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Profile for H. Smith > Reviews


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H. Smith "profhal" RSS Feed (Pittsburgh, PA United States)

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Think Stats
Think Stats
by Allen Downey
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from $17.87

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great, focused treatment of basic statistics, September 6, 2011
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This review is from: Think Stats (Paperback)
What I like about Think Stats is that it is direct and to the point. It includes a case study that runs through the book and works on data available online. It provides a great starting point for exploring once you see how the given examples work. Each chapter has a handful of exercises that can get you started if you aren't sure what to do next. Downey has an easy style of writing and finds the fine line between enough information and too many details. That said, this book might be a bit thin if you don't have any experience with statistics or have access to a mentor.

Keeping in mind the that the book is a focused overview, it certainly supports the programmer who is looking for hands-on examples but I believe it also is useful for the non-programmer that needs a quick understanding of the core concepts. They may not be able to do the calculations but they will be able to participate in a conversation.

As it's concise and has active examples, the book would be a great supporting text for a course that requires assumes some statistics experience but doesn't need the overhead of a full-blown stats book. As I have mentioned in other reviews, this book is a good addition to the O'Reilly collection of books on data mining - Segaran's Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications, Russell's Mining the Social Web: Analyzing Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Sites, and Janert's Data Analysis with Open Source Tools.

Data Analysis with Open Source Tools
Data Analysis with Open Source Tools
by Philipp K. Janert
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.69
84 used & new from $5.73

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a nice balance between theory and practice, June 17, 2011
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Data Analysis with Open Source Tools does a great job covering a lot of topics in way that balances theoretical explanations and practical demonstration. In keeping true to its title, a wealth of tools (and data sources) are identified and explored.

Because the book offers a balance between explanation and demonstration it can be read in two different ways. First, you can read the chapters without getting involved with the code to get a better understanding of the whys and hows of the different analysis techniques. On the other hand, if you are more of a brass tacks person, you can focus on the code, run the examples, and just skim the explanations.

For those that are exploring the world of data analysis, this book is a great compliment to Segaran's Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications and Russell's Mining the Social Web: Analyzing Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Sites. Where the books overlap the explanations and examples differ which helps enormously when trying to master the concepts and techniques. However, each book contains topics not in the others. Collectively they offer a rather powerful set of tools.

Having read the other books prior to this one, I really appreciated the time spent on the mathematics behind each technique. The others get your hands dirty very quickly - and I appreciated that greatly when first exploring data mining - but I found myself wanting to have a deeper understanding which this book so nicely provides. As Janert mentions in the first chapter, the succinct notation of mathematics is much clearer than having to try to extract the essence of twenty lines of source code. Without a doubt, though, Data Analysis is dense which and that might turn a few people off.

All said and done, I'm glad I took the time to read the book and will definitely keep it nearby.

Confessions of a Public Speaker
Confessions of a Public Speaker
Price: $4.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars bottom line: prepare, May 10, 2011
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The book is certainly entertaining and if you're new to large audiences, high profile, and audience expectations of serious polish it might help ease some anxiety the experience can give rise to. In terms of practical advice for the general speaker, there's only a handful of things that would be useful. In the end, I think the book can primarily be summed up in a word: be prepared.

Much of the book establishes various "be prepared" advice through personal experience. It's really entertaining and fun to read. Berkun has had a variety of positive and negative experiences over time and he relates his anecdotes well.

The type of speaking Berkun mostly refers to is invited, usually paid talks. This means that he's required to deliver a quality presentation. So much of the book is centered on understanding your audience and really engaging them with the hopes of building a reputation. I think this is really captured when he states something to the effect that with a little research he could fill 20(?) minutes on any topic. Personally, if I attend a talk I want to hear from an expert about things I can't find out myself with a little research. While many of us who do public speaking want to be well-received and kudoed for our talks, delivering content often trumps delivering an experience.

The book does offer focused advice for various pitfalls that can be encountered and there is good utility in that.

Reflecting on keynote talks I have attended in the past I can see how techniques (or at similar to those) in the book are put into practice. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It might just be that I'm a picky audience member.

In the end, if you're interested in this type of public speaking, it's certainly worth reading.

Last Chase, The 30Th Anniv Dir. Cut
Last Chase, The 30Th Anniv Dir. Cut

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars great movie, bad dvd, May 10, 2011
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This review is from: Last Chase, The 30Th Anniv Dir. Cut (DVD)
I have been looking for this movie for a while. While the movie itself is a rather campy and could have a few more things developed in the plot to help pull it together, it's entertaining and an interesting commentary on today's world from the late 70s/early 80s. The movie was originally released in 1981.

Unfortunately, the DVD I received was flawed: the video was a bit behind the audio. You can watch the movie (it's akin to a poorly dubbed foreign film) but it's obviously not the best experience. The issue was known by Code Red (the publishers) but these DVDs apparently shipped before the problem was detected.

Amazon's customer service told me they will ship a new disc to me on June 23 when they have the new inventory. Hopefully that version will be printed properly.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 11, 2011 12:42 AM PDT

Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.10
573 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an interesting exploration, May 9, 2011
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At this point if someone is considering this book its quite likely they understand the concept. The discussion of the outcome of analyses and background stories involved make for interesting reading. Given the diverse set of topics, most readers will walk away having learned something, if not many things. The book is entertaining yet thought provoking and generally easy to follow.

While I really enjoyed the book the one thing I felt missing was a deeper discussion on the actual data analysis. This might have been a single chapter or appendix that walks through the techniques used to arrive at the conclusions; a middle ground between a formal research paper and the discussions in the book. Personally, I would like a behind-the-scenes look into each of the problems but to keep the book a manageable length one example would be sufficient.

DVD ~ Steven Levitt
Offered by insomniacsonline
Price: $8.06
53 used & new from $2.33

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an entertaining motivator to read the book, May 9, 2011
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This review is from: Freakonomics (DVD)
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the book I fully expected this would be a glossy overview and, for the most part, that's what it is. It's not superficial by any means but the discussions are not as deep. Given the format, there's no real way around that. The movie is fun and serves its purpose well.

I think the best use of the movie is to motivate someone to read the book. In my data analysis class, the text books are more about the algorithms and short example problems. Showing and discussing clips during class time as examples of interesting, perhaps unexpected, applications might inspire a few to read the book to learn more.

Mining the Social Web: Analyzing Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Sites
Mining the Social Web: Analyzing Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Sites
by Matthew A. Russell
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from $0.01

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars pure fun, March 3, 2011
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Mining the Social Web does a great job of introducing a wide variety of techniques and wealth of resources for exploring freely available social data and personal information. If you are willing to spend the time tinkering with the examples, the book is pure fun. It offers a nice compliment to Segaran's Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications. The two books overlap but where they do offer different perspectives and explanations of common techniques (e.g., TF-IDF, cosine similarity, Jaccard index). If you are well-versed in data mining the web you may find much of the discussion familiar. If you have only been casually engaged to date, your toolbox will fill quickly.

In order to work with the book's examples related to LinkedIn and Facebook you really need to have a robust collection of connections. In terms of the source code itself, most of it worked as is. I wasn't able to install the Buzz library which limited my interaction with material in chapter 7 and opted to not get involved with the LinkedIn or Facebook but found the discussions around them easy to follow. By far my favorite chapter in the book was chapter 8, "Blogs et al.: Natural Language Processing (and Beyond)..." It was quite fascinating and caused my reading list to grow considerably.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2012 7:30 PM PST

Monsters Are Afraid of the Moon
Monsters Are Afraid of the Moon
by Marjane Satrapi
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great for newer readers, August 31, 2008
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I ordered this book for my daughter, who's five, after reading Satrapi's Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. The former I had to read for a campus reading program and found appreciation for the author's graphics and delivery.

My daughter really took to the book. The story was longer than most of the books she has been reading but for many nights in a row, she read the entire book on her own. There is more text on the pages than in "learning to read" type books but not so much that it is overwhelming. It's a good transition to other books like Library Lion.

The graphics are eye-catching and I appreciated how the story was a little more involved (you have to think about the point) than many books for children are, at least those I have encountered.

My daughter has expressed interest in more books like this - which, of course, I will indulge.

Woodstock: 25th Anniversary
Woodstock: 25th Anniversary
30 used & new from $17.17

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good - but seems lacking, July 4, 2007
I was excited to receive this as a gift from my wife. I have recently started collecting classic recordings - or at least those from artists who had a significant influence either in their time or over the years. Since I have just started building up my library, I didn't have any recordings of Woodstock performances - and a box set would seem the best approach.

While reading through the contents, it took a few moments to realize that this set represented just a fraction of the festival: Three days of music vs. 4 CDs. A great deal was omitted. I found this disappointing. I don't understand why a box set of the entire festival doesn't exist - or at least I can't find it. The recordings must be there (e.g., Hendrix's Live at Woodstock).

Aside from being only a fraction of the festival, the collection doesn't feature all of the bands that were present, some were significant e.g., Grateful Dead, Blood Sweat and Tears (but at least Sha-Na-Na made the cut, right?). While it might be understandable to abbreviate the festival to produce a more compact set, to capture the event from a historical perspective I would think the set should include a representative set - or at least song - of all who appeared.

Incompleteness aside, what can be said about what is included? The balance among the artist sets seems disproportionate. In some cases, the recordings contain almost the entire playlist for one artist, such as CSNY, Jefferson Airplane, while others received considerably less space in the set: Hendrix, The Who, The Band (but at least they were there).

What I found more disappointing was the editing of the discs themselves. The flow wasn't really there. Although I listened to all four discs in one sitting, I didn't think the essence of the event was really captured. It didn't blend well. I believe the order of the artists was preserved but it still didn't have the feel I think it could have. But then again, can a recording really capture the true spirit and experience?

All that said, I still think the set has some merit. There are some amazing tracks contained in the collection. I found the quality of the recordings good was able to enjoy the music (but I'm not a hardcore audiophile).

So, for someone such as myself who had but a few tracks from Woodstock performances contained on compilations, this set offers a nice starting point. If, however, you are searching for the set of a particular artist, you'll have to look elsewhere. I hope to see an unabridged collection appear before long.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2008 11:18 AM PDT

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime
The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime
by Jasper Fforde
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.00
213 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars entertaining and worth the read, July 3, 2007
The book was good. I tend to gravitate towards stories that place a twist on an existing story, historical event or place characters, real or imaginary in different contexts. And Fforde does a nice job. At times, the events were a little obvious and predictable but more often than not he offered clever and unexpected aspects to characters.

The over-the-top behavior of Humpty (excessive drinking, Weeble-like balance and mind-bending womanizing) is by far the most intricate character. But, in terms of pure amusement, the secondary story line that focused on Prometheus was a great touch, as was the subsequent integration of the Greek gods as a political body. The fact that England was hedging over whether or not to grant Prometheus citizenship because it might anger Zeus - brilliant.

As a mystery, the story develops well and keeps the reader ever-guessing until the very end. It also unfolds in a natural way with new information being introduced in both a timely and logical manner. That is, the events do not feel contrived and don't exist purely for the convenience of the characters. The story accelerates in the last few chapters and ends in a rather exciting finish.

Overall, the book is a rather quick and enjoyable read.

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