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Dr. G. Garrard "doktorgreg" (Bath, UK)
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Velo: Bicycle Culture and Design
Velo: Bicycle Culture and Design
by Robert Klanten
Edition: Paperback
Price: 27.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fixated on fixies!, 17 Sep 2013
As other reviewers have said, this is very much a coffee table book: lots of great photos and quite a few interesting examples of illustrations, graphic designs and artworks inspired by or incorporating bikes. Nothing detailed or technical - but that's not what you'd expect from this kind of book. Where there are longer bits of text, they're printed in horrible red ink that's unnecessarily hard to read, but they do help to capture the subversive, obsessive, uber-stylish side of urban cycling. I'm all for Copenhagenizing every city in the world.

There are some intriguing glimpses of global cycling cultures, too, like the BMXs from Queens in NYC mounted with massive rigs, and the bamboo bikes some philanthropists are trying to popularise in Ghana. For the most part, though, 'bicycle culture' means the Copenhagen vibe of northern European cities - women cycling gangs of kids to school using big cargo bikes - plus the NYC/London/Toronto/Shanghai fixie scene. In fact, I noticed there was nary a sign of a road bike with gears til page 100! And hardly a hint of BMX, cyclocross, audax or sportive culture.

Basically it's a book by cycling hipsters for cycling hipsters. Brands like Rapha and Brooks are so fawningly represented some pages look like (are) basically advertising spreads, while the big manufacturers like Trek, Scott, Dawes, Specialized etc. aren't represented at all. Even so, the emphasis on artisan producers - Italian or Oregonian, primarily - rather than mass production is fair enough.

So if you ride a fixie with flat bars six inches wide and no brakes wearing plimsolls, corkscrew trousers, a tweed jacket, a crazed expression and some elaborate kind of facial hair... you're probably in the book! If, like millions of cyclists, you think frames don't HAVE to be made of steel, gears and brakes are pretty cool inventions, and lycra gear is comfy and non-sweaty... buy the book and see how the other half (or quarter, or fifth) lives.


APPLE 45W MAGSAFE POWER ADAPTER-GBR
APPLE 45W MAGSAFE POWER ADAPTER-GBR
Offered by Elec_Sale
Price: 36.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Get It Right!, 9 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It seems that this company aren't clear whether they're shipping UK or EU versions of the adaptor, as some customers get the former and some the latter. Random shipping is not good business. I got the EU two pin one, and would've sent it back only I had a spare UK plug to put on it. So unless you're happy to take pot luck, avoid this outfit!


No Title Available

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Miniscule tights, 13 Dec 2011
Based on the other reviewer's advice, I got a pair in Large - I'm 5'10" with a 32" waist. However, they were so short and tight I could barely get them on. The fabric felt horrible and unforgiving too. I was in a hurry so stupidly wore them anyway (thus could not return them), and regretted it the whole way. The back kept being pulled down, exposing the small of my back to the elements, and the legs were so tight they actually affected my cycling. I guess they are pretty cheap, though, and could be ok if you order them two sizes bigger than you require.


As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories (New Canadian Library)
As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories (New Canadian Library)

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly crafted stories, 5 July 2011
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Macleod is a justly celebrated writer in Canada, but seemingly little known outside it. His landscape is the harsh and dramatic coastline of Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, and his characters are predominantly working men. As well as a deep respect for Macleod's own powers as a writer, I came away from this collection with a renewed sense of awe at the lives our ancestors had to struggle through. Even as recently as the 1960s, Macleod's Cape Breton miners are dying in far-flung corners of the world, leaving the survivors to bring the shattered bodies home.

Alongside the demanding realities of labour, though, Macleod juxtaposes the vivid mental life of myth and story. So, for instance, the title alludes to an ancient belief that birds bring forth the sun, which features in a haunting legend of a huge dog, the 'cu mor glas', and the rough, kind man whose love for her was his doom. Somehow Macleod persuades you that the songs and superstitions of the Cape Breton people are just as tangible as the rocks and seas. His prose is superbly well-judged throughout, flecked with lyricism but essentially clear and muscular, and the stories reverberate in your mind for days afterwards.


Cat Tracks
Cat Tracks
by Gordon Aalborg
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.35

1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadfully bad writing, 5 July 2011
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This review is from: Cat Tracks (Paperback)
Unlike the other reviewer, I rather liked the unsentimental approach Aalborg took. After all, most animal books are demoted to children's lit even before they're published, so it was nice to start reading something that tried to take the experience of animals seriously and without excessive anthropomorphism. The whole idea of 'ferality' is interesting, too, as it raises the question of what 'domestication' really is, and who does it to whom.

What a pity, then, that it's absolutely atrociously written. It reads like the output of an undergraduate creative writer, and if it is then...I'm quite impressed. But I don't want to read that stuff in my spare time. When the prose isn't lumpen, it's ludicrous. I always finish books, but I couldn't finish this very short one, it's just too awful.


Prodigal Summer
Prodigal Summer
by Barbara Kingsolver
Edition: Paperback

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Writing by Numbers, 5 July 2011
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This review is from: Prodigal Summer (Paperback)
Kingsolver knows how to put a sentence together, and her heart is absolutely in the right place. She is in favour of everything that, in my view, conduces to both human and ecological health: a rational approach to farming and game management; free sexual expression; gender equality; you name it. But those good intentions are precisely the problem. Every character has to stand for something, and although they still manage to persuade as 'possible human beings' (ie rounded characters) their function in resolving the plot to good moral effect is just too transparent. I found myself wishing the sweet, ornery old lady would get run over by an artic, or that the earthy, maturely-sexy game warden would sneak off for a McDonalds. I'm basically an embarrassingly ingenuous reader, but even I knew exactly how it would end by about half way through.

And those well-crafted sentences start to irritate after a while, too. They're just too lush, too perfectly lyrical. An irruption of Irvine Welsh comes to seem welcome after a few hundred pages of humming bees, vivid colours and drifting woodsmoke. So if you think you'd like an extremely skilled but relentlessly right-on novel - knock yourself out! But if you prefer to encounter something 'other', something recalcitrant that slaps your assumptions about a bit, look elsewhere.


The Rational Optimist
The Rational Optimist
by Matt Ridley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rational, but a little too optimistic, 5 July 2011
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This review is from: The Rational Optimist (Paperback)
Like many other reviewers, I'm a fan of Ridley's books, which are justly admired for their scrupulously well-informed and lively approach to science writing. I'm afraid, though, 'The Rational Optimist' is not one of his best. On one level, his confidence in Enlightenment values is refreshing and worthwhile, if only to keep at bay any notion that HUMAN welfare is not immeasurably better for wealthy people in the early 21st century than even the lifestyle of the Sun King in the 18th. I agree: I am one of the most fortunate people in the history of the world, and I'm more or less convinced by Ridley's account of how cooperation, specialisation and institutions of organised trust got us here. Over and over, he marshalls impressive statistics and examples in support of the cornucopian view that has been proposed by predecessors like Julian Simon, Wilfred Beckermann and Bjorn Lomborg. Even the appalling poverty that blights the Global South is less bad, statistically, than it was fifty years ago (not counting countries perpetually ravaged by war), and there's every reason to expect those trends to continue. Where his account takes us further than the others in its idea that capitalist markets mainly produce trust and cooperation, not Gordon Gecko-like rapaciousness.

So far, so good. But in common with other cornucopian thinkers (most of them economists), Ridley is much less convincing when he tries to argue that the non-human environment will also be 'much better off' in a hundred years. It is true that many dire ecological scenarios of the 60s and 70s failed to come about, but that was *because* of environmentalist 'alarmism' (at least in some cases). Ridley and others mislead when they imply that the invisible hand of the market delivers ecological benefits in the absence of rigorous legislative action driven by an anxious democratic citizenry. In other words, there need to be *some* environmental pessimists for the future they predict to be averted! There is no doubt that markets and the ingenuity they unleash are vital if environmental crises are to be addressed effectively, but it is plain daft to suggest that they will do so of their own accord. So: an enjoyable and encouraging read, but not terribly original and unnecessarily jeering in its assessment of anyone who questions the impact of human progress on all the other creatures on the planet.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 31, 2011 1:25 PM BST


The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth
The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth
by John Kricher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced Appraisal, 5 July 2011
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Ecology is an oddity among sciences. On one hand, it is called upon to help adjudicate some of the toughest decisions in social and scientific policy. On the other, it's distinctly lacking in what philosophers call 'nomicity', or 'lawfulness' (roughly). As a result, every supposedly 'ecological' nostrum turns out either to be unusably general ('everything is connected to everything else') or else intriguingly specific but not always and everywhere true ('biodiversity supports ecosystem stability'). So although there is a big and well-served market for popular science books in some fields in biology - notably evolution - there are few texts in ecology that fall in between the forbiddingly technical and 'Ecology for Beginners'-type stuff.

Kricher has attempted to write just such a book, and in the process perhaps inadvertently shows why it's always going to be a hard sell. It veers between accessible accounts of real ecological research, which are fascinating in their own right, and rather shallow commentary on issues the author clearly knows only a little bit about. The former are rendered in science-speak, more or less ('A team from Minnesota studied 24 quadrats of prairie grassland sown with...'), while the latter has a forced chumminess about it that grates at times ('John Locke - how anthropocentric was he?!'). The actual ecology takes up about half the book, I'd say, which was not enough for this reader, though perhaps others would welcome the leavening of historical and philosophical material. Its argument is that, as the title indicates, the idea of a 'balance of nature' (read: climax ecosystem, biodiversity=stability, etc) is a myth that prevents us appreciating the full complexity and contingency of environmental change. In truth, the point could easily have been made much more economically, but it's accomplished persuasively enough here, and the examples from ecology are both accessible and interesting. Daniel Botkin's 'Discordant Harmonies', though, did a much better job.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 6, 2011 6:24 PM BST


No Title Available

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decidedly snug, 1 April 2011
These shorts are excellent value for money, with a tidy padded bit to prevent pressure on the undercarriage. But don't believe they're oversized - not at all. I got a 30-32" because another review warned that the sizing was big, and it ain't. If anything, it's on the small size, though not dramatically so.


No Title Available

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Huge and a bit baffling, 16 Feb 2011
I bought these boots for a trip to Sweden. At 20 (sale price) they seem a very good deal: all fleecy lined, fluffy topped and chunky. BUT be warned: the sizing is HUGE! The size 9s I got had about 2 inches clear at the end of my toes. And they have an elastic lace at the front that is, well, confusing. You can't actually do it up, or make it tighter. Presumably the idea is that you can shove thick snow trousers into them without fiddling with laces. Ordinary trousers, though, just flap about inside.

So buy them if you have enormous feet, thick trousers and are not easily confused.


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