Monday, April 27, 2015

Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier

Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, Bruce Schneier. London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2015. e-book, 425 pps. incl extensive notes.

I have infinite respect for Bruce Schneier as a true authority on data, the collection of data, the mining of data, and why we ought to not be so lackadaisical about it. He is far from a luddite. In his most excellent book Data and Goliath, Bruce Schneier does not hesitate to point out the myriad ways that the interpretation of data can make life run smoother for us. He also forces the reader to concentrate on items that are uncomfortable for the average computer user to think about for long periods of time. Although I am more familiar with privacy and surveillance concerns than the average Joe, I found that I had to read this one in short breaks rather than all at once. It was a lot of information to take it.

sapphoq reviews says: The ideas that are uncomfortable are often the ones that are most beneficial to sit with. I found this certainly to be true in respect to Data and Goliath. Anyone with a brain ought to be asking what the corporation behind the offering of that "discount card" is doing with "their" data [and in the United States, we no longer "own our own" data]. These days, we ought to asking our states whether or not they are selling off our drivers licenses info too. The recent move by Twitter[r] to move operations to Ireland [except for those accounts residing in the United States] ought to be a clue that something continues to run afoul in the fields of Big Data. Read this book. And then tell me you don't care.

Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier

Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life, Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier. New York: Crown/Archetype// Random House, 2007. e-book, 233 pps.

Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier  wrote Be the Pack Leader when Cesar was still married to his first wife Illusion Millan. Something about that failed relationship made this book poignant for me. No doubt in my brain that he loved Illusion and that her departure from his life left him wounded for a time. I indeed rejoiced when the television specials started up signifying Cesar Millan's return to his work with his beloved pack and the training of people.

[For those of you who don't know this bit of factoid, Melissa Jo Peltier is married to John Gray who is the producer of The Ghost Whisperer television series staring Jennifer Love Hewitt. There was an episode in which Cesar Millan appeared signing books at a bookstore! Cesar Millan also appeared on an episode of South Park giving tips to Eric Cartman's mom but I am less sure of how that happened.]

Americans do in general prefer to pamper their dogs and worry excessively over hurting the precious little feelings of their canines. There are other things that we ought to devote our time to instead. We ought to not be so casual about the process of dog-getting. We ought to do our research first into what breeds [or even mixed breeds] of dog might suit us and our lifestyles best, what energy level of dog might suit us best, what our own energy level is, what pitfalls and strengths do we bring to the relationship with dog, what are we willing to do in order to ensure that we develop a stable dog and not a neurotic mess of a caricature of a dog. When people tell me outright that they don't care for dogs for whatever reason, I am actually happy. The folks that don't like dogs and don't get dogs know themselves well enough to know that they ought not to.

It is easy to reinforce unacceptable behavior in a dog. What is "cute" in a puppy such as the fluffing of hair in order to make himself look bigger before hitting the top staircase leading out [yeah, I had one of them] is not endearing when the puppy becomes an out-of-control- sixty pound dog who then needs specialized behavioral rehabilitation and then whose owner needs training so the dog rehabbing will stick [or he would have gone to the glue factory]. My cute puppy was not born unstable. I made him that way. I did not know enough about animals, dogs, the several ancestors of dogs in him, or he himself to make for a stable pack leader. And I was blind to what I was doing to perpetuate his behavior that had started out to be cute but ended up to be total dog on dog aggression. Fortunately, that story had a happy ending for both of us and for the neighborhood.

My elderly dog who recently turned thirteen has been acting up in respect to loud cars going by on the roads when we walk. I think this is because I must have lost my balance one day this winter or had a non-calm reaction to a car that splashed us with rainwater or something. I've been working on correcting her from barking at the "louder" cars as they rumble down the streets. Today it dawned on me. I needed to follow through. Correction plus follow through. Today I corrected her barking with a quick sit command and then followed through by keeping her in the sit until she indicated that she was in a calm submissive state. Success! She has not barked at a car since. 

sapphoq reviews says: Cesar Millan pulls no punches. He says outright that it is the problems in us-- in our non-calm non-assertive non-leadership non-directive non-energy-- that create the problems in our dogs. If you want to know more about how to be an effective pack leader, you will read this book. And then read all of the Cesar Millan books. And watch the television shows. Because having a well-behaved calm submissive dog is so worth it.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

The Beginning of Everything, Robyn Schneider. New York: HarperCollins Publishers/ Katherine Tegen Books, 2013. e-book, 263 pps. including preview of another book.

Ezra Faulker was one of the cool kids in his high school. He was a tennis champ and therefore a higher-order jock. The crowd he hung around with didn't include his former childhood friends, including his former best buddy Toby.

But alas, there was a bad car accident. Ezra wound up hurt badly and was still attending physical therapy sessions and occasional trauma sessions with a trauma shrink of sorts. So high school has changed. The jocks and Ezra inhabit two different parts of the world now. Even the last girlfriend wound up with a different fellow-- one of his jock buddies.

Through a series of mishaps and coincidences [Yes folks, there really are coincidences], Ezra was thrown back into Toby's orbit and onto the debate team. The new girl by name of Cassidy also was added to the debate team roles. She didn't want this.

And some other stuff happened.

sapphoq reviews says: Robyn Schneider did a fantastic job of depicting the various cliques and factions in a typical American high school. Description of various neighborhoods in the area also seemed to be realistic to me. Toby's seventh grade event was grossly enjoyable. The Beginning of Everything depicts a high school boy who must find new reasons for being. I liked the book. Recommended.

There is some teen sex and groping, under-aged drinking, unsupervised parties, and a sort of suicide. Parents who object to these things may not want their teens reading this book.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Dealer's Dog and Other Tales of Non-Valor by William A. Patrick III

Dealer's Dog and Other Tales of Non-Valor, William A. Patrick III.[also: Dealer's Dog and other tall tales of non-valor]. self-published, 2010. e-book, 156 pps.

Although Dealer's Dog describes itself as fiction, it reads too true to me to really be fiction. I treated it as a semi-autobiographical lark into the memories of the coming of age of the author. No offence intended to the author. 

Whether it is wholly fiction or not, I chortled through the entire book. The characters were charming and horrid by turns, the protagonist-- a slacker kid named Ash who is forced by his mother to get a job-- was endearing, and the partying escapades were riotous.

And yet...

sapphoq reviews says: If you like slacker novels, then you will like Dealer's Dog. The stories are woven together in an effect that produces a feeling of, "Oh yeah, I remember stuff like that. There was this kid I knew..." This is the kind of book that the hired help will be reading to me and my cronies in nursing homes and assisted living places in order to stimulate our memories some years hence. For adults only please. Highly recommended.

A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian

A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian. Durham N.C.: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. e-book, 224 pps.

A Manual for Creating Atheists in its basic form utilizes the Socratic Method in order to talk people into basing their lives on reason rather than upon faith. This idea of converting people to atheism is a foreign one to me at best and not something that I have attempted to do in any way, shape, or form. Nevertheless, I did read through the entire book.

What I found was more than a bit of repetition which I could have done without, some antidotes which didn't peak my interests, and some clear definitions of terminology. While I appreciated the latter and the amount of research which went into A Manual for Creating Atheists, the premise wasn't my cup of tea. My preference is for each individual adult to believe and put into practice what makes sense to them without the rest of us always having to have an opinion about it. The same objections that I have to street evangelism hold true regardless of the topic being pushed.

sapphoq reviews says: The most valuable point in A Manual for Creating Atheists was the differentiating between faith and reason. Faith works backwards from the conclusion. Reason [and science] works forward from the evidence. I like scholarly attempts but this one by Peter Boghossian falls way short. The most strident atheists among us will appreciate this book and maybe even enact some of the conversation suggestions. The rest of us will shrug our shoulders. And the religious among us will not find anything valuable here. Not recommended.

The Sun Trail by Erin Hunter and Wayne McLoughlin

The Sun Trail (Warriors: Dawn of the Clans Series #1), Erin Hunter and Wayne McLoughlin. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. e-book, 249 pps.

     I read The Sun Trail with delight. Once again, this Erin Hunter book following the development of [fictitious] cat clans captivated me.

     A group of cats taking refuge in a cave are barely surviving due to lack of food. There is a discussion and then some more discussion. Finally, the group splits into two. One group stays in the cave. The other group sets off along the sun trail to find a new place to live that can sustain it. A young male kit sneaks off with the second group and his mother is forced to send the kit's older brother off to ensure his safety.

sapphoq reviews says: This book traces the early history of the cat clans. There is much to like about The Sun Trail. For those parents who monitor what books their kids are reading, I think this one is suitable for teens and pre-teens. The series has attracted fans which include adolescent boys. And who doesn't love cats? These cats are more rugged than adorable. Yet the magic of kittens is found in the pages along with the charm and dignity of older cats. Highly recommended for pre-teens, teens, and those adults who love cats.

Friday, April 03, 2015

El Mexicano Restaurant, Saratoga Springs, New York

     It was a clear and brilliant day. As I walked, I noticed a sign for El Mexicano restaurant just before the Stewarts on Broadway.

 The patio in front had lights on the arbors and a flashing open sign.

I was hungry so I went in.

I was immediately greeted by the pleasant aroma of food cooking. I took a table in the back and ordered. While waiting for my chimichungas and snacking on chips and delicious salsa, I looked around at the artwork on the walls and the tables, all done by Gabino Vasquez. He and his brother, Esteban Vasquez own El Mexicano.



     I ordered the eight dollar plate of chimichungas. Two chimichungas were set in the middle of the plate with lettuce and quacamole north and south, and fried rice with peas and carrots west, and beans east. The temperature was just right for consuming immediately. Although I was not impressed by the addition of once frozen peas and cubed carrots mixture to the excellent yellow rice, I was mollified by the excellent quacamole. A bottle of hot sauce and another of salsa verde were delivered upon request [for me, and those patrons who prefer spicier Mexican food]. A most excellent lunch!


     Afterwards, I [along with all patrons eating there] were treated to dessert.

     The mashed banana fried and wrapped in a flauta with two dollops of whipped cream on the side and cinnamon was the perfect temperature. The flauta was crispy and impressive. It was an impressive ending.

Staff were friendly and attentive. Service was prompt. My total bill came to eight dollars plus tax. El Mexicano is a place I will go back to.

If you wish to go:
El Mexicano Restaurant
208 South Broadway
Saratoga Springs NY 12866
open seven days serving lunch and dinner