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A. B. (England)

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Stop Saving the NHS and Start Reinventing it
Stop Saving the NHS and Start Reinventing it
Price: £4.73

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas, but the whole "vision" not explained, 20 Oct. 2013
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The book advocates technological change in the NHS, and is implicitly pro-Health and Social Care Act. However, there is no reason why the technological solutions could also be adopted without privatisation.

There were good ideas in the book: using the genome to develop personal treatments, using RFID chips to make sure patients are properly identified, the use of expert systems in diagnosis and a "Facebook"-like patient record.

However there are also a few "pie in the sky" ideas, such as robots who look after the elderly, and on social media: "...the greater use of social media opens the possibility of customers managing their own illness. My view is the best person to manage your health is you. Fellow suffers (sic)--or ever the worried well--can lend each other support and can share experiences of what has, and what has not, worked for them." On the one hand, such patient networks are supportive, but from reading "Bad Pharma", patient groups can also be manipulated to promote quack-remedies.

Another dubious idea is to administer Cognitive Behaviour Therapy via computer programmes. Jervis does give evidence that they can work, by asking questions such as "What do you mean by?" "Tell me more about...", so therapists could potentially be replaced by "inexpensive" computer systems. However the efficacy of such systems is more contested than the book suggests (see doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-113). Common sense also just tells you that speaking to a human rather than a machine is better for someone with complex pyschological problems in need of CBT.

Jervis sometimes uses ideas that do not really support his conclusions, for example by using "Moore's Law" (that references the continual improvements in microprocessors) to suggest that "standardisation" of "processes" will result in ever increasing benefits. A better comparison would be to Adam Smith's "division of labour" increasing productivity. Moore's Law is not achieved through standardisation, but rather ever rising capital investment costs in R&D into new chips.

What Jervis really means with "standardisation" of "processes" is more private sector involvement, who can pick up these standardised procedures. He says this isn't "cherry picking", but making better use of public money. However the gains through the division of labour could work without private sector involvement, which in part negates efficiency savings by its need to make also make a profit out of NHS patients.

What could have been developed is the need to integrate NHS and social care. The book also demands "vision" without really explaining what that "vision" is. Perhaps there are lessons in the government's programme, that parachutes technologically-aware civil servants into departments and instead of "vision" uses the open source model of rapid application development and prototypes to see what works early on.

Over Here and Undertaxed: Multinationals, Tax Avoidance and You
Over Here and Undertaxed: Multinationals, Tax Avoidance and You
Price: £1.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We're not all in this together, 27 May 2013
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Well written and ideal companion to understanding the taxation fiasco surrounding Google, Amazon and Starbucks. Not only describes the methods of tax avoidance, but also covers policy solutions to this problem.

Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State
Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State
Price: £9.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Learn from Europe, 19 Mar. 2013
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It is not difficult to see why welfare provisions in the US are so controversial. With massive income inequality, welfare is provided by the taxes of the rich, which benefit the poor, while those in the middle are 'squeezed', as they have neither the benefits of welfare and are not rich. To some point, the UK is facing the same problem.

However, the book's analysis that European welfare states are a 'legacy of Europe's ancient feudalism' is bizarre. In Britain, the NHS was created after WWII, when the country was 'virtually bankrupt and the economic basis for the hopes of the people non-existent', to quote Keynes. But even then, the political will was there, as the war made people think that if they could make bombs, they could look after each other. The German concept of the welfare state came from the corporatist reforms by Bismarck. The Nordic welfare states were based on universal provision for everyone and are integral to the success of their export industry.

Inequality is the problem, not necessarily welfare states. European welfare states need to be understood as more than just a 'feudal legacy', but as sustainable, valued, integral parts of society and indeed contributors to economic efficiency. Otherwise America only has 'Reaganomics' to return to.

Training Testdaf: Trainingsbuch Zu Testdaf - Buch MIT 2 Cds
Training Testdaf: Trainingsbuch Zu Testdaf - Buch MIT 2 Cds
Price: £18.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Passed TestDAF, 18 Aug. 2012
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I studied German for one year in a German speaking country and when I came back, wanted to work towards the TestDAF to open up opportunities to study at a German university and to have an official certificate of my German ability.

This book was perfect to practise the exam format, so that there were no surprises. The speaking section was the most difficult to practise, as it's odd speaking to yourself if you do not have a partner to practise with. (Practise with rolling news on the television so you can't hear yourself). It's necessary to learn the phrases to describe graphs by heart.

In addition to this book, I bought a couple of the Fit Fur Den Testdaf: Testdaf Musterprufung 4 - Heft MIT Audio-CD tests. I also subscribed to DIE ZEIT (the new Kindles have a Duden dictionary for auto-lookup) and listened to Angela Merkel's podcasts and a German news service on a smartphone. I wrote about 10 essays and had them corrected by a German native speaker. All of this I did over a long period of time, however if you're already confident in German, you can use this book to cram the exam format.

I passed the test.

Learning PHP Data Objects
Learning PHP Data Objects
by Dennis Popel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beginning PDO, for Intermediate PHP Programmers, 20 Oct. 2007
This book works well for the intermediate PHP programmer who has researched application structure, and is beginning to focus on improving the database layer by standardising on PDO.

Commendably it keeps a tight focus, providing the minimum context in which to show PDO features: in this case a basic library program with simple PHP methods providing HTML. However in a later chapter it provides a useful example that shows the advantage of the model, updating previous code accordingly. It also saves time by assuming you have your environment set up correctly.

Design patterns vary, I believe the idea is that the reader should research MVC separation and other patterns, decide how to use them, then incorporate the PDO features from the book; it doesn't enforce a particular methodology you may not want to use. Conversely this is a disadvantage to less experienced PHP programmers, as they won't be served by the least-common-denominator code examples, which don't enforce separation of HTML and PHP.

I would recommend the book on the subjects of security and database correctness. Using prepared statements the book provides you with a robust way to avoid SQL injection. When something goes wrong, it explains how to handle the error correctly with exceptions, without exposing potentially harmful information. Even beginners should familiarise themselves with these new features. For mission-critical database operations, it elaborates on transactions, which weren't a feature of the PHP 4 extensions, and are either handled natively or emulated with PDO. Again it doesn't let focus drift into validation, which isn't provided by PDO, so only cursory hard-coded examples are given.

If you prefer the task-oriented approach to learning, you'll like this book. It provides code and screen-shots to guide you through each step. If you're an advanced PHP programmer, there are a few things you may find interesting, such as the lesser known PDO configuration options, and BLOB support, but really I find this book aimed more at the intermediate procedural programmer. Indicative of this is the succinct "Introduction to OOP in PHP 5" appendix. If you supplement this with other application design literature and integrate the PDO techniques in the book, you'll certainly be another step towards making your systems more flexible and maintainable.

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