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American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us
American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us
by Steven Emerson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.58
217 used & new from $0.01

28 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ok, so what is to be done?, January 18, 2003
This is a difficult book to read. Like other reporters on confusing issues that cannot be ignored, we are treated to something of a buffet of facts with limited organizing principle. For example, the dust jacket attempts to raise the celebrity of Mr. Emerson by noting his 1997 comment that "If anything, the threat [of a World Trade Center attack] is greater now than before. The infrastructure now exists to carry off twenty simultaneous World TradeCenter-type [truck] bombings across the United States".
The quote displays the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Mr. Emerson is correct that something is incredibly wrong, but the danger is as mysterious as ever. The American terrorist network has proven to support a continuous wave of equivalent bombings in Israel, not the United States. Rather than pulling off 20 simultaneous US truck bombings, the infrastructure pulled on a single attack that was 100 times worse than the 1991 truck bomb.
Emerson really never gets down to the fundamentals of terrorizing populations. Instead, he adopts the familiar 'reporters' perspective to organize his comments. The first two chapters are autobiographical. He simply explains how he got 'hooked' on tailing the Jihad. The justifications are not really satisfying, since his initial motivation seemed careerist rather than principled. The fuming Muslim Jihadis seemed a good candidate for a long term writing job.
But, the autobiographic theme is then blended into the 'eye witness reporter' perspective. The internal self-inspection falls away and Mr. Emerson reports on his adventures while interviewing various mullahs and warlords who he is convinced will kill him if they only knew what he was up to. The story is somewhat surreal and diffused. The terrorists seem to suffer from an odd bi-polar disorder, being a courteous host in public, but dwelling in the sewers of murder when out of our author's sight.
Perhaps knowing he has to deliver some sort of criminal conviction if he wanted to satisfy the reader, we are then told a detailed story of a terrorist recruiter, then of a terrorist trainee. Unfortunately, Mr. Emerson has to acknowledge that both are only 'linked' to terror organizations. Mr. Emerson cannot accuse either of specific crimes.
And, there in lies the real pain for the reader. We are left hanging. What is to be done? Change US laws? Go to war? Close the borders? Start a civil defense program? Or, ignore it because it's just a bad dream that will go away...
Based on my own reading between the lines, Osama Bin Laden's bombing of the World Trade Towers is the aberration that threatens to spoil the party. The US is the training ground and a major funding source for Islamofascist operations everywhere else! Hamas is probably just as interested in taking down Bin Laden as Bush. The guy is screwing up a sweet deal with an American bureaucracy whose only real interest is preserving the status-quo.
Unfortunately, this is a message unlikely to cause many Americans to awaken with any sense of purpose.
Rather than trot out the 'usual suspects' and the traditional plot line, I would rather Emerson had taken the next step and outlined the bigger picture. Maybe this was not his purpose. Maybe he just wanted to cause his reader to think. Maybe his publisher just wanted to take advantage of huge wave of fear caused by the World Trade Center.
As a country, we are losing the war. It isn't lost, but the real problem is our inability to define the threat. Americans continue to define security in terms of very expensive mobility and weapons systems. The World Trade Center attack cost only a few hundred thousand to mount. The American response has be to divert billions to massive technological control systems and more billions to transport a conventional army (control system) to the middle east.
We have been pouring billions down a rat hole over the so-call 'war on drugs'. Are Americans doomed to pour the last billions down the drain on a misguided 'war on terror'? It would be helpful if Emerson had addressed the American 'way' in terms of dealing with what should really be called 'NetWar'. What should the response be to network terrorists who are infrastructure parasites rather than competitors? What is the cost? Who should manage the effort?
Mr. Emerson gets high marks for laying the ground work, but he failed to lay out the battle lines in understandable terms.


The Shores of Wisdom: The Story of the Ancient Library of Alexandria
The Shores of Wisdom: The Story of the Ancient Library of Alexandria
by Derek Adie Flower
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.99
14 used & new from $3.94

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read, begs a full treatment for the subject, January 17, 2003
Highly enjoyable, but a bit too light. I described it to my wife as the 'People Magazine history of Alexandria.' The focus is on celebrities, money, murders and sensations. Not an entirely bad place to spark an interest in this subject.
The 196 pages are divided up into 33 chapters. Each chapter covers 2 or 3 celebrities of Alexandrian history. That allows the author only about a page per luminary, so it has to move pretty quickly. The first hundred years (330 to 230 BC) get 90 pages. The next 200 get only 40 (230 BC to 30 AD). After that, there is little on the library itself, only the Alexandrian fin-de-siecle told as soap opera.
Of course, Flower's 'decline' story (30 to 642 AD) is the subject of some debate. Flower's write that the Caliph Umar used the following logic to justify burning the library's books: "If what is written in them agrees with the Book of God, they are not required; if it disagrees, they are not desired. Destroy them therefore,". The modern 'Bibliotheca Alexandrina' website asserts the Christians destroyed the library 200 years before the Muslims got there.
For a deeper look, see
The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World, Canfora
Pappus of Alexandria and the Mathematics of Late Antiquity, Cuomo
The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World, Macleod


The End of Days: A Story of Tolerance, Tyranny and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain
The End of Days: A Story of Tolerance, Tyranny and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain
by Erna Paris
Edition: Hardcover
45 used & new from $0.01

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The crimes of the Catholic Church revealed, January 2, 2003
I picked up this book when looking for something on Muslim/Christian relations in 15th century Spain.
Here is a summary of the book's theme: The Catholic church, in general, and the Spanish Catholic church, in particular, have been attempting to eradicate the Jews for the last 1400 years (at least). In the year 712, Muslims brought multi-culturalism to Spain. The resulting golden-age of tolerance was ended by Catholic bigotry, lies and murders. The book retells Spanish history in terms of crimes against the Spanish Jewish people (people who practiced the Jewish faith and those whose Spanish ancestors were Jewish but practiced Catholic Christianity themselves). Particular attention is given to the anti-Jewish riots of 1391 and inquisition, but these events are linked to more contemporary Catholic crimes.
I found the details of Spanish history interesting. This period is particularly ugly to our modern sensibility and English speaking historians seem to avoid it. For example, Queen Isabella looks like a good candidate for modern feminist biography. She created one of the first modern states and financed the first European adventures in the Western Hemisphere. Despite this, the Amazon website has only 1 post-1950 biography on her. I suspect her role in establishing the Spanish inquisition seems decidedly un-feminist.
I don't recommend this book. The author naively accepts various first person accounts from the era when they support her case. At one point, she retells the miraculous story of Jewish children having visions of Christian crosses entirely without a modern skepticism. It simply happened. Less sentimental was her naive acceptance of the racist premise that being a 'converso' (Spanish Catholics with a Jewish ancestor) had some sort of biological reality. Somehow, the persecution of these Christians was a crime against the Jewish race because the biological reality of race was more important than the details of faith.
The conventional wisdom on the Spanish Inquisition, (see B. Netanyahu's "The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain") takes the view that the Spanish sovereigns let the 'coversos' be attacked in order to distract the outraged city masses and their leaders from turning against the royal establishment itself. In other words, it was a media campaign to control the 'masses' via propaganda. For example, King Ferdinand himself was a 'converso', but he continually used the inquisition to suppress opposition to his innovations in tax policy.
The 'revisionist' view (see The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision by H.Kamen) suggests the modern understanding of the inquisition is Marxist propaganda of the 20th century. If you can take this perspective for a moment, the fact Paris ignores the 13th century expulsion of Jews from Muslim Spain suggests Paris fits Kamen's critique. For Paris, the only villain is the Catholic Church.


Building Winning Trading Systems with TradeStation (Book & CD-ROM)
Building Winning Trading Systems with TradeStation (Book & CD-ROM)
by George Pruitt
Edition: Hardcover
33 used & new from $4.08

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introduction to Programing strategies in EasyLanguage, December 20, 2002
"Building Winning Trading Systems With TradeStation" is brand new and probably the best 'Intro to EasyLanguage' currently available other than the manuals TradeStation itself offers. The title suggests it is a strategy book, but the 'strategy' section is only about 50 pages of a 375 page book. The rest of the text is a good intro to TradeStation, EasyLanguage and trading, including tips on debugging, performance reports, StopLoss exits and other somewhat obscure topics.
Other EasyLanguage guides are somewhat dated (though, I still find them interesting). Check out "Ask Mr. EasyLanguage" and "Using Easy Language" if you want to comparison shop.
Much of the book can be found elsewhere, particularly the online TradeStation manuals. 90 pages of appendix comes straight from the online 'EasyLanguage Reference Guide' (a pdf file). What is unique about the book is the 'system development' perspective. The online guides offer little or no help developing trading systems.
The CD contains the code described in the book. The code could have been put on 2 floppy disks, but I guess a CD is cheaper and saves space.
Table of Contents:
1. Fundamentals (What is EasyLanguage?) pg 1-29
2. EasyLanguage Program Structure pg 30-38
3. Program Control Structures (if-then-else) pg 39-51
4. TradeStation Analysis Techniques pg 52-75
5. System Performance pg 77-108
6. Trading Strategies pg 109-156
7. Debugging pg 157-166
8. Research topics pg 168-193
9. Percent Change Charts (Jan Arps) pg 194-200
10. Options pg 201-227
11. Interviews with EasyLanguage Developers pg 228-276
12. Appendix pg 283-380
13. Index pg 381-389


Linked: The New Science of Networks
Linked: The New Science of Networks
by Albert-László Barabási
Edition: Hardcover
88 used & new from $0.01

34 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A report from a confusing area of research, December 7, 2002
If you read this, you will read about Barabasi's exciting work and the work of his friends. You will read about the risks he and his colleagues take with their careers. You will read about the incredible inertia in academia. But, you won't find much insight into the principles of network dynamics?
I'm not sure the book delivers. We get a 'report from the field', but not much detail or general understanding. It's all too confusing and new, if I caught Barabasi's drift.
But, is this a good 'introduction' to network dynamics? Based on the reviews here, it seems clear the prose appeals to many readers. If this inspires people to read more, then great. I am afraid they are attracted by the comforting tone and soothing outlook, though. We get too much of Barabasi, the expert grant writer. Barabasi foresees network dynamics leading us to Kurzweil's happy 'Age of Spiritual Machines'. A more down to earth view suggests networks bring us Osama Bin Laden. Barabasi is quite thrilled to find small world dynamics in his network research, but never connects them to the 'small world dynamics' of drug lords and suicide bombers.
I'm a bit puzzled by Barabasi's problems with the details. For example, he does a poor job of explaining exactly what a 'power-law' distribution might be, though he uses the term over and over, again. How does one 'find' a power-law in experimental data? Most people have probably gone through much of their lives never seeing a single one! If you find one, will anyone agree with you?
Offering a few examples that one could work with at home would go a long way. For instance, Barabasi talks about the way wealth approximates a power-law distribution. If you try to work with published data on this subjects, there won't be much that looks like a power-law. In fact, the whole idea is rather controversial. It confounds our intuitions and sense of what is right. A power-law distribution of wealth has a few rich, a few more at the 'middle income' level and huge masses in the 'poor' bracket. We would rather have income distributed according to a 'bell curve', a few rich, a few poor and most 'middle class.' If you want to claim 1) natural is 'good', 2) power-laws are 'natural', and 3) wealth has a power-law distribution, why complain about a vanishing middle class? A big middle class is unnatural!
These and other conundrums of the network await the reader's next journey into the subject matter.


Using Economic Indicators to Improve Investment Analysis, 2nd Edition
Using Economic Indicators to Improve Investment Analysis, 2nd Edition
by Evelina M. Tainer
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from $0.03

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A dictionary of economic indicators, August 22, 2002
This book might be a good compliment to an existing library, but I didn't find it very useful myself. I thought the comment of an earlier review's title, 'A Perfect Complement to an academic finance text!' fairly accurate. If you want to know what the talking heads on the financial news are touting, this is an excellent guide.
In other words, if you have bought into the conventional econometrics of the day, whatever that is, this is your guidebook. It ought to help get through a class, but outside the ivory tower, I'm not sure it will be much help.
Personally, the author didn't help me connect the dots. What do these indicators imply for the GNP 2, 3 or 4 years down the road? What connections do foreign indicators have with domestic ones?
These questions are not answered. It's just a dictionary. You get the nominal description, the publishing authority, a bit about why the authority thinks their indicator useful and maybe a few sample numbers. That is it. If you like academic economics or ever have to make a presentation to some government officials, this is probably an exceptional service, though.


The Prudent Investor's Guide to Beating Wall Street at Its Own Game
The Prudent Investor's Guide to Beating Wall Street at Its Own Game
by John J. Bowen
Edition: Hardcover
72 used & new from $0.01

13 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confused arguments paper over a sales pitch, August 22, 2002
I think the author's focus on asset class mutual funds useful, but that's only half the story. If you spend your time reading this, you won't learn anything about taking care of assets. All you learn is the standard Wall Street diatribe:
1. No one can predict the market (except for Wall Street Professionals)
2. The biggest mistake you can make is taking your money out of stocks and bonds once they are deposited (except to pay your advisor).
3. Don't trust your instincts, trust your Wall Street professional's instincts.
At the end of the book, probably hoping they have convinced their reader of his utter ignorance regarding money management, they kindly offer a chapter on finding your 'financial advisor', closing with their own email mailing addresses.
Guess what you are supposed to do.
The book is full of odd contradictions.
1. It's title proudly claims to be about 'beating' Wall Street, but the conclusion extols reliance on a 'financial advisor'.
2. For the first 3 chapters, the authors claim to accept 'random walk' theories, and points out the inability of top ranked fund managers to maintain their ranking as proof of the randomness of the market. For the remainder of the book, we are constantly advised only a professional can distinguish a long term positive rate of return. In other words, it's not a random walk. The guy's picking your asset class funds can suddenly defeat the random walk.
3. There is a chapter on defining your financial goals, but when determining your 'investment time frame', the authors advise using your life expectancy. Let me explain this to you. They advise putting your money in a Wall Street fund and updating your will. You should never plan on 'cashing out' and enjoying your rewards. That's pretty safe investment advice, if the client is alive, the money should stay put and the plan is still on track, even if it is down 70%. If he's dead, he won't sue over the bad advice.
4. In chapter 6 and 7, they advise ignoring tax implications. Chapter 8 is on investing with taxes in mind.
5. In the intro, the authors promise to show you how to do the math yourself. At the end of the book, there is just a bunch of formulas that refer to other formulas with values left undefined. I guess they figured no one was going to follow the math, and if they would, they were not their type of client, anyway.


Squaring the Circle: The War between Hobbes and Wallis (Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series)
Squaring the Circle: The War between Hobbes and Wallis (Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series)
by Douglas Michael Jesseph
Edition: Paperback
Price: $38.00
41 used & new from $29.90

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calvin(ism) and Hobbs, August 12, 2002
On the surface, this book seems an unlikely candidate for my enthusiasm. It appears to be 500 pages of minutia. In fact, the author starts out by saying it is an expansion of a footnote to an early work on the relatively obscure Calvinist mathematician Wallis. How perfectly academic! If that doesn't put the book out of reach, look forward to reading about 1000 footnotes.
Regardless, I think this a great book. Once I got comfortable with the terms, I realized this might be construed as something much more interesting than the traditional 'discovery' of mathematical truths. I'm still not exactly sure how to characterize it, but I'm having fun thinking it a history of science fiction. After all, 'squaring the circle' is the 17th century equivalent to predicting the winner of the Kentucky Derby or tomorrow's change in the Dow Jones Industrials. I may be stretching a bit here, but there is clearly more on the plate than justifying 17th century mathematic revolutions with apples falling on the head of a reclining Newton.
Rather than placing the subject matter in purely mathematical terms, Jesseph considers his material in a wider context, one that makes room for Restoration style science fiction. Keep in mind that Newton's alchemy was an early form of teleportation and the monads of Leibnitz took advantage of an early warp drive. Despite overtly humiliating Hobbs for his mathematical errors, its clear that Jesseph finds Hobbs the ultimate winner. Hobbs suffers no more from his lapse of academic rigor than any contemporary science fiction author. And like Jules Verne, the spirit of his ideas has won if not his details. The political science advocated by Hobbs in Leviathan is hard to distinguish from contemporary standards. Hobbs advocated severely limiting the legal authority of church bishops, scientific materialism and the notion that good laws could produce a good society. Meanwhile, Wallis would be known as a dogmatic right-wing Christian fundamentalist. Further, most of us are convinced that science has 'solved' the problem of 'squaring the circle' which is all Hobbs was advocating, anyway.
And so, Jesseph does a subtle job of indicting my modern sensibility. Painting Hobbs to be the fool, he is actually pointing a finger at my happy secular humanism. Bravo!
So, why is squaring the circle so tricky?
In short, an attempt to find the circle which is exactly 1 square foot in area forces us to confront conflicting intuitions about how we prove the existence of 'real' objects. Try it out for yourself. It is something you can attempt with pencil and paper, or better... try it with a home computer. One of the great things about this book is that it lays out the mathematical issues clearly enough that anyone with high school algebra and maybe an ability to write an excel spreadsheet, can play the 17th century geometer and mathematician. I had a great time doing a 'quadrature' in Excel. If you are interested, I'll email you the spreadsheet (see users.htcomp.net/markmills).
In summary, I think Jessup's book fits into a broad, ongoing reappraisal of mathematical history. I can identify 3 trends, 'Squaring the circle belonging to the 3rd and most important of them:
1. Bringing non-western mathematics to western readers. The best of this is the ongoing research into ancient Chinese mathematics. See 'Chinese Mathematics: A Concise History', Li Yan, Du Shiran, John N. Crossley, Anthony W.-C. Lun, Shih-Jan Tu or 'Astronomy and Mathematics in Ancient China: The Zhou Bi Suan Jing', Christopher Cullen. In short, most of what the Europeans called 'new' math in the 1500s had been around for 500 years in China.
2. Finding a physiological basis for mathematic intuitions. Check out the cognitive research described by 'Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being', George Lakoff, Rafael E. Nunez, Rafael Nuñez. All you really need to read is the first chapter. The rest is rather speculative.
3. Reappraising the conventional myths about heroic ancient European mathematicians. Unless your ambition is a tenured job teaching the history of math, you will have a great time reading sensible inquiries into pre-modern western math. Take a look at 'Biographies of Scientific Objects , Lorraine Daston (Editor), or Pappus of Alexandria and the Mathematics of Late Antiquity, Serafina Cuomo.


Big Trends In Trading: Strategies to Master Major Market Moves
Big Trends In Trading: Strategies to Master Major Market Moves
by Price Headley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $38.49
91 used & new from $0.01

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharing his perspective, July 29, 2002
This represents an 'interim' review. I've read the book, but plan to make a second pass at a much slower pace. I may bounce the rating up to 5 when I get done. For now, the book gets a 4.
I like the book a great deal. In particular, I really like Headley's highlighting of sentiment indicators. At the end of the book, he shares a summation of his trading discipline. Much of it is a quick summary 'The Disciplined Trader' by Mark Douglas. The readers would be well advised to read Douglas directly, but if the material is new, it ought to be worth the price of the book by itself. For me, I enjoyed the insight into Headley's life style.
Headley's writing style strikes me as somewhat 'stream of consciousness', though. For example, while discussing his use of the Put/Call ratio, he states: "The next put/call signal occurs on February 16th, when the put/call ratio crossed back below the upper band to register a 49 percent reading on February 16th, after a 55 percent number occurred the prior day (February 15th). What you notice in this example is that the put/call ratio then has another surge above the upper band two days later, on February 18th at 63 percent. What should be done in these situations? Since a bullish position is already established, you should seek to follow the indicator and stay with the signal until it is either reversed by a sell signal (which would only occur at the other extreme, below the lower band, usually after a rally) or if the time is up for the trade (in the bullish case, after 15 trading days). As you can see in this case, ...."
Along side these blow by blow trading commentaries, Headley presents the TradeStation EasyLanguage code for mechanically trading the QQQ based on sentiment readings.
Why go into these daily details if he is just following a set of rules? Rather than spend time on the day by day commentary, I wish Headley had discussed the process of picking parameters for his trading system. Why 15 days for the long position but only 2 for the short? Additionally, without going through the day by day commentary with a fine tooth comb, I'm not sure he isn't bringing in extra considerations outside those in his mechanical trading system.
Ditto for the divergence discussion.
If you happen to be a TradeStation user, the code provided in the book won't run on the current version (TS 6). It's not that hard to up date, but don't expect to type the code into TS 6 and expect it to run. Also, the TradeStation datafeed doesn't offer the CBOE put/call ratio, nor convenient means of getting into the system, so it is a bit hard to try put/call ratio ideas out.


Astronomy and Mathematics in Ancient China: The 'Zhou Bi Suan Jing' (Needham Research Institute Studies)
Astronomy and Mathematics in Ancient China: The 'Zhou Bi Suan Jing' (Needham Research Institute Studies)
by Christopher Cullen
Edition: Hardcover
6 used & new from $114.76

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history of science, July 21, 2002
Don't let the title fool you. This is not just about China, this is about the human condition. Someone with an imagination should have worked on the title and given it a bit more excitement. I almost skipped reading the book because the title seemed so dry.
I read this book twice and will probably read it, again. The author's presentation is simply masterful. Step by step, he recreates the setting and background for the book's creation and utilization. In fact, he walks the reader through about 2000 years of 'uses' that people found for the book. According to Cullen, this classic was probably a gift to a Chinese emperor and then dumped in a back room for 200 years. It was only when political circumstances changed and an 'old' book might be valuable that it was 'rediscovered' and rendered useful.
For anyone interested in the practice of ancient astronomy, Cullen goes into great detail on the tools and practice of Chinese astronomers from about 3000 BC to the arrival of Jesuits in 1600. For anyone interested in Chinese political history, Cullen explores imperial Chinese history in a way that simply makes one want to read much, much more. For anyone interested in ancient Chinese record keeping, Cullen offers practical advice on what to make of the 'documents' we moderns discover.
I hope they make this a paperback so that it can get wider circulation. What is commonly called 'the history of math' is often embarrassingly western (ethno-centric). This book offers a means of correcting that unfortunate state of affairs.


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