I stopped reading and paused as I realized how greatly I had underestimated this sport. I paused to think about Secretariat, and how I remembered my aunt crying on both the occasions she tried to talk about him. Crying. About a horse. That she never even owned.

I can understand, now, just why that is. His perfection inspired awe in all that encountered him, and on that one day at Belmont, he outdid his own perfection in an astonishing performance, the enormity of which is most appropriately expressed not with words, but by wordless emotion, awe-inspired tears. Or, in my preferred language, numbers, through Beyer's speed rating. This passage comes at the end of the three chapters that describe the basic intricacies that formulate Beyer's speed ratings, just when the power of a speed figure of 148 can be adequately understood and absorbed. I now understand.

Picking up this book was, for me, never about horse racing. I didn't plan to use this information at the tracks, nor did I plan to alter my opinions of the sport. I bought this book and read it based on the recommendation of the brilliant stock analyst, Jim Cramer, who claims this book helped him develop a strategy for analyzing and picking stocks. Similarly, all I wanted from this book was insight I could extract and use as a parallel method for stock analysis. I found what I was looking for. This book is a great educator of a methodical analytical technique that has been proved effective; and, as written by Beyer, can be understood and applied easily, by most anyone. I am more pleased, however, that I did not find exactly and only that for which I was looking. I found much more. I have developed an appreciation for this sport that I, otherwise, would likely never have obtained. As a result, I enthusiastically recommend this fantastic read for two reasons: to anyone wanting to gain a unique perspective on horseracing, this book will provide you with a greatly increased appreciation for the sport and all its components; and to anyone interested in improving their analytical abilities, methods and applications, regardless of where or how they choose to apply them, i recommend this book because it will prove meaningful, creatively inspiring, and pertinent for many applications even fully unrelated to horseracing. A truly exceptional read.

Well done, Mr. Beyer.

No More Bull!: The Mad Cowboy Targets America's Worst Enemy: Our Diet
No More Bull!: The Mad Cowboy Targets America's Worst Enemy: Our Diet
by Howard F. Lyman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.39
94 used & new from $1.57

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1/2 ACERBIC COMMENTARY, 1/2 VEGAN COOKBOOK: an exceptional recipe, November 13, 2005
Exceptional commentary.

I am a nutrition enthusiast who is usually content with the substantially less than exciting nutritional publications. At least by the appearance of the cover, this book seemed more promising. Once settled into a comfy BN armchair, I began to read. Almost two hours later I had been pulled fully into another world; a world brimming with mad cows and immoral people who wanted nothing more than to feed me diseased animal flesh and have me continually craving more. I was hooked. I have never been much of a meat eater; however, though I've been beef-free for nearly a decade, I have, on rare occasions, had meat. And even as a near vegan (I do not eat dairy), my mindset changed immediately upon reading this book.

Howard Lyman's appropriately layman commentary effectively dissembles the pervasive carnivorous mindset currently crippling (quite literally, he'll argue) Americans' potential for optimum wellness. And he does it all with an emotional charge and humorous ranting that provides a unique experience in the world of nutrition literature: entertainment. Al Franken was on Letterman a couple weeks ago and promoted his political humor book as "nutritional candy" as it is, as he claims, equally informative and humorous. One could claim the same of "No More Bull".

I do, however, question whether Lyman's rants are intentionally humored. His commentary seems more indicative of having origins in intense frustration and anger, tinged with a little insanity, than even a dark brand of humor. When expressing his urgent message promoting the benefits of the vegan lifestyle, he writes with what some may consider a dark, sarcastic edge, but what I consider to be more akin to aggravated annoyance. He is literally yelling and kicking and screaming at carnivorous Americans through his written word. Humorous nonetheless; and disturbingly persuasive. "No More Bull" is a pleasure to read, whatever your current eating habits.

Just one bit of caution, though: I find it rather odd that of the notable 'fad' diets mentioned as largely unhealthy in this book, perhaps the most internationally popular 'fad' diet is absent throughout. D'Adamo's Blood Type Diet is not considered in this book, and is, in fact, not even mentioned. What I find curious about this fact is that the Blood Type Diet, of which I have more than a passing familiarity, confirms much, if not all, of the lifestyle benefits, described in "No More Bull", that a vegan diet has to offer; and the Blood Type Diet has been in print since the mid 1990's. The difference, however, is that the research performed with blood type response to food indicates that the vegetarian or vegan diet is only appropriately beneficial to those with Blood Type A, or about 35% of America's population, not the 'anyone with a conscience' as Lyman would have you believe. The Blood Type Diet, contrary to Lyman's insistance, indicates that those with Blood Type O are actually adversely affected without the presence of meat proteins. Beef, in particular, is an essential part of the Blood Type O diet. I am Blood Type A and have found, for about a decade now, that the meat-free lifestyle comes fairly naturally. However, nearly 40% of America is Blood Type O, and according to the Blood Type Diet, and probably their own cravings as well, need meat in their diet, regardless of their moral judgment. Please consider this before making any lifestyle changes based on the greatly entertaining and persuasive "No More Bull". An unquestionably worthy nutrition read.

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