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Marcus (London, UK)

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Capturing the Moment: The Essence of Photography
Capturing the Moment: The Essence of Photography
by Michael Freeman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insight into how a pro photographer works, 22 May 2016
Most books of photography are either pitched at a beginner's level, or are just about showing off how clever the photographer is. This book is different. It presents about a hundred photographs, mainly taken for specific commissions, and goes into some detail about how the photograph was taken: showing a contact sheet of rejected images and the reasons they were rejected; presenting diagrams of how the light or subject was changing over time; describing different camera angles and why they were chosen, and the choice of ISO, aperture, focal length and especially shutter speed.

Not all the pictures are as good as the one on the front cover, though there are a few pretty good ones. What is useful, however, is to follow the thought processes of a good pro photographer as he puts together a shot.

For my taste, Michael Freeman is a little wedded to prime lenses and manually timing shots. With DSLRs now offering fast continuous shooting and lots of storage, I think he is a bit too ready to dismiss the hosing approach. But he gets results, and tells you how he gets them.


Wahl Multi Cut Mains Dog Clipper Set & Instructional DVD Blue / Yellow
Wahl Multi Cut Mains Dog Clipper Set & Instructional DVD Blue / Yellow
Price: £26.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Useless on fine hair, 27 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We have a poodle retriever cross, and her undercoat is very fine. These clippers are absolutely horrible on this sort of hair -- they just push the coat away. I groomed her once, and the only way was to hold the hair with one hand while clipping with the other. For comparison, I used a professional standard clipper on her at grooming classes, and it was as easy as shearing a sheep.

The clippers might work ok on coarse hair, but if your dog has fine hair, you need to spend more money than this.


CREE XML XM-L T6 LED 1800 Lumens Cycle Bike Bicycle Rechargable Head Lights Lamp
CREE XML XM-L T6 LED 1800 Lumens Cycle Bike Bicycle Rechargable Head Lights Lamp
Offered by Addtocart
Price: £10.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Really bright. Easy to use, 27 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I attached this light to my bike helmet. I keep it pointing down, but if I need to let a motorist know I am there I can just point the beam at him. There is not much chance of being missed.

Only criticism is that there is no indication of when the battery is going to give up. It lasts a long time, but when it does give up it just switches off -- no dimming first. I strongly recommend you carry some alternative light with you as well.


Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction (Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics)
Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction (Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics)
Price: £26.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly clear book, but avoid the Kindle version, 27 Mar. 2016
I am not a linguist, though I have a little knowledge of a few languages. I entered this book thinking that Proto Indo European was some speculative piece of reverse engineering. The book has introduced me to a wealth of detail and serious academic study that I could not have believed possible -- a peak of Darien.

If you were to read the book thoroughly, working through the exercises and following the references, it would be at least an undergraduate degree's worth of effort. However, the book takes you gently enough that you could do that with no previous training in linguistics. The complexities of the subject mean that some concepts such as umlaut and ablaut are used before they are defined. There is a useful glossary, though I found Wikipedia helpful too.

This is where a good Kindle version would come into its own. To click on a word and immediately link to a dictionary or wikipedia article would be really helpful. However, the Kindle version is truly horrible. Indo European linguistics is all about unusual diacritics, such as k superscript w, or a dot under an m. The Kindle version represents these as out-of-scale blurry bitmaps, roughly inserted into the words. Just adding an accent to a word makes it completely unreadable. Not sure what the answer is, but it should be a problem for Amazon, not the author of this book. I ended up reading the paper version instead.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, an important and fascinating book with new truths on every page., 2 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As other reviewers note, there are some errors, and some contentious ideas, such as a cognitive revolution 70k years ago, presented as fact. Nonetheless, this book has more truth per page than any other book I can think of.

The key idea is that the great strength of Homo Sapiens (as opposed to other earlier species of human) is fiction. God, money, nationality, in fact all the ideals that elevate sapiens above other animals, are just fictions. They have no reality that can be tested by a physicist. Dollars do not have value, except that some of us believe they do. Yet the pursuit of money, or religion, or the promise of heaven, can bind together groups of Sapiens, and support complex social structures which would be inconceivable in any other animal.

Humans of various kinds have existed for millions of years. Neanderthals had larger brains than Sapiens, yet none of these species was more than a minor bit player on planet earth, running from larger or more organised predators such as wolves. Sapiens has become the dominant predator, in a way that no species has in the history of the planet. And the reason was fiction.

The philosopher John Searle wrote a significant book, 'The construction of social reality', where he proposes the idea that there are some truths, such as money, that are purely socially constructed. Harari runs with this idea, and takes it far further.


A Universe From Nothing
A Universe From Nothing
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does not live up to the title, 23 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Physics has three cornerstone theories -- the standard model of particle physics and quantum mechanics, which describes particles and fields at small scales; general relativity, which describes space and time at large scales; and thermodynamics, which gives an arrow to time. These describe in exquisite accuracy how the world works, except at very high energies, small times or distances.

There are candidate theories such as inflation, string theory, or quantum loop gravity, for these high-energy small-time cases, but none has been verified to anything like the extent as the cornerstone theories, if at all. For example, they seem to occur, if at all, at much higher energies than we can produce in the lab. Moreover, each is not so much a theory as a collection of loosely related rival theories.

In this book, Dr Krauss shows how his flavour of inflation theory explains how nothing (in his definition of the word) spontaneously decays into a universe, or indeed many universes. He believes that this explains the old philosophical problem -- “why is there something rather than nothing?”

From a physics perspective, I am confused by any theory that talks about ‘before’ the big bang, or of an external cause of the big bang, since big bang theory itself says that both time and space begin at the big bang. Indeed, some multiverse theories say that some of the universes will have multiple time dimensions. Where is the time or the location for the nothing of Krauss’s initial state to decay from, if there is no time or space? (read about the Hartle-Hawking state, for example.)

From a theological/philosophical perspective, I am far from convinced that Dr Krauss’s poorly defined physical idea of ‘nothing’ maps to anything that philosophers would be interested in. If it is somehow a prior state, such as some special unstable form of ‘nothing’, then where did that state come from? If it is not a prior state, then really what he is saying is standard big bang theory, that questions about ‘before’ the big bang are not part of physics.

Not that theologians should take comfort. A gap in physics is not evidence for the existence of God, and particularly not the existence of a personal god who listens to prayers or cares about humans. Moreover, I am optimistic that some of these gaps will be closed. There is evidence hidden in the background radiation which may point to some theory of origin of the universe, possibly some variant of inflation theory.

So, contentious physics and poor philosophy, but nonetheless an interesting read -- accessible to those without a physics background, and a well-presented summary of inflation theory.


2 x PHILIPS 25w SES E14 Small Screw Cap Pygmy Lamps >300 Degree C Microwave / Oven Rated Light Bulbs Pack
2 x PHILIPS 25w SES E14 Small Screw Cap Pygmy Lamps >300 Degree C Microwave / Oven Rated Light Bulbs Pack
Offered by Suds-Online
Price: £5.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Genuine Philips bulbs, 25 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The first replacement bulb i tried (not from Amazon) blew straight away, taking the main circuit breaker with it. These seem much better quality and have worked ok so far.


Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain
Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Some hard science but clouded by speculation and muddled philosophy, 13 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Damasio is an expert on neuroscience and the anatomy of the brain, and the best parts of this book clearly explain these to lay readers such as myself, without condescension. However, the hard science is interleaved with speculation and poor philosophy, with very little to warn the reader which is which.

The hard science is where Damasio talks about his studies of brain lesions, where he is a world leader, and his reviews of studies involving various types of brain scans of humans and other animals. However, Damasio allows himself to be led into speculation, based on his intuitions about which animals are 'conscious', and his own introspection. Introspection is a notoriously unreliable tool, though as Damasio acknowledges, it can lead to hypotheses that can be tested in more rigorous ways. In this book, however, there are few markers to warn the reader of the difference between such speculation, and tested ideas. (One rule of thumb is to look for external references -- in the speculative sections, these are few and rather tenuous.)

For example, many neuroscientists consider the seat of consciousness to be the more evolutionarily recent parts of the brain such as the cerebral cortices. Damasio considers that it is far lower and older -- parts of the brain stem and cerebellum. This is a fascinating theory, which tallies with introspection about the importance of feelings to consciousness -- literally the feedback loop that links brain to internal organs. Sadly, no proof is given of these ideas. It is as if the book is a collection of ideas for future research, rather than the current state of the art.

Turning to philosophy, Damasio talks about the importance of qualia. What he means by qualia is the link between perceptions and feelings, and he talks intelligently about this link. However, this is not what philosophers mean by the word. In general, Damasio wants to relate the words that philosophers and other thinkers use to describe the mind, self and consciousness, to simple underlying brain processes. In some cases this may be possible, but Damasio starts with the assumption that this simple linkage exists for everything. Damasio is rather like a car mechanic trying to understand an Italian waxing lyrical about the romance of Ferrari. There simply aren't pieces of the car, or even systems within it, that map to the poetical ideas that are being expressed.


Asus PA248Q 24.1-inch Widescreen IPS Monitor (1920x1200, 6ms, VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort, Pivot, Adjustable Height, True Color)
Asus PA248Q 24.1-inch Widescreen IPS Monitor (1920x1200, 6ms, VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort, Pivot, Adjustable Height, True Color)
Price: £279.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great image quality but weird user interface, 3 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I use this monitor for general purpose work, such as remoting into citrix. I also use it for editing photos. I do not play games, so cannot comment on latency issues, though it is fine for anything else.

The picture quality is superb. Particularly, the range of tones allows me to see colours that my old monitor would have rendered as black. The calibration of the monitor means that I can rely on the colours being accurate, which is what you need for photo editing. This also makes the monitor a pleasure to use for general purpose work.

My one complaint is the way you use the monitor. Maybe I have not understood, but there were precious few instructions supplied and there is not a lot online either. For example, the monitor was shipped looking for a VGA source. My computer only has HDMI output, and when I plugged the monitor in, absolutely nothing happened. The monitor would not even switch on. I guessed the problem might be the source, so I found an old VGA-compatible computer and plugged that in. The monitor switched on and worked fine. Moreover, as it was switched on, I could now change the source to HDMI. Now I could plug the new computer in, and everything worked correctly. However, it seems stupid that you cannot change source unless the source is already correct, so the monitor switches on. Do you really need a VGA source to be able to bootstrap it?


Rigifix M6 Anchor Fixings 10 Pack
Rigifix M6 Anchor Fixings 10 Pack
Offered by Charles Watson (Ironmongers) Ltd
Price: £8.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only fixings you can trust in cellcon blocks, 3 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have a 50 inch flatscreen, which weighs a scary amount to hang on any wall. I have a swivel, tilt and extend mount, which says in its instructions that it must only be attached to solid masonry (concrete) or a stud wall. And the wall I want to hang all this from is a standard cavity wall with cellcon blocks on the inside, then skim plaster over plasterboard.

I used four of these Rigifix fixings, two at the top, one in the middle and one at the bottom. They give a very reassuring look of being well engineered, and they all went in cleanly and very easily, and seem to give good hold. Before hanging the TV on the bracket, I did a pull-up on the bracket myself. These fixings are absurdly strong, and I am pretty confident they will hold the weight of the TV, even at the limit of the extension.

You do need to make sure the holes you drill are clean and accurate. Probably worth buying a new 12mm masonry bit, and make sure you drill them in exactly the right place. You will not need to hammer drill if the wall is cellcon blocks. I used a 6mm hex bit for my drill to drive the fixing into the wall. You could probably use an Allen key, but it would be hard work, and harder to ensure that the fixing goes in straight.

The fixings do not come with instructions. You drill a 12mm hole deep enough to take the whole of the plastic plug. Then slide the plug into the hole -- tap it all the way with a hammer if you need to, it should be a tight fit. There is a thin flange that remains on the surface. Then drive the outer bolt all the way into the plug -- it ends up a couple of mm below the surface. Finally, attach your bracket or whatever, using the inner bolt (philips cross-head). Good idea to use a washer unless the hole exactly matches.


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