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Reviews Written by
J. S. Hardman "Consultant software developer (contractor)" (Near London, UK)

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1000 Ultimate Adventures (Lonely Planet Travel Reference)
1000 Ultimate Adventures (Lonely Planet Travel Reference)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas generator for those with an adventurous spirit, 15 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having been lucky enough to have travelled widely during my twenties and thirties, and to have tried many "action" and "adventure" activities, as well as working on (mostly marine) conservation projects overseas, the real must-see or must-do things on my bucket list have already been done. Or so it seemed. Reading "1000 Ultimate Adventures (Lonely Planet Travel Reference)" reminded me that actually there were other places and other things that were already at the back of my mind, but which had been obscured behind the noise of daily life. This book has sparked my interest in travel again, motivating me to start planning my next trip, even if I am more selective than I used to be.

This excellent book contains a wide range of ideas and places, some of which I have done or been to, and some that I had intended to do but which had slipped from my consciousness. Even things that are not in this book but which I had intended to do at some point came back to me. Travelling through Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, are on my list. So are diving with hammerhead sharks overhead, and possibly diving to see pillow lava being formed on the seabed. Whilst I doubt I will do further marine conservation projects (although I wouldn't rule it out completely), if the right environmental project came up, I might get involved. Some of these things are in this book, but not all, but the joy of such a book is to generate ideas in the reader and inspire people to go and do such things. For some of the things in the book, details are included of who runs such trips or how to follow up, but not for all. Glossy enough to use as a coffee table book, with plenty of pictures, this is a great ideas generator, but one that may require some Googling to follow-up on.

There are ideas in this book to suit pretty much anybody into more adventurous travel or activities. There are plenty of things in there that I wouldn't do now, and some that I probably wouldn't even have done in my early twenties. However, I have friends who do some of those things, and they would love this book too. I know what to get them for Christmas!

Highly recommended to those with an adventurous spirit.

New Physioroom Thumb Stabiliser Support Splint for Protection and Prevention-Ski,Sport,Gym, Medical-All Sizes Medium Left
New Physioroom Thumb Stabiliser Support Splint for Protection and Prevention-Ski,Sport,Gym, Medical-All Sizes Medium Left
Offered by PhysioRoom
Price: £12.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Problems with size and design, but it does work, 15 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When at a dance event recently, whilst my normal partner was elsewhere for an hour or so, I ended up dancing with somebody I hadn't met before. From a distance, she had looked like she knew what she was doing. Unfortunately, in hold she had the bad habit of not releasing her right hand from my left when turning under the arm. The result of that is that every time she turned, she twisted my left thumb. The ache from that continued for quite some time, probably not helped by my habit of holding my smartphone in my left hand and operating it using my left thumb. To speed up recovery, I purchased one of these Physioroom Thumb Stabiliser Support Splints.

Based on comments in other people's reviews, I ordered a larger size than I would normally have done. Even so, it only just closes around my wrist, and the velcro tape digs into the skin between my thumb and first finger. It really feels like a product that got to prototype stage but was then not refined to production standard. However, wearing the splint for a couple of days relieved the ache, at the expense of sore skin where the velcro strap rubbed. Even after I stopped wearing it, the thought of wearing it still prevents me from operating my smartphone one-handed. As for dancing, I carry the splint in the bag with my dance shoes, so if I see the lady who triggered the problem in the first place heading my way, and if I cannot disappear quickly enough, then I reach into my bag and put the splint on. That stops my thumb from being twisted!

Recommended, with caveats about design and size. Based on my experience so far, I would go for two sizes larger than I would have expected to need, and still half-expect to need Compeed to prevent rubbing.

Mouth Kote Oral Moisturizer Spray, Dry Mouth and Throat - 8 Oz
Mouth Kote Oral Moisturizer Spray, Dry Mouth and Throat - 8 Oz
Offered by We Ship Supplies
Price: £27.14

3.0 out of 5 stars Hopefully less calories than mints, but not pocket-sized, 15 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Whilst on some medication recently that has dry mouth as a common side-effect, I tried various remedies to overcome that. Carrying things like Smint mints or Tic Tacs was no use - I'd just eat the entire quantity in no time at all. As that wasn't working, I thought I'd try a mouth spray, starting with Mouth Kote.

On the plus side, Mouth Kote does not show any added sugar in the ingredients. On the down side, the taste is most unappealing (it's not horrible, it's just not great), and the bottle is huge. I cannot picture what 8oz looks like. Let's just say, I don't carry this in my pocket (which was the original intention). Instead, I have it on my desk, which means it only gets used when I am at my desk. Not ideal. The price is horrendous too - over £20 for 8oz, although that did seem to include delivery from overseas.

Recommended with the caveat that this is not a discrete product to put in your pocket. If that is what you are after, you may end up transferring some from this product into a clean atomiser.

Philips HD4671/20 Brushed Metal Energy Efficient Kettle, 3000 Watt - 1.7 Litre
Philips HD4671/20 Brushed Metal Energy Efficient Kettle, 3000 Watt - 1.7 Litre
Price: £39.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quiet and functional, but a bit heavy., 15 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When my parents' kettle failed recently, I did some research online. It surprised me how many people buy new kettles and then find that they quickly develop a leak. Based on the number of people saying that about kettles recommended through sources such as Which? magazine, I eventually plumped for one of these Philips HD4671/20 Brushed Metal Energy Efficient Kettles. It met the criteria that my parents specified, so this is what they ended up with. Within a week of that, my own old kettle (not a Philips) sprang a leak, so I purchased a second one of these to replace it.

So far (see added note below), both my parents and myself have found the Philips HD4671/20 Brushed Metal Energy Efficient Kettle does the job, without problem. The only negative that we have found (and we both said the same thing), is that it is heavy. Even with very little water in it, it feels heavy. On the plus side, it hasn't leaked so far, it is far quieter than our old kettle, it's easy to fill and has clear markings to allow only putting in enough water for the number of cups wanted. Whether it uses less electricity than our old kettle, I do not know.

[Note added Feb 2014] After less than 3 months use, this kettle failed. I think that the boil-dry sensor mechanism failed. If it just switched off, that would be annoying but safe. That it switches off and then on and then off and then on (and keeps repeating), makes me wary. Thankfully, Amazon replaced it immediately. I'm hoping the replacement lasts longer.

So, ok for those with reasonable strength in their hands, wrists and arms. For others, it would be wise to go for something lighter. But a question mark over reliability.

Sumex 2808031 Boot Organiser Jumbo Bag
Sumex 2808031 Boot Organiser Jumbo Bag
Price: £16.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Very practical and good value. Recommended., 15 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having just down-sized from a 4x4 (that had lots of storage pockets, cup holders, hatches, and a big load area at the back) to an electric car (Vauxhall Ampera) with far fewer storage spaces and far less overall load capacity, I needed to get more organised about what I carry in the car, both because there is less space, but also to reduce the energy consumption. After looking at various options, I purchased two of these Sumex 2808031 Boot Organiser Jumbo Bags. They fit comfortably side by side in the rear or the Ampera, prevent things moving around, keep things both organised and visible, so that I can find what I want instantly. Having two allows me to put car/safety related things in one (fire extinguishers, first aid kit, pump, torch, visibility vest etc) and non-essentials in the other (waterproofs, snacks, drinks etc). Typically I leave both in the car, but if I am going to a store to collect lots of shopping or sacks of animal feed etc, then I simply lift out the non-essentials and have enough space to load whatever I am getting. Having everything organised also makes it far easier to be disciplined about not carrying unnecessary stuff around.

Very useful. Does the job without costing too much. Recommended.

RHS Botany for Gardeners: The Art and Science of Gardening Explained & Explored
RHS Botany for Gardeners: The Art and Science of Gardening Explained & Explored
by Geoff Hodge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.04

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Botany for gardeners, pitched at a sensible level for most readers, 24 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At age 11, I chose which secondary school to go to, based on the simple question of which schools in the area included botany O-level in their curriculum. There was only one, so that was where I went. Unfortunately, they withdrew the subject before I got to study it. I wasn't pleased. However, I did do biology, which included some botany. And since then, my interest in botany has not waned. I do plenty of gardening, including growing fruit and vegetables. I also do voluntary conservation work, including coppicing, hedge laying, re-planting etc.

Based on that background, it's fair to say that this is a book that should interest me. And, I'm happy to say that it does. It's a great book, that I wish had been available when I did my O level biology etc. The diagrams and artwork are great, the explanations of the science are very well done - at a level that provides good explanation but without going too deep into the science. The range of subjects covered is excellent too. I'll list a few and why they are useful to me, but the coverage goes well beyond this:

* The Plant Kingdom, including algae, mosses, lichens, ferns, conifers, flowering plants, hybrids and cultivars - all things that are present in my garden

* The structure of plants (form and function) - buds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, bulbs - giving a basic explanation that is useful to any gardener

* Inner Workings - cells, photosynthesis, nutrition, hormones - again, useful to any gardener trying to get the best from his/her garden

* Reproduction, germination, sowing, saving seeds - the basics that everybody needs to know about, if you don't want to spend a fortune at the garden centre every year

* Soil, pH, nutrition, pruning, light - knowledge needed to get the best from your garden

* Pests - insects, fungi, viral, bacterial, parasitic, breeding for resistance - if you've lost entire crops (as I have over the years) to blight, slugs, cabbage fly, etc., then this will be interesting to you.

It's a great range of subjects, explained at a reasonable level, with great illustrations. It also feels like a proper book should (you'll know what I mean when you pick it up). The paper is slightly yellow, and some of the print is quite small, so readers of a certain age might want a decent reading lamp, but the book is so good in other ways that it's worth putting up with the paper and font size.


Case Logic BEBP115 Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop/Tablet
Case Logic BEBP115 Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop/Tablet
Offered by DiscountDiscs
Price: £43.65

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but for my usage, there are better, 24 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Over the years I have tried/used many different backpacks and rucksacks, using different ones for different purposes or in different scenarios. When it comes to carrying a laptop etc, or carrying office type stuff, my preference has been to use either the `Swissgear GA-7301-14F00 Hudson 15.4 Inch Laptop Backpack' or the `Targus TCG650 Metro Notebook Backpack 15.4"'. Both have huge capacity, lots of sections, flexibility, the ability to stand upright, and good protection.

So, the question is, does this `Case Logic BEBP115 Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop/Tablet' fill a purpose/scenario that either of those other two does not, particularly when those others are available at a lower price?

Well, even when fully loaded, this Case Logic Backpack looks more professional, with sleek lines, black colouring etc. It has surprisingly good capacity, although not as good as the backpacks mentioned above. It has one security pocket (facing your back), so people cannot open the pocket and steal the contents when you are carrying this on your back in a crowd. It also provides good ventilation channels to keep your back dry. It even fits into most overhead luggage racks/bins as well. And it has a 25 year quality guarantee.

On the downside, this Case Logic Backpack does not stand upright, which I find really annoying. Every time I put it on the floor, the backpack topples over. The grab handle on top may be too small for anybody with large hands - it's only just big enough for me. The individual storage areas are not designed as well as the Targus or the SwissGear, meaning that the contents are not organised as well, and are not protected as well (from other things in the backpack). If used in the way shown in the screenshots on the product page, I would expect my phone and MP3 player to be stolen within days when travelling on the London Underground (you don't want to know how many times I have had backpack pockets unzipped in the melee that is the London Underground at rush hour). The pockets are also not so great if you want to keep drinks easily available. Drinks put in the side pockets are at risk of falling out when the backpack topples over. Importantly, I also find that this Case Logic Backpack sits too high on my back. The only way to adjust it to sit lower results in it hanging away from my back, which is not comfortable at all. The bits you pull (I don't know what to call them) when opening and closing zips do not feel like they will last long (time will tell).

So, a professional looking backpack, but for the way I use my backpacks this is one that really does not compete with offerings from Targus and Swissgear. I might use this one when travelling on trains that I know have small luggage racks (e.g. Southern commuter services), on flights just for limited carry-on stuff, or when going to meetings/conferences where my other backpacks would look out of place, but otherwise I'll be sticking with Targus and Swissgear. That's not to say that this is bad - it isn't (although the toppling over is really annoying). It's a good backpack (if expensive), it's just that for my usage, there are ones that work better for me. Some people think the ones that I prefer are just far too big - for those people, this Case Logic backpack may be better suited.

Go Coco Coconut Water 500ml (Pack of 12)
Go Coco Coconut Water 500ml (Pack of 12)
Offered by GoCoco
Price: £19.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for use during serious exercise, 3 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I drink Go Coco coconut water to avoid dehydration during exercise. I have drunk other coconut waters previously (e.g. Cocofina), but the Go Coco is more palatable. Coconut water is a bit like marmite - some people love it, some people hate it. Having worked on tropical islands when much younger, I'm well acquainted with the taste of fresh coconut water, as well as rehydration mixes such as Dioralyte. Particularly when working hard, I find coconut water refreshing, as well as rehydrating.

One advantage coconut water has over some other drinks, is that in a room with subdued lighting, it looks like plain water. That means that if I at an event where people are not supposed to take in drinks from outside, as the place running the event wants to sell their own vastly over-priced drinks, I can sneakily fill a glass with my own coconut water and nobody is any the wiser. I got through quite a few bottles like that at a dance event that ran this week, and am ordering more to replenish my supply now.

Recommended for anybody who likes coconut water (not the same as coconut milk!)

Fractals: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Fractals: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Kenneth Falconer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to fractals, best for those reasonably comfortable with mathematics, 2 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am one of those people who is very visual, and who finds it fascinating to identify patterns in things, particularly things that are not man-made. I also develop computer software, and have developed games software (in the dim and distant past), including generation of landscapes for use in games. I have been aware of fractals for a long time, and have implemented simple fractals when exploring ways of developing landscapes for use in games. It is with that background, and on-going study for an OU degree including maths and computing, that I read Kenneth Falconer's "Fractals: A Very Short Introduction".

For me, with my background and reasonable mathematics knowledge, I found this book fascinating. I would have liked it to have gone further and to have included more graphical examples. It is, however, "A Very Short Introduction", so is obviously limited in how much content it can have. For me, it leads me on to find other books on the subject. However, I suspect that, for readers less comfortable with mathematics, the balance of this introductory book could usefully have been changed, possibly with more graphical examples and less of the underlying mathematics.

So, good for me. Possibly, not so good for those who are less comfortable with mathematics and computer simulation.

The Kill List (Audiogo)
The Kill List (Audiogo)
by Frederick Forsyth
Edition: Audio CD

3.0 out of 5 stars Topical and well researched, but not one of Forsyth's best, 26 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Kill List (Audiogo) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I listen to audio CDs whilst driving. With some, it's easy to follow the characters and the story from beginning to end, with others the story jumps around from character to character and it is easy to lose track of who is who, or which character is being referred to in a particular piece of the story. With Frederick Forsyth's "The Kill List" I found that early in the story I lost track of who was who, but as it went on, it became easier to follow. Whether it was because of that or not, I just didn't find the story gripping. Topical yes, well research yes, but gripping no. It also felt like it was written to appeal to a larger audience by including both US and UK personnel. Perhaps that's over-cynical, but that's how it came across.

Whilst the story is ok, it is not great. The reading by John Chancer is mostly ok, although his British accents could really do with some work. Overall, it's ok, but it's certainly not one of Frederick Forsyth's best.

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