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Jerry Saperstein RSS Feed (Evanston, IL USA)

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The Porcelain Thief: Searching the Middle Kingdom for Buried China
The Porcelain Thief: Searching the Middle Kingdom for Buried China
by Huan Hsu
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.89

5.0 out of 5 stars An odyssey through China with deeper meanings, March 3, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
China is the living embodiment of civilized mankind’s history. Simon Winchester told much of this story in his ‘The Man Who Loved China, chronicling the life of Joseph Needham, one of the first Westerners to “discover” he long-forgotten history of Chinese innovation, technology and invention.

This is the story of Hsan Hsu and his search for the treasure, including a collection of porcelain, buried by his great-great-grandfather in 1938 as Japanese invaders approached.

It is a fascinating story, with perhaps too much detail, but still engrossing.

But Hsan Hsu never quite makes the connection between the whole of Chinese history and the past two centuries or so.

No society has gone through such cataclysms as China and survived. Mao Tse Tong made a determined effort to destroy the whole of Chinese recollection of its past.

Hsan Hsu’s search takes him across not only geographic China, but through the past several generations of China. That people could survive, that a civilization and culture could survive is astounding.

There is a mystery to the book: does the author discover (and recover) the lost treasure? I will leave that for the reader to discover.

I am still mulling the import of this book. Is it worth reading? Absolutely. I was left wanting more though, more to connect China’s glorious past, then its fall in the 19th Century with its resurgence in the 20th and 21st Centuries. If I didn’t know a little bit of Chinese history, I probably wouldn’t feel that lack.

If you read this book and I hope you do, I hope you will then read Simon Winchester’a biography of Joseph Needham as well. China is the major part of what was once called the “Mysterious Orient”. In a great many ways, it still is and Hsan Hsu’s journey does not so much illuminate as make me even more curious.


Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel
Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel
by William A. Wellman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $28.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Well-told story of a larger-than-life Hollywood director, March 2, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I hate to admit – actually I’m embarrassed to admit – but I saw a William Wellman directed film 60 years ago and it has stuck in my mind since. Of course, it was about airplanes and airplanes were very uch a part of my imagination when I was 12. Add John Wayne nursing a crippled passenger plane halfway across the Pacific and, yes, the tautly told tale was worth remembering.

This is outright hagiography, a son writing of his beloved father. It is massively detailed and forthrightly adoring.

As history. It will do. As a story of a fabled director and oft-married “man’s man” who grew with Hollywood from its early days, it is outstanding. The behind the scenes stories, the small heretofore obscure or hidden details are welcome. Many criticisms could be leveled against this book, but they all pale before its preciousness.

One of my favorite lines describing the making of a Loretta Young/Clark Gable movie, “The Call Of The Wild”, goes like this: “Although the dog is demoted to second-story status, his scenes with [Jack] Thornton are emotional and memorable. Wellman’s love of dogs is clearly on display”. This is a son writing of his dad, not a historian writing to objectively memorialize someone. A historian couldn’t succeed with this language: a son can.

Wellman, Sr., directed classics such as “Wings”(the first Academy Award For Best Picture winner) and “Beau Geste” that are still studied today. Other less noted films, such as “Battleground” (which I remember well), are also well-covered.

Wellman, Jr., pulls no punches in describing his tumultuous personal life right down to his tough-as-nails final days.

Like I said, this is more hagiography than history – and the better for it. It’s a great book about a great moviemaker who lived an incredibly interesting and exciting life and lived it well.


SPRI Hand Therapy Exercise Ball Kit
SPRI Hand Therapy Exercise Ball Kit
Price: $12.98
2 used & new from $9.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handy exercise kit for fingers and hand, March 2, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Like it or not, as my body ages, I need to pay more attention to maintenance tasks, such as keeping my fingers flexible and maintaining hand strength.

I already have a number of tools for this: rubber squeeze grips, elastic bands, spring grips and so on.

This SPRI Hand Therapy Exercise Ball Kit fills an important niche. Each of the balls is about 2 inches in diameter. They are described as being Medium resistance, Firm and Extra Firm. Unlike many tools like this, all the balls can be squeezed. The extra Firm is not so hard that you can’t squeeze it. As a result, no matter the strength of your hands, you can use all three balls as you perform the eight exercises described in the short guide supplied with the product.
The eight exercise pretty much run the gamut of hand and finger exercises. You can grip it, pinch it and squeeze it in a variety of ways to build strength in your fingers and hand.
The product arrives with the balls packed in a snap-together plastic container, which I suggest you keep s a case.
You can use thee balls strictly as an exercise device – or as a handy stress reliever as well. They clean up with a damp cloth. Out of the box, they are a bit sticky which I hope diminishes with use.
Overall, a very nice hand exerciser at a reasonable price.

Wolverine F2D Super 20MP 4-In-1 Film to Digital Converter, Convert 35mm, 126, 110 and Super 8 into digital in seconds.
Wolverine F2D Super 20MP 4-In-1 Film to Digital Converter, Convert 35mm, 126, 110 and Super 8 into digital in seconds.
Offered by CLIQnGO
Price: $109.99
7 used & new from $98.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Much better output quality than I expected, February 27, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have thousands upon thousands of 35mm slides which I promise myself that I will sort, edit and scan. Some day.

While I would not recommend the Wolverine F2D for projects as massive as the one I should undertake, it is an excellent device for the person who has fairly modest quantities of images to convert from film to digital.

The unit itself is a surprisingly small box-like thing measuring roughly 4 x 4 x 3 inches. It can be powered from a computer’s USB port or the included AC adapter. The unit has internal memory that will accommodate approximately 40 images. Or you can use SD cards of up to 32GB capacity.

Setup is dirt-simple: plug in the power, read the short instructions, pick the film adapter you want to use and go. Adapters are included for 35mm mounted slides and negative film, 110, 126, Kodak Pocket and Super 8 film.

I used only the 35mm slide adapter for my testing. I chose some winter time slides of a sledding hill in bright sunlight, with people wearing brightly colored winter clothing. In other words, I was asking for trouble.

For 35mm slides, you stick the appropriate adapter into a slot and slide the slide in and center it in the 2.4 inch screen. Click the Convert button. Wait ten seconds or so for it to stop processing, perform any of the editing steps as described below, save the digital scan and slide in another slide. For moderately sized batches, it is a surprisingly quick process.

You have limited editing options available. You can mirror or flip the image, alter the EV value to make the image brighter or darker and alter the RGB values.

The resulting images are 5,472 x 3,648 pixels with 24 BPP. Best of all, the quality was very high. I was very surprised, in fact. I shot the originals with a Nikon with pretty good exposure control – and the Wolverine faithfully scanned the slide. The resulting scan is quite usable.

I have highly specialized, quite expensive software for scanning slides and images on higher-end scanners, but the Wolverine F2D would do nicely for people who aren’t fanatically demanding. I’ve had units similar to the Wolverine in the past which were very disappointing. But the Wolverine F2D is surprisingly good and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone who had moderate numbers of slides to scan. I see no reason why it wouldn’t turn in equally good results on the other sizes it is capable of handling.


Avery Index Maker Double-Column Clear Label Dividers, 24 Tabs per Set, 1 Set per Pack (13151)
Avery Index Maker Double-Column Clear Label Dividers, 24 Tabs per Set, 1 Set per Pack (13151)
Price: $16.09
8 used & new from $10.46

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent if you have a need for minutely organized project binders, February 26, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There was a time when I used lots and lots of Avery labels of various kinds.

But these days, since my clients (all lawyers) and the courts have gone digital, almost all my work product has gone digital as well. There are times, though, when I need hard-copy output and this particular set of dividers will be extremely useful.

I sometimes need to do very complex exhibits, requiring many tabs or dividers. I used to buy sets like this at very high prices from specialty stationers who serve the legal trade. Making custom tabs could be a dreadful affair.

With this set, though, it’s a breeze.

There are two sets of 12 dividers. The tabs are about one-half inch in height and a little longer in length.

To create labels for the tabs, you go online to Avery’s Design & Print Center, enter the product number (13151) and follow the instructions. You can print labels for the front of the tab only or for front and back of the tabs. The set-up is a little big kludgy, so make sure you do it right the first time. Five complete sets of 24 labels are provided. After you’ve completed your labels, you get an Adobe PDF file that you print from. (I was, by the way, unable to find a downloadable template to use on my own computer.)

Applying the labels requires some patience and a steady hand. You have to align the self-adhering label strip with tabs and press down to apply. You really do want to make sure your alignment is correct before pressing down. Really. I suggest a light touch at fist to provide for the possibility of lifting mis-aligned labels and re-applying them.

The stock used for dividers is sturdy and the holes are reinforced to greatly minimize the possibility of tearing.

Avery enjoys a reputation for high-quality and innovative products and this is a useful addition to their line.


Adventures in Python
Adventures in Python
by Craig Richardson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.07
53 used & new from $14.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent way to learn Python for youngsters – and adults., February 26, 2015
This review is from: Adventures in Python (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The publisher says this a book is intended to help 11 to 15 year olds who want to learn how to program in Python on their own. This is true. Author Craig Richardson does an exemplary job of making programming in Python – and I am not being loose with my words – easy to learn. Not only for kids, but for adults as well. I would instantly recommend this book as an introduction to programming for people with no prior experience in the art.

I like Richardson’s approach. He has created 10 “adventures” to guide the learner through their mastery of basic programming concept and the Python language. (By the way, Richardson specifically prohibits the use of Python 3: for this book, only Python v2.7.8 or later will work.)

The “adventures” are oriented toward simple games which probably has the greatest chance of keeping younger minds involved and won’t bore adults either. All the code is very clearly laid out and is also downloadable. Videos are also available for some topics. (I haven’t worked every code example, so I can’t comment on bugs, if any.) Lots of illustrations as well.

One thing Richardson does that most Python teachers don’t is introduce Tkinter, the module used for creating Graphic User Interfaces (GUI) very early in the game. Many Python instructional don’t mention Tkinter, assuming their readers will use only Command Line driven programs. I think Richardson’s approach, especially for younger learners, is much better and will help keep reader interest.

This is a fun book. It makes learning Python easy and entertaining.

True, Adventures In Python covers mostly basic stuff, much of which will not be terribly useful in the real world. But this book will definitely help the motivated reader become comfortable with bossing the computer around through coding and does provide an understanding of Python.

And, as I said, adults new to programming would find this book useful as well.

In my opinion, an excellent adventure!

Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2015 9:24 PM PST

Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science
Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science
by Alice Dreger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.78

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading title. A politicized commentary of allegedly politicized science by a politicized historian., February 25, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The title and sub-title are tantalizing ”Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, And The Search For Justice In science”.

In fact, Alice Dreger admits early on that she is a “feminist”, whatever that may mean to her and a historian – whatever that may mean to her. This tome is almost exclusively about transgender (“intersex”) issues and the work of J. Michael Bailey, a Northwestern University sex researcher.

As Dreger openly admits on page 9 “I uncovered a story that upended the simple narrative of power and oppression to which we leftist science study scholars had become accustomed”.

There’s a cliché that goes something like this: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” and so it is here.

This isn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting a book about scientists who were opposed by other scientists, such as the early advocate of Tectonic Plate Theory, Alfred Wegener. Or the resistance Albert Einstein and Darwin encountered or the subject of the title, Galileo.

This is instead more aptly described as the author’s telling of her research on transgender issues, not a subject I have any interest in.

From the little I read, this isn’t about science. It is history of a sort, but history charged by the author’s political and other leanings. It is clearly not objective, though competently written.

Others with an interest in transgender issues may find it interesting. I did not.


Black Aluminum 52mm Thread Screw In Universal Wide Angle Lens Hood Cover
Black Aluminum 52mm Thread Screw In Universal Wide Angle Lens Hood Cover
Offered by uxcell
Price: $9.39
2 used & new from $7.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Works fine with Sony RX-100 Mk 3, February 22, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Well made. I use it on a Sony RX-100 Mk III. No vignetting. Does cast a shadow when used with built-in flash.


The Burning Room (A Harry Bosch Novel Book 19)
The Burning Room (A Harry Bosch Novel Book 19)
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $10.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Harry Bosch is getting old, just like me and Lucas Davenport and Jack Reacher . . ., February 22, 2015
Bette Davis is often credited with saying growing old isn’t for sissies. And when your one of the great fictional character of our age, it isn’t any easier. I think of Minnesota Detective Lucas Davenport, affluent drifter Jack Reacher and LAPD Cold Case investigator Harry Bosch as being among the best. Alas, we’ll see no more of the real Mitch Rapp.

The creators of each of these wonderful inventions had the courage to age them.

Harry Bosch, barring some intervention which would not be unexpected, is nearing the end of his LAPD career. He has aged. He’s no longer the dynamo he was once was. But he is older and wiser.

Bosch’s adventures in the LAPD Cold Case unit have been the stuff of legend.

Now he is teamed with still wet behind the ears affirmative action product, the newly minted detective Lucia Soto, who had a meteoric rise because of her cool head and smoking gun. A heroine whom the LAPD wants to keep front and center to ward off the PC crowd.

Harry is not necessarily overjoyed at being assigned this twenty-eight year old woman as a partner. Harry would prefer to be solo and is immediately concerned that Soto may wind up like some of his former partners: dead.

They’re assigned a new cold case, the death of a man who had been paralyzed for years by a bullet that hit his spine a decade earlier in a public plaza. The death is being treated as the outcome of the shooting, so it’s murder.

Connolly is a master of plot and surprise and the surprises start rolling in pretty quickly. I won’t disclose the plot because I think it’s more fun when you, as a reader, are left to experience every twist fresh off the pages, rather than having read of them in a review.

There are powerful political interests paying attention to this case, so Harry has to restrain his bull in a china shop instincts. Sort of. And then it turns out that the case is much closer to Harry than he thought.

The plot in this tale of Bosch is more complex than most with some real surprises along the way. Yes, I did lose a few hours’ sleep, but I had to keep reading just another page, just another page.

Through it all, Harry is concerned about forced retirement looming on the horizon, the future of the teen age daughter he is raising alone and his lack of a romantic interest. But Harry plods on, turning over one stone at a time, despite the obstacles.

Harry Bosch is a great detective and this is a story that proves it. But I wonder how many Bosch stories we’ll have in the future? Harry Bosch is getting old.


Tenergy Wireless Bluetooth Headband - Blue/Black
Tenergy Wireless Bluetooth Headband - Blue/Black
Offered by Battery Superstore
Price: $39.99
11 used & new from $29.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Went dead real fast - and no support., February 21, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've used Tenergy products before and had a favorable opinion of products and company.

This time out, though, I have to say that not only is the product a total loser, but quite surprisingly, Tenergy failed me completely in support.

Product arrived and worked - for a few seconds. Initially easy to pair and the short burst of audio I heard sounded okay.

Then it died.

Wouldn't turn on properly. Obviously wouldn't pair. Couldn't be used.

I fished the control unit out of the band and discovered that getting it back in place is very difficult. LEDs don't line up. Control unit twists out of proper position - there's no pocket for it or anything. It just sits within the band, I don't think it is very durable.

Emailed Tenergy support on February 6 and again on February 15. No response, so I returned to Amazon.

If the design were more supportive of the control module and it worked, it wouldn't be bad product. But the design is poor and support is unexpectedly non-existent, so I have to warn against purchase. Frankly after my earlier experiences with Tenergy, I find this sad.

Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 25, 2015 2:54 PM PST

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