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James (UK)

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Rapitest Wpp123 Wire/Pipe and Power Detector
Rapitest Wpp123 Wire/Pipe and Power Detector

4.0 out of 5 stars Great value for money, 8 May 2014
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Having bought a near-useless Stanley stud finder for 20-odd quid a few days earlier it was a relief to finally get some consistent results. The instructions are clear and the results are (as far as I can tell) accurate.

Having said that I couldn't get the mains detection to work, but I wasn't really interested in that so didn't give it a proper go.

For what it's worth - I was using this solely on plasterboard walls to detect metal pipes.

Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea
Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and very readable, 27 Jan 2013
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Having only read a couple of books on the DPRK I can't say with any authority that this is the most thorough, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it was the case.

The author explains in great detail the experiences of the defectors she has interviewed, focusing on the city of Chongjin in order to more easily verify the details of each person's story. She reveals each of their experiences with the skill of a great storyteller, delivering each piece of information against a backdrop of the totalitarianism, oppression and criminal ineptitude the DPRK is famous for.

The history of the Korean peninsula as a whole is given a decent airing, but mostly as background for the real life stories, making them more easily digestible and more compelling to read than most other historical accounts.

I was gripped by this book from start to finish and haven't stopped thinking about it since finishing it two weeks ago.

The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking: How to Play Alternating-Bass Fingerpicking Style (Guitar Books)
The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking: How to Play Alternating-Bass Fingerpicking Style (Guitar Books)
by Mark Hanson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.95

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, but very, very badly. Like a cheap builder., 26 Jan 2013
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I've bought a lot of songbooks over the years and the fact is - this is one of the poorest.

It's pretty standard fare - each new technique is introduced in manageable chunks before a full-blown performance piece is thrown at you to test what you've learned. The learning curve is reasonable enough, although some of the techniques are introduced in the barest of detail.

Here is an example of this half-arsedness regarding the CD: while every other songbook I own gives you a track number next to each exercise, this one has an index at the front of the book detailing which track corresponds to which exercise, resulting in a lot of unnecessary flicking back and forth. A small gripe, yes, but it does make you wonder how much thought when into producing this book when such a simple thing is overlooked.

Staying on the subject of the CD, I can stomach the author introducing each exercise, but on occasion he will give you a reminder of the technique (repeating what's in the book!), making it awkward to skip past the introduction if you need to repeat the exercise.

The general pattern for each exercise is as follows: two bars of music, each of which you must repeat two times. I would be more than happy with this if it was at least tabbed properly. But alas - no repeat symbols at the end of each bar! So if you're used to playing along while reading the tab, you'll likely trip up over this new 'imaginary tab' which the author has assumed we all know. The worst thing is - there is plenty of room to fit in four bars of tab!

This is a book which teaches beginner fingerstyle techniques (at the beginning) but, staggeringly, will often neglect to count you in before an exercise. All you get is "ok, go" and you're expected to know when to start and what tempo to play at. Tricky for most people I imagine, let alone beginners.

One of the ways this book stands out from others I've used is in the performance pieces. Blokey songs are sung by the author and he's taken the time and effort to find a woman (or a very talented man) to sing the more feminine numbers. Unfortunately this quickly becomes irritating he and his lady friend's vocals drown out the guitar. So if you're struggling with a bar full of tricky pull offs and hammer ons, and consider interrogating the backing track to figure out the rhythm, don't bother - Hanson and his songstress would rather you hear them wail.

In case you think I just struggled with the exercises and fancied a rant - that's not the case. I'm not quite at the end but most of them have been pretty tame so far. But I did fancy a rant.

To those who have given it five stars - I can only assume you've never seen another songbook in your lives and beg you to explore the alternatives. To prospective buyers: Keep looking.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2013 1:12 AM GMT

Forza Motorsport 3 (Xbox 360)
Forza Motorsport 3 (Xbox 360)
Offered by bid2win-ltd
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars This is not motorsport, 3 Sep 2010
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
For those of you that enjoy motorsport - be warned - the title is grossly misleading. Yes - there are races. And yes - he who crosses the line first is the winner, but that's about as 'sport' as it gets.

It follows the same tedious path that was tediously laid by Gran-boring-Turismo, only it manages to be about seven hundred times more offensive.

It starts well, offering a career mode, which is all well and good although you begin by driving the kind of thing your nan would use for shopping. I begrudginly proceed, hoping to get the initiation over quickly. Once past the loading screen - having aged a decade - I look around for the qualifying option... can't see it. How about the Practice option? Nope, can't see that either. So you're thrust upon the tarmac with no idea whether the track goes left or right at the first corner, and if you don't like starting at the back of the grid - tough - that's where you are due to the complete absence of qualifying.

So someone's nan lends you their Toyota Yaris and it rolls up to the grid spot, revving itself silly. As you're basking in the coolness of the moment and the counter ticks down... 3..VROOM...2...VROOOOOM..1... you realise it's only in the last second that you're given control of the throttle, making a decent getaway hurried and awkward. Personally, given the choice, I'd rather have control of the throttle myself and be able to put the revs where I want them for the start than listen to what sounds like someone trying to pull off in neutral.

I'm pleased to say that the physics are fantastic - the cars actually feels like they're connected to the road and the handling is consistent and precise. I could launch into a rant on the hand-holding nature of the game but that would be unfair, seeing as you can turn all of the assists off, as I did. But it'd also be unfair not to mention the rewind feature - if you make a mistake (heaven forbid) you can simply rewind to the moment before your shameful error - and try that corner again, hoping that no one saw your original mistake and decides to throw you down a well. I look forward to Forza Motorsport 4's Make All The Cars in Front Go Slower feature.

Anyway once the grid has shaken itself out and you have a car in your sights it's time to start chasing them down. Make a mental note of the split and try to reduce it bit by bit - learn the limits of the car, learn the track, take some risks, change your line, hit your apexes and watch the split come down. Unfortunately before you can even think about chasing anyone the race is over - the tracks are pitifully short and the number of laps you're given are far too few to be called a race. It's nothing but a slightly prolonged grid shakedown. And if they wanted to be stingy with the laps - why not give us the chance to qualify? On the harder difficulty it takes some time to reach the guys in front - two or three laps is rarely enough.

I'm not sure what their objection is to long races - even on single races outside of career mode you're not allowed more than two or three laps.

I could never say it was a bad game - it's just not motorsport.

Stalingrad [DVD] [1994]
Stalingrad [DVD] [1994]
Dvd ~ Dominique Horwitz
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £3.41

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good and bad, 21 Aug 2009
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This review is from: Stalingrad [DVD] [1994] (DVD)
I can't offer much more insight than the other reviewers - I can only say how disappointed I am that we are not given the choice of subtitles over the mock-German dubbing that would sound more at home in a Fry and Laurie sketch than in a depiction of the greatest battle of WWII. The effect of this bizarre decision is to rob an otherwise very good film of all its credibility.

It's also worth noting that my computer recognized the disc as Moulin Rouge! Windows Media Player even displayed the cover. Not a problem, just doesn't give a good impression of the publishers.

In Search of a Distant Voice
In Search of a Distant Voice
by Taichi Yamada
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very tame and dull., 16 Aug 2009
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"Unsettling" , "ethereal", "shivery, seat-edged stuff" say the reviewers. If ever there was a reason to ignore the glowing reviews that decorate the covers of works of fiction, this is it.

At no point did this book come across as shivery or unsettling. As the title suggests - this chap spends most of the time seeking out the source of a voice inside his head - which would be fine if the voice had any kind of mystery or intrigue about it; their conversations are dull, as is the woman he speaks to and by the end of the book I couldn't care less about the outcome.

Ironically the quote that adorns the back cover is the only accurate representation of the book:

"Lately... I've been hearing a voice."

And that's pretty much it.

A Million Little Pieces
A Million Little Pieces
by James Frey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to read, but not in a good way., 16 Aug 2009
Firstly, I only managed to get halfway through this book. Secondly, I'm not an ex-addict and have no experience with drug addiction either directly or indirectly.

The reason I can only bring myself to give this book two stars is that, while being mildly interesting at times, the way in which it's written grew old very quickly. In order to reflect the intensity of his cravings Frey seems to know only one technique, which is to repeat certain words over and over again in one long string of drawn-out mediocrity. Coupled with his capitalisation of random and seemingly insignificant words it didn't take long for this book to annoy me.

I can't say too much about the story, having only read half of it, but at times it seemed a little unconvincing - Frey's friendship with whats-his-face the driver, his encounters with Lily, and his whole tough-but-sensitive act that seems to win him the respect of everyone around him.

That being said, this book may appeal to you if you're interested in the subject or you've been affected somehow by addiction.

WRC FIA World Rally Championship 04 (PS2)
WRC FIA World Rally Championship 04 (PS2)
Offered by sicodaddy
Price: £29.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the serious., 6 Jan 2009
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
I'm not a heavy gamer, but I've always enjoyed watching motorsport and as such I keep one eye on the motorsport genre of computer games.

I've played most of the Colin McRae games and despaired at the way Codemasters progressively ruined the handling and physics throughout the series and concentrated more on such pointless things as more realistic realistic damage and animated spectators.

What the game also lacked from the beginning of the series was decent pace notes. All too often good old Nicky Grist would only pipe up about the approaching hairpin or five-left into five-right when you were ten feet away from the corner, leaving you bugger all time to take the right line, or at worst, leaving you nowhere near enough room to brake for the corner and sending you ploughing into a fence at 60mph.

When I read that WRC 4 was for anyone that dislikes the floaty physics of the Colin McRae games I was eager to try it out, expecting a more serious rally game for motorsport enthusiasts and miserable nitpicking gits like me.

Unfortunately, this game suffers from the same dodgy pace notes as the Colin McRae series. In fact they are even worse in places. This may seem like a trivial thing but to me it completely ruins the game.

The exciting part about a rally game for me is the ability to fly over jumps and blind crests and through tree-lined bends, sideways and at silly speeds, all because your co-driver has already told you what to expect. When you're only told about the corner long after you needed to know about it, not only will you crash but you'll also be feeling more than a little frustrated.

When the pace notes are delivered on time the game plays a treat, with great handling, physics, weather effects, long stages and a decent sense of speed.

Too bad about the pace notes.

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