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Michael J. Edelman (Huntington Woods, MI USA)

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Flight of Passage: A True Story
Flight of Passage: A True Story
von Rinker Buck
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,30

5.0 von 5 Sternen The Adventure I Wished I'd Had, 19. September 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Flight of Passage: A True Story (Taschenbuch)
When I was 12, I dreamed about flying; I had it all planned out, starting with a sailplane license at 14, private pilot at 16, and from there, soloing around the world. My father, who had been in the Army Air Force had a secret dream of becomeing a pilot, too, but he had never shared that with me.
Alas, it was not to be. My Mother didn't think it was a terribly safe thing for me (or my father) to do, and besides, it was expensive. I shelved that dream and went on to other things. By the time I became an adult and could afford to indulge myself in pursuing a license, I knew too many private pilots who flew just enough to stay current, and not enough to be anything other than a hazard to themselves and others. I decided to stay on the ground- for this life, at least.
But reading Flights of Passage brought me back to that 12 year old's dream; I could almost see myself working alongside the two brothers, tering down and rebuilding the plane, crossing the desert or sleeping under a wing. Rinker Buck's narration captures the moment so well that it's hard to believe you're not listening to the 15 year old narrate the journey as it happened.
I have two little nephews who dream of adventure, flying airplanes and rocket ships. When they're just a little bit older I'm going to give them this book. Maybe they'll be encouraged to realize their dreams of flight for real.


Hannibal (engl.)
Hannibal (engl.)
von Thomas Harris
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 6,10

3.0 von 5 Sternen Disappointing, 17. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Hannibal (engl.) (Taschenbuch)
If you enjoyed the creeping terror and edge-of-your-seat suspense of "Red Dragon" and "Silence of the Lambs", be prepared for something very different in "Hannibal". Sure, it still has the requisite bits of gross horor, and Lecter still has his taste for human flesh- but what's missing is that sense of terror in the other two books, the notion that some monster could be waiting outside for you, and there was nothing you could do about it.
The Hannibal Lecter in "Hannibal" is still a murdering sociopath, but this time aorund he seesm to have good justification for all his acts of crime. He gets a childhood. He becomes- dare I say it- a sympathetic figure. And that pretty much takes away most of the suspense.
The figure of Claire Sterling isn't fleshed out at all; she's a central character, but so poorly drawn as to be almost incidental to the plot, as are a numebr of other characters who drop in for a visit.
Most of the plot is telegraphed to the reader so early on that there just aren't any surpises, save one- and that one is so seemingly illogical as to appear completely unmotivated.
In short, a fair piece of suspense writing, but not up to the author's previous books.


Metaphors We Live By
Metaphors We Live By
von George Lakoff
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,95

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2.0 von 5 Sternen Belaboring the obvious, 5. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Metaphors We Live By (Taschenbuch)
The human cognitive system is predisposed towords catagorizing, both for computational and storage efficiency, it seems. New perceptual and experiential experiences are increasingly encoded not as unique instances, but as links to existing instances, and from that, categories are formed. This is all Cog Psych 100, and as far as it goes, true- perhaps trivially so, at least to today's crop of psychologists.
But not to George Lakoff. Finding himself the aging bad boy of structural linguistics, he, like Noam Chomsky and other refugees from a dying field, has recast himself in the role of a social theorist. The problem is that the methodlogy that served him well in linguistics doesn't fly here.
In the 1960s, linguistics was turned upside down by an influx of new converts who, in the wake of Chomsky, didn't seek to extend existing linguistic theory so much as to replace it with an entirely new field. They weren't interested in descriptions of geographical distribution of fricatives in the Amazon basin; instead, they had an entirely new model that was based around building a universal grammer of thought and mind. They built this field from nothing, quoting each others' works and ignoring historical studies.
This was a period of revolutionary science, and a quite exciting one it was. But in the end, while they contributed a lot to understanding of grammers and structure, their real aim- that of producing a definitive deep grammer of thought- failed. The numbers of new graduate students dropped off as bright young people went into nerosciences, cognitive psychology, philosophy and computer science, leaving the once-young radicals without a mission.
As many of the young radicals were also fond of the far left (see the "Fetschrift for James McCawley on the occasion of his thirty-first or thirty-second birthday" for some hilarious examples) they gravitated naturally to political and social theory.
Problem was they attempted to carry with them the same methodology they used in linguistics. Forget the old stuff, they cried; we're got a new, better theory! New insights, new truths, all better than before.
As you might expect, what they produced instead was, on the whole, historically ignorant and theoretically shallow. Lakoff published parts of what became this book around ten years ago as essays passed around UUNet, and it appears he heasn't done much reading since. He's apparantly completely unaware of the explosion in the fields of political philosophy, choice theory and cognitive sciences of the past two decades.
In the end, Lakoff's analysis is shallow, ahistorical and generally unconvincing.
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Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't
Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't
von George Lakoff
  Gebundene Ausgabe

3.0 von 5 Sternen Lakoff rediscovers an old metaphor, 5. Juli 2000
With the decline of interest in structural linguistics, GeorgeLakoff has, in recent years, shifted his attention to socialtheory. He has constructed a sort of theory of metaphor to explain social phenomena, which puts me in mind of an old quote, that "proof by metaphor is no proof at all".
In this book Lakoff has discivered that the metaphor of the family may be extended to all manner of political and social phenomena. In doing so he discovers that while conservatives are wrong, they're not actually evil, just insufficiently progressive. They're motivated by good intentions but stuck in an old model of family interaction. Yes, it's that simple...
Lakoff suffers from the common academic conceit of having an overly simplified view of areas other than his own. Ignoring a few thousand yeatrs of history and scholarship, his analysis simply relates all beliefs to a rather simple quasi-Freudian metaphor rather than looking at what underlying beliefs may be responsible.
Readers interested in a criticla analysis of the differences underlying political beliefs would be better off reading Thomas Sowell's 1988 "A Conflict of Visions". Readers of a more leftist bent might find Alan Garfinkel's "Forms of Explaination" interesting as well.


Fractals, Chaos, & Power Laws: Minutes from an Infinite Paradise
Fractals, Chaos, & Power Laws: Minutes from an Infinite Paradise
von Manfred Schroeder
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Readable and mathematically rigorous, 19. Juni 2000
What an excellent find! I'd been reading Per Bok's "How Nature Works" and realized I need a better grounding in the basics of fractal mathematics; this book turned out to be just the ticket.
Schroeder starst out with some simple, intuitive examples of curves and regions that do not scale to integral proportions, and from thse he develops and introduces the notion of the Hausdorf dimension of a curve. From there he introduces new concepts graphically- like Koch snowflakes and the Serpienski gasket- by first constructing them and then doing the analysis, introducing new concepts as needed to advance the illustration.
Often Schroeder starts with very non-geometric illustrations; his section on power laws begins with a discussion of language and word frequency, and from there he introduces Zipf's law, and then generalizes to characteristics of power law distributions in general- but not before treating the reading to a fascinating discourse on cognates and false cognates between languages- which he manages to weave into a discussion of self-similarity. Brilliant!
"Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws" could easily be used for a University-level introduction to fractal math, for graduate students or advanced undergrads- yet it's still readable enough to be a find introduction and entertainment to the reader with only a basic background in algebra and perhaps some calculus. The casual reader might not follow all the mathmatical arguments, but he or she could still glean much from this book. Highly recommended for the mathematically inclined looking for education or entertainment.


Professional PHP Programming
Professional PHP Programming
von CASTAGNET
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 43,34

3.0 von 5 Sternen Not for the php beginner, 1. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Professional PHP Programming (Taschenbuch)
As a reference manual, "Profession php Programming" has some utility. The 880 pages contain a lot of references to specific php staements, data types, operators and functions. As a demonstration certain programming techniques, it's not bad, either; the bulk of the text follows the creation of pages involving e-mail, LDAP, XML, SQL, shopping carts and other popular web applications. You certainly can't faul it for completeness. But as a tutorial for the php beginner, it's rather lacking, unless you're willing to slog through all 880 pages to learn by example.
I think this book is a case of too many cooks; there are five seperate authors, and it shows. The overall organization is confused and inconsistant, and the graphic layout of the book is a mess. There's an awful lot of information here- finding it is the problem.
If you have a specific interest in the topics mention above, and you'd like to see some well-documented examples of how to implement them, you may find this book useful. But if you're a newcomer to php, look elsewhere.


Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds (Complex Adaptive Systems)
Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds (Complex Adaptive Systems)
von Mitchel Resnick
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 20,41

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Experimental complexiry for everyone, 31. Mai 2000
When Papert created the LOGO computer language, it was with the idea of creating a tool simple enough for children to use that could nontheless teach them very power notions about algorithms and the power of computing. With Star LOGO, Mitchell Resnick has created a equally simple, yet unbelievably powerful tool that can be used to experiment with ideas of complexity.
"Termites..." is about how complex behaviors can arise from very simple systems, and to that end Resnick provides a number of case histories and simple programs that demonstrate how conceptually complex systems can be simulated using only a few rules. Phenomena as diverse as the movement of traffic james, pile making by termites and the migration of slime molds can all be simulated in Star LOGO with very a few assumtions. But Resnick's programs aren't just simulations; they're models of the real underlying processes that govern these complex phenomena.
Resnick hasn't just created a clever program; he's provided a wonderful tool for exploring complexity, and found a way of translating complexity into something a child can understand- while still fascinating to an adult.


Gödel, Escher, Bach. Anniversary Edition: An Eternal Golden Braid
Gödel, Escher, Bach. Anniversary Edition: An Eternal Golden Braid
von Douglas R. Hofstadter
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 17,95

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Still completely original- and totally misunderstood., 31. Mai 2000
When GEB was first published,the reviews and enthusiasm were endless. It's a brilliant introduction to recursion, said many. No, it's an introduction to, and demonstration of Godel incompleteness, said others. It's a demonstration of the commonality of art and science, said others. And there's something about ants near the end, but we're not sure why.
Readers today echo the same sentiments. They're all right, in their own way- but none of these views really get at what Hofsteader was trying to do. Yes, GEB is a tuorial on Godel, Bach, ants, recursion and a dozen other esoteric topics, and it's a heck of an intellectual entertainment, but Hofsteader didn't just write GEB to show prove what a clever book he could write. At the core, GEB is, first and formost, a theory of Artifical Intelligence; all the bits on Godel, recursion and combinations are just a tutorial to bring the reader up to speed for what's about to follow.
When GEB was first published, the dominant paradigm in AI was top-down; you built inference engines, programmed them with high-level knowledge about systems, and tried to get them to generalize from their. To a small minority- including Hofstader- this begged the really important questions: Where did the ability to make inferences come from in the first place? How was knowledge represented?
A few pioneers then- people like John Holland- were looking at bottom-up models in which one posited the simplest levels of an organization- the individual elements and the rules of interconnection and communication. They reasoned that that's what the brain was, so if you couldn't derive AI from a model that echoed the brain, you weren't really proving anything. It was from this perspective that GEB was written, and given the state of AI at the time, it's not surprising that most readers- even the most enthusiastic among them- totally missed the point.
Today, the bottom-up, or connectionist paradigm is gaining new respectability, and the work over the last few decades in complexity theory has given us more insight into the mechanisms of connectionism. Reading GEB in that context, not only is Hofstader's thesis much clearer, but the book appears that much more brilliant and prescient, given when it was first written.
If you've never read GEB, read it it now, and then read George Dyson's "Darwin Among the Machines", Waldrop's "Complexity", Resnick's "Turtles, Termites and Traffic James", and John Holland's "Hidden Order". If you've read GEB before, take a look at those same books and then go back and reread GEB. You'll see it in an entirely new light.


Devlin's Boatbuilding: How to Build Any Boat the Stitch-And-Glue Way
Devlin's Boatbuilding: How to Build Any Boat the Stitch-And-Glue Way
von Samual Devlin
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 15,24

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A pionneer of stitch-and-glue tells all, 31. Mai 2000
The stitch-and-glue technique was pioneered by builders of small boats, so it's not surprising that most boatbuilders think of it as a technique appropriate only for small boats. But Sam Devlin has been building large boats for many years with stitch and glue, and in this books shows why it's an appropriate technique for any size boat.
Traditional plywood boatbuilding doesn't really take advantage of the structural properties of plywood, argues Devlin; if you build a frame and then cover it with sheets of plywood in the same way you'd plank with boards, you're not really gaining much other than the convenience of the larger sheets. You're still using the same techniques of a century ago.
Stitch and glue allows the builder to make strong frameless monococque structures in which the entire skin, and not just the frames, carries the load. Such structures are much lighter and stiffer than traditional framed structures. Aircraft builders have been using monococques since the 1930s, and automobiles have been built using monocoque ("unibody") construction since the 1960s.
Devlin assumes the reader of this book knows a little about boats, but nothing about stitch and glue construction. He provides excellent detail on the tools, techniques and materials needed, as well as numerous photos and a number of designs.
Whether you're planning to build a 7' pram or a 30' cruiser, there's much useful information here. Even if you already have one of Dynamite Payson's "Instant Boats" books or Chris Kulczycki's "The Kayak Shop" you'll want a copy of this book as well.


How to Build Wooden Boats: With 16 Small-Boat Designs (Dover Woodworking)
How to Build Wooden Boats: With 16 Small-Boat Designs (Dover Woodworking)
von Edwin Monk
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 9,90

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4.0 von 5 Sternen A book of plans for browsing, 31. Mai 2000
As others have noted, this book is actually a reprint of an old collection of plans. The techniques used in construction are very traditional; no plywood, epoxy or synthetic bedding compunds found here. It's not a beginner's book, either, although a careful craftsman could probably build the first one or two boats with a little thought.
But even if you never built any of these boats-- and I suspect most who buy the book fall into this category-- this volume is still a wonderful addition to the bookshelf. I bought my copy before I knew anything about boat construction, and the more I learn, the more I enjoy casually thumbing through it. At the price, it's a bargain; I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in boat design, or traditional construction, or who just likes looking at boat plans.


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