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Interview with ‘No Bull Information’ Dr. John Gamble

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Dr. James Gamble 2Dr. John Gamble is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Law at Penn State’s Behrend College in Erie and Director of Honors Programs. He is the author of approximately 100 publications and recently won Penn State’s most prestigious award for teaching, the Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Dr. Gamble has stuttered all of his life. As a result, he believes words are precious and should not be taken for granted; this motivated him to write NO BULL INFORMATION. His dream for the book is that parents and grandparents will teach their children and grandchildren NBI techniques and demand clear, concise information from political leaders and service and product providers.

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About the Book:

In his new book, NO BULL INFORMATION, Dr. John Gamble challenges readers to confront the Information Age by abandoning simplistic thinking and taking a measured approach that requires asking questions to analyze and No Bull Informationunderstand complicated issues, to identify and avoid word traps, and to effectively dissect and comprehend numbers frequently used to confuse voters and consumers.

Gamble uses humor and a wise cartoon character, Arnbi, to guide the reader through the maze of political doublespeak, expert-celebrity pitches of products, and healthcare options, among other issues.

With a focus on helping Americans to become better prepared to deal with the massive amounts of information that they face on a daily basis, NO BULL INFORMATION (NBI) instructs readers in developing “a new type of literacy.” NBI seeks to create an educated citizenry that can sift through information, identify the facts, and determine the best way to manage those facts. Gamble asserts that the super citizens who accept the challenge of NBI will make better decisions, which will lead to a reduction in financial disasters and government inefficiency.

Gamble’s cartoon sidekick, Arnbi, supports the NBI movement by offering targeted advice that summarizes many of the key principles outlined in NO BULL INFORMATION, including:

  • Too bad, but “simple” is a square peg that seldom fits into the round hole that is our modern world.
  • Facts are necessary but they must be put into context (PUTFiC).
  • Vested interests are everywhere—recognize them.

Breaking down words and numbers is the foundation of NBI. In one section of the book, Gamble walks the reader through a basic lesson in understanding percentages and statistics. “You need to understand numbers enough not to be deceived.” In one intriguing illustration, Gamble compares the Pentagon’s budget of $700 billion to a two-liter bottle and a proposed $20 million in spending to one drop of water from an eyedropper placed in that bottle. “It is a helpful strategy for understanding large numbers that are thrown at us every day by politicians and salespeople.”

Stressing the necessity of analytical thinking, Gamble explores the use of words in “bull-laden” information and the need to guard against what the author calls “landmine words and phrases”; for example, quite frankly, my good friend, clinical studies prove, award winning, and as seen on TV.

Gamble uses guidance survey and focus cards to demonstrate how readers can practice NBI in their daily lives. The cards cover nine areas each (Survey cards: sampling, word warnings, vested interests, etc. Focus cards: infomercials, supermarkets, credit, etc.). The cards include questions that help the reader to analyze a particular situation (buying a new cell phone, for example) and offer guidance for making decisions.

“I have been a college professor for more than thirty years. I am convinced that there are serious problems with the way information is presented and understood,” Gamble says. “This affects all Americans. I am writing for and to them.”

The idea for NO BULL INFORMATION came to Gamble about ten years ago as he observed the difficulty his Penn State undergraduate students were having adjusting to the Information Age. “NBI was inspired by hundreds of students in scores of classes I have taught. It was an iterative process: a class inspired an idea for NBI that I took back to class to test before including it in the book.”

Gamble believes that people who read NO BULL INFORMATION will “gain a sense of empowerment, like a life preserver when we feel we are drowning in a mass of information.”

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Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, John. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I guess I am a weird bird. As a college professor, I’ve published a number of books and articles, all with established, conventional houses. My current endeavor, No Bull Informational, is published by Morgan•James, a different kind of publisher.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

My earlier academic-oriented works usually got accepted very quickly. NBI took longer.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

With Morgan•James, things went quickly because the book was essentially finished when I singed he contract.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

When I was beginning as a professor (more than 30 years ago), I was unsure whether I could succeed in the profession I had chosen. Publishing was essential to promotion and tenure in the kind of universities in which I wanted to work. So I was happy and relieved when I began to believe I could pursue the career I had chosen.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Again, I first was published in the 1970s. I allowed myself a few weeks of self-satisfaction but then worked into the mode where I realized research, writing and publishing were going to be continuous part of my life.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Since I have had tenure for years and Penn State has awarded me the title of “Distinguished Professor,” I have the opportunity to try different things, to take risks, to look for linkages between my teaching and research. That is what I have done in NBI.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

The publishing industry has been transformed by the information age. There are more things published by any measure we use. With “self publishing” and related outlets, it is easier and cheaper to get work published but there is so much available, it is more difficult for readers to find you, to discover a golden needle is a massive haystack

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

I suspect I am unusual in my answer. For me, especially with the NBI book, it is seeing things come together after a long, arduous process. And it’s seeing my Penn State students taking the advice offered in NBI.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Keep at it. Understand and think seriously about criticisms offered. But don’t take criticism personally and remember there will be sages and fools among your critics. Finally, don’t overlook a huge factor, one that is unfair and over which you have limited control— luck.

 

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