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Geometry in Figures
Geometry in Figures
by A. V. Akopyan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.59
19 used & new from $8.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 665 pictures are worth a thousand words, November 3, 2012
This review is from: Geometry in Figures (Paperback)
This short book is specifically about the "points and lines" aspect of classical Euclidean geometry. That means "areal" results such as visual proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem are out of scope. It packs 665 figures into 117 pages, followed by 5 pages of comments and 1 page of bibliography to document their origins. The chapters and sections are loosely arranged to somewhat transition from the less complicated shapes to the more complicated ones. Figures and labels are mostly clear. Cover design shows a Greek figure and gives the nostalgic feel of an old textbook, which is fitting for its classical motif. It is evident that the author gave a lot of thoughts into making this little gem.

The primary intended readers are "all who like classical geometry." To that end, the author challenges the readers to comprehend the meanings of the figures with only the minimal hints. It follows the adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" to the extreme-- 665 times. Not a full sentence is used anywhere to explain any figure, except perhaps for a brief description of the notational convention in the preface. All the necessary information to understand a figure is conveyed by points, lines, segments, angles, and occasionally a result name (e.g., Pythagorean Theorem) and a formula (e.g., c^2 = a^2 + b^2). If you stumble into an "unexplained" label in a figure (e.g., the "M" in 3.1), the chances are it has already been introduced earlier (e.g., the "M" in 2.1). The reader is forced to backtrack to re-learn the definition. This book reads partly like a detective story, and partly like a zen koan. The reader has to immerse his mind into the world constructed by all these little figures. Enlightenment will come only after dissecting everything into analytical pieces and then re-assembling them into an interconnected whole. Only then, the purpose of every single clue that has been provided here and there will be revealed. Readers who know the "Proof without words" column in College Mathematics Journal are certainly already familiar with this format. But constructing and re-constructing a geometrical world 665 times in a row should be a blast to even a seasoned puzzle-solver.

If I have to pick faults on this book, I would recommend more professional proofreading to get rid of the typos and printing defects that should have been obvious given so few words and labels in the main contents. For examples, under "Ceva's Theorem" (4.9.15), segment label q should have been a, and e and f should have been swapped. Also, a directrix of a conic is supposed to be denoted by a bold line, which is unfortunately printed almost indistinguishable from an ordinary line. One may argue that the ability to overcome printing errors is the ultimate test to a student's understanding of the contents. I just think that the author and the publisher should have been more responsible, especially for a book that relies so heavily on labels. Furthermore, while there is nothing wrong for this book to demand a bit of mathematical maturity from the reader, I do wish that the "Elementary theorems" section could have included more fundamental facts. Even something as simple as identical angles between a line and a pair of parallel lines will do. Then more advanced results can be "built" upon the more elementary ones to give a sense of progression as the reader skims through the seemingly unrelated topics.

But all these complaints are really minor comparing to what the author has achieved. I applaud him for giving the readers a nearly spiritual experience by saying so much with only the most rudimentary artifacts (and keeping the price to so low with an independent publisher). This book gets five stars from me.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron - Playstation 3
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron - Playstation 3
Offered by gamedynasty
Price: $41.45
36 used & new from $12.39

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 5-star Graphics, 1-star Game Play, December 31, 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
The graphics is definitely stunning and original. Instead of recycling motifs in nature (forest, etc.), El Shaddai opts for abstracting the environments using geometric patterns, such as spikes, curves, cubes, and many other varieties so beautifully laid out throughout the game. At certain places supposed to be Hell, visual effects that resemble 20th century abstract paintings are fixed on the screen to obscure the view of player, adding an eerie, but very fitting feel to the atmosphere. At other places where the giant jellybean-like nephilims (supposedly the offspring of fallen angels and humans) roam free, the view is clear, and the graphic design is so simplistic and clean cut to the point that it is comical. Unlike some other reviewers, I have no problem with the 2D game play and view. On the contrary, I think the mix of 2D and 3D elements in the game is just about right.

The major problem of El Shaddai has to do with its game play. The first-time play mode does not show any meter for combat. There are some subtle indications of losing armors and changing colors of the enemies. But you basically just hack and slash until your game character dies. There is very little strategy in combat besides perhaps the shallow calculation of stealing weapons from your opponents. Then, perhaps to balance out the shortcomings in the combat mode, the game designer tried to make the puzzle mode more "challenging" by making the device control oversensitive. Almost all puzzles in the game have to do with overcoming (or getting used to) the out-of-control game pad in a frenzy of button pushing. Passing the stage is mostly a matter of luck and reflex. I feel that the frustration far outweighs the tiny satisfaction left in "solving" the already not-so-interesting puzzles. Worse, a puzzle stage is often preceded without save point by a long combat, whose sole purpose is to stand between you and the puzzle. This becomes a bigger problem in "side quests" such as Prophecy of Ishtar, in which one wrong move can end the game, making it very costly to learn your way through. I feel that the flow is disrupted in so many wrong places to make the overall experience enjoyable.

I bought this game for a pre-Christmas sales price of $19.99 plus tax. At least I didn't lose out too much on money.

Introduction to Clustering Large and High-Dimensional Data
Introduction to Clustering Large and High-Dimensional Data
by Jacob Kogan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $38.56
48 used & new from $1.05

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compilation of lecture notes with little or no directions and guidelines, December 4, 2011
This book is based on the author's lecture notes for an undergraduate class. Unfortunately, even after some editorial effort, this book remains largely a compilation of theorems and exercises with little coherence or direction. Chapter 1 frames the whole book from the standpoint of information retrieval (IR). But, as you read on, it should be clear that this book has little to do with IR, nor does it use the examples well enough to make a point in the book. The rest of the book can be divided into two parts.

The first part spans from Chapters 2 through 5 to go over three basic clustering algorithms and their variations: $k$-means algorithm, BIRCH (Balanced Iterative Reducing and Clustering using Hierarchies), and PDDP (Principle Direction Divisive Partitioning). Here $k$-means needs no further introduction. BIRCH was recognized in SIGMOD 10-year test-of-time award in 2006. PDDP is primarily a "bisecting" algorithm. It and its variation are regarded by the author as elegant. So, I think the author has made some good choices here, especially for a short book like this.

What I have problems with is that, although the book contains many basic facts and theorems to these three algorithms, and even bits and pieces of references back to the document embedding example in Chapter 1, there are never enough explanations to tie the clustering algorithms to their significance in those examples. For instance, in subsection 2.3.1, various collections of documents (even with a URL) were introduced. This book is written for general readers who are not necessarily IR-oriented. Yet, without even some mentioning of how the documents were clustered and what the clusters were used for, the author just presented tables after tables of "quality" measures and improvement rates, assuming the readers have already understood what is going on and accepted what needs to be done. At that point, PDDP was not yet introduced. But that didn't stop the author from making comparisons already. When you think the next algorithm, BIRCH, would be given more details simply because it is well-known for its efficiency in squashing large data, there are only some minimal descriptions. Worse, the author insisted that his presentation was equivalent to the original BIRCH paper (Zhang, Ramakrishnan, Livny 1997) and, thereby, skipped a lot of details (e.g., phases 1 through 4) that are crucial to the understanding of the more commonly known BIRCH rather than just his simplified version. The chapter on PDDP is equally unnoteworthy. Subsection 5.4.3 has a cute little example on a hub-and-authority model. But the technique used is quite model-specific and does not shed any new light upon the characteristics of the algorithms already presented. I personally feel that there are just too many this kind of by-the-way-you-can-also-do-this moments to disrupt the flow of presentation and obscure the main messages.

Since the examples are not well chosen, the strengths and weaknesses of the algorithms become harder to see. For the few comparisons among the algorithms, there are some algorithmic step count comparisons, and some illustrations of extreme scenarios. As important as those comparisons are, it would have been more helpful if a discussion on computational complexity and constraints can be added. Even though the book's title mentions "large" and "high-dimensional" data, it is not obvious from its contents why the three algorithms are particularly good for large and high-dimensional data as claimed.

The second part of the book spans from Chapters 6 through 10 to explore alternatives of distance functions and clustering performance measures. This is important because the choice of a distance or distance-like function is often arbitrary. Alternatives, such as Kullback-Leibler divergence, that are more directly related to the information-theoretic properties of probability distributions would naturally be more appealing at least from a conceptual standpoint. However, either the semester was getting short at the time the author prepared the lecture notes, or he made a conscious editorial decision to shorten the exposition in the book, each topic was only briefly touched. Again, one alternative after another is presented, but the book gives little or no space to discuss what they are good for and when they should be used. If you are looking for the next mathematical theorem to prove, that may not be a bad thing if your imagination is kept open. But, as a practitioner, I find the lack of discussion to be a little discomforting.

Interested students may welcome Chapter 11, which contains solutions to exercises throughout the book. Serious researchers may also find the bibliography informative. At the end of most chapters throughout the book, there is usually a section on bibliographic notes, which I also found to be very helpful in understanding the motivations behind the development of many of the ideas.

In summary, this book is short, and gets to the points quickly, which is good. If you are only interested in knowing what a clustering algorithm is, this can be a decent reference. The down side is that the exposition never gives enough depth in the sense that it does not successfully show how one algorithm performs differently than another. Moreover, the book provides little or no guidance on how to choose an algorithm or distance function. Its examples are hopelessly disconnected from many main themes. There are many good points in this book. And I think the author did the research community a service by writing on the important topic of large data set clustering. However, due to its many shortcomings, I have given the book only 3 stars.

A Field Guide to the Birds of North America
A Field Guide to the Birds of North America
by Parragon Publishing
Edition: Paperback
91 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value for beginners, October 25, 2010
I am reviewing the 2009 paperback edition published by Parragon (ISBN: 978-1-4075-7899-6) by the same author (Michael Vanner) under the same title (A Field Guide to the Birds of North America). The cover has the picture of an eagle accompanied by three smaller pictures of other birds.

North America has over 900 bird species. This short book focuses on only some (180) of the most common native inhabitants and frequent visitors. It says so on the back cover. It says so on the front flap. And it says so again in the introduction. So, please, don't blame this little fine book for giving only a snapshot, because it is what it is supposed to do, and the author never tried to hide his intention. Some people need an encyclopaedia; some people just need a pocket field guide. Please feel free to pick the type that suits your need.

For most casual bird watchers, this book is easily the book of choice. It is economical in weight, size, and price. Pictures are real photographs in the birds' natural habitats printed in vivid color. The photo sizes are mostly half a page (very legible), and may occasionally be nearly as large as a double fold. I acknowledge that each species is covered by only one photo. So you won't have the 360-degree view of the birds or their inner anatomy. And you can forget about papa bird, mama bird, baby bird, and the whole family picture. It does have a map for each bird's habitat, with summer, winter, and all-year-round ranges indicated by a different color. The photos and the maps don't show you _everything_. But they show you enough to identify most crucial features. While this may seem to be crude to advanced birders, I feel that such simplicity is necessary to get beginners taking the first step.

The text is divided into two sections to supplement the pictures. The body text tells a concise story of the species. Then in a colored section, the Size, Description, Habitat, and Similar Species of the bird are succinctly summarised. I particularly like the Similar Species item even though it is a bit cryptic at times. (It sometimes goes like "coloring makes it distinctive". I guess there is a limit to what words can say...) If all these are not enough for a beginner, the introduction gives a crash course on the basics of bird watching. In case it matters, this book is even organized in the species family order (from the most primitive to the most developed) used by the American Ornithologists' Union, with the birds' scientific names in Latin indicated.

All in all, this is a very well-made pocket field guide. But it is still _just_ a pocket field guide. Please enjoy the experience for what it is worth.

Democracy's Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World's Most Popular Form of Government
Democracy's Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World's Most Popular Form of Government
by Michael Mandelbaum
Edition: Paperback
34 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read full of holes and biases, March 16, 2009
This book is a good read. It starts off with a puzzle: how did the world go from only 10 democracies in 1900, then to 30 in 1975, and then to 119 (out of 190 countries) today? What makes a country embrace or resist democracy? From there, Mandelbaum develops various themes on the book's subtitle: "The Rise and Risks of the World's Most Popular Form of Government". The author keeps thing interesting by advancing the intellectual adventure from one puzzle to another. I got absorbed into the flow of the book instantly. However, I don't know whether it is his intention to trade academic rigor for readability, or it is just his style. He just doesn't back up his claims very carefully. For example, the book's most fundamental puzzle is based on the big jumps from 10 to 30 to 119 within 107 years. Yet, he never provides the lists of such "democracies". Upon a closer reading of his endnotes, you can see that he actually pulled the figures from at least three different sources. That makes you wonder whether the lists are comparable because they may have different standards of counting what constitutes a democracy. Looking back, this problem would leave an even worse taste in the mouth when he later makes the distinction between genuine and "nominal democracies", which are democracies in name only. Perhaps the fundamental puzzle is less surprising if most of the so-called democracies are actually nominal democracies? But, at that point, I was willing to suspend my judgment for the time being, and just read on.

While this book is at times sloppy on presenting evidences, it is certainly not shy on articulating the main ideas. The introduction not only defines many important concepts, but also provides the historical and theoretical context to relate all those concepts together. For example, he defines democracy as a fusion of two political traditions: "liberty— individual freedom; and popular sovereignty— rule by all the people" (p. xiii). Immediately he was able to leverage on the definition to highlight the conflicts between these two traditions and why they make an "odd couple" (p. 16), a metaphor that he will come back again and again throughout the book. And then he makes similar maneuvers repeatedly to drive his points home. I found this method of 'idea spawning' to be very effective in giving new life to an otherwise rather dull subject.

As for his main thesis, it sounds simple enough: "Democracy did eventually spread, largely because the countries where it flourished became unusually successful and therefore served as attractive models for others to emulate." (p. xiv) These successful countries happen to be victors of the two World Wars and the Cold War. According to Mandelbaum, the First World War illegitimised the rule of monarchy and empire, and gave rise to popular sovereignty. However, this doesn't automatically secure a place for democracy because "nominal democracies" (p. 32) were also born alongside as competing ideologies. A nominal democracy governs in the name of people, but offers no representation and does not protect liberty. By successfully defending themselves in the Second World War, genuine democracies discredited this rival political tradition found on inequality and oppression and give democracy the good name as claimed in the book's title. Finally, the Cold War established liberty-protecting representative democracies that embraced free-market economies as the victors. This is important because, according to Mandelbaum's theory, a free-market economy serves as a "school for democracy". Through the training of free markets, institutions that mediate between the public and the government are built, and the necessary skills and values are cultivated among the people to enable a genuine democracy to function. The victory of free-market economies lends support to his theory why free-market economies are not only good but also almost necessary for democracies to succeed. After that, the "wealth effect" (p. 100) took over: the poorer countries embraced democracy partly because they wanted to imitate the successful formula of the rich countries, and partly because they were required to convert to democracy as a pre-condition of joining important organizations, such as the European Union. The first three chapters wrap up at this point, and basically conclude the "Rise" part of subtitle rather splendidly.

Chapter 4 and the first part of Chapter 5 aim to explore the "Risk" part of the title. Unfortunately, Chapter 4 relies too heavily on the "democratic peace" thesis, which asserts that democratic countries tend to avoid wars against one another. Since I regard this theory as utter nonsense, I only skimmed over this portion in disappointment. But that's just me. Chapter 5 reiterates the point that a necessary condition for democracy to succeed is "the people of that country must acquire the habit of tolerance... and the skills to manage an effective legal system". Unfortunately the author gave this seemingly reasonable proposition an warranted twist in the second part of Chapter 5, which is basically a series of case studies on why democracy failed to take root in Russia, China, and the Muslim and Arab-speaking countries. He was too willing to assume these cultures do not value— at least do not practice— tolerance and laws. Occasionally he blames the U.S. for rushing the democratization campaign so much that it created suspicion among the people whom they seek to gain cooperation. But he tends to frame it as good intention poorly executed, and is not critical at all against his own government. In contrast, his tone against the "case study" countries is a lot harsher. He also recites nationalism way too often to explain away the failure of democracy. Based on that he makes the implausible implication that democracy will flourish once the status quo stops stirring up nationalism. However, this at least contradicts his case study on China because the communist China government always sees nationalism a threat to their power, and keeps it in check most of the time. So his theory has trouble to explain at least one case. This makes me can't help but wonder whether his understanding of politics in Russia and the Arab world is equally superficial.

In summary, I have very mixed feelings about this book. Its writing style deserves at least 4 stars; but its scholarship is really in the 2-star range— even for a current events book that targets the non-academic, general public. I finally decided to give a 3. With that said, I would like to congratulate the publisher, PublicAffairs, for delivering a fine book. It is well edited and well printed. Both the cover pages and the interior pages are made of paper of high quality. The fonts are printed in reasonably big sizes, unlike most political science books that try to bore readers to death (or blindness) by printing the main text in nearly footnote sizes. I hope they will continue to find good writers like Mandelbaum to produce more good books on the subject. I also hope the author will have the chance to revise this otherwise wonderful book by filling the holes and balancing the biases.

DVI Gear HDMI Cable 2M 6 feet
DVI Gear HDMI Cable 2M 6 feet
Offered by NETCNA
Price: $2.00
84 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Pay More?, July 14, 2008
The high quality HDMI cables, such as the 4-foot, Monster Cable Ultra 1000 series being sold for $129.99 plus tax at most national electronics stores (as of July, 2008), makes sense only if you need LONG wiring, say, over 50 feet, in a big house. For SHORT wiring, say, 6 feet and under, any signal loss can be adequately handled by a generic branded cable of the same kind. You won't notice any difference in picture quality. Also, you don't have to worry about the format 1.3a or 1.3b compatibility issue if you are a casual electronics user. Most low- to mid-end products don't fully utilize the latest standard's maximum capacity anyway. So, if you can pay for less than $5 (shipping included) to get the job done, why pay more?

The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives (Economics, Cognition, and Society)
The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives (Economics, Cognition, and Society)
by Stephen Thomas Ziliak
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.55
56 used & new from $18.00

133 of 158 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mean-spirited and Misguided, June 29, 2008
I attended a seminar by McCloskey when she announced she was working on this then-upcoming book. So I knew beforehand that its style would be more like a victim-tells-all revenge than a fun-seeking discovery typical of most popular science books. The first half of the book (up to Chapter 13) did turn out to be bitter. However, at least that part was largely based on facts, such as a comprehensive count of academic papers failing to meet certain standards. The second half of the book was devoted to the biographies of key persons who led to the rise of what the authors called the "cult of statistical significance". The book lost any pretense of integrity at that point, and just started slinging muds. Gosset was portrayed as a good-natured figure who worked hard like a bee; and Fisher, a mad scientist who stole the labor of others and would attack people by any means to defend his status. At one point the authors didn't even bother to call Fisher by his name, and just referred to him as the Wasp. They also dragged Fisher's mother into the ordeal by making suggestions that she was responsible for turning Fisher into a cold-hearted person that they claimed.

I was not only disgusted by this kind of tabloid sensationalism, but was also disappointed by how little useful information I got out of this long-awaited book. The authors "irrationalized" the popularization of statistical significance by framing it as the work of a cult. To further illegitimatize the use of statistical significance, they argued that it is wrong to rely on it to evaluate scientific hypotheses because (1) what we really want is how likely for a hypothesis to be true given the data, not the other way around; and (2) there are other clues just as, if not more, important, especially the effect size. These could have been reasonable positions if they did not make statistical significance a scapegoat for being a "fallacy" just because it is defined on the likelihoods of observing data given the hypotheses. As the way it is defined, statistical significance provides a measure of precision. That's all. Just because it doesn't answer all the questions of scientific interest doesn't mean it provides no useful information and certainly doesn't automatically make it a fallacy. Furthermore, many hypothesis tests used in academic researches are based on likelihood "ratios" rather than just the conditionals. At least there would be NO fallacy for the believers of the Likelihood Principle. It is quite regrettable that they fail to elaborate on such crucial information to make other people look stupid, whether it was their intention or not. As for the second point, I agree that researchers should have paid more attention to other factors, such as statistical power and sample size, IN ADDITION TO statistical significance. But I think it is misguided to hail any ban on reporting statistical significance as a heroic act of revolt as the authors did in the book. One can report all the effect sizes he wants. But it all means nothing if his inferences are what they appear to be mostly due to "bad luck" in sampling the wrong subjects.

If my views above are on the right track, then this book would serve the research community no good by martyrizing Gosset and demonizing Fisher. There has been no cult all along. If we are justified in believing that some vested interests overemphasized statistical significance to divert our attention away from the more important issues, then we should encourage people (authors and readers alike) to focus on those more important issues instead of treating statistical significance as if it were irrelevant. For a more serious and more informative discussion on this topics, I would recommend Chow's Statistical Significance: Rationale, Validity and Utility (Introducing Statistical Methods) . His first chapter explains the key issues in 12 pages with more varieties of arguments and more intellectually stimulating details than what Ziliak and McClosky attempted in 251 pages.

I give 3 stars for this book's good intent but average quality, and, on top of that, took 1 star off for its mean-spirited rhetorics.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2014 9:44 AM PDT

Monster Cable HTS 800 Home Theater PowerCenter with Clean Power Stage 1
Monster Cable HTS 800 Home Theater PowerCenter with Clean Power Stage 1

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You pay for a lot of features that you do not need, June 29, 2008
I bought this surge protector at a reduced price, which I thought was a good deal but actually wasn't in hindsight. After much evaluation, I feel that this product is worth at most $30.

Features that I found useful:
- The specification says it can withstand a power surge up to 1850 joules, which should be adequate for a thunderstorm.
- Spacing of the outlets is reasonable.
- The 8-foot power chord is long enough and is wrapped by plastic of good quality.
- It has phone line protection. It is a plus for me because my phone happens to be placed right next to my TV.
- It has power indicator light and grounding status light.

Features that I found useless:
- The colorful labels are not helpful because, if you really care, you should tag the cables instead of the outlets. Also, how often are you going to look at the colors once the whole thing is shuffled beneath the furniture?
- The so-called $27 bonus value is exaggerated. The coaxial cable is hardly needed, especially if you have cable TV. The phone cable can be bought for under $2.
- The audible alarm adds no value because, if you use the electronics, any power outage will be noticed immediately.
- The 24K gold plugs do not seem to perform better than regular plugs.
- The CleanPower Stage I functionality reduced the ghost shadows of my cable TV by only a little bit (like, two shadows instead of three). This product probably doesn't help much in new buildings where power supplies are already quite clean. After all, many factors may contribute to ghost shadows. Dirty power is only one of the many possible causes. (However, it does appear to stablize the power enough to allow my TV to turn on during a brown-out, which could not be done before. I don't know if it was only a coincidence.)
- I didn't have any hope for the $150,000 warranty offered by Monster Cable to begin with, because I think it will work just like all other too-good-to-be-true warranties on the market. Read other reviewers' comments to see for yourself whether you can count on it.

I probably could have bought what I really needed for about $15 if I bothered to spend many more hours to hunt for bargains. I feel that I paid mostly for convenience, vanity, and perhaps some false sense of assurance. This product can be a decent surge protector, but is definitely overpriced.

Monster MP AV600 Power Protector (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Monster MP AV600 Power Protector (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
4 used & new from $39.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Inferior Specification, June 29, 2008
This so-called protector can withstand merely 420 joules. Even a $2 power strip sold at a famous Swedish furniture store offers more protection (740 joules) than that. I see no reason why this product should be made at all, not to mention why it should be charged at such a high price.

Learning SAS by Example: A Programmer's Guide
Learning SAS by Example: A Programmer's Guide
by Ronald P. Cody
Edition: Paperback
Price: $77.04
57 used & new from $63.74

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SAS programmer can grow with this book, August 24, 2007
If you just want to casually gain some familiarity with SAS up to the level of Base Programming certification, then probably the Little SAS Book alone will be enough. (At least it worked for me.) That book is economically priced and is famous for being concise and clear. However, when you actually program in SAS or even prepare for the Advanced Programming certification, you will soon find yourself outgrow the "Little" book. Then you need another book like "Learning SAS by Example" to elevate you to the next level. This book is not only concise and clear, but also encyclopaedic and systematic. There are many good "programming by example" SAS books on the market. I am particularly impressed by this book's broad coverage of practical topics and their methodical treatments.

The book is divided into four parts.

Part 1 is a short introduction extended to details like priority of arithmetic operations and Program Data Vector-- stuff that not only beginners will find useful, but also more experienced programmers would not mind to keep as reference.

Part 2 drills on the DATA step. The chapters progress from file I/O, to creating data set, then creating formats and labels, and then writing conditionals and loops. This is just the logical order of a SAS program. Once you have the basics, then the book moves on to the next most common programming issues such as functions (dates, numeric, character), data subsetting, and arrays. These (plus half of Part 3) can essentially get you through the Base exam.

Part 3 covers mundane topics such as report customisation. All major means of data display, i.e., PROC PRINT (with PROC SORT), PROC FREQ, PROC MEANS, PROC TABULATE, PROC REPORT, and ODS, are individually introduced in their own chapters. There is even a bonus chapter on graphs. These things are often underappreciated if not outright overlooked by academians. The author, a retired medical school professor, recognises their importance by going through them one by one. All code examples are listed in a detailed index, earning its title "learning by example". However, I have to say that those examples are not too complicated. That is why I think this book is only basic to intermediate level.

Part 4 gets into more advanced techniques in input handling and data merging. Thank goodness this book is not into "hacks" that involve strings of SYMPUT and %SYSCALL and who-knows-what. Solutions are progressively improved until a clean, intuitive method is achieved. This part also covers audit trails, macros, PROC SQL, and even PROC TRANSPOSE. Except for memory management and PROC DATASETS, I think this book covers almost all the big topics in the Advanced exam. (By the way, this book teaches SQL up to explaining what a join is. But this is a book on SAS, not on SQL. If you want to use PROC SQL effectively, you still need to learn SQL from elsewhere.)

The four-part main content, including exercises, spans for 555 pages. Solutions for odd-numbered problems are included after that. The rest can be found in the support website. Together with the attached CD-ROM, it makes a great resource for self-study and for professional reference. My only major complaint is that this book lacks a good section or even just a good index on OPTIONS (especially NOFMTERR and SPOOL) and on %INCLUDE. Without such tools, it would be hard to share application modules in a real work environment. This new book is also a bit more expensive than its older competitors. But with all the helpful programming tips and recommendations of other good SAS books throughout the pages, a SAS beginner can grow with this book for a long time to come and well make the money worth.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 27, 2013 8:02 AM PDT

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