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Michael R. Chernick "statman13" (Malvern, PA)

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The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number
The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number
by Mario Livio
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.89

5.0 out of 5 stars beauty, mathematics, mysticism: all in a number, Dec 15 2002
This is a book of 253 pages and 10 appendices about a number called the golden ratio. I confess that I have not read it thoroughly. But I believe that I have seen enough to give it 5 stars and review it intelligently. It is a book for mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike. The first question I asked was how can an entire book be devoted to one number. Well Beckman wrote a book about the number pi and certainly that was interesting. There is a lot to say about the geometry of pi and many mathematical and statistical properties it has. Some including the Buffon needle problem are related by Livio in this book. He contrasts pi to the golden ratio (phi) which also has geometric and mystical properties. The quantity pi is a transcendental number meaning it is not the solution of any algebraic equation. On the other hand phi is algebraic as it is the solution to a quadratic equation.
Other strange properties of phi are:
1. If you subtract 1 from it you get its reciprocal
2. Add 1 to it and you get its square
To see the marvelous algebraic and geometric properties of phi you need only scan through the 10 appendices. Scan through the book and the pictures show you the many artistic properties related to phi.
Although algebraic phi is an irrational number. By applying the quadratic formula to its solution (see Appendix 5 in the book) you will see that its solution involves the square root of 5. Pythagoras and his followers in ancient Greece were said to have discovered irrational numbers (a natural consequence when you study right triangles) and hid this knowledge from the populous.
Phi is defined by Euclid as the "extreme and mean ratio". As Livio quotes Euclid " A straight line is said to have been cut in extreme and mean ratio when, as the whole line is to the greater segment, so is the greater to the lesser". This leads to an equality of proportions that yields phi=1.6180339887 rounded to ten decimal places.
If you have the time read the book thoroughly. Write a review that adds to what has been said if you like. Or skim through the pages and appreciate the artist properties of phi along with its algebraic and geometric properties. Read about fractals and myths. Enjoy this wonderful book!

Elements of Computational Statistics
Elements of Computational Statistics
by James E. Gentle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 147.96
19 used & new from CDN$ 66.16

5.0 out of 5 stars not just statistical computing, Nov. 14 2002
At first I thought this was a revision of his excellent book with Kennedy on statistical computing. But after browsing it I discovered it was a book on a subject that is near and dear to my "computationally intensive statistical methods". I then discovered a whole chapter on bootstrap methods, a topic of have studied, taught and written about!
I concur with the editorial reviewer on the content of the book. So I will not go into a detailed description that would just be repetitious.
The distinction that Gentle chooses to make between statistical computing and computational statistics is interesting. He sees statistical computing as methods of calculation. So statistical computing encompasses numerical analysis methods, Monte Carlo integration etc. On the other hand computational statistics involves computer-intensive methods like bootstrap, jackknife, cross-validation, permutation or randomization tests, projection pursuit, function estimation, data mining, clustering and kernel methods. But Gentle includes some other tools that are not necessarily intensive such as transformations, parametric estimation and some graphical methods.
Where would you put the EM algorithm and Markov Chain Monte Carlo? These are computational algorithms and hence I think belong under statistical computing, but they also can be computationally intensive methods especially MCMC. What does Gentle say. Well Chapter 1 is on preliminaries and he includes a section on the role of optimization in statistical inference. Here the EM algorithm is well placed as well as many other computing techniques like iteratively reweighted least squares, Lagrange multipliers and quasi-Newton methods.
The bootstrap chapter provides a self-contained introduction to the topic supported by a good choice of references. Variance estimation and the various types of bootstrap confidence intervals for parameters are discussed. Independent samples are the main topic though section 4.4 briefly describes dependency cases such as in regression analysis and time series.
The book is up-to-date and authoritative and is a very good choice for anyone interested in computer-intensive methods and its connections to statistical computing. This is the way modern statistics is moving and so is worth looking at.

Bombers: An Oral History of the New York Yankees
Bombers: An Oral History of the New York Yankees
by Richard Lally
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 38.00
22 used & new from CDN$ 3.01

4.0 out of 5 stars interesting stuff especially for a Yankee fan like me, Nov. 12 2002
As a big Yankee fan growing up in the 1950s and 1960s this is certainly material that interests me and brings back many memories. Lally does some narration to set up the interviews. But the inside stuff is the interviews with players and managers involved in the games. He goes all the way back to Babe Ruth's called home run in the 1932 World Series and covers a lot of controversial plays and events including the Phil Linz harmonica incident in 1964 (mostly a media build-up. But was it a turning point for the Yankees?
It was interesting to learn how the Giants stole signs in 1951 to make their comeback against the Dodgers but refused to use this proven system in the World Series against the Yankees because Durocher was afraid of being caught.
On the other hand Lally relates how the 1961 Reds stole the Yankee signs in the Series. But that did them no good at all!
I remember how nervous I was when Terry was pitching to McCovey with the tieing run at third and the winning run at second in the 1962 series. I was watching the game with my parents but couldn't stand it when the Giants appeared capable of pulling out a dramatic victory in the ninth inning of the seventh game. So I ran to my room to watch by myself with the sound off. Before I could be alarmed by the line shot he hit, I could see Richardson holding on to the ball.
It was a great surprise to me to hear that Clete Boyer was so scared of what might happen if the ball were hit to him that he was glad when they decided to pitch to McCovey. This meant that the ball would not likely be hit to him! If they walk McCovey to pitch to Cepeda the pressure would definitely be on the third baseman. This revelation was amazing comong from one of the all-time great fielding third basemen.
This is the flavor of the book which follows the history of the Yankees in roughly chronological order. Lally reused some interviews he had gotten from an earlier book with some revision by discussants such as Jim Bouton.
I give it 4 stars because I was a little disappointed with the coverage of the 1996-2001 Yankees. With five World Series to cover, Lally chose a long discussion fo the 2000 Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets and said nothing about the 1996, 1998, 1999 or 2001 series. I can understand neglecting the unexciting 1998 sweep of San Diego but the others had their dramatic moments especially Torre's first win in 1996. There was no more drama than the 2001 series with two dramtic Yankee wins and that horrifying ninth inning loss in game seven.

Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir
Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.68
116 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars the Brooklyn Dodgers and life growing up in the 50s, Nov. 9 2002
Doris Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. She is a democrat and mostly she writes about politics. However several years back she took part in Ken Burns documentary film on baseball and portrayed her memories and love of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s and later as an adult in Massachusetts, the Boston Red Sox. This stimulated her to reflect on her childhood days as a Dodger fan and she decided to write a book about it. But as she carefully researched her memory and her past she found that it was all intertwined with her life groing up as an impresionable girl on Long Island in the 1950s. Her parents her friends and her future wriing career were all tied togehter. So this delightful book is a memoir of her childhood growing up and living and dying for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
I am 55 years old, slightly younger than Goodwin but I too grew up in the 1950s on Long Island and can relate to many of her experiences. She discusses how she started learning about baseball and the Dodgers when her father taught her how to fill out a scorecard. In the evenings during their quiet time together she would use the scorecard like a cue to narrate the game she listened to on the radio that day. This brought the game to life for her father and created an interest in her in narration that carried on into a career of writing.
The book flows marvelously and you see the world from the eyes of an impressionable grammar school girl. Goodwin is somehow able to go back and put herself back in the mind of that little naive child. We see her devotion to the Catholic church, the fear of polio in the ealry 1950s before the vaccines. I know this so well as I contracted polio in the summer of 1953 though I never got it so bad as to need an iron lung. We here of her confessions as she admitted to her priest that she wished harm on the Dodger opponents. We learn about the kids in the neighborhood, all Dodger, Giant or Yankee fans. I was a Yankee fan but my brother and all my friend that I played ball with as a kid were Dodger fans. The Dodgers were the most popular team in New York. They were the underdogs and the team for the common working man.
Goodwin's first boyfriend was a boy she got to know because he was a Dodger fan and they could talk so comfortably about the Dodgers. This is a story about the Dodger players she admired; Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Don Newcombe and Carl Furillo and the Yankees and Giants that she dispised, Mays, Mantle, Martin, Berra and others. It is a story about devotion and heartbreak; Bobby Thomson's home run, the story of Mickey Owens' dropped third strike. Billy Martin's heroics is 52 and 53. But it is also the thrill of 1955 when Dodger fans finally didn't have to say wait till next year.
As all this goes on we also hear about her mother's health problems and her childhood girlfriends, the beginning years of television, the Army - McCarthy hearings, the cold war, the civil defense drills and the fallout shelters, memorable events for those growing up in the 1950s.

You Cannot Be Serious
You Cannot Be Serious
by John Mcenroe
Edition: Hardcover
59 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars the psyche of J. McEnroe, his wives, friends & mostly tennis, Nov. 9 2002
This review is from: You Cannot Be Serious (Hardcover)
When McEnroe was a freshman at Stanford I was in my last year of graduate school there. He joined the top ranked college tennis team and became the star as a freshman. He led Stanford to another national championship and an undefeated season. Then he turned pro after his freshman year. This was disappointing at Stanford but should have been expected. Before arriving on the scene at Stanford he made a miraculous run at Wimbledon reaching the semi-finals as a junior tennis player! All this and more is discussed in detail in this book.
This book basically takes a not too serious look at McEnroe's life, how he was involved in sports at an early age and actually liked team sports such as basketball better than tennis. His natural patriotism explains why he played Davis Cup so much and encouraged others to do the same.
Much of the book deals with his childhood friendships and his ascension in the tennis ranks all the way through his run as the number 1 player in the world. He describes many of his classic matches and you get a glimpse of what was going on in his mind during his great victories at Wimbledon and agonizing defeats (e.g. Lendl at the French Open).
Part of the reason for writing the book was to give the reader an inside look at what was going on during his infamous tirades on the tennis court. He reveals his New York upbringing and his inability to control his temper. Later on in the book we get to see some of the personal side. Inspite of the stormy divorce to Tatum O'Neal, John does not display animosity toward her in this book and he actually accepts part of the blame for the break-up. But he definitely wants to dispell the notion that he tried to hold her back in her acting career in favor of her supporting his tennis.
You also get a glimpse at his second and apparently very successful marriage to the rock star Patty Smyth. You also see how his attempts at leading his own rock group caused some turmoil in that marriage.
McEnroe is a very intelligent and complex person. His intelligence and tennis skills are often overlooked or played down by tennis fans because of his notorious cry baby attitude that he displayed so prominently on the court. His tantrums were accepted and tolerated by tennis officials because of his great success and the interest it brought to tennis. But he was a poor role model that others copied. He was not the first though. Remember Ille Nastase!
McEnroe seems to be much more content these days. He has been a successful tennis commentator and received the honor of being named the US team's Davis Cup captain and was elected into the Tennis Hall of Fame. These were obviously very satisfying achievements. Still it seems that he wrote this book to help change his public personna. He is not happy with his bad boy image and by writing this book and hosting a TV quiz show he hopes to show a different side of him as he reconstructs his image. He has a very good sense of humor that comes through in the book as well as in some of his recent TV commercials.

The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
by Bill James
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 21.25

5.0 out of 5 stars interesting facts and ideas about baseball from 1870 to now, Nov. 5 2002
Bill James is famous for his ability to collect, publish and analyze statistics about baseball. This is the second edition of his history book covering through the entire 20th century. But as James says in his preface this is more than just an update. In reviewing the first book he found that he didn't like a number of things that he did and so he has changed. Some may think for the better others for the worse but in my case I never read his 1980s edition so I have no basis for comparisons.
James is not a professional statistician but has good statistical intuition and is respected by professional statistician who specialize in sports statistics.
James covers the rules of the game and is very detialed about the players and the rule changes and strategy changes. What I enjoyed most about the book was his lists of the all time top 100 players at each position. This is something sports statisticians think about often and using statistical adjustment techniques and Bayesian methods professional statistician like Schell and Berry have written articles and in Schell's case a book on how to do this. Schell's book includes a list of the all time greatest hitters with Tony Gwynn at the top. The book tells you how the list is constructed and teaches statistical methods along the way.
James has no formal statistical method for constructing his lists. At each position he ranks the top 100 players and does a good job of mixing the old timers with the present day players. Though subjective, this is a difficult task for anyone and James is one of the few who knows enough detail of the history and players in baseball to be up to the task. I may not agree with all of his rankings but that is part of what makes talking about baseball fun. James provides descriptions of the players on his list that may be thought of as justification for their inclusion or rank.
The list of number 1 players by position is as follows:
1. catcher - Yogi Berra
2. pitcher - Walter Johnson
3. 1st base - Lou Gehrig
4. 2nd base - Joe Morgan
5. shortstop - Honus Wagner
6. 3rd base - Mike Schmidt
7. left field - Ted Williams
8. center field - Willie Mays
9. right field - Babe Ruth

Stochastic Calculus and Financial Applications
Stochastic Calculus and Financial Applications
by J. Michael Steele
Edition: Hardcover
9 used & new from CDN$ 80.00

4.0 out of 5 stars graduate course taught at Wharton, Nov. 4 2002
Mike Steele has used the material in this text to teach stochastic calculus to business students. The text presupposes knowledge of calculus and advanced probability. However the students are not expected to have had even a first course in stochastic processes. The book introduces the Ito calculus by first teaching about random walks and other discrete time processes. Steele uses a lecturing style and even brings in some humor and philosophy. He also presents results using more than one approach or proof. This can help the student get a deeper appreciation for the probabilitist concepts.
The gambler's ruin problem is one of the first problems that Steele tackles and he uses recursive equations as his way to introduce it.
Brownian Motion, Skorohod embedding and other advanced mathematics is introduced and emphasized. After motivating the stochastic calculus and developing martingales Steele covers arbitrage and stochastic differential equations leading up to the fundamental Black-Scholes theory that is important in financial applications. It is not fair to criticize this book for lack of applicability. It is strickly intended to develop a firm theoretical background for the students that will prepare them for a deep understanding of financial models important in applications.
I am not enough of an expert in this area to know if Professor McCauley's criticism in another amazon review of this book is valid, but I do think he is a little too harsh in criticizing the ideology that Steele presents. The ideology is what makes Steele's lectures stimulating and interesting to the students.

A Dictionary of Statistics
A Dictionary of Statistics
by Graham Upton
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars accessible dictionary of terms and famous statisticians, Nov. 3 2002
Two English statisticians have compiled this list of terms, abbreviations, famous probabilists and statisticians that is accessible to experts, beginners and practitioners in all fields that use statistical methods and probability. It is very current and competitive with other dictionaries on this topic including the one that Cambidge University Press puts out. A nice feature of the handy paperback book is its low price. Published in 2002 it is the most current dictionary of its type and includes terms from computational statistics and operations research. So you will find terms like simplex methods and figures from operations research like George Dantzig in addition to famous statisticians such as R. A. Fisher and probabilists like Markov and Kolmogorov. It also contains many names of statistical societies, software packages and professional journals and their acronyms.

Leadership Through the Ages: A Collection of Favorite Quotations
Leadership Through the Ages: A Collection of Favorite Quotations
by Rudolph Giuliani
Edition: Hardcover
127 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars great examples, great ideas, Oct. 18 2002
Rudy Giuliani has always been a man I admired. When he stood up to the crime bosses I was impressed. As he was finishing off his second term as New York City Mayor he was already known for making incredible crime reductions and for cleaning up 42nd Street. Imagine ESPN Zone and the Disney Store where all the adult XXX stores use to be! Anyone who could accomplish this when everyone else was saying that it was impossible, is certainly worth listening to when he discusses leadership qualities. Rudy wrote what is basically part II of the book as he prepared to leave office. Then came 9-11. He wisely chose to add chapter 1 on the events of 9-11 and the immediate aftermath. The final chapter describes how the recovery was achieved over the last days of his adminstration.
Basically Giuliani was always interested in being a leader. He read a lot about and learned a lot from his mentors. Many of the ideas in this book I had already learned from reading and taking courses in leadership, e.g. empower and make everyone accountable, be open and honest and communicate clearly, let your positions be known but allow for open and honest debate, and consider all reasonable options but make a decision and stick with it.
What the book added for me was the details of Rudy's experience from his father and grandfather teaching him as a child how to stand up to bullies, to the synergism of Torre and Steinbrenner, to the teachings of Judge MacMahon and to the example of Ronald Reagan standing up to the air traffic controller. Not only does Rudy clearly relate these experiences but he also takes examples from his years in the district attorney's office and as Mayor of New York where he applied the lessons he learned. Standing up to Arafat when he crashed in on an engagement was an example of Rudy standing up to a bully when Clinton would not.
Still his achievements as Mayor and the leadership he showed during the 9-11 disaster were remarkable. What was so special about Giuliani compared to other Mayors? One thing was his unconventional way of treating the government of a city like the running of a corporation. He used the organizational and economic principles of business in running New York City. He followed what Jack Welch was doing with six sigma at GE and through his Compstat program successfully used statistical methods for improving police effectiveness. This is very similar to the success that is common in many six sigma projects. It was fascinating to hear the types of information they chose to collect and the dramatic results that occurred when the measures were reviewed in meetings.
I even found myself recognizing Reagan and other Republicans whose vision and leadership I generally discounted in the past. Rudy is not arrogant or a braggard. He is simply trying to describe the key ideas that led to his success. This is great food for thought for all of us.

The Way Home: Scenes from a Season, Lessons from a Lifetime
The Way Home: Scenes from a Season, Lessons from a Lifetime
by Henry Dunow
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.07

3.0 out of 5 stars two stories in one doesn't work, Oct. 4 2002
Like Dunow I decided to coach Little League to relate better to one of my son's and to make sure he got a fair shake at developing as a baseball player. Unlike Dunow I didn't get the job the first time I applied.
I found the Little League situations fascinating and related to the various players coaches, their attitudes and the situations. But it surprised me that Dunow's team improved so much without special coaching or instilling much competitiveness. I would be kind to the kids and almost never yell at them unless they weren't paying attention to the game while they were in the field. Dunow took a very gentle, kind and noncompetitive approach which worked surprisingly well. Even the problem kid Dylan came around in the end.
I was very interested in the Little League story and the fact that his son Max was a baseball trivia nut, knowing everything about the Yankees and his idol Derek Jeter. I was a lot that way as a child too. But Dunow alternates chapters, with one covering how he and his seven year old son progress during the Little League season followed by a chapter covering his own childhood and his relationship to his father.
I found the chapters about Little League more interesting. The switching back and forth breaks up the continuity and the two stories do not connect together very well. In the end he does do a good job of tieing his relationship with his son to his relationship to his father but the connection does not justify the style which I found disconcerting.
Both stories by themselves could make for interesting books but together it doesn't work. I found myself wanting to get through the chapters about his father to get back to the chapters about his son and the Little League. Hence I only gave it 3 stars.

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