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Reviews Written by
Alan J. Stedall "yoss_uk" (Birmingham, UK)

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Claude Debussy, La Mer, Preludes for Piano orch. Colin Matthews
Claude Debussy, La Mer, Preludes for Piano orch. Colin Matthews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece !, 24 July 2007
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This CD is undoubtedly the favourite my collection. A true gem.

Clearly Debussy was a musical genius and an iconoclast of his time. This recording does him full justice. Adjectives that I would use to describe the performance of "La Mer" on this recording would be: subtle, powerful, delicate, majestic, evolving, intriguing.

Each of the fifteen Preludes arranged by Colin Mathews is a jewel in itself; each different in its own colour and feel, but all compelling in their own particular way.

One of my favourites is "Canope", the weaving melody of which evokes the mystery of ancient Egypt.

In "Les sons et les parfums tournent dans L'air du soir"; the arrangement is heady with the perfume from the succulent blooms at Debussy's elbow, hanging sensual and heavy in the evening air. The end of this piece, trailing off into time and distance, is enchanting.

Possibly my favourite piece is "La fille aux cheveux de lin", which seems to shimmer and waver in aching nostalgia of the remembrance of a lost love.

I have listened to this CD repeatedly and never grow tired of it. On the contrary, on each occasion I detect a new subtlety, a new thrill. I have bought no less than four copies of the CD for friends. Their expression of enjoyment mirrors my own.

Highly recommended. A musical poem of the first order.

Sony RDRHXD860S 160GB HDD HDMI DVD Recorder (discontinued by manufacturer)
Sony RDRHXD860S 160GB HDD HDMI DVD Recorder (discontinued by manufacturer)

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent machine, only very minor quibbles, 22 April 2007
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I bought this machine from at £315, having found that it sells at Currys for £399. I am very pleased with it. It was easy to set-up, its picture is first-class, both from DVD's and from its in-built Freeview digital TV receiver, which gets excellent reception.

Clearly having HDMI output for both video and audio is a great feature (which the next, large capacity Sony HD recorder strangely appears to lack).

I also noted Andy Palmer's comments in his review here, re the need to avoid Guideplus+ given the forthcoming termination of analogue TV transmissions. The Sony's EPG guide does not depend on Guideplus+.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this Sony. Just a few minor points worth noting:

(a) It has a digital audio co-axial output socket, but no optical outlet. (The larger capacity Sony HDD recorder has both co-axial and optical outlets, but as mentioned above, no HDMI output). If like me, you have run out of digital co-axial input sockets on your hi-fi, you will need a co-axial to optical digital convertor. This is no big deal, you can buy one of these as I did from Maplins for about £15.

(b) If you are using the recorder to listen to one of the Freeview radio stations for any length of time using a plasma screen, you will need to avoid "burn in" of the static display elements on your screen. My Pioneer plasma TV also has a Freeview receiver and it avoids screen "burn in" when listening to Freeview radio stations by converting the displayed station information into a banner that rotates across the screen. For some reason the Sony doesn't have this feature, so I manage this simply by turning off my plasma screen. Again, no big deal.

(c) I initially found that when I selected "Guide" on the Sony, my Pioneer TV would mysteriously swap its line input from HDMI to S-Video ! I then read the manual: "when all else fails, read the manual" ! I realised that this problem was occurring because I had connected the Sony to the Pioneer TV with BOTH an HDMI cable AND a SCART cable. Removing the SCART cable connecting the two devices removed this problem.

These are very minor niggles and don't warrant any reduction on my 5 star rating. This Sony is a good machine at an attractive price.

BlueWalker Bluetooth USB Dongle. 100 metre Range!
BlueWalker Bluetooth USB Dongle. 100 metre Range!

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stick to Belkin !!, 14 Oct 2006
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I wanted a second Bluetooth dongle for my lap-top to synchronise with my Nokia phone. My existing Belkin bluetooth dongle works fine and is able to synchronise my Nokia on both my desk-top and my lap-top.

Encouraged by its very positive reviews on and the prospect of 100m range, I ordered the Bluewater dongle.

I managed to get the Bluewater dongle working OK on both lap-top and desk-top, however, when trying to connect to the Nokia I get a "communications error" flagged up by Nokia PC Suite. This happens on both lap-top and desk-top.

I've spent several frustrating hours vainly trying to overcome this problem. I have deleted the pairing to the phone and re-set it. I have downloaded the latest set of drivers from the Bluewater web-site. No good, either.

Guess I'll get another Belkin bluetooth dongle.

Ancient Rome, the Rise and Fall of an Empire
Ancient Rome, the Rise and Fall of an Empire
by Simon Baker
Edition: Hardcover

112 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and gripping read !!, 5 Oct 2006
I found it very difficult to put this book down.

Simon Baker takes a refreshingly novel approach to describe the centuries-long panoply of the rise and fall of the greatest empire the world has ever known.

Instead of plodding through the subject, the author chooses a number of critical events upon which the fate of the empire turned. He devotes a chapter to each of these events and commences each chapter by describing the circumstances surrounding the event; circumstances which often sound bafflingly inexplicable. He then narrates the story of the build-up that led to the event. As such, each chapter is an absorbing and fascinating story in its own right.

Baker writes in an engaging and unpretentious style and has managed to produce a book that is at once both exciting and educational; a difficult task to pull off.

Stepping back from the detail, I think the author does full justice to the Ancient Romans: A brave, clever, determined and brutal people, whose accomplishments and historic remains leave us astounded nearly two millennia later.

Well recommended.

Ultimate Reality
Ultimate Reality
by Ken Moseley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.11

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and challenging !, 10 April 2006
This review is from: Ultimate Reality (Hardcover)
In his book, "Ultimate Reality", Ken Moseley sets out on a challenging, if not daunting, quest: No less than to propose convincing theories as to the cause and direction of the evolution of the universe, and life in particular; to consider man's role within the cosmos; to suggest what form the 90% of "dark matter" not detected in the cosmos might take; to consider how, if there is such a thing as "cosmic intelligence", our species might go about communicating with it.
The trigger to Moseley writing this book was his realisation that, at the profoundest level, physical matter actually lacks material substance and appears to be no more than an expression of wave-form energy; This coupled with the present inability of science to provide a comprehensive single theory to satisfactorily marry up the lowest level of hypotheses (quantum mechanics) with that of the highest level (general relativity).
Additionally, Moseley found himself unable to accept that many of our concepts of the universe, especially those of the ancient Greeks, could have been arrived at simply by logical analysis; in his view such intuitions, now proven correct thousands of years later, must have been arrived at by external suggestion, i.e. intuition or "knowingness". In such intuitions, Mosley sees the hand of a "cosmic intelligence", intent on furthering the development of increasingly intelligent life-forms such as our own.
In Moseley's concept, the human brain has more in common with a radio receiver, picking up the directed signals of the intelligent "cosmic grain" that constitutes the 90% of dark matter vainly sought by astronomers, than our present concept of the brain as some sort of super-sophisticated electronic computer.
"Ultimate Reality" is a book that comprises two very different sets of material. The first ten chapters provide a very lucid and readily accessible description of the universe in which we find ourselves, including explanations of some of the more difficult concepts of space and time and the constituent elements of life. These chapters reveal Moseley's clear grasp of these complex scientific concepts and, more importantly, his ability to convey them to the layman in an easy and interesting manner.
The following chapters are best described as a series of essays in which Moseley sets out his thoughts on the theories described above. Since Moseley places intuition on a higher plane than deduction, many of his theories are intuitive rather than deductively based. His challenge, backed by a £10,000 prize set on the back of his book, is to have readers demonstrate that the author's explanations of "knowingness" and "conscious awareness" are untrue. This is an interesting approach, in contrast to conventional scientific method, which places the burden of proof upon the proponent of a theory, and requires him to demonstrate the soundness of his concepts through practical experiment.
Are there such things as "cosmic intelligence" and "cosmic purpose" ? Ken Moseley does us a service in setting out his ideas, which, at the very least, challenge the discipline of our own "in-groove" conventional thinking if we are to refute his theories. For this alone, Moseley is to be congratulated on his efforts in producing this well-written work.
However, one final thought; since man is indisputably part of the universe in which he finds himself, and is an integral, if miniscule, element thereof, do we (and moreover can we) communicate with a "cosmic intelligence", if indeed it exists ? Can a blood cell communicate with the human body of which it forms an essential, if lowly, part? Or is the question of such communication effectively meaningless? Rather than to seek to communicate with the universe, do we best serve our purpose in it, purely by the pursuit of realising ourselves, each to the best of our ability and potential?
A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) Psychologist

Very Exceptional Soldiers
Very Exceptional Soldiers
by Frank Steer
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Exceptional Novel, 17 Jun 2005
For me this novel "pushed all the right buttons"; i.e. the story moves along at a good pace; it was difficult to put the book down and, now having read it, I seem to have assimilated the story as a simple extension of my own personal experiences.
The story is pitched in the first ten months of WW1 and describes how the small professional British Expeditionary Force (BEF) army "held the line", even to the point of its own effective destruction, against a vastly more numerous and better equipped foe who were ready to use previously unthinkable weapons such as poison gas against them.
Given Frank Steer's reputation for accuracy in dealing with historical military events, the book provides an interesting and revealing account of the conflict and the opportunities missed by both sides to gain a clear advantage and thereby avoid the bloody stalemate that subsequently dragged on for four more years.
However, the book is much more than an historical account of the various battles of the period. It is an engaging story, uncompromising in confronting the savage brutality of war, but at the same time sympathetic to the average British soldier who is thrown into the maelstrom and "does the best he can", often with outstanding courage and fortitude: Not an easy balance to achieve, but superbly delivered by this novel.
I found the conclusion and epilogue of the book particularly satisfying.

Compatible Black Ink Cartridge for Epson Stylus CX5400, T0321
Compatible Black Ink Cartridge for Epson Stylus CX5400, T0321

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Think twice !, 11 Jan 2005
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I saved money buying this "compatible" black ink cartridge for my Epson CX5400 multi-function printer. Since then I have had major problems with its print heads. As you probably know, if the print heads on one of these printers become blocked the labour charges to get it fixed cost almost as much as a new printer !
Can I really accuse this cartridge of being the cause of the problem ? No, but the printer was working OK previously and all the other cartridges in use in the printer are Epson OE.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
by Stephen R. Covey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, packed full of insights. A really good read., 30 Dec 2000
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I first picked up this book on a news-stand on flying back from the U.S. I found its contents so engaging and enlightening that I had read it cover to cover by the time I got back to the UK. Covey is direct and honest in identifying why we fail to make the most of our lives. He is also honest in telling us that there is no such thing as a "quick fix"; that we have to work on founding our habitual behaviours on a sound set of fundamental principles if we are to get the best out of ourselves and our fellow men/women.
I ended up buying a copy of the book for each of my fellow directors and my first line managers. Most read it and found it very useful. Some read and found it revolutionary. Some didn't bother to read it at all. In casting seed, some will always fall on stony ground.
My only criticism of the book is its title: "highly effective people". Covey doesn't really take time out to define exactly what he means by an "effective person". And without this definition it does indeed sound like he is out to create an exploitative army of principle-based, robots. However, I consider the title very misleading. It doesn't do the book justice and is rather too delimiting when applied to a profound, yet simple, philosophical work capable of changing one's outlook on life, in or out of the work-place.
I would recommend this book to anyone with a genuine hunger to improve their lives and a willingness to engage on this on-going mission in a thoughtful and consistent manner.

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