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Profile for Kenneth L. Smith > Reviews


Kenneth L. Smith's Profile

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Reviews Written by
Kenneth L. Smith "College Professor" RSS Feed (Ellendale, North Dakota)

Page: 1
The Terrible Tiger
The Terrible Tiger
by Jack Prelutsky
Edition: Paperback
34 used & new from $0.46

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "TERRIBLE TIGER" IS AN ASIAN PARABLE OF GOVERNMENT, October 19, 2010
This review is from: The Terrible Tiger (Paperback)
My kids love me to read this to them. I think they'd say "five stars."

It occurred to me last time I read it that it is derived from an Asian parable, which warns, in the words of Confucius, that "an oppressive government is worse than a man eating tiger." But the pictures seem to indicate an Indian setting--to describe an oppressive ruler in terms of a tiger is also an Indian custom. The tiger is eating businessmen--a grocer, a barber, a farmer, and a tailor. It's the tailor that manages to get back at the tiger. Alas, he sews up the tiger and the tiger's nature has not changed--which is a powerful indictment of the voracious tendencies of rulers.

I give this book only four stars because there's no mention of it's origin. I would not expect the book to make clear that the tale is a protest against destructive taxation, however I would like to have seen an acknowledgment of the tale's origins either in the beginning or end of the book.

A Disciplined Intelligence: Critical Inquiry and Canadian Thought in the Victorian Era (Carleton Library Series)
A Disciplined Intelligence: Critical Inquiry and Canadian Thought in the Victorian Era (Carleton Library Series)
by A. B. McKillop
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.95
18 used & new from $16.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
McKillop's book was recommended to me years ago when I was working on a biography of a well-known 19th century Presbyterian historian. It turned out to be a wonderful resource for background on the impact and evolution of the Scottish Common-Sense Realist Evangelical tradition, not just for Canada but for North America and the English speeking world as well. I marked up a borrowed copy, and finally bought my own, as this is just a great book. I highly recommend it to anybody who is studying the intellectual background of North American higher education in the 19th century. Without a knowledge of Common Sense Realism, much if not most of 19th century intellectual history is really not intelligible. This is not a bad book to start with in that area.

2 Million Minutes: A Documentary Calculating the Educational Divide
2 Million Minutes: A Documentary Calculating the Educational Divide
DVD ~ Robert A. Compton
7 used & new from $42.45

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shows Reasons for Difference in Motivation Levels, November 27, 2008
This video does a reasonably good job of showing the reasons for the difference in motivation level between top American students and top Asian students. It boils down to the fact that in America there's an environment in which students are relatively relaxed in terms of academic stress, and this is because of the huge economic advantages that the US has had historically. Academic achievement just isn't as important--and when it is, it's mixed with other things that are thought to be important--socializing, working part time jobs, sports, etc. Obviously the Asian students are more focused.

I showed the film to my college sociology class and they took it in quite well. The commentary got a bit repetitive at times, but overall it's a worthwhile program. Four of five stars.

The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud**And those who are too fearful to do so
The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud**And those who are too fearful to do so
by Lawrence Solomon
Edition: Hardcover
59 used & new from $0.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT OVERVIEW, THOUGHT PROVOKING, July 23, 2008
I bought this book after reading a number of online installments of Solomon's series in the National Post. This book repeats most of that series. Taken together, they give a useful (but not exhaustive by any means) survey of the informed dissent that exists on the question of global climate change.

Solomon's writing is clear and crisp, and I do not detect any sort of agenda at work that would introduce a serious bias. It's true, as one reviewer noted, that Solomon has been a longtime opponent of nuclear energy, and this doubtless colors his outlook. The crucial point on this for me is that regardless of whether nuclear technology at the present technological level is safe or not, opposing it in the 70s and 80s on various technical and ecological grounds was by no means an unprincipled or ignorant stance. My own father was an antinuclear activist, and though I've changed my views on that topic, I respect those who have not.

Solomon touches on some important points regarding the philosophy of science, which to me is ultimately the most interesting aspect of this whole controversy. He acknowledges forthrightly that to some degree, all of our scientific understanding is necessarily based on authority. There's no such thing as pure empiricism, other than possibly as an ideal. His discussion of Karl Popper's theories is a helpful reminder of the fact that knowledge, whatever else it is, has a strong social component--that is, our beliefs are and must be to a large extent socially conditioned.

When I was in graduate school in the 90s there was a lot of discussion about "structuralism" "post-structuralism" and the postmodern critique of scientific objectivity. I found the debates sometimes inspiring, sometimes frustrating, and upsetting. But at least some major epistemological questions were being asked. For various reasons--mostly social and political, I believe--there has been in the last decade a big shift toward what might be called "fundamentalism." By that, I mean there seems to be an easy willingness and even eagerness to embrace an absolutist stance about certain conclusions, and to condemn and exclude dissenters from the consensus as heretics. I personally don't think the level of vitriol against AGW "deniers" can be adequately explained without a broader look at the evolution of intellectual history in the West and the deep underlying currents of thought that have come to the fore of recent. In another generation or two, the current global warming hype, I think, is going to be fodder for a lot of good Ph.D. dissertations on the impact of worldview on scientific belief.

I'll close with one more thought I've had since reading this book. The current dismissal and defamation of global warming "deniers" has a relatively recent precedent. As recently as five years ago, people who questioned the reality of Saddam Hussein's threat to global security, and cast doubt on the wisdom of invading Iraq to alleviate that threat, were often subject to a great deal of vilification. There was a "consensus" and to folks like Dick Cheney, questioning that consensus was irresponsible if not treasonous. It seems to me that Al Gore may be to Global Warming what Dick Cheney was to Weapons of Mass Destruction. Just a thought.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 11, 2008 11:49 AM PDT

Marathon Challenge
Marathon Challenge
DVD ~ Nova
Price: $14.95
29 used & new from $5.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Video for over 99% of Viewers, March 3, 2008
This review is from: Marathon Challenge (DVD)
One reviewer wrote that this documentary was "superficial" and another advised "don't waste your money." I disagree with both. Sure, if you're a longtime marathoner, there probably won't be anything new or profound here. But for the 99 plus percent of Americans who aren't, this is a great video. I've been a runner for a little over two years and have finished two marathons. I hope I never get cynical enough to dismiss an inspiring and well-produced show like this one, nor to make light of the accomplishments of the people portrayed in it.

I identified in some ways with all the runners in this video. I watched it twice, and enjoyed it even more the second time. My two teenage daughters watched it also and it really sparked their interest in running.

My best hero in the film is Betsy, who started out 70 pounds overweight and with serious potential heart problems, but stuck with it and finished the marathon. Betsy, you are such a great encouragement! The other person in the film I most admire is elite runner and former Boston winner Ute Pippig, whose extremely helpful approach is so important for getting people into running and into healthier lifestyles.

I've seen scores of NOVA programs and this one is the best and most memorable. Thanks, PBS.

Business of Being Born, The
Business of Being Born, The
DVD ~ Ricki Lake
Offered by zTops4U
Price: $17.99
39 used & new from $1.34

115 of 128 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review by a Couple With Some Home Birth Experience, March 3, 2008
This review is from: Business of Being Born, The (DVD)
The film does a good job of explaining the "intervention cycle" that is so common in medicalized births--the mother is hooked up to intravenous tubes and all sorts of technology, and thus there is inevitable pressure to use (or misuse that technology). Anesthetics, which are supposed to ease the pain, lead to slowdown in the birth process, which leads to more intervention (pitocin etc.) and oftentimes to "crisis" into which the physician steps to save the day. The film gives a fair amount of attention to the power of the physician over against the mother in medicalized birth. The portrayal of the respectful and extremely helpful manner in which home birth midwives work comes across very well.

We give the film a four-star rating instead of five for several reasons. We think it does not do quite well enough at explaining the reasons why home birthers do certain things--for example, why they often choose water birth. Why husbands/partners might not wear a shirt when assisting the mother. Why the home setting is generally superior to the hospital setting in terms of exposure to dangerous microbes. There are good reasons for all these things, but they're not really explained in the film.

We think the film dwells excessively on the experiences of the director (Cara) and upon Ricki Lake. It's fine to have these folks profiled in the film we just think they take too much screen time that could have been better used educate people further about non-medicalized birth. This is one reason that the film starts to languish a bit in the second half. Some of the language used on the film (casual swearing) will be unnecessarily offensive to many home birthers and potential home birthers. The film did not mention the religious reasons some people choose home birth (we'd have loved to see interviews with Amish home birthers, for example). We did think the contributions of Michael Odent, Ina Gaskin, and the other midwives (and the back-up doctor) were portrayed very well.

We have had six home births (four with well-trained midwives). Our midwives definitely went the extra mile for us, and were genuinely interested not only in "getting the baby out" but in all aspects of prenatal, delivery, and early infant care. They were extremely generous in their time and expertise. In terms of theoretical and practical knowledge, our trained midwives were the equal if not superior to the typical birth-attending physician. This perspective comes across pretty well on the film.

All in all, this is a good film. It could be quite a bit better in terms of explaining non-medicalized birth to people who are unfamiliar with it. But it's a good start and we recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 7, 2015 7:50 PM PST

XtremeMac MicroMemo Digital Voice Recorder for iPod nano 2G (Silver)
XtremeMac MicroMemo Digital Voice Recorder for iPod nano 2G (Silver)
Offered by Toby's Treasure Chest
Price: $7.97
10 used & new from $7.95

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
To whom it may concern:

Last week I received the Micromemo recording device to use with my brand new 2nd generation iPod Nano. I was looking forward to replacing my old iPod recording setup, which is a Griffin iTalk unit which I use with my old 20 Gigabyte 4rth generation iPod, along with a clip-on Griffin brand microphone.

I am a college professor and I record two of my fifty-minute sessions in a row three times a week. I had two reasons for wanting to move to the Nano setup.

First, I wanted the Nano setup because it would be much smaller and lighter. I had been using an external battery pack with my 20 Gig iPod to make sure there was enough battery power to get through the sessions. So the recording unit was a little bulky. The Nano, on the other hand, would fit right in my shirt pocket.

Second, the Micromemo is advertised as recording at a higher sampling rate than my old setup, which records at 8k. I thought it would be nice for my students to be able to listen to better-quality sound.

I was thoroughly disappointed with the Micromemo--so much so that I would probably avoid all products by this company in the future. I will list the problems.

First, the Micromemo did record with the small microphone it shipped with, but it did so very poorly. On the high quality setting, it only recorded on one channel. On the low quality setting, it did record on both channels. But on both high quality and low quality settings, the recordings contained a very bad background hiss. The only difference was that on high quality, I got the hiss through both channels and sound through one. One low quality, I got both hum and recording through both channels.

Now, in case anyone thinks I am complaining too much about the background hiss, let me say that I NEVER experienced any such hiss using my old setup, which, as I mentioned consisted of a 4rth generation iPod and a Belkin iTalk. The sound quality from the Belkin unit is not as good as I would like (it sounds a little thin and occasionally wispy), but it NEVER produced noticeable hiss.

Second, the Micromemo unit simply did not work with my external lapel microphone. Not at all. I experimented for a long time trying to make sure that the switch on the bottom was set right, making sure the unit was properly attached to the iPod, and making sure the connection from the external microphone to the Micromemo unit was secure. It did not work at all. But it works just fine on my old setup.

Third, the Micromemo unit has a control on the bottom that is extremely hard to move from one position to the other. I was able to switch it into each of its three positions with my fingernail, but it was difficult. There is nothing smooth about its functioning at all. It feels very cheap, as if I were using some sort of toy.

FINALLY, I will note that I give the Micromemo one star--that is because it does look very good. When snapped onto my new iPod Nano, it looked as if it the entire unit was one sleekly designed piece. It looks much better than my old recording combo.

Other than appearances, though, this unit was a complete disappointment. I am going to order a different company's recording unit to try out with my new iPod Nano, and I will see if it works better. It will have to work a whole lot better than the Micromemo for it to even approach the quality of the setup I have already been using. By the way, I never have run into any glitches with my old unit. I plug it in, and it works. It's heavy and bulky but it works. Always. For a year and a half, three days a week. No problems, ever.

Ken Smith

College Professor, North Dakota

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