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A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
Price: 1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The society described here could not function, 24 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought the first book on my son's recommendation, then followed up with the next two. I'm not a fantasy fan, and my comments should be read in that light.

First the good points: the multiple-viewpoint structure works excellently; the many characters are distinct, well described, and believable; the descriptions of venues are wonderful.

My problem is with the mass killings. They're on the scale of the Mongol invasion of Europe, the people slaughtered are peasants, and whole kingdoms are laid waste. In spite of which the kings and their courts continue to get gold, fancy clothes, elaborate foodstuffs. But where does that come from? If the peasants are slaughtered, who mines the gold? Who provides the fancy clothes? Who grows the food?

The question arises because this is a feudal society, and according to The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Mortimer, Ian ( 2009 ) the population in fourteenth century England was 97% peasants supporting a church class of 2% and a ruling class of 1%. The society described in these books looks similar so will likely have similar percentages. So what happens when you kill off a large percentage of peasants in such a society?

The 14th Century has the answer. Then climate change (the bad sort that reduced temperatures) led to massive crop failures and then the Plague hit. The population of England fell from about 4 million in 1301 to 2 million in 1400. That killed feudalism, because in spite of great efforts by the top 3%, peasants' wages rose to reflect their scarcity, and so began the process that led to the Bill of Rights, parliaments, the fall of kings, and the American Revolution.

So that's my problem: if the rulers described in these books have been mass-slaughtering for centuries the peasants will have become very expensive assets and hence freer.

So that's why I gave up after 3 books. But then I'm a scientist and anomalies bug me.


The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science and What Comes Next
The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science and What Comes Next
Price: 5.03

4.0 out of 5 stars A Satisfyingly Critical Book, 12 Nov 2013
I read this book soon after it was published in 2007, and enjoyed it a lot. As other commenters say, subsequent experimental work has changed the area a little, but not fundamentally. So, looking for a description of String Theory for my geologist daughter I chose to buy this one. That's because it's a critical review, and Karl Popper persuasively argues in e.g. Realism and the Aim of Science: From the Postscript to The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Leverhulme Primary Project Classroom Skills Series) that criticism is the essence of the scientific method. We should be particularly wary when, as with String Theory, an interpretation is accepted by the majority in the field and is placed somewhat beyond criticism. The author's criticisms may be proven to be unfounded, but in voicing and particularizing them and describing alternative theories, he provides an excellent perspective to the enquiring reader. I'd give it 5 stars if the author updated it with recent results.


2 PIN 1000mAh USB Power Adapter Mains Charger European Travel Wall Plug for MP3 players, ipods, iphone 3, 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, Apple iPad 2, 3, 4, Mobile phones, PDA's, Kindle, Tomtom, Navman, Blackberry, Samsung and Digital Cameras
2 PIN 1000mAh USB Power Adapter Mains Charger European Travel Wall Plug for MP3 players, ipods, iphone 3, 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, Apple iPad 2, 3, 4, Mobile phones, PDA's, Kindle, Tomtom, Navman, Blackberry, Samsung and Digital Cameras
Offered by FoneM8store
Price: 2.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Works perfectly in the UK, Malta, and Italy, 12 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought it to recharge my Pebble smartwatch in multiple countries and it works fine. In Italy it plugs into the wall socket without an adaptor. In the UK and Malta (both use British three pin wall sockets), I plug it into bathroom shaver sockets, again without an adaptor. As well as the Pebble, it has charged up i-Vapo devices. It's compact & doesn't run hot. Top marks.


Garmin nuvi 2440 5" Sat Nav with UK and Western Europe Maps
Garmin nuvi 2440 5" Sat Nav with UK and Western Europe Maps

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 25 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought one last year for use in the UK, France, Switzerland, and Italy. It replaced an old TomTom.

Good points:
1. The big screen is bright and clear, touch sensitivity is OK, and it's thin enough to easily take with you when you leave the car.
2. The windscreen attachment is wonderful - a simple lever locks the unit solidly in place.
3. The display of current speed and the local limit is very useful (of course it can't tell you about temporary limits, so you have to keep your eyes peeled).
4. Satellite acquisition time is (just) acceptable.

Bad points
1. Its voice commands are a problem. The old TomTom told me about 50 metres in advance of the turn and then again exactly when I reached the turn point. So I could always keep my eyes on the road. This Garmin just tells you in advance, I think about 30 metres. That's a big problem in city driving, where there can be several turns in a space of 30 metres. The workaround is to watch the screen, but that's quite dangerous in heavy traffic.
2. The maps for rural France are poor. Sometimes the Garmin didn't recognize the street address, other times it did but steered me down cart tracks (or tried to). I now take printed Google maps of all destinations with me.(It's also bad in Italy once you're off the autostrada and main roads, but that's because the Italian rural maps go back to Mussolini and so the TomTom was just as bad there).
3. Although Garmin touts this for use on foot, it's useless for finding your way around historic towns. That's probably because said towns have narrow streets lined with high stone buildings and the unit can't see the requisite 3 satellites. Plus I suspect its GPS chips are low sensitivity. The workaround is to find a big open area and wait patiently for it to find its sats. Not much fun when it's 35 degrees and you're dragging luggage through cobbled streets.
4. It has a silly bug: if you have the screen set to adjust its brightness according to ambient light levels, it can randomly blank. In fact it has dimmed to a very low level, and I managed to fix it by powering it up in a dark garage, where I could just read the display to use the on-screen commands to manually reset the brightness to a high level.

So now I'm looking for something better but the TomTom reviews here show these have their own set of annoyances. What I really need is Google maps running offline on my Android phone and a windscreen attachment that boosts its GPS sensitivity. All suggestions welcome.


Bulk Hardware 1220 x 15 x 30mm Wardrobe Rail Oval Section - Chrome
Bulk Hardware 1220 x 15 x 30mm Wardrobe Rail Oval Section - Chrome

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very strong, 12 Jun 2013
I used this with this supplier's oval section end pieces, see my review of the latter. It's much stronger than rails with circular cross sections.


Bulk Hardware 16 x 32mm End Socket for Oval Wardrobe Rail - Chrome (Pack of 4)
Bulk Hardware 16 x 32mm End Socket for Oval Wardrobe Rail - Chrome (Pack of 4)
Offered by Trade Supplies-UK
Price: 3.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to fit, very strong, 12 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I got these to replace a circular rail that had collapsed. The installers had cut it too short, and when it bowed under load, it popped out of the end sockets.

The oval rail I fitted to replace it is much stiffer under vertical load, but you still have to cut it exactly to ensure that it fits snugly between these end pieces. Also to install these end pieces exactly level. So a measure ten times, cut once situation.

Having done that, the resulting rail, which spans about 1.6 meters, is a solid as a rock.


A Period of Adjustment
A Period of Adjustment
by Dirk Bogarde
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but still excellent, 12 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Period of Adjustment (Hardcover)
I've enjoyed all Dirk Bogarde's fiction, always finding the characters believable, settings well described, plotting superb. This book doesn't quite keep up that quality. The copy editors let through rather too many typos, and have passengers in a sports car lying prone, when the author must mean supine. The secondary characters and their interactions are perfectly drawn, but I found the protagonist a little hard to believe. And some behaviours described strike me as archaic. Most importantly, the book ends untidily.

Looking at the publication date, I suspect that Bogarde wrote the book over a longish period as his health was declining, and did the best he could. That it's still a marvellous read is a testament to his skill and humanity.

RIP.


Au Revoir, Europe: What If Britain Left The EU?
Au Revoir, Europe: What If Britain Left The EU?
by David Charter
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking, 17 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Most commentaries on the EU focus on its current impacts: the sceptics focussing on the negatives and the dwindling band of supporters on its positives.

This book goes well beyond that. It provides a factual summary of the pluses and minuses of membership, and then goes on to describe the mechanics of UK departure, and the likely consequences for our nation.

In so doing it provides a much-needed framework for making the decision to leave.

However the author does not pick up on the level of unrest in the other EU nations, other than noting that every nation that's been given a vote on the EU has voted against it.

I think that's a serious omission, since when the UK does leave, it will be negotiating with Continental politicians who are terrified of setting a precedent. Thus the negotiations are likely to be as bruising as the dishonest ones that preceded the UK's joining, and our representatives will have to fight as hard and dirty as their opponents. That's quite feasible, since the UK has a trade deficit with the rest of the EU and provides much of its finance. But it'll need a much more competent and honest group of UK leaders than we currently have.

Still, this book lays all the groundwork, and perhaps a later book might suggest how deploying professional hard cases as negotiators would do the trick.


TP-Link PA411KIT AV500 500 Mbps Powerline Adapter - Twin Pack
TP-Link PA411KIT AV500 500 Mbps Powerline Adapter - Twin Pack
Price: 24.48

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect in WiFi-Saturated Environment, 19 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When we moved in to our London flat 10 years ago, we could see just 3 other WiFi networks, and got 4 MBPS routinely, first with BT, and then with BE. Over the years that dropped to 1 MBPS and browsing became very slow.
I was about to chuck BE and try another provider, but first connected directly to the BE router with an Ethernet cable. I got 9 MBPS. So it was either the BE wireless capability or something else. To check the wireless I installed MetaGeek's InSSIDer, which snoops all the local wireless networks. And found 70 wireless networks! Over 20 were channel hogs, using 6 of the available 12. A bunch more were channel agile, jumping around to get the least congested channel. It was a bit like the bar scene in Star Wars.
I could have defeated this motley band by buying a big bad wireless router for 150 plus. But decided against it, since this is basically an arms race. You buy yourself brief superiority until someone installs a bigger badder wireless router, then you need to buy an even bigger badder one.
Hence the TP-Link. I just plugged a pair in and they worked. I used Internet Frog to measure connectivity. Using the BE wireless access point 2 meters away, I got 1.14 MBPS. Plugging to the TP-Link gave me 9 MBPS and browsing became instantaneous.
I stress this is in a small flat with fairly modern ring main. Might we worse over poorer wiring. And, of course, you have to have an Ethernet cable connecting your laptop to the TP-Link. But, given the massive improvement in performance, that's minor!


Patriots
Patriots
Price: 6.49

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and very funny satire on political evil, 30 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Patriots (Kindle Edition)
Set in a lightly disguised Washington DC in (arguably) 2013, the novel is an engaging and very funny satire on that nation's polity. I bought it because I've spent much of my working life in the US and remain fascinated by the contrasts between the US and UK political systems.

The lead character is a Candide type. He's the scion of a very wealthy family who has received the best education that the US and UK can provide and judges himself to be quite ignorant of anything useful. Equipped only with that honesty, he's drawn into the fierce battles between the Republicans and Democrats (the names of the parties and their supporters are changed to protect the guilty/avoid lawsuits). He concludes that effective political change must be consensual and thus incremental - rather as Candide ends up saying 'we must cultivate our garden'.

Along the way we meet some very finely drawn characters including the hero's girlfriend, a splendid young woman who successfully renovates him. Indeed all the female characters are delightfully drawn. As are the obsessive political players with their webs of political, economic, and sexual rivalry. And the dialog (which includes messaging, skype, Facebook etc) is spot on.

Some of the reviewers on amazon.com complain that the protagonist's world view is socialist (liberal in US parlance), and that this reflects poorly on the author, who is allegedly a Republican. I think this misses the point: the lead character has all the misconceptions you'd expect from someone who has never worked and has had a liberal education. Naturally he thinks that the legacy US Media is unbiased whereas Fox News is not; that economies are grown by state intervention; and that it's OK for the AGWers to lie to get people to accept expensive electricity. His essential point is that all sides of these arguments firmly believe they're doing the right thing and that ends justify means.

So I, a rabid right winger, loved the book in spite of it being written from a liberal perspective. My Kindle version had too many errors, but content easily beat presentation.

From a UK perspective, the book is depressing. Because in spite of all its wheeling and dealing and treachery the US elite is American, and multiple power centers have to fight each other. Whereas the British are governed by a semi-elected native dictator and unelected foreigners, and there's no escape.


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