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Profile for Dr. Paul Ell > Reviews

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Content by Dr. Paul Ell
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Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK)
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The Optician of Lampedusa
The Optician of Lampedusa
by Emma Jane Kirby
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanising a news story, 22 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a true story based on the experiences of an optician from Lampedusa, a small island mid-way between North Africa and Italy. Slightly confusingly and a little strangely the story is told as though it were a novel. So we follow the lead up to the optician's boat trip with his wife, and what might have happened if he hadn't chosen to spend a couple of days away, and what was in his mind when early in the second day of his trip his party of 8 come across more than 100 dead and dying African migrants after their boat has sant. Of particular interest though is the way the survivors are treated once in the hands of the Italian authorities. This really does give a new perspective on the processing of people and the lack of humanity.

The book is short, at only 120 pages or so, and can easily be read in a couple of sittings. It very much humanises the statistics reflecting migration from Africa to Europe. It very much leads to the question why in Europe people are allowed to drown in the Mediterranean.

Despite the unusual framing of the book, a news story as a novel, there's a real impact on the reader. I fully recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in what's happening on the border between Europe and Africa. Five stars.


Vax ACH1V101 Power Heat Oil-Filled Radiator, 1500 W, White/Silver Spray
Vax ACH1V101 Power Heat Oil-Filled Radiator, 1500 W, White/Silver Spray
Price: £57.88

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Portable, effective heater, 20 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a review of the Vax Power Heat 1500w Oil Filled Radiator which is the smallest of three new, and timely as autumn approaches, heaters. As well as being the smallest radiator it also has fewest features. Most materially it lacks a timer which would have been useful. It's not advised that the heater should be left unattended and a timer to turn it on, and more importantly, off, at a set time would have been useful. Also missing is an inbuilt fan present for the largest radiator.

There are advantages to being small though. The footprint of the radiator is minimal - around 45cm in length for example. And as it's small it's portable and not too heavy to lift. It's also pretty powerful. It heats up in less than 5 minutes and is too hot to touch. I guess this has safety implications for small children though. As there is no fan there's no background noise associated with a fan heater. There's a built in thermostat and three different power settings (selected by an over complicated selection of two switches) which means there's a reasonable level of control on the level of heat set.

So overall pretty good. One star dropped for the lack of a timer that features on the other radiators in the range.


Click & Grow Indoor Smart Herb Garden kit with 3 Basil Cartridges, Orange Lid
Click & Grow Indoor Smart Herb Garden kit with 3 Basil Cartridges, Orange Lid
Price: £47.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not smart, and expensive, but easy, 18 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Update: Well my three basil plants have now been growing for almost a month and I must say I'm impressed by the speed with which the plants have grown. Now of course there is only so much I can use and I really wish Click & Grow offered variety packs - or variety packs which don't require you to buy 9 plants at once. I've upped my one star review to two. I will have a go with another set of plants, maybe strawberrys or perhaps some of the flower options. So if you live in an apartment this product may bring a bit of greenary into your life!

Original review

I'm disappointed with this product. In the photos it looks almost Apple-like in terms of build quality and robustness. Unfortunately on delivery I found it to look only half finished. The planter is made of relatively flimsy plastic and the adjustable LED fitting is rather insecure.

This is a one-supplier way of growing plants. The planter uses 'special' soil which means you can only buy seeds from Click and Grow. Unless, of course, you buy the refill pack that comes without seeds and just the 'special' soil. You add your own seeds to this. The 'special' soil must be very special indeed as each three-pack refill costs around £15.95 - even the one with no seeds - which is called experimental because you add your own seeds. I suppose the manufacturer could say that the seeds that come with the other refills are free since the cost is the same.

The smart element of the planter is, in reality limited. There's 16 hours a day LED lighting. You can't set the time when this starts apart from starting the growing process by turning the system on in the morning and then the lights will be on mostly during daylight. So the light is not quite so smart. The second smart element, as far as I can tell, is a float which causes the LED light to flash if the water level falls too low. And that's it - no temperature control, no countdown timer to tell you when to cut your first sprig of basil! There's an app as well but this is really an electronic instruction book. It does not sync with your planter, or even offer to play music to the herbs to keep them thriving!

In terms of plants, in order to make the growing process simple for us troubled and incompetent consumers, you can only buy three-pack replacements pots containing the same type of plant. So forget about variety in your herb garden. I will have a plethora of basil available for three months (the projected lift of the plants) before they die. I could then go for a range of other herbs - and some flowers - but all cost £15.95 and none offer any variety. Apparently 'variety packs' of seeds would confuse us.

I'd be more enthusiastic if the system really was clever. It's not. There's no way of varying the settings based on the plants you're growing. Then if cost is included this really is a non-starter. The full system will cost a little less than £60, so £20 a basil plant if you only use the kit once. I think of the virtual Hanging Garden of Babylon I could have if I invested £60 in buying up the whole potted herb section of my local supermarket. After the first buy the cost reduces over time. But the seed pots always cost around £16 so more than £5 a plant. Herbs have never been so expensive.

So this is a nice idea but it really isn't executed very well. The system does not control temperature, adjust for humidity, changes the lighting reflecting ambient conditions, or varies its 'smart' growing system to take account of different plant types. Overall it doesn't provide optimum conditions for plants, just rather a lot of LED sunlight and a constantly damp growing environment.

So not smart, and not value for money, and not well built. Stick with supermarket potted herbs - assuming I haven't bought them all in my £60 spending spree!

One star.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 30, 2016 12:56 PM BST


Nescafe Azera To Go Latte Instant Coffee, 2 Cups (Pack of 3, Total 6 Cups)
Nescafe Azera To Go Latte Instant Coffee, 2 Cups (Pack of 3, Total 6 Cups)
Price: £7.47

3.0 out of 5 stars Let down by synthetic taste, 18 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Whilst this product allows you to quickly make a coffee to take on the go there are several downsides. I guess most importantly the taste is not brilliant. This is the product of using milk powder and instant coffee and various sweeteners. It really doesn't taste like a coffee-shop coffee. It bears a closer resemblance to Dolce Gusto pods, many also made by Nescafé, which I'm not very fond of. Secondly the coffee is not cheap, but I suppose reflecting the fact that it comes with a heat-retaining cup, this is never going to be an inexpensive product. Third, if you're short of kitchen storage space be prepared for more space issues. Each pack contains just two cups and a few boxes take up a lot ps space.

Overall I might keep a few of these coffees for occasional use but I don't see me using them regularly. The big problem is the powdered drink taste.

Three stars


Philip's Month-By-Month Stargazing 2017: The guide to the northern night sky
Philip's Month-By-Month Stargazing 2017: The guide to the northern night sky
by Heather Couper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential text, 18 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is without doubt a vital reference guide to anyone with a telescope interested in monthly changes in the night sky. It's something that I've been buying for several years and this year is as good as ever. This book, as the title suggests, is an annual guide which on a month-by-month basis gives guidance of the best days and times of night to watch the noon, the planets, and deep space objects. It's a more detailed version of the monthly sky guide that appears in several national newspapers.

Admittedly if you buy the BBC Sky at Night magazine much of the same ground is covered but this book really is a convenient one-stop-shop, and represents very good value for money - less than the cost of two magazines. Heather Couper is a long-established astronomy commentator with a communicative style that carries through into the book.

There's an annual update on what's new in terms of astronomy kit which is always interesting.

Wholeheartedly recommended. Five stars.


Logitech M720 Triathlon Mouse for Windows and Mac (Bluetooth, Unifying, Easy-Switch - Seamlessly Switch between 3 Computers)
Logitech M720 Triathlon Mouse for Windows and Mac (Bluetooth, Unifying, Easy-Switch - Seamlessly Switch between 3 Computers)
Price: £59.16

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expensive but good, 15 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I guess the standout feature with this mouse is its ability to connect seamlessly between three devices. Certainly the mouse was easy to set up on both a PC and a Mac. No additional software was required. Both of the computers use Smart Bluetooth and so the supplied bluetooth dongle was not required. If you have available USB ports the mouse will work with any system.

In use the mouse fits well into the hand and is responsive.

My big concern is the price of the mouse. It's a fair amount to pay out. If you like the features though, this piece of kit is worth a try. Three stars
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2016 6:50 PM GMT


Gillette Fusion Power Men's Razor Blades - 8 Blades
Gillette Fusion Power Men's Razor Blades - 8 Blades

3.0 out of 5 stars Better Gillette shaving systems for less, 15 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These blades are designed for the Power version of Gillette's Fusion razor range. This shaving system, in Gillette terms, is a couple of generations out of date! Surprisingly I think it tells and I prefer the flex-ball ProShield fusion range. The Gillette Fusion ProShield Flexball Men's Razor and 9 Razor Blades is actually pretty much the same price at the moment but comes with one extra blade and a new razor. If there was a significant discount for these blades I'd be more tempted. They do a good job but for me don't produce quite such a smooth shave as the ProShield system where there's more lubrication.

So while good, reflecting the current price, only three stars


Levivo pizza spatula / pizza mover / serving board made of wood, approx. 16.1 x 11.4 x 0.2 in (41 x 29 x 0.5 cm)
Levivo pizza spatula / pizza mover / serving board made of wood, approx. 16.1 x 11.4 x 0.2 in (41 x 29 x 0.5 cm)
Price: £12.32

1.0 out of 5 stars Plywood product unfit for purpose, 15 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wonder if the manufacturer of this product could be accused of misdescribing it. It's claimed that this is a hardwood product. In fact it's made of plywood. I suppose it could be 'hardwood' plywood but it's certainly not the honed aged oak I was expecting! As a plywood pizza paddle somehow the romance and style the manufacturer would like buyers to bear in mind, and no doubt justify its rather high price, it somewhat lost.

So you get a plywood paddle which is not oven proof. I doubt it's dishwasher proof either but this isn't clear. It will badly score if used fir cutting pizza - surely something you'd want to do with a pizza paddle. Of course a hardwood paddle would be resistant to this.

Overall a cheap product, not what I was expecting, and with no redeeming features.

One star. Avoid


Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Cleanser
Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Cleanser

4.0 out of 5 stars Multipurpose but relatively expensive, 12 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is not particularly cheap cleanser although you do get 147ml - or 5 fluid ounces showing its American origins! It's a little more than standard cleanser though as it also acts as a gentle chemical exfoliatior and can be applied as a mask 5 minutes before washing off. This no doubt explains the inclusion of kaolin or China Clay in the ingredients list. It's got volcanic ash which I assume also helps with exfoliation.

In use it's easy to apply and wash off, has no real scent, and does not seem to irritate the skin despite its exfoliation claims. So all pretty good.

For the moment a cautious four stars, but if it really does work as a multi-purpose cleanser and lasts a fair amount of time I'll return an upgrade the score to five. It's certainly worth a try if you can stand the cost


Opus ML047 Window Mounted Wild Bird Feeder - Clear
Opus ML047 Window Mounted Wild Bird Feeder - Clear

1.0 out of 5 stars Cheap but far too fragile, 11 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very inexpensive bird feeder which is designed to attach to a suitable window. It comes in two parts which are only held together by plastic clips. Needless to say one of these broke after a couple of days leaving the feeder in a precarious state. Normally this kind of feeder fails to stick firmly enough to the window and can be blown off. I haven't reached that stage, and it's already broken, but I doubt it would be robust enough to avoid damage if the suction cups failed, so all rests with them.

Overall it is poor quality and to delicate for sustained use. Whilst cheap there are better feeders out there which will last a bit longer. As a result I've no option but to give the feeder one star.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 10, 2016 1:46 PM GMT


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