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Reviews Written by
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France)
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Melkco Extreme Traveller Case For Ipad Mini or 7'' Tablets Black
Melkco Extreme Traveller Case For Ipad Mini or 7'' Tablets Black
Offered by UKeyyUK
Price: £27.00

3.0 out of 5 stars second rate, 19 April 2016
I was disappointed with the quality of this case. It will certainly protect your ipad, but it looks and feels cheaply made.


6 Rolls 48MM x 66M Clear Packaging Tape for Parcels and Boxes from Packatape. This 6 roll pack of Heavy Duty Clear Packing Tape Provides a Strong, Secure and Sticky Seal for your Boxes. Reliability is assured.
6 Rolls 48MM x 66M Clear Packaging Tape for Parcels and Boxes from Packatape. This 6 roll pack of Heavy Duty Clear Packing Tape Provides a Strong, Secure and Sticky Seal for your Boxes. Reliability is assured.
Offered by Sensani Group
Price: £14.88

3.0 out of 5 stars Good product, 19 April 2016
This is nice tape at the right price. A bit thin, but fine for packing. Recommended.


ECEEN 7Watts Solar Powered Shoulder Messenger Bag, Solar Charger Pack / Canvas Hiking Traveling Satchel Bag Charging For Smart Cell Phones, GPS, Digital Cameras etc. 5V Device (Blue)
ECEEN 7Watts Solar Powered Shoulder Messenger Bag, Solar Charger Pack / Canvas Hiking Traveling Satchel Bag Charging For Smart Cell Phones, GPS, Digital Cameras etc. 5V Device (Blue)
Offered by ECEEN LTD

5.0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent product, exactly what my wife needs for her ..., 19 April 2016
This is an excellent product, exactly what my wife needs for her work in developing countries, where there is a lot of sun and only unreliable sources of electricity. She noted that the battery unit is separate and so must be manually plug it in, i.e. it isn't automatically recharged whenever it is in the sun. It is built from a sturdy canvass-like material, which we believe will last a long time. It is attractive enough, if somewhat plain, to use in any context, formal or in the bush. It also has an external battery, which is extremely useful and carries a good capacity.

I could not be more pleased with this. We now have a number of eceen products and they all meet the highest standards.


GAINWELL Landstar Bathroom Sink Mixer Taps Chrome Finish
GAINWELL Landstar Bathroom Sink Mixer Taps Chrome Finish
Offered by GAINWELL UK
Price: £26.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, sturdy addition to our bathroom, 19 April 2016
This is exactly what we needed for the new bathroom we built. You can tell it is built to last, given how heavy feel of it. With the discount, it is also a great deal.

Recommended warmly.


A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (The New Cold War History)
A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (The New Cold War History)
by Vladislav M. Zubok
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable guide to the who, what, and why of Soviet diplomacy in the Cold War, 10 April 2016
If you want an update on the makings of Soviet diplomacy from newly available sources in Russian, this is your book. It offers not a dry survey, but an original and hard-hitting interpretation that is not over-burdened by ideology. For the most part, it is engaging and fascinating, both as an introduction and a clarifying source for specialists. It is an analytic, and not a narrative, history - Zubok concentrates on the ideas and actors, with many quirky details going uncovered. Also, domestic considerations - the economy, political machinations, and human rights - are included only as relevant to Soviet diplomacy and power and a certain level of knowledge is assumed.

Zubok begins with Stalin and a triumphant Soviet Union at the end of WWII. Though devastated and with the loss of perhaps more than 27 million lives (!), only the USA had superior military and industrial power. Hermetically isolated and under brutal totalitarian dictatorship, the Marxist-Leninist ideology was very much alive and could serve to motivate citizens to work and re-build. A shrewd negotiator, Stalin pursued what Zubok calls revolutionary-imperialism, whereby he would take any territory he could while installing a communist system via military control (occupation) and the installation of a security apparatus friendly to Marxism-Leninism. Anyone on the inside of the empire who stood in his way was annihilated or disappeared into the massive concentration camp system that Solzhenitsyn described in Gulag Archipelago. In this schema, war with the west was judged inevitable and communism was sure to triumph over capitalism. While cautious, Stalin continually probed the western democracies for weaknesses. With his attempt to take over the Iranian oil fields in 1946, he went too far and the Cold War began when Truman offered resistance to his encroachments. This marked the start of "containment", particularly with the advent of the Korean War.

Stalin's successors, the "collective leadership" under Nikita Khrushchev, continued to subscribe to revolutionary-imperialism. Under his leadership, the USSR made massive strides in the acquisition of military-industrial power, attaining thermonuclear capabilities but also scientific ascendance in space technologies, e.g. sputnik and missiles. In a controversial move, Khrushchev denounced Stalin in 1956 - he was no longer seen as an infallible god, which was the beginning of the end of hard core totalitarianism based on Marxist-Leninist ideology. During the 1950s, the communist and capitalist systems appeared very much as viable competitors and extended their competition into the "periphery", from Vietnam and China to Cuba and the Congo. In terms of style, Khrushchev was blustery and erratic, indulging in extremely dangerous nuclear brinkmanship that culminated in the Cuban missile crisis. Soon thereafter, Khrushchev was ousted in 1964.

According to Zubok, the new leadership, headed by Leonid Brezhnev, began to seek a different path, Detente, in which peaceful co-existence was the working assumption. It was based on good relations and negotiations at the top. While this did not mean the abandonment of revolutionary-imperialism, it did point the way to non-intervention in each others' internal affairs and, most importantly, did not assume that war was inevitable. Nonetheless, in order to negotiate from a position of strength, the Soviet leadership believed that it had to attempt to achieve military parity with the US and so made massive investments in missiles and heavy arms; the cost of the maintenance of the Empire rose to 40% (!) of the Soviet GDP. Unfortunately, this was a period of economic stagnation, in which a cultural opposition blossomed in the dissident movements but also attempts at "softer" socialism like that of Dubcek in Czechoslovakia. As the Soviet regime attempted to crush these movements by force, belief in the Marxist-Leninist ideology all but died, leaving behind a cynical and self-interested bureaucracy that continued on its own momentum, apparently without the ability to change or transform itself. This was a period when the evident failure of the system to keep up with the dynamism of the western capitalist democracies became blatantly evident. Finally, Detente died, first with Nixon's departure and Brezhnev's long decline in poor health and opiate addiction (a revelation to me), then in the war in Afghanistan and the placements of SS-20 missiles in Central Europe. As Ronald Reagan took over as perhaps the most conservative US President to hold the office in the post-WWII era, it appeared that a new competition between the superpowers was beginning.

The final leader, Mikhail Gorbachev (who represented a younger generation taking over from the gerontocracy), proved unable to better the situation. In his most original argument, Zubok argues that Gorbachev's personal faults - naive optimism, chronic indecisiveness, a vaguely conceived vision, and a categorical refusal to employ violence of any kind - were what caused the USSR to collapse so precipitously rather than evolving into a mixed economy as China has done. According to Zubok, unable to adopt or even imagine pragmatic and practical measures to safeguard the state, Gorbachev sunk the Empire. First, his Perestroika (new thinking, along with Glasnost) sought 1) to loosen the bureaucratic constraints on the economy, fomenting chaos; 2) allow ideas to come in from elsewhere, heightening discontent; and 3) allow the people to express themselves, in effect admitting to the faults inherent in the system and sparking a torrent of rage. All of this was somehow supposed to gradually enable a freer market to function, while the USSR could seek to join Western Europe in a kind of convergence of systems. Unfortunately for the Soviet state, it led instead to an explosive dismemberment of the Empire, first in Eastern Europe, then in the peripheral Soviet Republics, and finally in the heart of Russia itself with Gorbachev being ousted in a comically inept coup. Yeltsin emerged as the new leader and communism was abandoned for good.

The book pretty much ends there, with only a few references to Putin and other aspects of the aftermath. While I do think the collapse was inevitable from outside forces - the Empire was impossible for the USSR to sustain financially - I take his point on Gorbachev's many leadership failures. This book is a solid intellectual adventure, if occasionally a bit of a slog, and the concluding chapters on Gorbachev are worth the price of admission. It is clearly written, often quite profound, and never stuffily academic.

Recommended warmly. If you want a straight or narrative history of the end of the Soviet system, you will have to seek it elsewhere. This is diplomatic history, with less emphasis on economics, personalities, or political considerations. The level is high undergraduate.


From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus (Yale Nota Bene)
From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus (Yale Nota Bene)
by Paula Fredriksen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

5.0 out of 5 stars How Christianity arose from a mix of Judaism and Hellenism, 10 April 2016
f you are interested in where Christianity came from - not a theological perspective but an historical one - this is an absolutely excellent place to start. Though the text assumes a fair amount of knowledge, it is a solid platform for a popular audience that is curious about what academics would make of the subject. The author is very clear that the book is not intended as a way to reinforce one's faith, but strives to provide a deep look at what the earliest sources of Christianity meant in context as they were formulated.

The earliest source of Jesus was of course Judaism. It had a rigidly monotheistic character, whereby one God was the source of all, an absolute authority that admitted no rivals and accepted no deviation from the sacred texts, though there were many interpretations of what it meant. The people were "chosen" - in a contract with God - which was more an obligation than a privilege and certainly not any kind of anointment. There was also a sense of community that gathered in the synagogue, along with an ethical code of behavior that was expressed in strict laws (e.g. circumcision, a ban on shellfish, etc.). There was also a clear sense of nationhood, whereby the scattered groups or tribes would be reunited at a moment of apocalyptic resolution. Key to this was a messiah of some sort that was prophesized as the culmination of an escatological event, when God reveal himself to reign over Jews and chosen gentiles, an end time of paradise on earth. It was from this context that many putative prophets arose in Palestine, Jesus being one of them.

Starting with the Seleucids who were installed by Alexander the Great and culminating in the Roman occupation, the Jews lived in a Hellenized world. This represents the second source. In contrast to Monotheism, this was an eclectic worldview, a confluence of multiple deities (each with their own, highly adaptable and accepting legitimacy), local religious cults and traditions with deep roots, philosophies (in particular Platonism, with its idealist world of constants), and a notion of citizenship that could be inclusive so long as one adapted to the culture and its lingua franca, Greek. It was in this cosmopolitan world that Paul and Josephus - born Jews and gaining Roman citizenship - came from. Writing in Greek, Paul introduced the notion of "Christ" in the case of Jesus, establishing him as the anointed son of God. If Heaven hadn't arrived, Paul preached, it would with Jesus' second coming - his resurrection proved that he was the son of God, etc., creating a new kind of contract for his followers in order to achieve immortality, etc.

It is at this point that the book gets technical, going through Paul's letters and the original gospels and developing interpretive proofs for what each meant at their conceptions and what impact they had on the evolution of Christianity. This can be dry and terse, but it is completely worthwhile to struggle through it. As Fredrickson makes clear, little is known of Jesus' life. His message may have been a simple apocalyptic one or the one of peace, love, and empathy that Paul described. We will never know. Jesus had his followers among the Jews, but they diminished in number when his prophesy didn't turn out to be true - heaven didn't arrive at his death and resurrection, i.e. the contract with him was proved void. The destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE apparently saw the end of the last group of his Jewish followers, though their exact fate is unknown.

According to Fredrickson, Paul's theology was addressed to both Jews and gentiles, creating a kind of bridge that removed much of the specificity of Jewish law in order to make Christianity exportable quickly. After all, he expected the apocalypse to occur imminently, so wished to bring along as many gentiles as he could. Appearing after the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews (who stubbornly did not die out), the later gospels gradually distanced themselves further and further from Judaism: Jesus did not want the Jews (Mark); Jews didn't understand prophesy so were unable to accept Jesus (Matthew); Jews didn't want to associate with gentiles (Luke); Jews were never meant to receive revelation, hence were not of God (John). From ignorance as the cause of their rejection, Jews became the perpetrators of Jesus' persecution, etc. (This cannot do justice to the subtlety of her arguments, but that is it in a nutshell.) Christianity thus became the province of the gentiles; the Jews became evil, at least to some.

Nonetheless, as Fredrickson fascinatingly demonstrates, Christianity synthesized Judaic and Hellenistic traditions. While shedding the notions of nation and exclusion and strict "laws", Christianity retained the fellowship, monotheistic authority, sacred texts, ethical mission, and faith in apocalyptic prophesy. It was a new kind of contract, but similar. Fredrickson covers many related historical controversies, such as who was responsible for the crucifiction - she concludes it was the Romans as it was a Roman form of execution, probably because Jesus was regarded as a political figure who called himself "king". These issues are absolutely fascinating and too numerous to catalogue here.

Recommended warmly. This book is a true intellectual adventure. I would have liked a lot more on Hellenism and fewer proofs perhaps, but the book held my interest throughout.


OQSPORT Men's Outdoor Sports Bike Clothing Cycling Long Sleeve Jersey+Pants Set (Blue Star Rain, M)
OQSPORT Men's Outdoor Sports Bike Clothing Cycling Long Sleeve Jersey+Pants Set (Blue Star Rain, M)
Offered by UK-Bonjour
Price: £35.99

4.0 out of 5 stars good value, durable, nice looking, 1 April 2016
This is a very light suit, about as warm as a t-shirt rather than a jacket. The design is attractive. The pants are padded, which is good for long rides. I will get a lot of use out of these. Recommended.


KurtzyTM Small Collapsible Silicone Colander/Strainer Aubergine Purple 12.5cm/5 inches
KurtzyTM Small Collapsible Silicone Colander/Strainer Aubergine Purple 12.5cm/5 inches
Offered by Kurtzie - Fast Shipping
Price: £19.96

4.0 out of 5 stars good addition to the bachelor kitchen, 1 April 2016
This is a nice, handy item that folds for storage and can go into the dishwasher It is a bit small, so better for single people rather than heavy family usage. It seems well constructed, so should last relatively long. Recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2016 9:14 PM BST


KurtzyTM 3-Tier Non-Stick Stackable Cake Cookie Cooling Rack Trays
KurtzyTM 3-Tier Non-Stick Stackable Cake Cookie Cooling Rack Trays
Offered by Kurtzie - Fast Shipping
Price: £29.96

5.0 out of 5 stars excellent necessity for the baking kitchen, 1 April 2016
We make a lot of pastries and cakes, so we must have racks like this. They are sturdy and I am sure they will last long. Warmly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 16, 2016 12:23 PM BST


KurtzyTM 2-Pack Folding Eco Lighweight Rucksack Packing Daypack Backpack Camping Shopping Sports Hik
KurtzyTM 2-Pack Folding Eco Lighweight Rucksack Packing Daypack Backpack Camping Shopping Sports Hik
Offered by Kurtzie - Fast Shipping
Price: £47.96

4.0 out of 5 stars convenient for one-way carries., 1 April 2016
THese are really handy backpacks in simple pouches - if you are going to need to transport something but don't want to drag around a clunky backpack the whole day, you can stuff these in a convenient spot and pull them out when required. They are very light, not for heavy loads over long times. Recommended.


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