Freakonomics (Book Review)

Freakonomics and it’s sequel, Super Freakonomics, are cleverly written books by Steven D. Levitt (an economist) and Stephen J. Dubner (author) in which the authors use academic economics to study a variety of social phenomena. The author’s study the economics of crack dealing and prostitution then segway into a study of cheating in Japan’s professional Sumo Wrestling, essentially proving with a statistical analysis that the sport is rigged. Most importantly, the author’s analysis of teachers cheating to inflate their students standardized test scores in Chicago led to an overhaul of the education system in that city and the firing of several of these teachers.

This book is well-written and well-thoughtout but it is highly controversial, especially the chapter on the correlation between abortion and falling crime rates. However, it is a highly educational foray into a variety of subjects that have been neglected by academia and I highly recommend both Freakonomics and its sequel.

Dr. Leonardo Noto

My Books!

The Joy of Science Review

Howdy y’all,

Well, I’ve been busy working on my fourth book and, other than being physically threatened by a random cyberstalker who was convinced that I was sleeping with his wife (he evidentally didn’t know that I’m her 1st cousin!!!) I’ve been doing very well. Now, back to my review of The Joy of Science.

The Joy of Science is one of The Great Courses that are put out by The Teaching Company, a company that sells audiobooks and DVDs of courses on an impressive breadth of undergraduate level college courses. These courses tend to sell for around $50 and I’ve personally used a half dozen of them and been very impressed by all of them.

The Joy of Science is taught by Robert Hazen, Ph.D., a truly gifted professor with degrees from Harvard, MIT, and Cambridge. This course is a review of both the history of science and the current state of our knowledge and it is taught in a series 60 thirty minute lectures that are an excellent review for scientists but also taught at a level that is accessible to the layperson. The course covers basic scientific methods, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, geology, climate science, and biology/molecular biology. The lectures are engaging and not dry–yet Professor Hazen does not skimp on the science and he manages to use clever analogies to illuminate even difficult-to-comprehend subjects such as the development of the Bohr model of the atom (and the quantum implications of the model).

I highly recommend this course,

Dr. Leonardo Noto

MY BOOKS (click on image to purchase)!

Smashwords! Great website for self-published authors!

One of the best ways to get the ball rolling on sales for a new book is to give away free copies. You can do this on Amazon through KDP Select, but I must say that my experience with KDP Select has not been good. In order to borrow a book (borrow, not own; but it’s free) you have to have Kindle Prime which immediately cuts out a whole lot of potentially interested parties. Also, Kindle Prime only lets people borrow one book per month, further limiting the number of potential readers. On the upside, Amazon does pay you around $2 for every book that you giveaway on the Kindle Prime program.

The good news is that there is this great website, www.smashwords.com, that will not only allow you to really give your books away free as a promotional but also places your book for sale on just about every ebook platform out there except for Kindle. The site is fairly user friendly–not quite as easy as placing a book on Kindle but close. It took me about 2hrs to reformat my Kindle-formatted manuscript and to figure out how to place it on Smashwords.

I highly recommend that all self-published authors place their work on both www.smashwords.com and on Amazon to reach the maximum number of potential customers. I also highly recommend that you carefully consider your options before you sign up to place your book on KDP Select/Kindle Prime because doing so limits you to only placing that book for sale on Amazon.

Dr. Leonardo Noto

My Books!

Hearts of Iron III, Review

In addition to my advertised hobbies, I also have an in-the-closet hobby — dorky videogames! I’ve had a love affair with military strategy games since I was at least 10 years old and, unlike most affairs, the passion hasn’t cooled over time! Here’s my two latest and a short bump to my current favorite/greatest.

1. Hearts of Iron III: As you might have guessed, this is the sequel to the excellent WW II game, Heart of Iron II. Heart of Iron III is the most detailed strategy game ever made; it even has a realistic weather simulator that has hot and cold fronts that interact via complicated algorithms. Unfortunately, in my opinion they over did the detail this time and it compromises game play. If you’re really, really into complicated and realistic WWII strategy game (including logistics and very detailed unit organization) then this is the game for you. As for me, I think that the less complicated Hearts of Iron II is the better game and I’m not a fan of the new edition.

2. Ageod’s American Civil War: A highly detailed turn-based strategy game and the most realistic Civil War strategy game ever made by far. Like Hearts of Iron III, I find the level of detail to be a bit excessive, although this is still a great game for hardcore strategy fans. With that said, more casual gamers will undoubtedly be put off by the degree of detail and the time investment that it takes to learn how to play (the tutorials are very good, however).

3. Europa Universalis: My personal current favorite and possibly my favorite strategy game of all time. This game covers European history (actually, world history) from 1300 to the Napoleonic wars. It is both highly detailed and easily playable and, b/c it lets you start at any date from 1300-1800, you can play virtually any war from the Ottoman Wars to the American Revolution to the Napoleonic Wars. I highly recommend this game!

Historical Movie Review: “Anonymous”

The film Anonymous is an historical examination of the longstanding theory that William Shakespeare may not have written the body of work that is attributed to him. This theory rests on the belief that a common man could not have produced such a body of work. I am not a Shakespeare scholar and I do not have a bone to pick in this fight; however, I do know that the movie was very interesting and well-made and that it expouses a theory that is at least very intriguing.

Essentially the movie is about an internecine fight over the succession of the ailing Queen Elizabeth 1st and the use of plays by a highly placed noble to win popular support for his preferred successor. The nobleman uses a plebian actor to publish his plays since they are highly inflammatory to certain segments of the establishment. The movie also revolves around the theory that Queen Elizabeth 1st may have had an illegitimate child and this secretive noble playwright is one of this child’s allies, preferring him to succeed Elizabeth rather than the Catholic King of Scotland.

Overall, Anonymous is a highly entertaining film that I highly recommend renting. It was obviously made on a low budget but nonetheless manages to produce a believable historical set. The acting ranges from superb to decent but is overall quite fair.

Leonardo Noto

My Books!