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Aaron C. Brown RSS Feed (New York, New York United States)

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Palette Painting Tray for Artists. Acrylic, Oil Paint. 11-well Circular Palette Washable White Durable Plastic. ***Lifetime Quality Guarantee*** By the Leading Brand of Art Materials, Chameleon Art Supplies.
Palette Painting Tray for Artists. Acrylic, Oil Paint. 11-well Circular Palette Washable White Durable Plastic. ***Lifetime Quality Guarantee*** By the Leading Brand of Art Materials, Chameleon Art Supplies.
Offered by Chameleon Art Supplies
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent value for a simple small palette, July 25, 2014
I generally use informal palettes: ice cube trays, paint can lids, paper plates (sometimes covered with foil or wax paper), and throw them away after one, or at most a few, uses. Those work fine for me. However, I admit this inexpensive palette is a step up in convenience. With ten small cups and one central indentation, it holds a lot of colors distinct in a small area. The neutral white, bright but not glossy, is excellent for judging colors. It is light, attractive and easy to clean.

You do need a secure flat surface to hold the palette, it has no handle or holes for holding it, and no legs or clips to hold it steady. I found it most convenient when clipped in place using office supply clips meant for paper documents.

Overall an excellent product for the price.

Tayogo 2014 Upgraded Waterproof Mp3 Headset Music Player, 8gb Memory Hi-fi Stero, Earphone with Fm Radio for Swimming, Surfing, Running, Sports, Award-winning Design,comfortable Fashionable Rechargeable Longer Battery Time,100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Yellow)
Tayogo 2014 Upgraded Waterproof Mp3 Headset Music Player, 8gb Memory Hi-fi Stero, Earphone with Fm Radio for Swimming, Surfing, Running, Sports, Award-winning Design,comfortable Fashionable Rechargeable Longer Battery Time,100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Yellow)
Offered by Tayogo
Price: $49.98
4 used & new from $49.98

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Simple and clear, July 19, 2014
The best thing about this MP3 player is that it's simple. It's one piece that you put on like sunglasses for the back of your head. No separate headphones or earbuds, no long cord to get tangled, no screen, no playlists (just random play), no iTunes (you must download music files directly--it's easy but you must have the files rather than iTunes purchases). No games, no date/time, no artwork, no reminders.

The sound quality is above-average for inexpensive earbuds, but it's for podcasts and casual pop listening, not for audiophiles. I like it because I can grab it and go in the morning. I admit that putting on light headphones and carrying a ipod in my pocket is not exactly complicated, but when I'm looking for my glasses, keys, papers, Netflix return, wallet, keycard and other stuff; and tying my shoes waiting for the elevator; any extra simplicity helps. I just stick this thing on the back of my head and forget about it.

There are some disadvantages. The battery life is short. It says 10 hours, but I get about four to six real hours of listening. So I have to charge it about twice a week. It comes with a special cable, so it's not easy to charge except at one place. Obviously if you use any features of an .mp3 player other than playing shuffled music, it won't work (there is supposed to be an FM receiver, but it didn't work for me, although I didn't try very hard).

The controls are (no suprise) simple: there's only play/pause, up/down volume, and back/forward songs (and since it's only random shuffle, back/forward really means play that again or skip this song). They're all on one button (center for play/pause, up/down for volume, right/left for advance/retreat) which does not have good feel. You get used to it quickly, but you have to push moderately hard due to the heavy rubber waterproof control, and there isn't much tactile feedback to tell you which button you're pushing or when you've pushed it. Plus you're doing it on the back of your head rather than in front of your eyes. It's adequate, but if you use controls a lot, you'll probably find it annoying.

The indicators are even simpler, there are none except for a low battery warning light which comes on approximately 10 seconds before the thing stops playing, and is on the back of your head anyway (perhaps in a friendlier place, strangers would tell you the battery indicator is flashing).

I don't use the waterproof feature, when I swim I go for quiet meditative relaxation rather than pounding music to urge more exertion. But I tried it on some lake swims, including shallow dives, and in the shower. It worked fine. However I doubt that the waterproofing will last very long. The .mp3 player (the fat part in the middle) is held in only by the springiness of the plastic arms. Even in normal use it is not held in tightly. When it's new there's enough tension for the rubber seals to hold. But I suspect after a few months things loosen up enough that a little moisture will get into the contacts. I'm not sure of that, of course, but that would be my guess.

I really enjoy this player, but it fills a narrow niche. If that's you, get one by all means.

What Einstein Didn't Know: Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions
What Einstein Didn't Know: Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions
Price: $5.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Physical chemistry for the rest of us, July 9, 2014
This book consists of junior high school level physical chemistry explanations of everyday phenomena in question and answer format. The style is clear and entertaining, and impressively accurate given the constraints of nontechnical writing. The author has a gift for explanations that will be meaningful and intuitive to people without scientific training or inclination, while capturing a good deal of the insight needed for a serious student of the field. This is particularly useful when discussing principles that are often subtly misrepresented in popular science writing.

I notice other reviewers have questioned the accuracy or precision of some answers and I disagree. Read carefully, the answers in the book are firmly grounded in the science; read quickly, they are both correct and logical. That makes this a rare combination even among the best popular science books, a book that can be read for pleasure by an intelligent child, and also for profit by a scientifically literate adult.

Providing a little bit of balance to that great virtue, I have a number of minor quibbles. First is the title. It suggests either a book on advances in physics since Albert Einstein’s death, or wisdom that changes our interpretation of Einsteinian physics. Of course neither one is remotely accurate. Not only did Einstein likely know pretty much everything in this book, none of it has much relation to any of his professional work. If the title is supposed to suggest that Einstein was a theoretician divorced from practical reality, it is dead wrong. The author does not justify the misleading title, he just blames the publisher. In my opinion, an author should take responsibility for what he writes. If he allows a publisher to deliberately misrepresent his work, presumably with the intent of increasing sales, he betrays his readers. I admit it’s a little thing, but it does bother me.

Another issue is some of the questions lead to unnecessary repetition in the answers. Yes, as the author states, this is not a textbook so the material is not organized into a natural, non-overlapping progression. Each question is self-contained. Nevertheless, given that the author is making up the questions, he could have done a better job. My impression is questions and answers were written over a long period of time, and only ordered when prepared for book publication. This doesn’t matter if you read the questions in random order, as I suspect most people will, but it’s a mild annoyance if you read it straight through.

There are frequent “Try It” and “Bar Bet” inserts that are frankly not up to the quality of the rest of the book. I suspect the author has not tried most of the “Try It”s are they are not very imaginative or practical. There are better versions available free on the Internet, ones that are both easier to do and more dramatic and incisive. For one example, it seems odd in 2014 to assume readers have farm chemicals handy in the barn, but no access to YouTube videos. I think a “bar bet” should be a proposition you could get a casual acquaintance with a few drinks under his belt to take the wrong side of, and then demonstrate the right side decisively enough to persuade a belligerent drunk to part with money. None of these bar bets qualify on either criterion, I do not recommend their use for generating incomes in drinking establishments.

Finally the author is annoyingly dismissive of knowledge outside of physical chemistry. Nutrition science gets the least respect. For example one question is whether the source of calcium makes any nutritional difference. The answer discusses the ratio of calcium weight to compound weight of calcium carbonate versus calcium citrate, calcium lactate and calcium gluconate; which is not interesting, useful nor on point. The answer concludes with one sentence relevant to the question, “Nutritionists argue incessantly about this.”

Another question concerns the biological effect of metallic iron versus iron in organic molecules. Again the answer concerns mostly iron weight ratios in different iron compounds. There is one relevant physical chemistry point, that the hydrochloric acid in your stomach has a tendency to erase the history of iron atoms before they are used to make hemoglobin and other biologically active substances. But the author slips in a gratuitous dig at “’natural health’ gurus” who attempt “to damn it as ‘unnatural’.” Natural health partisans do not argue metallic iron is unnatural because it does not come from nature, of course everything comes from nature. They are suspicious of it as a food additive because it is not iron in the form our bodies have evolved to accept it. Whether or not that is significant is an empirical matter, not something to be settled by ad hominem asides and snide quotation marks.

None of these disagreements about minor matters of style take away from the first-rate educational and entertainment value of this book. I recommend it highly on both counts.

Four Lives: A Celebration of Raymond Smullyan
Four Lives: A Celebration of Raymond Smullyan
by Jason Rosenhouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.50
47 used & new from $13.94

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book, June 27, 2014
I am a lifelong fan of Raymond Smullyan's logic puzzles, and I am familiar with some of his professional mathematics as well. The section of this book that contains selections from Smullyan's writings is excellent, but why not go to the originals and get the selections and more? Smullyan is a clear and entertaining author, he needs no advance preparation.

That said, it was interesting to me to see some of Smullyan's non-logic writing. It was educational as far as it went, but it didn't tempt me to get the original books. So if you want to pick and choose among Smullyan's writings, I guess this would be a useful way to figure out what you liked.

The book begins with short essays on Smullyan from a number of people who knew him, or were correspondents. These are earnest with some amusing anecdotes (unfortunately, some are repeated) and insights into Smullyan's personality and work. Most of them are just not interesting enough for a book. If you knew either Smullyan or the essay author they would make amusing dinner conversation, but most people aren't going to buy a book to read mildly entertaining stories by people they don't know about people they don't know. Undoubtedly someone will someday fashion this and other material into a biography, which I will be very interested to read. But the undigested raw material is less than compelling.

This certainly isn't a bad book. It reminds me of the scrapbooks people put together for retirement parties, with testimonials and pictures and reminisces. But nobody pays to read those, even if the honoree is as accomplished and unique as Smullyan. By all means celebrate the great man, but do it by buying one of his books. By all means celebrate the circle of love, respect and accomplishment that surrounds people; but do it with your own friends, even if they don't measure up to Smullyan's incredible standards.

Paint Brush for Acrylic, Oil, Watercolour. Angled #12 Fine Synthetic Hair Paintbrush. ***Lifetime Quality Guarantee*** by the Leading Brand of Art Materials, Chameleon Art Supplies.
Paint Brush for Acrylic, Oil, Watercolour. Angled #12 Fine Synthetic Hair Paintbrush. ***Lifetime Quality Guarantee*** by the Leading Brand of Art Materials, Chameleon Art Supplies.
Offered by Chameleon Art Supplies
Price: $4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent brush for the price, June 26, 2014
The brush is solid and well-balanced, but not heavy, with an attractive, professional look not usually found at this price. It's a brush you enjoy picking up. The tufts were moderate quality, better than average for the price, but not the best available. There was a little splaying, and the shaping could have been cleaner. Capacity is average but the release was not particularly consistent and it did only a fair job of wicking. On the plus side, the lines were clean and crisp, and the brush cleaned very easily.

This set is an excellent choice for everyday amateur water color painters.

The Traders
The Traders
Price: $9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Ancient history, June 25, 2014
This review is from: The Traders (Kindle Edition)
I read the original edition of this book in the early 80s and found it accurate and insightful about life on the exchange floor, but isolated from the broader financial context--both the economic meaning of what what going on and the fundamental changes that were occuring at the time. The author took the trouble to hang out with his subjects both on and off the trading floor, he sketched classic portraits of their personalities, ambitions and worldviews. He did not ask hard questions about exactly what they were doing, and he reported without verification their accounts of how much money they made and lost.

I reread the book when it came out this year in a new edition, and found that it has not aged well. I'm not sure why the publisher brought it out with no additions. I expected some new material from the author (who is still around writing books and for the New York Times) and where-are-they-now information about the characters and institutions. While The Traders is a classic of its time, there are plenty of old copies available for financial history buffs, and it has little to say for anyone interested in modern markets.

The book is amusing, fun to read just for the characters and anecdotes. But it caught indepedent floor trading a couple of decades after its peak in importance, just before floor trading would be eclipsed altogether. While this was a transitional moment in financial history, the book came too late to catch the dramatic fall of the ancien régime, and was focused on the wrong things to see the birth of the new world. Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker remains fresh today because he observed life in a big dealer's bond trading floor which contained the seeds of modern financial markets.

If you don't mind (or enjoy) démodé accounts, there is a lot to like in this book. It does capture some timeless aspects of trading that are masked when trading times are good. Today we argue over colocation, traders putting their servers in the same room as exchange servers to reduce latency. The Traders described the AMEX option traders' "15 foot rule," that a trader could never stray more than 15 feet from the post at which his current option positions were listed. Instead of paying a monthly charge for advantageous location, traders fought for their floor space with elbows and hips. Modern high frequency traders worry about the speed of light, the microsecond it takes light to go 1,000 feet. Floor traders worried about the speed of sound, the centisecond it takes sound to go 15 feet.

One amusing detail from a modern perspective is a proto-Nassim Taleb on the options floor wearing buttons that say, "Happiness is being long puts," and "Chicken Little was right." I would be interested in whether he kept true to his philosophy through 1987 and, if so, if he made as much money as Taleb.

Another parallel with the current period is the SEC didn't kill independent floor traders by direct regulation, but by imposing rules on them that eventually made the activity unprofitable. The rules were strikingly similar to the ones the European Union voted to impose on markets in April 2014: register as market makers, supply regulators with information about all bids and offers, take the other side when public orders are imbalanced, hold more capital.

The book is still fun to read and teaches some lessons about trading, but there are more up-to-date books that are equally fun and educational. As a period piece the book has some value to historians, but it does not describe a particularly interesting or important time and place. I would love to see a true new edition of this classic work, but until that comes out I think this book will interest only a small niche readership.

iSport Strive in-ear headphones black
iSport Strive in-ear headphones black
Price: $49.95
6 used & new from $34.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The most comfortable earphones/headphones/earbuds I have ever used, June 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These earphones would be a poor choice in a noisy environment, or if you're looking for high-fidelity sound. They are adequate for telephone calls and background music, either indoors or if you want to be able to hear things like announcements, people talking to you or cars.

The best feature of these earphones is their comfort and convenience. They come with three size options, the middle one worked for me. You squeeze them, place them near (but not in) your ear canal, let go, and you can forget you're wearing them. They stay firmly in place with no pressure or pinching. They weigh nothing and don't squeeze or stretch anything.

I recommend them for jogging, walking around if you value the safety of hearing things over undisturbed enjoyment of music and office listening. You can wear them all day and feel no relief when you take them out. They're not for audiophiles or people who want noise cancellation, but you can't beat their convenience.

The War on Drugs: A Failed Experiment
The War on Drugs: A Failed Experiment
by Paula Mallea
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.83
19 used & new from $14.83

5.0 out of 5 stars A strong case against the War on Drugs, June 24, 2014
The basic arguments against the War on Drugs are well-known. It doesn't work either to reduce drug use or to increase the price of drugs. It is violent, and it engenders violence. It ruins lives. It creates many of the health problems associated with drug use. It corrupts public officials. It is expensive. It erodes civil rights. It targets unpopular people.

The War on Drugs lays these arguments out in calm, clear, logically organized prose, like a legal brief without the jargon. It is up-to-date, including events as late as early 2014. It cites extensive references, mainly from the popular press or offical reports. There is coverage of countries throughout the world, but the US and Canada are treated in the most detail, followed by Western Europe and Mexico.

The writing style is matter-of-fact exposition plus calmly stated opinion. That makes the book a bit dull, the only reason to read it is to absorb the information. There are more vividly written attacks on the War on Drugs, such as Dan Baum's Smoke and Mirrors or Mike Gray's Drug Crazy. These are more fun to read and make a better emotional case. They are more likely to galvanize people who are already mostly convinced. But they don't make as strong a case for a neutral person, or someone inclined to support the drug war.

On the other side, James Gray's Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed or Laurence Vance's The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom are more rigorous books that cover legal, economic and philosophic principles as well the practical effects. These take more effort to read, but are deeper works.

I recommend this book for someone without strong opinions on the War on Drugs who wants to become informed. It's short, clear and logical. The arguments are straightforward and aimed at a neutral reader. Partisans against the Drug War will find it too dry and unemotional, and it will not tell them much that they don't already know. Dyed in the wool drug warriors will not find it convincing, because it does not confront their arguments head on.

Counterfeit Crime: Criminal Profits, Terror Dollars, and Nonsense
Counterfeit Crime: Criminal Profits, Terror Dollars, and Nonsense
by R. T. Naylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.65
23 used & new from $12.73

5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate and stimulating, but not always accurate, June 23, 2014
It will not surprise readers familiar with R. T. Naylor’s work that this book is a frustrating mix of acerbic common sense and over-the-top radical-chic nonsense. On the good side, it is a comprehensive and scathing account of how invented crimes are used to justify militarized and secret police assaults on individual rights and justice. On the bad side, the author is an enthusiastic practitioner of the techniques he skewers in others.

One of the less controversial examples in the book is “money laundering,” a term with no precise definition that nonetheless is thrown around to justify official snooping, repression and violence. It has a big-dollar aspect, trillions of dollars a year of taxable income “laundered” to look non-taxable. But you don’t need mass surveillance to combat this, only a tiny fraction of the population is wealthy enough to afford it, and you know who they are. You don’t need SWAT teams with no-knock warrants; you need lawyers and accountants to argue whether some Cayman Islands special purpose vehicle qualifies as an active or passive entity.

People also launder profits of criminal activities to look like legal income, or the opposite, taking money ostensibly for a legal purpose like humanitarian relief and using it for an illegal purpose like terrorism. The original meaning, from 1973, was taking political bribes and disguising them as honest payments. All of these are small dollar activities, in which money laundering is merely an adjunct to the main offense. Fighting them requires a certain amount of intrusive investigation backed by threat of violence, a.k.a. routine police work, but not a massive global organization with superpowers.

Only when you thoughtlessly combine these unrelated meanings of money laundering do you create a massive global threat—trillions of dollars and growing rapidly—linking terrorism, gangs, drugs, extortion, political corruption and financial fraud. And only with a massive exploding global threat can you toss civil liberties out the window to embrace universal spying, assassination, torture, arbitrary imprisonment, double super secret bureaucracy and the other delights of the modern Homeland Security State.

The pattern is repeated for other ill-defined categories of crime including counterfeit goods, terrorism and the underground economy. One definition gets some big and fast-growing numbers. Other definitions cover some scary events, not necessarily all related. A few extreme lurid events—which may be distorted, fictional or real but unrepresentative—complete the picture. A buzzword is attached and politicians use it as if it has an agreed clear meaning. The solution is always the same, everyone’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be diminished to combat this terrifying exploding threat-which-must-not-be-defined.

How can anyone dislike a book that attacks this scourge with energy and clarity? Well, the author tosses in nonsense like, “Note the contrast between the endless revisiting of the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto to the deafening silence over the Gaza Ghetto.” A quick look through Wikipedia, The New York Times and other common sources show approximately 40 references to the plight of Gaza residents for every mention of Warsaw, and almost none of those Warsaw references are about the Nazi extermination of the Ghetto, and those that are frequently are about people denying it occurred. Of course the Warsaw Ghetto atrocity was during World War II, but even at the time it received little news coverage. And I’m only looking at general-interest US sources for Gaza, there is extensive coverage in Israel, Gaza and other places; and via specialized news sources; all easily accessible on the Internet.

Somehow, saturation coverage of Gaza becomes “deafening silence” while relegated-to-the-history-books-while-the-bodies-were-still-warm coverage of the Warsaw massacre is “endless revisiting,” because the author dislikes Israel. And consider the equivalence between deliberate murder of essentially 100% of the Jewish population of Warsaw to a struggle that has killed a small fraction of 1% of the people in and near Gaza. Yes there are severe problems beyond people being killed in Gaza, but for all the hardships, the standard of living and life expectancy are still above the median for the world.

In fact, twice as many people were killed in the Warsaw Ghetto as have been killed in all Jewish/Arab conflict over Israel going back to 1860, and that’s using each side’s account of its own casualties. This is exactly the kind of thing the author attacks when not blinded by anti-Israel attitudes. A nasty border dispute, of a type that is depressingly common in history, has brought the world to the brink of nuclear war on several occasions. It absorbs the attention of world diplomats far beyond its importance, and motivates anti-Jewish and anti-Moslem attacks all over the globe, and it has justified trillions of dollars of military expenditure. This only makes sense if you tangle up thousands of years of history and cosmic implications in a fanatic us-against-them worldview, and refrain from defining anything clearly.

This is by no means the only example. The book alternates between lucid deconstructions of illogical extreme policing and lurid constructions of leftist fairy tale monsters to be slain with revolutionary vigor. It’s never dull and it’s easy to tell the good stuff from the bad. Dr. Jekyll Naylor uses well-defined words, clear prose and accurate facts to defend ordinary folks from government violence. Mr. Hyde Naylor uses scary mysterious buzzwords and stuff he wishes were true to attack generic enemies like “the business elite,” “plutocrats,” and the “super-rich”. I recommend the book to readers who value energetic iconoclasm and passion over careful fact-checking, who are happy to read both sides and make up their own minds.

Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray
Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Everything old is new again, June 23, 2014
The short stories in this book bear a strong resemblance to the "New Wave" science fiction of the 1960s (famous examples of which are in Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions and Judith Merrill's England Swings SF). Like all science fiction, they are explorations of invented worlds inspired by scientific speculation, with adventure plots. However the science is soft, not hard, and the speculations are free-form. The adventures are in the minds of the characters (literally in one case) and do not involve explosions, galactic conquest or rocket ship chases; and the protagonists are nerdy introverts, not swashbucklers. Moreover, the stories display a fine literary craftsmanship flavored with subtlety, irony, color, depth, passion, distinctive style and real original feeling.

Despite the historic connection, these are not replicas of vintage works. The science, including modern cosmology, cognitive psychology and cybernetics is up-to-the-decade. The stories tend to the small and personal, usually non-violent, while the New Wave worried a lot about war, political repression and environmental disaster. Several stories explicitly downplay politics either as uninteresting or as creating unproductive conflict, in other stories politics is satirized. The biggest difference is that the New Wave was self-consciously experimental and locked in a battle with traditional science fiction, while fifty years later the same techniques are noncontroversial. Too Much Dark Matter has deliciously off-kilter ideas, but the basic story formats are conventional by modern standards.

These playful stories have crossover appeal as both literature and science fiction. Inventive, stylish and polished, they entertain and stimulate. I recommend them highly.

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