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Reviews Written by
C. P. Smith (Bristol, UK)
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Victorian Reproduction Bentwood Hat, Coat & Umbrella Stand
Victorian Reproduction Bentwood Hat, Coat & Umbrella Stand
Offered by eShop Online
Price: £29.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to assemble, 25 Nov. 2010
The instructions are not easy to follow. There are several parts,especially the rings, which look identical but have different numbers of screw holes, although this is not pointed out. Also the holes do not line up at all well meaning that it really needed two of us, one holding the piece in place whilst the other screwed.

Although we have the coat part assembled we will need more tools to complete the umbrella base as the two rings do not fit / line up with the screw holes at all.


Ill Fares The Land: A Treatise On Our Present Discontents
Ill Fares The Land: A Treatise On Our Present Discontents
by Professor Tony Judt
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile essay, 30 April 2010
This book is really a long essay - it can be read in an afternoon. Due to the author's infirmity, it was dictated rather than written, which may contribute to its rather meditative feel. It is a discussion of social democracy - what it gave us, how it was taken from us, and why we should still see it as an objective we should pursue. On page 224 (the book is double spaced) the author says - `Incremental improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for .........Others have spent the last three decades methodically unravelling and destabilising them: this should make us much angrier that we are' - I think he could have been rather more specific about who these `others' are (although the `Austrians' - Hayek, von Mises etc. have previously got a mention in chapter three, along with the usual suspects), what has motivated them and how in practical terms they can be resisted and rolled back. But perhaps I am expecting the book to be more substantial than it aims to be or indeed could be.

Altogether, an interesting read.


Darwin's Lost World: The Hidden History of Life on Earth
Darwin's Lost World: The Hidden History of Life on Earth
by Martin Brasier
Edition: Hardcover

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insight, 9 Mar. 2009
This is a very interesting book on an issue which has puzzled students of Earth history since at least the time of The Origin of Species in 1859; was the apparent explosion of animal life in the Cambrian period a real event, and if so what was its cause?

This book reads a bit like a scientific whodunit as the possibilities are considered and a suspect - or should I say, an explanation - emerges. The author, Professor of Palaeobiology at Oxford, has obviously been a very active researcher in the Precambrian over the years, and some might object that the descriptions of his expeditions slows in some the ways the discussion of the science. However, it makes one understand how knowledge is gained in the field (in more senses than one), how the theories are grounded, and is an inherent part of the argument.

There are plenty of ideas, and some touch upon fashionable concerns such complex adaptive systems and the ways in which the presence of life can mould the whole physical and chemical constitution of the Earth. These issues are not raised here because they are fashionable but because they may give us some useful insights into the data. The book is a report from a moving front, and so inevitably raises some questions which can't yet be answered. For example, I for one would have like to have some more conclusive information on the nature of the late Precambrian Ediacaran biota, whose members leave no trace of having had a mouth, a gut or bilateral symmetry - but as yet, we don't have it.

In short, this book is a very exciting window into a developing area of science, and into how that science is done. It also beautifully produced by OUP. The only doubt I have is the title. True, the sudden appearance of animal classes in the Cambrian, with little trace of what they had evolved from, was a worry to Darwin, but I suspect that had this not been published in an anniversary year, the great man's name might not have figured so prominently in the title. But, there again, times are hard and we all have livings to make, even academic publishers.


Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science
Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science
by John D. Barrow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating, informative and entertaining, 22 July 2008
I have been impressed by the earlier books of John D Barrow that I have read, but when I first saw this one I thought it might be something of a pot boiler - a coffee table book containing pretty pictures with some sort of scientific theme and a text that was basically a set of captions. How very wrong my initial reaction was!

This large, beautifully produced and illustrated book contains 89 fascinating miniature essays each concentrating on an image of an object or an idea that has been important in the development of science or mathematics. Although the images are striking, they have not been selected just for their looks, they are, in their different ways, illustrations of important concepts and windows on how science works. One is struck by what is pictured here, but also informed and entertained by Barrow's text.

Barrow emphasises the importance of the visual in science, and the reader will be inclined to agree - I found the chapters on images in mathematics (not the easiest area to popularise) particularly enlightening.

A word of warning - once one starts reading this book it's very hard not to continue: each section is relatively short and so comprehensible and stimulating that it's very easy to go on and read another, and then another and another. Time will fly, but will certainly not be wasted.


The Credit Crunch: Housing Bubbles, Globalisation and the Worldwide Economic Crisis
The Credit Crunch: Housing Bubbles, Globalisation and the Worldwide Economic Crisis
by Graham Turner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, insightful and thought provoking, 15 July 2008
The outline in the Amazon `product description' above is a fair summary, but it should be stressed that there is nothing sensational or overtly political about this book. It tries to be a reasoned economic assessment of our current plight, although doubtless it will upset some `free market' and `pro-business' zealots. It is a very timely and its predictions seem to be being born out - for example on page 191 we read `the US Treasury .... will be forced to act, rescuing more banks by injecting public sector capital and, ultimately, taking many into public ownership'. I write this on the same day that the US Treasury has proposed to provide as much support as is required to `Fanny May' and `Freddie Mac' and a couple of days after the Californian bank Indy Mac was nationalised.

Some may consider that the two chapters that discuss what happened to Japan after its speculative bubble went bang in 1990 have their longeuers. However, they give us some insight into how difficult it is to get out of a post bubble slump - particularly given the mindsets of economists and central bankers - and what we might have to look forward to (not a lot if Japan is anything to go by).

This book should be readily understood by anybody with an interest in economic and political affairs. There are lots of clear and very informative graphs and not too much heavy economic theory. It explains a lot but is hardly cheering - perhaps Gordon Brown (of whom the author has remarked elsewhere [Spectator Business website] `I think he will go down as the worst Chancellor in history') has seen a copy - it would explain his current demeanour!


Squandered
Squandered
by David Craig
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

31 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Polemic not analysis, 4 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Squandered (Paperback)
I came to this book having previously read the same author's (with a collaborator) Plundering the Public Sector. On the basis of that I was hoping for some reasonably detailed analysis of how and why public expenditure has increased so much for seemingly so little return, making use of the author's own professional experience and the insight gained. Perhaps as a result my expectations were different from those of some of the other reviewers of this book, for I am afraid that I was very much disappointed.

What we have here is a polemic rather than an analysis, a parade of New Labour's high crimes and misdemeanours, and context is for wimps. The author may also have allowed his partisanship to overcome his circumspection; either that or he has been too inspired by the New Labour Book of Statistical Presentation. Thus there are a number of places in graphs and in text where various little tricks have been rolled out to encourage the unwary to jump to a foregone conclusion. This rather detracts from the seriosness of the enterprise.

After a couple of chapters I felt I was reading a very long comment piece from the Daily Telegraph. Reference to the `Notes on Chapters' explained why. Just over 40% of the references (I'm afraid I counted) are to articles in daily and Sunday newspapers, mainly the Telegraph, the Mail and the Times, plus a few to the generally more objective and reliable Private Eye magazine. The term `cut and paste job' comes to mind.

If you are someone who just can't get enough of the Daily Telegraph, or you want a list of Gordon Brown's atrocities to reel off to your mates down the pub (or on the fuel duty demo perhaps), this is very much the book for you. If you are after an even halfway serious discussion of what may have gone wrong with public policy and management in this country I would advise you not to squander your money on buying this book, or your time in reading it.


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