A fascinating book, which will make you think. However it is also overly long, overly wordy, with some characters so flat and one-dimensional that it'A fascinating book, which will make you think. However it is also overly long, overly wordy, with some characters so flat and one-dimensional that it's painful. Not the life changing philosophical book that many claim, nor the boring tripe that others claim. A good book to experience for yourself....more
It's nice to find some fiction that is meant to be savored. The story (stories) are engaging, pulling you along with enjoyment at the writing and wrapIt's nice to find some fiction that is meant to be savored. The story (stories) are engaging, pulling you along with enjoyment at the writing and wrapping you with the characters and stories. Highly recommended. ...more
In the history of Civil Rights, Alabama can rightfully be considered "ground zero." From Tuskegee's Airmen in World War II (and the shameful SyphilisIn the history of Civil Rights, Alabama can rightfully be considered "ground zero." From Tuskegee's Airmen in World War II (and the shameful Syphilis study which began in the 1930's), the "Scottsboro Boys" case and Rosa Parks and the Birmingham bus boycott to Bloody Sunday in Selma, the Selma to Montgomery march, Freedom Riders being beaten and water hoses and dogs being unleashed on marchers - Alabama's involvement in Civil Rights extends throughout the 20th century. Now these stories are gathered together for the state to guide the reader across the highs and lows of this aspect of American history. Other books ("On The Road to Freedom", "Weary Feet, Rested Souls") have very ably guided the traveler to sites of importance in the Civil Rights Movement across the south, this book benefits from the focus on the single state of Alabama. The result is an invaluable guide to this history in the state. Each area of the state that is explored is accompanied by a map of the area with the landmarks being talked about located on the map. Each story is given a quick synopsis, then a more detailed 4-5 page retelling, and then commentary and photos of places being written about. The extra space allows the author to focus on some of the people and events that are lesser known and often less explored in other guides. The writing is lively and engaging and show the author's passion for the these stories, and the first hand research done in preparation. The recollections of the Reverend John Cross of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls is 1963 brings a gut wrenching perspective to the event that is often missing in other narratives. The history is not all bombs, fire hoses and lynching. Gaillard also includes the triumphs of native sons like Jesse Owens and Joe Lewis. For those interested in walking the ground of Civil Rights history in Alabama, this book is an invaluable reference to help prepare and plan the trip, and an indispensible guide to hold when exploring historic ground. ...more
Heavy handed, this book is a political statement trying to appear as a piece of fiction. Crichton's books are known for being a fascinating mix of sciHeavy handed, this book is a political statement trying to appear as a piece of fiction. Crichton's books are known for being a fascinating mix of science fact/fiction and story. However here, the science (fact or fiction is the reader's to decide) about global warming is the reason for the book and the story is by far a secondary piece. The story itself is clunky and lacks any real resolution (I kept expecting a few more chapters to come along). The global warming facts presented are interesting, preachy and he just beats the reader over the head with it. I wish he had spent more time writing the story instead of the "facts" he wanted to present. The book makes the preachy "The Day After Tomorrow" movie look subdued by comparison. ...more
Twitter is one of the buzzwords most bandied about in terms of social media and marketing, yet it is the one that most defies simple explanation. In mTwitter is one of the buzzwords most bandied about in terms of social media and marketing, yet it is the one that most defies simple explanation. In most cases, when someone asks about Twitter they are told that they just need to explore it for themselves. Some see Twitter as the ultimate expression of narcissism ("I'm eating a bowl of cereal right now.") but at the same time it has become a force for information - much early information on the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the plane landing in the Hudson first came from Twitter users. And of course business buzzwords exclaim "You have to get your company on Twitter." O'Reilly and Milstein step in, extend a helping hand for the new user and help shine a light on the world of microblogging. Step by step, amply illustrated with screen shots and actual "tweets" the authors get the reader through signing up for the service, how it works, what the lingo means and how to try and avoid the pitfalls novices are prone to. Twitter is notorious for having "no rules" but it does have a number of (written and unwritten) "conventions" that can make or mar the experience of a new user. The book is not a "how to" as much as a "let us show you around, and introduce you to many of the helper sites that you might want to explore further." An experienced user may find the book only slightly helpful, but for the new user it can be an invaluable guidebook to getting up and running in Twitter with a positive experience. If possible this book should be required reading when someone signs up for a new Twitter account. ...more
Of the buzzwords that plague managers today one of the most prominent is social networking. Mention social networking to many and the immediate reactiOf the buzzwords that plague managers today one of the most prominent is social networking. Mention social networking to many and the immediate reaction is to think of prominent social media such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. In his book, Shaw addresses the networking that goes on in a business setting that is manifest through these and other social media tools. Social networking today is simply an expansion of meetings and water cooler conversations that business has seen for decades expanded to include more people and to be free of physical constraints for interaction to take place. What once took place around a table can take place at any hour online, with a strong centralized command and control structure or with a more open participant democracy. We tend to think of social networking as an online phenomenon but at the heart of it is the internetworking of individuals regardless of the medium. This slim volume is a detailed study of the styles of social networking, including the variety of networks, command and control, structure and metrics. The author draws upon real life examples (for instance right here with the interaction of readers posting reviews on Amazon is the social task of creating and managing information) to speak generally about some of these networking structures in action. Shah works with the Social Software Enablement team at IBM and cites IBM's social networking extensively as examples of the topic he is discussing, which is fine but also represents tools that few readers will have any experience with. For readers with experience in social media, a number of the points made by the author will seem obvious. Shah also loves to create charts showing differing types of structures which, unfortunately given the nature of many network structure and models, are less illuminating and more charts of repetitive data and overlapping functions. There is some good information in the book, especially regarding management and control structures for networks that reflect the nature of the task and goals of the network. Overall, though, the volume is more of a recitation of facts than an examination of the resources of social networking for business and the result is a volume far better suited for academics and study than for the practical implementation in a business environment. ...more
Anyone in business today has been told that their business needs to be on social media. The problem is should a business be involved in social media mAnyone in business today has been told that their business needs to be on social media. The problem is should a business be involved in social media marketing, but how does one get into this. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, You Tube Digg and Second Life are things that a manager may have heard of, but how to do get involved, without shooting your business in the foot or falling on your face, is something that can be very daunting to someone ready to start dabbling. There are books galore out there how to effectively leverage activity based upon various case studies, but to appreciate these one must have some kind of background in the media to begin with. But first questions such as "What is a Social News and Bookmarking site like Digg or Reddit?" need to be answered. This is where Zarrella's book is valuable. Each chapter is laid out with simple and practical explanation, information and suggestions on the right hand page and screen shots and graphics illustrating this information on the left hand page. The approach puts practical information right in front of you both as an explanation as well as what you would see on the Web. The information provided is concise, free of jargon and with practical suggestions, and more importantly warnings, regarding how and how not to engage in using these social ...more
Amazingly, considering that The Simpsons has been on the air for 20 years now, there has been no official, or authorized, history of the show written.Amazingly, considering that The Simpsons has been on the air for 20 years now, there has been no official, or authorized, history of the show written. Ortved may have set out to write an authorized history, but it is obvious that he was not getting the cooperation he felt was necessary. As a result he has created an unauthorized history of our favorite family, pulled together from what seems to be extensive sets of interviews with many key people in and around the Simpsons universe as well as pulled from various printed interviews and articles by others who may not have been willing to participate. What results is less of a story, and more of a magic window into the birth and formative first decade of the show. Told by a series of recollections and vignettes, we are taken behind the scenes of the Matt Groening being involved in creating interstitials for the Tracey Ullman Show, the eventual spinoff of the shorts into a full blown show, the show becoming a worldwide phenomenon and the resulting legal wrangling, staff changes and hurt feelings that a mega-success brings.
The lack of participation by many vital players, including Matt Groening himself, necessitates the use of printed comments in the stead of interview comments. The lack of cooperation also frees Ortved from having to be objective in his writing, allowing others to present only one side of the story. It also probably limited his access to some areas, especially within Fox, that might have fleshed out pieces and give some heft to his story. This lack of objectivity allows the author to speak very highly of the first dozen seasons with high praise, milder praise for the next few seasons and then almost outright dismissal of work from the 9th or 10th season on.
That said, the book is extremely entertaining, very informative and eye opening and just a great glimpse into the Juggernaut that is The Simpsons. It is the work of love of a fan who is trying to explain how lightning was captured in a bottle and the focus can be on the overall story, with varying amounts of attention paid to the details. It would have been nice to get a better overview of who everyone is and how they fit together (much of the conflicts that appear involve people who are around for a year or two, are influential and then leave), but since the goal is to produce a history told in individual’s recollections and stories rather than in a cohesive narrative, this is not a major issue. While not perfect, the book is a fascinating read of anyone interested in the history of The Simpsons as a show and how Fox became the House that Bart built. ...more
Police work has always included an element of an arms race between criminals trying to outwit authorities and get away with a crime and police tryingPolice work has always included an element of an arms race between criminals trying to outwit authorities and get away with a crime and police trying to prevent this from happening. This battle of wits is especially true in the case of murder. Science in the latter part of the 1800’s had exponentially added to the store of chemicals whose use could prove to be fatal to humans. Science was great at finding all sorts of new elements and chemical compounds. The problem was that science was not always good at seeing if these new discoveries were safe around people, and there was no shortage of people who were willing to explore the lethality of these new chemical. It is against this “golden age of poison” that Blum builds her history. Through the dangerous poisons (chloroform, arsenic, mercury, cyanide, radium and wood and grain alcohols) active in the early twentieth century New York City she tells the story of Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler, who are arguably the fathers of the modern Medical Examiner’s office and of forensic science. Set against the backdrop of the hubbub of New York City as a growing city, a center of society and money, and as ground zero in the social experiment of Prohibition, Norris works to advance the medical examiner’s office from a position of patronage to Tammany Hall to an office integral to the solving of crime and building a knowledge base for civic health information. Norris would be the driving force of change trying to build a modern department built upon science, as well as be a Cassandra warning about the coming dangers of Prohibition in terms of public health as drinkers, cut off from their normal alcohol, would turn to poisonous wood alcohol drinks, despite the government’s attempts to render industrial wood alcohols poisonous (denatured). Meanwhile Gettler, the meticulous toxicologist continues experimenting to test and discover new ways to identify and test organs and tissue for the presence of poisons – the better to convict poisoners.
Each chapter revolves around cases encountered that involved the particular poison, covering the two decades between 1915 and 1936. A recurring theme of the chapters is how society focused on the triumph of the industrial age, blasting ahead with new chemicals without worry or heed to potential health effects. Cyanide gas would be freely pumped into areas to rid buildings and ships of rats and other pests with little regard to the dangers should the gas seep up pipes to inhabited areas on the floors above, or the danger to sailors in fumigated ships that had not had the gas fully ventilated from below decks. Arsenic, mercury compounds, cyanide compounds and thallium were all generously available for purchase as rat poison, cleaning agents and for, often dubious, medicinal purposes. But what could be a benefit to society could also very quickly become deadly when used incorrectly or illicitly. Glow in the dark radium watch faces were a boon that came from necessity in World War I, but the need to ‘retip’ the radium paint brushes by using one’s lips introduced radium poisons to the factory worker’s bodies, eating them from the inside out.
It fell upon science to prove these poisonings were often deliberate, and may be a result of a crime. Toxicology searched for ways to detect even minute traces in the body after death, and to determine how long this telltale trace lingers in the body after death and burial. It was up to the medical examiner’s office to take their research and package it for juries to understand in order to obtain a conviction. This took time, dedicated research and effort of Norris, Gettler and many others. Today, with crime procedure shows such as CSI the norm it is amazing to think that the structure, procedures and values of these kinds of investigations is only 60-80 years old. This book is a blend of several stories – part history, part science and part sociology. The book also points out how attempts from some areas of government to remove poisons from the lives of citizens came up against other government efforts to remove one large ‘poison’ from people’s lives only to force them to seek out even deadlier poisons in Prohibition. The result is a very readable account of the government at some of its best and its worst in regards to the safety of the public. ...more
Dawkins is arguably one of the great thinkers and writers on the subject of evolutionary science and atheism, and honestly can be a craky pain in theDawkins is arguably one of the great thinkers and writers on the subject of evolutionary science and atheism, and honestly can be a craky pain in the ass. While this book goes deeply into evidence for evolution (and make no bones about it, Dawkins feels that a) there is no ground to question evolution and b) he's fighting a war against those who decry evolution in favor of intelligent design or creationism, and religion) it suffers from the typical Dawkins pedantic writing asides. He can find beautiful passages and funny stories, but he can also slip into his version of "anyone with a half a brain knows X" absolutism that can be very annoying. Still he is one of the major science writers of today and knows his material. I just wish he could stop talking down to his audiences so often. ...more