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mjhobbes (Kings Heath, Birmingham, United Kingdom)

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Luxury Hot Cold Gel Pack Compress Wrap for Knee Injuries
Luxury Hot Cold Gel Pack Compress Wrap for Knee Injuries
Offered by Gelpacksdirect
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you want in a gel pack, 11 Mar. 2016
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The Gel Pack is very useful, well made and value for money. If it were possible to love a gel pack, I would have given it 5 stars!


War and Peace: With bonus material from Give War and Peace A Chance by Andrew D. Kaufman
War and Peace: With bonus material from Give War and Peace A Chance by Andrew D. Kaufman
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Occasional minor typos in this kindle version, 14 Jan. 2016
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The rating given reflects the kindle packaging and translation. The translation is excellent. There are some slightly-annoying editorial problems with the text, with occasional typos that have crept in through the process of conversion to kindle digital format. I cannot complain since this kindle book is free and faults do not have any significant effect on reading pleasure.


Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love
Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love
Price: £2.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Puts your mindset back into 17th century Italy, 12 Sept. 2015
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I came across this book, not through a review in the press or through Amazon, but as a consequence of being invited to a concert earlier this year which featured an attractive contemporary choral work, "The Starry Messenger", inspired by the book and written by American composer Glenn McClure. The book is excellent, with a very well balanced combination of Sor Marie Celeste’s letters and the author’s well researched commentary. The letters leading up to and concerning the Galileo’s trial are particularly illuminating and help the reader to put the mindset back into the very different world of 17th century Tuscany and Rome. No attempt is made to impose any views taken from a 21st century perspective: the reader is allowed to draw his or her own conclusions, for example about about the behaviour of the Roman Catholic Church or that of Galileo himself. Through her letters Sor Marie Celeste comes across as intelligent and perceptive, and by the end of the book you feel that you have got to know this attractive personality. The book is in effect a biography of Galileo worked within the framework of the letters, from which both the man and the scientist emerge. Not a fast read, but well worth the effort.


Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study Of The Years 1900-1925
Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study Of The Years 1900-1925
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely a “must-read” book, with lessons for today., 24 Mar. 2015
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“Testament of Youth” is a marvellous book and very famous too, so it hardly needs boosting from me. However, more than eighty years after it was written, there are no doubt younger people who have never heard of it and older people who have it gathering dust on one their shelves – a classic, admired, but not read. It’s a necessary book for anyone interested in the history of the Great War, the central cataclysmic event of the period 1910 to 1925 covered in this first installment of her autobiography. I was grateful for having been drawn to the book by the recent movie of the same name, though the movie was but a pale shadow of the book, well performed and respectful, though it was. Indeed how could a movie cover, in its little more than two hours playing time, the vast scope of the 600 or so pages of this book?
The book debunks the false meanings attached to battlefield deaths: the traditional notions of glorious and noble sacrifice or as Wilfred Owen put it bitterly “The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori”. Her pacifism is not expressed in any preachy or polemic way, but largely by the simple telling of the story of Brittain’s fiancé Roland Leighton, her brother Edward and their two friends, talented individuals, all of whom perished on World War One battlefields. This is buttressed by her account of her service as a V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse, which included her harrowing experiences at the field hospital at Étaples.
The book also details her involvement with “feminism”, beginning with her struggle with her father about being allowed to study at Oxford University and then, after the War, describing her work for various women’s causes: suffrage, the right of women to be granted degrees and of married women to have careers.
She furthermore describes her extensive work for the League of Nations and gives some insight into the reasons for the failure of that organisation. I was particularly impressed by the description of her expedition circa 1923 through Central Europe, to see the disastrous effects of the War upon those countries. She witnessed the animosity between the victorious and the conquered, and the oppression of the latter by the former. This was especially apparent in the Ruhr region, where a vast number of people of all classes were reduced to a state of ignominious penury and destitution. It is hardly surprising that political extremism grew out of this.
Last of all, in this rich and enriching book Vera Brittain writes beautifully, using an elegant and clear Edwardian English, sprinkled throughout with quotations from poems, not the least of which are her own.


Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wakeup call for the West!, 19 Feb. 2015
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Like one of the other reviewers, I learnt of this book via BBC Radio 4's "Book of the week". This piqued my interest sufficiently to buy the book. Its author, Peter Pomerantsev, is well qualified to write on this subject, as the son of Russian émigrés who settled in the UK. Pomerantsev is a British citizen but spent some nine years working in Russia, for much of that time for the Russian TV progamme production company TNT. His position in the TV industry and his Russian background and language knowledge give him a great advantage, bolstered by his evident writing and analytical skills.
The book in effect tells a set of stories about post-Soviet Russia. They are both entertaining and at the same time disturbing in equal measure.
Many of the stories he tells are based on his work with TNT. He also talks about his encounters with the massive Russian state TV concern Ostankino, which Pomerantsev calls "the battering ram of Kremlin propaganda". These stories give a good picture of the surreal Russian attitude to reality as accurately summed up in the book's aphoristic title. After reading the book you will understand a little bit more about the mindset that produces the sort of brazen lies that came out of President Putin's mouth in the wake of the shooting down of Flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine in July 2014. This book deserves to be read widely in Europe, if only to better understand the nature of the destabilization caused by this menace from the East on the EU's doorstep. However I fear that the wimpy and irresolute reaction of the West, assisted by the various "Russenversteher" and pro-Russian apologists,in the West will only encourage it and lead to the spreading of this destabilisation to the EU Baltic states.


Philips HTD5540 Home Audio System
Philips HTD5540 Home Audio System

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value for money, 19 Feb. 2015
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I am very happy with the quality of sound produced by this system and at a price of about £190 I find it excellent value for money. The power of the system is more than adequate for the size of my relatively large front room which measures about 6x4x2.7m (LxWxH).

I did have one problem during set up, which was that when using the system during television broadcasts it did not seem to be picking up the audio return signals via the digital HDMI connection, although working perfectly when playing DVDs or when listening to audio devices via any of the analogue inputs. I rung up the manufacturer and was able to talk to an actual person quite quickly, without lengthy navigation of an automated reply system. I was advised me to use the digital optical connection which, I was told, will give the same performance. This did indeed work fine, and certainly saved me the not insignificant effort of disassembling the system, repackaging it and sending it back.
A minor niggle is that the small display on the front panel of the main unit is not particularly easy to read when one is sitting 5 or 6 feet away operating the remote, although you get used to it with time.


10440 14500 16340 17650 17670 18350 18500 18650 18700 26650 Twin Battery Charger
10440 14500 16340 17650 17670 18350 18500 18650 18700 26650 Twin Battery Charger
Offered by 5 Star Lighting Ltd
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Does the job fine!, 3 Feb. 2015
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This item is completely fit for purpose and good value for money. I bought it to charge some 18350 batteries for an electric torch, but it can accomodate a range of battery sizes including AA.


You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes
You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes
by Chris Hadfield
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.72

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Earth like you’ve never seen it!, 3 Feb. 2015
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This book contains some 120 photographs of places on the earth taken from the International Space Station by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Hadfield took about 45,000 images during his flight, so this is a fairly small, but nevertheless fascinating, sample.
Looking at these images, one is often amazed that the photos are of the earth. It shows a level of detail that is absent from maps. There are quite a few cases when the photos look like abstract art and they can be beautiful, curious and strange in various measures. This also applies to the ones showing the effects of human habitation, but also including, in at least one case, a disturbing one, namely a graphic portrayal of the consequences of deforestation in Madagascar (pp. 22-23).
Although we are now accustomed to seeing imagery taken from space, the nice thing about this collection is that they are all taken by human hand, not robotically from an Earth observation satellite. Hadfield’s informative comments on the photos are brief, since this is primarily a book of images.
I have one remark for those of us, like me, who find their knowledge of geography challenged. It is not, in general, straightforward, to relate the images to a corresponding classical atlas view of each location. The book contains a low-resolution world map showing the locations of the places in the photos, but this is too coarse to permit easy reference comparison with an atlas. There is another aspect to this, namely, that the orientation or, more precisely, projection of the ISS photos is linked to the flight path, so a certain amount of rotation of each image might be needed to get a match with the corresponding conventional map representation. So all the more need to be sure you’re looking in the right part of the map. It follows that it would have been useful to have precise latitude and longitude coordinates for each photo, suitable for use for look up in, say, Google Maps or the Times Atlas of the World. But don’t let this put you off the book, which is worth buying for the beautiful photos alone.
I can heartily recommend this book.


The Chopin Concertos
The Chopin Concertos
Price: £10.24

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant performance let down by the recording quality, 30 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Chopin Concertos (Audio CD)
I am a great admirer of Daniel Barenboim, both as a pianist and a conductor. This recording of Chopin’s piano concertos brings together Barenboim as a pianist with an orchestra for which he has been chief conductor for some 20 years. The conducting has been delegated to a rising star, Andris Nelsens.
The reviews both in the press and here in Amazon have heaped praise on this recording, in terms of sensitivity, energy, poise, phrasing, and rapport between soloist and orchestra as well as Barenboim’s remarkable accuracy and consistency in a live recording. I cannot disagree with this. However I was also left somewhat disturbed by something I could not quite understand, but possibly related to the extraordinarily bright and overbalancing sound of the piano in this recording. The problem of playing Chopin is to achieve the delicacy of touch and dynamic contrast that Chopin requires: marks like fortissimo and con forza have to be interpreted conservatively. The dynamics required by Chopin range from something like forte or mezzo forte down to vanishingly low yet perceptible levels of pianissimo, or at least it should sound like that. However, my discomfiture possibly does not have anything to do with the playing and interpretation. After listening to the CD, I decided to recalibrate my ear by listening to a vinyl recording with a great pianist of the past, Emil Gilels, as soloist, and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy (CBS 61799). As on the Barenboim recording, the orchestra remains firmly in its accompanying role, yet the piano is somehow softer and less aggressive in tone, while the fioritura passages are nevertheless sparking and clear.
So perhaps the problem boils down to the way the recording has been engineered: possibly the piano has been too closely miked. I am put in mind of a recording experience with French radio recounted by the late Charles Rosen in his book “Piano Notes”. He recalls recording almost an hour of Schumann, with reasonable recording results and then going back the next day to record Schoenberg’s opp. 18 and 25 and being astonished at the ugliness of the sound in the playback, although it was the same studio and the same instrument. When questioning this, he was told that they were using their usual setup for “contemporary” music. Rosen put his foot down and insisted on the same sound setup for Schoenberg as for Schumann. Rosen then goes on to describe the disastrous effect of recording Ondine from Ravels’s Gaspard de la Nuit too closely miked. Thus on grounds of recording quality, I’ve taken away two stars: sadly for me I doubt that this recording will bear much repeated listening.
Incidentally while a simple star rating system works fine for books, for classical music recordings separate ratings are needed for performance and recording quality.


Financial Times Guide to Exchange Traded Funds and Index Funds: How to use tracker funds in your investment portfolio (The FT Guides)
Financial Times Guide to Exchange Traded Funds and Index Funds: How to use tracker funds in your investment portfolio (The FT Guides)
by David Stevenson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You get more than it says on the can!, 4 Dec. 2014
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As its title says, this book examines exchange traded funds and index funds, and is a must for investors thinking of moving their investment approach towards passive funds.
Investment using passive funds is based on the idea that markets by and large get pricing of shares right and that you as an investor or indeed an active fund manager cannot beat that outcome most of the time, so that the best and cheapest thing to do is to follow the market by investing in an index fund which copies the market and by its passive approach has low management charges. The book is both balanced and comprehensive in its arguments. It includes also critical views on use of trackers, so it is by no means a piece of evangelism, although the authors clearly favour this approach. The earlier chapters (2-6) explain the theory of passive investment products in as much detail as most people would need. I found a number of surprising facts in there, among them the one that say a FTSE 100 tracker is biased towards growth stocks because of the way the index is based on market capitalisation.
The book goes somewhat beyond what’s in the title in discussing in a very clear way basic principles of investing, often citing and outlining the solid research that has gone into establishing these principles. This is brought out for example in Chapter 7 on how to build a portfolio; ETS and index funds are available in practically all asset classes and the same portfolio principles apply to them as for an one composed of actively managed investments. Chapter 7 is a model of clear explanation as also is Chapter 10, which answers a number of questions that might occur to anyone considering building a passive portfolio: these include issues such as for example portfolio rebalancing, buy and hold versus market timing approaches and lifecycle of portfolios as a function of the investor’s age. Chapter 11 gives a set of master portfolios, which among other things will help investors critically review their existing portfolios. The Appendix reviews available passive funds in all available asset classes according to the various indexes that are tracked , critically assesses the indexes themselves, and identifies the products that are available, including key indicators like management charges.
My main negative comment and the reason I have only given 4 stars is that the book was written in 2009 so it is based on information from 2008 and earlier. The ETF market has no doubt evolved somewhat in the intervening period and certainly the appendix would profit from an update. In addition to the lead author, David Stevenson, the book has contributions from other authors. This is in principle a positive thing, but I would have liked to have seen them indicated in the table of contents, not just in the prefatory bold type of the chapters. A minor quibble is that acronyms are not always defined, or alternatively, referenced in the index.


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