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Blue Spot 27402 24-inch Soft Grip Bow Saw
Blue Spot 27402 24-inch Soft Grip Bow Saw
Offered by memorycapital
Price: £7.64

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor quality, or was I just unlucky?, 27 Sep 2011
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I bought this saw based on the other reviews and its apparent good value for money. Unfortunately, the construction is very poor and I haven't been able to cut a single log! So what's the problem? As soon as one starts to saw one is aware the blade isn't cutting vertically downwards but is veering approximately 30 degrees off the vertical with the blade bending accordingly. After numerous attempts, and jams, and getting a friend to try too (who incidentally had just cut down a tree with his own saw!), the conclusion was reached that there was a geometry error in the saw -- meaning that the blade was offset from the main geometrical 'line' of the saw. The blade is secured with a quick release mechanism that is very flimsy in its construction. I don't think this helps.

The saw I was using before I bought this sawed through my logs with ease; log after log. It is really important to have a decent saw to be able to make reasonable progress. Unfortunately this saw isn't fit for purpose and a refund has been requested.

In fairness, it may be that I was unlucky and bought a rogue; but I feel that the general apparent flimsiness of the blade (either due to intrinsic quality, or the method of fixing it) means that another saw would be a better buy.

Etc Mach-2 Bicycle Computer - 8 Functions
Etc Mach-2 Bicycle Computer - 8 Functions

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 11 Sep 2011
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This is an extremely good value piece of cycling equipment. Fitting the unit is extremely simple and the instructions are very detailed and clear. Allow yourself an hour to make a neat, tidy job of it. You need to use the plastic ties provided to fit the unit and sender but, although they supply enough plastic ties to take the sender cable neatly up alongside your brake cable, while you're setting up I recommend finding and using 'wire bag closures' until you've got it right. In fact, I still haven't replaced the 'wire closures' with the plastic ties! The most difficult bit is working out the tyre circumference; you can just use the figures they give you for various tyre sizes. However, a more accurate measurement can be made by putting a small paint spot on the tyre, riding the bike along the road -- or getting someone to push you (you need your weight on the bike and for the tyre pressures to be set to normal) -- and then measuring the distance between spots to the nearest mm. Do it several times and take an average. I found on my bike that this was quite a bit different from the instructions figure. Having bought a second unit for a friend's bike, the instructions figure was spot-on for their bike.
One button operation is very simple and the display is crystal clear.

Any Human Heart
Any Human Heart
by William Boyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars It's all just luck you know..., 19 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Any Human Heart (Paperback)
What a fabulous book.

I discovered this purely by chance. A friend told me to catch a television serial and soon afterwards, the novel popped up on another friend's Goodreads with a five star rating. Until then, I had no idea that the serial was, in fact, a serialisation of William Boyd's book. I must confess I was surprised. I thought the television adaptation was brilliant; but I had been underwhelmed by the only other book I had read of Boyd's: Restless.

And this book by Boyd? Well, my first sentence sums it up: fabulous.

It's the first book I've read in the form of a journal. Previously, I have deliberately avoided `diaries' and `journals' as I had imagined, clearly erroneously, that they would have a tendency to be monotonous and dry. I appreciate that Any Human Heart is fiction, but maybe I'll now give The Downing Street Years a go. It's been languishing in my bookcase for years.

Why do I love this book so much? Is it because I relate to Logan (Mountstuart - LMS)? Is it because I relate to a life that was both ordinary and extraordinary - as every life is? Is it because I relate to William Boyd? All three I think. As I can't meet Logan, I think I would like to meet William Boyd; we must have a lot in common. Or is it rather that as human beings we all have a lot in common, and Boyd has captured it?

Strangely, I find myself wondering if my life is going to move forwards in a similar fashion to Logan's. So far, my life has been very different, but almost identical. That apparent contradiction is no contradiction at all. Here I am in my fifties and my life has been the same; only the details have varied.

I am left wondering: do my Dog-Food Years lie ahead? Quite possibly.

What else can I say? Please read it. If you have any human heart you'll find it a joy.

Bell Ukon Adult Sport Helmet
Bell Ukon Adult Sport Helmet

61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleased, 7 Jun 2011
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A great cycle helmet at a great price.

As a motorcyclist I was attracted by the manufacturer: Bell, a leader in motorcycle helmets; I reckoned they should know what they're doing!

The great thing about this helmet is that it's fully adjustable: one size fits all. No two heads in the same general size range will be the same, so it's the sensible way to go, especially buying online.

The helmet comes with very clear fitting instructions. These are excellent and tell you exactly how to test for fit after making the various adjustments. I would emphasise the instruction that the side 'split' should be just below and IN FRONT of the ear. This ensures the front straps are more vertical on the side of the head and really does make the helmet sit more firmly, and stops it moving backwards. Put the strap 'split' just a little further back (below the ear) and the helmet will move up on the forehead when you put the helmet through their recommended 'serious' fit test.

It took me about an hour to make all the adjustments to my satisfaction and I would recommend not rushing. The first time I made the adjustments it seemed ok, but just failed the 'serious' fit test. I couldn't initially work out why (see the comment above about the side strap 'split' point -- I had to move it forward by only about half a centimetre).

As this is my first cycling helmet it felt a little strange at first, but it really is comfortable. I'm delighted.

Is there a gripe? A tiny one which may apply to all cycling helmets. I don't know. On a motorcycle helmet there is a single strap that you pull to tighten the helmet. Due to the method of construction of the Bell cycling helmet there are two straps that go through the chin click fixing, and these have to be laboriously threaded through and the correct tension established by trial and error. I have a big head but that still left lots of strap hanging free. Incidentally, these hanging straps MUST (for safety - dire warning given in the instructions) be threaded through a little rubber band that will undoubtedly be the first thing on the helmet to give up the ghost. The extra hanging straps then need to be either cut off or (my solution) bundled up in another rubber band. Once through that kerfuffle, the helmet is 'set up' and can be put on and off quickly and efficiently with a single 'click fixing'.

Update 13 June: Having now cycled in the rain, I can confirm that the peak keeps the rain out of the eyes, even when going at speed downhill. A great addition.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2011 12:33 PM BST

Eating Disorders: The Path to Recovery
Eating Disorders: The Path to Recovery
by Dr. Kate Middleton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy bias towards anorexia nervosa, 28 Mar 2011
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This book is a quick read and gives a good overview of eating disorders in general.

However, it has a serious flaw in that it has a heavy bias towards anorexia nervosa. Although this disorder may be of most worry to parents, there are less sufferers from this than from 'overeating' disorders. If you, or a relative, suffer from the latter then this book will only be of limited use -- the final section on "Supporting your child on the path to recovery" assumes the disorder is anorexia. I find this amazing given the current national 'epidemic' of childhood obesity.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2011 4:17 PM BST

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium Trilogy Book 3)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium Trilogy Book 3)
by Stieg Larsson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 8 Mar 2011
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Having just finished the third, and last, book in the Millennium Trilogy I feel somehow bereft.

So much has been written about these books that anything I write can't hope to add anything.

If you haven't yet had the pleasure of making the acquaintace of Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomkvist or Erika Berger, you're lucky. That pleasure still lies ahead.

David Attenborough's First Life: A Journey Back in Time with Matt Kaplan
David Attenborough's First Life: A Journey Back in Time with Matt Kaplan
by Matt Kaplan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Extremely disappointing!, 6 Mar 2011
I am quite frankly amazed at the other reviews of this book. I found it unremittingly poor. The only partially redeeming features were the small parts written by David Attenborough himself and some of the photographs.

So what's the problem? To start with I found the actual writing very bad, almost childlike in places. That is perhaps deliberate; the target audience is presumably children. The reason I say this is because there are frequent and very lengthy explanations of very simple concepts; for example: basic evolutionary ideas that would be part of the knowledge base of any educated child over the age of about fourteen. These concepts are repeated again and again, at length. Unfortunately, in an attempt to `dumb down' the subject matter to match the intended audience, which is quite acceptable although somewhat irritating to an adult, errors creep in. For example, it is asserted that `true flight' requires lift, and that lift defines 'true flight', whatever that is. This simplification is just incorrect, although repeated several times. A flying squirrel is used as an example of an animal that doesn't exhibit 'true flight'. However, a flying squirrel most certainly does develop lift in its glide.

But where things get really bad is the errors that don't arise due to an attempt to make things understandable to a child. They are just plain factual errors. And they should have been picked up either by the author, or by the copy-editor. They aren't isolated -- they are on almost every page. The book has the feel of something that has been knocked out at high speed and then either not copy-edited at all, or copy-edited badly. There are also numerous contradictions in the text.

In addition, in a scientific book aimed at children it is quite disgraceful to say that certain things are `proved' when this is clearly not the case.

A few examples will make the point; and I stress that these are just examples:

1. On page 109, we are told events at Mistaken Point took place between 575 and 560 Ma. On page 114: the rocks span 10Ma.

2. Page 135: the caption to the picture of Dickinsonia says the organism displays left-right bilateral symmetry. On the same page, David Attenborough's narrative is quite clear it doesn't display this.

3. Page 125: "Animals are formed from the union of genetic material from two separate parents". This is not correct. Yes, usually, but not always. The use of the words 'usually', 'often' etc are important in order not to mislead.

4. Page 137. In referring to the fossils of Mistaken Point: "Although they became extinct because they couldn't perform the more sophisticated functions of mammals...". This statement is just preposterous! My jaw dropped open that anyone could write this, let alone someone who apparently has a scientific background. At this point in the book I started to wonder whether Kaplan had actually subcontracted the writing of a lot of the text. The absolute tripe of that statement (and there is no polite way to otherwise put it) just beggars belief. (The mammals didn't appear for hundreds of millions of years after the Mistaken Point animals became extinct).

5. Page 140: "the Ediacaran, dating from 630 million to 542 million years ago". The accepted dates per the ICS (The International Committee on Stratigraphy) are 635 to 542Ma. Interestingly, Wikipedia has this error too at the head of the Ediacaran page -- I won't suggest this is where Kaplan got his dates. This point is important as I refer to dates later. Note particularly that the start of the Cambrian (the end of the Ediacaran) is 542Ma.

6. Page 147: "The fossilised tracks ... prove that something could slither". Page 129: "There is no way to prove without doubt that the traces are not geological in their origin". The use of the word `prove', on page 147, is indefensible, particularly when Kaplan contradicts himself so clearly. And this is not an isolated case -- he seems fond of the word 'prove'. This lends weight to my thought that Kaplan didn't write large sections of the text. A scientist would use a word like 'suggest'.

7. Page 167: There seems to be complete confusion over dates and what animals lived when. Markuelia is referred to in respect of Precambrian life and grouped with Spriggina and Kimberella. Elsewhere in the book, in detail, Markuelia is described as living after the start of the Cambrian.

8. Page 167: We now have the Cambrian period beginning at 543Ma (ICS 542Ma and see 5. above)

9. Page 176: Eldridge and Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium is put forward in some detail as an accepted explanation in relation to evolutionary events. What is not explained is that this theory is widely disputed and most evolutionists believe it is not correct.

10. Page 251: "About 251 million years ago, during a time period known as the Permian...". 251 Ma ago was at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic.

11. Geological and palaeontological `blinks of the eye' are clichés and often stunningly inaccurate and misleading. Page 176: 10Ma is mentioned as a palaeontological `blink of the eye', one of many 'blinks of the eye' in the book. Really? To give an example (my own): North and South America joined around 3-4Ma ago, and mammals spread south displacing and causing the extinction of marsupials. This is evidenced in the fossil record. 10Ma is most certainly a significant palaentological time period and no 'blink of the eye'.

12. Some statements in the book are really quite extraordinary, Page 192: "Trilobites were probably the most advanced forms of life on the planet for the 250Ma from the beginning of the Cambrian." That takes us up to the end of the Carboniferous... ie after fish, land tetrapods etc. It is just a quite staggeringly inaccurate statement. A land based tetrapod is, without doubt, more advanced than a trilobite.

13. Page 224: "Carolinites genacinaca was alive between 488 and 433 million years.... a period known as the Ordovician". No, that was a period that spans the Ordovician and Silurian. The Ordovician spanned 488 to 444Ma and the Silurian 444 to 416Ma.

14. Page 240. The caption to the picture is "Peripatus: ......". No, the picture is of Aysheaia.

The above are just a sample. For a book that retails at £25 we really deserve better. As a geoscientist with a particular interest in evolution the errors were glaring. As a scientist, the misuse of words like `prove' were disturbing. An interested lay reader would reasonably expect the text to be accurate. It isn't.

I am quite sure David Attenborough never read this book before printing and distribution. He would never have allowed it to go out under his name.

I suggest giving this book a miss.

True Grit
True Grit
by Charles Portis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful, well-crafted Western adventure!, 15 Feb 2011
This review is from: True Grit (Paperback)
I first read this thirty-eight years ago, before watching the then recently released film version of True Grit, starring John Wayne. I remember being impressed by the story, and its well crafted first person delivery. The John Wayne film, although more thoughtful than the average Hollywood production, fell a little short.

With a new and highly rated film release I felt it was time to revisit the book; I wasn't disappointed. It is short -- a two evening read -- and grips from start to finish.

Highly recommended!

Treat Your Own Knees: Simple Exercises to Build Strength, Flexibility, Responsiveness and Endurance
Treat Your Own Knees: Simple Exercises to Build Strength, Flexibility, Responsiveness and Endurance
by Jim Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, 12 Feb 2011
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This slender book richly deserves the accolade of a five star good read. Jim Johnson has put together a short no-nonsense guide to treating your own knee problems, based on extensive clinical experience. What is best is that the advice is not only simple but backed throughout by double-blind clinical trials which are all fully referenced. Indeed, Jim Johnson makes it clear from the start that he will not be giving any advice for which there isn't research evidence. This makes the book not only fascinating (knee pain is not corrrelated with arthritic degeneration for example) but authoritative.

Homeopaths, chiropractors, witchdoctors, etc, take note!

Born to Run: The Rise of Ultra-running and the Super-athlete Tribe
Born to Run: The Rise of Ultra-running and the Super-athlete Tribe
by Christopher McDougall
Edition: Hardcover

203 of 225 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fictionalised and often disingenuous account, 31 Jan 2011
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I realise I'm in minority here but I really didn't enjoy this book at all. As a result of all the rave reviews I bought a copy for both myself and a friend - we were both hugely disappointed.

The author, Christopher McDougall, is an American magazine correspondent and this perhaps goes someway to explain a lot of what I didn't like about the book. To begin with, it is written in a totally 'omniscient' manner, ie McDougall can see inside everyone's head. This is excessive, continuous, and extends right across the board from events to which he was privy, through events to which he was not, on to imagined `eureka moments' of various research scientists. In a similar manner, he describes events from the past, where he wasn't present, in a way he clearly feels will paint some sort of picture: eg "Then she wiped her greasy mouth on her sports bra, burped up some Dew, and bounded off". Maybe she did wipe her mouth on her sports bra, but I doubt it, and I feel quite sure she never gave him an account, years later, of her burp.

In a similar vein I confess that I didn't like the continuous use of words like `chomp' instead of `eat' and `chug' instead of `drink'. I imagine that is just a difference in usage when comparing opposite sides of the Atlantic but I did find myself wishing someone would just 'eat' something! And I do wonder if the use of block capitals as well as italics was really necessary. I am not talking about the start of each chapter but sentences like:
"...I remember thinking What in the HELL? How in the HELL is this possible? That was the first thing, the first CHINK IN THE WALL, that MAYYYBEE modern shoe companies don't have all the answers..." (nine of those lowercase words are in italics, which I can't format here).

So, we clearly have a very fictionalised account. But is any of it complete fiction? Well, yes it is. We are told on page 16 that the Tarahumara "barely eat any protein at all". Well, with a physiology degree to back it up, I can tell you that leads only one way... to wasting and eventual death. It comes as a bit of a surprise then to be told on page 209 that "the traditional Tarahumara diet exceeds the United Nations' recommended daily intake [for protein] by more than 50 percent". Perhaps by page 209 we are expected to have forgotten what he wrote earlier.

On page 157 we are told, in relation to qualifying for the Boston Marathon that "...99.9 percent of all runners never will...". Really? And how was that figure arrived at? For any average runner who puts in training, qualifying for Boston (like me!) is not difficult: 20,000 runners run it every year -- not qualify, which will be many, many times more -- actually run it. The implication behind his figure is that only 1 in 1000 marathoners who would specifically like to qualify do, ie 19,980,000 don't, which is clearly rubbish. His misuse of percentages crops up several times. It is patronising to the reader to assume that he doesn't understand what a percentage means. And it makes one more than doubt when we are told figures like "...70 to 80 percent..". A particular problem with this is that it sounds as if he is being authorative when, in fact, he's not.

His problem with Math(s) unfortunately isn't limited to the use of hyperbole with percentages. He unwittingly shows his problem, in typical journalistic style, in rather stark detail! On page 239, to work out how much older than 27 is an age that is equivalent to the increase in age from 19 to 27, he has to get out his notebook!!: "All righty. I flipped my notebook to a blank page and started jotting numbers. It takes....[I'll spare you the next four lines]..." He comes up with 36. Point made.

But it is the disingenuous nature of much of his writing that I really took exception to. I will give two examples:

One: who do you think ran the fastest?
(a) Page 15: "Lance Armstrong is one of the greatest endurance athletes of all time, and he could barely shuffle through his first marathon despite sucking down an energy gel nearly every mile."
(b) Page 157: "...Ted...transformed himself...into...a barefoot marathoner with such speed that he was able to accomplish something that 99.9 percent of all runners never will: he qualified for the Boston Marathon." [I've already talked about the 99.9 percent]
Answer: We don't know because we aren't told their times. Well, I can tell you: Lance Armstrong, by a long way. In 2006 his 'shuffle' resulted in a time of 2:59:36 and he came 868th out of 37,866 finishers; a brilliant result for a first marathon (and ten minutes under the very fastest age group Boston qualifying time)! And Barefoot Ted? In 2006 he completed the Boston Marathon in 3:20:16, coming in 3,848th out of 19,682 finishers. Not a shuffle either, but in a completely different, and slower, league. In fact, to refer to a result under three hours (faster than seven minutes a mile) as a shuffle is just gratuitiously insulting. McDougall seems to have a downer on Armstrong, as he slates him elsewhere in the book - the reason never becomes apparent.

Two: Why do you think "...Abele Bikila - the Ethiopian marathoner who ran barefoot over the cobblestones of Rome to win the 1960 Olympic marathon..." didn't wear shoes? - we are told this interesting fact in a paragraph about Barefoot Ted researching the benefits of barefoot running. Well, I can tell you, although the book doesn't, that it wasn't anything to do with the benefits of barefoot running. What we aren't told in the book is that Abele Bikila had an upset before the 1960 marathon and couldn't find a pair of shoes to fit and decided to chance running barefoot as he had trained that way; nor are we told that he chose to run in shoes at the subsequent 1964 Olympics.

On the subject of barefoot running, it's interesting that the photograph on the back of the hardback edition shows five runners, presumably principal characters from the book, all wearing running shoes.

Turning to the so called `scientific research' that McDougall is fond of reporting, again we must doubt a lot of what we are told. Why? Because it is presented in a way we can't trust. Yes, some of it may be true, but how much? And how much are we being presented with information that is propounded as fact or we are led to believe shows one thing, but may show something else? Just one set of examples will make the general point:
Page 170: " matter how much you run, your odds of getting hurt are the same." This is utter rubbish and is clearly so, using reductio ad absurdum, apart from all the evidence to the contrary.
Page 171: "Is any shoe manufacturer prepared to claim that wearing their distance running shoes will decrease your risk of...injuries...[or]...improve your distance running performance?" No shoe manufacturer followed up the [Dr Richard's] challenge. The conclusion is drawn that "running shoes don't make you go faster and don't stop you from getting hurt.." This is absolute twaddle and I won't insult anyone's intelligence by explaining why.
Page 172: The conclusion that McDougall draws from a study that found that "Wearers of expensive running shoes...are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing expensive shoes..." is the following: "What a cruel joke: for double the price, you get double the pain." Possibly, possibly. Could it just be that the buyers of more expensive shoes are those runners who push the boundaries of their training more aggressively?
Unfortunately, the whole book is stuffed with this sort of biased writing dressed up as 'scientific fact'; we are used to it in the popular press -- we get a bookful here.

For those of you interested in the 'science', I recommend reading this: [...] -- you'll have to copy and paste; Amazon doesn't allow direct links.

I could go on, about the very dubious anthropological details, nutrition and hydration anomalies etc, but I have written too much already.

The book is just an adventure story, fiction based on fact; enjoy it if you can stomach the style; just take everything with a very big pinch of salt!

[For anyone considering it, at the very least don't purchase the Kindle edition: there is a spelling mistake on the first page that doesn't bode well for the rest of the book (the spelling mistake is not there in the print edition).]
Comment Comments (42) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2014 6:45 PM GMT

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