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MVP Baseball 2005 - Xbox
MVP Baseball 2005 - Xbox
Offered by Media-Recovery
Price: $36.99
105 used & new from $0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite diversion., April 27, 2005
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
My only concern with the game is that the pitching and hitting don't seem to be of equal difficulty. At All-Star, I'm dominant (ERA around 1.50) with the Yankees' starting pitching despite losing Carl Pavano to injury for most of the season. However, my super-high-priced lineup bats about .240 (with way too many Ks) despite far too much batting practice. The net result is that most games are pitcher's duels, which is enjoyable for me- I'm frequently calling bunts, pinch runners, defensive substitutions, mound visits, pitchouts, and otherwise keeping Joe Torre very busy trying to squeeze out a one-run victory.

That said, the game comes with a bewildering array of adjustable parameters, and I'm slowly tweaking the game more towards realistic play for me. The major statistical anomalies I've noticed are that I rarely if ever walk a batter unintentionally (pitchers have exceptional control over all pitches), and pitchers fatigue very slowly and recover quickly- it's more than possible to run a three-man rotation even if they're pitching complete games roughly half the time. Outfielders are somewhat dopey in their positioning and tracking of gappers, so you see a lot of triples.

Baserunning is challenging- stolen bases require a combination of outthinking the AI, a weak catcher's arm, a fast runner, picking the right pitch to go on, and even altering your slide at the last instant based on where the throw is leading the covering infielder. It's only recently that I've broken the 50% mark there, but it's becoming a bigger part of my game. Taking extra bases on base hits is a bit easier- the computer is pretty conservative with its throws, and will often throw to second or third to halt baserunners rather than risking a hard throw to the plate.

The computer AI is a lot better than last year's, most notably in that it now tries to steal bases when prudent, and moves runners over well. As an example, with a runner on second and no outs, the computer goes well out of its way to hit to the right side of the field in order to move the runner over on a sac fly or groundout. It also makes sensible substitutions- pinch runners, hitters, and on defense.

Finally, all the little things are done well. Players have realistic motion, the announcers (usually) describe plays accurately, the parks look like their RL counterparts, and you can play at any level of detail, down to playing countless minor league games, recruiting future prospects, and (literally) adjusting the price of popcorn at your stadium.

Prisoner's Dilemma
Prisoner's Dilemma
by William Poundstone
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.39
135 used & new from $1.20

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful Microcosms Explained, April 27, 2005
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma (Paperback)
Largely an exploration of mathematically-based games and puzzles, what makes this book work is how Poundstone can breeze a reader through them, then instantly say "Aha! Isn't this exactly like Political/Business/Interpersonal Situation X?" to put them in the proper focus. I found this book through a political science class of all places, and it fits beautifully there, exploring the nature of alliances, trust, subterfuge, and competition. If you've ever seen the emotions that can come from trying to win a simple game like Risk or Monopoly, or watching a competitive show like Survivor, you can see how Yugoslavia/Enron/elections/whatever-disaster-du-jour can be understood along the same principles. Poundstone is a mathematician, but he keeps it simple and light, yet relevant.

Stranger in a Strange Land (Remembering Tomorrow)
Stranger in a Strange Land (Remembering Tomorrow)
by Robert Heinlein
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $8.99
257 used & new from $0.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, But Something Of A Polemic, April 27, 2005
A little dated in its hippie-gone-futuristic philosophy, but a powerful look at the nature of religion, science, and society. A human raised by Martians (who are never 'on camera', and you only learn of them through the main character) returns to Earth, and has to adjust to how our world works. Alternately an experimental subject, cult leader, and philosopher, it's a look at how an otherwise intelligent person would react to "us" if he "unlearned" all of the things we're taught by virtue of being amongst one another, and started over. It has a certain reverse-Tarzan appeal- someone who was raised in a society presented as superior to ours (free of violence, hatred, etc.), suddenly a fish out of water. Heinlein is almost too brutal on organized religion, but the jabs (and roundhouses) he takes are as valid today as they were when he wrote this.

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
by Steven Pinker
Edition: Hardcover
148 used & new from $0.72

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Exposing Yourself To, April 27, 2005
A very bold look at three issues in psychology- the "Blank Slate" (you are taught everything you know, nurture over nature), the "Noble Savage" (people are inherently good until modern society and 'civilization' ruins them), and the "Ghost in the Machine" (you have a soul which isn't just your brain, and isn't accountable to the laws of neurobiology and neurochemistry). Pinker's take is fairly controversial (I saw him speak in 2002 and members of the audience alternatively praised and savaged the man's ideas during question-and-answer), but he's undoubtedly an important thinker, and someone worth exposing yourself to. Like Douglas Hoftstaeder, he keeps his very serious message intact despite diversions which keep it entertaining, including a number of discussions based on comic strips from Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes.

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time
The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time
by Jonathan Weiner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.35
241 used & new from $0.01

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Attention To Detail, April 27, 2005
The authors spent years of their lives on a secluded island, taking painstakingly detailed measurements of the local finch population (literally checking every bird on the island time and time again), and how it changes in response to local shifts in the environment. It's a fairly simple and straightforward book, but it absolutely skewers every half-cocked objection you've ever heard to Darwin's work. Like Gould's Wonderful Life, the strength of the book is its remarkable ability to notice the little details, and use them as a foundation for a powerful statement on the history of life, and our place on this little rock.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
by Douglas R. Hofstadter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.41
186 used & new from $7.83

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stretch Your Brain Out., April 27, 2005
This is the most challenging book I've ever read, but also one of the best. Hoftstadter starts by trying to explain the genius of the three titular characters. He's extraordinarily conversant in mathematics, art, and music- enough to challenge me on my strengths (I was already familiar with Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, but I never appreciated how astounding an impact it deservedly had), but also to buttress my weaknesses (I knew nothing of formal music theory, and getting a reader through the structure of Bach's fugues and other works isn't exactly tossing them softballs). As he talks you through each one, he gradually builds his main thesis- all three of these people were able to understand and apply the concept of self-reference (thinking about thinking). It sounds grim and serious, but chapters are written as fables, palindromes, and poems, with diversions into Zen koans, horrible puns, and arguments between cartoonish characters. It's the best book I've read on a number of apparently simple questions like "What makes someone smart?"

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.77
238 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into Chance and Fate, April 27, 2005
Gould is at the top of his inductive-logic game here. He starts with the fine details of a famed archaeological find- the Burgess Shale. Through a 'perfect storm' of circumstances, these rocks house a remarkably well-preserved set of 600-million-year-old fossils of bizarre creatures. The beginning of the book winds through the minutiae of these oddballs, and he describes all the confusion in the scientific community regarding them, down to animals where we literally had a great deal of trouble figuring out which way was up (or front). This trivia is interesting on its own, but Gould uses it to build a devastating point- during the mass extinctions that followed, the animals that survived seemed to be "more lucky than good", as the kings of the pre-Cambrian seas were usurped by dark horses who happened to fill the right niches. He challenges the reader to re-think a rather arrogant conclusion some people draw from the lessons of evolutionary biology- are human-like creatures the expected result of billions of years of optimization, or are we just the things that happened to win the lottery o' life this time around?

Foucault's Pendulum
Foucault's Pendulum
by Umberto Eco
Edition: Hardcover
498 used & new from $0.01

110 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skip The Da Vinci Code, please., April 27, 2005
This review is from: Foucault's Pendulum (Hardcover)
Dan Brown should be bludgeoned about the head and neck area for writing The Da Vinci Code without acknowledging that he essentially stole and dumbed down the plot of Eco's earlier, brainier mystery. FC is a world-spanning thriller packed with all of the elements that made Brown's book alluring (secret societies, cryptic religious symbolism, grand conspiracies, etc.). The twisting, turning thread of the plot is enough reason to keep reading, but what makes the book shine are all of Eco's philosophical, historical, and mythological/religious asides, crammed with detail. The kind of book where you sense the author checking and rechecking every line to make sure it's ... just the way he wants it.
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