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S. Thomas
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UltiMat PolyCarbonate Chair Mat for Use On Low to Medium Pile Carpets (Rectangular Shape with Lip 120cm x 134cm)
UltiMat PolyCarbonate Chair Mat for Use On Low to Medium Pile Carpets (Rectangular Shape with Lip 120cm x 134cm)
Price: 78.18

1.0 out of 5 stars A moving story, 16 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I recently needed to replace my chair mat and expected to find no problems with that task, as long as I was prepared to pay for a reasonable quality one. Unfortunately it appears that chair mats designed for use on carpets have changed - the teeth are no longer as long or sharp as they used to be - so the mat moves about on the carpet as though it has a life of its own, several inches in just a day.

I have tried four different mats and all exhibit the same characteristics; instead of staying in place where you want it (in front of your desk and under the wheels of your chair), it moves. That's despite my placing a good few inches of mat underneath desk pedestals - I have no idea how the mat manages to move with a heavy desk holding it in place but move it does, even managing to travel several inches up the side of the desk on one occasion. I've even washed the carpet in the hope that raising the pile would make a difference - nope.

At this price point I was not prepared to hang onto a chair mat that offered more problems than solutions so I sent it back.


Ultrasport Pilates Combo Set - 5 Piece
Ultrasport Pilates Combo Set - 5 Piece
Price: 19.37

3.0 out of 5 stars Tangoed, 16 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I rather liked this set overall, or at least it grew on me once I had managed to straighten out the plastic skipping rope and inflate the ball (a small pump is included in the pack). The constituent parts all feel up to the job of accompanying workouts for years to come although the gel expander I received was smaller than the one shown in both the product information and illustrated on the box.

I have never attended a Pilates class and do not have the opportunity to do so where I live, so the inclusion of some sheets detailing exercises was very useful, although some guidance on what to do with the ball would have been welcome. There are plenty of books and exercise DVDs around however so it won’t be too difficult to fatten out the routine and make the most of the equipment.


RSPB 500g Super Suet Hanging Cake with Mealworms (Box of 8)
RSPB 500g Super Suet Hanging Cake with Mealworms (Box of 8)
Price: 23.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Feeling peckish, 14 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A high energy bird food packed full of fat and with some added mealworms; it sounded like it should attract a host of birds searching for nutrition during the winter months.

I had one of these hanging in the garden for a number of weeks receiving absolutely no interest from the birds whatsoever, even though it was at a time there was little natural food available. On the verge of removing the treat to see if the ground-feeding birds would like a peck, I noticed a pair of Robins diving in, followed swiftly by a number of Blue and GreatTits. Word had obviously taken a time to get around and the treat is now a hive of activity most times I look out.

I admit to being rather surprised to see the Robins taking an interest as they tend to be ground feeders but were presumably attracted (eventually) by the mealworms hidden inside. Ground feeding birds do benefit from the Starlings that now take an interest; they are messy eaters and enough of the treat falls to the ground in bite sized pieces for those waiting below.

The treat is moulded around a plastic post with a hole cut out to make it easy to hang. No hook or other device is included in the pack and I had difficulty finding anything that would fit through the hole, having to resort to thin string in the end (all of the garden ties I had were too thick).

Previous experience suggests that these are best hung out of direct sunshine, particularly in the summer months as the suet is prone to melt.

It has become the first choice amongst the foods that I hang out in the garden with other varieties only attracting interest if there is too long a queue for this one.


Weetabix Breakfast Biscuits Fruit and Fibre 50 g (Pack of 4)
Weetabix Breakfast Biscuits Fruit and Fibre 50 g (Pack of 4)
Price: 8.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Hmm, surprised, 14 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I passed these to my partner for feedback because there is nothing on the packaging to state whether or not they are suitable for vegetarians. Responses in order: 'like a ship's biscuit', 'too dry but I will finish them', 'surprisingly filling when taken with a cup of tea', to 'where are those biscuits? I couldn't find them this morning'.

We are both looking for foods that are filling on busy mornings to avoid us snacking. Whilst these biscuit packs look very nondescript and uninspiring they seem to have been a surprising hit. The equivalent of a chap with a dog that can croon to Oasis' Wonderwall winning Britain's Got Talent.

However, it would be nice if manufacturers could make clear whether products are vegetarian because even innocent foods can turn out to contain animal fat or rennet. Had I been able to try these they may have earned another star.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2014 4:05 PM BST


Pharmavits 100mg Raspberry Ketones Vitamin Supplements - Pack of 60 Capsules
Pharmavits 100mg Raspberry Ketones Vitamin Supplements - Pack of 60 Capsules
Offered by OP Supermarket
Price: 29.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Approved by Mice, 14 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Before trying these I looked up what science there is and in a 2005 study mice reported significant weight loss to their tummies after taking ketones (although some were already attending Weight Watchers and others attributed their success to vigorous sessions on their wheel). Apparently the US administration also concluded in the sixties that ketones were safe for humans, at least at dosage fifty times less than these pills (but bear in mind that at that time asbestos was still seen as a good insulating medium). So far, so good.

The theory is that Ketones are meant to increase the rate at which fat is metabolised and at least do not carry the side effect of tablets that reduce fat absorption. There are also claims that they reduce the rate of aging of the skin and improve hair tone.

Well, two thirds of the way through it is almost impossible to say whether these supplements have aided my weight loss or are harmless. If anything, I suspect that they assist the Placebo effect by reinforcing the mind’s message ‘lose weight’ and thus help provide a stimulus. Even that is enough because most of the battle with weight loss is fought in one’s head. As a result and unless I notice any downside I will probably use them ad hoc as a ‘reinforcer’. However, until more is known about high dosages of ketones I will not be taking any of the super strength versions that are out there.


Alpen Porridge Cranberry and Blueberry Pot 60 g (Pack of 8)
Alpen Porridge Cranberry and Blueberry Pot 60 g (Pack of 8)
Price: 7.06

2.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat lacking, 14 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I prefer the ‘milk and microwave’ versions of these convenience style breakfasts and, by comparison, this tasted slightly watery and insubstantial. It works out slightly faster if I have one of those ‘dash out of the door’ mornings but was otherwise slightly unsatisfying. However, it may prove useful for the office as a standby because you just need a kettle.


Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!: A World without World War I
Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!: A World without World War I
by Richard Ned Lebow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Sliders, 14 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Richard Lebow is a constructivist, arguing against the fatalistic view that world events are an inevitable consequence of human behaviour. This opens up the ‘What If?’ branch of political science, which draws the mind towards the idea that the present wasn’t necessarily so.

Here, Lebow speculates on how different the world might have been if Princip had not pulled the trigger that killed the Archduke that lit the fuse which resulted in two world wars (and almost certainly the Spanish Flu pandemic which killed 5% of the World population along with, ironically, Princip himself).

The sci fi series Sliders argued that the slightest shift in the sequence of history could extrapolate into profound changes for humanity. Whilst lacking the gravitas of Lebow, it nevertheless made the point well and demanded a less impactful point of divergence.
To me, Lebow’s book attempts to be a more intellectually rigorous version of Sliders and explores the potential utopian and dystopian alternative futures that might have resulted if what happened didn’t happen. However, the event he chose was so profound that in some ways his job was easier.

Perhaps the difficulty I have is that for all the learned approach, I am not sure that Lebow’s constructions are any more valid than an episode of Sliders and at times I found them a good deal less interesting. Conjecture is great fun but the ripples that spread out from the most insignificant event are such that a political scientist cannot claim greater domain on the subject than a script writer.

It is almost certain that the vast majority of us in the Western World who are alive today would not have existed if it were not for the fact that Princip’s gun did not jam. In the decades that followed everyone would have been doing different things, met different people and conceived different thoughts, ideas, inventions and an entirely different generation, which in turn…

Read as fascinating but idle speculation this book is engaging but I could not see that Lebow pointed out anything that a lay individual could not see and his flight of fantasy is less enjoyable for the hint that it should be regarded as a scholarly treatise.


German Europe
German Europe
by Ulrich Beck
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.99

2.0 out of 5 stars A dissection of the seemingly obvious, 14 April 2014
This review is from: German Europe (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I may have read a few too many polemics on Europe and have become weary. I thought the notion that Germany had lost the war but won the economic peace was an accepted reality. Reading Beck was somewhat like listening to a first year sociology student speechifying for the first time.

It is almost fifty years since Beck was a first year; he has little to prove and I would have thought that his ability to communicate his ideas fluently and with economy of construct would by now have been honed to perfection. Taking a sentence at random by furling the pages and hitting a line with my finger I find:

“The economists who gave us their responses to the crisis make the situation more easily comprehensible but at the same time the ‘interpreters of capitalism’ tend to reduce the complexity of the global financial markets in a disconcerting fashion”.

Perhaps it is his translator’s fault but I would not use the word ‘lucid’ to describe Beck’s prose and I found reading some sections were the mental equivalent of consuming cream crackers without any water to aid the process.

There is also the question of what he is trying to say. It may be that my intellect is poor but there seems little point in dissecting and extrapolating a thought to an academic degree unless one seeks to reveal a further truth. Take an apple pie, render it down and analyse its constituents and it is still an apple pie.

As far as I could decipher, Beck made some fairly obvious points but in abstruse language. A weakened, wider Europe is increasingly dancing to Germany’s tune, which is codifying our economic and political future … and we should be wary. I think I’ve got that, but then, I thought we all believed (to a greater or lesser degree) that was the case. Like the apple pie, I am not sure that a detailed dissection actually adds anything.


Alpen Porridge Apricot and Almond 40 g (Pack of 4)
Alpen Porridge Apricot and Almond 40 g (Pack of 4)
Price: 9.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Nutritional neurosis, 14 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Over the last few weeks I seem to have gone through a phase of analysing what I eat as if there is some Holy Grail breakfast out there that will keep me going all day and stop me feeling hungry.

This 'add milk and microwave' porridge is not dissimilar to its main rival that we have been buying for years and although there is conflicting information on the web about nutritional content, they seem to be on much of a par.

When I started to compare with a lot of other breakfasts we have tried I couldn't see a huge amount of difference in the statistics and since none of the manufacturers seems to cite glycaemic index values it seems to come down to what your body tells you.

I find these warming, filling and with sufficient natural sweetness to be self-contained. This combined with the fact that by their nature they dictate portion control helps, even if making a simple porridge might yield fewer calories per gram.

If anything, Alpen's offering - a late entrant to the market - has greater variety of texture and interest and I will be switching even though there is oh so little difference when it comes down to it.


Weetabix Weetos 350 g (Pack of 4)
Weetabix Weetos 350 g (Pack of 4)
Price: 8.76

3.0 out of 5 stars Guilt Trip, 14 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wish foods could cite their glycaemic index because I find it difficult to separate out those that taste sweet but contain slow sugars such as fructose or sufficient fibre to reduce their GI from the plain wicked.

The chocolate flavour doesn’t mean these are bad but it didn’t alter that fact that the combination of the chocolate headline and the sweet taste made me feel that I was indulging.

A ggrrreeat taste (to borrow from another breakfast cereal) if you have a clear conscience but too ‘off message’ for my healthy eating plan.


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