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Peter Cooper (Louth, UK)

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National Geographic The Human Heart
National Geographic The Human Heart
Offered by Harry's Department Store
Price: £15.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The included pamphlet lets it down, 23 Oct. 2008
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The model itself is reasonably good. It's just generic plastic, but it looks okay and comes apart and goes together well. It offers the opportunity to look around "inside" the heart and get a feel for how it works. As a model for merely looking around, it's not bad.

The weak side, however, is that National Geographic has missed the opportunity to include a really good pamphlet. The pamphlet included has a few pages showing how to build the model, but without explaining the meaning of the pieces. There are then just two pages with an overview of how the heart works. Several more pages with illustrations and references to the parts in the model would have not gone amiss and helped tip this over to a 5* product.

Royal Weddings
Royal Weddings
by Julia Melchior
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ideal gift for a grandmother, 13 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Royal Weddings (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a reasonably well produced "coffee table"-type book that presents a myriad of pictures from royal weddings. The book is divided into chapters each covering a different wedding.

I share the concern of another reviewer that you get the impression the book is about the British Royal Family but this is not the case. While some "Royal Family" weddings are covered - Elizabeth II's being a particular delight - the majority go to those from other countries. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as you get to see some incredibly colorful and diverse arrangements - particularly those royal families in the Far East.

This isn't a small book - it feels substantial, and it'd make a great gift for anyone you'd feel would like to look at pictures of royal weddings generally. For me, that'd be a grandmother - for you, it might be your mother or a great aunt - but it's not an intellectually stimulating book. Enjoy the photos, enjoy the dresses, and that's it.

The Ruby Programming Language
The Ruby Programming Language
by David Flanagan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.67

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new authoritative Ruby book. Buy this, not the Pickaxe!, 26 Feb. 2008
Originally planned as a second edition to Ruby classic, Ruby In A Nutshell, The Ruby Programming Language is a new book by David Flanagan and Yukihiro Matsumoto (a.k.a. Matz - creator of Ruby) and published by O'Reilly. The book covers both Ruby 1.8 and 1.9 and with its esteemed authors and technical approach, is sure to become a new "Bible" for Ruby developers.

As of the start of 2008 this book is REALLY fresh and up to date. Its style is very direct and matter-of-fact; well suited for existing Ruby developers and proficient developers coming from other languages. The examples are clear and logical and the explanations concise; this is a well edited and authoritative book.

The structure of the book is a delight with ten well-defined chapters (with titles such as Reflection and Metaprogramming, Statements and Control Structures, and Expressions and Operators) that each contain a tree of sections. Consider Chapter 4, Expressions and Operators. A sample dive down to section takes us through 4.5, Assignments; 4.5.5, Parallel Assignment; and finally to, One lvalue, multiple rvalues. This is a breath of fresh air in a Ruby reference work.

The only downside, in terms of the thousands who might be browsing Amazon looking for a single Ruby book to start off with, is that this book is so well focused on documenting the core elements of the Ruby language, it doesn't work either as a tutorial / beginner's introduction to Ruby, or as an exhaustive reference work (as, on both fronts, the Pickaxe attempts to be.) This lack of dilution may be an ultimate strength, however, since anyone above the station of "beginner" will be able to learn Ruby thoroughly from this book, use it as a general reference, and then be able to use the exhaustive documentation that comes with Ruby itself to cover the standard library and built-in classes.

In conclusion, whether you're an existing developer or a newcomer to Ruby, you need just three things to be up and running with Ruby in the book / documentation department. Forget the Pickaxe and its mediocrity, and buy this, the Ruby Way (by Hal Fulton), and learn how to use the documentation that comes with Ruby.

This book will act as your "Bible" for the Ruby language, the Ruby Way will make you an expert, and learning how to use the documentation that comes with Ruby will mean you're not using information that's out of date within a couple of years. The perfect combo! It'll last you for years.

Logo Design Now! (Midi Series)
Logo Design Now! (Midi Series)
by Julius Wiedemann
Edition: Paperback

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, better than the rest, 15 Nov. 2007
I'm reviewing this book because I'm astounded it has no reviews here so far. This book is amazing! I've paid a lot more for similar "lots of logos" books, such as Tres Logos, but the format, design, quantity and quality provided by this book blows them all away.

"Logo Design Now" is a nice solid book, clocking in at almost 400 pages, on heavy paper. The cover is made of card and gives the book a very authoritative feel. The spine is also well designed and makes it easy to flick through the book, despite its thickness, and without feeling like you're destroying the binding. An elasticated band is also provided that acts to either help keep the book shut or to mark out pages you're interested in. In any case, it makes the book look more expensive than it is, and certainly cooler than, say, Tres Logos.

Unlike most of the other logo books, Logo Design Now devotes the first 140 - 150 pages to highlighting specific logos and rebranding projects, featuring interviews with the companies and designers, and showing the logos in various uses. After this, you move onto the standard arrangement of ten or so logos per page, organized into categories like "Creative Industry", "Fashion & Apparel" and "Music". The logos chosen are consistently strong with a definite focus on smaller companies (including Web sites), modern designs, and lots of color.

All in all, I'm over the moon with this find.

Heritage Orchestra
Heritage Orchestra
Offered by thebookcommunity
Price: £18.16

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful classics-meet-jazz fusion, though a little short, 25 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Heritage Orchestra (Audio CD)
Like the best jazz bands or orchestras, The Heritage Orchestra is clearly meant to be heard live. Its fitting, then, that The Heritage Orchestra is a perfect combination of the two. It's not a Metallica S&M style 'popular music gets some strings in the background' mish-mash.. it's actually original jazz written to be played by an orchestra and solists.

Championed by Gilles Peterson (indeed, they're on his record label), The Heritage Orchestra have wowed crowds at the Big Chill festival amongst other places. They've pulled off a cheesy-sounding concept with true finesse and the production is crisp and clear. No complaints there. They sound good.

On the song front, the first track "Mothers and Daughters Now Mothers" sounds a lot like 4hero. It's the sort of thing Miles Davis would have ended up at if he were still alive. Lots of strings, drums, and brass.

"D'lin" is a more epic 'lush' jazz song, evoking some Sergio Mendes and Philip Glass sensibilities (to me, at least!). It starts off subtly, but grows into a bold sweep of strings and woodwinds pushed along by a strong string melody and tumbling drums.

"Skybreaks" is the first vocal track on the album. It has a 'live' feel and is reasonably typical of what Gilles Peterson plays on his Worldwide show. Other than a constant string backing, there's not much evidence of the orchestra here. Again, we're in 4hero territory.

"Ballad for Strings" starts off with a heavy, sad string intro and doesn't pick up much throughout. I'd call it "Fugue for Saxophone and Strings" myself. No vocals.

"Tell Me Stories" is another vocal track that fits into the Gilles Peterson modern female jazz mould. Again, a massive 4hero feel here.

"The 1890 Affair" is a jazz concerto in three movements and is the fairest jazz-vs-classics work on the disc. Jazz and classical influences fight against each other throughout the first movement, with even a rather drum'n'bassy acoustic drum part coming in. The second movement starts off with Miles Davis Bitches Brew style play for two minutes, before picking up the theme from movement 1 again. The third movement calms down with some rather generic modern jazz, much like any played on Jazz FM in the 1990s and is a surprisingly lacklustre end to the concerto.

Anyway, it's a bold effort and it's one of the best jazz-meets-classics albums out there.. so while the songs aren't as good as they could have been, it still deserves 5 stars. Get it.

Agile Web Development with Rails: A Pragmatic Guide (Pragmatic Programmers)
Agile Web Development with Rails: A Pragmatic Guide (Pragmatic Programmers)
by David Thomas
Edition: Paperback

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rails is changing the industry, 17 Aug. 2005
If you're a good Rails developer with experience, you won't lack for work nowadays (I am looking for people all the time it seems). This book has everything you need to become a good Rails developer. The experience bit is left as a reader exercise.
The cute thing about this book is how it was developed. A few months ago it was released in a "beta" PDF form and sold to early adopters. The beta readers sent back lots of corrections, suggestions, and so forth.. and, wow, the book has undergone radical changes. It's precise, it's correct, and it's totally "canon" on the standards of developing in Ruby on Rails. It ought to be though, the developer of Rails is a co-author!
I'm not going to go into what Rails is, or even what it does, as you shouldn't be here unless you know. If you need more information, go to the official Rails site which goes into it all in detail. But, this book is ace. You will not be wasting your money here if you want to be involved in the next massive thing in Web development. Put down your PHP books, and get involved in the exciting world of Rails.. your bank manager will thank you.

Sony D-NE511 Silver ATRAC/MP3 CD Walkman
Sony D-NE511 Silver ATRAC/MP3 CD Walkman

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice unit, but classical music fans watch out, 17 Feb. 2004
Other reviewers have claimed the volume isn't an issue, but if you're a big classical or jazz fan, you may want to read my review.
I put in a classical CD, and turned the drive to max volume. It was all rather faint. I had read that there's a 'volume limiting system', so I was glad to learn how to turn it off. Imagine my despair when I found it was already off, and I was already as loud as I could go! A look through the manual showed that in Europe the headphone output has been limited to 1.5mW, compared to 5mW in Japan and the US! Classical music has a very wide dynamic range, so most of your listening (even at full volume) will be rather quiet. Dance music or modern highly compressed (volume wise) pop music are fine at max volume, but jazz, classical, and older pop music (like, say, The Carpenters or ABBA) suffer extremely. Anyway, if you're going to listen to classical music ALL the time, be ready to compress the dynamic range of your files to listen to them properly.
That out of the way, the player is pretty good. It's fast compared to other models in starting up and finding tracks on the disc. The jog dial is good, although it's a tad sensitive. The anti-skip protection is very good. Navigating discs is really easy. It plays all the MP3s I've thrown at it so far, including VBR, etc.
Now for the least important parts.. The headphones are the usual dire fare. I can't even get them in my ears, but luckily I have some Fontopias :-) The software is bearable but not great, everyone else has already commented on this. It is usable, however, but claims it cannot accept VBR MP3s which is a bit silly as many online services now sell these files almost exclusively. Also, the manual is full of spelling mistakes and errors, which makes me think this is a product Sony released on the quick. The plastic casing is a bit cheap and tacky. The player is also noisy on its own, with all sorts of crazy stuttering noises and a noisy laser head swinging back and forth. If you have your music on, however, this isn't a problem! Might worry some people if you're on a plane, however :-)
And, last but not least, the ATRAC3Plus encoding does sound pretty good. Even at 48kbps I found it listenable, although not preferable on my favourite stuff. To make a single big 'compendium' CD for those times I can only take one CD with me, however, it's great.

Spend The Night (Intl Version)
Spend The Night (Intl Version)
Price: £6.51

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Catchy initially, and it grows on you over time too, 20 Dec. 2003
I bought this album this summer while I was in Los Angeles, because The Donnas did the music for the MTV show 'Surf Girls' that I was watching (now showing here in the UK too), and it provided a great soundtrack to a killer summer. I came to Amazon UK to look up the tracknames as iTunes hadn't imported my CD properly, and as I went through all the track names I realised I could remember the chorus from EVERY single song, just from the song title. This surprised me since I'd considered all of the songs to 'sound the same', but on reflection, they're all extremely catchy and have unique hooks. The lyrics are clear, easy to remember, and totally 'feel good'. So, I felt driven to write a review, considering my opinion of the album just shot up within a few minutes.
The Donnas have been releasing albums for five years now (I think this is their fourth) but this is the first album to ride the waves over the UK in any big way. But the Donnas are not just about the music, it's the whole image of the 'chick rock' band. They're not too dissimilar from British chick punk band Kenickie (fronted by Lauren Laverne), except that The Donnas are still going, and have a much bigger Californian/surf rock influence. This album screams 'West Coast'. This is no British influence punk, it's convertibles, palm trees, and hammering down the freeway to Santa Monica. That's the whole mood of this album, and if you're stuck in a bedsit in rainy Barnet hopefully this will rub off.
There's no point in reviewing individual tracks. They're all uptempo riff-driven surf-pop-rock tracks that you can head bang to. No particularly strong tracks, no particularly weak ones, it's just a solid disc to throw in to evoke California.. much like anything by Smash Mouth, Goldfinger, or Weezer (at a push).

Long Gone Before Daylight
Long Gone Before Daylight
Offered by westworld-
Price: £10.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cardigans leave Scandinavia for the American Mid West, 30 Mar. 2003
After collecting The Cardigans' albums I soon learnt their singles were only the tip of the iceberg when it came to their musical prowess. The first three albums were kitsch retro pop, intelligent yet candy-like. Then their biggest commercial success, 'Gran Turismo', came out in 1998, and it was totally dark and electonic. Biting melodies, heavy beats, and dark vocals. A massive U turn to their kitsch quirky roots.
And with their latest release, 'Long Gone Before Daylight', the Cardigans have made yet another massive U turn. Every single scrap of electronics has disappeared, to be replaced with acoustic instruments. The dark thudding basslines giving way to country rock soundscapes, harmonicas, and lilting organ backgrounds. It seemd Nina took a lot of her folksy sounds from her 'A Camp' album and brought them back to The Cardigans.
The Cardigans are doing to MOR what Radiohead did to jazz. Radiohead almost became a jazz band in the end, and The Cardigans have almost become an MOR band with this release. It's filled with lilting Sheryl Crowesque grooves, open country roads, and blue skies. And thankfully, Nina Persson's cooing vocals are as silky as ever. The cuts are gorgeous, with traces of Sheryl Crow, Coldplay, and The Wallflowers shining through.
Most will agree that this sounds somewhat reminiscent of Sheryl Crow's semi-flop "C'mon C'mon", but in The Cardigans' case the production is top notch, the vocals are blissful, and they're at a musical peak. Lap it up while you can.
This is The Cardigans leaving icy cold Scandanvian territory and heading out into the American Mid West. Both thumbs up.

The Certifiable Salesperson: The Ultimate Guide to Help Any Salesperson Go Crazy with Unprecedented Sales (Business)
The Certifiable Salesperson: The Ultimate Guide to Help Any Salesperson Go Crazy with Unprecedented Sales (Business)
by Tom Hopkins
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A loyal fan says.. great, but not for the experienced.., 14 Feb. 2003
I look up to Tom Hopkins greatly. He encouraged me to think of sales as a true profession, and to become great at it. Therefore, I buy whatever he releases, and usually find it of immense value. Not this.
I don't want to sound like the pessimistic 'Jack' in the book, but this is a very short book. I sat down and read it in two hours. It reinforced a lot of points raised in his other books, but didn't teach anything new. It sticks to the very basic areas of qualification and closing, and doesn't add anything to what Tom has already put out.
However, it is written in an extremely easy to read way. It's a fun book to read, even if you know the material! I really enjoyed reading this book, even though I learnt nothing new. And I can see how this book will be absolutely amazing for people who aren't familiar with the techniques of true Master salespeople.
So it gets five stars for being easy to read, and wonderful for beginners. But it loses a star for being mostly irrelevant to more experienced readers, although it's good reinforcement for what you've already learnt.
Sorry, Tom, but this is the least useful 'sales training' purchase I've made in a long time, but not the least enjoyable. But it's so cheap so I'm not too concerned.

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