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A. McBride "ArtFiend" (Dublin, Ireland)

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The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up
The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up
by Bo Burlingham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Readable Overview of Core Business Fundamentals, 27 Feb. 2013
To me this book is really about the 80/20 of business. Those few core elements that if you get right then you're running a fundamentally sound business, equally if you don't, no matter what you do you're in trouble.

Many small business owners get stuck in what Perry Marshall called 'bright, shiny object syndrome', where you're always reaching for new distractions that you think will boost your business, without doing the simple things right. Norm Brodsky brings you through those simple things in a very easily readable narrative, focusing on case studies of his own successes and failures as well as those of the people who he gave advice through the years. It's about the importance of key numbers in your business, but also equally the psychology behind your decisions and actions.

He's quite up front about his own failures and character flaws, and writes in a warm, relaxed and confident tone of a man who's been there and done that and has little to prove, least of all to himself. It makes for easy reading, but there's value in there.

Seemingly this book sprang from a popular column in Inc Magazine, but thankfully it doesn't feel like a couple of dozen articles stretched over 250 pages, a trap some fall into. In fact he neatly slides excerpts from his 'Ask Norm' column into relevant case studies. He's very balanced, broad and empathetic in his descriptions and analysis of himself, his competitors and those he gave advice to.

To conclude each chapter he does a little bullet point reminder of principles he's just explored. Some might find this a little over-simplistic but for me it was a welcome addition. It might have benefited further by expanding that to explicit actionable tasks to analyse one's own business. Maybe that would be asking too much.

To sum up, it was an enjoyable read, and I still managed to gain insights in spite of already having read dozens of business books. Get it, it's well worth the price!

Audio-Technica Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone
Audio-Technica Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone
Offered by GearTrex
Price: £135.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended to me by a Pro, 25 April 2011
I was talking with a friend of a friend, who's an professional voice over artist. He's one of these guys who you instantly recognise his voice and your not sure from where. He does lots of the "All Rock Radio, all day, all rock" and movie trailers, all in deep powerful voice.

At the time I needed a good mic for some recording, so this was the guy to ask.

"What mic do you use, and then what's 90% as good but a hell of a lot cheaper?"

The answer was this, that he usually uses one that costs about $10k, but this one the Audio Technica AT2020 is outstanding quality for the price and perfectly fine for general use.

Was good enough for me, and has proven over the last 2 weeks to be excellent, clear, crisp sound but nicely localised.

Thoroughly recommended!

The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume
The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume
by Josh Kaufman
Edition: Paperback

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essence of the MBA Course, 3 Mar. 2011
This book isn't as negative as you might think toward the MBA, it just asks a question. It sits on the new wave of thinking coming particularly from the US, where there is a growing awareness between of the difference between 'knowledge' and 'education'. Do you need the knowledge and core concepts for new perspectives and practical application, or do you need the accreditation on your CV? This makes sense as the American 3rd level education system is often on the scale of getting a mortgage.

Through all it's short chapters, the book sums up the core ideas and principles in an MBA course. From the dozens of great reviews at the start of the book, lots of people with MBA's found large amounts of useful informations and insights from it too.

I don't think this is going to put off that many people who are adamant about doing an MBA nor should it. But for those who don't really need the accreditation or want to take the time off work, this is an outstanding round up and clarification of the core principles to be aware of.

At present I'm building a new business. This book has helped me better analyse and then improve many facets of our product, our offer and how we go about delivering both. So for me, it has been practically applied.

Also I've bought this for a friend beginning to learn about starting and running a business, as it's an excellent grounding in all the facets and areas of planning, running and improving an enterprise.

Definitely worth buying and regularly dipping back into!

The Star Principle: How it can make you rich
The Star Principle: How it can make you rich
by Richard Koch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 80/20 of Investing, 3 Mar. 2011
Having read Richard Koch's much admired earlier book, the 80/20 Principle, I was quite intrigued to read a follow up. To substantial surprise it informs us he's made over £100 million from his 'Star' investments; something he never mentioned in his earlier book, but most certainly makes his opinion that bit more worthwhile to listen to. It's usually better advice on how to make good investments from a guy worth £100 million than a guy who is not.

It's written more as a biography with a wealth of business and investment experience, insights and advice rather than a step by step 'how to' styled or overly formula laden, dry business book. Although this format from successful entrepreneur types can get a little tiresome, this one keeps its head above water by not being too indulgent in his ego, in fact it's probably the opposite. He discusses his mistakes with as much insight as his successes, and the lessons he learnt from both.

Through the different chapters he enlightens the reader more and more through his case studies in his own career, brands such as Betfair, Belgo's, FiloFax, Plymouth Gin and others, so you get a clear idea that all of his statements aren't just abstract philosophies or impressions but a principle he's tested and seen succeed.

So what is the Star Principle? It's really the 80/20 of investing. The 80/20 in it's essence states that 80% of outputs come from only 20% of inputs. Here Richard Koch believes he's isolated the small number of inputs and factors necessary to produce a star business; a business which is top performer in a rapidly growing niche. It's quite simple, but it is insightful.

While sifting through different projects and businesses to invest my time and effort in, this book has recently proved to be a highly useful tool to add to many other methods of analysing which projects to go ahead with and which to put on the shelf.

The tone is light, warm and novel-like, so you can fly through it in a few hours. Well worth a read!

Flip Video Ultra High Definition Camcorder With 8GB Memory - Black
Flip Video Ultra High Definition Camcorder With 8GB Memory - Black

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flip Video Ultra High Definition Camcorder 8Gb Review, 25 Mar. 2010
The Flip HD is a remarkable gadget, and this comes from a guy who usually doesn't care much for gadgets.

But to be blunt about it, you have to know what your need is for the Flip to be a good fit for you. If you're big into your video and like to play with all the fancy extras on a regular camcorder then you will be frustrated and disappointed with the flip. If you think of yourself as the next Scorsese you may well not like it. It has very few if any of the additional elements that most seasoned video users might enjoy or require. For me, this is the reason for some of the more negative feedback you may have come across.

Here's the downside (and I'm being as honest as I can here!):

- There's only a basic zoom.
- There's no external audio jack
- You can't plug it in, so you're solely based on battery power (though the batteries are rechargeable)
- The rechargeable batteries charge through USB, so take several times longer than rechargeable battery sets you plug into the wall
- You limited to only 2hrs shooting time (or less due to the batteries) & you can't record onto anything else

Now that's the negatives mostly out of the way. Going back to my earlier point about knowing what your need is.
For me, I needed a basic entry level video camera to practice the basics of shooting film before adding increasingly more options and complications. But it also needed to have good resolution and have the film easily uploadable to my laptop. It needed to be light and easily transportable without even needing another bag or carry case and lastly it had to be a very competitive price. For all of these purposes the Flip is pretty much ideal.

Positive Points:

- It's very light; not much more than a cell phone
- It's very small; you don't need a separate carry case or camera bag, so you can just leave it in your coat.
- It's so simple to use; you don't even need instructions, highly instinctive design where everything is pulled right back to the absolute basic essentials.
- The ease of upload is ingeniously straight forward; the flip arm swings out, you plug it in, and your away.
- The resolution and image quality is excellent; even in fairly poor lighting the image quality is far better than many of the more expensive camcorders i've seen.
- The Video Arranging Software on your Computer: Again very simple and basic editing, but designed for one click upload to the web, including youtube and facebook.

For the same price but with half the memory and half the width you can get the Mino, but that seems to have a more uneven response.

To Sum Up:

The Flip HD Ultra 8gb Camcorder can prove a little gem, for those wanting an inexpensive way to explore making their own video as well as more experienced film makers who want a highly light and transportable option for research or staging shots.

Hope those thoughts and impressions might be of some use to you!

Emergency: One man's story of a dangerous world, and how to stay alive in it
Emergency: One man's story of a dangerous world, and how to stay alive in it
by Neil Strauss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.60

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Entertaining Line between Humour & Paranoia, 23 July 2009
This book came to me from a recommendation from Tim Ferriss' blog, whose previous suggestions have been well worth while.

It's not fiction and in many ways all the more interesting because of it. As he says in the chapter "Tips on Death Cult Etiquette",

"The great thing about real life is that it will always surprise you. Nothing ever turns out the way you expect. I suppose that's why I write nonfiction. If this were a movie, the organization would already have traced my number, bugged my phone and kidnapped my brother. Instead I was being transferred to the publicist and media relations executive for a death cult".

The paragraph above sets the tone and the style of the book and all the odd, weird and sometimes quite wonderful characters and experiences he encounters. His paranoia and awakening of sorts, is sparked by 911 and compounded incidents particularly anarchy of natural disasters such as in New Orleans and the ineffective assistance of government agencies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The more he goes into it, as a European, it comes across as yank extreme paranoia, yet it's stated with such clarity and with genuine real world examples that there are things to worry about that he wins the very normal reader over to such thinking to a certain extent.

You don't fully agree with him, but you don't think him a total nut job either, especially compared to most of the individuals he learns from. It's in these interactions and his thoughts on them that much of the humour is found, he's usually to the point, blunt but never cruel. But his basic idea of being more self-reliant can only be a sound one.

It's one man's journey through the realisation of being utterly unselfreliant and lacking real independence and necessary skills to becoming the opposite. On the way he goes from blatantly self centred, everyone is out to get me, to being far more community minded and once i've taken care of me and mine then i'll help my fellow man perspective. It's also a reconnection with the basics, what's truly important to him and what's just fluff. In his learnings and realistations of the actual risks to him, his health and safety, he's comes out more grounded and centred, informed and basically decent individual.

The comic style tutorials are quite well done; two pages ever few chapters seem plucked out of a cross between an anarchists manual and a dark, apocalyptic graphic novel.

Overall well worth a read, his prose flows off the page and you can happily lose hours in it. I'm sure this book could be taken in all sorts of ways depending on the perspective of the person picking it up. But it was insightful, thought provoking in it's general thesis, with both memorable, eccentric and oddball characters who yet are believable. It's consistantly amusing and entertaining throughout.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 18
Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 18
by Rosamund Kidman Cox
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!, 13 Mar. 2009
This latest volume of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year stands up to the previous versions very well. The explanation and outline of each of the categories lends insight into why each photograph was chosen and indicates which way they should be approached. Often there's a far greater gap between high grade photo prints and the image in a published book. Having seen the exhibition in the Natural History Museum in London, excellently displayed in back-lit light boxes, I was pleased with the quality resolution in this publication. It made an superb gift for both a nature and photography enthusiast.

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