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The Elements of Investing
The Elements of Investing
by Burton G. Malkiel
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Simplicity of Finance, 26 July 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Finance books for me are like what the gym memberships are to New Year resolutioners. You have such high hopes when you have them in your hand, you will change your life, become focused and afterward be uber lean. It's all about good intentions.

Elements of Investing is not a book promising to solve your financial problems; giving you a 2 week financial detox or the mircale of stock market investments returns that will allow you to quit your job at 30. What it does do is condense the elements of good financial management into a small booklet.

Of course we get the usual speech about motivations for saving and spending, how we should get a pension (albeit the book talks about the American system!) and the importance of a good budget. It's covering old ground but like getting a dental check, necessary for good health. I find the real beauty of this book is the small equations is gives to calculate what your return from savings and investments are, the calculations can also be used to establish what your returns need to be per year to achieve a target. It is simple well written stuff and I love it for it. It is one of the "elements" I regularly use when planning long term saving.

Some criticise the book by saying it is too short, but if something is taken down to the basic elements - it is going to be small because it is simple. Elements of Investing real strength comes from reminding us that small is better and more achievable - dreams of making it big buying some shares rarely goes anywhere. The only downside of the book is it's American slant, particularly on pensions.

I may not be a millionaire - but I realised that I was gonna get a lot fitter by walking rather than having a gym membership I never use. I started small by cancelling that membership saving myself £220 per year - it is now in my Cash ISA.

That the Elements of Saving way.


System Shield 4 Antivirus and Antispyware, up to 3 PCs (PC)
System Shield 4 Antivirus and Antispyware, up to 3 PCs (PC)
Price: £19.99

1.0 out of 5 stars When is a Virus Scanner not a Virus Scanner, 26 July 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When purchasing a virus scanner from a company that is not well known there is always that fear at the back of your mind. Is it a worthwhile program, will it crash my PC, will it be in English? (gross exageration but there is always that concern when you are buying a non-brand item).

It seemed to start rather well - my PC seemed to be ticking along rather nicely. No viruses at all. I was feeling rather smug - giving the middle finger to those who have the well known McAfee virus scanner. However, like those who are sexually active, you should get tested for the nasties. It's when the symptoms start that you suddenly realise you haven't been as careful as you thought you were.

That day came 2 months after I had installed the program on my PC. A system crash, followed by a "screen of death" and then when the PC booted up - the PC went haywire, refused to connect to the internet (thankfully) and add to that, pop up windows rather cheekily saying I had a virus on my computer. Some may say I should have been careful who I was letting my PC engage with, I was being careful but apparently not enough.

The software was found to be lacking. I have used various software packages like Bullguard and Kaspersky. I remain a fan of both of those programs. They flagged up when viruses had been detected on the computer and when something had attempted a breach of the firewall. System Shield was very quiet - it didn't seem to be doing anyting.

The interface is a bog standard affair. One particularly gripe was the inability to scan individual folders or drives - it was a system wide scan or bust.

Same computer usage and internet browsing requires some careful actions by the user, but by that same token I like my protection to be effective. System Shield was leakier than a sieve and like many a user before who invested in shoddy software, my PC caught something it shouldn't have.

This user is sticking to Bullguard.


To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland's Global Diaspora, 1750-2010 (Allen Lane History)
To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland's Global Diaspora, 1750-2010 (Allen Lane History)
by T M Devine
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Detailed but dull, 14 July 2012
T.M. Devine knows his stuff, he knows so much about the global influence of Scots that he had to write a follow on book from his previous "Scotlands Empire". I say follow on, for this book is more an updated version of that earlier book. The first chapter for me was akin to the honeymoon period - I went in with the best of intentions to read the whole book, learn about the subject matter and finish it in a state of enlightenment that Devine's books are supposed to leave you. Well so I am told.

However, I struggled. Was I not smart enough? Was it the time of day I was reading the material? Just now I am also reading a book called Savage Continent and I was trying to establish why I was liking that book and not Devine's. It then hit me - To the End of the Earth is just plain boring. As I stated previously, Devine knows his stuff and it shows. He can write clearly too, there is no jargon or long windedness. But as a writer, he lacks the ability to actually make the reader engage with the story he is telling and care about the people he is describing. Chapters consist of a long stream of company names and characters mentioned once - so the reader, well this reader is left feeling like he is reading a page of stats and expected to get excited about it. He is no Michael Fry.

In terms of his facts he is spot on. Using up to date research and also new analysis of available statistics - the information on the Scottish slave trade is a prime example.

History is about educating people in how what came before influences them now. It should fire up excitement, it should be made so accessible that it seems the blood stains of so long ago are not yet dry. However, in this book, the subject matter is very dry indeed.


Revision Notes for Higher Chemistry
Revision Notes for Higher Chemistry
by Douglas Buchanan
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor investment, 24 Feb 2012
If you are looking at this book, you may have seen a previous review I wrote for the corresponding blue question book in this series.

Again in this book I found the material difficult to follow and not laid out in a very user friendly fashion. The explanation of equations was a particular weakness of the booklet. It is a booklet that is clearly geared towards the idea that a student has studied the material in depth, understands it and thus can get by on barebones notes. All well and good if you are such a student.

But cross over to other revision guides and the difference is staggering. "Testing your Higher Chemistry Calculations" is a wonderfully written guide on equations in Chemistry, written in clear lucid language and catering to all levels, from those struggling to those who are excelling. "Higher Chemistry Success Guide" give good summaries and practice questions, I also recommend "Bright Red Revision: Higher Chemistry".

Poor experience of this book overrall.

Try some of the guides I mentioned and also access the past papers on the SQA website.


Beautiful People - Series 1 [DVD]
Beautiful People - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Luke Ward-Wilkinson
Price: £8.30

5.0 out of 5 stars How I got my Beautiful People DVD, 29 Dec 2010
I was almost tempted to make a video review of this DVD, inspired by the series, however I will settle for the restrictive use of text and hope that the delightful campness of this TV series shines through my review.

Now to know the kind of humour that goes into Beautiful People I instruct the person reading this review to go back to a turn-of-the-millenium comedy called Gimme Gimme Gimme, for this and Beautiful People are written by the same brilliant writer Jonathan Harvey. You can notice many of his hallmarks in the writing, but this is not a carbon copy.

In "Beautiful People" you have a clever mix of storytelling touching upon being a teenager, change, nostalgia, growing up gay, friendship, family and masterful use of 90s soundtracks and cultural references. The series rotates around Simon remembering back to his teenage years growing up in Reading. He uses various objects to tell a story each episode that gives the opportunity for sharp comedy, fantastic one-liners (seriously the dialogue is so sharp you could shave with it) and for those who either lived through or grew up (in my case survived) the 90s the references are marvelous - I had a chuckle as Simon watched Tony Blair enter Downing Street in 97 (it really did seem that Blair was going to change the world). Even the death of Diana get a mention - frightening that this stuff is now history!

The cast are trully stellar and I loathe to use the word supporting cast/character. Blind Aunt Haley, the hippy who lives with them and gets misty eyed thinking about her time in Woman's Liberation singing "only women bleed". Simons parent as a fun double act, particularly his mum who deliver her put downs like a smart missile. Kylie (his best friend camping up his name Kyle) is a star in the making, the kid can sing and dance and fire putdowns like a machine gun. The only character I ended up disliking was Ashlene (mostly because her nastiness reminded me of my sister while I was teenager).

There are some beautiful character moments in the series between Simon and his parents. His father accepts Simon for who he is and loves him no matter what. When Simon's mother suggests butching their son up, its the father who shoots down the idea and states that he loves his son no matter what. In the final episode we have a scene between mother and son and the fact that Simon is gay is touched upon but never overtly stated, the voice over (by the older Simon) stating that at that point both were in denial. Its a simple understated scene charged with emotion and only one example of the nice moments Harvey litters throughout the series. Over on the other side of the street poor Kylie has to put up with his mum calling him "Batty Boy" - charming!

The funniest episode being "How I Got my Globe", we get a wonderful scene where the older Simon comments at one point "Of course i know that look now, it means...."you don't know this yet but your both raging homosexuals" and delicious references to Dynasty and an reactment of the famous fountain fight scene. ALso look out for the teacher singing "I've Never Been to Me" such a fitting song (and poor Simon and Kylie discover she isn't half as glam as she claims).

The only low point (and I had to struggle to find this in the series) was having an older Kylie appear, it is only 30 seconds but I was left thinking it was pointless.

Beautiful People - shameless nostalgia, wonderfully written, right measure of camp, and topped off with warm family moments. Cracking stuff.


Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life
Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life
by Nicholas Phillipson
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smartly written, perhaps too smart?, 29 Dec 2010
Late 18th Century Scotland. A country coming to terms to with economic change as it moved towards the 19th century, political upheaval from the 1745 rebellion and social change as grip of the church weakened. Enter Adam Smith to help make sense of these great changes that were occurring, had yet to occur and finally the changes that had occurred.

From the outset I want the person reading this review to have a positive impression of the book. Nicholas Philipson is an established figure in writing about 18th century Scotland (a past president of the 18th Century Scottish Studies Society no less). He brings to this book a masterful hold of the social, political and economic context of the time. It is in fact his descriptions of 18th Century life I enjoyed more than his discussion of the ides of Smith. He is clearly following Smith's love of placing ideas in context and illustrating with ideas. Philipsons language is never dense and he avoids using clichés and fancy words and this is too his credit. The only time he falls foul is when he quotes on mass from literature from the period - the authors of 18th century Scotland apparently liked the long-winded way of saying things. This means that at times you are reading a paragraph and left none the wiser - however Philipson quite often rides to the rescue and states in one simple sentence what an 18th century thinker tried to do in one page. This writer knows his stuff.

Where this book falls foul is the sheer mass of ideas and authors it covers. For a philosopher, historian of ideas, economists and sociologists will no doubt have a field day and feel Christmas has come again as they read through the great minds and thoughts of the 18th century. I will freely admit to having a limited grasp of Smith and other thinkers of the Enlightenment - what I found a real hinderence in this book was that the author didn't not give contemporary examples to illustrate the 18th century points he was making. At various points through the book he was stating that the ideas being described revolutionised how people viewed the world - I couldn't help but feel a little stupid sitting in my living room as I didn't have a clue what he was going on about. Phillipson refers to many of the writers and contemporaries who influenced Smith - a dangerous move as to the layman such as me, it is information overload and many a page was read and not even processed. I really hope that Phillipson writes a review of Smith's work for a contemporary non academic audience that makes reference modern day examples to illustrate ideas. It would allow readers to appreciate this biography much more and give Phillipson another chance to write in clear language that he has demonstrated in this book.

At its core this book is a biography, but the author states himself that a problem is that Smith left few letters and had many of papers destroyed before his death. He led a private but sociable private life and was clearly a perfectionist in his writings. What this leaves for us though is a character that borders otherworldly - it's the flaws and the weak human moments that give us insight. Phillipson does his best but Smith still retains an other-worldly feel.

Overall an elegantly written book, the high brow ideas it describes will have to be reviewed by a greater intellect than I. For a more accessible book for a non-academic audience I recommend "Scottish Enlightenment, The Scots Invention of the Modern World".

1 star is lost for Phillipsons habit of quoting on mass in places 18th century writing - not the most accessible language for a 21st century reader.


Spread [DVD] [2009]
Spread [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Ashton Kutcher
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £8.34

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I feel dirty for saying that it was not a bad movie, 18 Aug 2010
This review is from: Spread [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Looking up from my Economist newspaper and inbetween viewing of the West Wing I decided to slum it by watching Spread. A combination of snobbery and jealousy (which mortal wouldn't be jealous of the stunning looking cast in the movie living the carefree lifestyle). What I am about to say is difficult - it makes me feel dirty - but Spread was not all that bad!

We are immediately introduced to Nikki (played by Kutcher), he is about to leave his most recent conquest and cash cow, moving onto his next lady of means (lets keep this as classy as possible folks). At the party he engages in a Sex-Terminator style analysis of the older women on offer, detailing their err hidden treasures, the seduction techniques to be used and measures for success. He soon spots his target - Samantha. Now Nikki is set up for the first half of the movie as a moral vacuum, devoid of regret or remorse at his pumping woman, quite literally, for his keep. The film worked a little too well, for in the second half when he is trying to go through the redemption phase, we can't feel that much empathy for him. The cast line up to say what most of the viewers are probably thinking - he is easy on the eye, but blande in the extreme. When events lead to him being down on his luck not even the sobbing phone call to his mum makes us feel any sympathy for him. Even his sex scenes were devoid of emotion - I guess that disinterested look comes from being a Scientologist.

His apparently sugar-mommy, Samantha has a lot more depth (well at least as much as her very nice tiled hot-tub next to her swimming pool). While some may say Nikki took advantage of her, she rises to show him who's boss and who needs who. She is very much holding the whip. However that is balanced out by her apparent insecurities. What starts as fun ends with her becoming suspcious of Nikki and his exploits. The obligatory anxieties about ageing also come out as she goes for a vaginal tightening, the doctor cheerfully tells Nikki "you'll notice the difference".

The film ends on a note that see's Nikki facing his negative karma. The woman he eventually decides he wants - doesnt actually take him. He returns to Samantha's house only to discover his replacement (and a turn on the younger woman, Samantha has gone for the much younger man than Nikki, touche!). Its the ending of the film that really redeems the whole thing. There is a threat that Nikki is about to have his redemption but it is snatched away from him. A brave move in Hollywood which loves happy endings. Nikki is left living in his best friends apartment watching as a frog eats a dead mouse - very un-Disney!

The main message of the movie appears to be don't base all worth on good looks and fast living - tad rich considering the GAP mannequin cast.

But for a Wednesday night movie when you have work the next day - it isn't half bad. And if the plot doesn't interest you all that much, you can have fun drawing comparison with real life Kutcher and Moore, some parts of the film did have me thinking it may be a little too true to life.

PS. for fans of 90s soap Sunset Beach - keep an eye out for Sarah Buxton who played Annie. A little touch of nostalgia.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2011 9:49 PM BST


On the Milk
On the Milk
by Willie Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.57

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose", 18 July 2010
This review is from: On the Milk (Paperback)
So Woody Allan likes to say. And how apt for On the Milk. Just occasionally I like to take a random book off the shelves at my local library. Something I wouldn't normally read. When I first spotted this title I thought it was a bizarre topic to write about. Usually we have biographies about politicians and their dark deeds. Celebrities and their questionable habits. Sporting heroes putting us to shame. On the Milk - utterly bizarre topic - and now having read it, an utterly brilliant read.

It is a classic coming of age story - think the TV series 'The Wonder Years' set in 1960s Dundee. Remarkably though the bland Dundee background is incredibly fitting for the story. It gives the reader another hook to engage in the story. When Willie is describing where his formative teenage years took place, we can recognise many of the elements in our own. It was the place that had the colour but the people living out their lives in them.

Willie himself is wonderfully engaging. Interested with hilarious moments involving joining the army cadets, dealing with 1960s shop keepers and his first clumsy fumbling with a girl in the local woods, we have real moments of insight into the changes that occurred in his and everyone else's teenage years. Robertson seems to have a rare talent in adults - the ability to keep his adult views and insights out of the story. For the duration of the book he is back to being a teenager in 1960s Dundee.

While there are other cleverly sketches out characters, the other true star of this biography is Avril. From the outset she is the strong matriarch with razor sharp business sense. The Richard Branson of the 1960s Milk Industry. While no walk over, she is warm to those under her care on the milk round. We are given a whistle stop guide to getting off a moving milk truck and how to make a quick getaway before the police show up (in her defense a mugger had gotten his just desserts). The other star of the book is Ian McClelland, the PE Teacher / Cadet leader. While he occupies a small part of the novel he is one of those types that is in his Willies life a short time and leaves lifelong lessons (just wait till you read the part when he describes to Willie and Gordon the true nature of war).

Witty and engaging from beginning to end it passes the biggest test of a book of this type - you actually care about what happens to the main characters. Towards the end each goes their separate ways - some get on their metaphorical motorbike, so head off to university, some to respectable "council" work. A particularly bitter sweet moment is Willie spotting Avril and a truck full of new recruits rolling by, the first few occasions they wave to each other, forget a few times and then don't acknowledge each other. Simple message - people move on.

Robertson puts in a witty little postscript even going to the bother of tracking down Avril and discussing times passed. It is lovely touches such as these that makes On the Milk such a nostalgic book. He is witty and throws in illuminating insights.

In the book sleeve it says that Robertson works in the oil industry with countries from all over the world. I can only hope that his wit, humour and warmth shown in this book shows through in his business dealings.


Never Back Down [DVD]
Never Back Down [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sean Faris
Price: £4.88

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All the emotional depth of a paddling pool, 17 July 2010
This review is from: Never Back Down [DVD] (DVD)
You know a film is deep when it is intersped with quotes regarding the Shield of Achilles, flashbacks to childhood trauma regarding father issues, moments of zen like wisdom "The night my dad died, I just let him drive. I didn't even try to stop him. Doing nothing has consequences too". Nah, this film had all the emotional depth of a paddling pool.

We are introduced to our main character who is given a stereotype jock name "Jake" so we know he is "cool and with it". Immediately he has anger issues but thanks to a quick scene in which he very emotionally finds some of his father belongings, we know this is why he is so very angry. Then again Faris is a pretty blande actor so most of his body language comes from tensing up his abs or whipping out his Tom Cruise style grin. But thats the main problem - we find it hard to believe that Jake has ever struggled with anything. It is like seeing Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada - and believing that the character she played was ever seen as ugly by the beauty industry.

We are soon introduced to Jakes mortal nemesis - the vile Ryan. Just so we know he is evil he grins menacingly quite a lot and challenges people to torso flexing contest, torso flexing contests dressed up as mixed martial art techniques. Just like Jake he too has father issues, mainly that his father tries to live his life through him. Yes Ryan does have a hard life. Ryan decides he doesn't like Jake and wants to beat him up at the earliest opportunity.

And then we comes to the range of bizzare supporting acts. Jake goes to a school district that seems to have a chronic violence problem with no action taken by law enforcement. Never Back Down is apparently not a motto about standing up for yourself, but standing up for yourself because the police are nowhere in sight. Even around the school fights happen in plain sight. The students gleefully upload Youtube Videos of the carnage. At the fight at the end of the movie the blonde babes shout "he's so hot". Yup, this film is pretty deep, Shakespeare better watch out. Baja, Jakes love interest starts of as the dumb blonde, but by the end she is spouting Shield of Achilles analogies. Hidden depths that girl.

We have Jake's best friend Max who delights in being beaten up just so he can hang with the cool kids. Watching him in the movie is incredibly tragic - it consists of him mainly following Jake around like a drooling pup. And of course we have the wise martial fighting teacher Jean - guess what, he has daddy issues too!

By the end of the movie Jake has beaten Ryan to a pulp. Of course during the fight Jake has flashbacks to earlier bits of the movie in a vain attempt to justify what the hell the previous hour and half were actually for. Everyone is smiling, Ryan and Jake now respect one another and daddy issues have been solved.

I gave this film two stars for the sheer cheek of it actually being made. It is a world where the beach babes are as thick as s*** and throw themselves at guys who beat each other up for fun. What a wonderful message to send to young men today. The good looking guys remain pretty throughout and I am sure there is some analogy at work about angry young men in society.

Many would say this is the Fight Club of the teengage world. It is not. Fight club was about guys struggling to find meaning in life, and by the end they still aint found it. In Never Back Down the message is - punch as much as possible and you will eventually get your own way. The film stinks of having a writers thinking Karate Kid of the 2000s.

And to conclude - there is nothing wrong with a film being shallow. There is nothing wrong with random violence in films. And there is nothing wrong with the entire cast being stunningly good looking. Just don't claim there is anything worthwhile to be had from it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2010 11:36 AM BST


Norton 360 v3.0, 3 User Licence (PC DVD)
Norton 360 v3.0, 3 User Licence (PC DVD)

2.0 out of 5 stars Bulky and Bloated, 29 Mar 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Norton 360 - its name alone gives the impression that it offers all round protection. And it does - remarkably well. You get a virus scanner, a firewall and anti-spyware system all rolled into one. Plus a list of other bells n whistles that form a fair list. So as PC Protection Software it works really well. You have an extremely vigilent system that monitor all aspects of your PC. But that protection comes at a price.

Norton in many respects is over-enginered. In getting an all round system it gobbles up a lot in way of PC resources, taking quite a while to load up when first booting the PC and also in the plethora of monitoring system. It also add in various options for internet explorers - again surplus to requirement. So who needs a Virus when you have Norton 360 to make your PC run slow.

I am an avid fan of the Bullguard programme - protects the PC effectively but does not slow it down. Kaspersky is a similar product to Bullguard hence I use it on my PC now. Norton lasted about two days usage before I gave up the ghost. So Norton - so it was a whirlwind romance between you and my PC - in end the you brought too much digital baggage.


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