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dogsolitude_uk "dogsolitude_uk" (Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom)

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Aikido: Aikido for Beginners + Aikido & the Dynamic Sphere Box Set #1 (Aikido, Aikido Techniques, Aikido Exercises, Aikido way of Harmony, Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere, Martial Arts)
Aikido: Aikido for Beginners + Aikido & the Dynamic Sphere Box Set #1 (Aikido, Aikido Techniques, Aikido Exercises, Aikido way of Harmony, Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere, Martial Arts)
Price: £2.68

1.0 out of 5 stars Misleading, avoid! Doesn't contain "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere", 21 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It looks like you're getting two books, as one other reviewer states, but it does not actually contain the actual book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere: An Illustrated Introduction (Tuttle Martial Arts), which is considered a classic of works on Aikido.

I'm not a great expert on Aikido and spend most of my time falling over in the Dojo, but the name of this 50-odd pages of Kindle material is very misleading.


Karrimor Mini First Aid Kit Red -
Karrimor Mini First Aid Kit Red -
Offered by Kickback Sports
Price: £13.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Handy-sized bag, very minimal contents..., 6 July 2014
Three stars because the little red bag thing is OK, but the actual contents are pretty rubbish though, but once you add a few things at your own additional expense (e.g. insect bite cream, steri-strips, scissors, safety pins, tweezers etc) it's a handy size that you can shove in a satchel or rucksack and forget about (bearing in mind the expiry date of anything in there).

I don't understand how a kit can have a roll of bandage but no safety pins or scissors. Are you supposed to use the whole lot and tie it up in a knot? Still, five quid for a red back with some plasters in it isn't bad, and if you have specific needs (e.g. something where you're likely to get large scrapes, and so need lots of large non-adhesive dressings) it could make a useful starting point for later additions and customisation.

For a more comprehensive kit, try the Outdoor Pusrsuits (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Outdoor-Pursuits-First-Aid-Kit/dp/B001MEY964) or the Lifesystems ones (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lifesystems-Pocket-First-Aid-Kit/dp/B000T9LRUY).


No Title Available

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My favourite jacket..., 9 Mar. 2013
After the annoyance of the The North Face Men's Evolution Triclimate Jacket -, I decided I wanted something a bit sturdier. Main usage is wandering around the city during winter, dogwalking across the countryside

I needed a jacket that would be lightweight and breathable, rainproof and windproof, keep the contents of my pockets dry (the NF Evolution had horrid, snaggy mesh things) and also be able to accommodate a zip-in fleece liner.

This jacket is made of slightly thicker material than the NF evolution, and the jacket is slightly longer. It's just the outside 'shell' bit. As it doesn't come with a fleece, I bought a Thunder Bay fleece to go with it for £60-odd. There are other fleeces that will zip in like the 'Midnight Moon', which is a bit lighter: look for 'Regular System Zip' as opposed to 'Short System Zip', and check the 'Nanuk' number to get an idea of how warm it is - don't buy the kids' one by accident though!

Thus the combined cost of jacket+fleece was about the same as the NF Evolution at the time, but resulted in a slightly more robust and (for my purposes) far more suitable setup than the NF Evolution.

The Texapore fabric has kept the wind and the rain out admirably without the inside of the jacket turning into a mini-sauna. There are zippable 'pit vents' under each armpit to let the funk out and keep you cool should the need arise.

There's a detachable/stowable hood as well that you can either roll up into the collar or remove altogether. There's no 'wire' in the hood, but it's got a bit of stay in it so you can adjust it a bit to increase your field of view if you feel it's getting in the way.

I carry a lot of stuff around with me: mobile phone, wallet, keys, gloves, notebook, that kind of thing, and so I need to have pockets when I'm out and about. The Black Range jacket has two capacious hip pockets, a 'Napoleon' pocket just under the logo, and a sort of 'hidden' pocket just behind that in between the two zips. I've been able to happily stow my phone/mp3 player and compact camera in these, and they've been safe and dry in the most dreadful rainstorms.

Jacket drawstrings are accessible from inside the pockets too.

Inside the jacket is a mesh 'map pocket', I actually use this for my 'buff' scarf/snood thingy or gloves, maybe a banana.

The 'black' version of the jacket is actually black and grey rather than black-all-over. It actually looks rather fetching I think with the bright orangey-yellow paw-print and logo.

So I'd strongly recommend this for yomping around the countryside or urban areas in horrid weather. Add a Thunder Bay fleece and you've got a great three-in-one. I'm confident that it'll keep me and my stuff dry, and combined with the fleece it's been ideal for the icy, snowy weather we've had this year.


No Title Available

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great jacket, impractical for day-to-day use, 28 Dec. 2012
I bought one of these a couple of days ago in a sale for £150. Whereas I was generally impressed by it, I found it dogged by a couple of irritating design decisions.

The outer shell is waterproof, lightweight and breathable, made from TNF's HyVent material. It has a pretty sturdy feel to it, and is well machined. There is one single pocket on the left breast, next to the logo, and two hip pockets, one on each side.

This is where I felt the design lacked. The liner of the outer shell is a mesh fabric, and so is the lining of the pockets. These mesh linings snag on keys, and also mean that the pockets are hopeless for keeping one's hands warm in winter (as I found out this afternoon). As someone who keeps their hands in their pockets quite a bit, this is rather irritating. Worse, if your phone is in there and the jacket flaps open in the rain, you get a wet phone. Caveat emptor and all that: it's actually for this reason alone I wouldn't recommend this jacket to anyone. If you can live with that then I'm sure this jacket will represent excellent value.

There is a hood. It's not detachable, but folds up fairly unobtrusively in the collar area. It's not wired, but the plastic strip inside the hood rim keeps it's shape if you bend it a bit.

The inner part, the fleece, is wonderfully comfortable and warm. I wear it quite a bit on its own around the house. The two outside pockets are zipped, the two large inside pockets are fairly capacious.

In summary: great jacket, but the pockets are dreadful and impractical.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2013 4:28 PM GMT


No Title Available

3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but a couple of design flaws and omissions, 10 Dec. 2012
I bought one of these a couple of days ago in a sale for £150. Whereas I was generally impressed by it, I found it dogged by a couple of irritating design decisions.

The outer shell is waterproof, lightweight and breathable, made from TNF's HyVent material. It has a pretty sturdy feel to it, and is well machined. There is one single pocket on the left breast, next to the logo, and two hip pockets, one on each side.

This is where I felt the design lacked. The liner of the outer shell is a mesh fabric, and so is the lining of the pockets. These mesh linings snag on keys, and also mean that the pockets are hopeless for keeping one's hands warm in winter (as I found out this afternoon). As someone who keeps their hands in their pockets quite a bit, this is rather irritating. Worse, if your phone is in there and the jacket flaps open in the rain, you get a wet phone. Caveat emptor and all that: it's actually for this reason alone I wouldn't recommend this jacket to anyone. If you can live with that then I'm sure this jacket will represent excellent value.

There is a hood. It's not detachable, but folds up fairly unobtrusively in the collar area. It's not wired, but the plastic strip inside the hood rim keeps it's shape if you bend it a bit.

The inner part, the fleece, is wonderfully comfortable and warm. I wear it quite a bit on its own around the house. The two outside pockets are zipped, the two large inside pockets are fairly capacious.

In summary: great jacket, but the pockets are dreadful and impractical.


The Iliad and The Odyssey
The Iliad and The Odyssey
Price: £0.99

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not optimised for Kindle - avoid, 9 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A word to the wise: this Kindle edition of the Iliad and Odyssey does *not* have a cover, table of contents or an index.

This means that for reference purposes it's near enough useless: clicking through 400-odd pages on a Kindle with each page updating is far from practical, and the search function does not discriminate between chapter titles or text.

OK, at 77p purchasing this book wasn't the most terrible mistake I've ever made purchase-wise, but it was really annoying nonetheless, and was 77p I could have spent on chocolate.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 29, 2013 5:58 PM GMT


Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim: Official Game Guide
Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim: Official Game Guide
by David S. J. Hodgson
Edition: Paperback

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed guide, worth it just for the stats!, 23 Nov. 2011
I'll say this for Bethesda: they're games may be as buggy as an entomologist's cupboard on release, but they sure know how to put together a game guide. It's the same thickness and weight as the average telephone book, full colour and 650 pages long.

I had misgivings about buying it a few days after first obtaining Skyrim, fearing that I may accidentally spoil the game, but I saw it there in [insert name of local game shop] for the RRP of £20 (I'll repeat that: RRP is twenty quid. Not £49.99 or any of the other silly prices I've seen), and bought it on impulse.

I'm glad I did. The first hundred or so pages deal with stats, race bonuses and so on, giving you the figures that the Skyrim UI tends to gloss over. A handy chart will tell you which races get a 5-point sneak bonus for example, and other sections will go into detail about suggested character builds.

There are lengthy tables giving details about the alchemical properties of plants, information about enchatments and spells, weapon stats and useful pointers about the crafting and smithing that's been introduced in this game. It also covers perks as well, which I found useful because the wretched perks interface in the game itself makes it very difficult to compare things.

The tome even comes with a map, which appears to be in the ballpark of A1 size. It's currently on the wall next to my PC.

I'll be honest and say now that I haven't read it from cover to cover, because I'm still playing Skyrim. I have however gone through the quests I have completed so far, and compared them to the walkthroughs, and I can vouch for its coverage of the quests I've done so far.

A typical 'Quest' section will give you details of loot, conversation options and also local maps, various tips and also info about follow-up activities for after the quest.

This is far from the flimsy padded-manual that passes for many strategy guides by lesser publishers. It's deep and detailed, and if you're a fan of Skyrim it's well worth £20 of anyone's money. Don't pay the overpriced sums quoted by some of the more unscrupulous vendors on the interweb. It really isn't worth £150.

For the record it's worth pointing out that Bethesda's guides to fallout, Oblivion and Morrowind are similarly hefty :)


Duck Eco Shower Timer - a fun way to educate and regulate the saving of water and energy
Duck Eco Shower Timer - a fun way to educate and regulate the saving of water and energy
Offered by Lake Home and Leisure
Price: £6.22

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Made a real difference to the gas bill, 30 Sept. 2010
Yup, just set the duck off, and you'll soon start to gain an awareness as to where the gas bill money is being spent.

You can set the Duck to count upwards if you're just curious as to how long you've been in the shower for, or use it like an egg-timer and have it count down and beep to tell you to get out of the shower after 15 mins, rinse out the hair dye after 5 mins, or whatever.

It may sound really silly, simple and pointless, but like I say, it's really helped me manage my energy usage.


Fritz 12 (PC DVD)
Fritz 12 (PC DVD)

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better GUI, 30 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Fritz 12 (PC DVD) (CD-ROM)
To be honest I'm a pretty dreadful chess player: one who's used to Chessmaster's slick interface, often uses the 'take back move' functions and makes extensive use of tutorials. According to the Peshk@ software, Chessmaster and the Fritz tactics training I'm about 1500 ELO, but I have a suspicion that they're just being kind.

When I came to have a go on Fritz 11 last year, largely out of a need for something with an wide range of tutorials available, I found the interface rather opaque and illogical in places and eventually gave up and went back to Chessmaster. I had a lot of questions about the new Fritz 12 program when I heard they had updated it. This review therefore just covers the issues (largely related to interface and usability) that I was curious about before I bought the game, and I submit it here in the hope that it will prove useful to others in a similar position to me.

If you're a real pro, or a club player, and not particularly bothered about the UI or useability you may wish to skip this review. If you're considering an upgrade I hope you find it useful.

Installation and DRM

This edition of Fritz comes on a DVD. You may install Fritz 12 on up to 3 machines (e.g. Laptop, Desktop and Work), and you can deactivate an installation if needs be. I had no problems with installation or activation, but when updating the software it reset some of my GUI settings. Installing the game does not install the included tutorial vids to your hard drive though, and so you'll need the DVD in the drive if you want to view these.

Menus and Interface

The revamped interface is based around a Ribbon, a bit like the ones used in Microsoft Office 2007. It's been built to conform to Microsoft's 'Fluent UI' standard, and uses a row of tabs, beneath which all the options related to that tab are laid out in a readily accessible fashion. This means you can see a large number of related options at once. The Ribbon is, however, thicker than the usual menu strip, and if you find that the Ribbon's too clunky and takes up too much room on your monitor, you can just right-click it and minimise it. If you don't like the default Blue colour scheme, you can chance the theme to Black, Aqua or Silver (though doing this also resets the board design settings if you've changed them).

The menu interface is customisable, insofar as you can right-click on any icon in the ribbon (e.g. 'New Game') and add it to a small 'Quick Launch' area at the top left of the window. This means that if you have a frequently-used option you can pin it to the top of the window (I have the 'New Game', 'Handicap', 'Sparring' and 'Help' options up there). Seriously, I cannot emphasise enough how useful this is, and for me this is the one feature that has made Fritz 12 far, far more useable than it's predecessors!

Also welcome is the ever-present 'Help' icon at the top right. The included HTML help files are more extensive in detail and scope than the printed manual that's included with the DVD, so it pays to make use of it when you get stuck.

'Save layouts' is a very useful function. Once you've moved your windows around to your satisfaction, you can save the arrangement. I have one saved layout for using with the Fritz Media system DVDs, and another one for just playing chess. The panes themselves are the usual boxy Windows panes, though this time round they're fully dockable around the edges of the screen, and you can leave them free-floating if you prefer (although you cannot save a floating layout).

For me these changes made a real difference to my enjoyment of using the program, and my appreciation of just how powerful it is. It still takes time to learn in order to get the most out of it though, so do make sure you set aside a little while to fully read the manual (preferably the 'Help' manual installed with the program) and explore the options. If you want to see how the interface works for yourself without risking your money, you can download a demo of Deep Fritz 12 for free from the Chessbase website.

Fritz is still rather eccentric in a couple of ways though. For example, in the messy bit at the bottom of the application menu, 'Main menu - Customise' just allows you to change keyboard shortcuts, not customise the layout, use of engine or board appearance (those options are elsewhere). It really should have been named just 'Keyboard Shortcuts' as the Tooltip indicates, but minor niggles such as these suggest that usability testing may not have been 100% rigorous.

Selecting 'New Game' when using Opening Training or Endgame Training just resets the board to the same Opening/Endgame you've just played. You have to go back to the training option and 'turn it off and on again' in order to change the opening/endgame you are practising to a different one.

Choosing to play White or Black is a bit different to most chess games. Here it's a matter of starting a game, and immediately moving a White piece if you want to play White, or hitting 'Space' to make Fritz move first if you want to play Black. There's no 'Do you wish to play Black or White? (B/W)' dialogue box or anything. I actually quite like this touch, but I found it a mite confusing before I worked out what it was doing.

Difficulty Levels

Fritz will beat most human players even on a reasonably fast machine. Luckily it's easy to lobotomise the engine with a number of preset handicap settings, given such descriptive names as 'Careless' and 'Moron'.

Stick the Handicap icon in the quick bar, and Fritz suddenly becomes pretty much pick-up-and-play, allowing a beginner to set up a game of 'beatable' difficulty in two mouse clicks.

Help and In-game training

You can activate a virtual Coach who'll give you advice on what to play and what to avoid doing. If you're about to muff something up, a window with a picture of a grizzled old boy in a hat, smoking a cigar, will pop up and give you some sagely advice. Sometimes it can be rather bizarre advice, especially durung the endgame or if used during a training session, and so I've found that sometimes it pays to use one's discretion with this feature (especially if you're using something like the Danish Gambit).

You can set up another chess engine to 'Kibitz', i.e. play alongside the game. Attempting this caused a crash the first time, however subsequent attempts worked fine.

There's also a useful 'Spy' function, which shows you what Fritz is thinking. I haven't used this feature much, but it can provide an interesting way of finding weaknesses in one's position that have been overlooked.

The 'Hotness' dial and the Mate-O-Meter are nice touches, if a trifle paranoia-inducing.

Playchess.com

Selecting the Playchess.com option on the startup splash screen opens a program that connects to the Playchess.com servers. Here you can play against other players around the world, watch video lectures chat, etc. Some functions here, such as tutorials, cost a small fee, using a purchasable currency known as 'ducats'. Others, such as tactics training, are free.

I have found that once logged into Playchess.com I need to log out again, back to the splash screen to play a normal game with Fritz.

Tutorial videos

Included with this edition are some Fritz Trainer tutorials. These load into the Fritz interface, and consist of little window with footage of your tutor, and the board updates automatically with pieces and arrows to illustrate whatever it is that's being taught. These work fine, and for some reason I find having the video footage of the GM tutor useful and somewhat more inspiring than the rather more impersonal approach of reading through moves and analysis from a book.

The tutorials are kept on the DVD rather than being installed on your hard drive, and so unless you've somehow manually copied them over to C:, you'll need to stick the disk in the drive if you want to access them. You'll find a Beginners Course with GM Andrew Martin, along with samples from the FritzTrainer Grandmaster Tutorial DVDs, Openings DVDs, Endgame DVDs and Tactics DVDs. These samples include lectures from such luminaries as GM Garry Kasparov.

Andrew Martin's Beginner's Course is certainly welcome, and the material covered is very accessible. There is however a huge jump in terms of audience skill-level between the beginners course and the other sample tutorials, which cover some relatively advanced subjects. There's no equivalent of Josh Waitzkin's excellent 'Art of Learning' tutorial in Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition, which bridges that gap beautifully.

In keeping with Fritz's somewhat curt presentation style, the videos just 'end' when they finish. There's no pop up to see if you want to watch the next one, or even just to let you know it's finished and not crashed on you. If you go back to the video menu window, and choose another tutorial, it opens yet another Fritz window rather than loading the media into the existing one.

It's easy to use Fritz 12 with Fritz Trainer DVDs: just open Fritz with your tutorial DVD in the drive and choose 'Chess Course'. Or go to 'Open Chess Media File' in the main menu if there's one sitting somewhere on your hard drive. You can also stick the DVD in your drive, go to 'Open' -> 'Open Database' to open the Database program, click 'Open Database' in the main menu of that, navigate to your DVD drive and open the .cbh database file. I tried opening them directly from the DVD, but only got Karsten Muller speaking German on his Endgame DVD using this method. Far easier just to use the splash screen.

Chessbase have a huge library of tutorial DVDs available, and the idea of being able to purchase 3 hours of tuition about a specific opening variation is very appealing to the Geek-within, although I'm not currently at a level where I'm likely to benefit much from these. At £20-£30 a throw you need to be pretty keen too.

Fluff and Gimmicks

I personally find the chatter function dreadfully funny, but I can understand some people may find it irritating after a while. You can turn it off. Fritz is the only chess program that's managed to make me laugh, and it has over 1000 soundbites which it trots out depending on the progress of the game. This gives Fritz a real 'personality' all of its own, though it may not be to everyone's taste.

I never use the 3D boards, preferring 2D. The 3D boards look great, but in play they just seem to get in the way. They're useful for showing friends and family members (who tend not to be so impressed by things like the database of 1 million+ games and the analysis tools), but I find it a bit difficult to look at a rendered 3D Chessboard and 'get' the position at a glance.

Conclusion

If, like me, you're just starting out learning to play chess, the best advice I can give you is to buy both this and Chessmaster Grandmaster Edition (PC DVD) (you should be able to find it for a fiver on Amazon). Chessmaster has fantastic tutorials, and once you've been through them you'll be in a far better position to start to appreciate Fritz's awesome functionality in terms of analysis and training.

The changes to the Fritz interface are very welcome, especially the ability to assign frequently-used functions to the Quick Launch panel. For sure, there are some glitches, but they do not entirely detract from a far more polished and useable UI. I'm finding this edition of Fritz far, far easier to make use of than version 11, and I'm confident this will become my UI of choice from now on.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2011 1:59 PM GMT


Candide, or Optimism (Penguin Classics)
Candide, or Optimism (Penguin Classics)
by Francois Voltaire
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ROFLcopter from the 18th Century, 28 April 2009
This is one of the funniest, most enjoyable books I've read in a long time.

For those not familiar with the plot, it charts the travels of young Candide across Europe and South America together with his companions. Candide's innocent cheeriness is contrasted with the hard-bitten pessimism of Martin, and as they travel they are subjected to increasingly surreal, bizarre and cruel twists of fate.

Voltaire's rapier wit leaves nothing and no-one spared in the frequent satirical moments found in this wonderful work, and the translation in this edition lends itself to this erudite sense of humour perfectly. He gets digs in at the French, the English, organised religion, the Portuguese Inquisition, and manages to distil some of the most awful events in human history into a potent concotion of black comedy.

Here's hoping that one day Terry Gilliam will make a film based on this work!


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