The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told

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The Book of the Week is “The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told, A True Tale of three gamblers, the Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel” by Mark Paul, published in 2020.

Sidenote: Speaking of gambling, in May 1988, Paul Laxalt, a Republican from Nevada, and in June 1992, H. Ross Perot, an Independent from Texas: jumped into the race for president. The latter exceeded many people’s expectations.

Anyway, the author described the American horse-race gambling environment of the late 1980’s. At that time, off-track betting was putting smaller racetracks out of business, because gamblers could watch the races on which they bet, live– simulcast on video screens at racetracks and casinos; in other words, wherever gambling was legal. They did not need to be physically present at the racetrack.

Through the decades, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) got wise and cracked down on gamblers’ financial crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering. The author described one guy at the racetrack who illegally paid cash to winning bettors who wanted their money immediately, who were willing to pay a twenty percent fee to him rather than to the IRS.

The suspenseful part of the author’s story began when he and his best friend identified a talented filly– a female horse– that was running in major races. Practically all horse races had previously featured colts because on the whole, they were bigger and stronger and so more likely to win races, and were worth more money because they could be hired out to breed more race horses like themselves at a much higher volume than could females.

The author and his friend took what turned out to be a life-threatening risk by driving down from California to a casino in Tijuana, Mexico, to place a bet months in advance, on the said filly that was to run in the Kentucky Derby. He explained that by placing bets on events to take place far into in the future, gamblers get tremendously advantageous odds; for instance, 50 to 1 odds three months in advance, rather than, say, 2 to 1 odds on race day, on a horse to win– because that horse has become the favorite. However, if the horse doesn’t run in the race, regardless of the reason, the gamblers will lose all of the money they bet.

Read the book to learn of the gamblers’ activities before, during and after their fateful bet on their favorite horse in the Kentucky Derby.

An Ocean to Cross

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The Book of the Week is “An Ocean to Cross, Daring the Atlantic, Claiming A New Life” by Liz Fordred with Susie Blackmun, published in 2001.

The author was born in 1953 in Southern Rhodesia. By the late 1970’s, she and her husband were both wheelchair-bound, due to a horseback-riding accident and an auto accident, respectively. Gluttons for punishment that they were, they decided to pursue the husband’s idea of building a boat with their personal hands, customized for them, and sailing it across the Atlantic Ocean. Many people who cast doubt on their dream had no clue how persistent, creative and resourceful this couple was.

The two were able to cut through some bureaucratic red tape in their home country because there were so few people of fair skin, including them and their then-leader, Ian Smith. But they encountered numerous delays for various reasons, including lack of money, lack of experience in boat-building and sailing, and government regulations. Their native Rhodesia was in the midst of political turmoil, and they needed sailing-practice in a challenging geographic location.

So they moved their craft to the South African coast, where they had to deal with South African customs, and submit a mountain of paperwork for various other reasons, including financing their boat-construction and supplies through: a bank loan, getting articles on their story published, and attracting sponsors. A series of guardian angels provided assistance through the whole laborious process.

Of course, they underestimated how much the entire project would cost and how long it would take; just one example– they allocated four days, with the help of family and friends, to drive their multiple vehicles to transport the boat (which was still a work in progress) to the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town South Africa, their launching place. Read the book to learn about: how long it really took, the details of their whole ordeal, and their learning-experiences and growth; from start to finish.

S.O.S.

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The Book of the Week is “S.O.S., Spirit of Survival, One Family’s Chilling Account of the Costa Concordia Disaster” by Dean, Georgia, Valerie, Debbie, and Cindy Ananias, published in 2013. This informative, suspenseful horror story is a must-read for all travelers who go on cruises.

“People were freaking out in various languages and everything was mass confusion.” Such was the situation on the Mediterranean cruise, Costa Concordia in mid-January 2012. The trip turned out to be not just a ruined vacation for the Ananias family– the parents and two of three grown daughters– but a series of life-threatening traumas and insult-to-injury indignities.

About four thousand people found themselves on a sinking cruise late at night. There were indications from the start of the trip, that the captain and crew of the ship were disorganized, negligent and sorely lacking in customer service training and emergency preparedness.

One circumstance (just one of many) that exacerbated the disaster, was that the ship was listing so precariously, lifeboats on one side of it were prevented from reaching the water by the laws of physics. After much exhausting effort, an attempt to lower the lifeboats failed, and hundreds of passengers already in them had to be lifted out of them only to fret about what to do next, how to get off the sinking ship.

In disasters such as this, life-threatening elements (such as which side of a listing ship will have operable lifeboats) are difficult to predict, but passengers can use ounces of prevention, and should, for the entire duration of the cruise.

The following are just some of the actions that can save lives in worst-case scenarios (if the parties involved are not too vain and don’t care how they look):

  • wearing one’s life jacket all the time (there weren’t enough life jackets for all the people on the Costa Concordia);
  • keeping tightly snug in one’s pockets– a packet in a waterproof holder containing: one’s travel documents, wallet-contents, contact info of one’s homeland’s embassy in all countries where the cruise might get shipwrecked, emergency-contact info of one’s family and friends, and (if one is American) contact info of major media outlets so that one can publicize one’s horror story while it is happening in order get maximum compensation from the cruise-line’s lawyers who are experts at defending against any and all legal challenges from anyone harmed by the cruise line’s activities;
  • keeping a flashlight tightly snug in one’s pocket all the time;
  • wearing sturdy, but lightweight and comfortably but snugly fitting shoes (not high heels) all the time;
  • carrying a sweatshirt tied around one’s neck or waist all the time– in case an evacuation takes hours in freezing weather; and
  • knowing how to swim before cruising.

Another step passengers can take to avoid losing valuable items, includes not bringing fancy jewelry or fancy clothing in the first place!

Read the book to learn: everything you ever wanted to know about what the authors went through during the cruise’s sinking, and their tips on how to avoid what they went through.

Our House – BONUS POST

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Here’s a little ditty that summarizes events of the past week or so in the United States House of Representatives.

OUR HOUSE

sung to the tune of “Our House” with apologies to “Madness” (the band).

McCarthy sold-his-SOUL, feeling pressed.

Reps are tired, they need a rest.

The committees are plotting beHIND closed doors.

The Caucus’s power took a LEAP. [ah-ah-ah]

Biden holds an olive branch, his legacy is now.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, in the middle of the–

The Caucus was uncowed.

Males are always power-struggling and they’re usually quite proud.

The Speaker went-fifTEEN-rounds.

Only concessions slowed him down but defeat was not allowed.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.
Our House, in the middle of the–

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House [Tabloids tell us that the radicals took hold of it.]

in the middle of the–

McCarthy rejected-the-Jan.-6 panel’s work.

His base didn’t know, whom to desert.

Then he wanted to probe the probers.

See him long-to-stay where Trump’s YOKE is. [ah ah ah]

Pelosi’s the one they’re going to miss in lots of ways.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.
Our House, in the middle of the–

[I remember way back when, men had honor

and the world didn’t have so very MANY spies.

No more PRIvate lives.

Such a FREE time.

And I remember how we’d live, simply face to face,

used our brains.

Software wouldn’t come between us.

No Tweeters.]

McCarthy sold-his-SOUL, feeling pressed.
Reps are tired, they need a rest.
The committees are plotting beHIND closed doors.
The Caucus’s power took a LEAP. [ah-ah-ah]
Biden holds an olive branch, his legacy is now.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, in the middle of the–

Our House, we need IT for demo-cracy.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, that is where some people sleep.

Our House…

Open Skies – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Open Skies, My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot” by Niloofar Rahmani with Adam Sikes, published in 2021.

Born in December 1991 in Afghanistan, the author deserves major bragging rights. For, she possessed the courage to serve as a liberated female role model (given her culture) by risking her own life and her family members’ lives in serving her beloved homeland. She joined the air force in December 2010. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index) this was at a time when the Americans and NATO were running the show.

The Taliban and other devout Muslims were less than thrilled that she was the first Afghan female ever to learn to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. Pursuant to the Koran, a female’s priorities were: submissive girlhood, wifehood, motherhood, and womanhood (and usually, the first three were forced on females simultaneously), and taking care of a household; only then, might she work outside the home if her oldest living male relative allowed her to.

The author spent her early childhood in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Anomalously, but fortunately for her, both of her parents believed in educating her and her siblings (mostly sisters), and encouraging them to pursue the career of their choice. The family eventually moved to Kabul. Unsurprisingly, the author’s career choice provoked angry reactions from the male-dominated air force and males in her country. The most fanatical ones began to smear, spy on, and threaten her and her family.

Nevertheless, the author’s parents martyred themselves in so many ways for their children’s futures. Her father continued to encourage the author to keep flying, even when her family was under siege and suffering many hardships due to her focusing on her dream job.

A barbaric incident that occurred in March 2015 was just one indicator that in Afghanistan, the tide was turning toward the dark side yet again: a huge flash-mob of outraged, radical Muslim men tortured and killed a devout Muslim woman wrongly accused of burning the Koran.

The victim was set upon because a mullah (a credible, influential religious leader) was her accuser. Just a few of the vicious untruths spread about her were that she was a prostitute, a blasphemer of Islam, and was an agitator sent by the Americans (perceived as the evil occupiers). The author herself was subjected to roughly equivalent, ugly utterances.

Read the book to learn how the author cheated death in this wordy, redundant yet suspenseful volume.

The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree / The Last Nomad

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The first Book of the Week is “The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree, How I Fought to Save Myself, My Sister, and Thousands of Girls Worldwide” by Nice Leng’ete, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the following is still an all-too-common scenario in a poor village in Kenya: “… it is unlikely she will finish her education [meaning– graduating what would be equivalent to grammar school in the United States]. Her father married her [off when she was] young to get a dowry. Her husband wants her home to work and raise the children.” She is fifteen years old and already has two babies.

The author’s passion is to replace the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced by certain Kenyan tribes, with Alternative Rites of Passage. For, the culturally entrenched FGM is one major reason females in her society have been so sheltered, limited and resigned to their fate for so long.

The author grew up in a Maasai village in Kenya, near the Tanzanian border. When she was about five years old, her mother took her to witness a FGM ceremony in her community. Maasai culture dictated that when girls showed signs of puberty, they underwent the ceremony. “The cut” (of the clitoris) was extremely painful, and the presence of complications such as infection or hemorrhage could lead to chronic medical problems or even death. There were no drugs administered.

But the cut, even in the absence of physical complications, signaled the next steps of arranged marriage, childbearing and servitude for the rest of a girl’s life, usually beginning in her early teen years. Even when a girl’s mother wanted to honor her daughter’s wish to finish school and have a different lifestyle, she had no power to persuade her husband or any other male relatives to allow that to happen. The males ruled the roost.

Read the book to learn how the author escaped her almost certain dismal fate, and how she is helping other females to do the same, without their having to endure all the traumas she did.

The second Book of the Week is “The Last Nomad, Coming of Age in the Somali Desert, by Shugri Said Salh, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s Muslim family was somewhat anomalous, in that her father was a multi-lingual scholar who believed in education for both genders, and her grandmother was an authoritative figure. The author was born around 1974. Her culture also still practiced female genital mutilation.

The sprawling family’s tribe was nomadic– they herded camels and goats, and seasonally migrated around the desert in Somalia, looking for water. Their religion allowed polygamy among the men. The author’s father’s biological children numbered 23 among 7 wives, 5 of whom he divorced; the author’s mother gave birth to 10 children before she passed away of malaria when the the author was six years old.

In 1988, Somalia’s government and tribes devolved into civil war. “Killing, looting, destruction, and chaos was now our norm.” The people had a complicated system of relationships in which they took care of their own family and tribe, and if their brains were poisoned by war, they became hostile to all others.

The author’s sister possessed a key survival skill– thorough knowledge of her family’s lineage so that, when questioned, she knew which tribal name to utter to quell sociopathic, armed-and-dangerous child-soldiers in the streets. When the family finally fled Mogadishu in 1991, their black-market connections allowed them to obtain provisions that kept them alive– fuel for a truck, food and ammunition. However, they braved many other life-threatening dangers, including atrocities (committed by people), harm from lions, poisonous snakes and baboons, disease and dehydration; not to mention lice and scabies.

The author and several relatives were able to cross the border and stay in Kenya temporarily. Even so, law enforcement officers in Nairobi were corrupt– arresting refugees and hitting them up for bribes just before they knew the refugees were due to legally leave the country.

Read the book to learn much, much more about the author’s checkered story.