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Martin A (Normandy, France)

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Catwatching
Catwatching
by Desmond Morris
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Why do cats present freshly caught prey to their human owners?, 19 Aug 2014
This review is from: Catwatching (Hardcover)
I have read several of Desmond Morris's books, always with great enjoyment at the insight he brings to whatever he writes about. As a cat owner, always fascinated by their behaviour, I read Catwatching when it first appeared and I enjoyed its explanations of the many aspects of cat behaviour. I recommend it to anybody who wants to understand cats better.

But there was one aspect of cat behaviour where I was not convinced by Desmond Morris's explanation. Why do cats present freshly caught prey to their human owners? Desmond Morris says it is because they consider their owners hopeless hunters. I was never convinced by this explanation.

A few weeks ago, my lawn was marred by the appearance of several molehills. Then, one day, I found a large dead mole in the middle of the living room floor. My instant reaction was to think "What a good cat! How can I reward her?". Then, in a flash, it became clear to me why cats bring freshly caught prey to their owners.

Thousands of years ago, cats were domesticated by early farmers. The fact that cats efficiently catch and kill mice must have been greatly appreciated by those farmers - after all, a few hundred mice in a barn will consume huge amounts of grain in a year, as well as contaminating what is left with their droppings.

Consider this. If you were a prehistoric farmer with several female cats, which cat's kittens would you keep? The cat who eats mice immediately she catches them - so that you never see what (if anything) she has caught? Or the cat that brings you a mouse every day, meowing loudly to draw your attention to it? Obviously, you would choose to keep the kittens of the cat who has proved she is a good mouser.

Since then, I have noticed that, when my cat brings me a mouse, as soon as I have praised her and admired the mouse, she then gobbles it up without more ado. So she (or rather, her genes) get an evolutionary advantage from showing me that she catches mice but without loosing out on the nourishment from eating them.

So it's the effect of selective breeding giving an evolutionary advantage to those cats who demonstrate to their owners that they are good and persistent hunters that has resulted in cats' brains being programmed to bring prey to their owners.

[Dr Morris, if you should happen to read my comment, I would be interested to know what you think of my observation.]


The Nature of Mathematical Modeling
The Nature of Mathematical Modeling
by Neil Gershenfeld
Edition: Paperback
Price: 29.48

2.0 out of 5 stars OK for a read on a long journey, 25 Jun 2014
I bought the book (hard copy form) in a second hand bookshop while on holiday in Ireland. It is well printed on good quality paper and my copy is noted as 'reprinted 2003'.

I have several criticisms:

- It is mistitled. It does not discuss "the *nature* of mathematical modeling" of physical systems. It does give a brief overview of numerous mathematical techniques relevant in mathematical modelling of physical systems. It also discusses a few relevant aspects of computer programming.

- The coverage of any individual topic is superficial, covering only a few pages. If you already know about a topic, what the author says makes sense. But if it's new to you, you'll probably only get a general impression of what the topic is all about.

- The book does not touch on large areas of significance in mathematical modelling. For example, although the first page asks "How would you describe ... Highway traffic during a rush hour?", queueing theory and the mathematical analysis of discrete event systems do not seem to be mentioned.

But having said all that, I felt I had my money's worth and enjoyed reading it on a long ferry trip and being reminded of mathematical methods that I had used years ago - a bit of nostalgia.


Renovating and Maintaining Your French Home
Renovating and Maintaining Your French Home
by Joe Laredo
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful book for anyone renovating a house in France. Two minor things slightly marred my enjoyment, 30 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As other reviewers have stated this is a very useful book, dealing both with the practicalities of renovating a house in France. Also very helpful in interacting with the French system - notaires, the mairie, EDF, and so on.

Two minor things slightly marred my enjoyment of the book, although they have no impact on its usefulness.

- It contains a number of cartoons, obviously intended to be amusing, but which I find simply unfunny and therefore slightly irritating. (Examples: - Someone holding a paper titled "hard water area" turning on the tap and ice cubes come out. - A guy in the process of diving into his swimming pool notices a shark swimming in it.)

- The author overuses exclamation marks! Generally, exclamation marks should only be used in a book for quoted speech expressing strong feelings or a raised voice. (Example: "I hate you!" she shouted.) Overuse of exclamation marks is often taken as an indication of lack of professional editing. It's only a minor defect but, as I said, it slightly reduced my enjoyment of the book!


Volvo 700/900 Series: The Essential Buyer's Guide (Essential Buyer's Guide Series)
Volvo 700/900 Series: The Essential Buyer's Guide (Essential Buyer's Guide Series)
by Tim A. Beavis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.13

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does not give you the information you need. My advice is to give it a miss, 26 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have owned a succession of rear wheel drive Volvos. My current diesel 940 estate has clocked up 320,000 miles, half of that during my ownership. If and when it needs major mechanical work such as an engine overhaul or replacement, I shall have to decide whether to have the work done, whether to replace the car with another 940, or whether to replace it with a different car altogether. I had been looking forward to the arrival of this book to help me decide, in advance, which would be my best option.

But the book disappointed me.

* Much of it is taken up with generic stuff applicable to the purchase of any used car, such as how to check the paperwork, how to pay for the purchase. There is a chapter on how to buy a car at auction.

* The book contains irrelevant information. For example, two and a half pages are devoted to techniques for storing a car that is not currently being used.

* Some of the advice is hardly practical ("check there is no play in the suspension pivots front and rear", removing spark plugs for inspection of their condition) unless the car can be taken to a workshop for inspection and the owner is willing for you to remove parts and replace them.

* The book does not provide information on the range of 700/900 models enabling a potential buyer to understand the difference between the many variants. (Although there is brief and incomplete a table on the last page described as "provides a comprehensive overview"). Such information would have been useful for someone seeing a Volvo advertised for sale and wondering if that particular one would suit them.

* Chapter 2 "Cost Considerations" is not very helpful. The author talks in generalities, except from giving some prices for maintenance components and some rough indications of mpg figures. What would have been much more interesting and useful would have been the total cost per mile to be expected for different models. My 940 diesel has cost 26p per mile over the time I have had it (in France and not including road tolls). That sort of information would have been very useful to have had included.

The same chapter gives advice which seems simply wrong to me. It says "Genuine Volvo parts are almost always worth the extra money". I have found that parts from Euro Parts, for example, were often identical to the product from a Volvo dealer with a Volvo sticker, but a fraction of the price.

The book does not mention garage costs at all, so far as I could see. There are garages that specialise in Volvos and with Volvo trained mechanics, yet which charge about half the hourly rate of Volvo main dealers. Finding and using such a garage is a big part of keeping running costs down for anyone who does not plan to do their own maintenance or routine part replacement.

* The book uses the Volvo 780 model as the reference for price. Since the Volvo 780 is essentially unknown in the UK, that is not helpful to a UK reader.

* The book contains information which is simply wrong. "All models were fitted with electric windows front and rear" "HT leads produce a significant amount of heat of their own". Not important matters, but such errors reduce confidence in other things the book has to say.

* The book suffers from lack of professional editing. The author twice uses the word "infamous" (C.O.D. - "notoriously bad") evidently as a term of praise. Exclamation marks are overused - a sure sign of lack of professional editing.

To sum up. Notwithstanding what its publisher says, this book does not tell you the information you need to decide whether a 700 or 900 series Volvo is right for you and, if so, which model to go for and how much to pay. My advice is to give it a miss.


The Inner Man: The Life of J.G. Ballard
The Inner Man: The Life of J.G. Ballard
by John Baxter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.65

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Read Miracles of Life and get the signal without the noise, 12 Jan 2013
Having read the reviews here, I read parts of The Inner Man on Google Books before making a final decision. A few days before, I had read Miracles of Life from cover to cover.

My impression (from the bits of Inner Man that I read) is that the factual stuff has been taken direct from Miracles of Life, and then embroidered with stuff made up by Baxter. Here is just one example.

Ballard: "Otherwise, I enjoyed myself like other students, punting on the river, playing tennis, writing short stories, getting drunk with the Addenbrooke's nurses, who generously provided me with an education not even the disecting room could match. They were interesting young women, some with remarkably rackety lives (the syringes in the bedside table drawer?) and I liked them all."

Baxter: "Once alcohol had dissolved his inhibitions, he also found sexual partners among the student nurses of Addenbrooke's Hospital, to which the medical school was attached. Discovering a recreational hypodermic in one nurses 'fun drawer' alerted him that women could be as uninhibited and as inventive as men. Their Bohemianism effaced any lingering pudeur, and he became an erotic adventurer with a taste for sex in odd locations, a variety of women, and often with a spice of violence."

There seems to be a consistent pattern - taking passages from Miracle of Life, then padding then out with unsubstantiated suggestions of psychopathy and so on.

Incidentally, the suggestions that Ballard was a psychopath ring absolutely false in the face of the indisputable evidence of his roles as devoted partner and as loving, caring parent and the kindly notes and letters he wrote to friends or to unknown students, which can easily be found on the Internet.

My recommendation. Read Miracles of Life, if you have not already done so. Don't bother with The Inner Man.


Slaying the Sky Dragon - Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory
Slaying the Sky Dragon - Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory
by John O'Sullivan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.52

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars You cannot debunk global warming pseudo-science with gobbledegook science, 13 Jan 2012
Summary

This is a book that purports to discredit the hypothesis of man-made global warming due to carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels. However, it contains much of what I would term "crackpot science" and so the book cannot be taken seriously. Worse than that, it is seriously misleading if used as a source of scientific information. Finally, it enables CAGW believers to say "Deniers are talking nonsense as usual".

My own position

My review of "Slaying the Sky Dragon - Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory" is not complimentary so, for the avoidance of doubt, let me make my own position clear:

- I think that belief in catastrophic man-made climate change is akin to a religion which has many passionate believers, whose belief is based on faith rather than evidence.

- I think that the global warming mass delusion has resulted in immense harm in numerous ways.

- The evidence for global warming was based on analysis of temperature data with numerous problems of reliability but in any case the data has failed to show continued global warming for the past ten years or so.

The evidence for CO2 being a threat is non-existent. The only "evidence" is computer models, which have been programmed by people with a strong desire to produce evidence for a strong relation between CO2 and global temperatures. But, as someone said, a computer model is an illustration of a hypothesis, it is not evidence.

I am sure that, at some time in the future, perhaps not in my lifetime, the whole thing will be recognised as the greatest mass-delusion of all time. However, there are now so many people and organisations who benefit from it, not to forget a generation of indoctrinated school children, that I don't think this will happen soon.

Let me make clear my understanding of thermal radiation, because the explanations in the book differ very greatly from radiation physics as taught in normal texts. Here is how it is normally understood:

- A black body absorbs all radiation that impinges on it, irrespective of the temperature of the black body or the wavelength of the radiation. Equivalently, every photon impacting a black body is absorbed by it, irrespective of the energy of the photon or the temperature of the body that emitted the photon. The temperature of the black body absorbing the photon is irrelevant to anything - it absorbs all photons whatever its temperature.

- A spherical black body emits radiation whose total power is determined solely by its surface area and its absolute temperature, the radiated power being proportional to the fourth power of the absolute temperature. The spectrum of its radiation is described by the Planck's law formula.

The book has numerous explanations of radiation that disagree totally with what I have written above.

Review

Nine chapters, covering about 50 pages, are by Alan Siddons generally dealing with radiation, greenhouse effect and claiming to expose misconceptions of physics that are to be found in climate science.

There are two chapters by Tim Ball "Analysis of Climate Alarmism" parts one and two which reviews how climate research became politicised and how the IPCC came into existence as an organisation whose mission was to convince governments that they needed to introduce policies based on the danger of man-made global warming. I found these chapters interesting and informative.

There are ten more chapters, by six other authors, including two by Claes Johnson, entitled "Climate Thermodynamics" and "Computational Black Body Radiation".

The book contains numerous misconceptions of physics. To correct or explain all of them would need a document almost as long as the book itself. I will focus on two examples from two chapters. However note that misconceptions abound throughout the book - it is not simply a matter of just one or two errors here and there.

"Examining Greenhouse Theory" by Alan Siddons.

This chapter starts with a diagram from a Washington University course. Many readers of this review will be familiar with similar diagrams showing:
- 342 W/m^2 arriving as solar radiation
- 102.6 W/m^2 being reflected to space immediately
- 239.4 W/m^2 continuing downwards and then warming the earth (taken to be 240 W/m^2 in the text)

The earth then re-radiates 240 W/m^2, as it is in thermal equilibrium.

It is assumed that the 240 W/m^2 radiation leaving the earth is absorbed by an atmospheric layer and re-radiated 50% upward and 50% downward, so that 120 W/m^2 goes to space and 120 W/m^2 goes back to earth, where it is absorbed and the 120 W/m^2 is then re-radiated.

I see no problem with this. Of the 120 W/m^2 re-radiated by the earth, 60 W/m^2 returns again, then 30 W/m^2, and so on. So we have going spaceward 120 + 60 + 30 +... = 240 W/m^2. This is the same as originally arrived at the surface, so things are in equilibrium, with as much power being radiated spaceward as originally arrived at the surface directly from the sun. Of course, it's just a model that neglects numerous effects that are important in reality - transport of heat by convection, for example.

Nothing wrong with the analysis of this simple model that that I can see. The earth's temperature is being maintained but it is not receiving any additional heat from anywhere - including the cooler greenhouse gases above its surface so there is no need to argue that cold objects do not heat hotter objects.

Yet Alan Siddons immediately says "If people are gullible enough to believe such a scenario, and apparently millions do, they deserve what's coming down the road at them."

Then he says "Substitute an infrared filter for that layer of 'greenhouse gases.' Direct a radiant heater at an infrared filter, then. (sic) According to greenhouse physics you will now have the equivalent of two radiant heaters. (...) Two heaters for the price of one. But no, that's not all. Remember that the radiant heater will be heated by its own re-directed energy (...) It's not only a perpetual motion machine - it accelerates to boot!"

This is a spurious argument. The earth is not equivalent to a radiant heater generating its own heat and radiating it. The greenhouse gasses are not equivalent to an infrared filter.

Other chapters by Alan Siddons contain many misconceptions. Most can be translated as equivalent to a belief that photons emitted by cool body cannot be absorbed by a warmer body.

"Computational Blackbody Radiation" by Claes Johnson
At a quick glance, this chapter seems to be a detailed discussion of radiation physics from a mathematical viewpoint, with plenty of mathematics - no shortage of integral signs and formulas. But looked at in any detail, it is simply nonsense - scientific sounding nonsense but still nonsense.

In section 1.1 he says "The purpose of this note is to show that particle statistics can be replaced by deterministic finite precision computational wave mechanics. We thus seek to open a door to restoring rational physics including climate physics, without any contradictory wave-particle duality".

Immediately my alarm bells started sounding. Anyone who announces that he will replace the physics of the twentieth century with a new alternative immediately runs the risk of being thought to harbor delusions of grandeur. "...contradictory wave-particle duality." Sounds impressive but does it mean anything? I don't think so.

He says "A blackbody thus can be seen as a system of resonators with different eigen-frequencies which are excited by incoming radiation and then emit radiation. An ideal blackbody absorbs all incoming radiation and re-emits all absorbed radiation below cut-off"

This is simply rubbish. See my note above as to what a black body actually does.

He says

"As a transformer of radiation a blackbody thus acts in a very simple way: it absorbs all radiation, emits absorbed frequencies below cutoff, and uses absorbed frequencies above cut-off to increase its temperature. A blackbody thus acts as a semi-conductor transmitting only frequencies below cut-off, and grinding coherent frequencies above cut-off into heat in the form of incoherent high-frequency noise."

"We here distinguish between coherent organized electromagnetic waves of different frequencies in the form of radiation or light, and incoherent high-frequency vibrations or noise, perceived as heat."

This all sounds impressive but it is simply gibberish. It is nonsense. A black body acts as a semi-conductor? Does he know what a semi-conductor is?

A blackbody grinds coherent frequencies above cut-off into heat? This is meaningless waffle. As I said, see above for my note of what a black body actually does.

Conclusion

I've taken just two snippets from two chapters. It's too bad that the book is filled with scientific nonsense like this, as there is plenty of global warming pseudo-science that needs to be debunked.

But you cannot debunk global warming pseudo-science with gobbledegook science. Worse, it enables The Faithful to say "There you are, you see? Deniers talk nonsense".
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 6, 2014 10:07 AM BST


Sureflap Microchip Cat Flap
Sureflap Microchip Cat Flap
Offered by Pets Go Direct
Price: 64.89

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom for cats! And their owners!, 15 Dec 2011
My girlfriend and I had both tried magnetic catflaps and had decided that they were a marginal solution:

- The cat has to wear a collar and there are stories of cats getting their collars tangled in bushes and being unable to get free.

- Every now and then a cat would come home minus a collar (no idea how it lost it but it did).

- The mechanism of magnetic catflaps is at the margin of what can be operated by the weakish pull of a small magnet. (One would only work properly after I dismantled it, cleaned moulding flash off the parts and then reassembled it - probably not something your granny would find easy to do).

- The cats would sometimes come home with bits of iron - old nails etc - picked up by their magnets. These items would then jam the door.

- A big ownerless tomcat found he could force open the magnetic catlap. He would then terrify my girlfriend's cats, eat all their food, pee around the house and bugger off again.

A year or so ago, I bought a Sureflap catflap for my microchipped cat. She quickly learned to use it and it has been completely trouble free since then. Batteries seem to last forever - I have not kept a record but my guess is perhaps six months. I replace them when the voltage falls to 1.4 volts (rather than wait for the low-voltage warning to flash).

Its reliability means I can now leave my cat at home when I go away for the weekend and have no worries about her being trapped inside or shut out. (She much prefers staying at home to making a 1 hour trip to a place where there are other cats that don't like her.) It seems more robust than the magnetic catflap - no problems with other cats barging in.

Not wanting to cut a hole in an expensive and handsome new oak door, I cut a hole through my exterior wall at its thinnest point (18 inches). I lined the hole using an aluminium tube but, if I were doing it again, I'd use a section of PVC drainpipe.

A newly acquired young cat learned to use it very quickly, having watched her co-cat coming and going.

My only criticism of the catflap is that it has a 1.5mm gap between the flap and the frame. Although (according to my calculation) this amounts only to about 1/2 a square inch of area, a cold draught is noticable when a strong cold wind is blowing.

MY SUGGESTION TO SUREFLAP: ADD A PLASTIC FIBRE SEAL AROUND THE FLAP LIKE SOME NON-ELECTRONIC CATFLAPS USE.
[ Note added 22 December 2011: My suggestion to Sureflap is too late - they now have a fibre seal as standard. So my sole criticism no longer applies. ]

I recommend this catflap highly. It's worth having your cat chipped in any case and the reliability of the flap means that the cats can come and go as they wish. I too can come and go as I wish without leaving the cats either shut in or shut out. And no problems with unwelcome stranger cats coming in.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note added 22 December 2011

Changing the Front Frame
------------------------

If you look below, you'll see that Sureflap responded to my review and offered to supply their latest front door, which incorporates fibre sealing against draughts. I phoned them and, less than a week later, a kit "Mark 5 Front Frame Replacement" arrived here in Normandy. It included a large sheet with colour pictures showing how to replace the existing front with the new one. (No words, just a sequence of colour pictures.)

You do the following:
- Undo four cross-head screws and remove the cover, having removed the batteries.
- Pull out the printed circuit board with electronics and sensors.
- Lift out the actuating motor.
- Pull off the old actuating cam from the motor with pliers and push the new cam into place.
- Replace the motor and the electronics board in the new front frame, not forgetting the transparent covers for the sensors.
- Replace the cover (being careful the motor wires are in their correct place and are not trapped)
- Replace the batteries and check with a test cat.

There are white wires between the cover and the printed circuit board that seemed rather short and looked easy to break but nothing untoward happened. As soon as I replaced the batteries, there was a reassuring clunk from the actuating motor.

After I had put the catflap back in to operation, I realised that I could probably have simply changed the door, rather than the complete front frame. (I can't guarantee this is possible as I did not try it.) This would have avoided needing to manipulate delicate wiring. Replacing the front frame should only be done by someone who is reasonably dextrous.

Final result: The cat flap works fine with its new door and the knife-like jet of cold air has disappeared.

A FINAL COMMENT
I have been impressed with the reponsiveness of Sureflap. In addition to replacing the front frame, they responded quickly to an entirely different question I had asked them via their website. Their reply was all I needed but they also told me to get back in contact if I needed more help.

(I remember some years back trying to ask a question via the website of the maker of a non-electronic catflap. After I had typed in my question, their site responded "only questions from UK accepted". I am in France and I was left unimpressed by that maker.)

Note added 21 November 2013
The flap is still working perfectly nearly two years after installation. Batteries last seven to eight months.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2011 9:47 AM GMT


The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert
The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert
Price: 7.20

91 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What were all the other journalists of the world up to while this was happening?, 19 Oct 2011
Some years back, I believed that man-made global warming (AGW) had been established as firm reality by physical measurements and the application of the laws of physics. I had no reason to believe otherwise - I had read in newspapers that the UN had summarised numerous scientific studies and there was no doubt about the results.

Then I decided to read up on the subject myself and understand what it was all about. With a background in advanced engineering, and experience of statistical analysis in communication systems and modelling a range of physical systems, I had enough background to read and understand what it was all about.

There seemed to be two main themes:
- The global average temperature was rising at an unprecedented rate.
- Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were the cause.

I started to read up about the "hockey stick" graph, famous from its use by Al Gore. Immediately, alarm bells sounded. Most of the graph had been produced by tree-ring temperature proxies. But the last bit, showing rapid temperature rise, had been produced from actual temperature measurements. If you produce a graph where the appearance changes at the exact point where you change the data source, would you have confidence in the graph? Few engineers would.

I quickly came across the work by Steven McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. Quite apart from the question of switching data sources at the crucial point, their work showed that the "hockey stick" graph was based on faulty statistical methods and essentially an artefact of the analysis method devised by Michael Mann. Here was something that just did not make sense - global temperatures have been shown to be rising at an unprecedented rate but the analysis showing this is based on flaky statistical methods?

Then I tried to pin down the physics relating global temperature to atmospheric carbon dioxide. Alarm bells again quickly sounded for me. This conclusion is based on predictions from computer models. Oh - oh... I have enough experience of constructing models of physical systems to know that, even when the physical system is well understood, validating a model so that you can have confidence in its results is very difficult. A model that has not been validated, if you start to believe its predictions, puts you in a far worse position than if you simply say "we don't know".

How can models of the climate be verified, when there are many aspects that are - at best - only partially understood and where observations of the real system are available only for a very brief period? Even more alarm bells rang for me when I read the UK Met Office's statements that their climate models are verified by checking that they correctly reproduce the historical data used to construct them. For any engineer who has constructed models of engineering systems, such a statement is a joke (a bad one). If a model cannot even reproduce the data used to construct it, then it is clearly worthless - but reproducing the training data is far from confirming that the physical model is correct and will produce reliable predictions.

Then I found that things were even worse yet. To predict significant warming based on increased carbon dioxide, the models incorporate positive feedback effects, where the effect of carbon dioxide is assumed to be multiplied by a large factor. Any engineer who has had to cope with the ticklish instability of systems incorporating large amounts of positive feedback has extreme difficulty believing that planet Earth's climate incorporates significant positive feedback.

By this point, I had become a sceptic of AGW. It seemed to me that there were elements of religious belief in its proponents ("knowing" a thing to be true, even in the absence of evidence). They were talking the talk of science - but walking the walk of a new religion.

Yet, how was it possible that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could present all this stuff as "rigorous science"? I had the beginnings of an understanding of this question towards the end of 2009, when I downloaded and read the "Climategate" emails. It was very clear that IPCC lead authors had been conspiring to keep out anything that cast doubt on the AGW orthodoxy.

I have greatly enjoyed reading Donna Laframboise's book "The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert." It explains in detail how all this nonsense has been passed off as rigorous science by the IPCC.

My question now is this: What were all the other journalists of the world up to while this was happening? There were enough clues that something very wrong was going on.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2013 11:39 AM GMT


Rhythm Riffs: Over 200 Riffs in All Styles [With CD (Audio)] (Hal Leonard Guitar Method (Songbooks))
Rhythm Riffs: Over 200 Riffs in All Styles [With CD (Audio)] (Hal Leonard Guitar Method (Songbooks))
by Greg Koch
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.49

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not about rhythm guitar technique - and a matter of taste whether you like the riffs., 19 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Like another reviewer, I bought the book in the belief, from its title, that it is about rhythm guitar technique - I should have investigated more carefully, I guess.

Some samples are played with quite a high distortion level - ok if it's your taste, but it makes it a bit more difficult to hear note-for-note what is being played - and it grates a bit if you don't like heavy distortion.

Biggest drawback for me was that I found I simply did not like the riffs - many of them sound to me like odd bits and pieces pasted together and I did not find any that I yearned to play. A matter of taste, I suppose, but on the assumption that other potential readers might have a similar reaction, I can't give a strong recommendation to the book.


Designing Tube Preamps for Guitar and Bass
Designing Tube Preamps for Guitar and Bass
by Merlin Blencowe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 23.00

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has good points but not for everyone wanting to know about guitar preamp design, 26 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
.

As someone with a sideline interest in restoring, designing, building and using guitar amplifiers I looked forward to reading "Designing Tube Preamps for Guitar and Bass" by Merlin Blencowe. I have formal training in electronics at the highest level and have made a career in the area but I am well aware that there are always new things to learn and new insights to be had, especially in an area such as guitar amplifier design.

Overall, I was disappointed - primarily because the book is mistitled. It is mistitled in two ways. Its scope is in some ways wider than just preamps - the three chapters on phase inverters and on feedback are more relevant to power amplifiers than to preamps. On the other hand, it does not cover preamp design comprehensively enough to justify its title.

I think it has both good points and deficiencies. For some potential readers, the good points will greatly outweigh the deficiencies. For other potential readers, the opposite will apply.

GOOD POINTS

I think that many enthusiasts will appreciate being able to read in detail the descriptions of valve circuit operation and will get a very good physical understanding of what is actually happening and thus be able to make genuine design decisions, rather than blindly following cookbook recipes with no real understanding. Such enthusiasts will probably find the book very helpful.

The author, apparently self-taught, is enthusiastically willing to share the knowledge that clearly required hard work over a long period to gather. Generally he explains things very clearly. Just occasionally, the explanations get bogged down in a swamp of words. His enthusiasm shines through and I think that many readers will find this inspiring.

The book contains many oscilloscope images, showing actual waveforms and many readers will find this very helpful. A scope image will often show what is really happening far more clearly than any number of words, as well as being more convincing.

I was delighted by the author's comments on writings that talk about the relative tonal superiority of (for example) ECC83 valves from a particular manufacturer. Someone without formal training in circuit analysis is liable to absorb such nonsense as if it were fact. After all, it is widely put about on the Internet - especially by so-called audiophiles. Merlin Blencowe writes:
"These subjective differences are not a consideration for the circuit designer and will not be mentioned here again. (...) Real tonal control comes from the choice of topology, frequency shaping and manipulation of overdrive characteristics, and from a complete understanding of the circuit's functionality, not from the particular manufacturer or vintage of the actual components used."
How very well expressed.

DEFICIENCIES

>>Does not address the overall design problem

Although the book gives lots of information on (for example) deciding the component values for a circuit, it hardly touches on the major choices that a designer needs to make before ever getting to detailed circuit design. Such choices might include:

- the sensitivity required from each input
- frequency shaping characteristics to be provided built in to the preamp.
- what controls are to be provided in addition to the tone controls (gain? drive? sustain?)
- what effects (such as tremolo or reverb) are to be incorporated into the preamp
- how many stages are needed, the signal voltages to exist at each stage and which controls should be placed between which stage.

>> Slags off other books and makes unjustified claims

The preface states: "Of the handful of books which are available, they are at best only descriptions of pre-existing or 'classic' amps, and at worst badly written, badly presented, rife with errors and heavily overpriced". It is unbecoming for the author of a book to speak badly of the work of their fellow-authors like that.

The dust jacket states: "Designing Tube Preamps for Guitar and Bass is the world's first comprehensive guide to the design of tube-based preamplifiers, specifically for musical instrument use, in a single volume". This statement of uniqueness is unjustified and comes across as hollow boasting. Two predating books which cover the topic of preamp design for guitar are:

"The Ultimate Tone" by Kevin O'Connor (1995)
"Guitar Amplifier Preamps" by Richard Kuehnel (2007)

>> Editing deficiencies

The book seems not to have benefited from professional editing. One sign of this, which gives it a somewhat amateurish air, is the excessive use of quotation marks and exclamation marks. The book frequently puts words in quotation marks for no apparent purpose except that the word is a bit vague. Professional editors usually eliminate all such so-called scare quotes.

Exclamation marks are grossly overused in the book - there is probably not a single instance where their used is justified. Some readers find repeated use of exclamation marks irritating.

The level of typos is quite high - most seem to be where a typo has apparently resulted in a different word than what was intended, so that it would not be been found by a spelling checker.

Editing deficiencies such as these do not invalidate the information in the book but they will, for some people, greatly mar the enjoyment of reading it.

>> Structure

Another sign of the apparent non-involvement of a professional editor is the structure of the book. An editor would probably have insisted on an introductory chapter. As it is, chapter 1 dives straight in to dealing with analysis of the common-cathode triode, without covering things that you might have expected to find in an introductory chapter, such as:

- Motivation for why you might want to use vacuum tubes in a preamp
- Explaining the scope of the book - what it covers and what it does not cover.
- Outlining the steps involved in designing a preamp and the trade-offs that need to be made.

It would have been good to have had a brief biography of the author, such as many books include on the inside of the dust jacket. The title page carries the letters MSc after his name - but the subject of his master's degree is not revealed.

>> Misconceptions

If I come across a fundamental misconception in a technical book, this greatly reduces my confidence in the book's treatment of other topics.

Chapter 7 is titled "The Cathodyne Phase Inverter". This circuit is more widely known as a phase-splitter - a triode with equal valued load resistors in the cathode and the anode circuits. The author is confused about the output impedances of this circuit and yet he states that "many authors" have been puzzled by the matter.

He states (p. 161):

"The output impedance of the cathodyne is a troublesome subject, as it varies hugely depending on whether or not it is equally loaded. (...) The fact that not only is the output impedance equal at both outputs, but also very low in value (...) has puzzled many authors, yet it is true. The theory behind this is beyond the scope of this book; interested readers are referred to Jones and Preisman."

But if you look at the quoted papers by Jones and by Preisman, you will find they make no such statement. In fact, they explicitly state that the output impedance from the anode circuit is high and the output impedance from the cathode circuit is low.

That is how it is - from a stage that, from its cathode output, is essentially a cathode follower with a cathode follower's low output impedance and, from its anode output, is essentially a triode whose unbypassed cathode resistor ensures a high output impedance. Anyone doubting the facts can look them up in Langford-Smith (formulas 33 and 34, section 7.2) or they can make an actual measurement of the output impedances of a phase-splitter stage - you'll find one in a Selmer Zodiac 50 power amplifier.

The chapter on feedback gets the author skating on thin ice here and there, when he mentions poles and zeros and output transformer high frequency characteristics.

OVERALL

I think that an enthusiast who could already build a guitar amplifier and understands a bit about electronic circuits and who is willing to make the effort to read this book in detail could get a lot of benefit from it and I would recommend it to them - subject to the reservations I have made.

Someone who is not already familiar with circuit design would probably find it over their head and get no benefit from it - notwithstanding the rear dust cover statement "An essential reference text for any amp enthusiast!" .

Finally, an experienced electronics designer who wanted to get clued up on valve guitar preamplifier design would, in my opinion, find that it does not give them the information they need. I'd suggest potential readers in that category should give it a miss.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2013 2:37 PM BST


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