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C. Nation "chrisnation" (Bristol UK)
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You and Your Jeep Cherokee: Buying, Enjoying, Maintaining, Modifying (You & Your)
You and Your Jeep Cherokee: Buying, Enjoying, Maintaining, Modifying (You & Your)
by Dave Pollard
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A excellent historical review. Lightweight on practical matters, 7 April 2010
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The review of the origins & history of the Jeep brand is excellent. There then follows a review of the various models in pretty much all their incarnations and variants. The final chapter features one-offs and specials - some suitably bizarre. The photographs are all excellent.

I suppose the publisher set a limit to the size of the book, so the treatment of practical matters relating to each model is necessarily restricted. It is not, after all, intended as a workshop manual.

But I was hoping for more than I got on the Cherokee [XJ] but there was one item that was immediately relevent and valuable - the XJ's front hubs inevitably go west and replacement is "disproportionately costly". As mine were making tell-tale clonking noises, this one phrase set me on the trail of a more economical way to get the job done than putting it in the hands of Chrysler Jeep, whose quote was eyewatering.

A combination of that well-know auction site and a decent local garage saved me hundreds of pounds, so despite the lightweight coverage of maintenance/repair issues, this book paid for itself in spades.

Thus it can be thoroughly recommended because there may be another phrase in the book that does the same trick for you.


Shop4accessories Black Silicone Skin Tough Rubber Case for the Nokia E61
Shop4accessories Black Silicone Skin Tough Rubber Case for the Nokia E61

5.0 out of 5 stars Whyever would you not fit one?, 20 Feb 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I had to sell two Nokia E61s because for some reason they became terminally incapable of allowing the reinstallation of Tom Tom Navigator 6 GPS s/ware. When I put them up on that auction site, I noted that other E61s were described as "some scratches on corners and back - usual wear and tear."

Usual wear and tear? Sorry, but my two lived from Day 1 in these silicone skins and had no scratches or wear & tear at all. These skins protect from bumps and abrasion, they grip like mad on slippery surfaces like car dashboards, preventing the thing sliding off well past the point where a naked phone would have been whizzing off and rattling round the footwell, getting thouroughly duffed up.

My two new E61s have two new skins [and T/T installed and works!] my E71 wears one, too. So does my Canon point-&-shoot & my Nikon D60. These skins are the most brilliant invention for small portable gizmos.

Banish "normal wear & tear" - fit a skin on it!


Winter in Madrid
Winter in Madrid
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor stuff, 20 Feb 2010
This review is from: Winter in Madrid (Paperback)
The mention of Zafon and Sebastian Faulks is indeed a typical publisher's meaningless attempt to link this book with two other well-received books. Zafron because set in Spain, Faulks because set in WW2 ["Charlotte Grey" - hardly a very good recommendation, either]. So what? How about linking it to "don Quixote" & "The Cruel Sea"? One set in Spain, the other WW2 - must be brilliant.

Actually, it's tedious. Poor writing, turgid plot-line, 2-D characters ... I'm up for anything well written about WW1 & WW2 - or even not-so-well-written but well researched and illuminating of the period & events. It's all grist to the mill in my job as a battlefield guide.

But this book falls down on all fronts. There is a vast canon of literature covering the military history of '14-'18 & '39-'45. Even some of the non-fiction ones are not worth the read, so fiction has to be of a very high standard to make it worth the effort and time. This book simply fails to engage, interest or inform.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 16, 2010 12:19 PM BST


Stories from Spain: Historias de España (Side by Side Bilingual Books)
Stories from Spain: Historias de España (Side by Side Bilingual Books)
by Genevieve Barlow
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good - but they've missed a trick, 15 Feb 2010
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The parallel texts are effective and one can live with the the stories being, as folk-tales often tend to be, more suitable for the pre-Harry Potter age range. I had the same problem with The Mabanogion - endless princesses, knights and castles, all of whom are the most beautiful, the bravest and the most magnificent, respectively, in every story.

But the principle is sound and I can tell you that it works both ways. I have a Valenciano lodger and they work for him as well as me.

The trick that I reckon they have missed is one I am in process of remedying right now. I am making mp3 audio recordings of the English text and mi amigo will make recordings of the Spanish text. This way, we can listen whilst following the other language text, with the opportunity to cross-reference back to our own-language text whenever we need.

I believe will this will be a real asset in developing comprehension, which for most people lags way behind translation.

So, 5* awaits the publisher adding a CD or SD card of mp3s to the book, with English and Spanish readings of the texts.

A more grown-up version of the parallel text idea exists in a magazine called Babylon. It seems to be a freebie, supported by a modest amount of ads from heavyweights like RENFE and BBVA. It has the sort of cultural features and articles you find in a quality in-flight magazine or Sunday colour supp. Even readers' letters are in parallel text. I picked up a copy at Garcia's deli on Portobello Rd, Notting Hill.


Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris
Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris
by John Keegan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.25

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine contribution to the 'Overlord' canon., 18 Jan 2010
I have led 6 tours to the Normandy beaches and visited the area numerous times for my own interest. The tour company I now work for has added Normandy to its battlefield tours, so material which will assist me enhance my grasp of the Liberation camapign is right up at the top of my shopping list.

Keegan's book is a fine contribution to the canon of literature on the subject. I particularly like his m.o. of picking out individuals and national forces and describing in detail their contribution to the camapign and their place in the whole picture, in a chronological order that runs from the landings to the liberation of Paris. An approach like this is very valuable, to be set alongside accounts which take a more overall, broad-brush view. I think his treatment works extremely well.

I was disappointed not to find an account of the left wing of the invasion, particularly of 1 Para at Pegasus Bridge, to match the account of the US paras' action on the right wing.

Like another reviewer, I find his prose over-rich: far to many redundent 'howevers', far to many sentences constructed of tortuous conditional clauses. It does not make for a fluid, easy read. One of the things I find truly admirable in the modern British soldier is the concision, economy but fluency of their verbal delivery. I'd bet that this is the same with their written work, too. It is a pity that Keegan's prose lacks this tautness, which is particularly appropriate for military matters. A thorough clean-up by an editor would have helped a great deal.

It is also a surprise to find that, although the Pimlico edition was written in 1992, the epilogue, which treats briefly of the situation in western Europe as it developed from the end of WW2 to the stand-off of the Cold War, has not been updated by mention of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the movement of the eastern boundary of 'The West' substantially eastwards, to include Poland, Hungary and the other previously Soviet satellite states. After all, the position of national boundaries that exists now is the resolution [hopefully permanent] of major European conflicts that ran almost seamlessly from 1870-71 to 1989 and include the campaign described so well in this book.


Sony RDRGX350B DVD Recorder
Sony RDRGX350B DVD Recorder

3.0 out of 5 stars A no-score draw., 30 Nov 2009
I'm not stupid. I'm not a technophobe. I love gizmos of all sorts and buy them frequently. But this machine turned out to be a gizmo too far. I never made a single successful recording from broadcast TV [the principle reason I bought it]

The reason being that the instruction manual was so convoluted and badly expressed that I was entirely defeated in my attempts to work out what to do and how to do it. OK. So sue me.

This machine is now superceded by a new model. I'm sure this model and the new one are wonderful bits of Sony hardware. But what most of the manufacturers of electronics need is not new models but new manuals. None of these consumer electronics manuals should be printed until a panel of a dozen Joe and Jane Public can successfully and without too much head-scratching carry out most of the operations described in the text. Manuals are written by techies. They should be written by us, the people who have to use them.

I've just sold the Sony. I've bought an LG instead. All the reviews on Amazon and in the press wax lyrical on how easy it is to use. But they would say that, wouldn't they? Esperamos mejor.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2009 6:16 PM GMT


Sunoptic OR23A Gold Reading Glasses - Strength +2.00 Including Pouch
Sunoptic OR23A Gold Reading Glasses - Strength +2.00 Including Pouch
Price: £4.86

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I can see!, 19 Nov 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
They're very cheap. I can see to read. What more can one want? Not 24 quids' worth of same from Boots, for sure.

And an update, in response to the other review which claims they are fragile, I just broke an arm off my pair - 2 years to the week after wearing them every day, suspended from a dangler, getting them caught on the seatbelt in the car, generally mistreating them shamefully in a way I would never dream of with expensive prescription specs

I'm on Amazon now to buy some more.


Silverline 273193 Drain Rod Set 12-Piece
Silverline 273193 Drain Rod Set 12-Piece
Price: £14.98

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every house needs a set of these, 30 Oct 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I say "needs a set of these". My purchase from Amazon was my second set. My rodding gully is at the back of the house, runs under the back yard, under the house and falls into the main sewer a car's width short of the kerb on the far side of the road. It was gratifying to find that with two sets, almost 20m of rods, coupled up, there was no tendency to fold up when the obstruction was reached.

The half-round drop flap is useful for clearing gutters as well as dragging obstructions in drains towards you.

Here's a hint on getting the first rod to bend into a drain from an access gully if there is a lip to the drain that prevents the rod end sliding into the drain.

With the double helix end-fitting screwed in, pass a length of strong cord through the helix. With both ends of the cord in one hand, offer up the rod to the point where it catches on the lip that prevents it sliding into the drain. Bear down on the rod to get a good bend on it and with a stout heave on the cord, lift the end of the rod so that the screw pops off the lip. The screw will shoot forward into the drain under pressure from the bend you have maintained. Now release one end of the cord and pull the cord back to you, clear of the screw. You don't want to add to your problems by sending a couple of metres of cord down the drain tangled into the screw! This process would be much easier with two people but that's how to manage if you are on your tod.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 2, 2014 9:18 PM GMT


Riding The Retreat: Mons to the Marne 1914 Revisited
Riding The Retreat: Mons to the Marne 1914 Revisited
by Richard Holmes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "As the champagne flowed...", 30 Sep 2009
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I'll read this book again because the account of the retreat from Mons in the opening months of The Great War is excellent and deserves further study if, as I am, one is in the process of becoming a battlefields guide. Despite this book not being intended as an exhaustive account of the period August-September 1914, it is a very good primer for the retreat - in fact it's probably detailed enough for the majority of readers with a general interest in WW1. As usual with Richard Holmes, he adds colour to the picture with descriptions of earlier conflicts and events associated with the terrain he's traversing, from Roman times, through The Knights Templar to Marlborough & Wellington's campaigns.

One thing surprised me. In the preface to this 2007 edition he acknowledges ["mea maxima culpa"] the grave error of attributing the storming of Le Quesnoy to the Canadians rather than the Kiwis but the error is uncorrected in the text. If you know the setting for the 'escalade' and how the Kiwis managed it, you might well imagine Kiwis sticking pins into a wax model of the author, to this day.

Sadly, one thing that did not surprise me, because I find it all to prevelent in books of military history, where clear mapping is vital, was the poor quality of the maps. I'll wager that the originals have been substantially reduced down to fit the page and thus have become cramped and, in some cases, well nigh illegible. Place names and names of combat units are in an attractive but wholly unsuitable calligraphic script. The map of 'Mons. 23rd August 1914' looks like a spider's web that has been sprayed with ink - and then walked over by the spider. These maps are by Elizabeth Holmes.

Prof Holmes could do with some tuition in photography, too. The pix of his party on the trip are woeful. The great war photographer Robert Capa famously said, "If your pictures are not good enough, you're not close enough." He was talking about battlefield reportage but the maxim holds good for everyone else, too.

One of the things I'll be looking out for and making a note of - just for fun, rather than in pursuit of widening my own knowlwdge of WW1 - is how many times the phrase "as the champagne flowed.." occurs in this book.

I mention this because there is sizeable element of "what we did on our holidays" in Holmes's narrative. It's true to say that the account of the journey Holmes and his saddle-mates undertook is part of the story but I was just a tad uncomfortable with the extent of the quotidien details - the endless fettling required to keep a horse roadworthy, what he had for dinner, from aperitif to eau-de-vie and cigars, at various restaurants and gracious chateaux and country estates along the way. Despite being in the land of Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre, there are repeated mentions of "Syvaner", clearly a Holmes favourite [at the time], which surprised me because it is the principle grape of the notorious Liebfraumilch, of which the less drunk the better.

Talking of drunk, there were also an alarming number of occasions on which the brigadier [as he now is] could not remember going to bed/who drove home/whether he was talking nonsense all night, followed by an equal number of regrettable hangovers next morning.

As for the horses - Holmes and pals definitely did it the hard way. Holmes's horse is terrified of dustbins and plastic bags caught in hedges. A gust of wind in trees makes one of the horses spook, rip the top rail off a fence and escape, dragging the rail with it accompanied by Holmes's horse, which was also tethered to the same rail. On another occasion the same horse ran off with a sizable stable door in tow. Another horse spooked in the roadway, threw its rider and pitched itself upside down into a ditch where it thrashed about on its back with its legs in the air. As Holmes so rightly says, "there's no fathoming the equine mind."

However, the account of the BEF's fighting march south is classic Holmes, full of strategic, tactical and personal detail. I've always found Holmes's writing shot through with compassion and sympathy when describing individuals in the actions he describes and this gives his account a generous humanity, whether dealing with the British or the German troops.

I've been poking a little fun at Prof Holmes's account of his ride through Belgium and France because it was on many occasions an equine version of "Three Men In A Boat" but there's no mistaking the quality and solidity of the military history in this eminently enjoyable book.


Toshiba NB200-10z 10.1-inch Netbook (Atom N280 1.66 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB HDD, Windows XP Home, Brown)
Toshiba NB200-10z 10.1-inch Netbook (Atom N280 1.66 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB HDD, Windows XP Home, Brown)

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laptop liberation is here!, 5 Sep 2009
Toshiba has been working towards an effective replacement for the laptop for some years. There was a dinky little thing called the Libretto, about the size of a DVD case, back around '00. The technology then was not good enough for it to be a serious contender to replace a laptop but now we can leave laptops on our desks because we have the netbbook. The future of portable computing is here and it works. The Tosh NB200 is about as good as it gets, in my view.

I have the 10z, the brown stripey one with Bluetooth. Weird finish but not objectionable. I was talking to one of Tosh's marketing blokes the other day and pointed out to him that no-one ever got sacked for suggesting black as the default finish to a laptop/netbook. He agreed and could not explain why the 10z comes only in this '70s nightclub retro finish.

As a computer to work with, as opposed to play with, it ticks all the boxes. For those of us who just want to write, surf, e-mail, book-keep, do basic photo capture, archiving and so on, the NB200 seems perfect. Gamers need all that CPU & graphics horsepower, so must look elsewhere.

I'm not a touch-typist but the calculator-style keys don't upset me: the size of the keyboard is impressive. Battery life is excellent. Wireless internet is pretty much auto-instal. The USB ports each produce enough juice to run a DVD writer using just one lead, not the Y-connector to two ports that some machines need in order to feed enough power to the DVD.

The one thing I don't like, have not made friends with, is the touchpad. I find it frequently 'sticks', is not consistent in travel or pressure. I realise this may be the way I use it but the fact is that the way I use it is the way I want to use it and it doesn't work for me. I'm used to a pen and tablet and have bought a 2nd hand Graphire 2 to use instead of the touchpad. The Graphire comes with a cordless mouse, as well, so all in all, far superior to the touchpad.

I've also bought an LG DVD writer. It's essential to add one of these drives to your NB200 setup and the LG is ace.

The incredible thing about this stuff is that the NB200, the LG and the tablet all fit in a neoprene sleeve designed to take the slightly smaller Samsung NC10 size of netbook! This is true portability. I have invented my own definition of what a netbook is and what a laptop is. A laptop needs its own carry-case. There may be other pocket to stash things but even without those things, the l/top has to have a carry case of its own. A netbook - in a sleeve - can live in a briefcase or shoulder bag, along with all the other things one might want to carry about. The NB200 is definitely one anybody would want to take on the road.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2010 7:52 PM GMT


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