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Gregory J. Casteel "Dr. Gregory J. Casteel" RSS Feed (Athens, AL United States)
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Relativity: The Special and General Theory
Relativity: The Special and General Theory
by Albert Einstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.99
38 used & new from $4.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for Einstein; one star for the publisher, March 7, 2015
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Caveat: I’ve noticed that Amazon book reviews seem not to be tied to a specific edition of a book; rather, the same reviews will often appear for every edition of a particular title. My complaints about this book apply only to the specific edition I got from Amazon, not to Einstein’s text in general. The edition I have lacks any publication information apart from the fact that it was printed in San Bernardino, CA, on 15 July 2014. Other than that, there is nothing anywhere in the book that identifies the publisher. The ISBN is 9781619491502, and a quick Google search reveals that the publisher is “Empire Books,” though the publisher’s name appears nowhere on or in the book itself (and frankly, I don’t blame them for not wanting to take credit for this mess). Nonetheless, it is the edition with a drawing of Einstein’s face on the cover, with the title above the drawing and the subtitle and author’s name below it.

Einstein’s monograph on the theory of relativity is simply brilliant, of course, and I wouldn’t presume to critique his work. But “Empire Books,” or whatever fly-by-night publisher was responsible for this particular edition of the book, was inexcusably negligent. The edition that I got from Amazon is simply riddled with typographical and formatting errors, which in some places are so bad that they make it difficult to follow the text. I know nothing about who is behind “Empire Books,” but I strongly suspect that some clever young entrepreneur with access to a printing press thought that an easy way to make a quick buck would be to print and sell new editions of books that were in the public domain. I have no problem with this business model in principle — I might even consider doing it myself if I owned a printing press. My complaint is with the poor quality control. If you’re going to go into the publishing business, in my opinion, you have an obligation to your customers to make sure that the books you print are properly formatted and have been proofread at least well enough to catch glaring mistakes. You can’t just download a text file from Project Gutenberg or some similar site and print it out as is, never even bothering to check it for errors. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this edition of Einstein’s excellent book to anyone. Find one from a more reliable publisher.


Feit Electric 25CFC/15-130 25-Watt Flame Tip Bulb with Chandelier Candelabra Base, Clear, 15 Pack
Feit Electric 25CFC/15-130 25-Watt Flame Tip Bulb with Chandelier Candelabra Base, Clear, 15 Pack
Price: $10.67
3 used & new from $6.87

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I wouldn't recommend them, November 1, 2014
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I've ordered these twice and I don't think I'm going to order them again. Both times, a number of the bulbs were defective when they arrived – some didn't burn at all, others burned out after only a few hours of use. And the ones that did work only lasted a few months before burning out. I got these because they were the cheapest I could find on Amazon, but I guess you get what you pay for.


FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus
FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus
by Greg Lukianoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: $3.95
64 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable resource, October 31, 2014
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Anyone who spends a lot of time on a college campus – whether they're a student, a professor, or (perhaps even most importantly) an administrator – needs to keep a copy of this informative book close at hand and consult it regularly. The basic premise of the book is that Americans don't waive their First Amendment rights to free speech when they enroll in college or get hired to teach there. University administrators can't simply silence any point of view they disagree with or censor any form of expression they find objectionable, nor can they impose unreasonable limits on free speech on campus (e.g. confining expressive activities to small "free speech zones") or institute policies that would have a "chilling effect" on academic freedom. Yet many will still try. Often (though not always) their motives will be noble – preventing bullying and harassment, promoting diversity and tolerance, preserving a peaceful and orderly on-campus environment that is conducive to learning, etc. – but the measures they take in order to achieve these worthy goals simply go too far and end up infringing upon the fundamental free speech rights of both students and faculty. Campus "speech codes" and harassment policies are often both vague and overbroad, potentially restricting forms of speech that are protected by the First Amendment. At public colleges and universities these sorts of policies are unconstitutional – the courts have made this abundantly clear – yet college administrators, who tend not to be experts in First Amendment law, are often unfamiliar with the relevant legal precedents and are, therefore, unaware that school policies that ban or punish constitutionally-protected speech are illegal. At private colleges and universities the situation is more complex as far as the law is concerned (I'll let you read about it in the book rather than trying to summarize it here), but these privately-run institutions don't automatically get a free pass to regulate speech on campus as they see fit simply because they aren't state schools. But even without the various laws that protect the free speech rights of students and faculty, colleges and universities should still have a principled commitment to protecting freedom of expression on campus simply because that's what higher education is supposed to be all about: promoting learning and personal growth through the free and open exchange of ideas – no matter how controversial those ideas may be or how crudely they may be expressed. Students and faculty need to stand up for free speech rights on campus and against vague and overbroad speech codes and harassment policies that would stifle free expression and have a chilling effect on academic freedom. This book by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) will help. It explains, in clear terms, what free speech rights students and professors have, providing useful references to the relevant case law, and gives helpful advice for those who feel that their free speech rights have been violated by university administrators. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about free speech on campus.


Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction
Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction
by Timothy Gowers
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.09
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to what mathematics is all about, September 10, 2014
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The purpose of this book is not to teach you how to do math. (There are plenty of other books on the market than aim to do that.) Rather, its purpose is to help you get a better understanding of what mathematics is, how it works, why it works the way it does, and how mathematicians approach mathematical problems. The author, Timothy Gowers, is the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and is a recipient of the Fields Medal (the highest award given for achievement in mathematics scholarship, roughly equivalent to the Nobel Prize), so he definitely knows what he's talking about. Perhaps more importantly, he is able to communicate his ideas well – I wish all math professors were as clear and cogent as he is (that would have saved me lots of headaches back when I was an undergrad struggling through calculus). The approach he takes in this book is not at all what I had expected, but I have to admit that it works quite well. His main focus is on the abstract nature of mathematics: Sure, we can and do use math for practical applications, but at its heart mathematics is not about counting or measuring things in the "real world" around us; rather, it's about purely abstract concepts (numbers, lines, dimensions, etc.) that relate to each other according to a set of self-consistent rules. It doesn't matter to the mathematician whether there is anything out in the real world that corresponds to these abstract concepts – a mathematician, using nothing but the abstract rules of mathematics, can figure out the geometrical properties of, say, a 27-dimensional shape, regardless of whether or not there are actually that many spatial dimensions in our universe. Higher dimensions, imaginary numbers, infinities, even concepts that are more familiar to the average math student, such as irrational and negative numbers, make sense only in the abstract (in the real world you will never end up with -3 apples no matter how many apples you start with or how many you give away), and so that's how they must be approached. So, Gowers advises the math student (and also, more importantly, the math teacher) not to try to relate every mathematical concept to some real-world example, but to embrace the abstractness of mathematics and to treat it much in the same way that one might treat a game like chess. When we learn how to play a game, we don't imagine that it will have real-world applications; we learn it simply in order to play it. So, how do we learn how to play a game? Since all games have rules, we learn the game by learning its rules. Once we've learned those rules, playing the game is simply a matter of consistently applying those rules. Of course, playing the game *well* requires a degree of creativity and strategic thinking, but you can't play the game well until you have mastered the rules. Math, at least according to Gowers, is essentially the same: It's just a matter of learning a set of rules and applying them. You'll also need some creativity and strategic thinking to solve difficult problems, but you can't do anything without first mastering the rules. The rules are the essence of mathematics. At its heart, mathematics is not about counting or measuring real-world objects; it's about the application of self-consistent, abstract rules to abstract problems. (The fact that at least some aspects of mathematics do have practical, real-world applications is just a bonus.) So, I guess the central message of Gowers's book is that the key to learning (or teaching) math is to stop trying to relate every mathematical concept to something from the real world that you can easily visualize, and focus instead on learning (or teaching) the rules of the game and how to follow them. Before reading this book, if someone had asked me for advice on how to learn (or teach) math, I almost certainly would have said that it's best to try to relate mathematical concepts to real-world examples. After reading this book, I now understand why that might not have been such good advice after all.


Politics
Politics
by Andrew Heywood
Edition: Paperback
Price: $45.23
83 used & new from $13.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introductory-level political science textbook I've ever read, August 24, 2014
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This review is from: Politics (Paperback)
No ... scratch that. This is actually the best political science textbook I've ever read at any level. (Though it does happen to be an introductory-level text.) The next time I teach an introductory comparative politics course, I really hope to be able to use this textbook, and I'd recommend it to any poli-sci professor who is teaching a freshman-level "Intro to Politics," "Intro to Political Science," or "Intro to Comparative Politics" course. It has amazing breadth, introducing students to just about every major concept we study in the field of political science, without sacrificing depth. (It's a pretty big book.) The only thing it really lacks that I'd like to have seen included is a discussion of political science as a discipline – how we political scientists go about studying political phenomena, and how we came to discover the various things we know about politics – but perhaps that's a bit too much to ask from an intro-level text on "politics" (rather than an intro-level text on "political science scope and methods"). This text will teach the novice reader just about everything that a non-political scientist needs to know about politics in general and will provide the new poli-sci major with a solid foundation to be built upon in upper-level courses. Note that this text is about politics in general and is not limited to a discussion of politics in any particular country or any particular type of government; it draws on examples from around the world, though it gives more attention to the Anglophone world (UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) and to Western Europe than to other parts of the globe. (The textbook was published in the UK, but it is quite suitable for use in American universities or, for that matter, in any university where English is the language of instruction.) It does not provide a detailed description of any country's political system, only a general discussion of political concepts; so if you're planning on using this text in an intro comparative politics course, you might want to consider supplementing it with other material that covers the details of how various countries are governed.

The book is divided into twenty chapters covering the following broad topics:
1. What is Politics?
2. Political Ideas and Ideologies
3. Politics and the State
4. Democracy and Legitimacy
5. Nations and Nationalism
6. Political Economy and Globalization
7. Politics, Society and Identity
8. Political Culture and the Media
9. Representation, Elections and Voting
10. Parties and Party Systems
11. Groups, Interests and Movements
12. Governments, Systems and Regimes
13. Political Executives and Leadership
14. Assemblies
15. Constitutions, Law and Judges
16. Public Policy and Bureaucracy
17. Multilevel Politics
18. Security: Domestic and International
19. World Order and Global Governance
20. A Crisis in Politics?

This textbook is well-written, easy to follow, and visually appealing. Scattered throughout the text are helpful illustrations (photos and diagrams), definitions of key terms in the margins, and various "boxed" features that either elaborate on or provide context for the concepts discussed in the text and that may help stimulate discussion and debate among your students. The layout of this book is similar in many ways to that of Heywood's excellent "Political Ideologies" textbook (which I've also reviewed here on Amazon), though I'm glad to report that this textbook doesn't have anywhere near as many typos as that one did. Andrew Heywood has really impressed me as a writer of political science textbooks, and I hope to read (and review) even more of his books in the not-too-distant future.


In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God's Presence in a Scientific World
In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God's Presence in a Scientific World
by Philip Clayton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.49
53 used & new from $10.51

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read if you're interested in panentheism, June 6, 2014
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This is an edited volume, so the quality of the contents and writing varies from chapter to chapter; but I wouldn't rate any of the chapters in this book less than four stars, and the five-star chapters are more than sufficient to raise the overall quality of this compilation to the five-star range. Given the fact that this is one of the few books I'm aware of focusing specifically on the subject of panentheism -- a theological position that I happen to embrace -- I must recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about this fascinating topic.

Panentheism is the belief that the cosmos (i.e. the World, the material universe, Creation), though ontologically distinct from God, is not ontologically separate from God: that somehow -- though there is no consensus among panentheists on exactly how -- the cosmos exists "within" God, whose essence permeates all of Creation; yet God is more than just the cosmos personified (as in pantheism) and is not limited by the universe. Many Christian theologians feel that panentheism is the best available option for reconciling belief in the God of Christianity with a scientific understanding of the material universe. This book, which includes contributions from scientists as well as theologians, seeks to elucidate various ways that panentheism may be able to bridge the gap between science and faith.

I'll have to admit, I preferred the chapters that were written by scientists over those written by theologians; but that's probably because I'm more comfortable with the way that scientists reason than the way theologians reason. Theological reasoning can sometimes get a bit too esoteric, a bit too speculative, a bit too far removed from empirical facts and testable hypotheses for my taste. I'm basically a philosophical pragmatist; so once you start debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin -- or some other problem that is equally immune to solution by appeal to logic and hard evidence -- you've lost my attention. I don't want to suggest that the chapters written by theologians were bad; I just didn't find them quite as compelling as the chapters written by scientists. The chapters written by scientists were attempting to show how panentheism can fit with a scientific understanding of the universe. The chapters written by theologians, on the other hand, seemed to be more concerned with showing how panentheism can fit with traditional Christian doctrine and theology. Personally, I'm more concerned with the former than the latter, since I have far more confidence in the reliability of the scientific method than in the inerrancy of church dogma. In spite of this, I found even the chapters written by theologians to be worth reading; though I must warn you that they can get a bit obscure in places if you're not familiar with the esoteric details of Christian theology. Nonetheless, on the whole, this book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about panentheism, and I would certainly recommend it.


What is a p-value anyway? 34 Stories to Help You Actually Understand Statistics
What is a p-value anyway? 34 Stories to Help You Actually Understand Statistics
by Andrew Vickers
Edition: Paperback
Price: $36.14
61 used & new from $18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars It does what it was meant to do, April 29, 2014
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In order to properly evaluate this book, it's important to keep in mind what it is and what it is not -- i.e. what this book was meant to teach you and what it was not meant to teach you. It was not meant to be a statistics textbook that teaches you everything you need to know about how to do statistics. So, if that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere. If you're expecting this book to give you a step-by-step guide to conducting your own statistical analysis, or to explain the complex mathematics behind various statistical techniques, you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, this book was designed to help readers better understand how to interpret statistical research (e.g. understanding what a p-value really tells you) and how to avoid many of the mistakes that are often made when conducting or reading statistical research (e.g. accepting the null hypothesis when the p-value is high -- as opposed to merely failing to reject the null hypothesis). If that's what you're looking for, then you should definitely get this book. I would recommend this book to any student of statistics or research methods as a supplement to their regular textbook, as well as to anyone else who either conducts or reads statistical research. It will help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls of either doing or interpreting statistics.


OXO Good Grips Apple Corer and Divider
OXO Good Grips Apple Corer and Divider
Price: $9.99
36 used & new from $8.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Works like a charm, January 9, 2014
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I've recently discovered a love for frozen apple slices. Just slice some apples, put them in the freezer, and you've got a frozen treat that tastes almost as good as ice cream but is much healthier. And if you use this handy apple slicer/corer, you can slice up a whole bagful of apples in mere minutes and with little effort. I've found that it works best if you place the apples stem-side down -- it cuts more cleanly through the apple that way, and you can separate the slices much more easily. Anyway, it's quick and easy to use. But be very careful, because the blades are quite sharp, and you WILL cut yourself if you accidentally touch them in the wrong place (as I did the first time I tried to use it). But I would highly recommend this device. If you've got several apples to slice, it really saves a lot of time and effort compared to using a paring knife.


Hegland's Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law in a Nutshell, 5th
Hegland's Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law in a Nutshell, 5th
by Kenney F. Hegland
Edition: Paperback
Price: $34.03
32 used & new from $3.86

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone with an interest in American law should get this book, January 9, 2014
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If you're a new or prospective law student, you absolutely must read this book. Even if you're merely considering studying law at some point in the future, you really ought to read this. In fact, even if you're not planning on going to law school, but simply want to know more about legal education and the legal profession in the United States, I'd highly recommend that you get this book. It will teach you the essence of what a law school education is all about, and the skills you'll need to master in order to be both a successful law student and a successful lawyer. As a political scientist, if I ever teach a course on the American legal system, I plan to put this book on the reading list; and I'll definitely be recommending it to any of my students who plan to go on to law school. If you read only one book about law school and the legal profession, this is the book you must read. The only complaint I have about this book is that it is in serious need of proofreading. Other than that, it's hard to imagine a better text to prepare students for law school and for a career in law. I'm really glad I read it, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Get this book!


The Clash of Economic Ideas: The Great Policy Debates and Experiments of the Last Hundred Years
The Clash of Economic Ideas: The Great Policy Debates and Experiments of the Last Hundred Years
by Lawrence H. White
Edition: Paperback
Price: $45.06
88 used & new from $26.79

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thorough, though somewhat biased, overview of the subject, November 23, 2013
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If you want to understand the debates that are raging in Washington today over economic policy you really do need to read this book. It does a good job of outlining the historical development of the various contending schools of thought in economics, and illustrating just how they differ in their analysis of how the economy works and their prescription for what the government ought to do in order to keep the economy running smoothly.

The only shortcomings that I found with this book were: (a) the absence of a concluding chapter that succinctly summarizes the wealth of highly complex information provided throughout the book, and (b) the author's clear bias against Keynesianism (and, to a lesser extent, against monetarism as well) in favor of the so-called "Austrian school" of Mises and Hayek. A book on a controversial subject such as this deserves a more evenhanded treatment. Perhaps it would have been better for the book to have been co-written by two or more economists representing different schools of thought; at the very least, the author should have invited a Keynesian and a monetarist to respond to his arguments, including their comments in boxes scattered throughout the text or else in an appendix at the end.

But apart from the author's obvious bias and the lack of a summary chapter to tie all of his arguments together, this book is well worth reading for anyone interested in economic theory or in the politics of economic policy. I'd recommend it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 14, 2014 12:50 PM PDT


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