It’s Not the Score It’s the Trip

It’s Not the SCORE, it’s the TRIP ISBN: 978 1642251494  Advantage Media Group copyright and written by Brian O’Hara.

Sub- titled “One man’s journey to building a global franchise is a memoir by the founding president and COO (later CEO) of XL Insurance. A company described by importantly prominent members as “the Bermudian re-insurance market instrumental in raising the bar of economic landscape of the island to a now globally recognized as a prominent reinsurance domicile.”  “The publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.” The book opens with the usual Forward, Preface, and Introduction followed by 9 chapters, an Epilogue, acknowledgements and About the Author, some photographs scattered throughout and a collection at the end. End Notes (18) and a closing note depicting a slightly less formal description of the author complete the volume. Each chapter describes advances and occurrences leading toward his goals as they occurred chronologically. The first accounting Family Luck 1948-1965; #2 Testing my luck 1966-1970; #3 Fun into prophet 1970-1979; #4 No simple highway, the road 1978-1989; #5 Buy or be bought 1990-1999; #6 Leading the industry 1999-2003; #7 Rough Waters 2003-2006; #8 Plan B 2007-2008; # 9 Now what? 2008-2011.

It is a quite personal story of how Brian worked his way through the business to become CEO of a global corporation largely bringing recognition to Bermuda as a prominent center for the insurance-reinsurance industry. His personally rigid belief and adherence to collegiality and integrity he believed were most important for survival and were the keynote to all operations as well as knowing the rules but being flexible in relationship to them. He further worked on the principle that you get better results if you ask people if they can do something, rather than tell them to do it. He was acutely aware of the magnitude of inherent risk in the industry’s cycles and the corresponding uncertainty, especially when it came to matters like budgeting for the premiums. (Especially with Fortune 500 Companies operations and products. “They appreciated their underwriting discipline that would create a stable long-term relationship despite the cyclicality of the insurance industry overall.”) He used his program in Barbados as well as Bermuda and the company went from $450 million in ’87 to $1 Billion by ’90 and ultimately an organization employing 2400 people in 20 countries. Eventually, the main operations moved to Bermuda from Barbados and also started a branch in Dublin, Ireland. Their entire mission was as insurers/reinsurers that dealt with providing coverage for large-risk properties. Finally they opened to become a public company and success continued but he found it to be personally unpleasant because he felt required now to satisfy so many strangers who had invested in the work. Interestingly, the day he was forced to step down as CEO was the year that catastrophe struck the company along with most others involved in this high risk business.

Discussion: The author has written a most interesting memoir from several perspectives. First, it presents an impressive insight to the drivers and inner workings of the property and casualty risk industry for interested parties. Second, the details about this phase of insurance underwriting offer fascinating ‘inside’ information for uninvolved individuals interested generally in how other businesses operate (such as this reader). Third, it is studded with interchanges with well-known athletes and coaches from football, basketball, tennis and golf as well as cinema celebrities, Heads of State and powerful individuals within the world of finance. Thus, the author has offered the entire package in a personally oriented manner that removes it from the more usual somewhat dry and subject oriented business reminiscences.

5* Informative and unusually enjoyable business memoir.

The Accelerated Saver-Investor Pathway to Wealth

The Accelerated Saver-Investor Pathway to Wealth assumed published copyright and written by Alexander Lawrence.

Sub-titled “A powerful New Rapid Wealth Building System for Average Income Earners the book presents: Legal Notices that include the copyright declaration and a disclaimer. Next are detailed Acknowledgements, an Introduction which proceeds to explain the Purpose of the Book as “eight life-changing goals we can adopt implement and achieve by development of a MASATERPLAN” with 4 Strategies to develop them. A Table of Contents that sets forth a List of (15) Chapter titles followed immediately by another List of Chapters providing contents, specifically: Chapter [1] Mindset: Strategy; [2]: Motivation Gurus: Strategy;; [3]: Money Technicians: Strategy; continuing through Chapter [14]: Fire: and final Chapter [15]; Summary which opens with an Index of the subjects to be included, expanded and/or further discussed.

Discussion: The author is fully aware of the “monumental mass of personal finance data and advice published in old media print books, magazines, journals and newspapers and projected in the new media digital technology channels…” as well as social media and other sources Thus. his attempt here is “to simplify this abundant, ‘managing your money’ and ‘wealth-building’ information – so that it’s easy to grasp” and to present “the best money management and wealth-building system possible – in terms of ease, efficiency and outcome.” He further explains why he references and includes the writings of eight individuals recognized by their peers as important authors whose works are collectively considered to be essential to understand in any serious money management and wealth building system.

This is a very long book that contains a mass of pertinent material that requires time to read. However, the author’s objective appears to have been accomplished. He has combined the material in a well set forth, somewhat lighter presentation than often encountered and has included abundant graphics and quotations.

5* Lengthy read but author’s ‘mission accomplished’. Recommended.

You’re Retired now…Now What?

You’re Retired Now… Now What? ISBN: 9781946633637 FiorbesPress Copyright and written by Debra Brede.

 Sub-titled Discovering & Funding Your Purpose Driven Retirement, the reader first is presented with several notes of praise by highly positioned knowledgeable individuals, followed by a dedication that leads to the book itself. This opens with provision of the usual publication details, disclaimer and list of contents. After Acknowledgements and Foreword, the material is set forth in 4 parts, containing 9 chapters, a Conclusion, About the Author, Services (offered by her company) and End Notes. Part One: The Best Teacher, contains 4 Chapters, the first three provide autobiographical material with respect to details of her early background and development of the philosophy she follows in her clients’ plans. The 4th chapter explains a life-changing experience that has provided the basis for “helping clients plan for personally fulfilling, purpose-driven retirements”. Part Two: Peace of Mind, contains 2 Chapters discussing a question of definition of the phrase and the requirement of a need to be dispassionate in dealing with the vicissitudes of investing. Part Three: Strategic Wealth Management discusses at length the requirement to “Eliminate the negative” (7) and “Accentuate the Positive” (8). Part Four: Giving Back, has 2 chapters that describe and discuss the utter necessity for structuring a Purpose-Driven Retirement (9) and with the need for Paying it Forward (10) where she quotes Margaret Mead and refers to a pertinent personal story supplied earlier. A Conclusion: Live Your Dream, is followed by the features mentioned above to close the book.

Discussion: The author has presented quite clearly a knowledgeable discussion of a large amount of descriptive material of equities, bonds, annuities and the rest, much of which may be found in other of the books written by recognized individuals in the field. HOWEVER, she has been able to innumerate, explain and emphasize the importance of aspects of investing only lightly touched or missing in other texts.  An absolutely fascinating but pertinent aside to the book from the perspective of this reviewer, is the quite unobtrusive manner in which she has acknowledged the importance of a higher power functional in her life. Of further interest is the uniquely interesting additional information associated with King Solomon offered later.

Summary: This book is a most helpful presentation of investing for retirement by an individual eminently qualified. Unfortunately, the target audience is relatively limited. However, it contains many facts of interest for readers not in the category targeted and has the added feature of a most interesting approach.

5* An unusual ‘must read’ for target audience; much of interest to others.

7 Days in Russia

7 Days in Russia ISBN: 9781456631796 Orca Publishing, copyright and written by M. G. Crisci.

The book opens with the usual credits, followed by a list of sponsors; acknowledgements; a preface presenting brief biographical data including the raison d’être for the presentation; maps of specific routes taken in the 7-day journey; an amusing (and most appropriate for the Russian language) “Idiot’s Guide to Verbal Survival”; Day 1: “What could go wrong, goes wrong” and each succeeding chapter setting forth descriptions of more enlightening, frequently amusing, activities from each succeeding day. Additionally a photographer of note, the author was able to provide photographs of many of the places and people visited. Thus, the book describes an interesting and eye-opening account of the country and its inhabitants that will surprise many, if not most of today’s Americans.

Discussion: The author has presented a most appealing picture to describe present-day Russia that have strengthened his beliefs that the alcoholism, surveillance, and otherwise general effects of apprehension among the residents now exist only within the beliefs of the average American. Regrettably and most apologetically, this reviewer still retains some measure of reservation in totally accepting the author’s conclusion. He makes mention of the fact that his trip was made during one of Putin’s inaugurations following a first that had preceded it by two years. And from the freedom he noticed, and to a large extent quite ably demonstrated, today’s Russia appears to be one that is far removed from that which long existed. This reader also has travelled to Russia and experienced some similarities to those set forth by the author, but under other circumstances; i.e. not visiting as a tourist, but as a scientist visiting other scientists. We encountered most comfortable accommodations, transportation, excellent food and entertainment and really had no sense of being under any manner of surveillance other than tight restriction with respect to picture taking. (Granted this first trip was made when Gorbachev was struggling to bring the country together following the Troika disasters.) A week later we visited St. Petersburg to see the magnificent Hermitage and had the fascinating added pleasure of attending a performance of Boris Godunov in the city’s gem-like Opera House. Upon boarding our plane to leave Russia, a seemingly inconsequential remark by an In-Tourist representative provided a definite impression that surveillance of our activities actually had been quite extensive. Activities encountered on a subsequent trip a few years later still did not offer any definitive answer causing two other thoughts linger. Within the last 2-3 years this reader has received translations of books by Russian authors to review. None of these offer any clarification of the situation for this reviewer, but in fact strengthen an originally observed observation of a seeming dichotomy in the manner in which different classes or grades of citizens are observed/treated according to their main source of employment and/or activities; the other, a tendency toward observation/treatment according to religion, especially the apparent persistence of a degree of anti-Semitism – a feature one author commented on as having been accurately mentioned in my review. Additionally as continually discussed ‘ad nauseum’ by the media, we still have the involved Russian-American political situation.

Still another possibly unrecognized component in this seemingly benign Russian citizens’ complete freedom – the unbidden thought that this author, as a well-known lecturer as well as friend of the Director of the Russian Cultural Center in Washington D.C., may have received some measure of un-requested and un-recognized aid in his reception and activities in Russia. But then again, and most apologetically, this reviewer is an American who had WW II acquaintances and memories, the Cold War, Cuban fiasco, of the recurring political charges and the rest, as well as a couple of personal visits to Russia as a scientist conferring with scientists. Albeit this individual’s trips were a few years previous to Mr. Cristi’s and the memories may well be influenced by the troubled times not experienced by the author of this book. Trump and Putin seem to understand each other and actually seem to ‘be on the same page’ whereas the old hardliners of the Russian Politburo and those in the U.S. Deep State appear to be unrelenting. Perhaps it would be better if both countries paid a little more attention to China?

But to conclude, the picture the author has provided hopefully is the correct one as he has described it and this book is highly recommended as a most enlightening and interesting read for ALL Americans to further assess and better interpret the barrage of news to which they constantly are subjected.

5* Highly recommended as described.

Stars on the Oriental Corridor

STARS on the Oriental Corridor ISBN: 9781733957144 Seacoast Press copyright and written by Young-Tae Kim.

According to the author’s preface, this Book 1: Heaven, has resulted from a series of short stories written/published in Korean, rewritten and published in 2010 in six volumes, revised into two books in 2016 before rewriting and publishing in this English version in 2019. The stories detail the activities of heroes and heroines who led their countries in politics, war, fertile fields, religions, sciences, industries and arts. Certain of the tales also concentrate on the deities various tribes/small countries worshiped and the interrelationships among the various units as they continued to grow, inhabit and unify the Korean peninsula.

Discussion: Many of the stories have charming elements and are set forth in a rather quaint fashion especially when employing modern verbalization to describe activity. In Chapter 1, description is provided of two tribe/small country leaders engaging in individual combat as the designated leader of the people of their country, a sensible form of warfare often employed in earlier times that saved many lives. Chapter 2 follows these inhabitants after a successful period has followed the union and they became interested in perpetuating the dynasty. Thus the King’s advisor addresses him: “Your Majesty, now that our country has become stable all in out, people are each doing his or her role very well. We have no problem in our country except for one thing. As we do not have our queen to become mother of the country. It is imminent for Your Majesty to get married.” Other similarly quaint verbalization occurs throughout; e.g. “Give your order to me. I will accomplish your order doing my best.”

Other than these interesting and often amusing features, however, it is this reviewer’s thought that much of this book is directed toward, and will be enjoyed most, by Koreans and other Asian peoples as well as other historians who are interested in the years preceding the AD 7th century. It contains a plethora of material pertinent to through and down the Korean Peninsula. The manner of presentation, especially after that set forth in the introductory material described, makes the overall presentation seemingly somewhat complexly arranged. After the primary material follows an anticipated pattern. Directly thereafter, the reader is presented with “NINIGI-NO-MIKOTO AND PRINCESS OF GAYA (2nd volume of “Stars on the Oriental Corridor”)” divided into several chapters; These, in turn followed by “Gods of WA (Ancient Japan) (The 3rd volume of “Stars on the Oriental Corridor”)”; the 4th; 5th; 6th through 9th  – each similarly divided into several chapters and following the progress of other groups of Orientals. The book terminates with a relisting of the volume’s contents.

Summary: An interesting presentation of assumedly well assembled for those interested in early history of Asian people. Regrettably the seemingly dual explanations of its assembly was not particularly well-received by this reader. However the entire manuscript can be most enlightening for any reader with an interest in the subject matter.

3* 4* pre- 7th Century AD Asian History with quaint/charming areas; 3*- probably for most Americans.

Plant Food Cookbook for Beginners

PLANT-BASED COOKBOOK FOR BEGINNERS assumed published, copyright and written by Jackie Collins.

Sub-titled 600 Quick & Delicious Vegan Recipes for Busy People on the Plant Based Diet, the book opens with an Introduction that explains the health aiding ability of this plant-based lifestyle in today’s era of busy schedules with concurrent occasionally frenetic periods and follows in a most simply, but amazingly direct and complete manner, to provide the Basic Ingredients required for each recipe, how to blend the ingredients, the time required to complete the item and how to serve and/or store the completed item(s). She supplies these details for Broths; Plant-based Cheese dishes; Breakfasts, including various toasts, twists, muffins, unusual breads; Omelets, e.g. Mushroom & Spinach Chickpea; Waffles, e.g. Lemon-Almond; Pancakes; Puddings and more; Numerous fabulous sounding Smoothies are added; additionally there is an interesting No-Bread Avocado Sandwich that can be very quickly prepared. Next is the section of recipes for Soups and Stews with another large number of individual recipes. Salads and Entrees follow, beginning with a quickly prepared and taste-appealing Greek salad, as well as providing another sixty plus recipes with some thought-producing ideas for seldom thought-of combination of ingredients such as oranges and kale, olives with cherries, millet with olives and cherries, carrots, cherries and pecans. Lunch Recipes consist of the same carefully maintained format of including ingredients, directions for preparation and time required with serving instructions. The section offers close to one hundred recipes that should present any number of tasty offerings for anyone looking for a ‘different’ lunch time repast. As an aside, this reader rarely indulges in midday food, but admittedly, a couple of the chili recipes, hot coconut beans and vegetables and the hot lentil and guacamole recipes appear quite tempting. Dinner Menus are the next and still once more offer another large selection of appetizing recipes. A delicious assortment of Snaks and Sides follow (with a most delicious recipe for Parmesan Broccoli Tots, Maple-Glazed Butternut Squash and one for Dijon Roasted Asparagus this reader tried the last three nights). Desserts & Sweet treats wrap up this incredibly complete collection of some relatively well known recipes, some that are better known but still offered with an unusual twist and/or use of ingredients that presents something ‘different’. AND even more new offerings are added to these selections.

Discussion: Briefly stated, this book is a fantastic presentation of recipes in a complete format not encountered in many years. A suggestion for the prospective book owner: be aware of the need to invest in a larger than normal selection of ingredients and because of the need to refer to the recipe while cooking, purchasing a hard copy as well as digital might be helpful, depending upon one’s construction of cooking facilities..

5* Highly recommended book for non-diet as well as dieters, as discussed.