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Anna (London)

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Instant Recall French, 6-Hour MP3 Audio Program
Instant Recall French, 6-Hour MP3 Audio Program
by Michael Gruneberg
Edition: Misc. Supplies

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Humm, 19 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having done French (reluctantly... in fact much of class was spent drawing unicorns in the margins of my exercise books) at school, it's all gone apart from the very basickest of basics. And "ou est le gare?" which, for some reason, stuck. As kids, why do we resent learning languages when, as an adult, it's such a wonderful skill to have. Equally, having a French best friend means I actually approached this course with some excitement. So, am a bit disappointed.

As other reviewers have said, this method does work... but they're right elsewise, too - it's hit and miss, and some of the word associations are really ropey. Equally, some of the words we're given to remember seem to be chosen more for the word association "comedy value" than for its usefulness in conversation. For example, when would we ever use the word "hedgehog" on a weekend stay in Paree? It's not one of the things they eat (is it? You never know with the French. Ha! I jest. I love the French, really I do) and, just using 2 of the examples the author has used in the item description, "herisson" (French for hedgehog) doesn't actually sound like "hairy son", and the French for chicken is "poulé", with a pronounced second syllable, but we're asked to remember a chicken in a "pool" - "pool" and "poolay" (phonetically) are completely different sounds, which meakes learning by sound really pointless.

Also, the problem with this method is the delay in foraging for the right word. You hear the French, pluck the right picture from the recesses, then choose the right word association from the picture. It's grand for when you're learning, but for having a conversation it's slightly impractical.

There are good points, however. They use word association pictures that include whether the noun is male or female which is always a finnicky aspect of learning foreign languages, and as it's MP3 format, you can add it to your iPod and listen to it while you're on the go. Course, that's only a benefit if the course is something you find helpful and, over all, this wasn't. It teaches some good principles for learning a new language and for that it gets 3 stars, but the actual course was a bit of a let down.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2013 7:59 PM GMT

No Title Available

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You should totally get one of these, like, 16 Feb. 2010
This ampy thingie is fantastically cool. It really does look like a wee amp, and when people see it, they invariably give a whispered "ooooh" before grinning happily. Really, this thing makes people smile.

It has Bass, Treble and Volume dials, and you can also adjust your volume via yer actual MP3, also, so if you're looking to rattle windows, crank it up to 11 (metaphorically... it's awesome, but it's not ironic) on both MP3 and amp and away you go. The top volume really does pack a punch, though, so you may want to experiment a little. Equally, the Bass and Treble dials aren't just there for decoration - they completely alter the sound quality, and increasing the Bass really does increase the bass. It comes with 2 cables - one to attach to your MP3, and another so you can attach it to your pooter via USB.

It runs on AA batteries and you have to use a mini screw-driver (or spoon) to un-do the battery lid so I was a little worried about having to change them a lot. You never know with gadgetry whether it's a battery-killer or a battery-camel. This is a camel. Duracel Ultra batteries went in mid-way through last December and after at least 80 hours of play, it's still going strong. It was so long ago I can't even remember if it took 3 or 4 AAs... but I remember thinking it was a jolly silly number, so I suspect it was 3. (Bit like Bill Bryson's ire at the way hot-dogs come in packets of 8, while the hot-dog buns come in packets of 6...)

But, you know, that's barely a concern when everything else about this is so super fantastico. One of the large supermarket chains that Jamie Oliver hawks things for (actually, does that narrow it down?) was selling them before Christmas, and if you're lucky, you may still find them there. But it would have to be very expensive indeed for this to not be a bargain.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 24, 2010 2:07 PM BST

300 Unmissable Events and Festivals Around the World
300 Unmissable Events and Festivals Around the World
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice enough, 15 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is quite a nice book, really. Bit bigger than A5ish and crammed with information and photos. Details on 300 festivals around the world, split into the following headings:

~ Art and Culture
~ Family
~ Food and Drink
~ Glamorous
~ Music
~ Natural Wonders
~ Spectacular (sounds ambiguous, this one. Amongst others, this section includes Chinese New Year; New Orleans Mardi Gras and Trooping the Colour)
~ Spiritual and Religious
~ Sport and Adventure
~ Weird and Wonderful (has things like Summer Redneck Games; Roswell UFO Festival and Alpine Beard Festival... couldn't tell ya)

They are also listed by location and date so, in theory, you could use this to plot a holiday, or discover something groovy off the beaten track. The list of stuff is widespread and probably caters to most folk, from ICEHOTEL to Sakura Festivals to Aurora Borealis (the things am most longing to see) through to World Nettle Eating Championships (sadly us Brits are responsible for this one) and Milan Fashion Week. So most tastes will find something to nibble on.

The larger festivals have Insider Tips and Strange But True factoids, while all the festivals have been graded price-wise (although, they don't say how they define "inexpensive" or "moderate") along with dates, places and contact information and websites. The photos aren't fantastic, as most of them are quite small, save for one or 2 double-spreads (and the turtle photos linked to Turtle Watching in Tobago which, aye, isnae technically a festival) but there are hundreds of them, so they're nice to pore through. Meh, this all sounds a bit luke-warm, and that's pretty much fair. Other cultures are fascinating, and it's amazing seeing what others get up to... but the book is missing something and it all feels a little humdrum and effervescenceless.

The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
by David Berlinski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

31 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just can't give it 5 stars..., 6 Feb. 2010
This is a book that will be immensely divisive. At the moment, any book about God/religion/atheism/New Atheism will be hugely divisive, but a book written by a secular Jew, mathematical, philosophical and scientific giant, written solely to lambast Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the other less famous one... well, both "sides" are going to have something to say about it.

As a Christian, I'm probably supposed to give this 5 stars. Things have become so polemical we're supposed to forget objectivity and rabidly side with anyone we perceive to share (or, at least, be unwilling to attack) our views. And, here, Berlinski is against the very chaps that are most cruel about people of faith. But, when it comes down to it, it would be dishonest giving it 5.

Berlinski doesn't really defend God, so much as attack New Atheism and New Atheists... and for some it may sort of be a case of "My enemy's enemy is my ally", but for me it was uncomfortable. Because, I don't think New Atheists *are* an enemy, and even though Berlinski is defending our right to believe in God (again, not necessarily defending God Himself) I don't like his sarcasm and mockery any more than when it comes from the Atheistic bunch. It's all fire with fire and clashing swords, words and penises and if someone believes this entire debate needs to be kinder (as many of us do) a book as snarky as this isn't going to soothe anything.

That he puts them in their place is undeniable; he unquestionably shows up their avaricious pseudo-philosophical, hermeneutically-bankrupt rhetoric for precisely what it is - embarrassing (the nadir being that strange attempt to refer to each other as "Brights"... what *was* that?) And the 4 stars is because he will undoubtedly open minds that had become hermetically sealed after stewing in DawkinsHitchens vitriol for the last few years, and managing to oepn minds as locked up as that is an extraordinary feat. But it felt like a mean book, and that's a real problem. Berlinski is a very, very clever and witty man. He is also, come to think of it, perhaps the most objective commentator on all of this. He even dares to posit that there may be philosophical flaws in Darwinism... he's essentially come up the rear of THE sacred cow and kicked it in the nads. And bravo for that. (Darwinism attracts fundamentalists with a zealotry every bit as scary as religion and it, too, needs to be questioned.)

So there are a hundred wonderful things in here... but it's too mean to get 5. I fundamentally believe that the way to respond to Dawkinsian (et al) cruelty is with kindness. Berlinski, though, sees it differently, and he is absolutely entitled to (my beliefs, after all, are entirely predicated on my faith) so perhaps marking it down is unfair. But other Christians should know that this book caters very specifically to a particular type of debate - one of snark, and tearing the opposition down as opposed to raising God up.

Here's a tiny example of his style. On page 4 (he starts early) he writes: "Because atheism is said to follow from various scientific doctrines, literary atheists, while they are eager to speak their minds, must often express themselves in other men's voices. Christopher Hitchens is an example. With forthcoming modesty, he has affirmed his willingness to defer to the world's 'smart scientists' on any matter more exigent than finger-counting. Were smart scientists to report that a strain of yeast supported the invasion of Iraq, Hitchens would, no doubt, conceive an increased repsect for yeast..."

And, you know, he's probably absolutely right. But bullying a bully is never the answer - at least, not for a Christian. And that's really what it comes down to.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2011 2:44 PM GMT

Love to the Little Ones: The Trials and Triumphs of Parents Through the Ages in Letters, Diaries, Memoirs and Essays
Love to the Little Ones: The Trials and Triumphs of Parents Through the Ages in Letters, Diaries, Memoirs and Essays
by Louisa Lane Fox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.71

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let down by the interjections, 3 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really lovely collection of letters, diary entries and essays all about parenting. It starts with pregnancy and goes through childhood, adolescence all the way up to adulthood. Within each section, all the entries are in chronological order, so it's also a fascinating look at how language (and values... many chronologically early letters are filled with prayers to God, and exhortations to do right by Him) have changed with time, given Louisa Lane Fox (lady what collected 'em all, like) has pretty much kept them as they were written wordy-wise.

I'm not a parent but, at no point was the book foreign or alienating. We all understand love, be it friends or family. The love of a parent for a child is perhaps the most powerful... but not necessarily the most simple, and it's wonderful being able to walk around in these people's minds.

Some of the people are well known (Rudyard Kipling, Bertrand Russell and Queen Victoria, amongst others) and many are people lost to the annuls of time, save for these letters. And, actually, that's the most annoying part of the book. Fox has written fairly lengthy introductions for virtually everyone which are often longer than the actual snippet of the letter/entry/memoir she's included. A much shorter intro to each would have been better, as it wouldn't have broken up the flow so much.

Other than that, it's very lovely indeed and, as other reviewers have said, certainly best dipped in and out of.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2010 2:27 PM GMT

Fulton Lulu Guinness Birdcage Umbrella Birdcage
Fulton Lulu Guinness Birdcage Umbrella Birdcage
Price: £31.55

184 of 188 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bird in the cage edition... nnngggh, 23 Jan. 2010
Wanted. Oh, how I wanted. Never in my life have I given a monkey's about an umbrella. Will it keep me dry, was the extent of my demands. Beyond that, a big resounding meh.

Then last October, I saw a picture of this umbrella and my heart did a strange palpitationy thing. Wanted. But they were impossible to get hold of... and, in fact, will not be manufactured again. For 3 months I've had it in my Wishlist (it appeared for a day, but my order was cancelled... agony!); for 3 months I've scoured umbrella shops and online stores, all to no avail. But a couple of days ago I finally got my umbrella, and it's every bit as pretty as the photos make it seem.

I've added a few, as everywhere it's been sold seems to have the same photo, so it's hard to actually see exactly how it looks. The bird is the shape of a sparrow or finch, and is pink and blue. It is printed onto the side in 2 places (official photos made it look like it might even be separately attached) "behind" the actual cage, which is printed in a dark grey.

The actual umbrella is clear PVC - very, very light - huge, with a smooth opening/closing mechanism (slide up, slide down, tadaa) and a silver hook handle. The description has its dimensions, but it's hard to imagine how that will equate in person. There's pretty much room for 2 or 3 people underneath, depeding on the width of the people involved. I'm 5"3 and when my head is near the top inside, the birdcage reaches around my elbow, meaning am *completely* protected from the rain, even if it's that mean slanty one that comes in from the side. And, actually, being inside does make you feel safe, somehow. Like you're in a fort. That's decorated with birds.

It feels sturdy enough. It doesn't feel like there's anything metallic that could snap so its being a little more flexible feels like a benefit rather than a result of shonky build-quality... still, it's too rare and beautiful to be anything less than careful with.

If you're humming and haahing about whether it's worth the cost, it probably isn't. And yet I'd spend the money all over again without hesitating. I'm sure at some point someone will create a variant that will be just as beautiful but, until then, this is just the prettiest, most magical umbrella I've ever seen. As I write, am just beginning to get over a nasty bout of flu... and yet never have I been so desperate for it to rain so I can go out in it.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2014 11:14 AM BST

Animals Around the World Lift the Flap
Animals Around the World Lift the Flap
by Anthony Lewis
Edition: Board book

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely lovely, 23 Jan. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What a darling, darling book.

If you're a little baffled by the "Life the Flap" subtitle, it's just like a Christmas advent calendar (minus the chocolate, more's the pity. Come to think of it, those chocolate animal crackers would have been a nice, appropriate addition... I digress) where you, aye, lift the flap to see what's underneath. In here, there are 50 of them, all with animals inside.

The book is very short with thick card (almost wood-like) pages so it will be good for lovely little chubby fingers that are covered in jam. It starts with a lovely map of the earth and pictures of animals that are specific to any given area. (The kiwi bird in particular is adorable.)

Next page is a Rocky Desert scene with eagles, snakes, geckos and even a squirrel. Not all of the animals have flaps (all of which have information on the underside), but all the animals have a tiny bit of information. Next, it's Rainforest with monkeys, a macaw, jaguar, beautiful blue morpho butterflies and lots more. Next is Woodland (my favourite... and it's very Britishy, I suppose). I've uplaoaded a few photos to show you the type of drawings and how the flaps are placed. Next, it's The Himalayas and it's amazing how many animals live there! Did you know that there's something called the Himalayan monal pheasant and that it looks like a rainbow? Isn't that wonderful?

Next it's Savannah - the grassy plains of Africa, with eleflumps, hippos, monkeys and a wealth of others. Next, it's the Arctic with its selection of white-furred and -feathered beauties. And its lemmings. Lemmings! They're pictured looking over a little ledge which is a lovely touch. And, finally, coral reef, with fishes and sponge and coral types. The last page has a glossary of terms like "antennae" and "deciduous".

All in all, it really is a fab book. Little ones will love lifting the tabs (they are easy to put back in place as the card is so firm) and looking at all the lovely pictures... especially if they are interested in animals. See how many times I used the word "lovely"? That's cos it really is. Wholly and happily recommended.

First Do No Harm: Being a Resilient Doctor in the 21st Century
First Do No Harm: Being a Resilient Doctor in the 21st Century
by Leanne Rowe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.88

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!, 22 Jan. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If all goes to plan, at the ripe old age of 31 I'll be entering medical school (eeshk) so being offered this book felt providential when there are so many concerns and questions.

Medicine seems like such an inpenetrable field - like it moves so fast no-one has time to stop and talk you through any of it. It's stressful, relentless, painful and often involves making horrible decisions. I plan to become a missionary doctor which will introduce a whole other set of stresses and strains so this book has been enormously encouraging in the run-up.

I think doctors are meant to be perfect - as a non-doctor, I expect almost superhuman curing abilities from them which, while unfair and unrealistic, is perhaps fairly common. Even knowing people have such high expectations of you must be stressful... between that and the hours, the burnout rate is understandable. This book has been so helpful in pointing out the pitfalls, and when better to learn how to avoid them than prior to even encountering them?

The book is separated into chapters such as "Our Relationship With Our Patients", and "Our Relationship With Our Families and Friends", and for such a short book, it's amazingly informative and comprehensive. It even has a chapter on personal crisis which was a wonderful surprise as it highlighted that doctors will (are allowed to) struggle, too. The authors don't harangue you into soldiering on for the good of the patients - they are very kind, and exhort doctors to ensure they are ok physically (and emotionally... who knew doctors had emotions?!) for their own sake, and for the sake of those that are relying on them.

This is the first book of its kind I've ever read, and I was worried that there being so many areas of stress would cause a little panic but it feels like this is very much the human - "unspoken" - part of doctoring, and it's been very encouraging. It's doubtless one for newbs... but newbs will doubtless find it fascinating, and bally helpful.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 10, 2010 5:35 PM GMT

Kodak Zi6 High Definition Digital Video Camcorder - Pink
Kodak Zi6 High Definition Digital Video Camcorder - Pink

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab fabby fab fab fabness, 6 Jan. 2010
Length:: 5:01 Mins

One correction and some extra details: in the review I say 128MB internal memory lasted 27 seconds on VGA mode - I should have said HD mode. VGA mode lasts just shy of 8 minutes.

The USB plug is a little flicky outty one on the side, and when it's plugged into your pooter's USB port, it feels really loose and a little unsure of itself. It does the trick so all is well, but you'll need to rest your camcorder on something solid when it's connected to your lap- or desktop.

Also, films are .mov files, and for that you need Quick Time. Why it's compatible with that instead of something like Real Player is a bit of a wonderingment, but there you have it. If Quick Time isn't already installed, the camcorder's wizard will install it for you, which is great. Just be aware that that's even more memory you're using on your computer.

Truth be told, I was jonesing for a Flip, but that's severely limited with its memory. The Kodak allows you to use an SDHC card of up to 32GB which is *massive*. This 5-odd minute file, by the way, in VGA mode (lowest quality, but still absolutely clear) is 71.3MB so my 8GB memory card will last roughly *pause for frantic, possibly incorrect maths* 9 hours. 9 hours! That puts the Flip's 2hr maximum (for the most expensive one) into perspective. That you can use AA batteries is also an enormous bonus. That it's as pretty as it is is another bonus. All of which combined means it leaves the Flip for dust.

So, really, it is highly and wonderfully recommended if you're looking for a camcorder. And if you're not.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2010 12:06 PM GMT

Paper Plane Overnight Travel Bag
Paper Plane Overnight Travel Bag

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hate to say it, but it's disappointing, 27 Dec. 2009
Where to start. This range of Paper Plane stuff looks *stunning* in all the photos - if you look at it all and drool, we're kindred spirits, you and I. This bag was the one I pined for the most, and Santa brought it this Christmas (God love 'im). I was almost afraid to unwrap it such was my glee... and I hate to be the bearer of bad(ish) news, but it isn't as wonderful in person.

I'll start at the beginning. It's a nice size. Having experimented a little, have discovered you can fit one pair of jeans, 2 t-shirts, 3 pairs of underwear, 2 bras, 3 pairs of socks and a small make-up bag. There is also a zippered inner pocket for your purse and a small pocket for your phone. It will also house a thin pair of pyjamas or silky camisole so, all in all, everything you need for a weekend away. So far so roomy.

It has two zips, as with most suitcases, so it can be zipped shut both ways. But here's one of the first problems: the zips don't feel very safe - they keep catching on the teeth, and because both the zip and the PVC/fabric of the bag isn't very sturdy am wary of pulling the zip when it catches. It makes it fiddly and frustrating, and am worried it's easily damaged.

The handles are fab, and feel very, very sturdy indeed. The envelope on the front with "Something for the weekend" stitched into it is so cute, as is the swallow motif. On the back there is a tiny little PVC envelope with "SWALK" printed onto it, and it's the details like that that make this such a wonderful idea. But its looks are totally and almost irredeemably let down by the print.

I've added photos to try to show what it is am talking about but the map print appears to have been done as cheaply as possible, and we're left with a faded, blurry image. Have you ever tried to photocopy something when the ink is running out? The colours are faded and it can come out so blurry it makes your eyes feel a little funny when you look at it. It's exactly the same with this. I've tried convincing myself it's just that they were going for a vintage look but it isn't that, at all. It's not faded in a vintage way, it's faded in a done-on-the-cheap way and am so disappointed. Equally, the faux-leather PVC is clearly PVC, and not leather. It's barely even faux-leather.

You can see from the photos that from far away it's still beautiful to look at but once you have it in your hand, you become so aware of the glaring issues it ruins it an awful lot. I don't expect my review to convince anyone to not get one - the photos make them look unbelievably beautiful; but please do be aware that they're not of the quality you'd assume from the price, and they're not as nice close up.

3 stars seems like a really low mark, and I so nearly gave it 4. The idea is wonderful, and some of the details are gorgeous (the envelope, plane keyring, candystripe zip-ribbon, etc) but the quality and overall execution simly lets it down too much to earn higher than 3. A real pity.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 3, 2010 12:12 AM GMT

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