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COOLEAD-2 in 1 Black Portable Ball-point Pen and Stereo Voice Audio Recorder Pen with 4GB
COOLEAD-2 in 1 Black Portable Ball-point Pen and Stereo Voice Audio Recorder Pen with 4GB
Offered by COOLEAD
Price: £12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but be aware of red light, 27 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is based on a quick, 10 minute test, rather than any extensive use.

The pictures that come with the instructions are helpful, but the writing has been appallingly translated and is all but incomprehensible. Nonetheless, with a bit of trial and error, it's pretty easy to work out how to use it. It isn't complicated.

The recording quality isn't exactly good, but perfectly fine for the sort of purpose for which this product will be used. In a test, a conversation between two people with some music playing in the background, it picked out the two voices just fine and delivered perfectly comprehensible audio.

As with any pen recorder, actually using it to write whilst it is recording will inevitably add interference. So best to put it on the table and use another pen to actually write. Although thoughtfully, the manufacturers have included a spare nib for when the ink in the first one runs out.

Having initially turned it on with a switch inside, found by pulling away the writing end of the pen, the recording function can be activated by clicking the button on top.

The major problem with the pen is that there is a completely unnecessary red light located on the inside of the pen's clip, which blinks during recording. Given that one point of such a device would be to record unobtrusively, this seems like a pretty huge design error. The light is not super bright, and is only visible from fairly close by and from certain angles.

Nonetheless, I think many people will find this to be problematic. It looks like it will be possible to cover over the blinking light with black nail polish or similar.

Therefore the perfect present for the budding investigator/goth in your life. Not bad for the price, but would be a lot better without the light.


The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka (Rough Guide to...)
The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka (Rough Guide to...)
Price: £9.49

1.0 out of 5 stars Unusable maps, poor navigation, 23 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An example of a very poor Kindle conversion. The maps, even when expanded, are such that it is impossible to read street and place names, or to locate suggested sites of interest.

It is poorly indexed, and few of the place names littered throughout the book are hyperlinked to the section about them. Because it is impossible to flick rapidly through a Kindle, even with the new feature which seeks to emulate this, hyperlinking and indexing is vital to make such a usable.

As a result of all this, didn't get to evaluate the content very much, but insofar as I did it wasn't spectacular – seemed somewhat out of date for the places we visited.

Sri Lanka is great though!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 23, 2014 5:25 PM BST


Foot Mouse (Slipper Mouse) with Programmable Pedal for PC and Mac
Foot Mouse (Slipper Mouse) with Programmable Pedal for PC and Mac
Offered by Special Import Europe
Price: £119.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary if you are trying to recover from RSI/tendinitis, 2 April 2013
I'm not giving this five stars because it's perfect. On the contrary, on the basis of around a week`s use, using it can place some strain on the knees and ankles, and it is certainly much less accurate and quick to use than a normal mouse.

It may even be that getting a better office chair that I can adjust to be higher will help with those things, and the same goes for readjusting my software mouse settings to make it less sensitive. If those things do help, I'll update this review.

But anyway, I'm giving this five stars because if you are considering buying it, it's probably because you are suffering from a serious condition which makes it impossible or difficult for you to use your hands to operate a conventional mouse.

In my case, I have very serious RSI/tendinitis related to computer use. Not the sort that goes away after a couple of weeks or even a couple of months, but the sort that has in the past hung around for around a year. It doesn't just affect my ability to type, but to use a trackpad or mouse too.

There are various mouse alternatives available: the "air mouse" which you can wave around in the air; upright or joystick mice, which change the angle at which your hand sits on the table; and tablets, which allows you to use the associated "pen" to control the cursor. In my case, I found that these were less stressful to use than the trackpad or conventional mouse. But nonetheless, all are somewhat stressful to my hands, wrists, and forearms.

Resting, rather than straining, the injury is the most important part of recovering from RSI/tendinitis. Use of the computer - possibly aggravated by the use of touchscreen devices such as smart phones - is probably the most common source of RSI/tendinitis. But if you have the condition in the first place, it's probably an indication that using computers is important to you, whether for work, or for some reason outside of work. In modern life, it's pretty hard to get by without using a computer at all, and it can be extremely frustrating to have such a condition, because you constantly feel like you have no alternative but to use a computer for something, and constantly therefore aggravate your condition. And that makes it much harder to recover in the long run.

In that context, speaking personally, I find this device to be extremely useful, because although it is slow and unwieldy, it does allow me to navigate on my desktop and the Internet and perform basic operations. I use it in combination with Dragon dictation software - which is often frustratingly bad, but there is nothing better unfortunately - and the pop-up on-screen, clickable keyboard which is integral to the Mac operating system. The latter allows me to correct the numerous mistakes made by Dragon, and enter words or numbers that it can't recognise easily. Mistakes are so common that correcting them using a mouse and keyboard ends up aggravating my condition further. I'm sure if you are a Windows user there is a similar integral keyboard, or if not, that you can download one fairly easily. I have written and posted this review without using my hands for anything.

If you are a Mac user, as I am, it isn't currently possible to use an "head mouse" type device, at least not if you have the most recent version of the operating system. "Head mice" are devices or software which allow you to move the cursor by moving your head: either a purpose built camera or the web cam utilises software to track the movement of particular point on your head, which may be marked with a small adhesive dot. For Windows users, there is even a free downloadable program available online which makes use of your existing web cam. So if you are a Windows user, I guess it can't hurt to check that out. But even then, I believe that you either need to install automatic clicking and scrolling software - which as far as I can see makes it hard to do things like right click, and auto scrolling doesn't work in many Mac programs - or use clicking hardware, i.e. a "switch", or pedals. If that is what you need, this product might still be worthwhile for you, because it has special buttons for left click, right click, double left click, two assignable buttons (which I haven't bothered to assign yet), and a wheel to scroll with, which is pretty great, because scrolling is a huge part of what we use the mouse or trackpad for, and the wheel makes it easy.

I have seen one other commercially available navigation system which makes use of your feet, in this case two tilting pedals, one for clicking, and one for navigating. It isn't available commercially in the UK although they will post from the US, but even in the US it's much more expensive.

Frankly, I expect that it's possible to design this much better, including by giving the clicking deck a lower profile, so the user's foot isn't angled awkwardly up, and perhaps by placing the buttons closer together. But at the moment, as far as I can see the reality is that there isn't a good alternative to this product. I see that other reviewers have said that it breaks easily. If that's true, that's a shame, but then I think the thing to do about that is get one, and then insist on a replacement if it breaks unreasonably quickly.

Anyway, I would encourage anyone who has a similar reason for not being able to use a conventional mouse to consider this. Your foot isn't as naturally well-suited to fine control as your hand, and the weight of your leg doesn't help, so while you are using this, navigating probably will be a bit slow, and sometimes frustrating. But on the other hand, you will recover quicker, and if you do have RSI/tendinitis or a similar condition, that's really what you want. Or at least, that's what I want.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2014 7:20 AM GMT


Skins 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD]
Skins 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nicholas Hoult
Price: £32.08

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No better than this, 11 Dec. 2008
This review is from: Skins 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD] (DVD)
TV in Britain. We're stuck home watching genre busting magnificence like US drama The Wire. Where do we turn for some authentically UK goings on?

Bring on Skins. Every British kid who can remember being 16-18 in the last decade can recognise the characters in Skins, or at least can see clearly two or three people who that character is made up of. That age was emotional for us all, I'm sure. This series is an essay on that time, what it meant, and what it could have meant.

Skins blends brilliantly in and out of the authentic, and the comic, and the purely fantastic. The sad, and the hilarious - and the 'I don't know, but god I can feel it like it was yesterday'. I've never felt so close to a collection of characters.

Even in the bits that grate a little, this shines through.


A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present
A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present
by Howard Zinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £37.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new world - from a new perspective, 29 Sept. 2008
The opening chapter of Zinn's book is an essay on the political content of history. With Christopher Columbus as the case in point, Zinn shows that by choosing to emphasise certain facts, and downplay others, mainstream historians - in fact, all historians - stake out a political position. Even, or perhaps especially, when they would say they are being 'neutral' or 'objective'. In history and, by implication, the present; perspective matters.

That is why Zinn tells the story of the United States, not through the eyes of its statesman, great financiers, generals or industrialists, but through the eyes of ordinary people. That is to say: the displaced Native Americans, the enslaved Black people, the women struggling for the vote, the exploited working class, the civil rights movements, and the victims of US foreign policy during the Cold War.

This is remarkable. The popular narrative of the United States as land of liberty and opportunity is stripped bare, and torn down. In its place: a nation of contradictions and tensions, built on class war, ethnic cleansing, and manifold other repressions.

Now, in fact, a similar story could be told about a great many countries in the world. One reason it is particularly worth listening to Zinn's story about the US, is that the myth of the US, and its emancipatory principles, is so strong. As the premier world power of the present day, it does us well to understand where that power comes from.

Most important of all, this is neither a bleak book, nor a preachy one. It is a great work of narrative history, and as such lays as much emphasis on the courage and achievements of ordinary people, as it does upon their suffering. A great piece of writing. A book for our times, courageous and humane.


Storming the Millennium: The New Politics of Change
Storming the Millennium: The New Politics of Change
by Tim Jordan
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dense theoretical waffle from self-appointed movement leaders and academics, 26 Sept. 2008
The target audience for this book is, according to the introduction, those interested in the British direct action movement of the '90s and early '00s. That audience will find nothing of any great worth here, certainly nothing that can't be found better elsewhere. It starts off badly as Tim Jordan waffles about social theory he doesn't understand, lunges vaguely at post-modernism, and makes grandiose claims about the future of the 'movement of movements'.

A series of oddly irrelevant chapters follows (bisexual politics, hacking, etc), finished off by an interview with some elderly Communists including Stuart Hall who have apparently started a (then) new left wing journal. They refuse to say anything that is not extremely general. The end.

There is a small amount of material in three of the chapters that might be useful to someone doing exhaustive research - Rupa Huq's average chapter on rave being one. But generally, steer well clear.

A note, unless the reader thinks I am being harsh, just because this is not the sort of book I could ever like. I am keen on serious academic writing (see my other reviews), and very sympathetic to the movements which the book tries to cover. But those movements need to be taken seriously, their stories told attentively, and on their own terms, not used as an opportunity for someone to rant about "difference" and "post-socialist politics" while sliding helplessly down the outside of an ivory tower.


The Shadow Lines
The Shadow Lines
by Amitav Ghosh
Edition: Paperback

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An little known gem, 26 Sept. 2008
This review is from: The Shadow Lines (Paperback)
For any novel, but especially for a first novel, this is an extraordinary achievement. Dealing in history, human frailty, the lenses of memory and self deception, the sources of identity and belonging: this is a brief epic which is never grandiose, and always close to human experience.

The inner world of the narrator is so pitch perfect it hurts. You can feel him growing, and the people around him too. Each and every personality in it is startlingly realised. The narrative forces its way on, covering a great emotional range. The style is impeccable - restrained, precise and beautiful or harsh and the situation demands.

I suppose that no one reading this review will believe quite how good The Shadow Lines is - and apparently his other books don't quite reach the same standard. This, however, is a great, neglected work of modern literature.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2012 5:33 PM GMT


To The Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History
To The Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History
by Edmund Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A difficult book to review, 29 Jan. 2008
Edmund Wilson is a great stylist, and if the quality of the prose were the only factor under consideration, this would surely be among the best non-fiction titles I've ever read.

Furthermore, as a whistle stop tour of revolutionary lives and ideas, in which every idea and every story is painted in big, bold, exciting brush strokes, this is also a wonderful book. Wilson rushes through the stories of Jules Michelet, Gracchus Babeuf, Marx and Engels, Michael Bakunin, Lenin and Trotsky, in such a way as to leave the reader with a very profound and strong feeling about each of those men, and some sense of the personal as well as the ideological differences between them.

But it is let down by a literateur's reading of political theory. While Wilson is insightful, provocative, and interesting, some of his interpretations of Marxist theory are unfortunately innacurate and rely on arguments from 'error theories', rather than taking the arguments seriously. He makes rather too much of an out of date interpretation of the Hegelian dialectic, and blames a crude application of it on Marx.

The book is also let down by the old Bolshevik's lingering hagiography of Lenin, sitting uncomfortably with the final rejection of Marxism. When read in the light of careful histories of post-1917 Russia (such as Brinton's The Bolsheviks and Workers Control), as well as Lenin's own political writing, Wilson's romanticisation of Lenin seems simply implausible, and a little false. He never, really, tackles the defects in Lenin's politics, and seeks to imagine their relation to the deteriation of Russian politics after Lenin arrives at the Finland Station.

All this would not matter so much if the book were not so highly respected and well known. The reader might really believe they are getting a definitive history of revolutionary ideas. And in fact, they are getting a lovely and stimulating book. But it cannot substitute for reading the writers - especially Marx and Engels - first hand. And it cannot substitute a reading of the political history of revolutionary struggles, the Bolshevik project among them. Nonetheless, it remains an excellent outline for a reader who wants to join some of the dots between the theory and practice of the thinkers already listed - though it is a great omission we don't hear anything much about Rosa Luxemburg.

In the end Wilson lost his Bolshevik faith, and lapsed, as so many did, into a sort of well-meaning social democracy - a fact attested to well enough by the epilogue to this volume. Perhaps its enduring popularity is caused by those who have some sympathy for the raw power of the revolutionary project, but are happier being told that, in truth, it is dead and buried. That conclusion is all well and good. But if it is to be reached, it deserves a more rigorous, though no less enjoyable, consideration than this.


The Pursuit Of The Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages
The Pursuit Of The Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages
by Norman Cohn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insanity and insurgency in the Dark Ages, 11 Jan. 2008
I have a special place in my heart for books which combine the utmost intellectual rigour in their research and method, with the most off the wall subject matter imaginable. Perhaps it is the contrast between form and content, perhaps it is the breadth and depth of the conclusions reached by the microscopic examination of insanity.

Whatever the reason, Pursuit of the Millenium is brilliant example of the kind. I suppose you can tell that a book has reached a certain stature when it is referenced in later classics, and that the book must be especially wonderful of its kind if it attains this status despite pertaining largely to the arcane matter of medieval religious sectarianism. If this is true, then the reference to Cohn's opus in On Chesil Beech by Ian McEwan (in which principle male character is reading the book) is some sort of validation - especially given McEwan's predilection for using his novels to drop unsubtle hints about the sort of activities he considers culturally worthwhile.

The book is a succession of remarkable stories, interlaced with the development of the ideas which informed each instance of revolutionary eschatology. Similar motifs and patterns crop up again and again with such surprising reguality over periods of centuries that it is hard not to think that the commonalities must point to some sort of underlying human or structural bias. What it is though, is hard to say. Because it deals with revolutionary movements in the dark ages, it is also a fascinating comparative text for anyone interested in the revolutionary and social movements of the recent past - though Cohn does arguably lay that on a little thick at times.

No real prior knowledge of the subject is necessary to read the book, though I personally needed to make occasional recourse to Wikipedia to remind me of what some theological terms mean.

This, in case you haven't noticed, is a glowing review. Read this book!


Car Wars: Battles on the Road to Nowhere
Car Wars: Battles on the Road to Nowhere
by Christopher Mosey
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but useful when read in context..., 30 Aug. 2007
You'll want to pick this up if you're interested in the growth of the roads network, and car culture in Britain since the late 19th Century, and recent attempts to challege its expansion. About half the book is devoted to each; though since I'm primarily interested in the latter, I'll focus on that in this review.

The resistance began to pick up force in the 1970s with John Tyme and associates disrupting public inquiries up and down the country, seeing several road plans shelved. After a hiatus during the '80s, a new movement rose to greet the Tories' early '90s road building programme. As a narrative history, Mosey's prose bubbles along disarmingly, dropping anecdotes here and there to sustain the reader's interest.

The book is not without its flaws though. Mosey doesn't really understand some elements of the ecological direct action movement of the '90s - sporadically misusing the quite specific term "Dongas" to refer to all road protestors, rather than the small group of around 30 that it in fact was.

He fails to appreciate the frequency and importance of more militant "night work" direct action - "monkeywrenching" construction equipment, and so on - preffering to present the movement as adopting a tactical repetoire essentially rooted in public "civil disobedience" to "raise awareness". He relies too much on newspaper articles, and makes too little reference to movement documents such as Do or Die and the Earth First! Action Update. He doesn't understand that there were divisions and disagreements within Reclaim the Streets (RTS). He underplays the importance of Earth First! and has little to say about contribution of travellers' and alternative cultures to the movement.

His failure to "get" RTS, either strategically or organisationally is quaint: almost a parody of the gentlemanly liberal, Mosey is dismayed at the necessary messiness of actual grassroots organisation, and yearning at all times for the Holy Grail of Moderation.

But despite its flaws, this book does work that no other volume on the same subject does. It locates the defeat of the roads programme not only as a product of the direct action movement, but also of a more passive rebellion by Middle Englanders in Tory heartland. While hardly mentioning campaigns against the A30 or Manchester Airport expansion, and breezing over M11 and Pollock in a few paragraphs, it gives good, detailed rundowns of Newbury and Twyford Down - these are genuinely exciting, and hard to come by elsewhere.

The reader will find that this book and Derek Wall's Earth First! and the Anti-Roads Movement (1999) fill in alot of gaps left by each other nicely, though the greater academic command of Wall's work makes it easy to see why it is more widely read today.


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