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Chris Adams "Gofalus" (wales)
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Landmann 0566 Charcoal Wagon Barbecue
Landmann 0566 Charcoal Wagon Barbecue
Price: £25.00

1.0 out of 5 stars Cheap and nasty, 2 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought this to replace my B&Q samba (now discontinued), a breed of which I'd had two over nearly 25 years. Finally succembed to rust.

Not in the same league, very dissatisfied and have returned.

The design is poor. The assembly does not use locknuts and there are too many connections. Expected it to fall to pieces in a few months of moving around. the wood is of a type which will become unhygenically dirty after a few barbecues.

Many of the metal bits were deformed and had sharp edges: I sustained three cuts to fingers before I'd done 6 nuts and bolts.

It's small. The dimensions given on Amazon don't tell you the cooking area, which is 75% of my previous barbecue.

To be fair, the main metal bits were well constructed.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 13, 2014 11:43 AM BST


Hawking Technology 3 Port USB/Parallel Print Server (HPS12U)
Hawking Technology 3 Port USB/Parallel Print Server (HPS12U)

1.0 out of 5 stars A lifetime of woes, 14 Mar 2014
First I connected it in a network of three xp computers, serving two printers, one usb one parallel, netgear router. It took 2 days to get the printers recognised. Each time I thought I'd got there, the addresses got lost: I'm not sure how it finally got fixed, but we got to a standoff where I had to reinstall printers about once a month. Got a new usb laserjet: fastnr printing and no adverse changes. Then I replaced a PC with a windows 7 home premium job: went smoothly. It even survived a change of router to BT homehub, and seemed if anything more stable.

Now my new laptop is Windows 7 Professional. Disaster. The software disc won't run. The software from the web doesn' t find the printers. Tried every tip I found through Googling. Not a sniff of working. The hps12u appears confused and unhappy: none of my computers will drive either of the printers. And my network as a whole has become unstable.

Over 5 years the cost of this device in my time is at least a week. The cost in stress is incalculable.

Not worth it.


The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery
The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery
by George Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.40

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chaotic and kaleidoscopic., 20 Oct 2013
I had high hopes for this book. It got some good reviews in the heavier weeklies, and the subject deserves a new, wide ranging treatment. All we get in the media are pharma press releases and their attendant post code lottery stories. Nice, I thought, to get an overview.

And the book does give some very deep insights about origins:

Cancer isn't a disease - it's natural, and a condition which all multicellular organisms can experience, way back to the dinosaurs. "The price of evolution"
It results from a combination of cell mutation and cell division; there are a lot of similarities to the way bacteria behave when they're faced with a stress agent like an antibiotic.

Apart from the chemicals in tobacco or marijuana smoke, there is very little evidence to support the assertion that chemicals in food or the environment cause cancer: one exception is alcohol and cancers of the mouth or throat. Similarly there isn't a good link between radiation and cancer, except for very high doses which have a local effect. All these things may cause increased mutation, but mutation on its own doesn't lead to cancer.

A cancerous growth has a very difficult time establishing itself in a body: it benefits if we encourage it.

Cancer can be encouraged by factors which enhance cell growth: hormones especially oestrogen; insulin (which is why obesity and diabetes lead to higher incidences.

The statistics suggest that the incidence of cancer is not increasing unusually. We just don't die of other causes.

There's other good stuff, too. I really enjoyed the description of large science conferences: the poster sessions resemble the souks of Marrakesh, long interwoven corridors of goodies, and students waitng to pounce to tell you about them. The plenary sessions are like the square in the evening, evryone crowds round to hear the story tellers. And the annotations are comprehensive.

But I found the book unstructured and therefore hard going, and I'm a professional scientist. It jumps about and lacks an overall routemap. It could do with better signposts.

And I suspect that it will disappoint many readers, who might be looking for guidance on treatment, or a sharing of experience about the emotions of having the condition. This is a brave attempt to grasp the whole of the subject. Unfortunately the author isn't up to it.

Possibly someone should ask Steve Jones to have a go at it.


Night Watch (Alexandra Cooper)
Night Watch (Alexandra Cooper)
by Linda Fairstein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why America shouldn'[t rule the world, 21 Oct 2012
Don't you just love Alex Cooper? Or rather, have you ever wondered why you do?

Think about the positioning. Rich, but from an sort-of-ethical source. Has a remit to deal with crimes against women, but expands it ad infinitum. A special relationship with her department head which enables her to by-pass all normal channels of reporting. Upmarket boyfriends, who mostly turn out to be turds. Costumes for different occasions (defined by height of heel). Stealing men - what does she give to her two cohorts that their wives or afficiandos don't? She buys into everything that is questioonable in modrn consdumer society.

Plot? Zilch. Read a single George Simenon and you'll get plot. Even Elmore Leonard.

The one redeeming feature is the potted history of NYC. Maybe. But this is second hand. Thanks to the Rough Guide I've visited all the genuine sites Fairstaen mentions, and got a better atmosphere. Read and assimilate any book on American history and you'll have more chance on Jeopardy than Cooper and her cohorts.

Anyone who thinks that these novels make positive statements about the role and position of women is advised to read (a) Dorothy L sayers, and (b) the Holmes novels of Laurie R King. What she's selling is rampant consumerism.


Fat Chemistry
Fat Chemistry
by C Allardyce
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.95

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy, superficial and ignorant, 5 Oct 2012
This review is from: Fat Chemistry (Paperback)
My first task in reading any popular science book is to check how the author treats subjects that I know about. Presenting facts in a straightforward and simple way to help the lay person understand is one thing; getting facts wrong is another.

Claire Allardyce didn't have to work too hard to let me fulfil my task. On the first page, trying to explain chemical reactivity, she gets it all wrong about the noble gases - what she calls the inert gases. They do react: it's been known for 50 years. All of them have some sort of chemistry, and for xenon it's rather extensive. So one down, unexpectedly.

Then to the index. Hydrogenation, 5 pages. Her view of the history is woefully incomplete, even the Wikipedia gets this one right. She misses the point that the trick was to be able to engineer how to make hydrogen, a gas, react with liquid fats. It wasn't Sabatier, who got the Nobel prize for his discovery of gas-phase catalytic hydrogenation: it was Normann, a German, who first claimed to show how to do this. Interestingly, the technology was commmercialised by Joseph Crosfield and Sons of Warrington, a rare example of a German invention exploited in England.

So I approached the rest with no confidence in her "facts" or interpretation. The homespun account of the evolution of human digestion left me unimpressed, so many references to "Mother nature", whatever that is. She's right in that obesity results from individuals getting the energy balance in their bodies wrong, eating more than we use. Most of us are programmed to do this if we can, and our physiology and our society provide feedback systems to persuade us to do so. Some of us have a morbid capacity to store the excess as fat. If we all walked 5 miles to work each day and eschewed central heating there might be hope of keeping the average human weight down to 50kg or so. A few diagrams would have saved hundreds of words.

One can blame the food industry for many things: the destruction of flavour; screwing farmers; additives; Pringles. Its basic business is to induce us to eat its products, and it uses all sorts of technical devices to use cheap ingredients to raise its profits. Its pretty good at its business. But this topic has been covered so much better by other authors that Fat Chemistry adds nothing.

As a youth I got my science from experts: Fred Hoyle, J B haldane, etc. I feel very sorry for current children (and their parents) who seem fated to be told stories by commentators rather than experts.

I advise anyone wishing to use the content of this book to proceed with caution.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2012 3:33 PM GMT


The Fear Index
The Fear Index
by Robert Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very artificial, and not much intelligence, 14 Oct 2011
This review is from: The Fear Index (Hardcover)
This book occupies the same niche as Michael Crichton's "Prey", which featured nano-bots becoming independent entities a bit like social insects. A little better written, but equally unrealistic in its take on technology and stuffed with one-dimensional characters.

The character of Hamilton didn't work for me. I know mathematical "nerds" and the one thing that connects them is a passion to know not just what their theorems and algorithms do, but HOW they do it. Knowing how is the basis for improving. It is inconceivable to me that a Hamilton character would not be monitoring the how of VIXAL And how come none of the quants did either? Not true to life.

The company structure doesn't ring true either: no evidence of financial control, which would have flagged up all VIXAL's manouevrings.

Mostly, though, the book lacked suspense: one had guessed by about the fourth chapter that it was the AI doing the dirty, so the interest became "how". The only original twist was the theme of internet assisted killing.

The one redeeming feature of the book was that it might open more eyes to the world of computer driven market trading, and the risks that the methods harbour. Won't change anything, though.

I'm disappointed. Perhaps it shows. I thoroughly enjoyed all three of Harris's books on Roman society, also Fatherland. The subjects he used as the basis of the Fear Index are important, and merit better novels to bring out the human aspects - the 21st century equivalent of say "Bonfire of the Vanities" by Tom Wolfe, or "Brightness Falls" by Jay McInnery.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 27, 2011 5:25 PM GMT


La Seduction
La Seduction
by Elaine Sciolino
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.42

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars on ne sait jamais, 13 Sep 2011
This review is from: La Seduction (Paperback)
BBC radio 4 has this wonderful programme "From our own correspondent" in which BBC reporters deliver short talks about aspects of life in the country in which they are stationed. Never less than interesting, it's often insightful and fascinating. But they work because they start with observation and draw out the underlying patterns and inferences.

By contrast, Ms Sciolino starts with a model, and rewrites France and French life to provide evidence. To be fair, most of her input comes from Paris, and especially the few people who cluster round political and societal life in the capital. It's abit like imagining Britishness to be deined by the inhabitants of Westminster and Islington. And she does have the handicap of feminism, a distorting eyeglass if ever there was one.

Superficially her argument is persuasive. French society is more comfortable than Anglo-Saxon society with the idea that men and women can relate to each other sexually in all aspects of life. It's more comfortable with suggestive and provocative display of the human body. It demands an attention to presentation - appropriate presentation - in all walks of life. It celebrates stylishness and enjoyment of pleasure.

But I can't equate her vision with my experience of the French: the technologists and scientists I've worked with on European projects, well organised and erudite and very self-centered: the Breton petrol station owner who short-changed me in 1968: the French tourists who invade my Welsh home town every summer, who seem to take a pride in parking so as to block the passage of as many cars as possible.

In the end one takes out a picture of a society stuck in the 18th century, a mix of marriages for connections and les liaisons dangereuses.

If the French way of doing things has value for the future of global society - and in its penchant for control of behaviour it just might - it deserves an advocate with deeper insights and better writing.


To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?
To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?
by Lucy Siegle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.96

14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not up to it, 15 Aug 2011
Why when I read anything by Lucy Siegle am I reminded of Howard Kirk, the tragic hero of Malcolm Bradbury's 1975 novel The History Man? Well, like Kirk, Siegle works on a fashionable topic: she polters obediently with the zeitgeist; she's on trend, so to speak. Like Kirk, she seems to be an urban creation, a real metrotextual. And then I remembered Bradbury's account of the critical response to Howard Kirk's first book, the one that made his name, and contained "an argumentative energy and a frank sense of participation in the permissive scene " "it had generally been found a committed advanced book, on the right side, (my italics) and it did sound quite sociological as you read it". Substitute "green" for "permissive" and "ecological" for "sociological", and there you have "To Die For".

All writers on factual topics interpose themselves between the subject and the reader: when it's done well the subject is transformed, rather like a skilled portrait painter captures and displays his subject's personality. Unfortunately Siegle's writing all too often resembles the style of modern celebrity TV presenters - all you see is the presenter walking in front of the subject gesticulating, the commentary bland and superficial, lacking attention to detail. It irritates. Numbers are presented as facts without context or adequate comparisons of scale. So the average tumble drier emits 248 kg of carbon dioxide per year: so what does that mean? What's more important, it's not the tumble drier that emits the gas, it's the power station that supplies the electricity that emits the greenhouse gas, and only then if the consumer opts for a fossil fuel supplier.

The method of enquiry is typical of the genre. Interviews with locals badly affected by the industry are interspersed with takes on the global business. What you lose by this approach is any sense of differences between consumer countries, or the variability of implications for the outsourced countries. I would have been delighted to learn how far all the adolescent pursuit of instant fashion affects all Western countries. What does the total picture look like? Is the UK typical? What you get instead is Siegle's astonishment as she uncovers the filthy little secrets of the rag trade. But there is no sense of the road to Damascus in the text. The inconsistencies in her life between her position as an eco-guru and her avid consumption of fast fashion are ignored.

The style is irritating. She can't keep her figures of speech straight: She "can't shake the...vibe", by which I think she means "give up a habit". It's even worse when she coins a phrase; even Sun headline writers would cringe at "From Slacktivism to Activism". What comes through is that writing a book of some 300 pages is different from the thousand or so words of a weekly column, and requires very different levels of care and organisation.

But the topic is very important. The many industries involved in the manufacture of textiles and their conversion into clothes (and other items like furnishings, conveniently forgotten here) do make a lot of pollution, do distort economies, and need to change to become sustainable. But like so many of her ilk, the environmental journalists, Siegle does not offer solutions which have any credibility. What level and mix of clothing manufacture is sustainable? What about the fact that all the current synthetic fibres can be made from wood pulp (yep, even polyester and acrylic). What about the Green Chemistry movement which is busily cleaning up all the textile finishing and colouring industrial processes. She doesn't even start to define limits, and has no recipes for change. All she offers is better information through labelling and a few self proclaimed style gurus. Can this compete with the peer pressure of YouTube, Twitter and FaceBook? You might hope so, but don't count on it.

This is the key question. What to do about the collective immaturity which leaves even the30-something Ms Siegle (my estimate) a "victim" to fast moving fashion trends? What to do about this, the underlying source of the market pull for the fashion industry? It's part of the phenomenon of extended adolescence, alongside the reluctance to commit to marriage and the non-stop partying. If I'd known this would happen I'd never have shopped at BIBA in the late 1960s - except that the clothes my wife and I bought then are still wearable for all sorts of reasons.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2011 11:26 AM GMT


ABC Products® All in One USB Multi Digital Camera / Mobile Phone Picture Memory Card Reader Writer USB 2.0 Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and Apple Mac OS V9.2 & above, PLUG and PLAY Digital Photo Frame Transfer, Reads all Cards Except Smart Media, USB Cable Included
ABC Products® All in One USB Multi Digital Camera / Mobile Phone Picture Memory Card Reader Writer USB 2.0 Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and Apple Mac OS V9.2 & above, PLUG and PLAY Digital Photo Frame Transfer, Reads all Cards Except Smart Media, USB Cable Included
Offered by abcproducts
Price: £5.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars cheap and nasty, 26 July 2011
Obviously my experience isn't typical to judge by the other reviews.

Here's what I found.

The beast disabled any USB port it was stuck into.

Inserting an SD card was tricky, you have to wiggle the card to locate the pins, and push hard to get it bedded down. This is a recipe for breaking pins.

I sent it back.

Never again will I go for a cheap option.


Revolutions that Made the Earth
Revolutions that Made the Earth
by Tim Lenton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.61

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great science book, 6 Jun 2011
This is a truly great popular science book. I read it initially with interest and then with impatience: a real page turner. My feelings for the authors went from respect to admiration to awe and finally to envy. Fancy putting all that together, strands from so many different scientific disciplines, and all clearly explained and referenced. As a chemist I wa especially taken by the oxidised/reduced senarios, a vision made possible only because the geological timescales are orders of magnitude longer than laboratory experiments. As I read I got a feeling which I've previously had only twice in my 47 year career as a scientist: to write to the authors and ask if I could work with them.

I compare this book with the waffly mush currently produced by the likes of Brian Cox. Okay, perhaps the intent and the audience are different, but no account of a scientific subject should forego structure and rigour. And here we have structure and rigour in abundance. Facts are clearly distinguished from theory, hypothesis and conjecture. An exemplary format and quality of science writing.

The godfather of the book is of course James Lovelock, who first published the idea that negative feedback systems have kept the planet within habitable limits. The authors describe these systems qualitatively: the technically literate reader would have welcomed more numbers, especially about the amounts of materials involved in the cycling systems of for example nitrogen and phosphorus. They nicely develop concepts about availability of resources, but don't say how many tonnes of carbon need to be buried. For me, it's the numbers which help me grasp what thinking on the planetary scale is all about.

Its basic message is that revolutions in the planetary system are sustainable only if they engender appropriate negative feedback systems. The past is excellently described, but if the book has a failing it is in its last two chapters: human society and what next. The proposition that recent human activity constitutes such a revolution is left sort of hanging. More, the examination of current ideas for dealing with the implications of our recent fossil use is a bit disappointing, given the excellent way that the previous 4.5 billion years are described. I would have loved to have seen comments from expert earth scientists about the various deliberate geoengineering hypes which make the papers so regularly. They are right about which energy systems to go for, selecting solar and nuclear for their high energy densities, a choice based on good eveidence. They are on less secure ground in their preferred options for agriculature. The "retreat" strategists are given short shrift, probably fairly for their political naiveté, but failing to do justice to the many ideas that have been developed for practical energy economy and for redefining quality of life. Lovelock influence again, I suspect, with his vision of megacities and megafarms, stirring thoughts of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness.

But from the point of view of the earth scientist what is important for a successful human experiment is, first, to use only energy and materials that can be harvested safely, and second, to recycle all waste. The book is a clear and readable statementof how we got here and puts our current problems in a beuatiful long term frame. perfect science. How our species works this out will be politics and engineering.


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