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Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Simulations and the Future of Learning : An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning
Publisher: Pfeiffer
Authors: Clark Aldrich
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Learning as Gourmet Fare

Clark Aldrich has written a personal story about developing a new genre of leadership development program. He takes you along for the ride as he becomes disenchanted with eLearning, quits a prestige job to find a better way, surmounts numerous hurdles, and ends up with Virtual Leader, a product you can buy today. Unlike most books on learning, Clark's is well written and witty; it's fun to read.
"What would the world be like if eLearning truly worked?" If eLearning could bestow understanding and the ability to control things, the training organization would be more important than the lawyers. I'd be bragging about last night's learning experience.
Of course, eLearning has not lived up to its potential. It's mainly virtual classrooms and online workbooks. The lessons have been degraded to the lowest common denominators of bandwidth, packaging standards, and generality. eLearning is sometimes no more than the pre-reading in a "blended" solution.
There is an exception: the learning of people who must perform. Life or death. Soldiers, pilots, nuclear power plant workers, and Wall Street traders. They learn from simulation.
Clark posits three forms of content: linear (most of what we're exposed to), cyclical (hitting balls on the driving range), and open-ended (with multiple paths and outcomes).
He recounts the early days of eLearning from his perspective as the chief analyst in that space at Gartner. Vendors visit with dog-and-pony shows, some tripping themselves up irrevocably in the first ten minutes. Hundreds of companies and not one that was sufficiently compelling to inspire him. Or others. eLearning is to learning as fast food is to nutrition. It's all linear. It's crap.
Next Clark quits his secure, prestigious job at Gartner to create exemplary eLearning, the best-of-breed that the eLearning vendors never showed him. He's out to build a "concept car" that will guide the industry.
His chapter on "The Myth of Subject-Matter Experts" skewers leadership gurus mercilessly. They don't have the three forms of content. They don't have very deep models. They have anecdotes. They want a fortune to have their grad students cook something up. At a leisurely pace. If you're thinking about taking content from nationally-known authorities, read this chapter first.
After months of research, reflection, blind alleys, and enough tid-bits to cover the walls with Post-It Notes, Clark and his mates arrived at a model of leadership that had the ring of truth. Leadership is "Getting a group of people to complete the right work." This is great stuff.
I should know. Six years ago, my firm's EVP told me our clients needed a program on leadership. Could I come up with a model that could be the foundation of a workshop? Something compelling. (Worldwide, a million bankers had participated in our workshops. We considered ourselves the crème de la crème of bank training.)
I jumped on the project with gusto, reading articles in the U.C. Berkeley library and on the web. I read Bennis, Kouzes, von Klausewitz, Peters, Drucker, my former professor John Kotter, and dozens of others. Eventually I boiled leadership down to a model of leadership and management accompanied by a page of bullet points.
I appreciate Clark's model and methods because they are so much better than what I came up with. Clark would call my results "linear," the ultimate slur. Clark's model is good enough to become a Harvard Business Review Classic.
About a third of the way in, the book totally changes direction. Clark takes us into the nitty-gritty of constructing the Virtual Leader simulation. We learn about principles of simulation, set design, character creation, animation, speech generation, control of movement, and magically making the cast autonomous, like Pinocchio turning into a real boy and wandering out of Gepetto's workshop. Some of this was fascinating but other parts of it read like Popular Science. The story from the first third of the book had turned into a how-to talk. This section was well crafted but it wasn't what I wanted to learn.
The final third addresses what happened when they flipped the on-switch, the futility of grades, why there aren't more simulations, and what's wrong with schooling.
Summary: Almost all training is linear. The world is open-ended. This is why almost all training fails. Simulations are open-ended. They are expensive but they work. Simulations are the way of the future.
Thanks for taking us along for the journey, Clark.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: LightWave 3D 8: 1001 Tips & Tricks
Publisher: Wordware Publishing, Inc.
Authors: Wes
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
An amazing resource!

I've just finished reading this book from cover to cover and have to say that it's one of the best resources for Lightwave tips I've read! If you keep reference books by your computer, pick up a copy of this one. You'll be referring back to it constantly!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Final Fantasy IX Official Strategy Guide
Publisher: Brady Games
Authors: Dan Birlew
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Annoying to say the least.

I should have read the reviews here before I bought the book. I am very disappointed. All of the information on the site is free, the only problem is it's not printable. I don't like this "we don't wish to spoil the game" .... I buy a strat guide so I can sit down at the tv and play the game while looking at a book, not having to pause every 5 mins, run to the computer and check the internet.
The website is buggy as hell as well. It likes to freeze on me.
I am very disappointed and I think that playonline owes it to us to create a printable version with all of the secrets.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Digital Photography Expert Techniques (O'Reilly Digital Studio)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Ken Milburn
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Above and beyond the typical digital photography book

There are many books available explaining how to make the most of Photoshop or how to get everything you can out of your digital camera. While this book goes into some of these topics, it goes a step further by looking at it from the point of view of a professional photographer. This insight is particularly welcome, which shifts the focus of the book from knowing how to use Photoshop to how to be a better photographer.
The author takes the professional photographer's perspective (although this book can really be read and enjoyed by anyone serious about digital photography), which includes discussing issues such as storage, cataloging, CCD basics, and software. The author discusses some of his file naming techniques, shows some of the tools he uses, and provides recommendations for camera purchases.
Rather than simply rehashing the same Photoshop tricks available in every other digital photography book, the author shows what professional photographers do (bracketing photographs) as well as different software that might be better suited for a specific task (stitching software to combine many individual photographs into one large image). Naturally, many other image manipulations are discussed, however, the central point of the discussions are always how to make a better photograph. I found discussions that focused on the photograph rather than the software tool very refreshing and quite interesting and useful.
The author wraps up the book by providing some ideas on how to break into the business as a professional photographer. There is a discussion on printing photographs and how to create some beginning marketing materials. In all of these discussions, the focus remains on the photograph. I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to individuals interested in a book that gives you more than the rest of the digital photography books out there.