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Dr. Geoffrey Kemball Cook (London, UK)
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Gordon Brown: Prime Minister
Gordon Brown: Prime Minister
by Tom Bower
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars the greatest insult you can levy against our system of electing ..., 19 July 2014
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Read this book and weep.

I am not a close observer of modern mainstream politics and I only bought this book because I wanted to know more about Labour's U-turn on re-nationalising the railways when they got into power. Just one of a host of betrayals, but it was a way in...

What I found however was probably the most horrifying and depressing reading experience of my life - even more than reading about John Major destroying British Rail. That's not to criticise Tom Bower - I took one star off for occasional repetition, but his view would probably be that some people are so extraordinarily disloyal, violently rude, incompetent and cowardly that it needs repeating otherwise we might think it was all a joke. Well, it was not.

Here's my personal bottom line from this book: the greatest insult you can levy against our system of electing our top politicians is that the talents required to succeed in getting to the top have absolutely nothing to do with the talents you need to be able to do something worthwhile when you get there. How mad is that?

Blair and Brown both rose to the top and remained there for over ten years, yet they hated each other, plotted with their cronies against each other or any anyone else who threatened their positions, dismissed expert civil servants for trying to advise them when something proposed was stupid (which is their job), commissioned endless enquiries to defuse criticisms in the House and then ignored all the enquiries' recommendations, shouted and screamed at their staff, encouraged back-door corruption and sleaze - and so on. What they did NOT do was reduce debt, improve inequality, support education or the NHS or industry - and so on. Even setting aside the financial waste which was astronomical, the sheer waste of human personal resources involved in this appalling shambles of governments is terrifying. And I'm not a Tory or Lib Dem. And no-one went to prison. The world truly is upside down.

I used to wonder why it was when I glimpsed Blair and Brown on TV that they gave me an uneasy feeling. Now I know - and I wish I could forget. And that sound of Gordon Brown saying "prrudent"....


Verbatim 43411 Extra Protection 48/52x 100pk
Verbatim 43411 Extra Protection 48/52x 100pk
Price: £16.14

1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible quality - Avoid, 23 Jan 2014
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I could not believe just how unrelaible these Verbatim disks were for making audio disks. I would not even use them as coasters, as they would remind me of the money I wasted. Taiyo Yuden for me from now on.


Asus Cine5 Sound Bar - True 5 Channel Surround Sound
Asus Cine5 Sound Bar - True 5 Channel Surround Sound
Price: £83.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Value for Money to sort out cheap LCD TV Sound, 16 Nov 2013
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We recently bought a fine-looking 22" LCD TV to fit into a smallish space, not needing a large screen. Fine-looking yes, but (as many have found to their cost) the speakers on LCD TVs, especially the small ones) are simply DREADFUL.

So began the hunt for a decent speaker or speakers, leading me to the new word in my vocabulary "soundbar". What a magnificent creation to enable the TV companies to make you pay twice over For something. However, we are where we are, and my old TV had already been Freecycled, so I had to find something bearable at reasonable cost, or I would seriously be watching programmes with subtitles.

The problems being (a) 95% of soundbars are far too wide (from left to right) to fit into a smallish space (b) 95% of soundbars are far too expensive and high-tech for a small TV - you could easily spend twice the cost of the TV itself! (c) PC speakers get in the way of the screen (d) "laptop speakers" are generally battery-only, too quiet and poor sound.

Finally after one false start with a laptop speaker I plumped for the Asus Cine5. Price is bearable. It does have 5.1 facility in theory, but none of our equipment can decode it - however it does allow you just to plug in a stero output from the TV headphone out, which means you can control the volume from the TV remote. It is mains-powered. And it is the right size and shape. However what does it sound like? Well, it is not "hi-fi". But it is not "no-fi" - which is what the TV speakers are.

You should note that this is a soundar for placing on a flat surface in front of your TV (it has two nice sets of legs - metal or rubber) - not for fixing to a wall under a wallmount TV. But that was what we needed.

So - RESULT. I would have given it five stars only if it were £20 cheaper (say without the 5.1 facility). Buy with confidence if you are looking for something to pop in front of your LCD TV.


Surprise (1989)
Surprise (1989)

5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless, 11 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Surprise (1989) (Audio CD)
Fab music from one of the great non-famous musicians of some years ago, which I first enjoyed on vinyl. Buy with confidence.


Hannspree SL22DMBB 22-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p Backlit LED TV with PVR Facility - Black
Hannspree SL22DMBB 22-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p Backlit LED TV with PVR Facility - Black

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but beware the audio, 11 Nov 2013
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This is a goodish LCD TV for the price, if you are considering an upgrade to a small LCD TV. The picture is pretty good and it has the facility for recording programmes to a USB key if you don't have a PVR.

However the sound is just TERRIBLE. All LCD TVs suffer in this area (hence all the manufacturers selling pricey soundbars) but this really takes the mickey. We will have to find a decent soundbar to go with it otherwise it is unwatchable (unlistenable).

EDIT: Try the Asus Cine5 soundbar- a good match.


Aristocracy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Aristocracy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by William Doyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 11 Nov 2013
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This is the fourth VSI I have read and it is just as good as the others. Concise, crisp, witty and informed. Congratulations to the author and editor.


Cabstone 95041-GB Soundbar Speaker - Black
Cabstone 95041-GB Soundbar Speaker - Black
Price: £24.88

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite good enough, 11 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We bought this to improve the sound on a small LCD TV (22") which was just awful. It is a big improvement but unfortunately still not as good as the sound of the 15-year-old CRT TV we got rid of. I would say it is a reasonable and cheap way of getting better sound for a laptop, but no more than that.

Added later after buying a further replacement:

Try the Asus Cine5 - mains-powered (rather than batteries which run out immediately), better quality sound and higher volume. Also looks good and doesn't break the bank. And runs via TV headphone out, so you can control volume with the TV remote. Sorted.


Just William Series Richmal Crompton 10 Books Set Collection (Just William, More William, William Again, William The Fourth, Still William, William Conqueror, William the Outlaw, William the.. in Trouble, William the Good, William at War) (TV tie-in Edition Collection)
Just William Series Richmal Crompton 10 Books Set Collection (Just William, More William, William Again, William The Fourth, Still William, William Conqueror, William the Outlaw, William the.. in Trouble, William the Good, William at War) (TV tie-in Edition Collection)
by Richmal Crompton
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Stories But Beware, 22 Aug 2013
A great collection of the original books 1-9 in the 38-volume Richmal Crompton series. But as for "book 10"...

This book is badged on the spine "10" but it is NOT No.10 in the original Richmal Crompton series. The book on sale is a compendium of various tales gathered from volumes originally published just pre-war (1938) up to the start of the 1950s which have some relation to the wartime period (roughly books 20-26 in the original series). The ORIGINAL book 10 was simply called "William" and dated from 1929, firmly in the interwar years.

Unfortunately, MacMillan were taking an understandable opportunity to repackage the first nine original books to tie in with a TV series adaptation. That was OK in its way (despite the loss of the beautiful earlier colour covers in favour of rather naff photos, destroying the period look of the books at a stroke). However having produced this set of the first nine in 2010, someone had the bright idea of adding on "William at War" (which had been made into a standalone unnumbered collection back in 1995) and giving it the number "10". I regard this as REALLY, REALLY STUPID. You do wonder that nowhere in the whole of MacMillan someone did not ask the question "But now we have two different William books with "10" on the spine - won't that be confusing?"

Indeed, this results in there being two volumes available with "10" on the spine. Just to make sure that confusion is inevitable, facing the inside title page of this unfortunate book, "William at War" is listed as the last in a list of ten volumes in "the Just William series". Naturally, the rest of the 38 volumes in this astonishingly consistent series have to be ignored, as this collection jumps half-way down the list and steals one of the original numbers.

So if you buy this set and plow straight through into "book 10" and then start looking for the rest of the 38-book series (as we did) suddenly you find that you have two "book 10"s and that you have already read ten stories from later in the series. Duuu-uh!

Rather difficult to explain to an autistic child. But leaving that aside, an example of corporate stupidity. If you want to create an "enhanced" set of ten volumes, why not treat this collection as what it was when first published - an unnumbered thematic collection - a "special edition" if you like? Then the numbering can flow naturally from No9 in this set to the original No10. Not Rocket Science.

The three stars reflect the usual high quality of the stories, but if I could, I would give minus ten stars for the idiocy of this piece of marketing. Shame on you MacMillan!


William at War {{ WILLIAM AT WAR }} By Crompton, Richmal ( AUTHOR) Nov-04-2011
William at War {{ WILLIAM AT WAR }} By Crompton, Richmal ( AUTHOR) Nov-04-2011
by Richmal Crompton
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Stories But Beware, 22 Aug 2013
This book is badged on the spine "10" but it is NOT No.10 in the original Richmal Crompton series. The book on sale is a compendium of various tales gathered from volumes originally published just pre-war (1938) up to the start of the 1950s which have some relation to the wartime period (roughly books 20-26 in the original series). The ORIGINAL book 10 was simply called "William" and dated from 1929, firmly in the interwar years.

Unfortunately, MacMillan were taking an understandable opportunity to repackage the first nine original books to tie in with a TV series adaptation. That was OK in its way (despite the loss of the beautiful earlier colour covers in favour of rather naff photos, destroying the period look of the books at a stroke). However having produced this set of the first nine in 2010, someone had the bright idea of adding on "William at War" (which had been made into a standalone unnumbered collection back in 1995) and giving it the number "10". I regard this as REALLY, REALLY STUPID. You do wonder that nowhere in the whole of MacMillan someone did not ask the question "But now we have two different William books with "10" on the spine - won't that be confusing?"

Indeed, this results in there being two volumes available with "10" on the spine. Just to make sure that confusion is inevitable, facing the inside title page of this unfortunate book, "William at War" is listed as the last in a list of ten volumes in "the Just William series". Naturally, the rest of the 38 volumes in this astonishingly consistent series have to be ignored, as this collection jumps half-way up the list and steals one of the original numbers.

Rather difficult to explain to an autistic child. But leaving that aside, an example of corporate stupidity. If you want to create an "enhanced" set of ten volumes, why not treat this collection as what it was when first published - an unnumbered thematic collection - a "special edition" if you like?

The three stars reflect the usual high quality of the stories, but if I could, I would give minus ten stars for the idiocy of this piece of marketing. Shame on you MacMillan!


Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure
Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure
by Paul A. Offit
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning book - must read for all parents of children with autism, 14 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As the parent of a child with Asperger's syndrome - and a working scientist of 35 years experience in biomedicine - I salute Paul Offit for this masterly book. Here (for anyone willing to open their minds) is the truth about how so many parents, doctors, lawyers, opportunists and media people conspired not to advance the prospects of autistic children, but to label them damaged, worthless, victims and to "search for the guilty".

There is so much genuine understanding of human motivation here - good and bad. The parents desperate for any explanation why their child appears different from most others; the self-delusional medical fraudsters; the money-making lawyers who always come out smiling; the scientists baffled and threatened when all they are trying to do is find out the truth; the media managers desperate for a "controversy" to drive up audience figures and keep their advertisers happy. It is an intensely human story, because if all the characters behaved logically, the absurd and catastrophic loss of faith in vaccines would never have taken place.

Calmly and carefully, Paul strips away the various layers of misunderstanding, poor communication, political opportunism and deliberate lies to reveal: first - that there is not a shred of evidence that any child has ever developed autism as a result of thimerosal in vaccines or the MMR triple vaccine; second, that wherever parents are desperate enough to seek a "cure" for autism, there will be no shortage of hucksters ready to sell hope for a thick wad of cash (oh and by the way parents, if you don't get the result you hoped for - it's your fault); third, just because something is demonstrably false, some people will still choose to believe it.

Ultimately any child with autism is still a child with a future and with potential. All children develop in unexpected ways and this is true of autistic children as well. All chidren benefit from love and support, not from being labelled "hopeless" "soulless" "empty" or "damaged beyond repair". The world is full of autistic people and always will be.

As others have said, if you are the parent of an autistic child, read this book.


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