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Norberto Amaral (Aveiro, Portugal)

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Forged Metal
Forged Metal
by Lesley Campbell
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WELL-Forged Metal, 21 Aug 2003
This review is from: Forged Metal (Paperback)
I came upon this book purely by chance. It was one of those left behind in a cheap hotel somewhere in Europe. Being a best-seller it was definitely not my type but then, I'm a book freak and had to read something when I had finished the two books I took with me on holiday and this was what I found.
This is a story about a female metal trader in a City company that operates in the London Metal Exchange. She is introduced into a deal with a couple of russian aliminium smelters, comes up with a solution to their problems and starts to execute the deal when everything goes horribly wrong. Actually, it doesn't, but I won't spoil the book for you.
I was quite impressed with the style, the knowledge, the well concocted story and above all the excitement about metal markets the author manages to convey so well. I guess that 90% of the book includes situations experienced by the author, adaptations of real characters and her own experiences in Russia. Still, no blame for that, for even if that's true she's done it very well.
Being no adept of best seller books I have to say I quite enjoyed reading this one and it was perfect summer escapism. I definitely recommend this title, only if I were you I'd take a few more books if you go on holiday because this one won't last long, you'll devour it.

Canon Powershot A70 Digital Camera With Free 64MB CF Card [3MP 3xOptical]
Canon Powershot A70 Digital Camera With Free 64MB CF Card [3MP 3xOptical]

195 of 198 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent camera!, 30 Jun 2003
I've been a photography enthusiast for nearly ten years, own an APS camera and a top of the range (really top of the range) SLR camera. So, now that I was looking for a digital camera although I didn't want to spend a lot of money it definitely couldn't be any piece of garbage today's manufacturers throw out at us...
Here are some of the reasons for why I bought the A70. Note that I only found some after buying it:
1. Image quality is excellent, razor-sharp!
2. Menus are very intuitive and extremely easy to use - hardly any need to read the manual
3. Many programs for all kinds of situations
4. It's possible to stitch up several pics in one - for example to build a panorama picture
5. Like SLRs it's got manual, aperture-priority and shutter-priority programs, giving you plenty of choice and control
6. At its widest the lens is equivalent to a 38mm in 35 mm cameras (one of the digital cameras with the widest lenses on the market). Believe me, this matters if, like me, you like taking pictures of landscapes, buildings, etc.
7. 3 Megapixels is enough for 99% of you out there (if you're looking for a 5MP camera then you're either a pro or nuts :-)
8. Video clips with sound
9. You can customize the camera to give it your personal touch - meaning that you can change the startup image, system sounds, etc.
10. Extremely good software - though it didn't install correctly at first, see below how I solved it
11. Very powerful flash: I suspect the range is a lot longer than the manual says
12. TV out means you can show your pics on your TV. The cable is supplied
13. After you take a picture you can inpect it by actually zooming into it. That way you can check the quality of the image
14. Compact Flash is, by far, the cheapest memory support on the market. And there is a lot to choose from, unlike other - arhem - types that are proprietary
15. Best value for money here doesn't mean it's a cheap camera and that you get what you pay for: here you pay little and get a lot of camera back!
On the downside there are a few nags too. Since if you're reading this it's likely that you're interested in buying the camera I might as well tell you the bad things too:
1. It's very heavy, meaning that although it's good for avoinding camera shake it is a bit uncomfortable on your hand. (Mind you, my other "real" camera is an SLR that typically weighs more than 2Kgs and I still wear it around my neck!!!)
2. By far the ugliest digital camera on the market. Oh Canon, can't you afford a decent designer??? I know, I know, that shouldn't matter but we all know it does! Why can't these guys make something smaller and cuter???
3. Batteries don't need a separate charger. You might as well order one and rechargeable AA batteries when you buy this camera. On the plus side the batteries are standard so when they've given their last drop you can get them anywhere from the Great Wall of China to Iraklion.
4. You only get a warning that the barrery must be replaced at the last moment. The first time I had to change batteries the camera refused to close the lens and gave me an "E18" error. What? Anyway, always carry spares with you!
5. I don't believe the manual when it says that the camera can focus down to 2 inches (5 cm) in the macro setting. I couldn't, and I made sure I zoomed out the lens to its widest
6. I had some problems installing the software from the CD. During the installation there was an error message saying that the file could not be read... Anyway, I copied the installation directory to the PC's hard drive and had to install the components one by one. Have a look at the manual to know their names, it's easy if you know how
All in all, I'm quite happy with this camera and would happily recommend it. I only don't give it five stars because I'm a very demanding guy, especially when it comes to photography...

The Man Who Ate the 747
The Man Who Ate the 747
by Ben Sherwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.20

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but predictable, 13 Jun 2003
With a nice title, nice cover, nice cover credits, this book had all the appealing wrappings and eventually I bought it.
This is a story about the pursuit of fame and immortality in the guise of record-breaking for the Guiness book of records. The main character is JJ, a judge of 'the book' who leads a much less exciting life than other make it out: no love, no family, no excitement, just work work work. When there seems to be a lull in record-breaking activity (no pun intended!) he finds a story about a guy somewhere in middle America who's eating a plane. Now that would be a great record to earn back his boss' favours... However, it becomes very important not just what he is doing but also why - actually who for - he's doing it.
The introduction is really funny and so is JJ's initial profile. Some actual records are thrown in for the crowd. We seem to be heading for a real treat.
And that is precisely when the book starts to fail. For one, all characters are too linear and regular (Take JJ's prospective girlfriend's father, who asks if JJ is a "Ford man" or a "Chevy man". So what? Do people in middle America reckon other people by the Ford/Chevy ruler? Or the policemen, only worried with keeping the town of Superior clean and quiet hopefully getting rid of 'city types'.).
As you read on you can picture exactly what the author wanted: an adaptation for another run of the mill tv series, the type of "Northen Exposure", only much shallower, less colourful, too clichéed!
Still, an enjoyable read if you fancy something light for the summer and has a nice ending.

The Golden Age of Grotesque
The Golden Age of Grotesque
Offered by The Music Warehouse
Price: £5.80

4.0 out of 5 stars Gothic rock that is a delight for your ears, 13 Jun 2003
Let me start by making something clear about myself: I'm not the 'usual' guy who's into heavy rock music. For instance, although I like some nu metal I loathe most of it.
However, Marylin Mason is a pure delight. He oozes style and confidence; he carved out his own gothic niche and is 'da man' in modern gothic rock. In particular, his energy and acting on stage, his sense of showbusiness and tapping of young minds still amaze me. His whole setup leaves in the mud other rock'n'roll oldies that were known for being quite unconventional.
This is a great CD and conventional it definitely isn't. There are fabulous songs that will appeal to any person of any musical tastes. I especially point out "This Is The S**t", "Use Your Fist And Not Your Mouth", "(s)Aint" and "Ka-Boom Ka-Boom". If you who are reading this aren't much into this kind of music and are not sure you should even hear Manson's songs then I assure you that if you play this CD once you'll be hooked forever.
The other thing I like very much about this album is the elegance, the style, the self-restraint of the music followed by explosions of exhuberance. And, of course, the magnificient guitars.
The only reason I don't give this CD five stars is that there is an element of grandeur missing in what could be an epic recording. I can't quite put the finger on it but am pretty sure MM can still do better.

North by Northwest [DVD] [1959]
North by Northwest [DVD] [1959]
Dvd ~ Cary Grant
Price: £4.38

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply unbeatable!, 27 May 2003
Until I bought this DVD a few days ago I had never seen the movie in full as when I watched it on TV somehow I only used to catch it a good while after it started.
When I finally sat down to watch it I was amazed at Hitchcock's charisma, Cary Grant's coolness being melted by every obstacle in his way and Eva Marie Saint's "ice blondeness".
This movie oozes style, perfectionism, coolness, cleanliness, texture, sound (the music score is simply superb) and I am yet to see a film where so much happens without losing the plot.
There are unforgettable scenes such as the first confrontation between Grant and Mason (the suave and hyper-cool bad guy); the shooting in Mount Rushmore's visitors bar; the chase in Mount Rushmore; and of course the 'incident' (big euphemism) between Grant and the crop duster by the side of a road. But on the whole the movie is much more than even that: it takes you to an age where everything was shiny, new, clean and with an extra-smooth texture, where houses are designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and every single item seems to have been designed deliberately for the use in the movie rather than a simple prop bought at the local shop.
Then there's humour and tragedy, excitement and bewilderment, predictability and surprise. I'm not lying, this movie has that and much more, and I'm sure once you watch it for the first time you'll be hooked.
The DVD also includes an extremely interesting 40-odd minute documentary they decided to call "Making of" and, alas, presented by Eva Marie Saint herself. The program has many insights into Hitchcock's directorship, but a lot about the movie itself, the cast, the screen play writer, MGM and the way they were tricked into thinking H. was directing two, not one movie. Simply brilliant!

The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators (Allen Lane Science)
The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators (Allen Lane Science)
by Gordon Grice
Edition: Paperback

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Major disappointment, 15 April 2003
After all the hype about this book a few years ago I decided I'd finally buy it. I was so disappointed I just have to share my views.
Firstly, the writer simply does not know how to write. There are countless sentences starting with "I". I know, I may sound like a nitpicker but try to read the book and you'll understand what I mean: it's unreadable.
Then, the book is nothing but a random and apparently pointless collection of personal experiments with black widows. It's true I don't share the author's excitement about these beings but then, it's HIS job to transmit to me that excitement and he simply hasn't. Basically, it gets very very boring after the second chapter. Ugh!
Third, I keep all my books after I read them. I simply can't get rid of them once I finish them. However, this book is so bad that I would pay to get rid of it like nuclear waste. If you buy it, don't tell me I didn't warn you.
All in all, the only one who did a good deal with this book was the charity shop: I bought it and within the week it was back, for free, waiting for the next victim. A bit like the black widow itself...

The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (Penguin Classics)
The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (Penguin Classics)
by Jesse L. Byock
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old tales? Lord of the Rings fans, watch out!, 1 April 2003
When I bought this book - purely by chance I admit - I was expecting it to be difficult to read, a bit boring and full of needless and intricate details about a story I cared nothing about. I had read The Lord of the Rings and immediately told myself to buy it because Tolkien's classic was based on it.
I couldn't have been farther from the truth. This book is amazing and far from boring. In fact it's very easy to read and, unlike someone says in another review, you don't really need to know a lot about old norse mithology and vikings and such to enjoy the book and understand it.
The stories are about a mythical family, the Volsungs, and their adventures. Although most events are obviously fantasy it is precisely that ficional and fantastic edge that makes the book really remarkable and awe-inspiring. The common factors in all the stories are honour, tradition, fighting and thirst for power with quite a lot of sorcery and fantasy mixed in.
To help the reader understand those intricate details I mentioned above the translator did a wonderful job adding notes. They make the stories even more interesting and give them an extra dimension, especially if you are interested in carrying on reading more sagas.
The only 'but' I have about the book is the long, boring and extremely baldy written introduction, so much so that if you know nothing about the historical background to the sagas you are still left with nothing. I even nearly fell asleep at times! If you are reading this take my advice: go straight to the story. (And don't forget reading the notes.)
The feeling I got after I read this is that The Lord of The Rings seems to be just 'regular' fiction. Perhaps I am being too harsh on Tolkien?

Pitch Black [DVD] [2000]
Pitch Black [DVD] [2000]
Dvd ~ Radha Mitchell
Price: £1.90

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good movie before it gets dark, 21 Mar 2003
This review is from: Pitch Black [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
When I heard about this movie for the first time I quickly dismissed it as one of those where the director saves on props by making the set very dark, hence making details irrelevant. After all, how many of those have we seen before? The list is endless. (Mind you, the quality of props used in Star Trek was appalling and if there is anything wrong with lighting is that there was probably too much of it!)
Anyway, the movie is made of two main parts. In the first part there is too much light, making it unique. Everything looks bleached, over-exposed but in a very controlled, artistic way. Eventually there is an eclipse of this planet's suns and it gets dark, very dark. That's when the action is supposed to start for real. Or so the name of the movie seems to imply.
Alas, I was BLOWN away with the movie precisely during the first part. The images are simply breathtaking, the best scenes are enacted, the sound is absolutely fantastic (especially if you've got a nice cinema sound system like I do) and the story, well, the story seems as though will develop into something quite grand and unseen and unheard of. I would give it 5 stars only for the initial sequence.
When it gets dark the movie becomes a total mess. The story goes out of the window and so does the detail, the thrill and the ending, well the ending is a pile of old rags. It is a total waste, you might as well switch it off and go to bed. One star for that. I couldn't bear to give it no stars.
So the question lingers on my mind: why did they call it Pitch Black? Because when it's dark is when the movie sucks...

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (20th anniversary edition with a new preface by the author)
Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (20th anniversary edition with a new preface by the author)
by Douglas R. Hofstadter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.59

11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a whopper!, 25 Feb 2003
There is no doubt that this book is wonderful.
In attempting to explain consciousness and the sense of identity as natural processes, explained by some advanced mathematics, the author travels many aspects of knowledge: computation, mathematics, genetics, physics, music (Bach's) and plane patterns (MC Escher's).
In that, the book is authoritative, authentic, documented and undoubtedly a great source of inspiration and insight.
However, it stops short of making the actual point. So no, I don't think people will take this book as the ultimate and only answer to the old age question "Who am I?". Would that extra step need to be too big? Perhaps. Maybe Hofstadter will have another go at finishing his work. I think there is still quite a lot to think through.

Downsize This (Pan paperback)
Downsize This (Pan paperback)
by Michael Moore
Edition: Paperback

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It would be even funnier if it weren't so tragic, 25 Feb 2003
You might think this book is funny. Yes, Michael Moore does his best, but the subject is too serious, the stories too unbelievable to make you laugh.
Here's an example. There are two pictures on the first page. The first is the federal building in Oklahoma City destroyed by Timothy McVeigh's bomb in 1995. The second is an extremely similar picture, in fact it could be the same building a few moments later, what used to be a General Motors office building in Flint, Michigan. A single question above the pictures: "What is terrorism?".
Many of us have been asking ourselves this question lately. As Moore points out, terrorism can be of a corporate nature. When corporations across the US were making record profits they were downsizing millions of people, effectively moving their jobs elsewhere, usually to either Mexico (courtesy of NAFTA) or the Far East, where labour is much cheaper. However, this policy causes many problems to the society, much more than 'simple' unemployment.
These days corporations merrily take all public subsidies they are offered and don't give a flying rat about giving anything back to the community. In fact, many make a point of not minding that at all. Moore names many companies that keep the money and still leave the place where they had promised to stay. Others get so much money that the overall cost of each direct job is a small fortune. That's the case of the Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, where each job was subsidised by about US$175,000. I could understand such a level of subsidies to a company making small and environmentally friendly cars, for poorer people. What I can't understand is how such a poor state (in comparison with others) is paying for people to have their luxury cars, that pollute like there's no tomorrow. This smells bad - literally.
Another example. In the following two pages Moore compiled a list of 17 steps of an "Etiquette of Downsizing". "Have kleenex ready" and "remain calm and try not to display any emotion" are only two of the most hypocritical ones.
The rest of the book follows only too easily. From making you feel like you wanna blow up something (I resisted!), to exposing how stupid some obscure congressmen are, to direct attacks on Orange County (yes, all of the Republican voters there), Pat Buchanan, Bob Dole, the US two-party (two twins) political system, bigots (read Pat Buchanan and Newt Gringrich), zealots, you name it.
Two low points on this book. First, Michael Moore said it was great having Madeleine Albright, a citizen from former Czechoslovakia, in the US. She was the same person who said 500.000 dead Iraqi children were 'worth it'. Beast of a woman, she would have made a wonderful toilet attendant, if her colleagues could tolerate her. Second, Mikhail Gorbachev did NOT pull down the Berlin wall. If anything, he was overtaken by events.
Still, this book is a breath of fresh air, mixing humour and american politics. It's only a shame he is not as mainstream as he deserves.

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