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A. Volk (Canada)

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The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity
The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity
by Norman Doidge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.91
35 used & new from CDN$ 20.91

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating new avenues of potentially healing the brain, but still needs a bit more evidence, Feb. 2 2015
Norman Doidge is the prophet of plasticity, the brain's ability to change and alter itself. The long-held view that the adult brain is essentially static at best, slowly wasting away at worst, has been changing over the last two decades as research increasingly supports the notion that the brain is capable of varying degrees of change. The focus of this book is on healing.

The first two chapters focus on a relatively traditional form of healing- rewiring the brain through concious effort. This is a long-held therapeutic technique that is used in cognitive psychological theory. The primary difference is here it is used to treat medical illnesses such as Parkinson's or chronic pain. The idea is that rather than rely on damaged circuits, the brain instead tries to trigger and promote health pathways that currently exist within the brain as well as to promote and maintain new connections that work with or around the damaged areas. This is all relatively conventional, but Doidge does a good job of presenting the material.

The remainder of the chapters delve into something that's a little less proven. Here Doidge explores the idea that external applications of energy can help heal the nervous system. This makes some sense as neurons are essentially electrochemical batteries, and we already have evidence that electroconvulsive shock therapy can (when used judiciously and only to one hemisphere) help alleviate symptoms of depression for long periods of time. So I wasn't shocked or hostile to the notion that external sound, light, and electricity could indeed help heal the nervous system. Unfortunately, I think Doidge falls into the trap of being overly enthusiastic about the healing potential of these methods. He loses his necessary skeptical objectivity when he describes a surgeon who has left the profession to work with lasers. Lasers that can apparently cure almost any human ailment. That's a really tempting thing to believe, but it's very hard to do so without sufficient evidence. Doidge does cite references throughout the book, but even two to three positive references in support of a theory aren't enough to justify some of the claims made in this book. The anecdotal claims make for good reading, but they are not sufficient evidence in and of themselves.

I'm sure that some readers are tempted to buy into the conspiracy theory that drug companies and the like suppress advances in alternate areas of medicine. I don't believe that to be true, at least not directly. They could well avoid funding alternate research (which I think they do), but there are so many doctors and other companies who would embrace new and revolutionary healing technologies that I don't believe that it's an issue. Doidge himself learns of some of these techniques from the open forum that the Ontario Doctor's Association uses to discuss and disseminate new ideas. So new ideas aren't being suppressed, the reality simply is that these ideas need more concrete evidence of their efficacy.

Overall then, the writing in this book is clear and well-delivered with lots of examples to guide the reader though it. Although to be fair, I do have a strong background in neuroscience so it wasn't hard for me to understand all the terminology he used. I do like many of the ideas presented, and I certainly think that they are ideas worth exploring in greater depth. That is, they need more solid, clinical research studies done on them. Because even if only a handful of claims that Doidge makes in this book end up being accurate, there's great potential for helping heal individuals. So if the goal of this book is to stimulate more discussion of these ideas, I'm all for it. They do offer a glimmer of hope to many people who are currently suffering from tremendous health burdens that current medicine can't alleviate. It's a very interesting and promising book,and I hope it helps stimulate gathering the necessary evidence, particularly for the later chapters.

Project Nemesis (a Kaiju Thriller)
Project Nemesis (a Kaiju Thriller)
by Jeremy Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.84
22 used & new from CDN$ 13.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly fun and entertaining, Jan. 28 2015
Watching Pacific Rim a while ago reminded me how much I enjoyed monster movies when I was younger. So I thought I'd give a monster story a try. I was expecting pretty formulaic plots, thin characters, and cheap writing to go along with the general "B movie" atmosphere of the genre. But I was pleasantly surprised. Robinson crafts a pretty interesting story. Yes, the characters are somewhat predictable, but the monster is surprisingly fresh in design. The action is heavy, and there are even a few moments of near-terror as Nemesis chases the heroes around. it was well done overall. I can't say too much more without giving away important plot details and twists. About the only thing I didn't like is that the author writes a good story, that clearly sets up a sequel, then writes three epilogues meant to drive home those possible sequels with all the subtlety of a wrench to the head. In fact, that's the only reason this isn't a five star book. Let the reader wonder a little, build some anticipation, rather than give us the equivalent of 3 different "final shots" that appear after the credits have rolled.

But that's a mistake at the very end of the book and does nothing to ruin the action, suspense, and horror of a good modern version of a Kaiju story.

USB Bluetooth V4.0 3.0 Wireless Mini Adapter Dongle for PC Win 7 8
USB Bluetooth V4.0 3.0 Wireless Mini Adapter Dongle for PC Win 7 8
Offered by Fast Retailing
Price: CDN$ 4.95
7 used & new from CDN$ 4.55

3.0 out of 5 stars Great device, if you can get it to work, Jan. 26 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
When I first got this device and plugged it into my Windows 7 laptop, I couldn't get it to work. I asked a question in the product Q&A, but ultimately I had to figure it out on my own. I ended up uninstalling the device, then re-installing it without letting windows search for an updated driver. The older driver on my OS was enough to make it work. It now works fine and can easily go 20-30' while maintaining a connection with my Bluetooth speakers. However, the fact that I almost gave up on it and returned it before I got it working means I can't give it a strong positive rating. It almost ended up in the garbage. So for working great, five stars. For almost ending up in the garbage (and no help from the company who made it), one star. Thus, three stars overall.

Space Eldritch
Space Eldritch
by D. J. Butler
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.65
8 used & new from CDN$ 15.64

3.0 out of 5 stars Hit and miss attempt at bringing Lovecraft into space sci-fi, Jan. 26 2015
This review is from: Space Eldritch (Paperback)
To being with, I'm a huge fan of HPL. His stories are some of the best horror stories ever. Despite avoiding gore and guts for the most part, he nevertheless conveys a horrible sense of fear and almost unimaginable terrors. Superb stuff. I've been rereading some of it recently and thought I'd try out a couple of newer flavors of this style of writing. Enter Space Eldritch, a collection of short stories. The strength of a collection like this lies in the individual stories, so I'll give a brief comment for each.

The first story, 'Arise Thou Niarlat From Thy Rest', is definitely a Mythos-centered story that reminded me of Stargate the TV series/movie. Interesting, but not something I'll remember (in fact, I forgot about it until I reread the table of contents for this review). So two to three stars for me.

Space Opera is classic science fiction. An alien race ruthlessly colonizes other planets, inhabited or not. Until they run into a planet who worships a very strange, but very protective god. Who isn't very nice...the horror elements for this story are almost all but absent, making it a dark science fiction story more than horror. Still, it was well done and I liked the aliens, so four stars.

The Menace Under Mars is a classic space horror movie. Go exploring on Mars, find a possible clue for past life, wake it up, and realize that it's bad. Very bad. So rather cliche, but well written just the same. Four stars.

Gods In Darkness features a cold war fight in space that is done on the behalf of a Cthulu/Mythos cultist. Interesting, and the most on-topic story, but the writing is poor. There's a badly-forced sex scene that's totally out of place along with completely cardboard, cliche characters. So two stars here.

The Shadows Of Titan is another one of those go to a planet, find evidence of alien life, check it out, bad things happen. For once I'd love for a sci-fi horror movie (Prometheus, I'm looking at you) to have its characters treat alien life the way it should be- very, very cautiously. Because we could wipe it out with our germs, or it could do what all alien horror stories/movies , wipe us out. There's at least a partial explanation of why the astronauts on a multibillion dollar mission act like idiots, but it's pretty weak sauce. So is the deus ex machina ending. That said, the writing was good and parts of the plot were quite interesting. Not too much in the way of mythos, but a solid sci-fi story. Three to four stars.

The Fury In The Void happens in a future when religion dominates over science. It's an interesting story, but ultimately, it tries to do to much. Comment about human nature, religion/science, personal sacrifice, faith, and a Cthulhu-esque space horror. It's a good try, but rather than give you a good taste of everything, they are all too rushed leading to a poor final product.

Voidheron ends on a strong note. Not strictly a space story, it deals with a new way of travelling across huge distances to new planets. Via mystical runes that no one seems to fully understand, but which are revealed to carry a very high price indeed. Perhaps my favorite of the bunch (with Space Opera #2), this one is definitely worth four, almost five stars.

So overall, I'd rate this book between three to four stars. Given that it heavily alludes to Lovecraftian elements that are largely vague or absent (it's not a Mythos book), I'll go with three and a half stars, rounding down this time. It's worth checking out if you really like Lovecraft or space horror, but it's certainly not a guaranteed, page after page, thriller.

Jets 2015 Square 12x12
Jets 2015 Square 12x12
by BrownTrout
Edition: Calendar
Price: CDN$ 4.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Military Jet Calendar, Jan. 20 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Jets 2015 Square 12x12 (Calendar)
This is a nice enough calendar about military jets. At 12"x12" it does a good enough job containing appointment info and the like. The photos are generally quite crisp and clear, and only one of them (the F-5) is a repeat from the same company's 2014 calendar. I've definitely seen bigger and better military jet calendars, but for the price, this one does the job. Four stars.

The Neanderthal Child of Roc de Marsal: A Prehistoric Mystery (2nd Edition)
The Neanderthal Child of Roc de Marsal: A Prehistoric Mystery (2nd Edition)
by Dennis Sandgathe
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.70
3 used & new from CDN$ 10.70

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and interesting "comic book" about paleoanthropology, Jan. 18 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I like this book, but I'm almost certainly going to return it for a refund. Why the contradiction? Because this book isn't what I was expecting. I suppose I should have noticed the short page count and large paper size, but I didn't. I ordered this book hoping for an in-depth exploration of Neanderthal research. What I got was a very interesting "comic book" that describes how modern researchers have re-explored and investigated the evidence for whether a Neanderthal child was deliberately buried in a funeral ceremony. That was the conclusion that early paleoanthropologists reached, but this comic questions that. Obviously, it's based on actual science and the contributing authors offer a good overview of what that science is and why it's important. The book uses a combination of real photographs with line drawings to describe the research, the methods, and the findings. I think this would be a four-star book for an advanced high school class or intro university course. But for someone, like myself, who's looking for a little more depth, this book just doesn't cut it. But since that's not the purpose of this book, I'm not going to penalize its rating.

The Retreat #2: Slaughterhouse
The Retreat #2: Slaughterhouse
Price: CDN$ 3.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun sequel amps up the action, Jan. 16 2015
I'm in a generous mood today, so I'm going with five stars for this book instead of four. It probably only deserves four as it's a fairly shallow piece of fiction. But I'm going with five because it generally does a very good job of what it claims it does. Which is to continue the story of a military unit in a world-collapse scenario.

A deadly virus has spread. It is transmitted by bodily fluids and infects almost instantly. It doesn't kill the infected, rather it turns them into sadistic killers whose only goals are to inflict pain/kill or to spread the virus. So these are like fast, smart, zombies who kill rather than eat. They can use weapons, drive vehicles, and employ fairly reasonable tactics. This would make them deadly foes if it wasn't for the fact that they generally don't care about dying so long as they get to do what they like while dying. And laughing. Always laughing.

Like its predecessor, this book is thick with military jargon. If you're not at least a little familiar with it, that could certainly make it a little less appealing. But otherwise, as the 10th Mountain Division 1st Brigade abandons Boston for their home base in New York state, they face a series of deadly conflicts with the infected. The plot moves along at a good pace, and features enough twists to keep it exciting and fresh. It relies a little too much on a few coincidences, but that's allowable as both a story tool and a reflection of the reality that sometimes battles do hinge on lucky events. The characters are better fleshed out this time around, and their behavior is more believable and captivating than the first time around.

So while the first novel in the series was simply OK for me, this one is good to very good fun. Don't expect great modern literature. But if you're looking for a fun rump of soldiers vs. bad infected guys, with lots of weapons on both sides, then this is a good way to kill a few hours.

Waiting Is Not Easy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
Waiting Is Not Easy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
by Mo Willems
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 8.99
20 used & new from CDN$ 5.28

5.0 out of 5 stars They're right, waiting is hard, but it can also be fun (to read), Jan. 16 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a really nice children's book. The plot is simple. Pig has a surprise for elephant. A really big, really good surprise that they can share. Only problems is that elephant has to wait for it. Which is hard to do.

Without giving more away, the book relies on the narration and imagery to carry the story, which they do quite well. It passed the ultimate test by making at least two young kids laugh when I read it to them. I would probably peg this for ages 3-6, maybe up to age 8. It's a cute story, the kids find it funny, and it preaches about something that most kids have a hard time with: waiting.

So even though this isn't an all-time classic, and probably warrants 4.5 stars rather than a full five, I'm going to be generous and go with the full five. Anything that helps pass on the message to children of being patient, in a fun way, is a good thing in my view.

The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC
The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC
by Jesse Fink
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.80
34 used & new from CDN$ 15.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A "pompous" look at the early years of the band, Jan. 4 2015
I'll start with the positives. The author has clearly put a fair bit of work into this book by tracking down a host of secondary people associated with the band. They largely consist of record company executives and technical engineers associated with the early records made by the band. Perhaps most engaging are the quotes from Mark Evans, the former bassist from the band. But seeing as he has his own book with even more depth on that front, it's hardly a great strength of this book. The depth and range of the interviews is why this book got two stars instead of one.

What does this book do? What story does it tell? Well, first the title isn't very good as there isn't a whole lot about the Youngs other than from secondary sources. This is largely because the Young brothers have never wanted to tell the details about their band and their lives. They are a private bunch, so you simply can't tell a good story about the Youngs because they, and the people closest to them, don't talk. That's a big reason why this book is limited to two stars- it quite simply doesn't give a lot of information (especially new information) about the Youngs.

But what really dampens this book is an under-riding arrogance and disdain for the band. Essentially, everything after BIB/FOTS is crap, other than Thunderstruck. Never mind that fans really got into the last three albums, you're wrong if you like it. Because you're a fan, rather than an "aficionado" like Fink is (that means he's smarter than you). Well actually, I consider myself both, and Fink a fanatic because he clings to a view that he won't change. Regarding Brian, he says ""Johnson's vocal chords really only held out for five years. [The last thirty years] they sound[ed] feeble, constricted, light a tight little fist, muted, and phlegmy." Really? I was at SARSFest with around 20 AC/DC fans from around the world and we were all blown away by how good Brian sounded then (and since). But for someone who stopped liking AC/DC at BIB, it's no surprise he rains all over Brian. I could go on, but suffice to say Fink is more of a fan of Bon than the band. The book devotes, more or less, only a single chapter to the last 30 years of the band's history (i.e., most of its history).

Finally, there's a really great conversation in the book that sums it up for me. Fink contacts Robert Ellis,a photographer who toured with the band early on. Ellis says "Everyone closely associated with the Youngs knows their attitude and closed ways. Anything you and I say can be mere speculation. As is most of what is in the biographies and books so far...There is plenty of space for the real story, but only [the Youngs] can tell it, and they have no intention of [doing so]. Email me what you want to know, I'll consider it, and give you some reply."

Sounds fair, right? Does to me. He gets Finks questions and answers "I am not convinced this is a project I want to be any part of. Another fan perspective, another outside just not interesting." BOOM! He nails it. How does Fink reply?

"Ellis' pomposity surprised me". Ellis being pompous?!? No, he's calling it like it is. Fink's emperor clothing is revealed as just another badly incomplete outsider view of the band stuffed full of biases and speculation. Those failings, and Finks' attitude, are why I think this book is worth two stars. It's got a number of interesting quotes to be sure, but much of them are of dubious interest, many more are already known, and you have to bear with Fink's constant expression of his own, narrow, opinions of what's good and bad about the band.

Rock or Bust
Rock or Bust
Price: CDN$ 14.97
45 used & new from CDN$ 10.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep down, stripped, FoTS-style AC/DC, Dec 23 2014
This review is from: Rock or Bust (Audio CD)
This is solid AC/DC. Some great grooves, some great hooks, and some great rock. Is it fancy? No. Is it epic Back in Black quality? No. It is solid, serious rock and roll? Yes.

I could review each track, but there's lots of reviews already covering the album. The title track and Play Ball stand out as really fun songs. But my favorite is Rock This House that just screams, yells, shouts, heavy blues. It's bloody awesome. To me, it captures the essence of AC/DC. Biologists like to say that most animal behavior revolves around the three "Fs": feeding, fighting, and ..., well, Rock This House just makes you want to do one (or more) of those Fs. Which means it easily passes the necessary AC/DC test, and I'm so very, very happy that Malcolm's last riffs (some of this album came from the brothers' shared archives) made it out to the general public. For such a humble genius to have such a rough ending, it's nice for the silver lining to be that, as he requested, the rock goes on. The final picture of the two brothers' guitars and the final dedication were the perfect touch from a band who's music has been classless, but who's members have always been classy. Five stars.

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