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captive8122@hotmail.com "Isla" (Nutzville)

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Philosophy (All That Matters)
Philosophy (All That Matters)
by Julian Baggini
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A concise introduction for a beginner, 19 July 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found this an interesting read, very nicely laid out into easily digested chapters. The author has a clear, no-nonsense style, but it felt like a great deal of time was devoted to actually justifying the existence of philosophy, as a discipline, itself. The chapter on empirically knowing the universe, for example, was heavily weighted towards defending philosophy from a lot of its scientific detractors who claim it's pseudo-scientific and basically irrelevant in today's fast-moving quantum world, especially.

This was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book for me. I'm a newcomer to philosophy and I felt that much of what was presented in terms of interpreting our world and theorising how we live, for instance, consisted more of endless unanswerable questions, rather than anything approaching answers. 'What is the purpose of philosophy? or even 'What is philosophy' are fascinating questions in themselves. I'd love to read more on the relationship between science and philosophy and hopefully find some area of intersection, because I think that's maybe where the most interesting and useful information (for a layperson like me) resides.


Zyliss No Need To Peel Susi 3 Garlic Press
Zyliss No Need To Peel Susi 3 Garlic Press
Price: £9.59

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not sure how I lived without it..., 17 May 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's clunky, it's menacing, it's downright ugly. But once you've used it, you'll find yourself lovingly stroking its ungainly contours and finding an extra comfortable piece of drawer space real estate for it to reside in.

It's not really enough to tell you that its press action is unbeatably effective - it's the sheer satisfaction you get out of using it. Really, it has to rank as some kind of therapy. You stick three fat, fully clothed cloves inside and press until that magical squrunch moment when a remarkable amount blasts out the other side (aim it carefully) - but if that weren't enough, just open it, rearrange the garlicky carcasses and you can do it again! And again! Yes, you can every last tiny morsel out, until you open it up and find only a skinny sheet of skin stuck to the press. The integrated cleaning brush makes quick work of sprucing it up, too.

Short of seeing Jeremy Clarkson tumble into a manhole filled with french pig slurry, I can't think of many more satisfying experiences it's possible to have in this life with your peel on.


Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance (BBC Audio)
Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance (BBC Audio)
by M. C. Beaton
Edition: Audio CD

4.0 out of 5 stars Good clean homicidal fun, 17 May 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Yes, it may be formulaic and the clangers can wear thin at times, but the indomitable Agatha Raisin can usually be relied on to brighten up a sleepless night's listening or a soothe on a stressful car journey. Deadly Dance supplies the usual quota of quips and corpses, a good dollop of intrigue, and plenty of harmless fun, all delivered with the reliably upright cut-glass intonation of Penelope Keith.


Collins Livemocha Active German (Collins Active/Livemocha)
Collins Livemocha Active German (Collins Active/Livemocha)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I wish I'd had access to this at school, 20 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Language-learning would have been so much easier, and more fun, if I'd had this many years ago when I was at school. I've always found languages very difficult, especially the speaking/listening element, which is basically their core. Reading and writing seem to come easier, but if you lack the confidence to verbally communicate, then there's no real point.

This is where LiveMocha excels, for me. You have 6 months access to a global community where you can get real feedback from real, native speakers who will patiently listen to your audio recordings and give you advice. Everyone I've met is remarkably friendly and helpful and it's been nice to feel like you can return the favour by helping them, too. It's a great by-product that you make friends while you learn and the process never feels like a drag - you don't go to your laptop dreading the next lesson, which was always how I felt when trying other approaches.

The only slight quibbles I'd have is that the course needs to be supplemented with other study if you're going to get your head around the convoluted jungle of German grammar. At least, for me, I felt like I needed more help. The supplied booklets are very good and the cultural tips extremely useful, but I've also been using the Michel Thomas Total German package to help give me some confidence when it comes to understanding the structure of the language and having solid sentence-building skills to work with. One other thing is that I needed to buy a microphone because the one on my laptop for use with my webcam wasn't sensitive enough to pick up audio for LiveMocha. That's probably my aging laptop's fault, though, and I found a very cheap little mic on Amazon for under a fiver which works fine.

All in all, this is a great package, and just having access to the community is worth the asking price in itself, but if you're a bit of a slow learner like me, you may need further help, in which case I'd recommend supplementing LiveMocha with Michel Thomas.


Collins Livemocha Active Spanish (Collins Active/Livemocha)
Collins Livemocha Active Spanish (Collins Active/Livemocha)
Price: £26.55

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value, 20 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have to admit, I'm using LiveMocha in conjunction with Michel Thomas Total Spanish at the moment (can't recommend the Michel Thomas method enough, by the way). I'm trying hard to learn the language after being totally hopeless at it back during my schooldays.

What I love about LiveMocha is the audio/speaking dimension with real people and real feedback. It's the heart of the language, isn't it, to be able to communicate verbally, and it's always the part that's scared the pants off me, not just because I have a bit of a stammer, but because I find writing and reading comes a lot easier than listening and speaking. But there's no pressure here, and the pace is great for me, a total beginner. It's a bit sad that you only get 6 months access to such a great community included in the package, but it would be greedy (at the asking price) to expect lifetime membership - I think it will definitely be worth paying for the access when my subscription runs out. What I found particularly useful is that I'm able to find native speakers from the specific region where I spend most time in Spain - Gran Canaria. I know that other reviewers have mentioned the focus on South American Spanish rather than European, but it does make sense globally because the vast bulk of native Spanish speakers in the world don't live in mainland Spain, after all, and areas like the Canaries use the same type of Spanish found in South America. If you're more focused on mainland Spain, it's very easy to find speakers from any of the regions there, and everyone's very friendly and willing to give advice and feedback.

The booklets are excellent, too. I really need a visual resource to help information stick in my rusty brain, and they're sturdy little references to have to hand. To be fair, I don't know how much progress I'd be making in really getting to grips with the structure (grammar) of the language if I were just using LiveMocha and not working through Michel Thomas at the same time. I've always found language-learning virtually impossible, and had great trouble grasping grammar and its complicated rules, and the Michel Thomas method feels like it's opened the door for me and given me the basics to build on, so I would very much recommend scouting it out and seeing if it works for you, too. But LiveMocha is certainly a wonderful resource and community, and the package represents great value for money. I've a long, long way to go before I feel confident in Spanish, but I feel like I've got the tools now to really make progress.


Music Maker MX (PC)
Music Maker MX (PC)
Offered by AllGoodDealz
Price: £20.63

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generous package for beginners, 20 Mar 2012
This review is from: Music Maker MX (PC) (DVD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've never tried any music production software before and I'm not terribly musical, but I decided to give this a whirl and see if I could at least put together a track to make an interesting alternative to the usual ring tones for my phone.

Set-up and registration were relatively painless and the application loaded speedily on my aging laptop. The interface was invitingly clutter-free at first glance, but after 10 minutes I conceded that watching the tutorial video would save me a fruitless half hour of dead ends. The tutorial takes you through the basics of loops, samples, synthesizers, recording audio and vocals, accessing the massive libraries, how to import even more material, and how to export your finished masterpieces. After 20 minutes I was confidently overlaying and mixing and intercutting some recorded yelping (courtesy of my dog) with my warbling (not as tuneful as the dog's) set against a spicy samba sample with bongo drums (well, why not) and Uillean bapipes (don't knock it 'til you've tried it!). At this point I decided not to further strain relations with my neighbours, so I saved the file and re-opened it the next time I had some friends over... I know it sounds sad, but we had tremendous fun recording more audio and random samples, and cutting together a collective masterpiece of twisted brilliance. I doubt it will be storming the charts any time soon, but it's pretty priceless to be able to put together something original that makes you laugh and have a great time doing it.

Maybe that's the secret with this software - don't take it too seriously and just concentrate on having fun. For the price it's a bargain.


Nokia Universal MD-50W 360 Bluetooth Surround Sound Portable Speaker Compatible with Play NFC - Black
Nokia Universal MD-50W 360 Bluetooth Surround Sound Portable Speaker Compatible with Play NFC - Black

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'd fill the house with these if I could afford it!, 20 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What an amazing little speaker. Out of the box I was dubious about how such a petite unit would perform, but the build quality was sturdy, not to mention undeniably stylish, so I gave them a whirl with my laptop. Connecting with bluetooth was painless, as was a trial with my Lumia, and the sound...! I've coveted speakers from Bose at least twice as large, and five times the price of the MD-50W, but not any more! The sound is warm, balanced, vibrant and surprisingly powerful with rich bass. Not even a hint of tinniness. I was so attached to my speaker that I recently took it on holiday with me (customs gave it some very curious looks when they rootled through my cases on the way back) and it was perfect for using in our apartment, easily transported given its light weight and the battery life did us proud - using it for a few hours every day, it was still going strong after a week.

Nothing but praise here - if I had the cash, I'd collect them!


Distinguished Leaves: Poems for Tea Lovers
Distinguished Leaves: Poems for Tea Lovers
by Elizabeth Darcy Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.57

4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, tongue-in-cheek elitism, 20 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I come from a long line of tea fanatics. Both the English and Irish sides of my family are nothing short of obsessively enslaved to the tea leaf. To be honest, it took me a long time to appreciate it myself - I started making pots of tea for my mum at the ripe old age of 7, but it was only when I grew up and had got through the adolescent swamp and become closer to my mum as a friend that I was fully sucked into the world of tea.

What this achingly stylish little book captures so beautifully is the intimacy of tea. The social side of it, the soothing and bonding of an almost hypnotic ritual. There is something undeniably magical about it, and Elizabeth Darcy Jones expertly spins the same alchemy in her verse as you find when you stir your chosen brew and take that first sip.

It was lovely to sit down with my mum on mother's day, after a frenetic afternoon's eating-ourselves-senseless and cavorting along the beach, coming home to Make The Tea and chat until it got dark. We took out this little book and leafed through, giggled a bit at the preciousness of some of the descriptions, but nodded along with general spirit of reverence and addiction. The poetry is wonderful and the descriptions of all the teas really do make you want to try a few. All in all, it's like a charming little Bible for the tea worshipper, and given the pleasure and comfort the brew gives so many, it's really not such a silly trifle to have a book devoted to appreciating it, is it?


Beyond All Evil: Two monsters, two mothers, a love that will last forever
Beyond All Evil: Two monsters, two mothers, a love that will last forever
by June Thomson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Shocking and deeply unsettling, 20 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This really is a harrowing read. I know that, given the tragic circumstances, it couldn't have been anything else, but however strong the bond between the two mothers and the friendship that grew out of their grief, you are left feeling totally shattered by the experience.

It's sensitively written for the most part, but the sheer pain and horror that jumps off nearly every page did make me feel uncomfortably voyeuristic at times. I felt helpless and enraged and deeply sad - just a smidgen of the emotions that these two remarkable women must live with every moment, I guess. It is an undeniably compulsive read, but terribly, dreadfully bleak and heart-breaking. If you're feeling low or prone to depression yourself, not sure I should recommend this, but it certainly does put life in perspective.


Total Spanish (Learn Spanish with the Michel Thomas Method)
Total Spanish (Learn Spanish with the Michel Thomas Method)
by Michel Thomas
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £79.03

80 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing short of life-changing, 15 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm hopeless with languages - always have been. I found them a nightmare at school and even after persevering with French and Spanish GCSEs, I still found myself on holiday in Spain and totally lacking the confidence to even ask for eggs in a supermarket. (I did once gird my loins and give it a shot, but I received such a blank look that I quickly reverted to useless hand gestures and that wonderful trick of English-with-a-Spanish-accent.)

I'd tried a course in Spanish before this one from a guy called Paul Noble. I couldn't get along with it at all, I found the aural learning incredibly taxing because I'd be trying to picture the spelling and shape of words in my head, as Noble never clarified them and insisted on a no note-taking or reading approach while listening. I was wrung out after just an hour and I cowardly avoided going any further. I just assumed that I couldn't learn anything by ear and I didn't have the brain for it.

So I approached Michel Thomas Total Spanish with a sense of resigned dread, fully prepared for an early defeat and a splitting headache to boot. This dread intensified when I found that, strangely, his initial introduction and pep talk were remarkably similar to that of Paul Noble. Given that MT came long before PN, I'm going to assume that the latter was heavily influenced by the former. It's baffling that although superficially similar, Paul Noble (for me) managed to completely miss the essence of what it is that makes the Michel Thomas method so special. MT is always at pains to reinforce your learning using a wide variety of techniques - it's very subtle and very clever. All types of mnemonics and quirky little tools are employed on an almost subconscious level; it's not remotely laboured or heavy-handed. You never feel like you're working or being fed too much information. MT's technique can be as subtle as just the emphasis of his voice in a memorable way or a funny little saying, and he always clarifies the spelling which is such a relief for people like me who need to be able to visualise the words to have any hope of remembering them.

It's been a bit sad to read a lot of quite negative reviews on Total Spanish because as soon as I felt the technique working for me, I rushed to Amazon kind of looking forward to sharing some evangelical happiness with what I imagined would be legions of awestruck fans. The popularity of the late Michel Thomas globally is a testament to his genius, I think, but it's still sad that people criticise his approach for reasons like 'he smacks his lips loudly,' or 'his accent is too heavily German/Polish.' I mean, if things like that truly get in the way of your learning, fair enough, but it just feels very mean-spirited to me to knock the man's wonderful gift to students, his entire technique, based on some superficial little personal preferences. Personally I loved his old voice - it has the texture of aged leather and the strength of his personality is tangible just on the CDs. He's patient, he's dry-humoured and comprehensive, he's amazingly wise. This is turning into a novel, but I have to mention one particular aspect that impressed me. Do you know how language-teaching can often hinge around technical terms to describe its structure such as 'conjunctives' or 'past participles' or words like that? If you're not entirely sure what these mean in English, it's another barrier for you when you're trying to learn an entirely different language. MT realises this and he cuts through any jargon. He actually introduces his own much simpler definitions of nouns, verbs, adjectives etc. He gives you explanations that fit with his entire approach - easily understood snippets that stick in your head because they make sense. Like he says from the outset, 'what you know, you remember.' How simple is that, and yet how true?!

I do accept that one shoe isn't going to fit all. And I know that the male student on the CDs, who's lucky enough to be having personal lessons with Michel himself, can be very, very slow to get things right, but I'm sure if I knew that my clumsy early lessons were being recorded then I'd be even slower than I am, too. Personally I found the guy rather endearing and it helped me feel like maybe I wasn't alone in being a bit of a linguistic blockhead. Misery does love company, after all.

Anyway, so far I've completed 5 of the 7 discs that form the Total lessons. I haven't even tried the vocabulary CDs as yet, but I just didn't want to hold back writing a review any longer because I feel like my entire thinking and outlook on languages has been transformed already. I only started the course last week and I find that I actively look forward to putting on a new CD and making progress. I'm excited because I feel it working and I know, I just -know- that I am going to make progress. Every minute I spend listening I move forward. That's nothing short of miraculous for me. I'm no longer terrified by the word 'grammar' or 'verbs' because I'm learning them without even consciously being aware of it. I can put together what feels like pretty complex sentences with confidence. The structure of the language is opening up to me and, honestly, it feels like sunlight has broken through what was previously one big impenetrable brick wall. I'm enjoying using the review CD rom and cementing what I've learned aurally with the video clips and the interactive exercises. I know it's early days and I have a long road ahead of me, but I'm planning on buying MT's Perfect Spanish course to follow on with, and I no longer feel any fear or doubt about learning the language. I know that, in time, I can get there, and that's a wonderful feeling.

What else can I say? What a magnificent legacy for any human being to leave behind. Michel Thomas was a remarkable man.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 12, 2014 9:38 PM GMT


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