Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now
Profile for andrewp > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by andrewp
Top Reviewer Ranking: 538,919
Helpful Votes: 131

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by

Page: 1
SanDisk Clip Zip 4GB MP3 Player with FM Radio - Blue
SanDisk Clip Zip 4GB MP3 Player with FM Radio - Blue

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value for money - and now officially Rockbox-able as of 5 March 2013!, 11 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was specifically looking for:

* a player with no moving parts that I could use while out running;
* that could be used as a simple USB mass storage device (just drag n drop);
* that could recognise and play Ogg Vorbis music files as well as MP3s;
* that could run the Rockbox open-source firmware.

This player does all those things perfectly in my view. What really made me want to give this 5 stars was:

* it not only runs Rockbox but as of Rockbox 3.13 it's considered a fully stable target;
* the built-in microphone is more than adequate to record band / choir rehearsals;
* the FM radio;
* within Rockbox, the pitch detector is incredibly useful for tuning up.

Overall, it's just really great value for money.

TP-LINK TL-WN781ND 150Mbps Wireless PCI Express Adapter + Low Profile Bracket
TP-LINK TL-WN781ND 150Mbps Wireless PCI Express Adapter + Low Profile Bracket
Offered by Maplin_Webdeals
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worked instantly using Linux, 4 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Not much to say except this network card worked perfectly for me out of the box. I bought it because it would use up the small PCI Express slot in an old motherboard given to me as a cast-off.

I exclusively run Debian GNU/Linux 6 ("squeeze") on this computer, and the wireless card was ready to go as soon as I had logged in, absolutely no configuration required. For Linux users' information, it's using the b43 kernel module as described here: [...] , so you should have no problem using a different distro.

I chose the express delivery and it arrived the next morning as promised.

Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients
Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients
by Ben Goldacre
Edition: Paperback

109 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply interesting, backed up by plenty of evidence, with practical recommendations., 2 Oct. 2012
This is an impressive book on a serious subject which at times really is a matter of life and death. It can be read by anyone interested in the pharmaceutical industry, and doesn't require any previous knowledge of medicine or even science in general.

The tone is chatty enough to keep you interested, while remaining relatively well structured. I think you will get an idea of whether you would enjoy this book by first watching either of Ben Goldacre's TED talks: if you finish watching them and think "I want to know more" then this book is going to be just the thing for you.

There is no hint of conspiracy theory in this book. Goldacre sticks to a sober recounting of the problems, and he is meticulous about backing up what he says with references, with particular emphasis on systematic reviews, which is important given the subject matter of the book. He never gets into politics, but concentrates on actual, proven real-world harms and benefits.

I also appreciate that despite the massive size of the problems he's describing, he manages to avoid despair and gives recommendations appropriate for the different sections of his readership. I thought the section on conflicts of interest was subtly thought-out and proves that Goldacre is not simply "anti-pharma" and has considered carefully how things could actually be changed in practice.

It's by no means an uplifting and easy read, but it is a fantastic book and fully worth the effort. And who knows, even if you're not a healthcare professional, you may be able to contribute to solving these problems by raising awareness.

by Oliver James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stories and a chance for some self-reflection. But the central idea is a clumsy one., 24 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Affluenza (Paperback)
Well I certainly enjoyed reading this, but I can't score it more than 3/5 because of some overall flaws.

The main problem is that the author writes with a level of certainty that his research doesn't appear to warrant. The main thrust of the book is carried forward by using case studies and while they are very enlightening one by one, there is no sense that his metaphor of the affluenza "virus" is anything more than a pet idea that he's trying to justify after the fact with a string of anecdotes.

One particularly weird passage was where the author declared with great certainty, about the "startlingly beautiful women" of Moscow that, "on the whole, their primary intention is not for men to desire them or for other women to envy them, but simply to look beautiful". This conclusion is simply declared then supported by some examples from his case studies which appear to fit. Even granting his entirely subjective premise as true (i.e. that the women of Moscow are significantly more beautiful in comparison to elsewhere), it's not at all clear why the author's conclusion is one to take.

A related problem is that the virus / vaccines metaphor is not all that helpful. For instance, a real virus typically has one corresponding effective vaccine which you only need to administer a limited number of times, often only once. Whereas some of the affluenza "vaccines" mentioned in this book require sustained social intervention and are defined somewhat vaguely. I'm aware that this may sound like me nit-picking but I would ask what the point is of using an idea as the basis for the book if it neither fits the facts directly nor helps you understand the overall situation by analogy.

Having said all that, I enjoyed the vast majority of the book, dealing as it did with case studies of different people across the world. I'm very sympathetic to the author's proposition that we have an overall problem of materialism. He describes the many strange effects of working blindly for ever more money and possessions without any real sense of what you will meaningfully *do* with them or when you might find time to do it.

I think the variety of case studies showed interestingly how various materialistic tendencies can show up in different cultural contexts. Reading each study gives you the chance to reflect on how you differ from the subject and how you are the same, and is quite enlightening if you're in a reflective mood.

Even though I am skeptical about the validity of the author's methods, I nevertheless enjoyed reading his recommendations about, for instance, how to avoid getting stuck in a rut at work, and how to work out what you really need as opposed to what someone else tells you that you want. Again, there is the chance for reflection on whether or not these recommendations are relevant or would work for you.

In short, read this for the many interesting stories and the opportunity for self-reflection, but take the overall concept with a huge pinch of salt.

The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Form your own opinion about it, don't accept anyone else's., 5 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The God Delusion (Paperback)
The main point I want to make is that this book is surely the most widely misrepresented piece of writing I've encountered. There are countless reviews and "rebuttals" online which suggest, for instance, that it's more offensive than it really is, or which summarise the arguments incorrectly (regardless of whether the reviewer actually agrees with the arguments or not or whether they liked reading the book).

My advice is do *not* take anyone's opinion for granted, read it yourself and work out what *you* think of it.

For what it's worth, I found the book to be clear as well as entertainingly written, not to mention well laid-out. It's worth pointing out that you can easily read the chapters stand-alone, since there is a description in the Introduction of what will be discussed in each chapter.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 16, 2013 9:35 AM GMT

The Case for God: What religion really means
The Case for God: What religion really means
by Karen Armstrong
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A good case against literal religion, but no case for God., 5 Sept. 2012
UPDATED, 01 Oct, after finishing the book:

Karen Armstrong's writing is structured and readable throughout. She's illustrated how counter-productive it is to try and treat religion and God as essentially knowable, fixed, literal concepts. She explains how (to her at least) God is what happens when we experience the boundary of what language can express, in the same way that we sometimes experience other wordless arts like music or dance or painting. God to her is not something to be merely believed in, it's something to practise and experience. And, atheist though I am, I find myself sympathetic to her cause. If religion is *for* anything, then I think it should be this kind of meditative practice insofar as it promotes mental wellbeing.

Here is my main problem with this book - it's all based on Karen Armstrong's opinion of what God is and isn't. She's considered the experiences of meditation, pondering philosophical paradoxes, or otherwise achieving altered states of mind and apparently jumped to the conclusion that these things should be called "God". The two obvious problems with making this leap are:

(1) why does this even require a supernatural explanation and a misleading supernatural name such as "God"? You could just as easily point out (as Sam Harris would) that there is no need to invoke the supernatural to explain this. At no point does Armstrong ever explain why a "transcendent" experience is worthy of being called "God" or "divine".

(2) there have undoubtedly been millions upon millions of people throughout history who *didn't* have such a loose concept of God and have explicitly conducted their lives based on a more literal interpretation of scripture. While I can completely sympathise with her campaign against literalist religion, she has failed to convince me that the non-literal apophatic religion she is arguing for has been anywhere near as mainstream as she argues.

This leads onto a related point: Armstrong never tells us what religion should positively be like in her opinion. This book is all about what religion and the idea of God should *not* be like. The furthest we get is that she approves of apophatic religious practice, but this itself apparently involves reaching a state of mysterious unknowing, and then simply saying "That was deeply mysterious, it must be God". One big question this book leaves me with is this: given that the author is so committed to the idea of God and religion, and is rightly appalled by fundamentalist, literalist readings of scripture, exactly how would she advise me to actually practise religion?.

I find it ironic to note that Armstrong's views in practice don't seem very far off those of Sam Harris, whom she very clearly misrepresents at one point. Harris has openly discussed meditation and achieving what we might call "spiritual" experiences or "transcendent" states of mind, and has advocated it.

A final, rather serious flaw of this book is misrepresentation of scientists' work during the later sections of the book, including a gross misunderstanding of the very nature of scientific inquiry, viz:

* She summarises James Clerk Maxwell's contribution to science as discovering that a signal can arrive before it was sent. I am pretty convinced this is not what Maxwell discovered in any meaningful sense, and it is not a consequence of Maxwell's Equations as far as I can see. If anyone can actually explain to me what Armstrong is talking about here, please comment and tell me!
* She essentially says that Einstein took quantum theory and developed it to propose his theories of relativity. I suspect that she has simply confused the fact that Einstein contributed to the early development of quantum mechanics (e.g. explaining the photoelectric effect, proposing wave-particle duality) but also, more or less separately, formulated his theories of relativity. Again, any enlightenment as to what Armstrong really means here would be very welcome.
* Her overall conclusion that any initial scientific hypothesis involves a 'leap of faith' just like a religious leap of faith is just ridiculous. The difference is obvious: in science, sure, the initial hypothesis is just a hunch, but it then gets tested. And if it the results don't fit, you have to either re-work or completely ditch the hypothesis. And then just to top it off, Armstrong seems to be taking science to task for having the impertinence to change as newer, better theories are confirmed. She seems to approve of science's "leaps of faith" but then gets annoyed when science changes too much. Which way does she want it?

So, in summary: this book was fairly interesting as a history of apophatic religion as opposed to literalist religion. But that's where its real interest stops. Not only are we lacking any kind of "Case for God" in this book, as many other reviewers have noted, we're even lacking any substantial positive conclusion or recommendation. So it's difficult to see why you should buy this book instead of say, Armstrong's History Of God, which I haven't read, but which at least is reported to be a better history book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2016 7:29 PM GMT

Pigeon English
Pigeon English
by Stephen Kelman
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, thoughtful, depressing... and definitely worth a read., 4 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Pigeon English (Paperback)
This is a worthy book thanks to its subject matter. But it's also an entertaining book because of its "unreliable narrator" technique, odd teenage slang and the mixture of comedy and darkness. It's by no means perfect, but it's definitely worth reading.

There were only 2 negative points in my opinion: firstly, the pigeon, for my taste, is an unnecessary addition. Artistically I see why it was included, probably to provide a contrast in style and outlook to Harri. But I'm a sucker for an "unreliable narrator" story precisely because I like the consistency of only knowing what the narrator tells me. Secondly, I found that the ending crept up on me very abruptly and I was left wanting more. I'm sure that would be fine for plenty of other people's tastes though.

I enjoyed the slang used and the way it's sometimes amusing, but depressing at other times when the characters' language itself seems to restrict their thinking. Harri's mixture of talking like an 11-year-old I can recognise, like a potential gang criminal, like an immigrant remembering the old country or like a superstitious weirdo is particularly entertaining. Often it takes a few sentences before you can work out which one of these "modes" he's talking in, and indeed what he's talking about. The slang is repetitive, yes, but that is an illustration in itself.

I also enjoyed the breadth of the subject matter, which touches on all the many ways in which Harri and his family are dealt a bad hand, not just the gang issue.

This book is amusing, thoughtful, and I have to admit, depressing. But I still read it and enjoyed every moment of it.

Page: 1