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Profile for David Gillies > Reviews


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Waring DF250B 1800-Watt Deep Fryer, Brushed Stainless
Waring DF250B 1800-Watt Deep Fryer, Brushed Stainless
Price: $75.99
29 used & new from $75.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No frills mean fewer parts to break, July 23, 2012
I got this product as a replacement for my eight year old Oster fryer which finally suffered a sheared part in the basket-lifting mechanism. A cursory attempt to repair it revealed that the plastic had became embrittled with age and heat and given that the unit had become increasingly difficult to keep clean, I decided it was time for a new one. A trip to my local big-box store and I found the Waring Pro for about $86 in local currency. Whereas my old fryer had a pantograph basket mechanism, the Waring simply lifts out and hooks on the side of the oil container. The lid does not have a filter like the old one, but that is an advantage since those become virtually impossible to clean after a few uses. So far I am very happy with it. The oil attains adequate temperature and it heats quickly. The enamelled container lifts out and can be cleaned easily. The mesh basket has no moving parts and fewer little niches for baked-on oil to collect. And it was $70 cheaper than my old fryer. The only real drawback I can see is that the oil is quite shallow, so some care in selecting food and arranging it in the basket is necessary. Also the sides get HOT, so siting it away from anything that could get scorched is essential. The bracket where the removable heating element/control unit sits provides a useful standoff to the rear. The breakaway power cord is (deliberately) quite short so it needs to be near a power socket.

Most Secret War (Penguin World War II Collection)
Most Secret War (Penguin World War II Collection)
by Victor Jones
Edition: Paperback
39 used & new from $4.15

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvellous memoir from a genuine war hero, January 8, 2010
I first encountered this remarkable book in a library discard sale twenty years ago. I read it straight through the first time I opened it. It has the page-turning quality of a top-notch thriller, leavened with the knowledge that all the derring-do contained within actually happened. Reginald Jones was unequivocally one of the most extraordinary men to have been involved in the prosecution of the Second World War. He ended up CH and CB, but I think an hereditary Earldom and a hundred thousand acres would still have struck below the mark. His clear-sighted dedication to the scientific method (which, above all, as Richard Feynman reminded us, lies in not fooling ourselves) without doubt contributed materially to the Allied victory and the defeat of Fascism. The number of lives saved due to Jones's almost prescient acumen is incalculable but is surely very large.

Tragically, my hardback copy was sorely damaged in a flood, and I am seeking a replacement. One of the best characteristics of the original edition is the quality of the plates, and I can only hope that the paperback edition makes a decent stab at reproducing them.

Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris; June 6 - Aug. 5, 1944; Revised
Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris; June 6 - Aug. 5, 1944; Revised
by John Keegan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.89
146 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent panoptic summary of Overlord and its aftermath, October 4, 2009
John Keegan is the doyen of late 20th C. military historians, and there's a reason why. He is remarkably adept at conveying the realities of combat to the reader (despite, as he confesses and laments in his seminal work, The Face of Battle, never having been to war). This compact volume provides an overview of the six principal protagonists in the Normandy campaign of 1944. It is not a history of D-Day (which abound) but a summary of how the combatants came together and how the battle progressed after the initial, very successful landing on the French coast. As in all of Keegan's works, there is a strong sense of the human factors at work in warfare. We are never spared the realisation that those involved are flesh and blood human beings, desperately frail in the face of the maelstrom of steel and explosives that is modern, high-intensity armoured combat. Poignant vignettes (such as a tank commander being killed within sight of the church were he was married) underline the tragedy of Normandy. Yet an excellent sense of the strategic decisions behind the actions depicted is also given. In particular, the divorce from reality that Hitler suffered and the inevitable consequences for Germany on the Western front are well-described.

Highly recommended.

Simple Tech 128MB USB 2.0 FLASH DRIVE UNIT ( STI-USB2FD/128 )
Simple Tech 128MB USB 2.0 FLASH DRIVE UNIT ( STI-USB2FD/128 )

5.0 out of 5 stars It just works, January 10, 2004
I had been meaning to get a USB flash storage device for some time. My local computer accessories store had these units for sale at a reasonable price, so I picked one up. I was slightly nervous that my operating system would require some fiddling with to recognise the device, but my fears were misplaced. I simply plugged it into a spare USB port, and it was immediately mounted on /mnt/removable (I use Mandrake Linux 9.2 on a Dell Precision P4, and the USB mass-storage drivers are part of the base distribution). This is a supermount directory, so you don't need to worry about creating it. I also tested it under Mandrake 8.1 on my other computer and it worked almost identically. Data transfer is a bit slow, but it's a lot faster than floppy disks and the speed is a consequence of the underlying storage hardware and not a fault of the unit.
The device itself is small (8 x 2.5 x 1 cm), about the size of a disposable lighter or a lipstick. It weighs about 17 grams. There's a loop on the end through which some parachute cord could be passed so you could attach it to a keychain.
All in all, recommended.

Schaum's Outlines Vector Analysis (And An Introduction to Tensor Analysis)
Schaum's Outlines Vector Analysis (And An Introduction to Tensor Analysis)
by Murray R. Spiegel
Edition: Paperback
81 used & new from $0.01

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding tutorial reference, November 3, 2003
I love this book. I've owned three copies of it over the years and I can honestly say that I would not have achieved the final class of degree in Physics that I did without it.
The learning curve is very gentle - really nothing is assumed about the reader's background beyond basic integral and differential calculus. The concepts of vectors are introduced one by one, and the book builds logically towards its final stages (introductory tensor analysis) via, inter alia, dot and cross products, partial differential operators on vector spaces (grad, div, curl, Laplacian etc.), line and surface integrals (along with vital allied therorems such as Stokes' and Green's theorems), and general theory of curvilinear coordinate systems (in which the differential operators are refined and generalised).
This book is absolutely ideal for an undergraduate course in Physics, Electronic Engineering or Vector Analysis.

Evolution of the Universe
Evolution of the Universe
by I. D. Novikov
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from $7.12

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful introduction to elementary cosmology, September 9, 2002
This wonderful little book, now sadly out of print, has a special poignancy for me. It was awarded to me as a school prize for Physics many years ago. Its simple presentation of the dominant aspects of cosmology is pitched at exactly the right level between the serious academic and the curious layman. The mathematics is extremely elementary - nothing beyond the level of an introductory astrophysics course at undergraduate level. In fact this slim volume served me well through my own University career (along with another school Physics prize - Wheeler's wonderful introduction to relativity theory).

The Ultimate Resource 2
The Ultimate Resource 2
by Julian Lincoln Simon
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from $14.98

27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An uplifting and splendid book by a true humanist, December 10, 1999
This book is a bombshell. It remorselessly devastates the current ecology doom mongers' shibboleths: population density, resource depletion, pollution, deforestation and species loss. Julian Simon was vilified in his life by the vocal ecology campaigners (special and dishonourable mention should be made of the egregious Paul Erhlich, he of the 'Population Bomb' and other wholly fictitious disasters). Why did Simon attract this venom from people who dub themselves 'scientists'? Simply this: he dared to challenge the orthodoxy that human beings are an ecological cancer that is busy raping the planet and drowning in its own filth. How did he do it? Not with invective, selective quotation and flat-out lies, like the 'deep ecologists' or the Zero Population Growth fanatics, but with facts - cold, hard facts and lots of them. He pointed out that the only economic variable that can properly describe the scarcity of a resource in the absence of full knowledge of its true abundance is price. And he points out that the prices of all resources have been falling relentlessly. This observation led to the well-known $1000 bet with the aforementioned Paul Erhlich, effectively a futures contract, which saw the sadly unchastened Erhlich hand over nearly $600 to Simon. Simon's model for resource usage is that scarcity temporarily drives the price of a commodity up, at which point it is either used more efficiently, or a suitable substitute is discovered. After all, the sole economic value of a commodity is its utility. We value copper for its high conductance. But with the increasing substitution of fibre optics (made from sand - even the environmentalists would concede there is no imminent shortage of this) copper has declined in usefulness, and its price has dropped.
Simon acknowledges that the notion that resources are not finite in any meaningful sense runs counter to intuition, and then shows with a host of examples that intuition is a poor guide to formulating economic and social policy. The book is packed with graphs, charts and tables, all bolstering his point. Perhaps it is this that explains the fury that his ideas received from the radical ecologists - facts are indisputable, and do not fit with the coercive political agenda of those who wish to circumscribe our reproductive capabilities.
Throughout the whole book, a sense of Julian Simon's love of people can be felt. He asks who are we, beneficiaries of the greatest gift of all, life, to decide from our privileged position who shall have life in the future? Pervading the anti-growth movement is the miasma of racism, as evinced by this extract from The Population Bomb, quoted in The Ultimate Resource: "I came to understand the population explosion emotionally one stinking hot night in Delhi...The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping, people visiting, arguing and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people." You can almost hear it: "my dear, the natives, they were everywhere. Beastly, smelly people, little better than rats". The fact that these "human pollutants" have just as much right to existence as any one of us seems to escape the population doomsayers. That they might have children, and love and cherish them just as we in the West love and cherish our children is acknowledged by Simon.
The Ultimate Resource that Simon refers to is human beings, the only resource that appears to be becoming more scarce, as shown by the fact that we are having to pay more for people's services.
Julian Simon's death has left us with a gaping hole in the line of defense against the ecological bunco artists. I hope that someone of similar eminence and eloquence will step up to fill that gap.

The Population Bomb
The Population Bomb
by Paul Ehrlich
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from $14.42

26 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong then, wrong now, wrong for the foreseeable future, December 4, 1999
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
Paul Erlich wrote the first edition of The Population Bomb in 1968. In it he predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to dath in the 1970's, there would be famines in the United States in the 80's, that India was going to wipe itself out through food shortage and even in 1968 could not be saved. Needless to say, none of this has happened (India is now a net grain exporter).
Every few years, Erlich pops up again with a new edition in which the calamity is put off for a few more years. One would assume that someone who cried Wolf this often and this fatuously would be ignored, even derided. But no, Erlich and his anti-growth cohorts go from strength to strength. Why, exactly, I am at a loss to explain, but it seems to stem from some deep deathwish that the modern deep ecologists have, coupled with our Lords and Masters desires to coerce us ever more tightly.
So why was Erlich so wrong? The reasons are explained lucidly and rigorously in Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource 2 (also available from Amazon). Erlich fails to realise that human ingenuity has raised food production per capita (yes, per capita!) by more than 50% since WW2. This against a backdrop of so-called 'population explosion'. That the population explosion myth is a fallacy should need no explanation: some of the richest areas of the world have the highest population densities (England, Holland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan) whereas some of the lowest population density is found in the poorest areas (Mali, Nepal, Sudan). Access to free markets is much more important than population density.
Having said that, I think the real message of Erlich's book is much more pernicious. His central thesis is that population growth must be stemmed by coercion if necessary. Where does he identify the problem areas? Asia and Africa. There is a tacit assumption that brown and yellow babies are somehow less worthy of existence than the nice, pink Erlich variety, and that their parents will not love and cherish them just as much as their counterparts in the richer countries. There is something terribly wrong with those of us alive today making decisions about who is to be alive tomorrow. Erlich is a racist with views on the acceptable limits of coercion that would make the most foam-flecked eugenicist of the Nazi era nod in agreement. The vicious ad hominem attacks he launches on his opponents allow me to respond in kind. This is a nasty and dangerous little book. Read it, but don't get suckered by it, and then read Julian Simon's book.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 3, 2011 6:54 AM PDT

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation
The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation
by Matt Ridley
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.25
143 used & new from $0.01

49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and quixotic arguments, but with rigour underneath, November 18, 1999
Matt Ridley is a British science journalist who has the estimable quality of relying on facts rather than opinions to make his case. In this short, highly readable book he puts forward the evolutionary biologist's theory for the existence of human cooperation and altruism, and he does it brilliantly. The depth and breadth of material covered is extraordinary, and this book well rewards repeated readings (always the sign of good science writing).
From an introductory description of the ideas of Kropotkin, through game theory and Evolutionarily Stable Strategies, to a discussion of free market economics as the 'best fit' to human models of social cooperation, Ridley introduces a wealth of meticulously researched material with sufficient digs at current bien-pensant wisdom on the acquisition of culture to make the average sociologist's hair stand on end.
Matt Ridley writes a weekly column (Acid Test) in the UK broadsheet newspaper The Daily Telegraph, and his customary penetrating analysis of accepted cultural and environmental theory is always a joy to read. He brings this penetrating style to bear on some of the shibboleths of modern sociology (there is a particularly devastating broadside reserved for the egregious Margaret Mead and her band of fellow travelers in the 'Culture Makes Mind' school).
The book concludes (rashly, as even the author acknowledges) with a defense of economic libertarianism. Ridley attempts to show that the whole panoply of cheater-detectors, enlightened self interest and Ricardo-esque comparative advantage that characterises the evolution-moulded systems of human altruism and socialisation can be used to argue in favour of a market-based, minimally interventionist society in which trade is as little hampered by government (or other) interference as possible. Although attempting to introduce economic theory into a work on biology might seem strange, it links in well with the lessons drawn from earlier sections of the book that demonstrate that extra-group commerce is a uniquely human activity. It should also be remembered that an economic analysis of human nature is far from new: the great F. A. Hayek analysed just such a thesis, although his work predates this book by many years.
In summary: a marvellous and rewarding book; extremely highly recommended.

An Introduction to Database Systems
An Introduction to Database Systems
by C. J. Date
Edition: Hardcover
57 used & new from $0.01

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, if textually dense ACADEMIC textbook, November 12, 1999
(Note this review applies to the sixth edition of this book).
If you wish to quickly jump into database design without a full and rigorous knowledge of database theory (by no means a bad thing) then this book is not for you. If, however, you want a thorough grounding in the principles and practice of database theory considered from an academic standpoint, then this book is highly recommended.
Date is one of the giant figures of relational database theory, and this masterful work covers, in exhaustive detail, all the elementary principles of the subject. The book commences with an overview of database systems and management, before moving on to introduce the relational model. Part II of the book covers in great detail the relational model, introducing the relational algebra and the relational calculus (and then showing the formal equivalence of the two). The SQL language is introduced.
Part III discusses database design, with special emphasis on the vital topics of nonloss decomposition, functional dependencies and normalisation. For practical database designers this is perhaps the most valuable part of the book. Part IV covers data protection from the standpoints of integrity and implementation in practical systems.
Part V gathers a miscellany of related topics such as optimization of queries, a discussion of the 'NULL' problem and an introduction to ditributed (i.e. client/server) database systems. Part VI is an introduction to object-oriented database systems, with an examination of the problems faced by traditional relational systems when faced with object-oriented problems.
It is important to note the target audience for this book. This book is first and foremost academic by nature. Rigour is not sacrificed for conciseness or simplicity. It is textually dense, especially parts II and III (far and away the most important parts). The reader will have to put in a lot of work to fully grasp the details of the concepts. For example, Date's definition of third normal form (3NF): "A relation is in 3NF if and only if it is in 2NF and every nonkey attribute is nontransitively dependent on the primary key". To appreciate in detail the significance of this definition requires substantial effort. However, this effort will pay dividends when the time comes to actually design a real-world system. Failure to understand the principles of database theory at this level of rigour lies behind many failed implementation attempts. Not every database designer needs this knowledge, but a manager of a large database project certainly does. I would not recommend this book as an introductory text for an undergraduate course in database design, due to the large quantity of material covered and its highly theoretical exposition. I would, however, strongly recommend it for students at a higher level, professional database designers and implementors of database management systems.

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