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The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
by Simon Winchester
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.75
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5.0 out of 5 stars A concise history of the Oxford English Dictionary, May 23, 2016
Simon Winchester's "The Meaning of Everything" gives us a history of the Oxford English Dictionary. It started with a dinner speech given at the Philological Society in 1857 by Richard Trench, who argued for making a new kind of dictionary.

There were many good dictionaries, even great dictionaries in 1857. There was Samuel Johnson's landmark dictionary, loved as much for its erudition as for its wit. From the United States there was the Webster's dictionary, a drier but larger and more objective work than Johnson's.

But many words were absent. In fact, no existing dictionary did justice to a language that imported words from every corner of its empire. Trench envisioned a reference work that would include each and every word in the English language, and each and every meaning of those words.

In all languages, there is always a debate between is and ought, between promoting correct usage and looking actual usage, between the prescriptive and the descriptive. Philology studies how words and languages evolve, and it should be no surprise that a philological society would decide on a descriptive dictionary.

They would find the words in books, they would quote short passages from these books showing how that word was used, for each meaning, they would choose the earliest quote they could find, and they would list the meanings in chronological order. They thought the work would take few years.

Herbert Coleridge was named editor and he began the work. He asked for volunteers to read and find illustrative quotes. He began slowly and tentatively, but then Coleridge died. His successor was enthusiastic but not very diligent and the project almost aborted after ten years with nothing published, no word definitions even written.

Finally the job of editing fell onto James Murray. He came to the task with alacrity and devoted himself to his mission. With a new, energetic editor and a renewed commitment from the Society, everyone expected the task to be done in a few years. It took sixty years. James Murray would not live to see the final volume published but that is not as sad as it sounds.

The ten volumes were published one at a time and Murray did see most of them through. More importantly he knew well before he died that the monumental enterprise was now fully backed by Oxford and the Society. It would be carried through to the end. And it would go on beyond the first edition, as everyone had come to realize that there could be no complete dictionary of an ever evolving language.

"The Meaning of Everything" includes a story told in more detail Winchester's book "The Professor and the Madman". The earlier book describes the relationship between James Murray and William Minor, an American former military surgeon and one of the OED's most important reading contributors. A deluded and crazed Minor killed a man in London, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He spent the rest of his life in asylums. Having money and time, he collected and read old books and reading for the OED gave his life meaning. Fascinating stuff, but I can't help feeling the earlier book is really just a padded magazine article.

Not so with "The Meaning of Everything"! It's a wonderful history of the OED that concisely covers the story from its inception to the present day.

Vincent Poirier, Quebec City.

Still Life
Still Life
by Louise Penny
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.75
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4.0 out of 5 stars A promising first novel, May 15, 2016
This review is from: Still Life (Paperback)
Knowlton, a small town east of Montreal where author Louise Penny lives, serves as the inspiration for the fictional Canadian town of Three Pines. A seventy year old woman is found dead during hunting season and inspector Armand Gamache from the Sûreté du Québec is called in to investigate. He adds to his team his long time assistant and a defensive insecure young officer. The novel opens by introducing the victim along with her friends and neighbours, a mix of struggling artists, cafe owners and reclusive poets. Like Knowlton, Three Pines is an English speaking enclave in French speaking Québec.

So we have a colourful cast of suspects, a setting, a murder, a wise inspector, and even though the event occurred outdoors, these make up all the elements forming a classic locked room mystery. We follow inspector Gamache as he examines the scene, tentatively reaches an early conclusion, finds it untenable, is left mystified until in a flash he solves the case.

Penny successfully applies this classic formula to a Canadian setting. As a bilingual Québécois from Montreal, I enjoyed reading a novel set in my province and I am thrilled that this series is an international success. Plus, I found it a good read and I'll continue the series.

Vincent Poirier, Québec City

(OK, while I enjoy a good mystery now and then, I always find it difficult to believe that in real life there is such a thing as the Famous Detective. To her credit, Penny never implies Gamache is famous, but she has one character say he's been following Gamache's career in the papers for years. I've never seen newspapers follow policemen throughout a career. Maybe we should, because the only time a policeman's name makes it in a paper is when they are the culprit rather than the investigating agent...--VP)

Eternity's Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake
Eternity's Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake
by Leo Damrosch
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.97
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Madness!, April 2, 2016
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If the phrase "method in madness" applies to any poet, it applies to William Blake most of all.

Blake is not a fake wannabe artist. Picasso, Chagall, Munch all could have drawn realistic representational renderings of what they wanted to express, if they had chosen to do so. Dali, as creative and iconoclastic as any twentieth century artist, proved that fact with his exquisitely realistic yet impossible images. And when one looks at Blake's drawings, one is reminded of brutish or raw art, art unspoiled by preordained rules, unfettered with the chains forged by past masters. Like Picasso and Dali, Blake is free of all that.

And like them, but unlike the poets and artists who came before him, Blake _chose_ to free himself. Or perhaps Blake was his own prisoner: he was condemned to be free, to use Jean-Paul Sartre's phrase, so he had no real choice in the matter.

He came from what would today be called a solid lower middle class background. He was expected to ply a trade that would command decent wages. He was obviously gifted at drawing, so he was apprenticed to an illustrator and engraver. Blake could conceivably have used his ability to set himself up comfortably. He could have illustrated other people's mundane commissions and earned a very good living.

But Blake's mad genius made that impossible for him. He is not like Bach or Da Vinci who cleverly worked with their patrons to satisfy their own artistic needs. Blake was much more like Beethoven, his own man, and even more like Gauguin: a man driven to say something intensely personal.

Leo Damrosch doesn't spend much time on Blake's life. Blake married, happily it seems, but he and his wife Catherine remained childless. He found commissions tedious and did not pursue them. He found a patron, or rather a patron found him and took him in. Relations were not always easy, but for a while Blake was lodged and given time to work.

Eternity's Sunrise isn't a biography. It presents not Blake's life, but his works. The book explains the lexicon of recurring symbols Blake drew and wrote of. Blake's corpus is unique. He was obsessed with England, with the spiritual side of his Christian religion, and he was inspired by Milton. He had the piercing, intense visions a biblical prophet and we could argue that he foresaw the "satanic mills" of the industrial revolution.

And as many prophets were outcast, so was Blake. At the dawn of the Victorian age of Reason, in an era during which England's empire's knew no sunset, where Science would unlock the secrets of creation, Blake preached of pain and ecstasy, of misery and joy, of perdition and salvation.

We can recognize Blake's figures. Nude, muscular men, clearly erotic but rising above love. He created characters: Albion, the four Zoas, Los, Milton, himself. There were Lambs, there were Tygers. There was innocence and experience. Eternity's Sunrise is a guide to all these images. For laymen, it is an indispensable guide to anyone who wants to make sense of what William Blake wanted to say.

On top of that, the hardcover edition is a beautifully produced book. Printed on high quality paper, with 40 colour plates and many black and white plates, the book is slightly oversized but not so much that it would be uncomfortable to hold.

Vincent Poirier, Quebec City.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2016 5:04 AM PDT

Nothing But the Truth
Nothing But the Truth
DVD ~ Kate Beckinsale
Offered by Amazing Prime Express
Price: $6.62
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5.0 out of 5 stars How far would you go, on principle?, April 1, 2016
This review is from: Nothing But the Truth (DVD)
It's been a very long time since I've said "WOW" at the end of a film and I just did. Nothing but the Truth follows reporter Judith Miller as she refuses to reveal her source. She is jailed for it for so long that her life falls apart. Until the very last second, this excellent film has you rooting for her even as you feel her suffering. And at the very end, the director pulls a rabbit out of a hat and the tragic, unhappy ending makes perfect sense. And believe it or not, nothing of what I've written here constitutes a spoiler.


Vincent Poirier, Quebec City

I Am a Strange Loop
I Am a Strange Loop
by Douglas R. Hofstadter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.46
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gödel, Escher, and Bach, with most of the math taken out, March 28, 2016
This review is from: I Am a Strange Loop (Paperback)
Douglas Hofstadter's "I Am A Strange Loop" is a follow up to his 1979 Pulitzer Prize winning book "Gödel, Escher, and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid", so let me first say someting about GEB, which is a book about... about... about... Well, it`s about...

GEB is about Gödel`s proof that mathematicians will always have work because mathematics cannot be complete. It's about Escher's magic winding staircases that reached up to their base, and about waterfalls that fell into their own spring. It's about Bach's variations on a theme reapeating itself without anyone noticing. There, that's what GEB is about.

Except that GEB isn't about any of those things.

GEB is about the strange loops illustrated by those things. Gödel's proof constructs an impossible sequence of numbers that simultaneously states its own truth and the impossibility of proving its own truth, a self-referential theorem. Escher`s illustrations are either about themselves, eg a picture of two hands drawing each other, or about impossible perspectives. Bach's music rises to a crescendo that progresses to where it started from. All of these things are impossible and yet they all make sense. They are impossible curves that bend back into themselves while seeming to go ahead. They are strange loops and GEB's aim is to explore them.

But Hofstadter didn't mean for people to stop there and readers who did simply confused means and ends. The whole point of strange loops for Hofstadter is that they explain consciousness. Yet for some inexplicable reason many, if not most, readers failed to grasp this. So 29 years later, he writes a new book and this time gives it a title that screams out what it is about: I Am A Strange Loop.

Perhaps readers missed GEB's message that each person is a strange loop because it spends so much time on delightful puzzles and paradoxes. There are no puzzles in IAASL; instead Hofstadter describes strange loops using a variety of analogies. He replaces the careful working out of paradoxes with descriptions of the seeming contradictions within our minds. He replaces analogies with mathematics, illustrations, and music with an elegant description of how consciousness arises. Our "I" grows out of a brain that finds patterns in the world so that it can recognize food from predators, and it has become a brain that recognizes that it is itself a thing on the same level as those external patterns it sees in the world.

Hofstadter does spend time on Gödel so there is some math, but he only describes Gödel's work without illustrating it with either formulas or problems to solve. Gödel's theorem is central to explaining how strange loops arise and it buttresses Hofstadter's argument that a strange loop is much more than a self-referential loop. Gödel constructs an elaborate statement that refers to itself in a way that implies it must be true and yet it says it cannot prove itself. The statement carries meaning about itself.

In the same way, Hofstadter builds a model of the mind that thinks of itself as a thing within itself and yet cannot completely understand itself. That model is the Strange Loop.

Vincent Poirier, Montreal

Energy: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides)
Energy: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides)
Price: $6.54

5.0 out of 5 stars It's all solar energy, March 16, 2016
Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman famously stated that no one knows what energy is, we just know that there's a fixed quantity of it and that it moves around.

Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor of the Environment at the University of Manitoba, develops this fact. Energy not only moves around, it moves around along an intricate network of paths, in a variety of ways and at wildly different rates. It is this movement that accomplishes what we call work, where work can be defined as a change from one state to another state. For example moving a one kilogram weight for one meter, raising the temperature of a litre of water by one degree celcius are both examples of work.

If the quantity of energy doesn't change, why are we so obsessed with saving energy, or why do we worry about running out of energy? And why do we speak of sources of energy when that implies getting more energy?

We have to qualify the statement that the quantity of energy doesn't change. That's true, but only in a closed system. If a system is not closed, then that system will have three energy components: the energy already present in the system, the energy flowing into the system, and the energy flowing out of the system. The sum of the three elements must remain constant and this is a basic fact of physics called the First Law of Thermodynamics.

Smil describes these flows in great detail. A source of energy is where the flow of energy begins. The main source of energy for our planet, accounting for well over 99% of everything that happens here, is the sun. The earth's interior of molten rock and iron accounts for less than 1%.

The earth also radiates energy, mainly in the form of heat. The earth received light from the sun not only in the visible electromagnetic Spectrum (violet to blue to green to yellow to orange to red) but also in other wavelengths (ultraviolet and higher frequencies, or infrared and lower frequencies).

The sun's light flows as a continuous stream, and while much, much less energy makes its way into the biosphere from inside the earth, it comes as a series of catastrophical events. For instance, continental plates creep into one another and the stress builds up until it is released in a devasting earthquake, or jets of magma poke through the earth's crust as volcano eruptions.

While transiting through the earth, the sun's energy is absorbed by air, water, rocks, and plants. Water evaporates, is blown by winds and condenses very far away releasing heat into the air as it condenses. This creates wind and water currents.

Bacteria, algae and plants absorb heat and light and react with carbon water, and the hydrogen and oxygen it contains, to turn them into organic matter. This organic matter is broken down by other bacteria or by animals and turned into tissue, for instance when the animal is growing, or into work, for intance when an animal is moving around and burning the sugar in its muscle cells.

Falling water flows back into the ocean via lakes, streams and rivers. Along the way the flow of water can turn wheels and so power sawmills or generate electricity that can be transported elsewhere to power lightbulbs and computers.

Plants also turn sunlight and water into food and by eating that food, we turn it into work. Thus because we are animals and we eat, we take part of the earth's energy flows.

We also take part in that flow through our industry. We extract oil and coal from the ground and burn what we extract to turn it into electricity or into motion (e.g. car travel). We are not certain how that oil is created but we call them fossil fuels because we think oil is the end product of a geologically slow bacterial process, but the details are murky.

Oil is the energy source of most our economic activity. It is not a renewable resource, or at least its rate of renewal is so low as to make no difference. As oil becomes scarce, other sources will have to be found.

But our economy not only needs energy inputs, it also outputs things besides what we need. The CO2 emitted by burning oil and coal affects the energy cycles in the atmosphere and in the oceans, which significantly affects the climate of the planet.

So here we are. Energy pours out of the sun and onto our planet. All of it is radiated back into space for if it weren't, we'd have heated up into a hellish ball of fire. As it flows through us, it transforms a thin layer of matter, water and air into flowers and fish, trees and elephants. And we harness it turn it into boats and buildings.

Let's keep on doing that, and let us ensure that the machine doesn't spin out of control. This wonderful little book is a beginner's guide to working the planet carefully.

It's worth noting that Bill Gates highly recommends reading the works on energy by Vaclav Smil. I started with this dense and thorough introduction to the topic, part of One World's Beginner's Guide series. Highly recommended.

Vincent Poirier, Québec City

What Is This Thing Called Science?
What Is This Thing Called Science?
by A. F. Chalmers
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.00
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We want to know!, February 21, 2016
The bad news is that Chalmers doesn't answer the question the title asks, at least not in a deeply satisfying way. The good news is that he leaves us with a deep conviction that we are in fact justified in believing something true when it is scientific. But why is that? Why does calling a fact or a theory "scientific" help us accept it? This question leads us to asking the deeper question "What is science?" and while we only get an incomplete answer to that, we get enough to convince us that when knowledge is gained from results of scientific investigations and tested hypothesis, it has authority.

There is a common sense view of science that happens to be wrong: science is the slow, progressive accumulation of factual truths, that the sum total of today's scientific knowledge is an large edifice built brick by brick. It is a fairly recent view of science, simply because science itself, as we know it today, is a recent invention, one really beginning around the sixteenth century. Before that we had philosophy, which did investigate the physical and biological world, but also politics, ethics, the nature of reality, the soul, the gods and so on. (Mathematicians worked then pretty much the same way they work today, but mathematics isn't exactly science.)

Science as a slow progression is easy to understand, it seems obvious, and it supports the authority of science as a trustworthy institution, so why is this view wrong? Because science is full of big ideas and those ideas change all the time. The earth was flat, now it's round. The earth was fixed, now it orbits the sun. Things used to be made of fire, air, water and earth now they are made up of a hundred or so atomic elements assembled into millions of different molecules. There's no slow development here!

Empiricism was our first attempt to better understand the nature of knowledge. It closely matched the slow progress view of science, but it was deeper and different because it accepted that the physical world had to be studied on its own term. If we see, smell, touch or hear something we know those sense impressions. For empiricists, sensory experience is the foundation of all knowledge. For a while, it was a convincing account of science.

The problem with empiricism however is that it breaks down when the scientific enterprise leaves what can be directly experienced. We can only see the variety of life on earth and what relates different organisms together today, but we cannot _see_ the 500 million years of evolution, yet we are justified in saying birds descend from dinosaurs and that we humans descend from australopithecus. We can only see a needle move on a voltmeter, but we can't actually _see_ 120 volts of electricity even though we are justified in saying we know that's the potential in a standard North American wall outlet.

The nineteenth century attempted to correct empiricism or propose new theories of knowledge, but it's only in the twentieth century that two very different, very convincing attempts attracted widespread attention: first falsification and second structure.

Instead of justifying our knowledge as being true knowledge of the world, falsificationism dismisses the question and asserts that we _cannot_ know the world. We can propose a hypothesis and check it; if it fails the test, we reject the hypothesis but if it passes, we accept it provisionally. A rejection is conclusive: we were wrong. Provisional acceptance is just grounds to look harder. This view is actually how most of science works today and it's what actually gives it its authority: scientists constantly check their facts and are always out to debunk something. And when they publish, they have to worry about being proved wrong. This makes them very careful.

However, falsificationism, proposed and perfected by Karl Popper from the 1920s through the 1990s, doesn't really explain the _progress_ made by science. It's fine to say scientists will make this daring hypothesis or this bold conjecture, but where do these come from? After all, most of the time science does evolve bit-by-bit. It's plain not a series of conjectures each one bolder than the last. The Gregorian calendar was an incremental improvement over the Julian calendar (and it's worth mentioning both assumed the earth at the center). Small differences between what we expected to see and what we actually saw were successfully explained by tweaking the earth-centric model: the sun and moon go around the earth, but the planets go around the sun (which still goes around the earth). Eventually all those little tweaks made everything rather heavy and further progress was very very difficult. And that's when Copernicus proposed that the earth went around the sun.

A bold conjecture that came not from any single refutation of a previous idea, but from the slow realization that we'd reached a wall; that we had to try something new. The earth centred theory gave way in one sweeping moment to a sun centred model. Initially, that did not solve anything and it also had to be tweaked: the earth and the planets did not move around the sun move in circles, but in ellipses. And again we are back to the slow progress that comes from working out the details of the model. This is the structure of scientific revolution proposed by philosopher Thomas Kuhn in 1963.

It's interesting that both Popper and Kuhn give up any ambition of knowing the truth. Perhaps that is the reason why these two philosophies of science leave us a little dissatisfied: we want to know!

Vincent Poirier, Québec City

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
by Mary Beard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.35
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A people's history of Rome, February 18, 2016
Rome looms large in the West's collective identity. The United States named the upper house of its legislative body the Senate after Rome's own near-democratic institution. We have two months, July and August, named after Roman statesmen Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar. The West's Christian heritage was born in the conquered Roman province of Palestine and grew in the ashes of Rome's falling empire. Rome matters to us and understanding Rome's history helps us understand ourselves.

Author Mary Beard looks at a thousand years of Rome's history, from the time it emerged as a powerful village around 700 BC until the Roman Empire peaked around 200 AD. She opens SPQR at a crucial moment during Rome's century long transformation from city state to empire, when Cicero spoke in the Senate to defend the Republic from a coup d'état by Catiline and his co-conspirators who would have taken over Rome to rule it for their own benefit.

As a city state, Rome was a republic ruled by senators, consuls and other elected officials. As an empire, it was ruled by autocratic emperors who had Rome's democratic institutions rubber stamp their decisions. Cicero successfully stopped Catiline, but given the later rise of Caesar and Augustus, it seems that Rome's change from republic to empire was an inevitable evolution rather than an avoidable revolution.

Cicero's inspired defense of the Republic was his finest hour and is a well known episode in Roman history, as are many of the wars and conquests that make up our image of what was Ancient Rome. Missing from this is an accurate depiction of what kind of ordinary people made up Rome's population. Beard rectifies the situation by showing us who lived in Rome, how they spent their time, what food they ate, what wine they drank, what jokes they told, and what games they played.

She spends much time describing how the rich lived simply because it is the richer classes who leave the most traces after them. But Beard also does a phenomenal job of reconstructing the lives of the have nots, the slaves and the free workers, the small traders, the tenants of Rome’s infamous insula (apartment buildings) and the shopkeepers.

And although she works hard at being factual, she is not shy about presenting her opinions. Beard sometimes judges Ancient Romans by today's standards. This is fine when she presents the suffering of slaves being worked to death in mines or quarries, or of women being denied participation in public life. By reminding us that we have it better today than they had it then, she keeps us from looking back at Rome as some sort of Eden.

But sometimes she is just simply too opionated and unfair. It's one thing to judge ancient times against ours, it's another thing entirely to judge the people who lived in those times by our modern standards. Beard judges anyway even though she takes great pains to show us she understands this. She explains that the Germans and Gauls that lived around Rome were not particularly noble, that the law of the times was conquer or be conquered, and that Rome had in fact already been sacked once by the Gauls. So why does she accuse Julius Caesar of genocide for his ruthless conquest of Gaul when it’s clear Ancient Romans assumed the Gauls would to the same to them given the chance?

I'm not sure why, but I feel Beard displays an unfair dislike of Caesar. For instance, she calls his partnership with Pompey and Crassus the Gang of Three while most historians call it the First Triumvirate. Of course, "triumvirate" is just Latin for "three men", so one could argue she's just translating. But then why does she refer to the alliance of Octavian (as Augustus was known in his youth) with Marc Antony and Lepidus as the Triumvirate? Again, most historians call that partnership the Second Triumvirate, so why doesn't Beard say the Second Gang of Three? I can only assume it's because she dislikes Caesar, and that she does not dislike Augustus. She thinks Julius Caesar is a criminal, and she wants us to think this too.

But she does not try to convince us of this, she just tacitly assumes it and expects us to accept it. This kind of rhetorical revisionism is unprofessional. If Beard wants to replace our image of Julius Caesar as an enlightened autocrat with one of him as a power hungry dictator, so be it. But she should argue her case explicitly rather than slip in her opinion by stealth.

Nevertheless, despite what I think is a hatchet job on Julius Caesar, Beard paints a fascinating history of a Rome peopled with men and women we can recognize and with whom we can relate. She bridges the gap between then and now.

Vincent Poirier, Quebec City
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2016 4:55 PM PST

Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know®
Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know®
by P. W. Singer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.70
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5.0 out of 5 stars Practical and thoughtful. Sound., February 16, 2016
Books on cybersecurity and cyberwar are often aggrssively hysterical. They too often exaggerate how badly and how often things can go wrong. Perversely, they don't describe exactly _how_ things can go wrong, at least not by building a realistic, and demonstrable link by link chain of events and actions that result in some sort of cyber disaster.

Singer and Friedman's Cybersecurity and Cyberwar is not such a book. It's a realistic assessment of the state of security in the age of the Internet. While it doesn't provide complete scenarios of how something could go wrong, it does a good job of listing well-known problems and the possible conséquences without suggesting we have cause to panic. They offer some practical solutions to these problems and they promote the idea of better governance to improve information security. The authors offer mostly thoughtful, practical and just plain doable advice.

The title is only thing I dislike about the book. I find titles with words like "Cyberwar" unnecessarily dramatic, but I suppose it helps sales, and it's the only instance of security theater in the book. At least, the subtitle redeems the cover: "What Everyone Needs To Know" without any reference, thank goodness, to a coming cyber apocalypse.

Vincent Poirier, Québec City

William Blake's Divine Comedy Illustrations: 102 Full-Color Plates (Dover Fine Art, History of Art)
William Blake's Divine Comedy Illustrations: 102 Full-Color Plates (Dover Fine Art, History of Art)
by William Blake
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.25
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a better quality edition would have been nice, February 15, 2016
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The point to make is not that there's anything bad to say about this collection of William Blake's illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy; rather it's that the quality of this book is nowhere near what it should be.

- It's softcover, it should be clothbound hardcover.
- The quality of the paper and binding could be much better.
- There should be contextual quotations as well as explanations of the plates.
- The graphic design, beginning with the cover, is flat and unimaginative.

The Folio Society Edition of Dante's work fetches hundreds of dollars, so that level would be too much to expect. But something of the same quality as what Houghton Mifflin Harcourt produced for Randall Munroe's "Thing Explainer" would have been perfect.

We have to remember it's a Dover edition, they publish many books other publishers would forget to consider and there are good things about this edition.

+ Blake's illustrations are fascinating and mesmerizing.
+ I can't argue with the price.
+ I'm happy it's available at all!

Vincent Poirier, Québec City

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