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A. P. J. Jansen (Netherlands)
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Bombproof
Bombproof
by Michael Robotham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read, 12 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Bombproof (Paperback)
This was the first book of Michael Robotham that I read. This is maybe why I did not have any expectations about it, although I did read a review in a Dutch magazine that awarded it five out of five stars. Consequently, I also was not really disappointed by it. The author takes a gamble by starting with a chapter that takes place in the middle of the story, and only then goes back to the beginning. But he manages to make it work, because sufficient interesting characters pop up with an as yet unclear role to play. I also liked the fact that the main character is mistakenly taken for an expert safe cracker, and then blackmailed into using his "skills" for a job. Some weaker aspects for me were the escape of the main character from a besieged Chinese restaurant, which I found rather far-fetched, and the end, which was a bit predictable. If Robotham's other books are even better, then I am really looking forward to reading them.


The Hidden Man
The Hidden Man
by David Ellis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting with a very original ending., 23 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Hidden Man (Paperback)
In The Hidden Man Jason Kolarich is asked by a Mr. Smith to defend his boyhood friend Sam Cutler, who is accused of murdering Griffin Perlini, a pedophile who was suspected, but never convicted, of murdering Cutler's baby sister 26 years before. The reason why Smith wants Cutler to be exonerated is not clear however. He pays Kolarich very well and he even comes up with a witness who gives Cutler an alibi. But he also insists that Kolarich gets Cutler out of jail within four weeks, and even tries to put pressure on Kolarich by kidnapping his brother. Smith's motives are surprising and only become clear at the very end of the book after many intriguing turns and twists in the story. Besides the story itself, the other strong point of the book is the character of Kolarich. Even though his wife and daughter died recently, he is not a pitiful person who meekly does what Smith wants him to do. But he is also not superman who always does the right thing. A highly recommended book.


Play Piazzolla 13 Tangos for Guitar by Astor Piazzolla
Play Piazzolla 13 Tangos for Guitar by Astor Piazzolla
by Gary Ryan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.81

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Piazzolla, yet not too difficult., 15 July 2010
The music of Astor Piazzolla is quite popular amongst guitar players, and there are various arrangements of his music for solo guitar. There is Vuelvo al Sur containing a collection of tangos arranged by Anders Miolin, Adios Nonino arranged by Augustin Carlevaro, Four Pieces arranged by Baltazar Benitez, and maybe others. The problem with these arrangements is that you need to be an intermediate to advanced player. Play Piazzolla contains arrangements by Gary Ryan that are much easier to play, yet they still capture all the characteristic elements of Piazzolla's music. The book contains 13 tangos; Artisane, Ausencias, Chanson de la naissance, El viaje, Los suenos, Milonga for three, Vuelvo al sur, Milonga, Mumuki, Ouverture(1), Ouverture(2), Sensuel, and Tango Final. (If you already have the book Vuelvo al Sur, you will note that five of them are also in that book, although the arrangements are of course different.) I don't play classical guitar very often anymore, and I hesitate to call myself an intermediate player, but I had little problems with these arrangements. On the other hand they are very enjoyable, and I highly recommend the book.


Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures
Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures
by Ian Stewart
Edition: Hardcover

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Math can be interesting and fun., 13 July 2010
Ian Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures is the successor of Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities by the same author. A cynic might suspect that it will contain leftovers for which there was no more space in Cabinet, but that is certainly not the case. There are fewer well known topics than in Cabinet, but that makes the book only more interesting.

There are more than 150 entries. The shortest consists of only one sentence (Halloween=Christmas), but the longest extends over eight pages. They are not all equally interesting, but Stewart writes in a very engaging way and can make even complicated things understandable. There are entries on the history of mathematics (e.g, the abacus, the equal sign, Egyptian fractions, the slide ruler, Hilbert's problems, the symbol for pi, the factorial symbol, and the square root symbol), entries on number theory (e.g., the rule of eleven, the Catalan conjecture, congruent numbers, the Green-Tao theorem, Euler's conjecture, and primes), entries on topology (e.g., hexaflexagons, flexible polyhedrons, the bellow's conjecture, the hairy ball theorem, horned spheres, knots, the ham sandwich theorem, the four color theorem, and how to turn a sphere inside out), and entries on applications of mathematics (e.g., codes and CAT scans). There are also quite a few entries that are really about physics (e.g., falling cats, antimatter, celestial resonance, global warming, and Lagrange points), which I found less interesting. There are only a few entries on well knows topics (e.g, magic squares and the Klein bottle) and I found only one entry copied from one of his other books (Common knowledge from Math Hysteria). For readers that want to become active there are many puzzles. Some are quite simple, others will keep you occupied for many hours. No less than 67 pages are devoted to the solutions.

Personally I like How to Cut a Cake and Math Hysteria better, because these book delve deeper in the problems that they discuss, but I still highly recommend Hoard of Mathematical Treasures.


USB to RS232 - USB Converter Cable
USB to RS232 - USB Converter Cable
Offered by LTZmart
Price: £1.52

3.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately, you have to look for a driver yourself., 7 July 2010
This cable works just fine, but it does not come with a driver. So you will have to search for a driver on the internet yourself, and not all of them that are supposed to work under Windows 7 actually do.


Hell
Hell
by Yasutaka Tsutsui
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fragments of death and what comes after., 24 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Hell (Paperback)
Hell in Tsutsui Yasutaka's book with the same name is not so very different from everyday life. In some respects it is even better. For example, Takeshi, a cripple when he was alive, can walk just fine now that he is dead. Negative emotions also seem to be absent. Unfortunately, the same holds for positive emotions. The main characteristic of hell is an all pervading lethargy. Even being able to read other people's minds doesn't change that.

Hell describes the death of a group of people and their afterlife. These people know each other, but there is very little that connects them. The book is written very fragmentary. It constantly shifts viewpoint from one character to another, and there is hardly any chronological order in which the events are described. Neither is there a story. If you think that there is a revelation at the end that will explain everything that has gone before, you will be disappointed.


Cows in the Maze: And other mathematical explorations
Cows in the Maze: And other mathematical explorations
by Ian Stewart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not an the same level as Math Hysteria and How to Cut a Cake., 23 Jun. 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed Math Hysteria and How to Cut a Cake, and was looking forward to Ian Stewart's Cows in the Maze. Unfortunately, this book is rather disappointing. The other two books are filled with lesser known topics in recreational maths that are nevertheless very interesting and treated in quite some depth. Stewarts engaging style of writing encourages you to start thinking about the problems that he discusses yourself.

Cows in the Maze is very different. There are 21 chapters. Six deal with topics you will encounter in many other books (Hex, the distribution of prime numbers, incorrect reasoning in the legal system, knight's tours, the Klein bottle, and magic squares), and six are really on physics and not on mathematics (three chapters on time travel, one on the shape of drops, and one on self-organized criticality, one on real knots ). More disappointing however is the way the topics are treated. Many chapters are very superficial. The chapter on Hex is a good example. It only discusses bridge and ladders, which can both be explained in one or two sentences, and anyone starting to play the game will discover these things for himself after a few minutes. Other chapters give too little information to enable you start working in the problems yourself. It is, I think, telling that the feedback section of many chapters is quite small or even absent.

On the other hand there is too much stuff that I could have done without. In the chapter on the way quadrupeds walk, the main topic seems to be Tarzan and Jane. Also in the chapter on the shape of drops the story distracts too much from the mathematics. Klein bottles made of glass look nice, but it is not really mathematics. The chapter on self-organized criticality could do with the incomprehensible quotes from the people involved in arts. And the last chapter I found very interested, but I fail to see what it has got to do with dancing.

If you don't have Math Hysteria and How to Cut a Cake, buy them and forget about Cows in the Maze.


Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference
Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference
by Robert L. Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £46.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Extensive and in depth presentation of data visualization., 16 Jun. 2010
Even though I have been involved in presenting quantitative data professionally for more than twenty years, I had no idea that there are so many different types of graphs, maps, tables, diagrams, and charts. The book is great of you are looking for new and better ways to present your data. Just browsing through it is a joy.

The book has the structure of an dictionary. It has entries for all kind of terms involved in making and describing graphs, etc. So it has for example a (long) entry on "Pie Chart", but also a separate entry on "Segment". It has lots of excellent illustrations, but even better is the text of the entries, explaining what the graph (map, table, etc.) is meant to show, discussing its parts, mentioning variations or alternatives, and indicating relations with other graphs (maps, tables, etc.). As such the book can also be used as a textbook to learn how to present data.

As the book was first published in 1996, one might think that it has become outdated with the increase of computer visualization tools. This is not the case. The quality of the illustrations in the book is much higher than what is produced by most of the software that is used nowadays.


Gravity's Volkswagen
Gravity's Volkswagen
by Geoff Nicholson
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacks the humor of his other Beetles books., 15 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Gravity's Volkswagen (Paperback)
Geoff Nicholson likes writing about Volkswagen Beetles. After Street Sleeper and Still Life with Volkswagens, Gravity's Volkswagen is his third book in which this car plays an important role. The format of Gravity's Volkswagen is also the same as the other two books. There is a main story interspersed with short chapters (two or three pages) with curious stories involving Beetles. The main story deals with the making of a movie adaptation of the book Volkswagen en Velociraptors by the main character of the book, Ian Blackwater.

Geoff Nicholson's books are normally very humorous and characterized by surprising twists in the plot, and people finding themselves in absurd situations. These aspects are unfortunately largely absent in Gravity's Volkswagen. The action is fairly predictable, and I also did not find much humor in the book. I found the misspelling of the German word for beetles that is used at various places even a bit disturbing. It should be spelled Kaefer, or even better without the first "e" but with two dots on the "a". In the book it is spelled with neither the "e" nor the dots, which reminds me too much of kaffer.


Hero [DVD]
Hero [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jet Li

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing from beginning to end., 14 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Hero [DVD] (DVD)
It is surprising how undervalued Hero is. Maybe it is because it appeared so shortly after Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but it is a movie that is at least good.

The story seems to be simple. Nameless is called to the palace of the king of Qin to recount how he has managed to kill the three most-feared enemies of the king. The movie alternates between the conversation between Nameless and the king and the martial arts scenes showing Nameless's fights with the three assissins. But Nameless has another motive than just serving the king, and the fights are shown again, but now from a different perspective and with a different outcome. This part of the movie pays quite some attention to the personal relations between the assissins. Suddenly the king, rather than being save, appears to be in danger again. But then there is another twist in the story, that changes the fate of the king again and that leads to Nameless becoming the hero of the kingdom.

The movie is a visual feast. The martial arts scenes are as good as they get with a choreography that not only involves the combatants but also bystanders and the environment. In particular worth mention is the change in color when the same fight is shown from a different perspective, which results in a very effective change of mood. The army scenes with the flying arrows are no less spectacular, as are the landscapes.

Not to be missed.


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