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Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition with CD-ROM and Online Subscription
Publisher: Merriam-Webster
Authors: Merriam-Webster
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Thorough, well-written, with a good CD version

This is a very high quality collegiate dictionary. I am a member of a word puzzle organization ... and this is our standard reference, along with the unabridged version, "Webster's Third New International Dictionary". Many very obscure words show up in puzzles, but it is relatively rare I find I have to go to the unabridged dictionary to look them up.
In addition to being thorough (with excellent sections such as biography, geographical names, and foreign words and phrases (such as "en plein jour" or "inshallah") it includes compressed but informative etymological data. For example, the entry on "spacious" has this - ME, fr. AF spacioux, fr. L spatiosus, fr. spatium: space, room (14c)"; in a little over a single line you get a long lineage; though I should mention that this has been slightly corrected since the tenth edition of this dictionary. You may have to learn some of the abbreviations (Middle English, Anglo-French, 14th century) but I found them generally intuitive and didn't need to look them up much at all.
In addition, there are excellent usage paragraphs scattered throughout. These are of two types. One type compares the usage of different words with very similar meanings. For example, the entry on "satiate" provides a usage paragraph that compares "satiate", "sate", "surfeit", "cloy", "pall", "glut" and "gorge", identifying the precise differences of usage between them. The paragraph is cross-referenced at each of the other six words, so you don't have to just stumble across satiate to find it.
The other kind of usage paragraph discusses correctness. A good example is "hopefully", which in its sense "I hope that" is controversial. The dictionary asserts the validity of this controversial use, which is sure to annoy some purists, but it does acknowledge the debate and cite grammatical arguments for its position.
There are quite a few new words (my favourite is "dead-cat bounce") and edits to all sections. The only major change, though, is that the abbreviations section has been eliminated; abbreviations are now included in the main body of the dictionary.
The dictionary is available online at m-w.com, and I strongly recommend you take a look at it. There is a CD-ROM for sale too, which is worth getting as it adds some fancy search features, though if you're like me you'll want the paper version to keep by the bed. Note that if you have the unabridged MW CD too (the third edition of their New International Dictionary) then the same interface allows you to choose which dictionary to search -- a very nice feature. Purchase of the dictionary also gives you a complimentary year's subscription to the m-w website, which is worth having -- though be warned that it will automatically renew in a year for $ unless you choose to auto-cancel.<I> --This text refers to an edition which conatins a CD-ROM. Not all editions of this item contain a CD. Please check the item desription for further information.--</I>

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Guru's Guide to Transact-SQL
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Ken Henderson
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The best book I've found

I've read every SQL Server book I could get my hands on and none compare to this one. The sheer clarity of the text, the ind-depth explanations, the friendly prose -- all combine to produce the best book available on SQL Server.
Equally as amazing is the usefulness of the sample code. I don't know about you, but sample code from most of the books I've found tends to be more academic than practical. In other words, though it helps explain some important point, it's not code you could or would use in the real wrold. That's not true with this book. Everything - from the fulltext search examples, to the Automation and Administrative code - is good stuff. I used lots of it in my job as-is. So, you get a double value here. You get a great book, and along with it, a great T-SQL code library. They ought to sell the CD separately.
Last but not least - I love the T-SQL editor that's included with the book. It's a freebie tool (they're not hawking a product here) that's much more powerful and easy to use than Query Analyzer. So, you get a triple value.
All told, this is one heckuva book (and software package). Knowing what I know now, if I was told I had to get rid of all my SQL Server books except one, this is the one I'd keep.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: The C++ Programming Language (Special 3rd Edition)
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Bjarne Stroustrup
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
comprehensive but ...

Comprehensive but there is far too much text to navigate through to find what you want. This is [1] outstanding if you want to just sit back, relax, and read the details about a particular C++ topic BUT is [2] poor if you just want a summary of a feature, [3] poor if you need a quick and handy reference (the operative words here are 'quick' and 'handy'. Kalev's "ANSI/ISO C++" is better for this purpose), [4] average if you need to know the why-s behind C++ (better to just get Stroustrup & Ellis "The Annotated C++ Reference Manual"), [5] poor if you want to learn C++ but have no background in C. Well ... on another plus side, it is much more readable and better looking than the 2nd edition.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: An Introduction to Genetic Algorithms (Complex Adaptive Systems)
Publisher: The MIT Press
Authors: Melanie Mitchell
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Mad Scientists everywhere, repeat after me, "IT'S ALIVE!!"

I used this book to host a "brown bag" discussion group at my company a year or so ago. Like everyone else's review, I have to say this is a really clear and concise book on the theories and uses of Genetic Algorithms.
When I first picked up the book, the only pseudo-AI knowledge I had was in fuzzy logic and limited exposure to neural networks. I was immediately intrigued by the book's discussion over various techniques for evolving neural architectures, weights and learning algorithms for neural networks, using genetic algorithms. But, that's just a small morsel of what the book covers. Frankly, I think the book is a gold mine.