Saturday, March 25, 2017

Review of "The Calculus of Happiness: How a Mathematical Approach to Life Adds Up to Health, Wealth, and Love," by Oscar E. Fernandez



Review of
The Calculus of Happiness: How a Mathematical Approach to Life Adds Up to Health, Wealth, and Love, by Oscar E. Fernandez, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2017. 176 pp., $24.95 (hardbound). ISBN9780691168630.

Five out of five stars

 To the mathematician, the title is a bit misleading, for there is really nothing in the areas of differential and integral calculus. The content used in the descriptions and explanations is that found in standard college algebra and precalculus classes. This points out the most obvious use of the book, as a source of material for “real world” examples in such classes. Linear, polynomial, exponential and logarithmic functions are all used to compute ways to increase happiness.
 The paths to happiness are losing weight, reasonably accurate metrics for predicting lifespan, eating the right foods in the correct amounts, performing a detailed budget analysis, the most efficient and effective ways to invest money and equations that can be used to predict the number of people in an area that are your best matches for personal relationships. Successfully following these paths is demonstrated using equations based on data and very justifiable assumptions, making them excellent examples for the classroom.
 It is a good bet that there is not an experienced math teacher on the planet that has not heard the question in an algebra class, “What will we ever use this stuff for?” This book contains many effective responses.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review of "Gunsmoke", a movie starring Audie Murphy



Review of
Gunsmoke, a movie starring Audie Murphy, VHS format

Four out of five stars
 This is very much an old style western of the fifties. The movie opens with hired gun Reb Kittridge (Audie Murphy) and his gunman friend eluding a posse. Once the posse is gone, the two men part ways. Kittridge moves on to meet Matt Telford, a brutal local man that is determined to own all the cattle ranches in the area. Telford wants to hire Kittridge to kill the last holdout rancher, but he is turned down. In an unusual twist, Kittridge ends up owning the ranch and must drive the cattle to a railhead in order to pay off a mortgage on the ranch. That mortgage is owned by Telford, so he can acquire the ranch by preventing the cattle from being driven to the railhead.
 As westerns go, there is not a lot of gunplay, the daughter of the rancher is a single woman that is currently considered the girlfriend of the foreman of the ranch. There is a lot of interaction between the characters, Kittridge demonstrates that he is a man of integrity, even though his profession is that of a hired gun.
 The action involves cattle, an independent female, a gunman reluctant to kill, an obvious budding romance and a standard greedy man trying to carry out one additional land grab. By modern standards, there is very little violence, there is one scene where the rancher’s daughter is rather scantily dressed and that seems out of place for the fifties.
 If you are a fan of the old western movies, you will no doubt like this one. Audie Murphy was generally passable as an actor, perhaps his best role was when he played himself and hid the personal issues he had over his experiences in World War II. One of the most decorated soldiers in the U. S. military in World War II, Murphy starred in 40 movies while suffering from a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder that led him to an addiction to sleeping pills. He took them to keep the nightmares and flashbacks away.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review of "The Dictionary of Eponyms: Names That Became Words," by Robert Hendrickson



Review of
The Dictionary of Eponyms: Names That Became Words, by Robert Hendrickson ISBN 088029230x

Five out of five stars
This is a reference book that is fun to open at random and read about the origin of a specific word, all the while being an excellent source for understanding how some words came into existence. An eponym is a word created directly from the name of a real or fictional person. There are over 3,500 such words described in this book and they are educational as well as humorous. 
 For example, the Duke of the Scottish Argyle clan was known for putting posts in his pasture so that his cattle could scratch themselves and the pattern for what is now known as argyle socks is the traditional pattern of the clan. When a Scotsman scratched himself he would say, “God bless the Duke of Argyle!”
 There is also a great deal of history in this book and it covers all areas of human endeavor. From Governor Elbridge Gerry and the political word “gerrymander” to the phrase “Even Steven” that was derived from a book by Jonathan Swift. It belongs in all reference libraries.