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Irfan A. Alvi RSS Feed (Towson, MD USA)
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American Experience: Panama Canal
American Experience: Panama Canal
DVD ~ .
Price: $12.82
32 used & new from $7.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect, but still excellent, June 22, 2016
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This an excellent documentary on the Panama Canal, covering the associated politics, planning, design, construction, and living conditions.

Being an engineer myself, I would have liked more technical information on the design and construction, but what is provided is fine for a general audience.

I would have also liked more information on the vessels the canal carries, how the vessel capacity was determined during the canal planning, and the positive and negative impacts that resulted from the completion of the canal.

But overall, this documentary is still very much worth watching, given how amazing an achievement this project was.


Allan Holdsworth
Allan Holdsworth
DVD ~ Allan Holdsworth
Price: $19.99
18 used & new from $14.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Peer into the mind of a master, June 16, 2016
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This review is from: Allan Holdsworth (DVD)
This video makes it clear why there's only one Allan Holdsworth, and there will never be another.

First of all, his music is complex and sometimes dissonant in ways that will captivate some listeners while deterring others. So be it, this isn't meant to be pop music. Fortunately, enough people like it to have enabled Allan to make a career of creating this music.

In terms of *how* he creates this music, the video makes it clear that Allan operates on an incredibly advanced level. He's done a lot of intellectually demanding work to thoroughly explore the theoretical side of music - that takes a lot of intelligence and also a lot of motivation. The result is that he's mapped out 10 key scales, many which are rather atypical. He's able to see these scales at once on the entire fingerboard, over which he flows freely, sometimes with wide intervals, in order to creatively construct unique chords and chord sequences, melodies, and improvisational solos in a way that can never really be taught. As if that wasn't enough, his technical prowess and control of tone are stunning.

I've been a fan of Allan for three decades, and have seen him live numerous times. I believe that he's genuinely modest and sometimes self-critical, but whether he can fathom it or not, he's a true genius of fusion guitar, and entirely deserving of his many accolades.

While this video may not help you much in playing like Allan, it can be inspiring and hints at some general tips which can help anyone make progress (not just as a guitarist). Moreover, it provides the opportunity to glimpse into the mind of a virtuoso musician and composer, and that makes it a precious gift for all of us.


The Dysautonomia Project: Understanding Autonomic Nervous System Disorders for Physicians and Patients
The Dysautonomia Project: Understanding Autonomic Nervous System Disorders for Physicians and Patients
by Msm Kelly Freeman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.95
33 used & new from $14.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A+ for effort and intentions, A- for content, June 15, 2016
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This book is an essential resource for dysautonomia patients and their physicians. It describes dysautonomia well enough to aid in diagnosis, and also provides guidance on treatment and coping strategies. The format of the book divides each topic into sections written for patients and for physicians, which aids the usefulness of the book for both audiences.

My main criticisms of the book are that (a) it emphasizes POTS and doesn't give the same attention to other variants of dysautonomia and (b) while there's a benefit of having many contributors to the book, the book doesn't feel fully integrated and balanced in terms of the topics which are covered and amount of detail for each topic.

Despite these criticisms, again, this book is an essential resource on this topic.


The Perfect Corner 2: A Driver's Step-by-Step Guide to Optimizing Complex Sections Through the Physics of Racing (The Science of Speed Series Book 3)
The Perfect Corner 2: A Driver's Step-by-Step Guide to Optimizing Complex Sections Through the Physics of Racing (The Science of Speed Series Book 3)
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Third book in the best series of driving books I know of, June 14, 2016
This book is the third in a series, and picks up where the others leave off by covering topics such as connected and complex turns, so that we can understand how to optimize a track as a whole. All three books are must-reads for anyone serious about optimizing their performance/race driving, and the three books should be read in order. There's a lot of physics embedded in these books, and though it's explained patiently and intuitively, the reader needs to do their part in really studying the books - this isn't light reading. But if you want to understand not only how to drive optimally, but also *why* certain things are optimal, there's no substitute for delving into the physics. Remember, if driving well was easy, it wouldn't be challenging and fun!

Do I need to say more? Order the three books, read them carefully and repeatedly, and be prepared for your driving to be transformed. I'm aware of no other resources on driving which compare with these books.


The Fainting Phenomenon: Understanding Why People Faint and What to do about It
The Fainting Phenomenon: Understanding Why People Faint and What to do about It
by Blair P. Grubb
Edition: Paperback
Price: $25.98
52 used & new from $14.83

5.0 out of 5 stars A bit dated, but otherwise an excellent resource, June 12, 2016
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This is an excellent book on 'why people faint and what to do about it', written by a physician who specializes in this area.

The level of technical detail is substantial, but most patients and caregivers should be able to understand the book, since the writing is clear and straightforward. The book may also be useful to general physicians caring for patients experiencing disabling and/or recurrent fainting, though of course more detailed resources are available for physicians.

This second edition dates to 2007, so it would be nice to have a more recent third edition. I also wouldn't mind the book being longer and more detailed, but I understand the need to keep the book accessible for people with limited biomedical background.

Until a third edition is released, this book will remain a key resource for its target audience.


The Expert Expert: The Path to Prosperity and Prominence as an Expert Witness
The Expert Expert: The Path to Prosperity and Prominence as an Expert Witness
by Douglas Field
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.95
35 used & new from $11.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the first book any budding expert witness should read, April 30, 2016
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The author aims to help experts become experts at being expert witnesses, and he does so expertly. Unpacking that statement, this book provides sound guidance to anyone contemplating being an expert witness, and should also very helpful to people who already have some experience in being expert witnesses. The book generally consists of short chapters and is written with impressive clarity and grace. This is certainly among the best books I've read on this topic, and I highly recommend it.


Perfect Control: A Driver's Step-by-Step Guide to Advanced Car Control Through the Physics of Racing (The Science of Speed Series Book 2)
Perfect Control: A Driver's Step-by-Step Guide to Advanced Car Control Through the Physics of Racing (The Science of Speed Series Book 2)
Price: $9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the most valuable book on high-performance driving I've ever read, April 17, 2016
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The previous reviewer is spot on. Reading this book is like walking into a private seminar where experts are finally revealing the true secrets of high-performance driving, in contrast to the vague or even inaccurate 'folk wisdom' many of us have heard from other sources, including other books. Part of me wants these insights to be kept secret so that I can retain an edge, but the authors have been generous in sharing this information for a negligible cost, so I'll do my part in spreading the word about how valuable this book is.

The reason we can trust this information is that it's based on the laws of physics, not just trial and error, intuition, etc. Start with the premise that there's a physical limit to how quickly a given car can be gotten around a given track, and that limit corresponds to an optimal line with optimal driver inputs along that line (the best drivers of course approach this limit). The authors tell us what the optimal line and inputs are for various types of cars in various types of corners, and they tell us *why* those lines and inputs are optimal. I must say that even as an engineer with a strong interest in the physics of driving, understanding the 'why' part isn't always easy, so be prepared to re-read sections of the book and do some high-wattage thinking, but the effort is surely worth it if you have a genuine interest in getting around a track quickly.

I should note that this book should be treated as part of a series, and I suggest reading the first book in the series before this one, since this second book clearly builds on the first book, including answering many questions the inquisitive reader will wonder about after finishing the first book. The third book picks up where this second book leaves off and addresses how to deal with connected series of turns such as double apexes and esses, as well as the proper line through 'bent straights' which are taken flat out.


The Perfect Corner: A Driver's Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Their Own Optimal Line Through the Physics of Racing (The Science of Speed Series Book 1)
The Perfect Corner: A Driver's Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Their Own Optimal Line Through the Physics of Racing (The Science of Speed Series Book 1)
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, April 12, 2016
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This book explains the physics behind optimal cornering in a detailed but intuitive way, but the physics isn’t simple, so be prepared to *study* the book and read it multiple times (I have a good physics background and substantial track experience).

Based on the premise that minimizing lap time involves balancing both reduction of distance and increasing average speed, simply trying to increase speed at particular points on a track may be counterproductive and actually *increase* lap time. Instead, reduced lap time is achieved by always using the maximum force the tires are capable of generating in order to move the car in the desired direction, which generally means slowing the car during corner entry and accelerating the car down the track during corner exit. This is something you need to both visually see through spatial awareness and also feel kinesthetically - the 'Universal Cue'. The book of course expounds on these points in considerable detail.

Overall, this is an outstanding and important book which takes a sophisticated physics-based approach to optimizing driving. But it’s essential that readers also move on to the second and third books in the series, which pick up where this book leaves off and take the reader’s understanding to a more comprehensive level.


Jack of All Trades: How to Master All Sorts of Skills in Short Amount of Time and Be a Modern Renaissance Person
Jack of All Trades: How to Master All Sorts of Skills in Short Amount of Time and Be a Modern Renaissance Person
by The INSTANT-Series
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.29
18 used & new from $10.97

3.0 out of 5 stars Best suited for beginners?, April 9, 2016
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I bought this book mainly because of all the glowing reviews. Unfortunately, I got a lot less out of this book than other reviewers. I appreciate the author's intention of helping readers along with their journeys seeking diverse learning, and he does offer tips on prioritization, memorization, etc. which many readers apparently find useful. However, my sense is that book is best suited for people in an early stage of such a journey. Those of us who, like me, have been undertaking such a journey for many years may find the advice in the book fairly obvious, or even tedious and unnecessary, since they may have found their own set of methods for fostering their learning and progress.


Rebuilding the Polymath
Rebuilding the Polymath
by Steven Spalding
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.86
8 used & new from $9.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Potentially inspiring for a relatively small audience of potential polymaths, March 29, 2016
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The main premise of this book is that, while much work nowadays is done by large teams comprised of specialists, there's also a continuing need, in this increasingly complex world, to have people around who are competent in multiple fields (polymaths) and therefore able to generate insights and innovations which wouldn't likely be achieved by large teams. Think of modern-day versions of Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, and Benjamin Franklin - people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.

But how do aspiring polymaths who lack the brilliance and determination of Jobs and Musk make that happen, given the constraint faced by nearly everyone of needing to reliably earn enough income to support a family? The solution suggested by the authors is fairly simple, perhaps even obvious, though it requires swimming against the current of modern consumer culture: cut your spending greatly, so that you're able to save and invest steadily to build a financial cushion, and also work less than 40 hours a week in a 'regular' job, thereby freeing up time to do higher-risk work which may or may not pan out financially. Once that time is freed up, the book talks about tinkering, diverse reading, and getting feedback from peers, but beyond that it doesn't really go into much detail about how one should become a successful polymath.

As the authors state out at the outset, this isn't an academic text or a popular science book, but rather only a (short) manifesto. So the purpose is mainly just to offer an inspiring vision, and a general plan for how to make that vision a reality. Those who find the vision compelling will need to carefully consider whether they're willing and ready to make the necessary sacrifices, be disciplined, and take the associated risks, keeping in mind that, by definition, risk generally means potential for both good and bad outcomes.


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