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J. Lawrence "ashhousebooks" (United Kingdom)
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MacGyver - Series 1 - Complete [DVD] [1985]
MacGyver - Series 1 - Complete [DVD] [1985]
Dvd ~ Richard Dean Anderson
Price: 42.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Very good family fun, 31 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These shows are exciting and full of clever ideas from the hero for getting himself out of a wide variety of scrapes. It's also pretty clean and uncontroversial in subject matter - I've been watching with my school-age kids and haven't been concerned about them seeing it. It's reasonably sensitive too - there is one episode dealing with a community that grows plants for making illegal narcotics, and it presents them as fairly normal people just trying to get along.


Getting Started Drawing and Selling Cartoons
Getting Started Drawing and Selling Cartoons
by Randy Glasbergen
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Practical advice, 31 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book gives practical, easy-to-follow advice not only on how to draw cartoons (I was drawing acceptable cartoons in less than an hour), but also how to get ideas and how to monetise them.


You Know What They Say--: The Truth about Popular Beliefs
You Know What They Say--: The Truth about Popular Beliefs
by Kohn Alfie
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun and still true, 27 Jun 2012
I was given this book as a leaving present when it first came out, and it has been a lasting favourite. In an engaging and simple style, Kohn evaluates the facts behind various popular beliefs, particularly the sort that "everyone knows". For example, is it really true that no two snowflakes are alike? Of course, you can find the facts nowadays by checking Wikipedia or putting your question into a search engine, but the lasting value of this book is that Kohn has brought together a huge selection of such beliefs in one place - things you might never have thought to question, like "a woman's work is never done", "necessity is the mother of invention", and "power corrupts". Kohn has a genius for finding ways to investigate such proverbial statements, as well as pursuing the truth of more straightforward ideas, like "lemmings commit mass suicide".

A more up-to-date edition would be welcome. For example, his paragraph on "carrots are good for your eyes" is correct in stating that in the developed world, they make no practical difference. However, he omits the observation that this belief was made widespread as a result of a successful British misinformation campaign during WWII. The campaign aimed to cover up the real reasons for RAF expertise at night combat: the successful development of radar. Presumably this information was not available to Kohn, who wrote the book before the advent of the internet (and before the 50-year limit from the Official Secrets Act would have run out).

As an occasional fun read, and a great example of how it's worth questioning pretty much everything you know, this is well worth delving into.


Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share
Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share
by Chris Anderson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but worth having, 5 Jun 2012
This book could have been brilliant. Bringing up Geek Generation 2.0! What a strapline. As the previous reviewer noted, it's far from compelling to those of us trying to pass on our worst geek traits to our children. Still, we bought a copy at the Air & Space Museum in Washington DC (nice geeky place to get it), and have been using it for the last month or so. In other words, I'm not saying that it's a theoretically good idea that doesn't work and sits on the shelf after the first read. It does work. Sort of.

We bought it for the "Life as an RPG character" idea. That's all we've done so far, but we've enjoyed it immensely. The idea in the book isn't actually that well worked out, but we've expanded and developed it (as the book encourages you to do) to make it work for us. Both children are well on their way to level 2 (wizard and ranger respectively). It's fun for a geeky ex-D&D playing parent (who has already introduced them to D&D), and has helped to encourage them to do things like homework, gardening etc. And it helps the parent to determine the "price" of different activities - e.g. if they still aren't doing it, you need to give the task more experience points to reward it. I'm still figuring out how to make skill points work, and how best to allow changes to attribute points.

A quick scan suggests this isn't the only slightly undercooked idea. It's rather like buying a cookbook and discovering that not all the recipes work, though they all provide a good level of inspiration. Another example is the make-your-own-boardgame project. We made a boardgame for a friend a few years ago and it was enormous creative fun, designing the concept, rules, and board, testing everything, then redesigning until it works. Here, they give you a game, and you make it. That's not geeky at all! Still, it's a start, and with luck you'll get enough inspiration from the project to invent a game of your very own.

One thing that bugs me about the book - though it's an entirely personal matter - is the utter lack of references to moms. In our house, the book was bought for Geek Mom and children to play with, and not-quite-Geek Dad occasionally looks on with amusement. Now, you'd think in this day and age there would be some note at the front saying "when we say Geek Dad, we mean Geek Parent", but no. All through the book there are comments about Dads playing with their kids. Granted, geeks are traditionally guys (if you go back to the 50s anyway), so there is a sort of cartoon rightness to it. And it's just a book. So I haven't starred it any differently for this, but I'm registering annoyance.

The only other disappointment is the website. The book suggests you go to geekdadbook.com for downloads, forums etc. There are a few downloads but no forum, and the blog entries are pretty irrelevant (and anyway seem to be attached to Wired.com rather than being run independently). As a source of further inspiration, sharing of experiences etc etc it's been a letdown. Maybe someone will start a "Geek Parent" forum with the opportunity to genuinely share ideas, and one day we'll all be able to swap "best practices" in parenting Geek Generation 2.0.


Foreign Correspondent
Foreign Correspondent
by Anthony Lawrence
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historically important and an engaging read, 7 Jan 2012
This review is from: Foreign Correspondent (Hardcover)
Foreign Correspondent covers the three years of Anthony Lawrence's posting as the BBC's Singapore correspondent, from 1956 to 1959. As the BBC's Far East journalist he covered events not only in Singapore, but also Hong Kong, Malaya, Laos, Brunei, and even Australia and New Zealand.

Lawrence provides a very personal account of events and adventures, including his fears, thrills, depressions. However as autobiography the book is rather lacking - Lawrence focusses his narrative on the people and places he visits. He is particularly interested in the people - trying to understand their motivations, trying to explain their curious behaviours. In doing this he takes us through the process of trying to understand the culture and habits of a variety of Asian nations in the 1950s. It is this cultural and anthropological history, even more than the narration of events, that makes this book invaluable.

Throughout the book he reveals his increasing fascination with Chinese culture. Chinese expats lived in small and large numbers throughout Asia at this time, often as merchants and business people. He describes them as obsessed with hard work and making money, focussed on making a better life for their families, and carrying on with their traditional values regardless of the social norms in the societies they have moved to.

Lawrence is an engaging and amusing writer. He often writes with great passion, giving us an emotional as well as physical impression of the events and places he has visited. For example, his visit to a rural district of Laos describes a place of beauty, slow paced living, and remoteness, yet the surrounding hills hold a portent of the devastation to come in the Viet Nam war.

The book makes a very interesting read even for those with little interest in journalism or Asian history, as it gives a fascinating window into a world that is long gone - of terrifying plane journeys, difficulties in international telephone links, farmland and jungle in places now given over entirely to industrialisation.

For historians and those interested in journalism, this is a must-read. Anthony Lawrence broke new ground as a British journalist, and he describes his adventures with honesty and faithfulness to what it felt like to be there.


Better Brain Book: The Best Tools for Improving Memory and Sharpness, and Preventing Aging of the Brain
Better Brain Book: The Best Tools for Improving Memory and Sharpness, and Preventing Aging of the Brain
by David Pearlmutter
Edition: Paperback
Price: 15.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent where he knows his stuff, 13 Nov 2011
This is a well-written book, based on some science, some experience, and some belief. The author is a doctor with considerable experience in treating memory problems, which has its pros and cons. The good side is that he is very well informed about some matters, and there is material here which is reasonably cutting edge. The down side of this is that he thinks he knows more than he does. There is information here presented as fact which is widely doubted or even discredited by other researchers. Fortunately, none of it is likely to put the reader at risk.

The book has three parts: risk factors, tools for prevention and improvement, and specific memory-related illnesses. The first part, risk factors, is the most problematic. The author claims that the deterioration of the brain is not a natural part of aging, and can be prevented. A moment's reflection will make the critical reader question this - what is so special about the brain that it doesn't deteriorate when the rest of the body does? Although medical science has helped people keep their bodies going for much longer, the longest possible length of life hasn't changed (around 115). Bodies do eventually give up. Moreover, professional sports people who have the money to keep themselves in great shape nevertheless do seem to need to retire at some point (though it varies according to sport, the elderly are not well represented amongst the people on any Olympic medal platform). And although some brains do keep going better than others, all do seem to deteriorate over time, just as bodies do.

The author also suggests that consumption of aluminium and use of cell phones can impair memory. These theories have been largely discredited now, though they keep popping up in the way that many conspiracy theories do. There is good, well designed research into the causes of memory loss, and medical science is nevertheless still very unclear about what causes it. Nevertheless, there are theories with more evidence to stand on than these two (and he does mention these as well).

The second section, on tools for improvement, is much better. They all need to be taken as non-prescriptive; none of these are proven ways of improving memory, and none will suit everyone. Nevertheless, the idea of improving diet in ways that are known to be associated with improved health makes a lot of sense, and some of it is particularly associated with brain health (such as fish oils) in respected research studies. The various supplements may not help but are unlikely to harm, and may help some people. The "toxin" avoidance programme similarly may not always help but probably won't hurt.

The third section deals with specific ailments - stroke, vascular dementia, alzheimers, parkinsons, MS, and ALS. Each covers conventional therapies, new therapies being trialled, and recommended dietary supplements. These are based in part on the author's clinical experience, and make interesting food for thought for anyone who has these problems or is caring for someone who does, or who believes themselves to be at risk.

Although the book should be read with a critical eye, it would do little harm to anyone following it slavishly (though some of the tests and supplements may harm the wallet). I would be happy to recommend it to anyone looking for ideas on how to improve their brain health - the book is well written, there is a lot here, and some of it might well help.


The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition
The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition
by Thomas Pyzdek
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 53.48

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, but reasonably thorough and appropriate, 7 Nov 2011
I am in two minds about this book. It is an important work and I would not be without it. However, I would like someone to rewrite it, or write another book that makes this one unnecessary.

On the good side, this is a very thorough introduction to the tools and techniques of Six Sigma. There is an introductory section explaining the purpose of the method, and later sections cover people issues as well as technical aspects of Six Sigma.

On the downside, the text is really rather dull. There is a tendency to state the obvious, which has the unfortunate impact on this reader of provoking skim reading - which is not what this book was designed for. A knowledgeable editor could probably cut out about a third of the text by assuming that the reader knows the basics of business processes, such as "what is a sample survey".

At times, it goes into rather more detail than this reader would like. For example, in the "Analyze Phase" chapter there are detailed examples of a huge range of analytical methods that really belong to a workbook.

The book does attempt to cover strategic aspects of Six Sigma, and the integration of this method into business strategy. However, it is probably not well suited to the needs of senior managers who want to get to grips with the method for management purposes, without actually becoming a Green/Black Belt themselves. The "high level" perspective tends to lack any new insight, and go to great lengths to say something mundane, suggesting it is more appropriate to the neophyte in business than to the experienced manager. For example, the section on "External Roadblocks" to change takes three paragraphs to say that stiff regulation, plus worries about liability, make people prone to view change as risky. There are probably more interesting things to say about external roadblocks to change, and this wastes half a page saying nothing surprising.

For the patient junior person intending to become a Green/Black Belt or equivalent, particularly if they are already familiar with university level mathematics, this will be a long and difficult read, but probably very worthwhile. The book has a very extensive discussion of mathematical methods and their application to process control, and connects this to the real world issues of business cost and quality levels. This is really what Six Sigma is all about, and for the right audience this is a valuable book.


Royal & Langnickel Essentials Sketch Box Set
Royal & Langnickel Essentials Sketch Box Set
Offered by 365DIRECT
Price: 20.11

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small but beautiful, 7 Nov 2011
This lightweight case of sketching materials is particularly good for an older child (but make sure kids know that some of the colours contain lead). It includes instructions for obtaining interesting effects using different art materials. My 8 year old loves it, takes it everywhere, and has already improved her drawing by following the techniques outlined and using the materials included.


King of the Wind
King of the Wind
by Marguerite Henry
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless classic for the young, 13 Aug 2011
This review is from: King of the Wind (Hardcover)
I read this as a child - the only book I read more than once. I've now read it to my primary school aged children, a boy and a girl, who loved it and couldn't wait to hear the next chapter each night. It is a story of travel, of being different, and of quiet courage and loyalty through incredible adversity.

It is a somewhat old-fashioned story; there is none of the knowing modernity of Tracey Beaker or Artemis Fowl. The situation is clearly very much in the past - it is a historical novel, and it also has much of the innocence of the old children's classics like Swallows and Amazons. However, unlike Arthur Ransome's and Enid Blyton's works it is relatively quick paced, and it offers much more difficult situations, including depictions of disempowerment, anti-foreign snobbery, and animal cruelty. Yet it does this with much care for children's sensitivities, so that the story can be absorbed without becoming overwhelming.

This book deserves to be better known and more widely read. It is a good choice either to read out loud or to give to a child who loves to read.


Losing My Mind
Losing My Mind
by DEBAGGIO
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.53

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gushingly emotive and pseudo-poetic treatment of a serious matter, 13 Aug 2011
This review is from: Losing My Mind (Paperback)
This book was recommended to me, but it has been a disappointment. Clearly, some people think it's great (including the person who recommended it). They find it helps those who are trying to understand people with alzheimer's disease. I have not found that it does this for me.

The book has three main strands which are interwoven. One is medical, one is reflective (memories of the past), and one is experiential (recounting recent events). This structure works well, and helps build a reasonably rounded picture of the author and his experience of alzheimer's disease. This is great if you want to know more about him. However, I found the experience of getting to know him rather uninspriring. He is a regular guy, and while it's relevant to know that normal people with normal lives get alzheimer's, that's not important enough to be the subject of a whole book.

However, the aspect of the book I liked least is, I presume, what attracts most people to it. It is gushingly emotional, rhapsodizing in pseudo-poetic language about the miserableness that is alzheimer's disease. An example at random: "There are many days of elves and magic when you are small and young in the world" and "Where does this dance of hope lead?" For very emotional people, this may make it easier to connect with the experience of the malady, but it didn't work for me. You do learn about the disease inter alia, but it is very much the long way round. I was hoping for a more direct experience of the disease, I suppose - perhaps including some badly organised passages with complex and occasionally incoherent reflections demonstrating just how confused a state of mind the alzheimer's patient experiences. You just don't get that in this book at all - it has clearly been heavily edited by a very competent person (perhaps the author in his clearer moments), so that in fact a lot of the confusion is missing. What you get is the anger and dismay, but through the filter of careful crafting. You have to take the author's word for it that he is finding writing difficult, that words don't come, that spelling is awkward, and that he forgets what he is doing in the middle of things.

I did not find that this helped me understand alzheimer's from a sufferer's perspective. It is reasonably well written, however, and for those who need to connect in an emotional and poetic way, this book may be just what the doctor ordered.


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