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Men's Health Big Book of Exercises
Men's Health Big Book of Exercises
by Adam Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.00

54 of 79 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Big Book is Big Disappointment, 26 Feb 2011
The concept of Men's Health Big Book of Exercises is great: collect hundreds of exercises, group them by muscle group and add some background information and nutritional advice. There you go: the workout manual to make all others obsolete. But despite the lyrical reviews posted here, I found this book disappointing. In short: the collection of exercises is great, but the way they are presented is not optimal. A serious framework to construct your own training plan is absent and the nutritional information is downright silly.

EXERCISES

What I liked about this book is the sheer number of exercises, they are the reason I continue this book every now and then. Each exercise comes with at least one clear picture and has some handy little performance tips scattered around. However, this being the main event of the book, there are a number of omissions that I would consider flaws.

First, there is no connection between the discussion of the anatomy in the beginning of each section and the exercises. It's great that you are shown the different muscles that make up the back, but in the 60 or so exercises that follow, there is no way of finding out which muscle or part thereof is targeted by which exercise. Also, if you give 15 variations of one particular exercise, it would have been logical to mark the variations in terms of level of difficulty. No such luck.

Basically, the book first gives some fairly detailed information on an entire muscle group (albeit with some less than great illustrations), but then simply dumps a long list of exercises on you. Though the number of exercises provided is much smaller, the book Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier is infinitely better. It tells you not just how to perform an exercise but also how an individual exercise targets each specific muscle. I sincerely hope Men's Health takes some cues from Delavier for their next edition of the Big Book.

TRAINING PLANS

The 'exercise plans' in the Big Book are alright, but if you are looking for a good, consistent framework to get maximal results (as opposed to just "doing something in the gym"), I feel the The Body Sculpting Bible for Men is way better. It may not have the same number of exercises, nor nice color photos like the Big Book, but I feel the overall framework of training is much more solid and consistent than the somewhat hap hazardous and confusing approach in Men's Healh Big Book.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Now, if it were for the exercises and plans alone, I would still have given the book three stars, maybe even four; the sheer number of exercises makes it quite unique. Five stars would be out of the question, because the difference in content quality is too far off from some of the other books available. Still, I decided to lower the rating by one more star, because of the nutritional sections which are silly at best.

First let me say that from a magazine (such as Men's Health) I fully accept a somewhat eclectic approach. A new study comes out one month that says coffee is bad for you and the next month another says it's good - all fine. A book, however, I expect to be a bit more authoritative. This book is not.

The Big Book opts for the "high protein, medium fat, low carbs" approach. I think Susan Kleiner in her book Power Eating clearly demonstrated why a high carb, medium protein approach is far superior for building muscle and losing fat. Other than the Big Book, Kleiner backs up her story with sound scientific references. Where the Big Book settles for "A study in Denmark found...", Kleiner takes a truly scientific approach. Her conclusions are very different but much more logical and actionable for anyone who can think beyond the simplistic adage "muscle is built by protein, so the more protein I eat the more muscle I get".

Perhaps the issue is that this book strongly focused on a US audience. First and foremost, you are assumed to be too fat, or at least struggling with overweight. You also really like to eat a lot of fat and most certainly eat lots of animals. Also, you are not willing or able to change any of these habits.

Even within that context, the advice that comes out is sometimes downright puzzling:

- Beans, peas and corn should be avoided as they contain a lot of starch (p. 442)
- However, whole milk is fine (it's not all that much extra fat anyway), source cream is almost pure fat but hey, serving size is generally small, so go ahead! Other "healthiest" or at least "guilt free" foods: butter, pork chops, full-fat cheese, chicken thighs, coconut (p. 444 - 447). This one I found a particularly funny health advice: vinegar is good for you, so sprinkle some on your caramelized onions (!) or in your mayonnaise (!) before you spread it on your sandwich. Now, maybe I have been gone from the US for too long, but I don't think that I ever saw anyone health conscious eat mayonnaise sandwiches. But according to the Big Book, it's apparently great for your workout diet as long as you add some vinegar to it and stay clear of beans and potatoes. Yeah, right!

If you insist of eating a lot of fat, I can imagine the advice in this book to then at least cut back on carbs makes some sense. But it's obvious that this is no optimal diet advice for anyone serious about exercising. Again, Susan's Kleiner approach (high carb, medium protein and low fat) is far more sensible and much better researched. Sure, if you live in an area where KFC is considered lunch and a white sub sandwich is considered your healthy option, any truly sensible exercise diet may be out of reach. But of course, your results will never be the same as when you opt for a truly effective exercise diet.

In summary:
- Great book if you are a strength trainer and are simply looking to find some more exercise variations. The selection of exercises is unparalleled. Major flaw: the book doesn't tell you why and when you should choose one exercise over another, or which muscles each exercise targets specifically. For more detailed information on anatomy, how to exactly perform exercises and how these exercises relate to your muscles and objectives, a much better option is the classic but recently updated Strength Training Anatomy-3rd Edition (Sports Anatomy)
- If you need some guidance in setting up an exercise plan, opt for The Body Sculpting Bible for Men, Revised Edition: The Way to Physical Perfection instead. While Men's Health Big Book contains lot and lots of information, it gives you little guidance to make sense of it all. The little snippets of information basically have the same value as reading a couple of magazines. If you thought this book tied all the somewhat useful snippets of information from Men's Health archives together in a more consistent framework, you're out of luck.
- If you struggle with overweight and you are absolutely sure you cannot stray too far from the mainstream American diet or let go of eating lots of animals and fatty foods daily, then the nutritional advice in this book may be the best you can achieve. But if you are serious about your body and health and are willing to change to an optimal, goal-oriented diet (i.e. eat like an athlete), make sure to ignore all nutritional sections in this book completely. They are confusing at best, and if you follow a mainstream European or Asian diet, they will actually lead you in the WRONG direction. Instead, order a copy of the very dry, scarcely illustrated but content wise very solid Power Eating, Third Edition by Susan Kleiner.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 14, 2012 8:13 PM GMT


Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand
by Ann C. Heller
Edition: Hardcover

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An great introduction into Tea Party psyche, 3 Oct 2010
This review is from: Ayn Rand (Hardcover)
For continental Europeans like me, there is a number of American conservative concepts which are hard to fully grasp. The "right to bear arms", the unabashed role of religion in public life and the complete and utter obsession with everything that relates to sexuality all takes some time to understand. But for many Europeans, perhaps the most alien ideal of the American right is the reverence of the capitalist system as virtuous in itself.

While Ayn Rand was not bothered so much by the first three ideas (although I imagine she was an avid supporter of the second amendment), she is the foremost and most militant flag bearer of capitalism and as such a great inspiration to many on the currently surging Tea Party-fringe. For those who like to understand these people beyond their slogans, goofery and mishaps, understanding Rand is an excellent place to start. As such, this is a very timely biography.

Fled from the just-turned communist Soviet Union as a persecuted Jew, Rand is appalled to her core by those in her idealized America who justify capitalism on merely practical grounds. To her, that is tantamount to treason to the great ideal of individualism. Provocatively revering "selfishness" and denouncing "altruism", she makes an interesting argument for those willing to try to understand her beyond her provocations. Capitalism, she argues, encourages and rewards the best, most talented and most "virtuous", and prevents the lazy and un-derserving from "looting" the productivity of the "hero's" of capitalism (to use a few Randian buzzwords). Now, most Europeans (and many Americans) will quickly dismiss such ideas as social Darwinism or even as a form of fascism. But to Rand and her (libertarian) followers, these ideas represent the very opposite of totalitarian ideology. To them it is the imposed welfare state that is unjust, taking away what contributing members of society create for themselves. While this world view can largely be dismissed as childishly naive, by turning the general notions of the fair society in the European-style welfare state on its head, Rand cs. make some valid and interesting points worth contemplating. To understand her ideas better, you can read Rand's own books. But to understand the context of this work and the psych of its fans, this biography by Anne Heller is an excellent place to start.

The story of Ayn Rand is as American as it can be. As an immigrant, she first tries to make it, of all places, in Hollywood. As far as Hollywood is political, it is not exactly known for its right wing political thinking and so the über-principled Rand struggles. Her story takes place in both America's left leaning years (New Deal, Great Society) and its right wing reaction to it (among which are the McCarty trials, in which Rand takes up a role herself). One reason why this book by Anne Heller is so great, is that it lets you witness this part of history from the perspective of the right, which is quite rare. Not that this book is political book by any standard - it is not. In fact, it is the neutral, factual observations of people and their ideas which makes this book so accessible to the - say - non-tea party reader. Intertwined with the very intimate story of the unusual personal lives of Rand and her allies, this makes for an unexpected page turner.

Ayn Rand and her ideas are scary and brilliant at the same time, which makes her a fascinating character. Extremely stubborn in both her craziness and her brilliance, she commands great respect as a strong woman standing by her often unpopular principles. At the same she deserves a heart-felt denunciation for being, well, a nasty person. Anne Heller's main premise is that Rand is a self contradictory person with a self-contradicting philosophy. Holding herself and others to the highest standard of truth, progress, rationality and individuality, she is completely intolerant of any criticism to her ideas: those who do not share her core beliefs are "unworthy" by definition. Rand is one of the most well-spoken atheists of her time (the Richard Dawkins of the previous century, if you will), and she is as anti-collectivist as anyone can be. At the same time there are her idolization of strong, arrogant men, her extreme black-and-white world view and her following that quickly turns into a cult with undeniably totalitarian traits (such as the excommunication for disobedience or for 'treason of the principles of Objectivism', which can mean pretty much anything not helpful to Rand's political or personal agenda). Rand severely punishes the independent thought that she champions at the same time.

While I would advise this book as a good read and an interesting introduction in American right wing psyche for Europeans especially, bear in mind that many on the American right have a love/hate attitude towards Rand in a way that will make them even more puzzling to the average European reader. Conservative Republicans admire Rand's defense of selfishness as a virtue, yet they fault and scold her for choosing rationality over superstition. Hence, Rand marks a fault line in the current American right (between the intellectuals and the christian grassroots), and therefore makes an interesting persona. With the Tea Party anti-government rhetoric growing strong, this book give some insight in where the hell these people and their ideas come from.

One critical remark I have of the book is that it seems to focus disproportionally on the perspectives of those who Heller leaned on most in her research, most notably Nathan and Barbara Branden. Therefore, I understand the commentators who claim factual errors or biases in this book. But Rand and her followers are also known for their maximal inflated egos and their complete lack of empathy for the perspective of others. As such, some of the reviews here are a very interesting addition to the book itself. As the cult of Ayn Rand lives on, I would advise anyone to revisit this page after reading Ayn Rand and the World She Made.

One critical remark I have of the book is that it seems to focus disproportionally on the perspectives of those who Heller leaned on most in her research, most notably Nathan and Barbara Branden. Therefore, I understand the commentators on Amazon's American site, who claim factual errors and biases in this book. But Rand and her followers are also known for their maximal inflated egos and their complete lack of empathy for the perspective of others. As such, some of the reviews on the American product page of Amazon.com are a very interesting addition to the book itself. As the cult of Ayn Rand lives on, I would advise anyone to visit that page after reading Ayn Rand and the World She Made.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 3, 2012 10:10 AM BST


Advanced Google AdWords
Advanced Google AdWords
by Brad Geddes
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serious book on a serious topic, 26 Sep 2010
I have read a number of books on Google AdWords and pay-per-click advertising. Most were written in a 'get rich quick' kind of style that did not instill much confidence.

This book is very different. It is comprehensive, thorough and serious. Very, very serious. Unlike some of the 'get rich quick' babblers would have you believe, pay-per-click advertising is a rather technical matter, more about maths than about romantic success stories. So any book that treats the topic seriously, in a detailed and comprehensive manner, is likely to be - well - dull. However, those how are truly interested in understanding the mechanics behind successful and sustainable PPC campaigns will find this an exciting read; Not despite, but because of its comprehensiveness. Fortunately, the book is also very well organized in 17 more or less self-contained chapters, so experienced advertisers will have not much trouble finding the goodies for them.

Giddes has done a commendable job of presenting all the relevant information as concise as is possible without losing clarity. That adds up to a rather hefty book. Therefore, those who are merely looking for an introduction in Google AdWords might feel a bit intimated and discouraged by it, and might do better with another decent but slightly more 'sparkling' book on the topic, such as Ultimate Guide to Google Ad Words: How To Access 100 Million People in 10 Minutes

If you hope that Google AdWords is about "getting rich quick" rather than about doing a lot of meticulous, inventive and intelligent work, you are highly recommended to go through the 500 pages of this book. Get rich? Perhaps, if you do it right and have a relevant business to back up your effort. Quick? Well... not so much. This book is all the better for making no bones about that, but instead to jump right in with sound and clear advice and by explaining also the more abstract concepts behind the system. It doesn't just tell you what works, but it makes you understand why. Therefore, even experienced AdWords-advertisers will feel they gain new insights and expertise thanks to this book. Recommended!


HTML5: Up and Running
HTML5: Up and Running
by Mark Pilgrim
Edition: Paperback
Price: 22.99

61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much chatter, too little detail, 24 Sep 2010
This review is from: HTML5: Up and Running (Paperback)
I must say: I enjoyed going through this book. It is written in an opinionated and slightly irreverent style, so I found it a mildly amusing read.

That being said: why do people buy a book on HTML5? Some would like to have a good in-depth reference on the ins and outs of the new language. Well now - that's not this book. Others might be new to web development and think learning HTML5 would be a good starting point. While they are right that HTML (5 or 4) is the place to start, this book surely isn't.

There's some depth when it comes to background, but much less when it comes to HTML5 itself or how to use it. True, the <canvas> tag and geolocation are covered pretty much in detail, but the author made some hard to defend choices in spending his paper estate.

HTML5 gives us no more than a handful of new tags, still some of those (<mark> and <section>, for example) are simply mentioned once and that's that. No examples, no advise on where to use them, nothing on browser support. Yet the book takes five pages at the start to tell the story of how the img-tag came into being some 15 years ago. Again, mildly amusing, but probably not the reason you are thinking of buying this book.

Another example: there are 10 pages with a primer on audio and video codecs, plus another 19 (!) detailed pages (with lots of screen shots) on how to use a number of specific and probably soon outdated software tools to encode video for the web. All fine for those who are completely new to video encoding and believe a book on HTML5 should be the starting point for that. But when it comes to the actual <video> tag (under the aptly named heading "At Last, the Markup"), this consists of a meager 3 pages that include a statement like this:

"The <video> element has methods like play() and pause()".

Huh? "Methods like"? So which other methods are there? And how and where would I use them? Are these standardized across browsers? Where can I find more about them? Any example, maybe?

If you think these are the kind of questions a book on HTML5 should answer, you are out of luck. The above sentence is all the information on this particular topic you are going to get. Not a word about implementing these methods, or on how to style the browsers' native video controllers that come with HTML5 support. There are a good number of external references for information on things like Unicode, codecs and video containers, and some useful scripts, but not a word on how we can get the information on how to control and style the <video> tag. Maybe the logical conclusion would be: in another book on HTML5, perhaps?


Duracell Battery Charger With USB Including 4 AA Batteries CEF23
Duracell Battery Charger With USB Including 4 AA Batteries CEF23

28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothings is perfect, not even this charger, 27 July 2010
The problem with buying a product that scores such good reviews as this battery charger is that it easily disappoints. Therefore, by all means, this seems to be a fine charger. Now that's out of the way, let's see what's not so great about it. I found five mild disappointments a bit more than I expected (how many things can you wish for in a battery charger anyway?)

So, here we go:

1 The "included EU and US plugs" which are specified on Amazon's product page aren't actually included.

Ok, it was a nice gesture to recognize us non-UK folk by acknowledging there are multiple types of plugs out there. But of course it would have been nicer if it didn't remain at words only. However, this problem can be overcome as - and there's a happy surprise - the unit can be powered by a standard 12v charger inserted on the side. The adapter from my external hard drive happened to fit, so I could charge without first buying a converter for the ridiculously over-sized UK-style plug (hope you don't mind my saying what the rest of the world thinks!)

2 According to the manual, no other batteries than NiMH can be charged.

Being that I bought this product mainly to charge large quantities of NiCd batteries, that's pretty much a deal breaker for me. Amazon's UK site didn't talk about the machine charging NiCD, but some other sites did. However, as far as I can tell now, the unit doesn't seem to refuse NiCD batteries. The 2 by 3 inch inimini-manual doesn't mention NiCD at all. That may be a good thing, as it's also not included in the surprisingly long list of batteries NOT to charge with the unit. But it does state a couple of times that ONLY NiMH batteries can be used (and of course that DURACELL NIMH batteries are recommended).

3 Doesn't seem to discharge partly loaded batteries

I'm not even sure if that's even necessary anymore, as this 'smart loader' loads each battery individually (and kuddos for that!). But it's unclear if there's any difference between NiMH and NiCD here. Maybe a 3x4" instead of the 2x3" manual could have taken some of these doubts away.

4 No detailed status indicator

The status indicator is rudimentary: red is charging, green is charged. No indication of charging status in between, as offered by some other brands. Not a big deal when you just charge some batteries every now and then, but a slight disappointment for those who manage a whole lot of batteries and would sometimes just like to know which ones are charged and which ones are not.

5 Trows out a whole bunch of batteries I never have problems with.

Of the first four non-Duracel NiMH's that I tried out, three immediately gave the blinking-red led indicator which means 'abnormal battery'. Now, these batteries were pretty old, but I'm still using them without any issue. Not sure if blinking-red means that it warns but charges, or if it basically orders you to throw away the batteries and buy some new ones. Again, Duracell, would adding one or two inches of extra information to your miniminiminimanual really break the bank? In any case, a charger that is picky might be a good thing as much as a bad thing, so I'm undecided on this one.

Now, you might find fault in someone making so much of five mild flaws in an otherwise perfectly honest battery charger. I don't judge you for that. Just remember that you took the time to read it all. Hope you make an informed decision. If you are expecting perfection, bliss and good karma from this charger: don't. But if you expect it to rapidly charge the four perfectly fine NiMH batteries that come bundled with it: yeah, it pretty much does that.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2011 7:34 PM BST


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