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Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana (Contemporary Cuba)
Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana (Contemporary Cuba)
by Marc Frank
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.96
46 used & new from $18.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful perspectives on the changes in Cuba., January 30, 2014
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This is a very useful on-the-ground report on the changes occurring in Cuba. Frank starts with the final years of Fidel Castro's rule and the transition to Raúl Castro. At first things seemed to be moving slowly, but from 2011 the pace accelerated dramatically, with farmers being allowed to sell their own produce directly, the amount of privately farmed land being dramatically increased, a very large number of Cubans being licensed to set up their own small businesses, the removal of travel restrictions, people being allowed to buy and sell their homes, and much more. Raúl seems to have been careful to slowly build up a consensus on the need for change, and as a result is now able to drive both broad economic changes and major shakeups in the government.

Marc Frank has been a Havana resident for 20 years, working for Reuters, ABC, and others. He also has the advantage of being married to a Cuban, whose sprawling extended family has been happy to provide him with views from across the island. He has made many tours around the island and is able to share anecdotal data on the changes over the years, starting from the days when farmers leapt out from behind the shrubbery to clandestinely sell their produce to motorists, to the appearance of officially approved private roadside produce kiosks, to today's plethora of small competing vendors.

Frank makes it clear that the Raúl is definitely not intending to demolish socialism, nor to allow large-scale private businesses. And the regime is determined to maintain a single party state, with strict party discipline and no tolerance of dissent. But he does portray a striking degree of economic liberalization and institutional change which seems to be greatly improving day to day life for ordinary Cubans.

Frank's prose style is sometime a little awkward, but there is a lot of great information here. Cuba is changing much more rapidly and deeply than I had realized and it is very valuable to get a local inside perspective on what is happening.

P.S. I went on to visit Cuba in February 2014 and I found that Cuba Revelations had given me many useful preparatory insights and helped me to better understand the often confusing realities I was seeing on the ground. So I'd recommend it for other travelers too!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2014 9:19 AM PDT


Adobe CS6 Design Standard [Old Version]
Adobe CS6 Design Standard [Old Version]
Offered by INNOSOFT

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suite contents and license info, May 7, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The product description above doesn't list the suite contents, but according to Adobe's website, CS6 Design Standard consists of:
* Photoshop CS6
* Illustrator CS6
* Acrobat X Pro
* Bridge CS6
* InDesign CS6
* Media Encoder CS6

The inclusion of Acrobat X Pro is welcome news, although that is now one revision behind, since Acrobat XI is now available.

The EULA license allows you to install a second copy of the software on a home computer or a laptop, for your own use. You can transfer the software over to a new computer, after first deactivating it on the old machine. In my case, that means I should be able to avoid the Adobe Cloud monthly licensing regime for a good many years, as I transfer this one licensed copy across to my newer PCs!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 18, 2013 4:09 PM PDT


Breaking Stalin's Nose
Breaking Stalin's Nose
by Eugene Yelchin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.36
89 used & new from $0.26

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rather grim tale, but very worthwhile reading, April 2, 2013
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This review is from: Breaking Stalin's Nose (Hardcover)
Our hero, Sasha, is a ten year old in Stalin's Moscow. His father is a highly praised officer in the secret police and Sasha is about to become a Young Pioneer. But then it all goes wrong.

The book provides a grim and historically accurate view of Soviet Russia during the Great Terror. Through the description of life in Sasha's apartment and in the interactions at his school we see the mixed harshness and optimism of everyday life. We also see the complex clouds of betrayal and complicity as people work to survive. Everyone is tainted. The school children are expected to denounce one another and are threatened with retribution if they fail to report an "enemy". Sasha tries to hang back, but even he allows others to take the blame for his mistakes. There are also unexpected brighter spots: at least two adults try to non-obviously provide Sasha with help, while overtly appearing callous.

I'm not sure how many of the murky betrayals (and redemptions) the average 10-12 year old reader is likely to catch. Perhaps not all of them, but probably enough to be somewhat disturbed and unsure. That was certainly the effect on me! This may well be the author's intent, as a way of communicating the uncertainty and doubt of the era. It is certainly a book which requires thought rather than simply passive reading.

The narrative flows well: swift, fluid, cleverly descriptive and very readable.

Overall this book may require a little adult guidance and interpretation, but it seems like a very useful introduction to some of the harshness of 20th century history. Both individuals and countries can sometimes go off the rails, without there being any easy solution, and that is a useful thing to understand.


Sunlite Mesh Bottom Rear Folding Bicycle Basket, Black
Sunlite Mesh Bottom Rear Folding Bicycle Basket, Black
Offered by CATCHaBUY
Price: $28.19
12 used & new from $18.20

4.0 out of 5 stars Seems sturdy and well-built, was easy to attach., February 19, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As of Feb 2013 the connector pieces included are: three screw driven hose clamps, two large cable ties, and one small cable tie.

I used two of the hose clamps to attack the top of the basket to the top of my Topeak Explorer rack and the small cable tie to attack the side of the basket to the side of the rack. That all worked well and easily. It looks like the hose clamps would also work easily with much thicker racks too.

Looking at earlier review comments, it looks as though Sunlite have revised their attachment design to address reviewer issues.

On previous bikes I had used Wald folding baskets, but I had found those to be a real pain to attach to a Topeak rack. (The Wald mounts were too thin and had to be bent and reshaped.) So far I like the Sunlite design much more than the Wald.

The one problem I'm seeing is that, just like the Wald baskets, the retaining clip which keeps the basket closed needs moderate force to open and close. But otherwise things seem good.


The Silk Road: A New History
The Silk Road: A New History
by Valerie Hansen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.34
66 used & new from $21.34

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting set of perspectives on the Silk Road., August 28, 2012
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Hansen covers the silk road from roughly 200 to 1200 CE and from Xian to Samarkand, with an emphasis on the oasis cities around the Taklamakan desert, such as Niya, Tucha, Turfan, and Hotan.

One of Hansen's main themes is that the reality of silk road trade is very different from the romantic vision of a mighty Silk Road carrying goods from Xian to Rome. There was no single grand highway but rather a varied collection of relatively local trade routes. The volume of trade was generally fairly low. Some of the goods being traded may occasionally have ended up going long distances through a series of local hops, but there were no merchants consciously trading from China to Rome.

The documentary evidence for the silk road trade is very uneven. Due to the desert climate, occasional caches of documents survived, in a wide range of language and scripts, from Sogdian to Hebrew. Sometimes we are lucky and there are business records for a garrison, or records of traveling envoys, but there are large gaps. Hansen is able to use the available records to assess the likely local scale and impact of the long distance trade. For the most part the records suggest relatively small scale trading, with a mostly local focus. The records show a complex flux of controlling cultures including Sogdians, Chinese (especially under the early Tang) a Uighur khanate, a Tibetan Empire, and Islamic Turks.

Hansen argues that in terms of raw traffic "the Silk Road was one of the least traveled routes in human history" but also argues that we should assess the route by its cultural and technological impact, not by simple raw trade volume. The Taklamakan area was a key conduit for Buddhist travelers between India and China. Paper making and silk production traveled slowly West, glass making East. Zoroastrianism, Manicheanism, Nestorian Christianity and Islam all spread East.

This is generally an interesting and useful account. However, it has some weaknesses. Because Hansen focuses on a careful analysis of the available surviving texts, this leads to rather uneven coverage, as there are so few surviving documents. So in some ways this book functions less as a general overview and more as a series of focused windows on specific areas where textual evidence has survived.


Investments (Dread Empire's Fall)
Investments (Dread Empire's Fall)
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable light tale, July 5, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is set in the universe of Williams' "Dread Empire's Fall" trilogy. Our hero, the dashing Captain Lord Gareth Martinez, is on an inspection tour of a newly colonized world. He begins to uncover evidence of large scale fraud in the colony's management company, which endangers his family's vast investments. Meanwhile, a nearby survey scout ship runs into an unexpected surprise...

Williams write well in an excellent light space opera style and the novella moves along briskly. As usual, Martinez is bold and incisive. A fun read.


The Origin Of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition
The Origin Of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Notes on "150th Anniversary" Edition, July 5, 2012
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This "150th Anniversary Edition" seems to be simply a reprint of the 100th Anniversary Edition. In particular, the forward by Julian Huxley was written in 1958 and while it is still mostly relevant, it has dated badly in a few places.

The main text is Darwin's 6th Edition.

Darwin considerably amended Origin of Species through the course of its six editions. For example he first used the expression "survival of the fittest" (coined by Herbert Spencer) in the 5th edition and he first used the term "evolution" in the 6th edition. However, he also diluted some of his arguments in an attempt to deflect criticism. Most notably he made more allowance for now discredited Lamarckian ideas of hereditable affects of use and disuse, versus pure natural selection.

It is an open argument whether the 1st edition or the 6th edition best represents his real thinking. My 2 cents would be that the differences are relatively minor in the context of the overall work. The key driving ideas are well expressed in both and either is a fine start. Just be aware that other readers of Origin of Species may have seen a slightly different text!


On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation: Volume 1 (Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo)
On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation: Volume 1 (Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo)
by David Ricardo
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.70
36 used & new from $12.70

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Note on different editions, February 2, 2012
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There are a number of different versions of Ricardo's Principles of Political Economy available on Amazon. Be careful which one you choose.

Ricardo's ideas on political economy, especially on labor value, rent and comparative advantage, were extremely influential in the evolution of classical economics and deserve careful reading. However Ricardo's initial discussion of labor value contained some significant issues, and Ricardo made considerable revisions to this section between the 1st and 3rd editions, as well as many smaller changes elsewhere. For a modern reader trying to understand Ricardo's ideas it is probably best to start with the 3rd Edition as most clearly representing his final position.

Before I understood these distinctions, I bought an Amazon edition rather at random. That version (from Maestro Reprints) turned out to be based on the 1st Edition and also to have some significant typos in early tables. So I switched to the version described on this page, the Liberty Fund version.

This version is based on a scholarly UK edition sponsored by the Royal Economic Society. The text is based on Ricardo's 3rd Edition, but also includes footnotes (or sometimes appendices) giving the full text from earlier editions for any revised sections.

Based on what I've seen, I'd definitely recommend this Liberty Fund version.


Principles of Political Economy and Taxation
Principles of Political Economy and Taxation
by David Ricardo
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.28
27 used & new from $5.47

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comments on CreateSpace Edition, February 2, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This Maestro Reprints (aka CreateSpace) text is a reprint of the 1st Edition of Ricardo's work.

Ricardo's ideas on political economy, especially on labor value, rent and comparative advantage, were extremely influential in the evolution of classical economics and deserve careful reading. However Ricardo's initial discussion of labor value contained some significant issues, and Ricardo made considerable revisions to this section in the 3rd Edition, as well as other scattered changes. For a modern reader trying to understand Ricardo's ideas, it is probably best to start with the 3rd Edition, as best representing his final position.

The Maestro Edition also contains some significant typos in tables in the first and second chapters. This causes conflicts between the tables and the text.

After realizing these issues with the Maestro/CreateSpeace version, I switched to the Liberty Fund version, which is based on a scholarly UK edition sponsored by the Royal Economic Society. That text is based on Ricardo's 3rd Edition, but also includes footnotes or appendices with the text from earlier editions for any revised sections.

Based on what I've seen, I'd definitely recommend the Liberty Fund version as the better text.


Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations
Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations
by Norman Davies
Edition: Hardcover
80 used & new from $3.79

130 of 137 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many intriguing accounts of forgotten states, January 16, 2012
This is an imposing tome, with 750 pages of tightly written history of 15 of Europe's (mostly) smaller states, many of which have now entirely vanished, both from maps and from popular memory.

One of Prof Davies' main themes is the uncertainty of nations. It is easy to think of today's European states as the natural sub-units of the continent. But many other forgotten states might have seemed just as natural, if they had only been a little luckier. Another pattern that struck me is the multi-ethnic nature of many of Davies' states. They were often welded together from a mix of peoples, overlapping in the same physical terrain, but willing to live together in some varying degree of harmony.

The states covered are Visigothic Tolosa, ancient British Strathclyde, the many Kingdoms of Burgundy, Aragon, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Byzantium (very briefly), Prussia, the lands of the House of Savoy, Galicia, the Napoleonic Kingdom of Etruria, Saxe-Coburg (birthplace of Prince Albert), Montenegro (lost and reborn), Carpatho-Ukraine (a Republic for but a day), Eire (a newborn state), and last but not least the USSR (freshly and mysteriously vanished). By winding up on the USSR, Davies takes the opportunity to reflect on the inevitability of change. "Nothing lasts forever" and Davies argues that while today's major states may seem permanent, they too will eventually fade, or change into very different forms.

The book has both strengths and weaknesses. Among the strengths are thorough histories of various forgotten states, including many fascinating nuggets of history, greed, intrigue and folly. Davies is especially interesting when he is reminiscing informally about the modern landscape of an ancient state or when he is discussing its slowly fading impact after it had officially ceased to exist. The main weakness is that the detailed histories can often become over-detailed, lapsing from a high-level thematic description into a detailed king-by-king listing of minor monarchs and events. I'm afraid there were some sections it took me a real effort to labor through.

I am a little torn on how to recommend this overall. There is much that is good and interesting, and the overall theme of the transitory nature of states is well addressed. But at 750 pages, it is also a very daunting work, and I'm not sure how many people will enjoy all the finer points of the histories. My suggestion would be that overall this is well worth reading, but perhaps with judicious skipping and skimming where the details become too much.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2012 9:37 AM PST


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