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Steve Craftman (Neath)
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Breville Antony Worrall Thompson VBL030 Intelligent Blender
Breville Antony Worrall Thompson VBL030 Intelligent Blender

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The beginner's blender, 25 Oct. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The good design points:

It's firm and steady, with no tendency to move about while working - I've had blenders that had to be held in place while working.

The rubber lid fits very snugly and has a handle at one corner to ease its removal.

The stopper has a measuring scale up to 70 ml on the side.

Although tall at 44 cm (it only just fits under my cupboards) it has a small footprint.

The bad design points:

It has no on/off switch, so it must be unplugged from the socket after use if you don't want to waste electricity on having its little lights glowing all the time.

The measuring scale up the side of the jug has marks every 250 ml; there is plenty room for marks every 100 ml or even 50 ml

The book talks about the red light going out at the end of a cycle. What actually happens is that when a cycle is running, only that cycle is lit and when it has finished ALL the red lights are lit. After a while, just the "stop" light remains illuminated.

The nearly straight sides of the jug mean that if you drop the lid at the right angle it can fall down as far as the blades. Messy.

In use:

The book advises only chopping about 100g of nuts at a time to ensure an even texture. I tried with Brazil nuts, peanuts and cashew nuts (I like nut roasts). Even after several chop cycles and using a spatula to move the mixture about in between, I still found nearly entire nuts in the jug. I finished the job off in the Magimix.

My usual recipe for hummus was reasonably successful, though the suggested dips cycle was too long, resulting in an oversmooth dip. And less of it, too, as the jug has plenty of nooks and crannies for food to sit in until it's cleaned.

All in all, I feel that this is a beginner's blender: people who have been using blenders for years will have already developed the ear and eye for when things are right that the programs seek to replace. I can see this blender sitting at the back of the work surface, gathering dust.


Deviant Moon Tarot: Premier Edition
Deviant Moon Tarot: Premier Edition
by Patrick Valenza
Edition: Cards
Price: £26.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange, bizarre and beautiful, 22 Oct. 2009
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This is a strange and beautiful deck, which, although it largely follows the Rider-Waite-Smith conventions (though Justice is 8 and Strength 11), brings new meanings to the cards. The artwork is grotesque and surreal; the backgrounds created largely through extreme photo-manipulation featuring images of cemeteries and abandoned buildings, with of the characters having started out as sketches to which manipulated textures have been applied.

Many of the characters have a strange double face, one side of the face is in profile while the other side looks straight out (think full moon/crescent moon) - difficult to describe but very striking to look at. Characters sometimes have extra or missing limbs, The Empress has three breasts, Death is pregnant, and the figure in the Nine of Pentacles has a wheel instead of a foot...

The level of detail is amazing: the more you look, the more there is to see. The misery of poverty is brought to new heights in the facial expression of the figure in the Five of Pentacles, and in the Three of Swords there's an almost knowing look in the eye of the figure transfixed by three swords: is she suddenly aware of what is happening, or is she, perhaps, playing up to her situation calculatingly looking for sympathy?

The Little White Book is good as far as it goes, but the deck really needs the book that Patrick Valenza is working on. Meanings are given for reversals, and the backs of the cards give no hint of whether the card is upright or reversed.

I wouldn't recommend this deck to a beginner as much of its imagery is quite dark and unconventional, but for a more experienced tarotist this deck has a great deal to offer.

UPDATE: 2013 and the Deviant Moon is still my "working" deck...


Fix It Utilities 9 (PC CD)
Fix It Utilities 9 (PC CD)
Offered by gameworld121
Price: £7.62

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Inadequate, 17 Oct. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a curious mishmash of various utilities designed to optimise the PC's performance. Some modules use an XP/Vista style interface while others use a traditional Windows style interface, which makes me suspect that it's been cobbled together from a number of sources.

Warnings bells rang for me at the installation stage when informed that "long pauses are normal". Once installed, with the countdown having stayed stuck at 28 seconds for several minutes before bouncing back to two minutes, you're automatically invited to download the latest version. All well and good, but installing the latest version resulted in a problem with IE8: the menu bars changed from black on grey to black on black. Still usable, but it takes a good memory. Allowing another program to come to the fore, the IE8 menu items are then visible in dark grey on black.

Removing Fix-it repaired IE8. To be sure that it was Fix-it causing the problem I installed and re-installed the program three times in all with the same results. If it's got six legs, transparent wings and spiracles along its body, we might as well call it a bug. And this one is several feet long!

The virus checker is thorough, but incredibly slow. I've tried other virus checkers whose "check everything" option can do my PC in two or three hours, rather than the five and a half hours Fix-it took. Similarly I allowed the option to recover disk space to run for an hour before I ran out of patience: I can do the job manually in a fraction of the time, so what's the point?

The defragmenter and diskfixer look cheap and nasty and I have found faster alternatives on magazine cover disks. The installation routine doesn't put an uninstall shortcut on the start menu: you have to go to Windows control panel to uninstall.

The packaging... The "look big on the shop shelf" cardboard packaging weighs twice what the booklet (a fuller version of which appears on the CD) and the CD itself weigh. It could have been shipped in a normal CD or DVD case which would probably have a longer life than the software.

Apart from the problem with IE8, two major arguments against bothering with this software are its age (the packaging quotes a review from 2006), so there's no guarantee at all that it will work with Windows 7, and most surprisingly for software designed to protect a PC, there's no firewall.

Avoid.


Diagnosis: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Medical Mysteries
Diagnosis: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Medical Mysteries
by Lisa Sanders
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The whole patient, 15 Oct. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Lisa Sanders has written a book which ought to be read by anyone who needs medical treatment on a regular basis, or cares for someone who is ill: although written from the physician's point of view, illuminates the questions that the patient should ask and what they should expect of their doctor. Indeed some doctors of my acquaintance would do well to read "Diagnosis". It certainly threw new light for me on how various doctors handled my late partner's medical problems.

The emphasis throughout is that the doctor should get the whole picture, should listen to the patient and encourage the patient to talk more. One set of symptoms can appertain to more than one illness, so the doctor's job is to sort through all the available information, and not be afraid to draw on colleagues' experience, to arrive at a diagnosis.

The style is generally easy to read, almost conversational. Medical terms are explained in a matter-of-fact manner. Lisa Sanders speaks to the reader as an equal. A note at the beginning of the book informs us that when generalising the author will refer to doctors as "she" and patients as "he" - a nice reversal of what many readers might expect.


Lesbian Vampires from Outer Space
Lesbian Vampires from Outer Space

5.0 out of 5 stars I just hope that I don't have to pay in blood, 12 Oct. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I discovered Scary Bitches by finding video of the title track of this album on youtube. Probably the first time I replayed a video on youtube as soon as it had finished, and certainly the first youtube link I've posted to friends.

Musically the landscape is wider than that of Creepy Crawlies but Lesbian Vampyres is just as witty, if not wittier as Creepy Crawlies. There's even a hint of Pam Ayres: "Be my dinner, lunch and tea / served with peas and celery" (You Always Eat the One You Love). There's a sense that they're finding their more of their own sound. The Cure plus Lene Lovich comparison I made for Creepy Crawlies is less appropriate here, with its wider soundscape.

P*** All Over Your Grave goes to such extremes of personal hatred that it becomes funny (as, no doubt, was the Scary Bitches intention). You'll End Up Looking Like the Scary Bitches has a wonderful moment in it: "long black dress made of satin and lace <snip> no son of mine's going out dressed like that"

If you liked Creepy Crawlies, you'll love this. And if you're in doubt, most, if not all, tracks are available for download on Amazon. If you're going to sample via MP3, try the title track or Grave.


Creepy Crawlies
Creepy Crawlies
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloody good, 12 Oct. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Creepy Crawlies (Audio CD)
What would The Cure sound like if Lene Lovich was the lead singer? Creepy Crawlies offers an answer. And if Alice Cooper is revolving in his coffin, it's from pure jealousy. Scary Bitches present a musically tight set of songs, melodies that stick in the head, with some of the wittiest lyrics I've heard in years. They're not a comedy act: they're singing from a different reality.

It's difficult to pick a highlight. Cold Caller is a fantasy about the frustrations of cold callers and spam ("why do they find it so amazing I don't want double f***ing glazing"), Birds and Bees is a dysfunctional look at sex education with sound advice ("always use a condom, you can do what you please, they stop you getting pregnant and catching STDs" ). Lene Lovich would be proud of the sax riffs in Ghost Riders in the Sky, and the slow Cossack dance of Transylvanian Love Song ("my god but you're ugly when you're miserable")

If you've arrived at this page, you're obviously interested. Go on, buy it!


The Arthurian Tarot
The Arthurian Tarot
by Caitlin Matthews
Edition: Cards
Price: £10.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still, it comes in a nice solid box..., 11 Oct. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Arthurian Tarot (Cards)
An interesting deck, with new appellations for some of the Major arcana and new suit names, which may confuse beginners. The new names give new insights into the meaning of the card, but the minor arcana are, unfortunately a mess. Only Swords of the conventional suits remains. Instead of Wands, Cups and Pentacles, we have Spears, Grails and Stones. A single standing stone in a field: how are you, beside the legend beneath the picture, to know that this actually the Stones Five? (Incidentally my deck contained two copies of Stones Five, though no cards were missing).

For those interested in Arthurian tradition: 5 stars

For those interested in comparing Tarot decks: 3 stars

For beginners: 1 star


The Fairy Tale Tarot (Cards & Book)
The Fairy Tale Tarot (Cards & Book)
by Lisa Hunt
Edition: Cards

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairy Tales for grown ups, 10 Oct. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I only recently received my copy of this deck, so please don't consider this a definitive review. The package is in Llewellyn's current style: large box containing an (fake? - it feels too scratchy to be real organza) organza bag, cardboard inserts to mask some empty space and a substantial paperback book.

The card are printed on reasonably robust cardstock and, rare amongst Tarots, have no borders. You can check this by looking at the pack edge on: the pictures really do go up to the edge as you can tell by the kaleidoscope of colours around the edges. While I find Lisa Hunt's artwork to be a little on the twee, sentimental side, I must admit to owning a number of her decks, so she's obviously doing something right.

I have two bugbears with new decks: the first is that the reverse of the card should indicate easily whether reversals are intended to be used (the test is to take two cards place them face down while rotating one of them through 180 degrees, and then play spot the difference!). This deck supports reversals. If you're dealing cards I don't think that either reader or querent should know that some cards are reversed until they're turned over.

My second bugbear is that the minor arcana should show the appropriate number of coins, cups, swords, or wands (or whatever names have been used instead of the traditional) on the card itself, rather than us having to take the artist's word that a single stone actually represents the five of stones. The symbols can be somewhat hard to find in the deck but they are there.

Ms Hunt has gone literally all over the world in her search for fairy tales, so a number of cards would be unfamiliar to pretty much everyone: it is this that prevents me from saying that this would be a good deck for beginners (though a student with a good knowledge of folk mythology could go far with this deck). But it's the very eclecticism of the stories that makes this Tarot set so valuable: in the accompanying book "Once Upon a Time" the fairy story the card is based upon is briefly recounted before a piece about how the image selected fits into the (RWS based) Tarot.

I'm not so keen on the re-naming of a number of the major arcana: The Fairy Godmother is no substitute for The Empress - they are very different characters. To call Death "Transformation" is brushing the potentially "difficult" stuff under carpet. And "Happily Ever After" for The World is verging on pure schmaltz: The World's ending of one sequence before the start of another need not necessarily be comfortable.

But "Once Upon a Time" is the star of this set: the Fairy Tale behind each card is told and analysed before it is related to the cards. With each card, the story title is given, together with the culture it comes from and a few keywords. Pretty as the cards are, and as obvious as the symbolism is, once you've read the book, they do depend on the book, unless you have an encyclopaedia-like memory of world fairy tales.

I'm strongly reminded of the early nineties when Stephen Sondheim wrote a musical "Into the Woods" which intermeshed half a dozen or more fairy stories into a complicated story of cause and effect and responsibility. I'd recommend "Into the Woods" to anyone buying "The Fairy Tale Tarot".
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2012 3:34 AM BST


Makers
Makers
by Cory Doctorow
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, 10 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Makers (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I approached this book with reasonably high expectations, having enjoyed the author's previous novel "Little Brother". What I found was an indigestible lump of prose liberally sprinkled with futuristic-sounding words and usages. Sometimes it's possible to tell what they're on about, other times I needed to search around the text for something I missed. The end result is a feeling of smugness emanating from the book, "I know what I'm talking about and you don't - tough". Which is strange because his columns in The Guardian make for easy enough reading.

I found it impossible to engage with any of the characters as they all seemed to be two-dimensional and pretty much indistinguishable from each other. It's not that successful fiction about nerdy types isn't possible: I'm currently watching "Sliders" on DVD and thoroughly enjoying it.

Chapter breaks give a reader time to think about what they've just read (or even a chance to set the limit for that night's reading in bed). No chapters, just three lengthy parts. This isn't a book, so much as notes for a short story that got too big.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2010 1:33 PM GMT


Le Creuset Classic Cast Iron Round Casserole, 28 cm - Teal
Le Creuset Classic Cast Iron Round Casserole, 28 cm - Teal
Price: £168.00

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Farewell to ready meals, 30 Sept. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A friend of mine was given one of these casseroles as a gift last year and I've been jealous since. I finally treated myself to one recently, buying the same size as my friend had, and forgetting that her cooker is 55 or 60cm wide, while mine is a modest 50cm. Fortunately, the heat absorption of the cast iron means that the casserole's being slightly off centre on its ring means that size doesn't matter.

I live alone, but once a week cook for up to seven or eight people. I don't much like washing up, so have got pretty good at one-pot cookery, which is where this casserole excels. I only need to cook twice a week: anything more, besides bread, is for the fun of it. Once for the dinner party, and then once for the freezer.

Even washing up isn't as difficult as I feared: although the casserole is large and heavy, even dried on food wipes off easily with warm soapy water and a sponge (oh! To have room for a dishwasher!). There's a little voice in my ear that keeps whispering "go on... get the matching saucepans... you know you want to..."


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