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Bob Carpenter RSS Feed (New York, NY)

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Whitelines Top Wire A5 Notebook, Squared, White (WL81 WtopA5S)
Whitelines Top Wire A5 Notebook, Squared, White (WL81 WtopA5S)

4.0 out of 5 stars love the contrast, didn't care for the paper, June 25, 2013
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I slightly prefer Rhodia graph-paper notebooks in the same stenographer-style format. I really like the white on grey format of this notebook, but prefer the paper quality of the Rhodia notebooks. (I use a 0.5mm mechanical pencil with a 2B lead, a habit I got into because the blue lines in the Rhodia graph-paper notebooks are sometimes printed too heavily and need a softer pencil for greater contrast.)

GAUGE FIELDS, KNOTS AND GRAVITY (Series on Knots and Everything)
GAUGE FIELDS, KNOTS AND GRAVITY (Series on Knots and Everything)
by John C. Baez
Edition: Paperback
Price: $66.77
59 used & new from $48.56

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazingly insightful, June 25, 2013
I got this book because a physicist friend recommended the introduction as the best overview of vector fields and smooth manifolds that he knew. Quite simply, this is the best math book I've ever read. The beauty of Baez and Munian's presentation is that the geometric concepts are motivated with clear and minimal examples, and the details are kept to the minimum required for understanding the topic. I suppose that makes it more of a physics book than a math book. The exercises are very helpful, being at just the right level to make you think about what you've just read without distracting from the main thread of presentation.

Price: $5.95

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars worst book I ever tried to read, June 25, 2013
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This review is from: WIRED (Kindle Edition)
The first page started out terribly. I gave the author (and to be honest, my purchasing decision) another few pages. It only got worse. There are several other books I've seen on Amazon since with the same profile of largely positive reviews with a high average, but also a large number of very negative reviews. I'll never buy a book from Amazon again without reading the 1-star reviews.

Matrix Differential Calculus with Applications in Statistics and Econometrics, 2nd Edition
Matrix Differential Calculus with Applications in Statistics and Econometrics, 2nd Edition
by Jan R. Magnus
Edition: Paperback
Price: $102.42
61 used & new from $69.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book, but Where is the 3rd Edition, April 26, 2012
The paperback is the 2nd Edition and the hardback the 1st Edition. There's a 3rd Edition available in electronic form. It was completely re-typeset.

The mathematical writing in this book is truly beautiful. And I have no complaints about the new typesetting.

There's a crystal-clear, just-the-facts review of matrices, linear algebra, the basics of metric topology for R^N, convexity, and differential calculus. They have beautiful, easy-to-follow proofs of the key theorems. The approach is very (abstract) algebraic and (metric) topological, which I like. They take a Taylor-series-based approach to differential calculus that's very enlightening, arguing for the primacy of differentials over derivatives (which lines up with what I'm seeing in statistical physics books like Leimkuhler and Reich's book on Hamiltonian simulation). Overall, the introductory material was perfect for someone like me who needed to brush up on my continuous math for statistics and optimization after 25 years focusing on discrete math in computer science.

The book really picks up after the basics, going into derivatives of simple matrix operations and pretty quickly ramping up to matrix operations like eigenvalues. I haven't even gotten to the optimization and statistics part of the book yet. The latter is mostly in a frequentist, maximum-likelihood setting, which fits in with the chapters on optimization.

Molecular Biology of the Cell, 5th Edition
Molecular Biology of the Cell, 5th Edition
by Keith Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $148.50
282 used & new from $10.95

71 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensible by Non-Specialist, September 16, 2009
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[Reviewing 5th Edition, Chapters 1-7] I'm a Ph.D. computer scientist working on an NIH grant in text mining biomedical literature, so I thought I should bone up on the underlying science. The first seven chapters of this book are just what I needed. The first overview chapter is an excellent standalone introduction to the cell and genomics/proteomics and their ilk. After a two-chapter very comprehensible introduction to biochemistry (strong emphasis on thermodynamics/energy and bonding/structure) and protein structures, the next chapters lay out the entire process from DNA to protein, including expression control.

It's slow reading (it takes me an hour or more to read 10 pages), but very clearly written, and very thorough. The diagrams and accompanying text are amazingly clear and helpful. (There are also animations, but I've never looked at the DVD.) The diagrams and their long captions are often supplementary in that they add details that are not in the body of the text.

I had read the same sections of the 4th Edition a few years ago. The 5th edition adds substantial new material starting with the chapter on proteins. Ironically, the 5th edition is more speculative, because the more we find out about gene expression, the further away full understanding seems to be. The book does a nice job of balancing what's known fairly certainly with speculative guesses about things like chromatin structure.

This time, I think I'll keep going. The sections of the rest of the book I've browsed when they've been cross-referenced are also excellent.

Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering
Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering
by Robert L. Glass
Edition: Paperback
Price: $41.04
149 used & new from $30.73

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial List of Bullet Points, April 30, 2008
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I actually agree with most of what this book says. I also like the references, which are for the most part to other books I like.

This book is little more than a list of bullet points. Most of the writing doesn't say anything other than to reiterate the title and then claim that lots of folks just don't get it.

What's missing are case studies, or even arguments as to why the points the book makes are even worth thinking about.

I would recommend reading The Pragmatic Programmer by Hunt and Thomas instead.

Toshiba-ce 46 Inch Regza Cinema Series LCD Tv
Toshiba-ce 46 Inch Regza Cinema Series LCD Tv

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Motion, Terrible Greens, but Calibratable, November 5, 2007
There is a terrible problem with the green rendering on my set, both from digital cable, and fed from the Toshiba A35 HD-DVD player. There's an overall green cast and very bright green artifacts in shadows that is so annoying the TV's barely watchable.

On the other hand, the motion rendering is fantastic. 1080P at 24 frames/second looks really smooth as does 720P sports broadcasts.

Note Added Dec 2007: I finally had the set professionally color calibrated. Turns out both green and red are way off in this set's color space as shipped from the factory. The good news is that a combination of service menu settings and the excellent color/gamma controls in this set got it back in line and it's now amazing. I'd actually recommend getting any TV calibrated because the factory settings for all sets are way too bright and contrasty, which makes it basically impossible to do a side-by-side in a showroom.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2008 12:18 AM PST

The Loyalist's Son (Fairaday & Marlborough Novels)
The Loyalist's Son (Fairaday & Marlborough Novels)
by Charles White
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from $0.11

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A novella, at most, May 31, 2006
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This is the shortest piece of fiction I've ever seen advertised as a novel. Not only is it only 192 pages, but that includes all the blank ones; the book doesn't even start until page 9. Each chapter wastes roughly another page, making it about 170 pages. These pages have the widest margins, the fattest inter-line spacing, and even the fattest inter-word spacing I've ever seen. My estimate is roughly 25K words, and that makes it on the short side for a novella, much less a novel.

The book is otherwise a fairly run of the mill nautical adventure with the "twist" being that it's following both a British lieutenant and a revolutionary one. Not bad, but the author should wait until he has a novel's worth of material.

Mr Midshipman Easy (Classics of Naval Fiction)
Mr Midshipman Easy (Classics of Naval Fiction)
by Frederick Marryat
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.72
84 used & new from $0.01

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical Nautical Romantic Farce, February 17, 2006
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This book's an odd kettle of fish. It focuses on Jack Easy, starting at his birth, following him through school and into the Navy. He joins to press his socialist philosophy of the "equality of man". The book was first published in 1836, when Karl Marx was 18. Zeitgeist, perhaps?

In tone, the book's half nautical fiction along the lines of O'Brian, Forester, Pope, etc., and half 17th century romantic farce that sees a rival found out in women's clothing, diabolical happenings at a costume ball, the come-uppance of a conniving father-confessor, a hilarious three-way duel, and more. The situations will be all the funnier if you've read more "serious" nautical fiction before this.

Oddly, even though the author was himself a retired British naval post-captain (who served under Cochrane when he was himself a midshipman!), there is relatively little focus on the nautical details, and a whole lot of focus on the characters. Sure, there's a gale (and quite a good one), and some beam to beam broadside action, but mostly it's about the characters. In every situation, there's little tension as we know our hero will make good a Hornblower-like escape by some indirect means.

The author jumps in as the omniscient narrator from time to time. For instance, there's one chapter that's an odd repetition of an argument made in a previous book against overly harsh punishment in the service.

The wisdom's along the lines of "spare the rod, spoil the child" and the character "development" sees Mr. Easy move from channeling Marx to channeling Ayn Rand. As the earlier positions are argued as hard as the latter, it's actually hard to see the author's position here, which is quite interesting.

Overall, though, the book just doesn't hang together as a continuous, tense story about the sea, which is one of the main reasons to read nautical fiction. On the other hand, if you've run out of the better nautical fiction, this one's well worth a read. A more interesting genre piece from this era is Wilkie Collins's mystery "The Moonstone".

Great Web Typography
Great Web Typography
by Wendy Peck
Edition: Paperback
46 used & new from $0.47

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice web-specific font information; great case studies; technically dated, January 18, 2006
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This review is from: Great Web Typography (Paperback)
I'd been looking for a nice book of web design case studies, and about 1/4 of this book is case studies and interviews. And much of the rest is live mockups to clearly illustrate an important point such as how browsers interpret weight. I enjoyed the interviews and the more design-oriented discussions. And I really enjoyed the author taking us through the design of her own site right down to the grid on paper and basic layout as a case study (though I greatly preferred her work for others displayed in the book). Ironically, the book itself is pretty poorly designed, especially the cover, which violates almost all of the author's advice!

The author's basic advice on fonts is sound. I found it useful to read other books on typography first -- this one won't give you the "classical" education about print fonts. On the other hand, almost everything you know about print fonts can be tossed out the window. The exceptions are letter and line spacing, color and contrast and size. I thought the author did an excellent job of presenting those. There's also a great deal of emphasis on web-specific typography that I just haven't seen elsewhere.

There was a nice discussion of graphic versus HTML fonts, with the author urging the reader to use graphic text for headlines (because of kerning, anti-aliasing and font choice) and for small buttons (because of font choice). In particular, I was fascinated by the in-depth study of Joe Gillespie's crisp, readable pixel-specific fonts such as MINI7 (7 pixels high, all caps, and a perennial favorite on the web for tiny text). Many sites follow these guidelines, but I prefer to use straight HTML. It resizes better.

Another polarizing issue is pure CSS versus table-based layouts. The author uses a mix, as do most design-centric designers. Given portability issues, etc., I remain agnostic on this issue.

There was a lot of discussion of software of the how-to-navigate-Photoshop-version-N's-menus variety. That's already out of date. Most of the case studies are no longer live, or have changed their format considerably. Ditto for a lot of the recommendations on browsers, CSS versions, HTML, etc.

There's also a section on fonts for Flash at the end. Because I don't intend to use Flash, I didn't read it.

I liked this book, but would have liked many more case studies, and much less walking me through menus and CSS.

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