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    Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
    by Douglas R. Hofstadter
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 January, 1999)
    list price: $22.00 -- our price: $14.96
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    Twenty years after it topped the bestseller charts, Douglas R. Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is still something of a marvel. Besides being a profound and entertaining meditation on human thought and creativity, this book looks at the surprising points of contact between the music of Bach, the artwork of Escher, and the mathematics of Gödel. It also looks at the prospects for computers and artificial intelligence (AI) for mimicking human thought. For the general reader and the computer techie alike, this book still sets a standard for thinking about the future of computers and their relation to the way we think.

    Hofstadter's great achievement in Gödel, Escher, Bach was making abstruse mathematical topics (like undecidability, recursion, and 'strange loops') accessible and remarkably entertaining. Borrowing a page from Lewis Carroll (who might well have been a fan of this book), each chapter presents dialogue between the Tortoise and Achilles, as well as other characters who dramatize concepts discussed later in more detail. Allusions to Bach's music (centering on his Musical Offering) and Escher's continually paradoxical artwork are plentiful here. This more approachable material lets the author delve into serious number theory (concentrating on the ramifications of Gödel's Theorem of Incompleteness) while stopping along the way to ponder the work of a host of other mathematicians, artists, and thinkers.

    The world has moved on since 1979, of course. The book predicted that computers probably won't ever beat humans in chess, though Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997. And the vinyl record, which serves for some of Hofstadter's best analogies, is now left to collectors. Sections on recursion and the graphs of certain functions from physics look tantalizing, like the fractals of recent chaos theory. And AI has moved on, of course, with mixed results. Yet Gödel, Escher, Bach remains a remarkable achievement. Its intellectual range and ability to let us visualize difficult mathematical concepts help make it one of this century's best for anyone who's interested in computers and their potential for real intelligence. --Richard Dragan

    Topics Covered: J.S. Bach, M.C. Escher, Kurt Gödel: biographical information and work, artificial intelligence (AI) history and theories, strange loops and tangled hierarchies, formal and informal systems, number theory, form in mathematics, figure and ground, consistency, completeness, Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry, recursive structures, theories of meaning, propositional calculus, typographical number theory, Zen and mathematics, levels of description and computers; theory of mind: neurons, minds and thoughts; undecidability; self-reference and self-representation; Turing test for machine intelligence. ... Read more

    Reviews (203)

    5-0 out of 5 stars The science of self-reference and repetition
    What do Godel, Escher and Bach have in common?They're demonstrations of self-referencing paradoxical behavior in 3 different fields: Music, Visual Art and Mathematics.If you can follow the ideas presented in Hofstadter's career building Pulitzer Prize winning work, consider yourself mentally stretched.

    Godel's incompleteness theorum refers to itself in proving itself.(If it's true, it can't be.If it can't be true, it is)Escher's art is self-referencing - follow the waterfall down until you realize you are back at the top.Follow the stairs up and around a box, and get back to where you started.Same if you go down.Bach's music rises note by note until it's back where it started.

    Attaching the same abstract idea behind each of these ideas is a fantastic synthesis.For some it will seem obvious.Others may consider it nonsense.I consider myself lucky to be in the group that considers themselves stretched.I don't get all of it, but enough to be glad I read it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars One of the great popular science books

    This book richly deserved its Pulitzer prize.  It's one of the great pieces of popularscience writing and it's  remarkable that it has lost solittlein 25 years.  You learn the intricacies of Bach's music, of Godel's Incompleteness  theorem, Escher's drawings and DNA replication.Although his purpose seems to have been very general, with everythingtied together looselyas ideas for his future work in artificalintelligence, one could view this as abook about some parts ofcognitive psychology--  how the templates we inherit inour DNAcreate and interpret sounds  and images and theorems and how theseseemto relate to one another via the concepts of recursiveness,tangled hierarchies,and incompleteness.  It is mostly  thelack of these inference engines thataccounts for the fact thatto this day AI has still not been able to make a machine withthe brains of an ant(ie, go out into an arbitrarily complex world,recognize and deal with friend and foe, eat, reproduce, and stayout of the sunand rain and keep doing it for years).
    Hisfollowup the next year with Daniel Dennet--`The Mind's I` complementsthis book nicely(see my review).

    So one could say that thisis really a psychology text.  It  is about human  behaviorand reasoning-about why we thinkand act the way we do.  But(likeall such discussions until recently) none ofthe explanationsare really explanations.  Nobody at that time had muchunderstandingof  the mental mechanisms involved.  Like most 'explanations` ofbehavior, the comments here are often more interesting forwhat kinds of thingshe tries to use (and omits) than for theactual content.  As with all reasoningand explaining, art, math,music, etc, one now wants to know which of the brainsinferenceengines are activated.  This book and most books and AI  research were largely oblivious to such explanations until quite recently.

     Cognitiveand evolutionary psychology are still not evolvedenough to provide fullexplanations but an interesting start hasbeen made.  Boyer's  `ReligionExplained` is a good place tosee what a modern scientific explanation of  humanbehavior lookslike,and works on art, music and math are sure to appear soon. Pinker's`How the mind  Works` is a  good general survey. They do not explainall of intelligence or thinking but give an idea of how to start. See severalof the recent  texts(ie, 2004 onwards) with evolutionarypsychology in the titleor the web for further info.
    Wenow recognize that the bases for art, music, math, philosophy,psychology, sociology, language and religion are found in theautomatic functioning of  templates or inference engines. This is why we canexpect similarities and puzzles and inconsistenciesor incompleteness and often,dead ends. The brain has no generalintelligence but numerous specializedmodules, each  of whichworks on certain aspects of  some problem and theresults arethen added, resulting in the feelings which lead to behavior. Hofstadter, like  everyone, can only generate or recognize explanationsthat areconsistent with the operations of his own inference engines,which  were evolved to deal with such things as resource accumulation,coalitions in small groups, social exchanges and the evaluationof the intentions of other persons. It is amazing they can producephilosophy and science, and not surprising that figuring outhow  they themselves work together to produce consciousness orchoice or spirituality is way beyond reach.

    Hedoes not try to deal with the endlessly vexing issue of whetherthese correlations are out there in the world or in here in themind. Yes, weuse our templates, but why did we evolve  thoseand was there anotherpossibility?   Some will say this willall become clear when psychology andgenetics  are sufficientlyadvanced, while others say the same of physics andmathematicsor programming. And, did they all evolve from some  prototype enginein a precambrian invertebrate or did they come much later andfrom many sources?

    It occurred to me that some of the mostcomplex products of human reasoning --superstring  theory andthe associated math--are recursive( in somenontrivial  sense)to quantum field theory, subatomic particle behavior and  theentire universe. Physics unites many areas of the most advanced  mathbecauseit needs  self consistent structures, but since we know math is logicallyproven to be  inescapably incomplete and math is a product of the mind, itseems reasonable  that there must be a sense in which the mind is incompletealso. We expectsince they use math that computers must be incomplete. We knowthatTuring's halting theorem for computation(we can not discover inadvancewhen a computer will stop) is logically equivalent toGodel's incompletenesstheorem.  It might follow that physicswill be incomplete as well and there willbe many physical lawsor phenomena that will never be compatible with orderivable fromthe others.  Or perhaps physics can be complete andselfconsistentin one universe but not in others

    Just as he did not go veryfar into the many realms of psychology or  physics, neither did he venture farinto philosophy.  Perhaps the book could havebenefited greatly from anunderstanding of the infinitely subtlerelationships between language, thoughtand reality.  An acquaintance with  Wittgenstein would have helped immensely,especially his'Lectures on  the Foundations of Mathematics: Cambridge, 1939'edited  by Cora Diamond(1990).  It is better to get this onerather than theearlier `Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Vol. 1` edited by RushRhees( as they are based on different setsof notes if you  are really  into ityou should get both).
    AlthoughI've never seen anyone say so, W can be regarded as a pioneer incognitive psychology.  All of his  research was thought experimentsandintrospection  into the relations between  language, thoughtand reality. Perhaps  nobody ever approached his talent for describing the mind at work. The point is that Hofstadter istrying to  understand how the mind  works as apreliminary tomaking programs that work the same way(or at least get similarresults)so anyone who is interested in this book(or nearly any area ofphilosophy,language, psychology, or  intellectual  discourse) can look intoWwith great profit(but  be forewarned W may seem very  shallow,but if you jumpin you may never stop swimming)!
    Just afterreading  this book I happened  to read  Wittgensteins ``Cultureand  Value``(published the  same  year(1980), but written decadesearlier), and,though it's his least interesting  book, I pickedout a few comments  that maybe regarded  as pertinent to muchof  this book and of course to a large part ofmodern intellectuallife.

     ``There  is no religious denomination  in whichthemisuse of metaphysical  expressions has been responsible for somuch sin asit has in mathematics.``  

     ``People  sayagain  and again that philosophydoesn't really progress, that  we are  still occupied with the samephilosophical problemsas were the Greeks.  But the people who say this don'tunderstandwhy is has to be so.  It is because our language has remained thesame  and keeps seducing us into asking the same  questions.  As long  as therecontinues to be a verb 'to be'  that looks as if it  functions  in the same wasas 'to eat' and 'todrink',  as long as we still  have  the adjectives'identical','true', 'false', 'possible', as long as we continue  totalk of  ariver of time, of an expanse  of space, etc., etc.,people  will keep stumblingover the same  puzzling  difficultiesand  find themselves staring at something which no explanation seems  capable of clearing up.  And what's more, thissatisfiesa longing for the transcendent, because, insofar as people think  they can see `the limits of  human understanding',  they believe of coursethat  they can see beyond  these.``
    Wheneverone gets philosophical itis relevant to take a step back fromtime to time and see just what is reallygoing on.  Hofstadteris not a  philospher and he does not seem to take thatstep.  Incompleteness  seems well defined in math but what about elsewhere?  In what sense is music or  art or biology incomplete?  And exactly what willcount as a tangled  hierarchy, and recursiveness orself referencing in suchdifferent realms(and as W would say,such different language games)?   Its notreally so clear that the  recursiveness in art, music, biology and math are thesame sort of thing at all an, insofar as they are, what exactly thatmeans.What should count as  ``same` here?

    H doesnot address these questions in any depth but one might  find them by far the most interesting theme of the book.  We are tantalized at  theseeming connections but do they mean anything?  Do they go to the core of  ourbeing(how the mind works)? Are they merelythe result of the use of  some of thesame templates by art,math, and music?  Do they relate  to the molecularstructureof  matter or to particle physics and  string theory?  Is ituseful toextend these analogies(or are  they homologies?)almostendlessly further intophilosophy, language,  psychology, biology(e.g.,not only the recursive natureof DNA,  RNA  and proteins, butthe many levels of feedback in the nucleus, cytoplasm,  intercellular,interorgan, intracerebral, exchange  of chemicals andgenes betweennucleus, mitochondria and chloroplasts  as well as with thebacteriaand  viruses that wander in out of  our bodies into other bodiesandother organisms  happily picking up and dropping off genesas they go--tangled,recursive,  hierarchical  and in some sense,incomplete).

    Or, to take it further, one  might  findyet more connections between artand music, math and biology, computer programs, physics and chemistry andbiochemistry and add such  dimensions as color, geometric shapes, measurements,self organizing abilities, chaos, and other temporal, spatial or purelypsychological ways(emotions,  sensations, dreams etc).  There are many books inart, music,  math, biology,  psychology,physics and chemistry that alreadytouch upon these  themes butI think the most progress is being made incognitive psychology.The brain is highly recursive in many ways.   We conversewithourselves  internally and many times externally. The  schizophreniccommonly hears voices,  but they rarely say nice  things.

    Oneis reminded ofthe cut-ups that William Burroughs  and ByronGysin  created.  They cut up booksor even newspapers  andstuck them back together  randomly.  There was usuallysome perverse kind of logic to the result showing  the hidden threads indiscourse.  Burroughs later did the same thing with films,with similar results.

    Of course pursuing hidden relationships between seemingly unconnectedthings  quickly leads to numerology, pyrimidology and madness. One can findcodes or algorithms toconnect or derive anything from anything. Hofstadter doesnotgo  into this here but he mentions it in his next book, The Minds I(1981). I am reminded of string theory which has math so powerful it can probablyexplain any possible  universe and so it is verysuspect as  an explanation ofours. 

    He suggest that incompleteness,tangled hierarchies etc may beresponsible  for the emergenceof higher phenomena which do not exist and cannotbe explainedat lower levels(eg, consciousness and in fact, everything)and seemsto be something of a holist( but in other places he seems  clearly behavioristor reductionist). You might say he is suggesting we look for the  explanationof emergence in the bizarre phenomena of the foundations of math,  rather thanin those in the foundations of physics. Given a universe where life ispossible, is it  notinevitably full of  recursiveness, tangled hierarchies,incompleteness etc. 

    As H is well aware, Zen can be regarded as using  theseaspects of the  world to trick the mind into stopping-- at which point allrelationships become  irrelevant. However hewas  just starting in Zen at thetime so he does not go  veryfar with  it.  For those who want to go into itfurther, probablythe best and most readable recent books on Zen  are thevariousvolumes  by Osho. 

    Its a pity he has not been  able to writeanother  book like this as there is  now a vast amount  ofinformation available about DNA and RNA, the inflationary theory of the  universe, quantumtheory, and the beautiful fusionof string  theory  and advanced math, whichcould greatly extendand  amplifiy  the themes of recursion, tangledness,hierarchies,and  incompleteness.  One could  make a good case that the basicstructure  of the universe has these  properties at its smallestandlargest scales.   Both quantum physics and string theoryhave  complex  sets oflaws  that appear tangled,nested, hierarchical and incomplete--  and so far noone can  unifythem, unless one  accepts string  theory on faith-but nobody cansolve string theory and physics, like mathematics  whichit mirrors (orexpresses?)may remain forever incomplete( Kaku's`Hyperspace` gives a summary upto 1994-see my review).

    Itwas one of the few times he stuck  his neck outwhen he predictedthat  the future of AI would involve  recursive programs butareneural nets and fuzzy  logic recursive?   And do these relateat all to howthe brain works or to anything Wittgenstein hasto say about language andreality?  The diligent might want tolook at B.A.  Worthington's book--`SelfConsciousness and SelfReferencing:an interpretation of  Wittgenstein's Tractatus`.

    Sincethis book appeared, mathematician Gregory Chaitin has mademajorextensions of incompleteness and alsodeveloped the amazing omeganumberdefining the limits of math(his  popular and tech bookseasy to find on the net and  his most recent  on omega-- Meta Math --appeared in 2005). 

    Somereaders will find interesting avaguely similar book ``Labyrinth``  by PeterPesic (2000)  whichuses the  form of the triple fugue to link symbolicmathematicsto the  pursuit  of science.
    He does not mention that Godelshowed that (if  the universe is rotating) time  travel is possible(ie,time isrecursive), nor that all theories of physics,  includingquantum  field theory,remain incomplete.  Also the highestproduct of  the  mind--Superstring Theoryis recursive to quantumfield theory and  the  behavior of particles and theentireuniverse. A good bit  of this was known in 1980 and Hofstadterwas aphysicist so it''s surprising it does not appear here. We know that the mostadvanced  physics and the most advancedmath fuse in superstring theory  andthis seems amazingly holistic. Physics must have the  self  consistentstructures of mathematicsbut as math is inescapably  incomplete  does it followthatphysics is also? And worse, as  math is a product of the mind is not themind forever incomplete  too?  Does this mean therewill always be  physicallaws or phenomena  that are not deriveablefrom(compatible with) the others orcan  physics be completeand self consistent in one universe(however we delimitor describethat) but inconsistent in others?  All these questions seem likelyto go on forever. 

    5-0 out of 5 stars GEB, garbage, pseudo-science??
    "Gödel's theorem concerns a problem in "formal logic" and has nothing to do with human-cogno-something." says a reviewer, and concludes that H's treatment of G's theorem is "complete garbage"?!
    Firstly, I have a problem with people who use insulting labels.
    Secondly, it's even worse when they motivate this not with actual arguments, but by stating their (perceived) scientific status INSTEAD ("I am convinced anyone with a degree of mathematics will agree with me.") Truth be said, you can get a degree in math without even coming close to G's incompleteness theorem. Not only do I not agree with the reviewer, but I happen to think H's presentation is the best out there.
    Thirdly, G's theorem is indeed one of formal logic. But to say that it has "nothing to do with human-cogno-something" is to beg the question against the very book you're reviewing. One of the main points of GEB is to explain how G's theorem could be relevant to cognitive science. The reviewer effectively disregards all the arguments presented in the book, and simply STATES that there is no connection :)
    Finally, about the "alchemy and pseudo-science" part: GEB is not a science book (and is not presented as one). True, the author has a very distinguished scientific career, but GEB is a book written to popularize science, not to present new results to peers. Of course some ideas are far-fetched, poetic, speculative - that's exactly what I would expect from a book with the title of "GEB" :)

    In conclusion, this type of review is pretty useless - I like critical, even negative reviews, but let them have some meat, not only poor style and truncated understanding :) ... Read more

    Isbn: 0465026567
    Subjects:  1. 1685-1750    2. Artificial Intelligence    3. Artificial Intelligence - General    4. Bach, Johann Sebastian,    5. General    6. Logic    7. Metamathematics    8. Philosophy    9. Speculative Philosophy    10. Symmetry   


    C Programming Language (2nd Edition)
    by Brian W. Kernighan, Dennis Ritchie, Dennis M. Ritchie
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (22 March, 1988)
    list price: $42.00 -- our price: $42.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    Just about every C programmer I respect learned C from this book. Unlike many of the 1,000 page doorstops stuffed with CD-ROMs that have become popular, this volume is concise and powerful (if somewhat dangerous) -- like C itself. And it was written by Kernighan himself. Need we say more? ... Read more

    Reviews (211)

    2-0 out of 5 stars The So Called "ANSI C "
    After I observed Appendix A in the reference section, I could only dissolve this information with a grain of salt. The authors only convey definitions and refinements to the language, which is not the standard. Some of the glaring errors in the book come as a shock. These are the two fellows that co-founded the language at Bell Laborites back in the late 60's. The main concern that surrounds me about ANSI C is that the institute only contributes to the development of an operating system, and any further implementation which falls outside the limited scope of system development is deemed void. For this reason, I still rely on Old Testament of "Microsoft C" which allows the user to enable or disable the ANSI C support. Other oberservations I discovered from the book, tell me that K&R had a hard time keeping up with all revisions the institute made back in 1983. I would only recommend this book to advanced users of C, because some the code examples are hard to follow, and many have syntax errors.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Simple, concise and Excellent
    A MUST for beginners in programming. For those coming from C++ background and want to learn low level concepts in C, I recommend quick visit to Chapter 7-8 and Appendix. This is not a book for data structures or algorithms. So you will not find much on those topics though you will see simple concepts here and there. For people exposed to programming this is a simple one day reading material to revisit basic C.

    Chapter 1 (Tutorial Introduction) - Get started approach for beginners!

    Chapter 2 (Types, Operators and Expressions) - Bitwise operators in 2.9 are good to visit.

    Chapter 3 (Control Flow) - Very simple chapter.

    Chapter 4 (Functions and Program Structure) - Good information here. C preprocessor details in 4.11 are good.

    Chapter 5 (Pointers and Arrays) - Especially good for pointers and address arithmetic.

    Chapter 6 (Structures) - Good exposure to basic C structures. Limitations of C compared to object oriented approach from C++ become obvious in this chapter.

    Chapter 7 and 8 (I/O and UNIX Sytem Interface) - Those who do not have an OS background should read this chapter. You could see how concepts like system calls are abstracted and exposed through standard C functions. Simple and elegant starting point for any low level programming.

    Appendix A and B - Good details on C standards. Also lot of standard C library functions are explained in good detail here. Very good comprehensive reference point.

    5-0 out of 5 stars C is K&R!
    When I started studying C programming this little book (compared to other "bibles") was the only reference I had. Well, if you really want to know how to program in C this IS the BOOK.
    No "super-duper ANSI-POSIX-ISO standard lists of functions" (you can simply find them with the man pages or on the net, and believe me, it's a snap), just pure C programming problems and techniques: types, casting, pointers, memory management, character management, binary operators, macros, etc... just the real basics of what makes a good programmer. Later, if you're interested, you'll have the opportunity to use advanced super-ISO functions that do everything. But then, you'll know what you're doing and why.
    The key point is: with K&R you are given the knowledge of C programming, not the recipe for doing some C programming. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0131103628
    Subjects:  1. C (Computer program language)    2. Computer Bks - Languages / Programming    3. Computer Books: Languages    4. Programming (Computers)    5. Programming Languages - C    6. Computers / Programming Languages / C   


    Learning Python (Help for Programmers)
    by Mark Lutz, David Ascher
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 April, 1999)
    list price: $34.95
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    Editorial Review

    The authors of Learning Python show you enough essentials of the Python scripting language to enable you to begin solving problems right away, then reveal more powerful aspects of the language one at a time. This approach is sure to appeal to programmers and system administrators who have urgent problems and a preference for learning by semi-guided experimentation.

    First off, Learning Python shows the relationships among Python scripts and their interpreter (in a mostly platform-neutral way). Then, the authors address the mechanics of the language itself, providing illustrations of how Python conceives of numbers, strings, and other objects as well as the operators you use to work with them. Dictionaries, lists, tuples, and other data structures specific to Python receive plenty of attention including complete examples.

    Authors Mark Lutz and David Ascher build on that fundamental information in their discussions of functions and modules, which evolve into coverage of namespaces, classes, and the object-oriented aspects of Python programming. There's also information on creating graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for Python applications with Tkinter.

    In addition to its careful expository prose, Learning Python includes exercises that both test your Python skills and help reveal more elusive truths about the language. ... Read more

    Reviews (67)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Learning Python, Second Edition
    Overall this is a well-written book. I highly recommend it to a person learning Python.The concepts are well explained with an economy of words.Some programming books are dry; whereas I found this book answering questions that a person learning Python (like me) has.The authors give a background on the language and do a good job discussing the language.The book is well laid out and has a decent amount of white space in the margins for notes.

    The index was fairly good, but has room for improvement in having more entries in it so that key concepts can be zeroed in on quickly.One feature that would have helped would be to have longer program examples listed in the book.Solutions are provided in the back of the book.This comes in handy in case one gets stuck doing an exercise and/or provides insight to an alternative approach.If a person is going to learn Python, this book will definitely get them boot strapped quickly.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Thorough introduction but slow and not good for reference
    I would never try to use this book as a reference. It was not designed and it's not good for that.

    It was designed as your first book on Python, especially if this is your first programming language. As such, it gives you a really thorough and extensive introduction written by a renowed authority. The parts on functional programming, Python's OOP and modules lay the solid foundation for the future Python programmer. Beware though: compared to similar "foundation" books in other languages' realms, this one is slow-paced, limited in scope, wordy and even redundant at times.

    If you already know a language like C++, Java or Perl, and especially if you've already written some Python code, then this book is not your best choice: it will seem terribly slow paced, tedious, bloated and of no value as a reference (which is what an experienced programmer like you really needs most of the time). In this case, you could use a short and freely available tutorial like Guido's, then a good reference book like Python in a Nutshell and maybe some more advanced books like Python Cookbook and Python 2.1 Bible (provided there will be a new edition).

    As an intermediate or experienced programmer, you may still benefit from Lutz's "textbook". You may want to skim quickly through the first 3 Parts (which make 180 pages of beginner's stuff you've learned in highschool, decorated with the occasional gem toward the end of some chapters), then slow down a bit for the rest of the book and pay special attention to chapters 14, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, and 27. This book has too many chapters for my taste, btw.

    Part VIII, written by another authority (David Ascher), is a little too short and still bad for reference. In the next edition, I hope it will be expanded to a reasonable level of detail. I found the coverage of regular expressions particularly disappointing -- probably because they are covered by Mr Lutz's other book, Programming Python, which was supposed to be your second book. The exercises at the end of each Part are not the most interesting and useful I know of.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Disorganized, bloated book
    I did not like this book. It is terribly organized. It is incomplete. Although it doesn't present wrong information, the way it is presented makes it seem inaccurate. Information on one same subject is scattered in many different chapters and never presented in one place. For that reason it is practically impossible to use as a reference or to quickly find a piece of info.

    For example, while I was mid-way through the book, I wanted to quickly check what kind of comments Python supported. Does it support only one kind (line comments), or like C++ and Java has two kinds (line and block) ? So, I checked the contents - I was searching for a chapter called something like "lexical structure", or even "comments". No luck. (However, I did find a chapter called "Clicking Windows File Icons" ... - very useful! )
    I didn't give up. Next step, check the index. "Comments" are mentioned three times in the book. The first time in the chapter "Basic Operations and Variables" (good choice!!!) - one kind of comment is described briefly in a paragraph with no relation to the rest of the chapter. Sadly, no answer to my question there.

    The second time is in a chapter titled "Python Syntax Rules". Hmm, that makes more sense. Well, technically not, since comments are not part of the syntax, but let's not get technical ... Here it says that comments are ignored. Good to know. But how many kinds of comments are there ???

    The third mention of comments is in the chapter "Documenting Pyhton Code". "Finally!", I say to myself and naively rush through the pages. Alas, no luck again. It says that "#" comments are a way to document code, but again it doesn't say if they are the only kind of comment, or if there are others.

    By this time it is probably implied that there is no other kind of comments, since it is never never mentioned, however one SHOULD NOT have to guess about such things when reading a technical book.
    I went ahead and checked the online Python documentation at http://www.python.org/doc/2.4/ref/ref.html . It took me 5 seconds to find "Lexical analysis", "Comments" and read what I needed. Why did I bother with the book ??

    In defense of the book, I must say that it is not all bad. It does sucesssfully teach you to program in Python, even though it is strongly geared to inexperienced programmers (and thus annoying at places). However you absolutely need one more source of reference for Python, and if you have that, why buy this book ?

    It is nothing like "The Java Programming Language", which in my mind is an example of an excellent language book and reference. ... Read more

    Isbn: 1565924649
    Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - Languages / Programming    2. Computer Books: Languages    3. Computers    4. Microcomputer Operating Environments    5. Programming - Object Oriented Programming    6. Programming Languages - General    7. Python (Computer program langu    8. Python (Computer program language)    9. Unix (Operating System)    10. COM051260    11. Computers / Programming Languages / General    12. High level programming languages    13. Object-oriented programming (OOP)   

    Programming Python, Second Edition with CD
    by Mark Lutz
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (March, 2001)
    list price: $54.95 -- our price: $36.27
    (price subject to change: see help)
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France

    Editorial Review

    Completely revised and improved, the second edition of Programming Python is an excellent compendium of material geared toward the more knowledgeable Python developer. It includes dozens of reusable scripts for common scripting tasks, and is one of the best available sources of information for this popular object-oriented scripting language.

    In over 1,200 pages of material, this book offers an extremely comprehensive guide to Python development. Though his book is densely packed with information, Mark Lutz is a lively and witty writer whose focus is on getting things done using the natural strengths of the Python language. To that end, after an introduction and history of the language, the book shows how to use Python for performing automated tasks with files and directories (for example, for doing backups both locally and on Web servers). Not only will this book teach you more about Python, but it will also give you a library of code that you can use as is or adapt for your own projects.

    The text covers every conceivable facet of Python and the language's support for networking, files and directories, task management, and even persistence (through its support for shelves). Complete Python programs show how to create e-mail clients, do reporting, and create Web applications (for an online errata database). Chapters on doing graphics programming in Python, as well as coverage of both built-in and custom data structures, are especially good. Because Python is often used for automating installations (in some Linux distributions, for instance), readers will appreciate the sample code and tips for using Python to create bulletproof installs.

    Later sections show how get Python to work with C, Java (through JPython), and other languages. The book concludes with useful reference sections summarizing key aspects of Python, like its revision history, relationship to C++, and other material. There aren't many titles on Python, and fans of this up-and-coming language are lucky to have such a solid tutorial and guide available in Programming Python. Perfect for those with just a little previous exposure to the language, it's all you need to master Python in-depth and tap its considerable power for virtually any software project. --Richard Dragan

    Topics covered:

    • Introduction to Python
    • Basic system scripts with Python (including file and directory tools)
    • Working with processes and threads
    • Pipes and signals
    • Sample scripts for system and Web utilities (including backing up files, program launching, replicating and managing directories)
    • Graphical user interface design in Python (including the Tkinter module)
    • Widgets and basic components
    • Layout options
    • Event handling
    • GUI examples (including a working text editor, image viewer, and clock)
    • Network scripting (sockets, FTP, and e-mail clients)
    • Server-side scripting
    • Sample server scripts for an online errata database
    • Python on the Internet (including Zope, JPython, and XML tools)
    • Databases and persistence in Python (including pickled objects and shelf files)
    • Custom and built-in data structures in Python
    • Text and string handling
    • C integration with Python (including the SWIG module)
    • Embedding Python calls within C
    • Hints for using Python in real projects
    • Reference to recent changes to Python
    • Python vs. C++ quick-start guide
    ... Read more
    Reviews (53)

    5-0 out of 5 stars "De-Facto" Python Book.
    This is the best book available on advanced Python topics.
    But beware, it's not for beginners!
    If you don't know Python, I suggest reading "Learning Python".
    Once you are proficient in the language, then you can understand all advanced topics on this book.
    Mark has done an excelent job on this book, on "Learning Python", and also on "Python Pocket Reference".

    2-0 out of 5 stars Answers to questions that no one asked
    Programming Python is uneven and disorganized. It's a patchwork of information that is never tied together to form a unified, purposeful whole. The author begins by attempting to demonstrate Python's usefulness as an alternative to traditional scripting in awk and shell languages (bash, csh). He demonstrates this by leading the reader through tedious programs that are already well serviced by mature tools. Do we really need a new, portable version of the utility "more"? I would prefer seeing a real problem solved in an elegant way.

    If you stay awake, you're treated to hundreds of pages of ugly user interfaces built on the Tk widget set along with some rudimentary web programming. Given the heft of the book, you should expect a sense of accomplishment but instead you're left uninspired. Python is a great language but you wouldn't know it by reading this book.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Poorly organized and not as good as the 1st edition
    Yuck yuck yuck. I'm so unhappy. This book reads like it was written by a 10th grader and was surly was organized by a chimp. It's not organized in any logical manor. It covers some greatly important topics only briefly and then covers totally useless stuff in depth. It spends hundreds of pages talking about web applications. That might sound like an ok idea however most Python web application developers are using Zope for good reason, doing it any other way is silly. The book also talks at length about GUI programming however it never actually gives a proper theory overview to Tkinter so really all you're learning is how to make what Mr. Lutz has already done. As a Python veteran I'd avoid this book. If I didn't already know Python and I bought this I'd be Royal mad. Learning Python is what should be bought if you're a newbie but this book is a bear even for an expert. Avoid it! ... Read more

    Isbn: 0596000855
    Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - Languages / Programming    2. Computer Books: Languages    3. Computers    4. Programming - Object Oriented Programming    5. Programming Languages - General    6. Python (Computer program langu    7. Python (Computer program language)    8. COM051260    9. Computers / Programming Languages / General    10. High level programming languages   


    Core PHP Programming: Using PHP to Build Dynamic Web Sites (2nd Edition)
    by Leon Atkinson
    Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (03 August, 2000)
    list price: $44.99
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France

    Editorial Review

    Revised for PHP version 4, the new edition of Core PHP Programming is a comprehensive tutorial and reference to one of today's hottest scripting languages. Part tutorial and part reference, this book will get beginners started with PHP, as well as provide a convenient desktop resource for more experienced PHP developers.

    Early sections show what PHP is and how it works, with basic data types, flow control, and other topics you'll need to get started. But the heart of the book is a full reference to PHP 4 functions. Organized by topic, this text provides over 400 pages of reference to several hundred PHP calls, along with a description of what they do. Clearly organized and presented, this book will help you find what you need quickly (instead of relying on PHP's often cumbersome online help). In particular, readers will appreciate the coverage of database functions, including the separate calls for MySQL, ODBC, and Oracle. You'll also see what PHP can do with XML.

    The last part of the book reverts to tutorial mode, first with a section on algorithms that discusses ways to sort and search PHP arrays. Final sections look at some strategies you can use to integrate PHP into the software design process, in which the strategies of combining HTML content with dynamic PHP scripts are shown. There is also useful advice for increasing performance with PHP. (It would seem that upgrading to PHP 4 is a must, because the new version offers a real performance boost.)

    PHP is clearly a popular choice for Web applications today. If you buy just one book on PHP, consider Core PHP Programming. It offers an approachable tutorial that will put basic PHP script development into the hands of beginners, and provides a useful reference for everyday development once you've gotten a handle on how to use it. --Richard Dragan

    Topics covered:

    • History and introduction to PHP
    • Installing PHP on Apache/Unix and IIS/NT
    • PHP script basics
    • PHP language tutorial (including data types, variables, and operators)
    • Flow control statements
    • PHP functions (arguments, recursion, and dynamic function calls)
    • Single and multidimensional arrays
    • PHP classes
    • Creating Web pages in PHP
    • Environment variables
    • File uploads and file I/O
    • PHP session management
    • PHP function reference
    • I/O functions (including files and compressed files, session handling, network I/O, and FTP)
    • Data functions (including arrays, hashing, strings, and regular expressions)
    • Mathematical functions
    • Date and time functions
    • Image functions
    • Database functions (including support for MySQL, ODBC, Oracle, and Postgres)
    • Miscellaneous functions (including XML functions)
    • Algorithms for sorting and searching in PHP
    • Parsing and tokenizing strings
    • Database programming how-to
    • Authenticating
    • Sending e-mail
    • Software engineering basics with PHP
    • Integrating PHP and HTML
    • Using CVS for version control
    • Optimization hints
    ... Read more
    Reviews (122)

    1-0 out of 5 stars Under-whelming and a tree killer
    The Core XXX series is printed by Prentice-Hall and the whole series suffers from bloat. This one has a 13 page (!) table of contents and just a few pages less than Bruce Eckel's masterful Thinking in Java 1100+ pages.A huge tome with no mention of the PHP command line. The only graphic is on the cover. Great though for the visually impaired with huge type. The writing style is not friendly, the presentation is not a tutorial in any sense. There may be lots of things in this book, but much more refernce book style than a learn-from book. When a scripting language takes on the characteristics of full-blown languages like C++ and Java, I think something is wrong. If you need to see some real-life coding examples that you can learn from, just Google 'php examples'.These are real meat-and-potatos code that will satisfy your real need which is to make PHP do things. While the programming talents of the authors is un-questionable, the writing talents displayed here are minimal. Overweight, overpriced and totally under-whelming.

    1-0 out of 5 stars big, friendly and not useful
    [Reviewing 2nd edition.]This is definitely not a CORE quality book (especially compared to the outstanding CORE Java series).
    Section 1, 100 pages of introductory material, tell you what RAM is (sort of), but doesn't tell you what happens when a cookie and a POST variable have the same name.
    Section 2, 450 pages of this book, is a function reference, but the online php manual is free, easier to read and has more examples.
    Section 3 has some exploratory examples -- I think there are better examples in the online manual and elsewhere on the net.
    The book is confused about its audience.Beginning programmers should NOT start with php (or any scripting language) unless they are forced to put up a php web site overnight -- in which case they need a "cookbook", which this is definitely not.Experienced programmers will be terminally frustrated with the book's disorganization, poor layout and lack of crucial information.
    Summary: It's not a cookbook, not a usable reference book and has no best practices advice.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Great work forintermediate level users
    One deniable fact of the book is the presentation. The presentation is simple and easy to understood. Language used is simple , attractive and not complicated as others. Explanations are clear and direct to the point , embedded with examples which makes the book worth. Its a rare ability in programmers/ developers to put into simple words, but the author has possed such skills.

    Another added advantage is the organization of the book itself. Organized in such way , thatsto introduce PHP and Web based developments efficiently to newbie or intermediate users whom is seeking to improve the coding style. Explains are so beneficial with so many functions explained by usingexample and thats great for beginners.

    But if you are a experienced and advance level user, this book might not satisfy your need, but rather a quick reference with example for advance users.

    Chapter on Software Engineering is another strentgh, presented in simpler way on how someone could achieve/acquire the designing skills as the desinging skills is equally important with coding. An intelligent coding could be handicapped with a poor design.

    Basically , new users and intermediate users will benefit alot from this book. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0130893986
    Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - Languages / Programming    2. Computer Books And Software    3. Computer Networks    4. Computer Programming Languages    5. Computers    6. Design    7. Internet - General    8. Networking - General    9. PHP (Computer language)    10. PHP (Computer program language    11. PHP (Computer program language)    12. Programming - General    13. Programming Languages - General    14. Web sites    15. Computers / Internet / World Wide Web   

    PHP Developer's Cookbook
    by Sterling Hughes, Andrei Zmievski
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (15 December, 2000)
    list price: $39.99
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France
    Reviews (44)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A god-sent book for the PHP masses....
    I love this book! You know how you sometimes get a little bugger of a problem while coding? Chances are you'll find a solution for it in here. This book has saved me countless hours while coding -- skip searching and get the solution right away. Plus I used a coupon from UnderTag.com, so it was almost free for me.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Not the best... Not the worst...
    I am a newb when it comes to PHP, but not when it comes to programming in general. The Content is very cleanly laid out. It is straightforward, but by no means simple. For using some detailed code, I was surprised at the lack of commenting on the code. He steps into some areas not expected by me. For instance, he lays out some XML / XSL based code that I was itching to know and now I do!

    However, he also covers some topics that are so basic that I felt it hurt the book overall... I learned most basic code from such books as Sams Teach Yourself PHP in 24 hours... so to cover the few basic topics like he did felt more appropriate for a beginners book... But he does make up for it with some VERY in-depth code. Just wish he commented his advanced code to help the newbs a little more...

    If you're going to get a book to help you with specific issues? This is your book... (as long as your issues are his) If you want to learn PHP? Get Sams Teach Yourself PHP in 24 hours...

    Either way, do yourself a favor and check out the Index here on Amazon... You might just find exactly what you are hoping to do, in which case, his coding is great...

    4-0 out of 5 stars its a right choice for php developer and php programmers
    we the owner of www.hiddenbrains.com are a leading php developer and solution provider, making e-commerce applications,web applications, developed more then 200 websites using php and mysql, we are allways using this book for our reference.
    jugal kishore chhawchharia
    http://www.hiddenbrains.com ... Read more

    Isbn: 0672319241
    Sales Rank: 356614
    Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - Languages / Programming    2. Computer Books: Web Publishing    3. Computer Networks    4. Computer Programming Languages    5. Computers    6. Internet - General    7. Internet - Web Site Design    8. PHP (Computer program language)    9. Programming Languages - General   

    Beginning Java 2 - Jdk 1.3 Edition: Jdk 1.3 Edition (Programmer to Programmer)
    by Ivor Horton
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 March, 2000)
    list price: $49.99
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France
    Reviews (83)

    5-0 out of 5 stars This book IS exceptional!
    I program in Java only sporadically, but this book has ALWAYS come up with the goods whenever I've needed to find out how to do something in Java. It also got me through my Java exam.

    Yes, it's long; yes it's a bit of a struggle (how could it not be... it's teaching a complex and feature-rich programming language from scratch); yes, the author is a bit verbose; yes, JSP and other wonders aren't covered (a cursory glance at the back page tells you what it DOES cover), but, OVERALL, it's a real winner and I cannot recommend the book highly enough.

    As for errors in the book: not many compared to other tecnical books. The number of errors to number of pages ratio is tiny.

    I don't wish to sound cruel, aloof or snotty here, but those reviewers who have been baffled by the book (and have, basically, zero-rated it as a result) should consider brushing-up on their burger flipping skills, because real life programming is full of brain-bending stuff that at least matches (and often dwarfs) the trickier parts of the book.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Don'tpart with your money just yet
    As a beginner I found this book to be a horrible tutorial! I can't see why fundamental Java concepts, so crucial to the learning curve of the beginner, had to be shown using abstract mathematical formulas! Is there no other way to teach loops and decisions but by using prime numbers? Java is supposed to be object oriented, and that's what the author says too. But his examples are not! They are abstract and esoteric. Engineers can keep up with plenty of numbers here but if you came from a non-math oriented background, be prepared for a long, uphill climb.

    I managed to work up to Chapter 4 then gave up. I wanted to learn Java but this book doesn't help by way of clear, concrete examples. For instance, take nested loops. A nested loop is a complex thing for a beginner. Can it get any harder to figure out? Yes! In this book the author illustrated a nested loop using factorials. If you don't know what a factorial is, that's because it's a topic taught at more advanced math courses. If math wasn't your best subject in school, I believe you're out of luck with this book. I agree with many of the unfavorable reviews for this book: the author tends to make simple things complex, or perhaps he just didn't want to spend extra effort to look for more understandable examples for Java concepts?

    Luckily, you have a choice! If you're new, stay away from this book and the SDK1.4 edition of the same title. Instead I recommend Smiley's Learn to Program in Java, an excellent, clear guide to grasping Java concepts using practical, easily understood examples that lead to a finished usable program. Also, Java 2, A Beginner's Guide 2nd Edition- both available at Amazon[.com].

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent comprehensive book
    This book has now been chosen as the standard text book in our company.

    I say no more. Enjoy it! ... Read more

    Isbn: 1861003668
    Sales Rank: 327089
    Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - Languages / Programming    2. Computer Books: General    3. Computer Networks    4. Computer Programming Languages    5. Computers    6. Internet - General    7. Java (Computer language)    8. Java (Computer program language)    9. Programming - General    10. Programming Languages - General    11. Programming Languages - Java   

    Calculus Made Easy
    by Silvanus P. Thompson, Martin Gardner
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (08 September, 1998)
    list price: $21.95 -- our price: $14.93
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Reviews (61)

    5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best math book
    This is a book I definitely would keep for a long time, even until I go to college. I'm HS junior and taking AP calculus, with only algebra 2 as preparation from last year. I found this book is very easy to understood even for a self-taught person like me. I would recommend this book for every body who is taking calculus with or w/o proper preparation.The sample question covered broad type of calculus question you might face in the exam. I actually borrowed this book from my school library,and found it's worth to have it one at home. Now I'm gonna purchase it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars You won't really understand Calculus without this book!
    Most calculus courses are taught to college freshman by graduate students who really didn't understand the course when they were freshman being taught by graduate students who didn't understand it when they were taught, etc, etc.Once you realize that most college instructors aren't proficient in the course to teach it, then you start to realize that if you're ever going to truly understand calculus, then you better find an alternative source of knowledge.And this book is exactly that source.

    Read this book before you enter one of those imposing lecture halls (or at least the appropriate chapter of this book).Then and only then will you begin to at least recognize what the instructor is saying.And hopefully you will recognize when they're saying something that is not quite right.

    Calculus is not hard; it's just not easy. This book probably should have been titled Calculus Made Understandable, or Caculus Made Fun, but it wasn't.So read the book and do the problems.It will open up a whole world of enjoyment that will last a lifetime.

    Remember this very important point.Math was never learned in a lecture hall --- it's only truly learned in a study hall or library doing problems over and over and over.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Calculus made Easy
    I am now finished with Calculus II and I still don't understand the content of thisbook. It is extremely complicated and poorly written. It makes it seem that Calculus is so easy, but it's just easier studying the old fasioned way, doing homework problems.I really don't recommend this book, at least for undergrads. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0312185480
    Sales Rank: 16638
    Subjects:  1. Calculus    2. Mathematics    3. Science/Mathematics    4. Study Aids / Study Guides   


    How to Ace Calculus : The Streetwise Guide (How to Ace S.)
    by Colin Adams, Joel Hass, Abigail Thompson
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (15 July, 1998)
    list price: $16.00 -- our price: $10.88
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Reviews (51)

    2-0 out of 5 stars Not what its cracked up to be
    I got this book thinking it would be perfect for my college calculus classes, what a mistake that was. I used Stewart's text, which is a pretty common text, and this book didn't cover even half the material we went over. The material it did cover it didn't go nearly in depth enough to actually learn anything. If you want to read a book to become familiar with calculus before you get a real book this might be ok, but it really covered so much less material than Stewart and didn't really do any better of a job for the most part at explaining it that I don't see any reason to buy this book. Perhaps for high school calculus this may be better but for college calculus it truly is completely useless I feel. For each concept there are only a few worked out problems and those are so basic they aren't even worth being mentioned for the most part. Do yourself a favor and if you are using a halfway decent textbook don't worry about buying this.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
    After a 20 year "break", I decided to complete my EE degree. I am stationed overseas in the US Navy, and do not have access to any traditional classroom courses beyond basic college algebra. Consequently, I am forced to take all of my classes via distance learning.
    Calculus can be difficult enough, but knocking 20 years of cobwebs loose with no professor, was nearly impossible.... That is, until I found this book, and How To Ace The Rest of Calculus.
    I believe that I am far enough along in my studies to say that I think like an Engineer, and frankly, many mathematicians annoy me to no end. It seems as though most textbooks are written more to impress the reader with the author's vast knowledge, than to clearly and concisely explain the fundamental concepts of Calculus.
    This book does just that. It removes all mystery from the verbose ramblings of traditional textbooks, and plainly explains difficult ideas.
    I am certain that mathematicians the world over are using all available means to remove this book from shelves. It lets out a secret that has been more closely guarded than any nuclear weapons technology.... CALCULUS IS EASY!!!!
    By the way, I got an A in Calc I and Calc II.
    Buy this book, or struggle with the masses.

    3-0 out of 5 stars too many misunderstandings
    The title of this book shouldn't be how to ace calculus. It should be something like:" Before going to class I'd like to see the big picture." The book is an excellent tool but it should be considered as a warm up before going to class and nothing more. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0716731606
    Sales Rank: 11008
    Subjects:  1. Calculus    2. Mathematics    3. Study Guides    4. Study and teaching    5. Calculus & mathematical analysis    6. Mathematics / Calculus   


    How to Ace the Rest of Calculus: The Streetwise Guide: Including Multi-Variable Calculus
    by Colin Conrad Adams, Joel Hass, Abigail Thompson
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 April, 2001)
    list price: $16.00 -- our price: $10.88
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Reviews (18)

    3-0 out of 5 stars doesn't really cover much
    The first book in the series helped me get down the basics of calculus.This second book does a decent job too but only covers 1/2 of the topics we are covering in lecture.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Calculus in Plain English
    This book is not a substitute for a textbook. By itself it seems like the explanations are too simple. This book comes in vary handy when I combine it with my class.
    Calculus II gets in to some very abstract concepts, and our instructor presents the material in very abstract terms - what I mean is while I am listening I am thinking that I would really enjoy this class if I was going for my masters in mathematics, but for right now, I am not grasping what is said. Our text explains everything in huge steps leaving wide gaps in the instruction.When I leave class I can turn to this book "How to Ace the Rest of Calculus" to break everything down to my level. I can get hold of the basic meaning and concepts of what is taught, and then I have a foundation to build on.
    If you are in Calculus II or III, and you go through the motions doing your homework without really knowing what is going on, this book can help. The book is easy to read, and I find it is best used right after you were taught the material.
    I find if I have a good foundation on the material in a way I understand, it is much easier to remember the concepts and apply the formulas. I study hard, but with the help of this book I am not left clueless at test time.

    5-0 out of 5 stars This book saved my GPA
    This book has been more help to me than my Calculus textbook, and has made tricky concepts easy to understand. After getting a 51 & a 57 on my first Calculus II exams, I got desperate and purchased this book, as well as its prequel, "How To Ace Calculus." I read through both books all the way up to where I was in the course and had a revelation, Calculus finally made sense to me! I did extremely well on the next two exams and got the second best grade in the class on the final, ending up with a B in the course. Not too bad after getting a warning from the department in the middle of the semester, and it's all thanks to this book. It is an easy read, with very concise explanations and a dose of humor for good measure. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0716741741
    Sales Rank: 58155
    Subjects:  1. Calculus    2. Mathematics    3. Science/Mathematics    4. Study and teaching    5. Calculus of variations   


    Concrete Mathematics: A Foundation for Computer Science (2nd Edition)
    by Ronald L. Graham, Donald E. Knuth, Oren Patashnik
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (28 February, 1994)
    list price: $64.99 -- our price: $51.45
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Reviews (24)

    3-0 out of 5 stars A pourry of combinatorics
    I want to start saying that this is a book designed for Engineers, not for Mathematicians. It focuses on the tecniques, not on the arguments. This is not a book about combinatorics, it is a wide raging introduction (it lacks on definitions, and his proofs are a lot far away from mathematical ones). The Enegineers can use this book as a good reference. The Mathematicians can improve their lateral thinking, for them (well: us) it is book about problem-solving strategies.
    I will never use this book as a textbook for a graduate/undergraduate course, it can be helpful if used with another book about combinatorics: when you study a combinatorial object, you can read from this book the techniques it involves.
    The exercises are extremely exciting, when I read this book I spent a lot of time about its exercises (proportion read:solve = 1:3), and they led me to interesting results.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Steep learning curve, the definitive prerequisite for TAOCP.
    Why I got this book:
    It's a great feeling to know how computers work, when I decided that I want to make a career and a life out of computers, as its truly a passion for me, I delved deeper, discovering the true beauty in the Science part of Computer Science, so I decided to get Donald Knuth' "The Art of Computer Programming" - to describe that seminal, huge work, it's like biting more than you can chew while trying to drink from a fire hose, moreover, the technical and mathematical prerequisites for the work are sometimes too demanding, they require a huge amount of experience with discrete mathematics, although I had some lectures and read some books, none came close "Concrete Mathematics", it covers, from ground up (though with a dangerously steep learning curve) a lot of discrete mathematics topics, it is by far the most extensive work I've read about Sums and really teaches the algorithmic problem solving thinking skill the authors preach so much about, with small amusing comments written by actual students of this course, a comfortable format, and very good writing skills, you can feel these guys are great professors who enjoy this material and are passionate about teaching it.

    Recommended, though some better, less steep, introductionary text books are probably out there.


    3-0 out of 5 stars Only one problem with this textbook
    Basically, I like this textbook. The material is interesting, the way the authors presented the material is inspiring, and they provided a lot of jokes to make even studying for exams not that boring. But there is one big problem which made me decided to rate this book only 3 stars instead of 5 stars: the authors like to use non-standard notations. For example: m\n means "m>0 and n=mk for some integer k". One of the worst thing in scientific world is writing things others cannot read, and the authors did this by introducing many strange notations. These things makes the good work sometimes almost unreadable. This is not computer systems in which we use "cp" for the copy command and "cd" for change directory command.

    What a pity the authors did that. This textbook will be perfect without those strange notations.... ... Read more

    Isbn: 0201558025
    Sales Rank: 77594
    Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - Languages / Programming    2. Computer Science    3. General    4. Mathematics    5. Programming Languages - General   


    A History of Pi
    by Petr Beckmann
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (15 July, 1976)
    list price: $12.95 -- our price: $10.36
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Reviews (42)

    5-0 out of 5 stars "AHOPi" Its all about that number...3.1415926535897932 etc.
    "A History of Pi", by Petr Beckmann, NY:Barnes & Noble Books,3rd. Ed.,-ISBN 0-88029-418-3, HC 200 Pg. (8.2" x 5.5") includes 3 Pg. Notes, 3 Pg. Biblio., 2 Pg. Chrono., 3 Pg. Index & 2 Pg. Pi...to10,000 decimal places (whew!).

    We are given 18 Chapters: includes: -origins of numbers, Greeks, Euclid, Romans, Archimedes, etc., then digital hunters, Newton, Euler, Monte Carlo method, Transcendence of Pi, those 'modernists' (q.v.) & the computer age.Each & every chapter (save Chap. 5) is endowed & clothed by figures, formulae & graphs for those readers adequately equipped in geo., trig., logs, & the calculus, etc.As a whole, this is an intensely interestng chronological history of Pi & of those renowned mathematicians & academicians who invented, exploited or expounded on Pi & related matters.Especial attention is given to recounting the Romans more as murderers & thugs rather than mathematicians & thinkers (Chap. 5). Some religious commentary is incidental & unrewarding.

    The author shuffles, leaps, or waltzes from tantalizing tidbits of information we've either mislearnt, learnt or long forgotten in his quest to provide us an entertaining & learned discussion of mathematicians & their tools (ruler/compass) used to arrive at Pi, a transcendental number: hence,circles cannot be squared. Beckmann dispenses nicelywith Carl Theodore Heisel's claims to the contrary.The format of "The Golden Ratio" (story of Phi) by Mario Livio mimics Beckmann's book in its display of divagations (which in reality is a plus).

    For those having interests in mathematics & history of numbers, etc., this book serves its purposes.Petr Beckmann disavows himself as historian or mathematician but this book would seem to prove otherwise.He knows & loves his numbers & respects the ingenious mathematicians responsible.The "History of Pi" is a delightful text to share the same shelf with Livio's "TGR: The Story of Phi".Its a steal.

    4-0 out of 5 stars A readable history of pi for high school algebra students...
    ...or higher.The math in this book will not intimidate the reader, and the general audience with a high school algebra or geometry course can find something interesting in almost all portions of the book.(It was here that I learned that pi is not simply "irrational," it is also "transcendental"--that is, not capable of being a root of any algebraic formula.)The time format runs from 2000 BC to 1970s AD, when computers could be developed and used in order to compute values of pi.My little PC can compute 3000 digits of pi in less than a second, using Mathematica.

    I had only one reservation about the book, which is the author's abhorence of organized religions.He states several times that Christianity held science and math back through the post Roman Empire era until the Englightenment ages.He is harshest on Christianity, but he also reserves a few hard barbs for the Persian and Muslim leaders.I thought that the author's heartfelt views on religion distracted the reader from his mathematical insights about Pi.

    Amazon also sells a competing book, Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann, Pi:A biography of the world's most mysterious number (Prometheus Books, 2004).That book has more "real" math in it, and less about the role of organized religion.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A History of Pi
    This is a very interesting book, written about one of the most unusual numbers in math, irrational endless number, pi . The writter starts from the time of Greeks and beyond and nicely illustrates all the main points and other relevant topics besides pi. Multiple times does he refer to the wrongfullness of religion and how it set back science and math as well, and unfortunatly, sees communism as a bad religion, while not saying anything about the wrongfullness of capitalism, I mean come on, where's the fair play in the fact that top 5 richest people in USA have more money than 100 000 000 of the poorest ones? My point exactly, but overall, the author did a good job, even though it has quite a lot of personal bias in it. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0312381859
    Sales Rank: 16531
    Subjects:  1. Algebra    2. History & Philosophy    3. Mathematics    4. Science/Mathematics    5. Mathematics / Number Theory   


    Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern
    by Douglas R. Hofstadter, Harper Collins
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 March, 1996)
    list price: $35.00 -- our price: $35.00
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    Reviews (17)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and Thought Provoking
    This collection of Hofstadter's columns from Scientific American provides wonderful reading.

    One of the gems is his simple, but brilliant analysis of the Prisoner's Dilemma. The usual analysis notes that the Nash equilibrium is for both players to defect. Hofstadter notes (correctly) that if both players are rational, then because the game is symmetrical, both players will choose the same strategy. So, the only choices are for both to cooperate or both defect. Since both cooperating has a higher payoff than both defecting, the rational strategy is to cooperate. The Nash equilibrium isn't relevant because it considers pairs of strategies which are impossible if both players are rational, i.e., the pairs where one player defects and the other cooperates.

    Hofstadter notes that many people when presented with the above argument still say that they would defect. His descriptions of his attempts to reason with his friends and the results of the lottery he conducted (he told readers of his column they could send in entries for the lottery, but the more that entered, the smaller the prize would be) are, as he says, amusing, disturbing, and disappointing.

    4-0 out of 5 stars The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    This collection of essays previously published as a column in Scientific American is very uneven. There are some true gems like he discussion of the game Nomic in which rule changes are part of ordinary play or the sections on self referential sentences. Basically everything is readable, but not all chapters make much sense.

    Some parts are really bad. In chapter 5 he wonders why one can judge the intellectual content of magazines by their cover, not seeing the obvious solution that these magazines try to attract different audiences. He spends some time discussing the prisoners dilemma and he get's it completely wrong. He argues that a rational person would know that other rational persons would think along the same lines and therefore act the same way. So a rational person can use this knowledge to influence another person. This is complete bogus of course. People are rational when they act rational, if I cooperate in the prisoners dilemma, I am not changing the definition of rationality, I'm simply irrational. Hofstadter also discusses Axelrod's famous computer tournaments. A more realistic view on the topic is provided by a review of Axelrod's book by Ken Binmore. That review can be found on the web.

    The book is still valuable for the good parts, but one should read the book with a sceptical eye. Hofstadter is a layman on many things he discusses, and sometimes this shines through. Another problem is that some issues like the cold war anren't really interesting anymore. People who like Hofstadter will surely like it and find enough pearls to make the buy worth it though.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Essence of Mind and Pattern
    At any level of scientific comprehension, this book provides an intelligent subscription to pattern.Includes essays and 'conversations' on Alan Turing, and clear and relevant description of common and interesting science.The most valuable information is hofstaedter's creative description of thought. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0465045669
    Sales Rank: 91871
    Subjects:  1. Artificial Intelligence    2. General    3. Mind & Body    4. Science    5. Science/Mathematics   


    Random House Webster's College Dictionary
    by Random House, Websters
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (18 July, 2000)
    list price: $19.95 -- our price: $13.57
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    Editorial Review

    Webster's annually updated dictionary offers an outstanding blend of new-millennium lingo and the classic words and origins of the English language. For instance, it includes extensive computer terminology, such as bot, cookie, and terabyte, as well as cyberjargon, such as clicks-and-mortar ("adj. pertaining to being a company that does business on the Internet and in traditional stores or offices"). It even has slang listings for my bad! ("slang. my fault! my mistake!") and senior moment ("n. ((often facetious)) a brief lapse in memory or moment of confusion, esp. in an older person"). Inclusions like these appeal especially to generation X and even generation Y ("n. the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, especially in the United States").

    Readers of all generations will appreciate the numerous tutorials, such as "Guide for Writers" and "Avoiding Offensive Language," as well as the latest political and geographical updates. Including the computer lingo and trendy slang is definitely edgy ("adj. daringly innovative; on the cutting edge"). But, when it comes to being a solid reference tool, it's the sophisticated definitions, line drawings, maps, charts, essays, and usage advice that make Webster's dictionary unequivocally candy ("slang. someone or something that is excellent. pleasing or pleasurable"). --Gail Hudson ... Read more

    Reviews (9)

    5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent dictionary for students
    I would recommend this dictionary for students as it has a reasonable size and covers various words that are foreign or weird that do not match conventional spelling rules.It will do as a reference whether you are writing about feisty feists, the seizure of counterfeit sovereigns, the science of glaciers, or seismic effects on gneiss.It covers both spellings and both pronunciations of sheikh, and includes words with similar pronunciations such as cay, key, and quay. It has sufficient coverage to include place names such as Aqaba. It has the usual deficiency of dictionaries in this size range, i.e., it does not include lesser known place names such as Sequim, Kalaloch, and Quilcene.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Another confused consumer but....
    I bought the April 1999 edition after spending an hour or two in the bookstore looking at several dictionaries so that I could find the best one for me.

    This one won easily. I can't remember whether the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary was among the others, but I do remember being confused at some point in time by the similarities in appearance and name of these dictionaries. So I found the "No likelihood of consumer confusion?" review very helpful as I hadn't bothered to run it down so thoroughly. Thanks! It seems to me that only a legal system trapped in its own ever-diminishing circle could have concluded that there was no attempt by Random House to imitate.

    The dictionary, however, I have found to be excellent. In the three years or so I've had it I've found one mistake - a typo where "liberal" was used instead of "literal" in the definition of the word 'Pharisee'. I measure that against the innumerable occasions where its concise and elegant definitions have been a great help and source of knowledge. I really can't speak too highly of it, but I'll now just have to go out and compare it in my "relatively sophisticated" way to the Merriam-Webster.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Handy Resource
    I use this dictionary at home many times so it doesn't have to be just college students using this excellent resource. It has indexes so it's easy to find words you need to look up. It's a keeper in anyone's library. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0375425608
    Subjects:  1. Dictionaries    2. Dictionaries - General    3. English Language Dictionaries    4. English language    5. Reference    6. Reference / Dictionaries   


    The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide
    by Douglas Adams
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (17 January, 1996)
    list price: $14.99 -- our price: $10.19
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    It's safe to say that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of the funniest science fiction novels ever written. Adams spoofs many core science fiction tropes: space travel, aliens, interstellar war--stripping away all sense of wonder and repainting them as commonplace, even silly.

    This omnibus edition begins with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in which Arthur Dent is introduced to the galaxy at large when he is rescued by an alien friend seconds before Earth's destruction. Then in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Arthur and his new friends travel to the end of time and discover the true reason for Earth's existence.In Life, the Universe, and Everything, the gang goes on a mission to save the entire universe. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish recounts how Arthur finds true love and "God's Final Message to His Creation." Finally, Mostly Harmless is the story of Arthur's continuing search for home, in which he instead encounters his estranged daughter, who is on her own quest.There's also a bonus short story, "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe," more of a vignette than a full story, which wraps up this completist's package of the Don't Panic chronicles.As the series progresses, its wackier elements diminish, but the satire of human life and foibles is ever present. --Brooks Peck ... Read more

    Reviews (281)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Dead Hero
    I. Love. This. Book. That doesn't help the people reading this review much, but I have to say it. Basically, I think that Douglas Adams is one of the greatest writers ever. If you like funny fiction, or just like laughing you should not only buy this, but all of his other books as well. He manages to make an extremely funny book, that also says a lot of things that are really interesting to think about. Its not all just brainless humor. If you like this, and I would also reccomend the Amber series, by Roger Zelazny. It is slightly more gritty, and less funny, but just as unique and excellent. I would have to say that if I could bring back any two men from the dead, it would have to be Adams and Zelazny.

    3-0 out of 5 stars 31/2 stars
    I'm so sorry I have to do this, because I did enjoy the book, and I know how loyal Adams' fans are, but I just didn't love this series.

    I thought it was very humorous, but I felt there was little warmth between the characters.Though at times their bickering was very funny, it reached a point where I just wanted them to appreciate one another and stop arguing over every little thing.At times, they all seemed to hate eachother, and they're supposed to be friends, or as the back of the book puts it, "Arthur Dent and his comrades!"

    Again, the humor was great, but I just felt that the relationships were a tad weak.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Monty Pythonesque
    Humor, and our perception of humor, is subjective.What is funny to one person isn't necessarily funny to the next.For example - I think Dave Barry is hilarious, and I think his first novel "Big Trouble" is a laugh riot - but I found the movie "Big Trouble" pretty tedious, and not very funny.

    A friend turned me onto the Hitchhiker's Guide 20 years ago, and I laughed until I cried, and couldn't wait to move on to the next book, "The Restaurant At The End of the Universe".

    I see LOTS of reviews of this book trying lamely to describe the "plot" of the story, which would give a reader as much reason to read the book as it would to give a potential movie-goer the "plot" of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".The story isn't the point.The enchantment lies within Adams' incredibly witty descriptions of the mundane and the extraordinary.
    Here is an early passage where our hero discovers that his friend is not English at all:

    "Alright," said Ford. "How would you react if I said that I'm not from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?"

    Arthur shrugged in a so-so sort of way.

    "I don't know," he said, taking a pull of beer. "Why - do you think it's the sort of thing you're likely to say?"
    Consider this exchange a few chapters later when space traveling Ford prepares earthling Arthur for his first travel in hyperspace:

    "You'd better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It's unpleasantly like being drunk."

    "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"

    "You ask a glass of water."
    I remember, reading the book for the first time, thinking "this book hits my funny-bone much the same as the movies of Monty Python."

    So - if THAT style of witty/wacky British humor hits your funny-bone as well, and you HAVEN'T yet read Douglas Adams, I say:

    Don't Panic.You're in for a treat.This particular collection has the advantage of containing ALL of the Hitchhiker series between two covers.This comes to less than two bucks per "book" - a reading bargain for certain! ... Read more

    Isbn: 0517149257
    Subjects:  1. Dent, Arthur (Fictitious chara    2. Dent, Arthur (Fictitious character)    3. English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh    4. Fiction    5. Fiction - Science Fiction    6. Humorous    7. Humorous stories, English    8. Prefect, Ford (Fictitious char    9. Prefect, Ford (Fictitious character)    10. Science Fiction    11. Science Fiction - Adventure    12. Science fiction, English    13. Fiction / General   


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