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J. Mann

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PHP: MySQL in 8 Hours, PHP MySQL for Beginners, Learn PHP & MySQL fast! Plain & Simple. Learn PHP programming, Learn PHP in easy steps, Start coding today: A Beginner's Guide, Fast & Easy!
PHP: MySQL in 8 Hours, PHP MySQL for Beginners, Learn PHP & MySQL fast! Plain & Simple. Learn PHP programming, Learn PHP in easy steps, Start coding today: A Beginner's Guide, Fast & Easy!
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good basic overview., 22 Mar. 2016
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Just whizzes through the syntax and basically what you need - all killer no filler as they say.

Three Men in a Boat
Three Men in a Boat
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars This is a brilliantly funny book - full of gentle comedy and memorable ..., 1 Feb. 2016
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This is a brilliantly funny book - full of gentle comedy and memorable hilarious episodes, I rate is very highly.

Ayn Rand For Beginners
Ayn Rand For Beginners
by Andrew Bernstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Fair Outline of Rand's Novels and Ideas, 1 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: Ayn Rand For Beginners (Paperback)
This is a good book that works as an introduction to the thought and work of Ayn Rand. Rand's work can be split into two parts - for the first half of her career she wrote novels, and gradually progressed up to her major work Atlas Shrugged, after which she moved into non-fiction, but both mediums were to promote her philosophy of Objectivism.

The book itself briefly describes Rand's life - she was born in Russia, was twelve at the time of the Russian Revolution, was educated in the USSR but managed to move to the USA when she was twenty-one, where she lived the rest of her life - and it seems without any further contact with her family who remained in the USSR. Rand first lived on the west coast, then later moved to New York on the east coast of the USA.

Rand hated the USSR and much of her work can be understood as a response to what she felt were the evils of collectivism. The Introduction covers in detail her two larger fiction books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, going through the plots and characters of each in detail. It then looks further at the philosophy behind the books, Objectivism, and argues that although academics have not found Rand's books and ideas interesting, they have been very popular with the general public, with Atlas Shrugged for example selling many millions of copies. The author hopes that as younger academics take Rand seriously, there will be a greater academic acceptance of her ideas.

Rand really has a number of related and interconnecting ideas, however the central theme is individualism. Rand is clear that the purpose of our lives is to discover our values, what we really love and have a passion for. We should then be free to pursue that dream, to be able to realise it while at the same time enjoying a life of happiness, love and friendship.

Rand's ideas have been misunderstood - and she is partly to blame for this. She uses the terms "selfish" and "egoism" very differently to their common use, so that when she says it is good to be selfish or that egoism is good it is natural that people will take her to be referring to the common sense use of those terms, not the special meanings that Rand ascribes to them.

For Rand, to be selfish means to follow your own dream, to be free from having the values of others imposed over your own values. In The Fountainhead the central character is an architect who wants to design buildings with his own unique style and not be dictated to by the leading architectural fashions of his time. He refuses to compromise, and stays true to his dream until finally he achieves success.

However she is clear that it does not mean using people for your own selfish ends - to see people only as a means to an end - and for many this is exactly what selfishness means, to never value and respect someone in their own right, but only as someone to be manipulated and fooled into helping your own ambitions. In her books people who are ambitious just to seek wealth and fame are not heros, but for many this is what being "selfish" means - what Rand describes as selfishness would better be described as following your own dream, being driven, having a calling, a passion - these are the terms usually applied when someone is very focussed on pursuing a particular project, career or lifestyle.

Another term she uses in a somewhat confusing manner is "sacrifice". For Rand to make a sacrifice for something is a bad thing to do, however once again the way she uses the term is different to how it is commonly used. We might say a woman sacrificed her career for her family, she had to make a choice between two things that were valuable to her, and decided to give up one for the sake of the other. In this case, both career and family are valued by the individual, but it seems only one is possible and so the woman has to give up one for the sake of the other - she has made a sacrifice.

For Rand to make a sacrifice is always to give up something valuable for something not valuable - if you were to give away all your money to a stranger for example, that would be a Randian example of a sacrifice. If you were to sacrifice your career in order to simply let a stranger you didn't know get a better job than yourself.

For most people, Rand's examples make no sense - it seems more like insanity than sacrifice, they are always of the form that you give away a dollar in order to get a cent. They are pointless. What Rand's real target appears to be is religious sacrifice, to give up something for God - and since Rand is an atheist she regards any such sacrifice as pointless.

The book presents religion very poorly. Firstly it claims religion is always about blind obedience to God. This can't be correct as most religions do not believe in a single God, only the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Every other religion either believes in many gods, and you are therefore free to choose which god you follow, or no god at all, so the book is simply factually incorrect in the way it characterises religion as always involving a single God. It is also incorrect in its claim that religion is always irrational and religious people don't think for themselves. Even in monotheistic religions each believer is free to interpret that religion in their own way, and choose their own path, and there are many examples of religious thinkers who developed their own ideas and were strong individuals.

Ironically when the book lists individuals who thought for themselves, they invariably (apart from Rand) list people who believed in God, although the irony is lost on the author.

The book claims one of the strengths of Rand's Objectivism is how she was able to present values as natural facts, where no previous philosopher had done so - values were always to some degree subjective unless grounded in a non-material, spiritual realm.

However looking closely at the arguments presented for this claim, Rand either relies on mere assertion, false logic or mixes facts and values together. For example in the book it simply claims that slavery is definitely and absolutely wrong - it provides no argument to justify it.

It claims that we "know" scientific facts, whereas philosophers like Popper have shown that no scientific fact is ever proved, it is only not yet disproved. Any scientific claim is an explanation, an attempt to provide a good story that fits the facts, a scientific argument isn't itself a fact, a fact is simply the correspondence of a general term to a specific object or property, an explanation can never be a fact.
The book also suggests that the way we can have scientific investigations into the natural world - in how diseases are caused for example - is comparable to how we discover values, whereas they are quite different. Rand just doesn't make the case that values are objectively "out there" to be discovered the way the natural world can be investigated.

Rand's idea that either we have a totally unregulated free for all ("laissez-faire") Capitalism or we have a sort of totalitarian communism/fascism is coloured by her experience of the two countries of the USSR and the USA. She fails to make the case that her form of capitalism is the one best able to allow people to realise their dreams.

She suggests there are just three functions of the state:
To provide a police force and criminal justice system,
Civil courts to provide disputes between people
A military force to defend the country

So no education, no healthcare, no social security, no pensions, no social services, no environmental or health and safety regulations, no social housing, no refuse collection, no adult education, no public information - no wonder followers of Ayn Rand say there has never actually been the sort of capitalism she promotes.

In fact she provides no mechanism to stop the rich developing cartels and creating a plutocracy, and it seems in the USA and the west this is increasingly what is happening. Ironically this is creating exactly the sort of genuinely selfish and egotistical society that doesn't allow people to fulfil their aspirations that Rand claimed to abhor.

The sort of society that will allow people to have aspirations and fulfil them is one in which is much more egalitarian, fairer, more democratic, more concerned with the good of all. When people have good housing, education, a good job, healthcare, are well informed on issues, a media that informs not distorts the truth, where people have genuine rights and feel safe and secure then people will feel able to aspire to higher things. A society in which the majority are so scared of losing everything that they will accept anything to get by is not aspirational, it is fearful.

We need independent, free and effective regulation to protect our environment for future generations, to ensure workers have good health and safety and also consumers can feel confident that what they are buying is of good quality.

Ayn Rand is able to portray the "hero" who stands up for what they believe in, but ultimately the hero has to be accepted by society for them to be successful. For every Darwin, Newton and Einstein there has to be a society able to understand and appreciate what they have done, to acknowledge the advances they have made - they aren't isolated heroes, they are individuals able to articulate what many others in society can recognise and acknowledge.

By the end of the book, what is acceptable for Rand in the humanities as a genuine advance and achievement appears increasingly random. We are told modern literature, art and music are all "socialist" and "anti-individual" but quite what the "objective" criteria for such a judgement is not made clear.

What Rand regards as a valid goal for humanity is never quite clear. Sometimes it appears to just be "survival" but is this survival of the individual, the nation or the species? Sometimes it is about fulfilling your dreams, but if this is at the cost of surviving does that count? Plenty of people have died for what they believe in - including those in the armed forces - have they all died in vain?

Rand does appear to have a positive view of what humanity should be about - we should find our dreams, never compromise with the group, fall in love, be true to our friends, enjoy life, be happy, respect individual freedom and strive to be successful. But quite how this works out in the real world - outside of the rather soap-opera logic of her novels - is never quite clear.

Rand is someone who as a novelist may inspire people to find their passion and live it out, without fear of what others might think, but as a philosopher she begs too many unanswered questions.


5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine men being treated by women the way women have been treated by men..., 24 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Reformation (Kindle Edition)
This is a very well written and enjoyable science fiction story with a very strong female domination theme and explicit sexual content.

The story is well beyond the clumsy theatrics of most "erotic" novels which typically have very little in the way of plot or character development, it achieves a fine synthesis of an exciting plot and interesting characters while nevertheless retaining a powerful erotic edge right the way through.

The details of this future society in which women rule might be thought absurd and fanciful until you stop and reflect on how horrifically women have been treated throughout history. The recent TV series The Ascent of Woman by Dr Amanda Foreman listed the perverse and shocking cruelty men have inflicted on women throughout history.

Imagine every single little boy having the bones in their feet broken, forcing them into tiny shoes so they are unable to run and jump and be active, and beating them if they dare to resist. Yet such was the reality of foot binding on millions of little girls and this persisted for over a thousand years, and women are still alive today who as children had their feet broken and bound.

Imagine every male kept under the control of stronger and more powerful females, married when they were in their teens or younger to women twice their age, with the men uneducated and taught simply to be obedient to their mothers and wives and to perform menial tasks around the home. Imagine men unable to engage in public life, to always remain silent in public, to never leave the house without being accompanied by a woman. Imagine any attempt break from these restrictions being deemed to bring shame in their family, and resulting in violent beatings to which they would have no legal redress. Yet this is of course what happened to women in most countries until very recently.

One could of course go on, for most of history women were literally the property of men with no rights at all. A husband could beat and rape his wife because she was his property, she couldn't leave him because she could own no property of her own, as Virginia Woolf points out in A Room of One's Own we will never know how many female Shakespeares there could have been for any woman with such talent would never have been allowed to express it.

By inverting what are the accepted facts of history in the way women have been treated by men, and imagining a future society in which it is the women who are dominant and the men the ones with no rights, we get a fascinating insight into what such injustice and cruelty really meant. Such a society proves a powerful backdrop to a compelling and exciting story that won't disappoint those able to deal with such themes.

Czech Republic (Major European Union Nations)
Czech Republic (Major European Union Nations)
Price: £8.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Good general outline of the Czech Republic, 7 Sept. 2015
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Good general outline of the Czech Republic - bit of history, bit of geography, more about context for current events and so on - some comparisons between it and other European countries, I found it interesting and a worthwhile read.

DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences
DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences
Price: £9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars More to this book than you expect, 27 Aug. 2015
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This isn't really what you would expect - it is all about experiments done with DMT, which are fascinating, but also - perhaps what was unexpected - is all the related issues that came up in doing these sorts of experiments in the US - people helping just to get access to drugs, people who promised to come and join him if he got all the paperwork completed and then just decided it wouldn't help their career to get involved - there are a lot of "human interest" aspects to this story, not just finding out what happens when people take DMT within variously planned and framed scientific experiments.

If We're Honest Deluxe Edition
If We're Honest Deluxe Edition
Offered by Re-vived
Price: £12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, 6 Aug. 2015
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Very enjoyable and positive album - strong songs that you can keep playing and not get bored with.

59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot
59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot
by Richard Wiseman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One to dip into, 4 Aug. 2015
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This book is good fun to read - you can annoy the person you are with by reading out a lot of the findings.

However I felt it was more of a dipping into book than reading from cover to cover - although I did read it from cover to cover, by about half way through for some reason I was getting a bit bored with it.

I know he says all of these results come from scientific research, but you can't help feeling some are more researched than others - a number feel very lightweight and "outliers" - maybe true in some circumstances, but not as generally applicable as is being claimed.

I think he was running out of material towards the end as he starts to quote from his earlier books, maybe an advert for them?

On the whole I enjoyed it, it is worth reading.

New Mens/Gents Navy Leather Suede Moccasin Slippers - Navy - UK SIZE 10
New Mens/Gents Navy Leather Suede Moccasin Slippers - Navy - UK SIZE 10
Offered by Wynsors World of Shoes
Price: £11.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice, 4 Aug. 2015
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I think these are very nice slippers - I've had them before, they fitted fine - I'm a size 10 and ordered that size, plus they arrived very promptly.

Hamilton Beach Electric Breakfast Sandwich Maker - Silver
Hamilton Beach Electric Breakfast Sandwich Maker - Silver
Price: £26.70

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs more room for the filling, 1 Aug. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Length:: 5:11 Mins

I followed the instructions - put half the roll in the bottom, put an egg in the middle and the other half of the roll on top, and waited - the egg spilled everywhere, when it finished I had nothing really left in the middle.

I would also add that although it says wait 5 minutes there is nothing on the sandwich maker to show the 5 minutes are up - you would have thought it would say turn off after five minutes or have a light come on to say five minutes are up, but it doesn't - you have to just time it yourself.

Also it is really hot so you have to be very careful when using it.

You can see from the video it isn't the best gadget for the kitchen.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 11, 2015 6:39 PM BST

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