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Jerry Saperstein RSS Feed (Evanston, IL USA)
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Bird Dream: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight
Bird Dream: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight
by Matt Higgins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.17
73 used & new from $3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These people are either insanely brave. Or simply insane., September 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have never been big on sports or any other activity that threatened to bend, fold, spindle or mutilate me.

Yet here we have a totally fascinating account of people who risk crippling injury and death for fun, for the rush of existing totally within the moment.

The story begins with a tale of BASE jumping, “”BASE” being an acronym for “buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs),” the primary objects that practitioners leap from.” Matt Higgins is an excellent writer and apparently an assiduous researcher. He briskly takes us along on BASE jumping adventures, explaining it quite well along the way, and brings us to the development of the Wingsuit, a device that allows a human to emulate a bird, soaring for miles through the sky and landing without a parachute.

In our namby-pamby culture, it is surprising that a book like this can be published without being emblazoned with warning labels that you shouldn’t try this at home, lest great injury result.

And there are plenty of people littering this book who literally began at one with the land, the result of smashing into it from great heights at high rates of speed.

Higgins brings us into the lives of Jeb Corliss, Gary Connery and others for whom exposure to danger of injury and death is a magnet, not a warning.

This is an exciting book. I don’t know what to make of these people, mostly male, who pursue this “sport”. I can kind of, sort of understand the kick of stepping out of a perfectly good airplane, several thousand feet up to enjoy a fairly leisurely ride to the ground. Once in a while, I even think seriously about trying it. Once.

But climbing a transmission tower a few hundred feet high and launching myself into space with only few seconds between me and the ground? You gotta be nuts. And maybe these people are, but they sure like doing it and Higgins does an excellent job of conveying the adrenal rush the feat produces in them.

There was, in fact, a Wingsuit competition and Higgins’ telling of the tale is excellent, with a breathless account of the man who took the honors.

This is a book of adventure. It may well inspire the young, who have no fear. But to the old, there is a sense of relief in not having ever been crazy enough to try things like this. But, not unexpectedly, there is also the thought “if only I had the guts to do this”.

Good book.

Jerry


Exerpeutic 4000 Magnetic Recumbent Bike with Bluetooth Technology and Mobile Application Tracking
Exerpeutic 4000 Magnetic Recumbent Bike with Bluetooth Technology and Mobile Application Tracking
Price: $372.12
5 used & new from $372.12

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent recumbent exercise bike hampered by a truly awful manual, September 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If I could, I would give this several rankings. Five stars as a recumbent exercise bike for the reasons stated below. Right between two and three stars for ease of assembly and zero stars for the manual.

I am very pleased with recumbent exercise bike now that it is all together and working. But it took me five or six hours to get to this point because of the totally execrable manual.

The bad stuff first: the manual is beyond awful. Paradigm Health & Wellness, Inc. should invest the relatively little it would take to hire a native English-speaking technical writer and competent technical illustrator to produce a first-rate manual. Little things count. For instance, when telling me not to screw in the pedals with a clockwise-motion, tell me the orientation of the pedal! There is essentially a front and a back. Yes, it is simple enough to figure out which end is up, but things would go faster and more smoothly with a decent illustration. Likewise, when telling me to attach color coded cables, tell me that the extension cables inside a column will be both be black because it doesn't matter. And if you change the design of the product, either include an addenda in the package or put it on your website.

Needless to say, in the grand tradition of men everywhere, I started assembling this after 5 PM on Friday when the manufacturer's the support department was closed. But I'll get my chance on Monday, because there's still handle I don't fully understand how to use, an upsetting small wobble and a few other things.

Finally, the manual is useless when it comes to using the onboard computer and display. The Bluetooth program they refer to doesn't exist because it has been replaced and the pidgin English they use to describe much of the operation is incomprehensible.

Some of the parts did not fit as well as I would have preferred, but the quality of the parts is generally high.

When I finally got the Exerpeutic 4000 assembled, I was absolutely delighted.

The seat is very, very comfortable, the handlebars and arm rests well designed and well positioned. The bike is very quiet: no annoying or loud whine when the flywheel is spinning. The Bluetooth computer program is clear and easy to use as is the onboard computer once you figure out how to use it. The seat adjustment is fairly simple and smooth. One hint: when you're assembling the seat and seat-rail assembly, spray some silicon or other lubricant on it.

There is a built-in holder for a tablet computer. If you have a 10 inch screen, you'll have to take it out of the case to use it in portrait mode. Landscape mode works very well for 10, 8 and 7 inch tablets. One other tip: before you attach the every cool and useful vertical handlebars, put the unit in the room where you intend to use it. With the vertical handlebars attached, the unit does not fit through regular doorways. Yes, I learned that the hard way.

There's a five-year warranty, which hopefully I won't have to use.

I'm old and just seeking low-impact exercise, so I'm not doing any heavy-duty cardio training or anything like that. For my purposes the Exerpeutic 4000 is everything I want.

Jerry


3M Peltor Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector
3M Peltor Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector
Price: $74.98
6 used & new from $74.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The real deal in tactical hearing protection., September 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These are not intended for casual range wear. They are designed to stay on your head in action, to protect your hearing from gunshots and other extremely loud noises and to allow you to hear commands over your network.

The headband is strong: difficult to stretch out to fit over your head. In fact, it snapped shut during such an attempt, clamped down on my fingertip and heart like the dickens. But that tight headband means the Peltor Tactical 100 is unlikely to fly off your head when you are running in pursuit – or to save your life. However, it also means this is not the headphone you want when you’re planning on a relaxing day of sun and fun on the beach.

The ear cups are large, very well cushioned and provide a pretty effective barrier against ambient noise. However, this is not a noise-cancelling headset. This is a tactical headset and you want to hear ambient noise, like someone giving commands – or someone coming up behind you.

Facilitating the command function is the inclusion of a 3.5mm jack for input from your radio. You control the volume from your radio from your radio’s volume control. The volume control on the headset makes ambient noises louder, a very helpful feature. (Yes, you can connect the Tactical 100 to a music source, but don’t expect full-bodied concert hall response.)

I did not try these with real life gunshots. I did, however silly it from my sound, try them with gunshots at very loud volume from my sound effects library. Not a very good substitute, really, since the sounds had already been processed. I also experimented high decibel household appliances, like a vacuum cleaner that cats from blocks around run from when turned on. My ersatz tests, while far from the real deal, established that the Tactical 100 has a fast response time and will most like protect your hearing.

All in all, these will not replace my Bose noise-cancelling headphones when traveling or my Beats when listening to music. But when I head to the range or work in very loud environments where sharp noises may be encountered, these will go with me, even though they can literally crush my head because of the headband tension. By the way, they fold up into a wonderfully compact form. No case is provided, which is what you would expect with this end of tactical gear. One final note: two AAA batteries are required – nevger use these in a critical situation without installing fresh batteries.

Jerry


Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence
Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence
by Jack Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.34
40 used & new from $13.81

4.0 out of 5 stars Beware the writer with a thesaurus and an excessive willingness to use it, September 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
George Orwell, Rudolph Flesch and other proponents of clear, readable writing repeatedly warned authors to avoid using words their readers were unlikely to understand.

Jack Kelly, author of “Band Of Giants” is obviously unfamiliar with the warnings of Orwell and Flesch. Within his first fifty words, he uses the word “fetor”, which I would suggest most contemporary English speaking readers are unfamiliar with. It is, in fact, essentially a medical term meaning “an unpleasant odor emanating from an individual”.

In my opinion, sending your reader to the dictionary in the first paragraph is not the indicia of a good writer. Kelly has a thesaurus. Kelly uses his thesaurus. Frequently. Kelly does himself a disservice. Kelly’s preference for a breathless, melodramatic style robs this otherwise potentially interesting history of the ability to engross the reader. It shows off Kelly’s imagined mastery of the English language, but it amounts to nothing more than egotistic preening.

Obviously, I do not like the author’s style, but once you learn to ignore Kelly’s pretentious idiosyncrasies, the inherently interesting story of America’s Revolutionary Army, an army of amateurs, taking on the world’s most powerful military is fascinating. Kelly brings color and detail to otherwise little or totally unknown heroes who essentially created the United States of America.

Kelly is an excellent researcher and when not attempting to impress with his grand knowledge of obscure words, a competent writer.

The story he tells is not so much a story of amateurs becoming military geniuses, but of men who lived in an era where resourcefulness and individual ability, not class and tradition mattered more than rigid military thinking of the day.

Ultimately, this is a satisfying history which I recommend to anyone who wants to extend their knowledge of Revolutionary America and how “ordinary” Americans prevailed militarily against the greatest power of the day.

Jerry


Analyzing Baseball Data with R (Chapman & Hall/CRC The R Series)
Analyzing Baseball Data with R (Chapman & Hall/CRC The R Series)
by Jim Albert
Edition: Paperback
Price: $33.49
41 used & new from $32.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great way to learn the R programming language!, September 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
R is an open source programming language intended for statisticians and data miners. Applying R to processing baseball statistics is a brilliant move. Even if you have no interest in baseball or the vast body of statistics surrounding it, the data will be familiar: Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, homeruns, hits and so on. Even non-fans will have some familiarity with baseball.

The authors apply R to a variety of statistical analyses of baseball statistics. I knew that there were people who followed baseball closely, but I was frankly surprised by just how seriously so many people take analysis of baseball statistics. There’s even a name for the pursuit: sabermetrics. (As Explained on Wikipedia: “the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research. It was coined by Bill James, who is one of its pioneers and is often considered its most prominent advocate and public face”.)

The book has a very different structure than most programming tutorials. No time is spent preparing you with fundamentals: the authors just dump you into analyzing baseball statistics with R. Boom. Open the book and you’re there. If you are aready a programmer, it’s a good approach – but if you’re not, I think you’ll possibly encounter problems.

I use Excel for data analysis and mining, can brute force my way through several dialects of Basic and sort of hold my own with Python.

With this book, picking up a basic working knowledge of R is not only easy, but fun and interesting.

Jerry


Corel PaintShop Pro X7 Ultimate
Corel PaintShop Pro X7 Ultimate
Price: Click here to see our price
20 used & new from $89.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There’s obviously something going on at Corel – this is an excellent product., September 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A million years or so ago, Corel was a market leader with its CorelDraw package.

As often happens, hubris won out and Corel slid down that slippery slope.

Their product quality deteriorated even as they picked up one mediocre product after another.

PaintShop was one of great products they acquired – and immediately ruined.

But I am actually happy to say that Corel PaintShop Pro X7 is a great product.

I’ve only used it for several hours, but that’s a lot longer than I was able to stand prior releases.

On a Windows 8.1 computer, I had absolutely no installation problems. Not a one.

The formerly mean, miserable and mandatory registration process is gone.

Downloading the bonus materials was simple and flawless.

There’s a downloadable manual of almost 800 pages that is very well written, profusely illustrated and extremely informative.

In operation, it’s like the good old days when PaintShop was published by JASC software. No crashes! Very fast responsiveness. The User Interface still requires that you at least skim parts of the manual, but it is improved over the past few years.

Masking and selections are key features for me and the last few version of PaintShop were awful. This one, up through fairly complex masking, is as good as PhotoShop – and easier to use in many ways.

Quick adjustments of photos is a snap and, for the most part, dead-on.

Time will tell, of course, but right now it looks like Corel PaintShop Pro X7 will become – like its long ago predecessor – my go-to image editing program. Corel has done a bang-up job on this product. I really hope they put the same kind of effort into refreshing their other programs as well.

Jerry


Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and off the Tracks
Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and off the Tracks
by Victor Maymudes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.31
54 used & new from $14.43

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who groomed Napoleon’s horse?, September 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In its own right, this a very sad, indeed heartbreaking book, recording glimmers of the life of a man who worked for Bob Dylan for several decades.

But it is not really about Bob Dylan and those looking for insights into the mercurial, reclusive genius’s life will not find them.

What they do get is a strange sort of autobiography of Victor Maymudes, who spent about forty years as Dylan’s tour manager, sort of friend and confidant. Maymudes died suddenly and tragically in 2001, but left behind tapes that his son, Jacob Maymudes, fashioned into this manuscript. Jacob adds his own narrative, some of which as weird.

Overall, this is a very sad book, a tale of relatively drab lives made interesting only by their proximity to someone else’s fame. For example, of the first meeting of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Maymudes writes: “They were smoking American cigarettes; Bob and I accepted one to be polite even though we had our own” which soon transitions to “With Bob sleeping on the floor, one by one John, Paul, George and Ringo talked to me”. “I was never made to feel inferior to them”.

What was the name of the person who groomed Napoleon’s horse?

There are no secrets here: though his relationship with Dylan dissolved in angry acrimony, Victor doesn’t tell secrets.

Ultimately this is a very sad book, made sadder still by a son’s attempt to tell his father’s story. I feel sad for Jacob Maymudes. This must have been a very trying process for him.

This is, in my view, one of those books that each potential reader will have to make up their own mind about it. If you’re looking for inside stuff on Dylan it isn’t here. This is the journal of someone who worked for Dylan and was kind of friend, but apparently not really a friend. Much of what is billed as the friendship was simply Maymudes doing what he was Paid for.

A strange book that I can neither enthusiastically recommend, nor strongly warn potential readers away.

Jerry


Fischer-Cripps Student Companion Set (5 Volumes): The Physics Companion, 2nd Edition
Fischer-Cripps Student Companion Set (5 Volumes): The Physics Companion, 2nd Edition
by Anthony C. Fischer-Cripps
Edition: Paperback
Price: $37.95
15 used & new from $36.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Handy reference for the science aficionado, September 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’m not a student, but both my personal and professional interests require that assimilate information on a variety of technical and scientific subjects rapidly.

That’s why I have a fairly substantial library of basic reference texts for a variety of subjects.

Well-organized, professionally edited texts are often more efficient to use, more accurate and more reliable than web sources.

For most of my needs in the area of physics, Fischer-Cripps does the job. It is a collection of basic physics knowledge, well arranged, crisply and clearly written. It is not a replacement for a scholarly treatise: rather it is an adjunct, a quick reference. I find it useful as a quick way to find quotable, authoritative material when I have to write on subjects involving physics, which typically happens a couple of times a year. More often I reach for it when I am reading technical material and need to understand what it is that am reading about – which happens more frequently than I care to admit. I also find it increasingly helpful when I – the techie grandpa – try to explain certain things to them. Many of the illustrations are particularly useful in that regard, such as explaining how artillery shells are aimed.

I can’t speak for a professional physicist, but I find this work helpful, understandable and useful. I suspect that students and technologists, like myself, will find it useful. The same author’s “The Electronics Companion” is also excellent.

Jerry


Great Maps (Dk Smithsonian)
Great Maps (Dk Smithsonian)
by JERRY BROTTON
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.30
34 used & new from $16.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous resource for teaching, learning and armchair adventuring., September 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
DK Publishing has a long history as a niche specialty publisher. Lately they have been upping their game wit7h masterpieces on the history of Starwars, Lego and other essentially esoteric subjects. “Great Maps”, compiled and annotated by Jerry Brotton is, in a word, marvelous.

Beginning with an example of a stone carving from perhaps 40,000 years ago that may or may not be a map, Brotton walks us through cartographic history.

Can you imagine a world without maps? Think about it for a moment. If you’re an American, one of your earliest playthings may have been a puzzle with pieces shaped like each state. Yet, for most of recorded history, most people had no clue as to where they were in relationship to the rest of the world. Certain people, though, had a need to know. Seafarers. Rulers. Merchants. The academics of the day, secular and ecclesiastical.

Brotton describes to us the classification of maps and the chronology of their development.

He provides about 60, by my count, examples ranging from the whimsical through Google Earth. Many of the examples, I was unfamiliar with, such as the Polynesian stick map, which as the name implies is made of sticks showing the swell patterns between the various Marshall Islands. Up until the past few centuries, most maps were filled with guesses, estimations or pure ignorance.

Each of the maps is accompanied by brotton’s discussion which is highly informative.

I really wish all the maps were available online at full scale or greater, because one could easily spend hours examining them in detail.

DK books are often marred by cheap binding. This one seems intended to last. The printing is of the same high quality most DK books display.

Overall, this is a book suitable for browsing by adults or children and can be a very valuable learning tool. Congratulations to DK on this one: it is a gem.

Jerry


T.S. Shure Say It with Stamps Wooden Stamp Set (63-Piece)
T.S. Shure Say It with Stamps Wooden Stamp Set (63-Piece)
Price: $39.49
3 used & new from $37.97

5.0 out of 5 stars A great set for kids – and grownups too., September 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This set would greatly benefit from inclusion of some material explaining the basics of stamping. While the art may seem intuitive, it isn’t and some examples might make things more understandable for adults.

Kids, whose minds are less cluttered and stratified, will take to this 63-piece set like ducks to water. But some adults might have trouble initially understanding small nuances like the size of the ink pads: they’re smaller than some of the stamps, not necessarily because the manufacturer is cheap, but because inking a stamp in multiple colors is a common technique. A kid will pick up on this naturally and they don’t need a concerned adult teaching them the “right “way.

Through my wife, I’ve had a long acquaintance with stamping and other scrapping techniques. My original thought was that my granddaughter would enjoy this set. Immediately upon receiving it, I recognized that all of us will be using this.

The assortment of stamps is excellent. The designs are definitely oriented toward kids, but they’re cute and can be used for casual cards of any kind. The stamps are very well done and make clear impressions. You’ll run through the supplied inkpads pretty quickly. If you are letting younger and smaller kids work with this set, each stamp is amply sized for the sake of little hands – and, as a side-benefit, older, larger and arthritic hands.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a stamping party, but they’re great fun – and this is a great set to use.

This set is fun! The one thing that I haven’t figured out a solution for is the lack of a supplied lid. The wooden case is substantial and I guess supposed to be reminiscent of the cases used by letterpress printers back in the day to store their type. But without a lid, the set is difficult to store. The wooden tray is too nice to throw away. So I guess we’ll be fabricating a lid out of cardboard.

In any event, young and old creative minds can have a lot of fun with this set. It would be nice if they had more “boy” themed stamps, but it is what it is.

Jerry


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