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Igor Clark (Portland, Oregon, USA)

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Goldsource ST-1500 1500 Watt Step Down/Up Voltage Converter
Goldsource ST-1500 1500 Watt Step Down/Up Voltage Converter
Offered by BestStuff UK
Price: £74.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy and quiet., 13 May 2015
I've just moved back from the US to the UK and brought a lot of electrical gear with me. So I've got a few transformers now; some acquired in the US to serve UK gear over there, some here to do the reverse. Although there seem to be a few brands selling versions that look pretty much the same - bar a few bits of styling, or the presence/lack of a USB power port - the two Goldsource ones I just got seem to me to be by far the best.

All the ones of this general shape & appearance seem really sturdy, solid and reliably constructed - but there are two real extra benefits with these:

- Firstly, the power input is an IEC socket, so you can fit whatever length of cable with whichever fitting of plug you want. Big win against some of the others, particularly the US "Rockstone" ones which have really short cables with injection-moulded plugs hard-fixed to the units. (Urgh.)

- Second, and the real kicker: these Goldsource ones just don't make any noise. It could just be these specific units, and I don't want to tempt providence as I've only had them a couple of days - but the others I have (3000W, 2000W, 1000W Rockstone, and a much smaller 100vA wall-wart style cheapo one I got from Maplin in London) all make a varying level of annoying hum or even buzz. These just don't. Ahhh.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2015 11:27 AM GMT

Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
by John Gray
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

67 of 83 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Straw dogs or straw men?, 13 May 2008
So much of this book consists of plainly falsifiable bald assertions that I find it staggering that the famous names writing the crits have been prepared to put their names to it, let alone gush over it in the way they have. It's frustrating, because a lot of the substance of what he says, in the sense that the orthodoxy he attacks is actually incoherent, is valuable, if not exactly new; unfortunately, he obscures it with bad argumentation and structure.

Gray states, for example, that we can have no coherent, consistent 'self' because all we are (in consciousness) is a disjointed group of memories, with nothing tying them together except the illusion of continuation, to which we are genetically pre-disposed. Fine, it's a theory, and not an unreasonable one. I'm not saying (and obviously couldn't say) that it's not right, but he tosses out as though it were self-evident, when it's really not; it could quite easily be the case that we do have a continuous consciousness from which our notion of a consistent self derives, but it's our memory which is inadequate and not our perception, meaning we only remember bits of it, rather than that it's actually disjoint. Meaning there is an easy possible counter-argument; meaning his baldness is just a little bit too bald for my liking, and I'm pretty bald.

I also don't like the way he talks about "the humanist view" or "humanism" all the way through the book without really setting up any terms. I don't recognise the viewpoint he attacks as being a consistently argued or known viewpoint; he seems to be tilting at windmills a lot of the time. I suppose the counter to this criticism would be that this is a book of reflections, aimed at the sort of intelligent yet perhaps not entirely considered reader whom Dawkins addresses in The God Delusion; unfortunately this book is classed as "Philosophy" (it says so on the back), and as such I'm afraid it just doesn't stand up.

Still, even if just a set of reflections, presumably if presented bound in one volume apparently presenting a particular view, they should be consistent? At one early point he claims that the idea of human progress is a myth, plain and simple, because due to the ever-shifting sands of DNA "humanity" doesn't really exist; later on, he takes for granted a reading of "progress" under which individual humans enjoy the benefits of flush toilets and medicines by virtue of the increasing pool of human knowledge. OK, obviously we can work out interpretations of these phrases in which they're not mutually exclusive - by watering down the strong, headline-grabbing claims, of course - but if it's a set of thought-provoking reflections, should we have to go to such lengths even to work out exactly what he's saying? And if it's a book of philosophy, isn't it supposed to be clear?

Something else that bugs me is that he doesn't put any references to the bibliography (e.g. "[12]") in the text under any of the many quotations peppering the text. All are listed in the bibliography, but I reckon he knows that those remain largely unconsulted anyway, and if he doesn't put references in then it's even less likely anyone will bother as they'd have to trace through the whole bibliography in order to do so. Of course he's covered himself, because he has put the bibliography in (right?), but even under a charitable interpretation it's extremely odd.

The first time round, I gave up after a couple of (I felt) inadequately argued passages; this time, I persevered and finished reading it because despite the many problems, there are some interesting thoughts in there. I'm glad I did, because the second half contains some interesting discussion about human ecology, but even there he seems simply to have found a couple of views which suit him and which he therefore repeatedly champions (in a remarkably similar manner to the way he claims the "humanists" champion what he challenges), holding up the authors he quotes as gospel, and because he attacks so often with assertion rather than argument, the overall impression is of rhetoric, even sophistry - or some pretty darn specious arguments, anyway.

Worth a read, if only to get you thinking clearly about how muddled Gray has managed to make his own moments of clarity.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 14, 2013 6:10 PM GMT

Dealing With It
Dealing With It
Price: £30.74

5.0 out of 5 stars D.R.I. at the top of their game., 29 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Dealing With It (Audio CD)
This is the apex of D.R.I.'s output. Just that little bit of polish to give it a bit of sheen and raise it above the previous attempts, still raw and furious enough to get the vehemence and the anger over, it even grants glimpses of something more evolved in "Snap" and "Nursing Home Blues", before the onset of "Crossover" grunge.

This album doesn't seem to be so widely released or hailed as some of the other ones, but in my book this sums up what D.R.I. were about, and flies the flag for the whole scene. Get it.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, meaningful experiments, 21 Mar. 2003
This differs from other Murakami works I've read in that the protagonist "I" - both in the "real" world and the other - actually tries to comprehend why it is (or how it can be) that such strange events are happening to him, rather than accepting them at face value and limiting his responses to working his way logically through the steps he needs to take to address the situation. Conversely the recounting of his grim acceptance of the fait accompli presented to him in this world combined with the enforced attempt to fight the situation in the other present a meditation on fate, choice, power and meaning.
The counterpoint between stoic recognition and vehement resistance represented by the intersection of the worlds and between his singular (this) and dual (other) existences builds a palpable tension and a suspense remarkable for prose which, although narrating a different vista of activity from other Murakami works, is still elegantly controlled, subtle, and delicate. On a number of occasions it makes playful use of linguistic devices which may appear crass or clumsy in other milieux, yet which here simply made me smile at the author's technical capacity and frankly stunning audacity in combining contemporary, counter- and high culture. He peppers the text with casual brilliance, with such panache that I wanted to applaud. I feel bound to draw attention to what I feel, although I don't know Japanese, must be a triumph of translation.
Above all else this is perhaps the most moving I've read of Murakami's works; it consistently touches the "other" that the best of his words do in a more detailed and explicit way, until the resolution leaves myriad explanations possible both tragic and beautiful. It's a stunning, elegiac, powerful piece of writing. My head has been swimming with it all day.

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