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Profile for Charles Ashbacher > Reviews

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Content by Charles Ashbacher
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Reviews Written by
Charles Ashbacher (Marion, Iowa United States)
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   

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Braddock America [Import]
Braddock America [Import]
Price: CDN$ 32.93
11 used & new from CDN$ 19.45

5.0 out of 5 stars A hard look at the reality of what has happened to many American cities over the last thirty years, Sept. 2 2015
This review is from: Braddock America [Import] (DVD)
This is a depressing video to watch, for it may be what some people interviewed state, a leading indicator of the decline of the United States. In the middle of the twentieth century there was an giant operational steel plant in the city that employed thousands at living wages. A suburb of Pittsburgh, the population was once over 20,000 in the 1920’s but is now under 3,000 with over thirty percent of the population below the poverty level. Once the steel plant closed, nearly all the jobs in the city simply vanished.
As the camera is taken through the residential areas, you see all the signs of urban decay, houses where the people that owned them simply gave up and moved away, letting the house just sit and rot. With the rapid decline of tax revenue, the city has no money for basic services, much less to demolish houses that are collapsing.
One of the most striking scenes is one that I am familiar from my youth, the sight of a steady stream of men walking out of the factory gates carrying their lunch buckets. My father worked in a factory and on those occasions when we would go to pick him up after work we would see this sight. Looking down the street at the gates of US Steel and seeing no action with green growth in several areas is a reminder of how the world has changed.
This is a very powerful look at the rapid decline of industrial America and how some towns have simply been destroyed. It is also a hard slap back at those people whose solution to the problems of inner city poverty is to yell “Get a job!” As can be seen from this video, executives of corporations have made good and bad decisions that caused the jobs to move away. The people that are left once those with the ability to leave have departed have no jobs available and many do not have the resources to move away and start over. In this case, their only option is to collect their benefits where they are. Criticism and cutting of their benefits does nothing to change this.

This video was made available for free for review purposes

Who Is Fourier? a Mathematical Adventure
Who Is Fourier? a Mathematical Adventure
by Transnational College of Lex Tokyo
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 40.11

5.0 out of 5 stars I was impressed by the concept of LEX and this book, Sept. 1 2015
This book was originally written to convey the experiences of the Transnational College of LEX (TCL), also known as Torakare, to as many members of the Hippo Group as possible. The college was founded in Tokyo in 1984 as a place where people could study the relationships between human beings and languages. People of all ages, from recent high school graduates to grandparents, study there. It is a school with no homework or exams and no taking of attendance, although people do graduate. Senior fellows, scientists and academicians are also there to lecture and help direct the people in their studies. The Hippo Family Club is the name that the group went by before the LEX name was taken, so the members and graduates are often referred to by that legacy title.
The language studies conducted at LEX are amazing, the Hippo members practice speaking eleven different languages at the same time. Their approach is that every form of human endeavor, mathematics included, has its’ own specific language. Therefore, the idea behind this book was to write a description of Fourier series that would be understandable by as many people as possible.
In that capacity, they have succeeded very well, they start with the basic idea that all speech is a set of waveforms that can be described by sine and cosine curves. Moving slowly from this point, the plotting of complex waveforms by combining different curves is demonstrated. The calculus operations of differentiation and integration are included and the final stop is at the Fast Fourier Transforms (FFTs).
Many diagrams are used along this journey, reflecting the incremental nature of the presentation. The slow speed of coverage makes it inappropriate as a textbook, but it would be an excellent book for individual study. However, if you knew some of the math, you would find those sections boring. In many ways, this book has the appearance of a children’s workbook, only there are not very many exercises to work through.
While I often found the pace tedious, I remain impressed by the concept of LEX and this book. It is readily admitted early on that it is the work of amateurs, but the authors clearly had fun in writing it and they do explain the topic in complete detail.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES
by Bernard Siskin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.95
9 used & new from CDN$ 15.31

4.0 out of 5 stars The probabilities that a randomly selected person will have a particular experience, Sept. 1 2015
This review is from: WHAT ARE THE CHANCES (Hardcover)
The modern person is bombarded with statistics, some of which are false, some true in a very narrow and hence unusable sense, others which are true but misleadingly so and the remainder which are provably true. This book is a collection of probabilities of events occurring to a randomly selected person.
Examples include:

*) If I am a college student, what is the probability that I will cheat on a test?
*) What are the chances that I will grow up incompetent in reading/writing or in math?
*) What are the chances that my hysterectomy wasn’t necessary?
*) What are the chances that I will marry a woman of another race?
*) Which dogs are most likely to bite?
*) Is it riskier to drive in Spain or Japan?
*) If I drive a lot, on which day of the week is it most important that I wear clean underwear?

As the last question indicates, some of the questions are humorous in nature. The authors have gone to great lengths to try to cover some of the “old wives tales” areas.
I got a great deal of enjoyment out of reading this book. Some of the facts were surprising, some hard to believe, but all of them were interesting to read and ponder. Clearly, the authors did a great deal of research in developing this book and I commend them for their explorations into the world of unusual facts.

Paw Patrol, Paw Patroller
Paw Patrol, Paw Patroller
Price: CDN$ 69.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 69.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Large enough to be a great start to a complex play scenario, Sept. 1 2015
This review is from: Paw Patrol, Paw Patroller (Toy)
This truck is certainly large, it is 26 inches long, approximately 5.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches high at the top. The top folds over to make a large internal space available with a vehicle elevator. Therefore, there is a lot of potential for additional accessories, which is of course the basic idea.
The only items included in the package are a four wheel all-terrain vehicle and a helmeted rider that is approximately three inches high. The vehicle is an attractive red, white and blue color. There is a button on the side of the truck that will cause one of a set of several noises to be made. All of them are sounds that one would associate with a truck that hauls freight.
This is a simple toy that is designed to be the mere start of the fun. With all the internal space and all other accessories available, this can be the foundation of a great deal of entertainment based on the Paw Patrol show.

Hasbro Disney Desendants Heroine Descendants Coronation Jane Doll
Hasbro Disney Desendants Heroine Descendants Coronation Jane Doll
Price: CDN$ 29.05
2 used & new from CDN$ 29.05

5.0 out of 5 stars A visually attractive doll with fun accessories to mix and match, Sept. 1 2015
First and foremost, this female doll is skinny to the point where it could be dangerous if she were to be human. The arms and especially the neck are slim, although the torso and the bust have more normal substance and the legs are close to what would be considered average size.
The arms rotate a full 360 degrees in the shoulder sockets, the elbow joint can be adjusted from 180 degrees to approximately 80 degrees and the wrist also rotates through a full 360 degrees. The positions of the fingers are permanent, with all extended, although two on each hand are slightly bent.
The hip joints allow for rotation through a full 180 degrees parallel to the long axis and the knees are fairly rigid, moving from 180 degrees to approximately 120 degrees. There are no ankle joints and the head can be rotated a full 360 degrees.
Without question, the best features of the doll are the beautiful blue dress, the large blue eyes, her complement of freckles and the purplish streaks in her long hair. Fashion accessories include earrings, a bow around the neck, hair bows, a pair of shoes and a ring for the little girl that is playing with it. All of the accessories are made of soft to semi-rigid plastic. The doll is slightly less than twelve inches long, so the child needs to have some manual dexterity in order to manipulate all of the features.
This is a visually attractive doll, although some will object to the thin nature of some of the body parts

Omega-3 Supreme Fish Oil For Brain and Heart Health. Pharmaceutical Grade +75% 1050mg Omega-3s. 644/336 NON-GMO, NO Fish-Burps Improved Absorption | Molecular Distilled, PCB/Toxin Free (180 ct (s))
Omega-3 Supreme Fish Oil For Brain and Heart Health. Pharmaceutical Grade +75% 1050mg Omega-3s. 644/336 NON-GMO, NO Fish-Burps Improved Absorption | Molecular Distilled, PCB/Toxin Free (180 ct (s))
Offered by Life & Food
Price: CDN$ 59.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Two advantages, one disadvantage over other brands, Sept. 1 2015
As per doctor instructions, I have been taking fish oil dietary supplements for years and have experienced several brands. This one has two advantages over some of the others and the first is that there is no gastric fish residue after consuming. I wash my morning pill down with a cup of hot green tea and with some other brands, there is an occasional 'fish burp' as the hot liquid quickly erodes the coating. That has never happened with this brand.
The second advantage is that these pills are soft and easier to swallow. I received a small sample of pills that were solid and did not like taking them, I prefer that small amount of extra flexibility when they are passing through my throat. I will never knowingly purchase the harder pills.
The single disadvantage is that these pills are more oval in shape rather than elongated. That means that they are a little thicker in the middle, so there is an occasional different feeling when they are swallowed. This is not always the case, depending on the orientation when it starts going down my throat.
In terms of effectiveness, no difference between this pill and the others has been detected.

This item was made available for free for review purposes.

The Well-Timed Strategy: Managing the Business Cycle for Competitive Advantage
The Well-Timed Strategy: Managing the Business Cycle for Competitive Advantage
Price: CDN$ 31.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Conventional wisdom is not necessarily wise, Aug. 31 2015
The conventional wisdom among many business executives is that you cut marketing expenditures, staff, cut prices and all other budgets as much as possible during the dips in the business cycle. Unfortunately for the practitioners, this is often very counterproductive. The best time to hire is during downturns, when the pool of potential hires is largest and contains the greatest number of outstanding people. With prices for many commodities at their lowest during their dips, it is often the best time to purchase new capital equipment or modernize pre-existing machinery. If you don’t have the work to keep your people busy, it is a good time to carry out training programs.
Peaks in the business cycle are also often not a good time to make long-term commitments because the good times are not permanent. Many company executives look at their balance sheet, smile with pride and then think that they are so brilliant that future success is assured. Contracts are signed under the assumption that the only possible side is the upside and there is no thought of new competitors entering the field or that their decisions are anything but brilliant.
All of these excellent ideas are listed and their effectiveness demonstrated in this book. Case studies of companies that have successfully carried out such programs are presented as well as some that engaged in absurd policies that cost them dearly. There is a lot of solid business wisdom in this book, making it a worthy read for all business minds. However, to take advantage of that wisdom, the mind must be open, which is one of the most consistent failings of business executives. The sound business mind must be open to new ideas, capable of admitting mistakes and willing to take risks. Unfortunately, this combination is rarer than it should be which is why we use the phrase conventional wisdom.

We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past
We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past
by Jacqueline Woodson
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 32.55

5.0 out of 5 stars The trials, tribulations and successes of family picnics, Aug. 31 2015
Regular midsummer family reunions disguised as a picnic are always events filled with history. There are the relatives whose creations are to die for and then there are those you fear will make you die. This delightful tale for children is about one such gathering. Everyone fears Martha’s apple pie, which is dry and difficult to eat. However, everyone is polite and all eat every crumb and proclaim its’ goodness.
Some people arrive bearing great quantities of food and others come with nothing but a smile and what charm they have. No one openly objects of course, as the object of the gathering is to renew and strengthen family ties. Despite the presence of a few slackers, everyone manages to have plenty to eat and has a good time.
The text of this book is at the right level for the young child and the illustrations are very colorful and will catch and keep their attention. Since all of the characters are black, this book can also be used in diversity programs.

This book was made available for free for review purposes

Whodunit Puzzles: Brainteasers from Riddle Middle School
Whodunit Puzzles: Brainteasers from Riddle Middle School
by Robert Mandelberg
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Classic puzzles repackaged in a delightful way, Aug. 29 2015
There are serious problems at the Riddle Middle School. The principal has suspended over 150 eighth graders and in retaliation, someone has stolen the mid-term exams. In an extortion note, they promise to give the exams back if the suspensions are lifted. Principal Graham Marshall is furious and will not under any circumstances rescind the suspensions. He calls together a staff meeting and browbeats the teachers into tracking down the guilty parties. He threatens retaliation against the teachers if they fail and he squeezes the chocolate frosting out of an éclair in order to emphasize his point.
This begins a series of 19 puzzles that must be solved as you step towards the solution and the level of difficulty is within the reach of high school students. They will also find the story amusing, as the antics and stereotypes of the teachers and other staff are exaggerated for comic effect. However, experienced puzzlers will recognize some well-used staples of the puzzle genre.
Number 1 is the apparent paradox about how it is possible that two brothers who look identical and were born on the same day cannot be twins. Number 5 is the problem of measuring out a particular amount of liquid using a small set of containers, where each holds an amount not equal to the desired one. Number 11 is the missing dollar problem and number 12 is the farmer, wolf, goat and cabbage problem. Number 14 is the problem where you need to make a statement referring to a situation where the statement cannot be either true or false. Number 15 is the three mislabeled boxes problem and number 17 is the prisoner’s dilemma problem. Finally, number 19 is the Monty Hall problem.
At the end, the problem is solved and the tests returned. In addition, the shy boy new to the school pockets $1000 for his assistance in solving the mystery. Although Principal Marshall remains a tyrannical demon, there is a happy ending of sorts. It is also a place where the journey is well worth taking as you are forced to think hard and occasionally outside the box in order to solve the puzzles.

TOMY Boys Miles from Tomorrowland Large Figure (Maximum Merc)
TOMY Boys Miles from Tomorrowland Large Figure (Maximum Merc)
Price: CDN$ 21.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 21.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fine as an action figure tie-in, not a lot of action from the toy, Aug. 29 2015
This is a very simple toy, while there are a few bells and whistles, they don’t do much. If you push the head plume forward, Merc’s eyes pop out a bit, only about a quarter of an inch. There is a button on his lower back that when pressed will cause one of eight sounds to be made. At the same time the wings light up.
The head can be turned through a full 360 degrees but will not bob as the long neck is rigid. The legs will bend forward approximately 30 degrees at the knees and rotate about ninety degrees at the hip joint. The wings do not rotate, but they pop off easily. They are connected by simple pegs in holes and can be easily and quickly reattached.
This is one of those toys where the primary attraction is as an action figure tie-in to a cartoon series. It does not do a whole lot, the few options will lead to boredom for most children rather quickly

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