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Charles Ashbacher (Marion, Iowa United States)

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Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World
Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World
Price: CDN$ 18.67

5.0 out of 5 stars A sad, yet positive tale about the worldwide plight of women, Jan. 31 2015
People in the United States, especially the younger women and girls, generally have little idea how women are treated in most of the rest of the world. Slavery still exists and it is often sexual, sometimes girls as young as four and five are used as sex “workers.”Thousands of women in impoverished areas of the world are promised jobs, only to be pushed into the role of prostitute. Thousands of women and girls are sold into prostitution by their families that have no other way of earning an income. This is not restricted to the developing world; there is an active slave trade where women are imported into developed countries.
Women that are officially wives and mothers are also de-facto slaves in large areas of the world. Even where they officially have equal legal rights with the men, those laws are not enforced; a man is still considered the equivalent of a feudal lord over the women in his household. Honor killings of female relatives still occur more often than most realize and women are sometimes passed around to prevent conflict between tribes and clans.
In the midst of all this gender-based misfortune, there is growing hope, largely based on the actions of brave women in the cultures and countries where women are oppressed. Given aid by the global organization “Vital Voices” women that grew up in these places and that have often been raped or otherwise mistreated, are speaking out against the culture that tolerates it. Most of the book is composed of testimonials and brief biographies of women that have crusaded against the situation rather than accepting it. From the countries of the former Soviet Union through the Middle East, south Asia to Central and South America, women have stood tall and strong in the face of powerful pressures against them. Their success, no matter how small or localized, is a positive force for good in the world.
While the plight of women is difficult to read, this is fundamentally a positive book, it fuels a beacon of hope and change that literally billions of women around the world desperately need to experience.

This book was received for free for review purposes

The Hillbilly Debutante Cafe
The Hillbilly Debutante Cafe
Price: CDN$ 9.93

5.0 out of 5 stars A story describing what is happening in thousands of places, Jan. 31 2015
Set in a small town of slightly over 3,000 in Missouri that is struggling economically, this story describes one of the most positive aspects of living in a small town. Much has been said of small town intolerance, but in many cases the opposite is true, provided that the odd person grew up in that town. People in small towns tend to be very protective of their own, as demonstrated by the tolerance of Oliver Griffin.
After a traumatic tour in Vietnam, Ollie returned a dramatically changed man that lived in his car and in the summer openly bathed in the town fountain. Sometimes minimally decent but often not, he was tolerated by the people of the town for he was one of their own.
This is not to say that the people of El Dorado Springs don’t have their conflicts and disagreements, some of which go back decades and are still as open as the day the wound was created. There is the town hostile drunk, a plan to open a “girly bar”, sexual affairs by married people and generally all of the other things that happen in any collection of diverse humans.
The main character is Molly, wife of a Senator that is tired of the life in Washington and wants to go back to her roots where she can wear country clothes and act like one should in such clothing. While things have changed a great deal in terms of the businesses open on Main Street, most of the rest of the environment has not changed. Molly has to blend into the environment and once again become a significant resident of a small community.
The story moves well, involves a bit of a ghost story as well as a secret villain that operates in the shadows to upset the structure of the town. While the ghost is “real” it is a manifestation of the spirit of a small town rather than of terror or uncertainty. Having spent my childhood and early adulthood living and working in a small town, I recognized many of the characteristics of those towns, including the oddballs and the decline of small town Main Street. For those reasons the story moved me, it was easy to relate to and care about what was happening in El Dorado Springs. For the same story is being played out in thousands of places in the United States.

This book was made available for free for review purposes.

Advanced Excel Interview Questions You'll Most Likely Be Asked
Advanced Excel Interview Questions You'll Most Likely Be Asked
by Vibrant Publishers
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.43
15 used & new from CDN$ 18.74

5.0 out of 5 stars If you can answer these Excel questions you are definitely a power user, Jan. 31 2015
Even though I have been teaching the basics of Excel for many years and use it in my business, many of these questions demonstrated how little I really know about it. The questions are all easy to understand and the tasks not so obscure as to be implausible. Yet they test your knowledge of some of the more advanced and less widely used features.
There are 191 Excel questions split into the following categories:

*) General
*) Formulae
*) Problems
*) VBA/Coding
*) Specific uses
*) Graphs, drawing and pictures

If you can answer even eighty percent of these questions then there is no doubt you should be labeled as a high level power user.
The second section of the book contains 51 general interview questions that have been published in many places so their presence does not differentiate this book.

This book was made available for free for review purposes.

"You Want Proof? I'll Give You Proof!": More Cartoons Form Sidney Harris
"You Want Proof? I'll Give You Proof!": More Cartoons Form Sidney Harris
by Sidney Harris
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Cartoons for the intelligent person, Jan. 30 2015
Sidney Harris' sense of humor is something we can all be grateful for. His cartoons about science are without question some of the best cartoons ever created. The fact that they have a scientific theme makes them even better. Without question, my favorite is the one that shows Moses with a clay tablet. On that tablet is the heading, "Constants" and underneath there is "Speed of light", "Electron mass", "Proton mass" and so on. Most physicists believe that the act of the creation of the universe was the establishment of the value of the physical constants that matter and energy adhere to, so this cartoon has a significant point. .

Some knowledge of science is needed to understand most of the cartoons. For example, if you do not know about the Doppler affect, then the cartoon entitled "C. Doppler takes a walk" will be difficult to understand. However, that is one of the attractive qualities of Harris' cartoons. By forcing you to think deeper thoughts in order to understand his cartoons, Harris improves the intelligence of the general population.

Traversing Digital Babel: Information, E-Government, and Exchange
Traversing Digital Babel: Information, E-Government, and Exchange
by Alon Peled
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.75
23 used & new from CDN$ 19.75

5.0 out of 5 stars An honest and realistic examination of a very important modern problem, Jan. 30 2015
As Peled points out, while money has always bought you power and influence, it is now the case that possession of data and the ability to process it into knowledge can earn you money, power and influence. Oftentimes a great deal of all three. As has always been the case, the world is split into silos and rivalries exist in order to acquire and retain power, money and influence. This is nowhere more a reality and has the potential to improve the world than in the databases maintained by government agencies.
However, there are immense problems beyond the rivalries between government agencies and their natural tendencies to retain their data and preserve their power. Governments were among the first to incorporate computers into their operations and over time their systems have been updated many times. A legacy system in a government agency can now be over fifty years old and was originally programmed in a proprietary language. Furthermore, the early developers of that system are most likely all deceased or at the least elderly so the option of consulting them generally does not exist. Built on separate machines, the databases held by these government entities have fundamental incompatibilities that are not easily resolved.
There is an image on page four illustrating the computer system used by the IRS. The timeline starts in 1961 and the representation shows layers and layers of major updates having been piled on top of what came before.
Yet, the potential monetary and political advantages of resolving these issues are so enormous that there is no alternative but to solve these problems. Peled makes the point that other than in the area of national security, data collected by agencies is a public commodity. Therefore, it should be made available as quickly and in as universally usable a form as possible.
In chapter six Peled describes the Public Sector Information Exchange (PSIE) a structure whereby government data is provided to interested parties. It is a natural expansion of the Freedom of Information Act, where the government is petitioned to release non-sensitive data to a requestor. This is a sound program and one that has great potential to improve social efficiency and possibly even save lives. When retrospectives are conducted on major terrorist events, it is generally discovered that there were many red flags regarding the perpetrators that were not acted on.
Chapters seven and eight are devoted to stating the major challenges to the creation of PSIE's and putting forward a political strategy to properly promote them. As followers of government are well aware, sometimes getting the proper political support in a world where interests are segmented and powerful corporations are involved is usually very difficult. Even though it is always necessary and the advantages are obvious. Peled understands these problems and he puts forward suggested solutions that are at least plausibly executable, which is the soundest possible position from which to start.

This book was made available for free for review purposes.

She-Hulk Volume 8: Secret Invasion TPB
She-Hulk Volume 8: Secret Invasion TPB
by Peter David
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 43.83

3.0 out of 5 stars Loaded with characters and actions that are secondary to the main story of the invasion, Jan. 29 2015
The main premise of the story is that the Skrulls are preparing for an invasion of Earth. As a first step, the Skrulls have sent their physical incarnation of their god to Earth, a Skrull called the "Talisman." Many other characters appear in the story, including the Super Skrull, a renegade Skrull called Jazinda and several mutant humans. This complicates the story considerably, especially if you are unfamiliar with the background of Jazinda and the powers of the mutants. Furthermore, the story is also presented in the context of the normal humans being distrustful of mutants, so there is a great deal of unexplained background.
With all of this reliance on previous events in the Marvel storyline, it is at times very difficult to understand the plot as the She-Hulk battles the mutants and then the Skrulls in an attempt to thwart the invasion and save Earth. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable of the Marvel universe yet there were many times when I had to stop and ask myself, "Who's that?" She-Hulk is once again her charming and verbally obnoxious self, as is usually the case with stories about the "Green Goddess" that is the best aspect of the story.

Lead Like it Matters...Because it Does: Practical Leadership Tools to Inspire and Engage Your People and Create Great Results
Lead Like it Matters...Because it Does: Practical Leadership Tools to Inspire and Engage Your People and Create Great Results
by Roxi Bahar Hewertson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.14
38 used & new from CDN$ 13.89

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best bargains a leader can ever find, Jan. 29 2015
There is an old adage about how the real work doesn't begin until one achieves a high level position. Memoirs are full of reports by people that were successful about how they worked hard to achieve a position only to discover that to do it well they had to work even harder. Everyone has a need for sound advice from someone that will speak freely and honestly. That is why many of the most successful executives willingly subject themselves to coaching from others, often at great expense. If they are willing to accept the coaching and it is done well, it is still a bargain.
Using that criterion, this book is also a bargain, for the reader willing to pay attention and practice what Hewertson delivers will receive a significant ROI for their money and effort. The problem with poor leadership is not a dearth of knowledge about quality leadership but the unwillingness of people to make the personal and professional changes needed for success. Furthermore, there is a negative relationship in the sense that the people most in need of the changes are often those least willing to acknowledge and act on that need.
Hewertson puts down a series of simple and actionable exercises that people at all levels of organizations can understand and work on implementing, even if they don't have the final authority. My favorite part and one that the majority of readers will agree with is the section on reducing the number of meetings as well as the count that attend. There is no question that reducing meetings that are redundant, unnecessary or too long is the lowest hanging fruit in the goal of increasing efficiency. Hewertson performs some simple and easy to understand calculations demonstrating how much even a moderately unnecessary meeting can cost.
The information needed to ramp up the efficiency of your organization and the effectiveness of your leadership is found in this book, the question is whether you as a leader are willing to implement it. As is the case with so many things in life, the first thing is to read it and the second is to find the courage to act on it. After that, the rest is easy for nothing matters more than success.

This book was received for free for review purposes.

If You Were Me and Lived In...Scotland: A Child's Introduction to Culures Around the World
If You Were Me and Lived In...Scotland: A Child's Introduction to Culures Around the World
by Carole P. Roman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent short introduction to the culture of Scotland, Jan. 28 2015
One significant difference between this book and others in the series is that Scotland is not an independent country. Part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has retained a distinct culture and language and Roman gives the young person an excellent introduction to what Scotland is.
The reader learns about the city of Edinburgh, called “the Athens of the North.” Many of the buildings exhibit Greek and Roman architecture and it is home to a great university. Common names for boys and girls, the names for mother and father, favorite games and some of the favorite local foods are also covered.
No story about Scotland would be complete without mention of the “mythical” Loch Ness Monster and that it is the nation where the game of golf was born. Roman does a nice job in explaining both of these national symbols of Scotland. There is also a mention of the unicorn, the official animal of Scotland.
Even though it is not a recognized country, Scotland is a worthy topic for an introductory book on culture and Roman once again does an excellent job in introducing it.

This book was made available for free for review purposes.

Double Your Salary: How to Influence Compensation and Promotions
Double Your Salary: How to Influence Compensation and Promotions
by Joseph G. Lecak
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.94

5.0 out of 5 stars To succeed concentrate on entering the top twenty percent and rarely change jobs, Jan. 27 2015
This is largely a story of the evolution of a person from someone that is eager to change jobs due to a perceived lack of potential advancement to someone that is active in creating their own advancement opportunities. Using simple tables, Lecak demonstrates that a job change has to lead to a substantial increase in salary or other opportunities before it advances your career.
There is also some sound management advice that is a modification of the well known 80/20 (Pareto) principle. In the area of job performance it is that in general you have twenty percent high achievers and then all the others. Lecak splits the grouping three ways, the high achieving twenty percent, the “middle” seventy percent and then the bottom achieving ten percent.
While improving the performance of all employees should be the goal of all managers, there should be two points of emphasis. The first is retaining the members of the high achieving twenty percent, simple probability tells you that your chances are one in five that any replacement for a high achiever has the potential to be one. Factor in the cost of training and the loss in considerable.
The second point of emphasis is on the bottom performing ten percent, all other things being equal this is where the staff turnover should be concentrated. Again, the simple probability is that there is a nine in ten chance that a replacement will be an improvement, reducing the cost of any loss.
In terms of the fundamental distillation of the contents of this book it can be summed up in the following way. “Do all you can to place yourself at the higher level of achievement and do what you can do to make sure that the right people know that.” That is the best advice that anyone can receive in a world where the primary scarcity is in talented people that are high achievers.

This book was made available for free for review purposes.

Sphere Packing, Lewis Carroll, and Reversi: Martin Gardner's New Mathematical Diversions
Sphere Packing, Lewis Carroll, and Reversi: Martin Gardner's New Mathematical Diversions
by Martin Gardner
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
25 used & new from CDN$ 14.12

5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the best writing on mathematics ever put on paper, Jan. 26 2015
Even though I have read most of his writings more than once, Martin Gardner is one of the authors that will never take you down a path of satiation. There is no question that more people have been turned on to mathematics or had their mathematical motor revved by Martin Gardner's writings than by any other person in history. His signature writings were the "Mathematical Games and Recreations" column that appeared monthly for 25 years in "Scientific American." This book is a republication of 20 of his original columns, with subsequent addendum and postscript added.
The titles of the columns are:

*) The binary system
*) Group theory and braids
*) Eight problems
*) The games and puzzles of Lewis Carroll
*) Paper cutting
*) Board games
*) Packing spheres
*) The transcendental number ð
*) Victor Eigen: mathemagician
*) The four-color map theorem
*) Mr. Appollinax visits New York
*) Nine problems
*) Polyominoes and fault-free rectangles
*) Euler's spoilers: the discovery of an order-10 Greco-Latin square
*) The ellipse
*) The 24 color squares and the 30 color cubes
*) H. S. M. Coxeter
*) Bridg-it and other games
*) Nine more problems
*) The calculus of finite differences

"How Great Thou Art" is the title of a religious song, but it could also be the signature phrase used to describe Martin Gardner and the role he has had in the development of the modern mathematics community. That skill is demonstrated one more time in this book.
This book was made available for free for review purposes

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