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Alun Williams "mathematician manqué" (Peterborough,England)

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MeasuPro TF5000 Instant Read Waterproof IPX7 Thermocouple Digital Thermometer with Wide Range and Large LCD Display
MeasuPro TF5000 Instant Read Waterproof IPX7 Thermocouple Digital Thermometer with Wide Range and Large LCD Display
Offered by Five Star
Price: £29.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a convert - ideal for jam makers, 22 July 2014
Over the last two years I've started to make a lot of jam, and since I have only a larder fridge the technique of using the wrinkle test on a very cold plate doesn't work well for me, so I need a thermometer I can test the temperature of the jam with. As I don't like depending on items that need a battery unless there is no help for it, I originally bought a Kitchen Craft stainless steel thermometer Kitchen Craft Home Made Deluxe Stainless Steel Cooking Thermometer. Unfortunately I've found that very difficult to use in practice, and I eventually decided I needed something different, and when I was offered one of these thermometers free by the manufacturer in return for an unbiased review I jumped at the chance. I'm happy to report that this thermometer is a vast improvement on what I was using before, and I found the process of testing for setting point much less stressful with this, which means I am much less likely to cook jam for longer than necessary.

Here are some of the problems I've had with the stainless steel thermometer:
1. the angle you look at the thermometer from can make the apparent temperature vary by several degrees
2. the change in the reading when setting point is reached is very slight (about 1mm)
3. the cooking jam needs to be inconveniently deep to cover the thermometer to the correct depth
4. the thermometer can get very difficult to read if the jam has frothed up and covered too much of the thermometer
5. the thermometer is quite difficult to clean afterwards, and if you forget the injunction not to use an abrasive, it quickly becomes hard to get an accurate reading, because the markings rub off quite easily.

None of these problems arise with the MeasuPro thermometer - the display is digital, so you can be in no doubt of the reading. The display is also very clear - in characters about half an inch high, and visible over a wide range of angles, and it's about six inches away from the temperature probe, so splashes making it hard to read shouldn't be an issue (and there is no need to keep it immersed continually - the reading stabilises within a few seconds). You don't need to worry about how deep the liquid jam will be because you only need to insert the tip of the thermometer; indeed for jam I'd recommend not immersing the thermometer too deeply, especially if you have an induction hob, as then the reading may be higher than it should be. The MeasuPro is also easy to keep clean.

One possible issue with this thermometer is that it doesn't come with a way of being clipped in place, so possibly there is a slightly increased risk of being burned by spitting liquid. There's an attachment, which doubles as a cover for the probe, and which you could clip the thermometer to an apron or a shirt pocket, that lets you increase the distance between your hand and the pan to about one foot, but it is quite small. I haven't found this a problem so far - if what you are cooking is spitting a lot, then it's probably boiling too furiously anyway, and you should reduce the heat anyway before testing the temperature.

One other minor quibble - to change the battery you'll need a very small crosshead screw driver, and there are four screws to undo. Still, changing the battery should be a fairly rare occurrence, and I'd rather changing the battery were slightly awkward than risk having the battery cover or battery fall into a pan of boiling jam. The battery is a CR2032, so buying a replacement should be easy.

I've only had this thermometer a short time, so only time will tell how durable it is, and I've only used it for making jam so far, but it would also be easy to use this thermometer to do things like measuring the temperature of soil or compost. For jam making, it seems just about ideal.

Bang, You're Dead [DVD]
Bang, You're Dead [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Warner
Price: £5.00

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and haunting British film with wonderful child actors, 12 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bang, You're Dead [DVD] (DVD)
I saw part of this film on TV in the 1970s, and I couldn't remember the title, and it took me a very long time to track it down - reading through lists of British films by year in the hope of recognising it when I saw it. So it didn't help that I think I saw it under its alternative title of "Game of Danger". Eventually I tracked it down, and found a clip online, which made me pretty sure this was it, but the film had not been released on DVD. So, a couple of weeks ago, when I casually searched again, and found it now had been I was very happy indeed. But would "Bang! You're dead" live up to my hazy memory of it?

Well, you can see by the five stars I've awarded it that indeed it does. The setting, the story, the music, and the acting (particularly that of the two children) are all haunting. In fact it was the song "Lazy Day", sung by Canadian Edmund Hockridge, that stayed with me longest, and which I fruitlessly searched for several times. Strangely, it turns out that the singer lived for many years until his death in 2009 in Peterborough, where I've also lived for many years. I've even seen his son Murray Hockridge, who is a guitarist and singer, performing here. The film seems to have been released almost exactly five years after his father's death.

So, apart from the song, what is it that stayed with me? Mostly the dire poverty of the setting - most of the characters seem to live in Nissen huts on an abandoned US army base, but also the forest setting - the children have the kind of freedom to play unsupervised that is long gone: we see Cliff, the young boy around 7 years old responsible for the accidental shooting at the centre of the plot, playing in old army trucks, hunting through abandoned army buildings, roaming through the forest, using a raft to get to his own island den, and earning money by collecting and selling manure. But, in this film this freedom leads to tragedy and an adult comes under suspicion of murder. That side of the plot, and the love rivalry that provides the innocent man's supposed motive, are fairly routine; in fact, once the story is in full swing they are pretty well forgotten about. It is the scenes between Cliff and Willy, the withdrawn and slightly simple older boy he bosses around, or their interactions with Cliff's father (played by Jack Warner), and the policeman investigating the death, which make this film a one-off, and quite a special one at that.

Well done to Network for releasing this film, and for doing a good job with both sound and picture. I'll be looking out for opportunities to see other films by director Lance Comfort. Excellent value for money too.

Charity & Philanthropy For Dummies
Charity & Philanthropy For Dummies
by Karl T. Muth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Philanthropy for idle rich American dummies?, 5 July 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a well-organised book with a great deal of useful and interesting information, and one which you can easily dip in and out of given the very detailed table of contents and index. It is also full of ideas for ways to make the world a better place (or at least damage it less) by changing the way we do things in our everyday lives. However, before buying it I'd strongly recommend potential purchasers to take a close look at it and consider, more carefully than I did, whether this is the right book for you. If you are already involved in running a charity and are looking to find out more about your responsibilities, learn about potential problems or pitfalls, or about how to make your charity more effective or efficient, then unfortunately this is definitely the wrong book (The Nonprofit Kit For Dummies might be a better choice, though I haven't yet checked this out for myself). "Charity and Philanthropy for Dummies" is very much a book for those looking for ways to give, and especially for those who haven't yet chosen what kind of charity to support. It is not just about giving money; the authors divide giving into four 'T' categories - time, treasure, talents, transactions - and devote a roughly equal amount of space in the book to each of these. Anyone reading the book is likely to learn of a host of organisations and websites they were previously unaware of, including ones which may help donors discover which charities are most effective.

The book is divided into four parts. The first is about gearing yourself up to give: working out what and how much you can give, where and what you can give to, and how to ensure that what you do give has the maximum impact. The second part looks at the various various sectors charities work in with a chapter devoted to each. Inevitably this part is highly selective in the organisations whose work is highlighted, and some of the material here seems to have been shoehorned into the wrong chapters. The reader who is tempted to skip some chapters here may well miss out. For example, the "Helping the Elderly" chapter may well also be very useful to anyone downshifting their career or entering retirement. The third part goes into more detail on giving each of the four 'T's, and there is also an interesting chapter on "Impact Investing" . The final part consists of short chapters of "tens" such as "Ten compelling reasons to give".

The three authors all seem to be Americans, but the book attempts to cover both the US and the UK although this is done in a very uneven way, which I often found quite unsatisfactory, and I am left wondering whether different versions of the book have been published in the two countries. For example, one of the very few UK based charities mentioned in the "Becoming eco" chapter is "Support Dogs", which while no doubt a very worthy cause, definitely isn't an "eco" one as it exists to provide dogs to help people living with certain medical conditions, while on the other hand, in the "education" and "health" chapters American readers might well feel left out. It is unclear to me how many of the organisations mentioned in the book are ones which someone in the UK could support financially through gift aid, and I couldn't help feeling that some organisations have been mentioned more because of a connection with one of the authors than because of their proven track record.

The book is full of the sort of invaluable advice that we would all like to follow, but simply don't have enough time or energy to do so. I am afraid that I couldn't help feeling that the authors were writing for someone with a great deal more money and time than I have, and I also found it all a bit too relentlessly upbeat. Most of the people highlighted as inspirational role models are Americans, and mostly rich and powerful ones at that. Still, the authors are to be commended, for they are all donating all their earnings from this book.

The Emperor Waltz
The Emperor Waltz
by Philip Hensher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.19

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two or more for the price of one., 28 Jun. 2014
This review is from: The Emperor Waltz (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an odd novel, at least for a newcomer to Philip Hensher's work such as myself, but on the whole a very well written one, especially in the author's ability to inhabit different characters quite convincingly. It is divided into nine "books" and an epilogue. Loosely speaking three of the books (1,5,9) are about the Bauhaus in the time of the Weimar republic , three (2,4,8) are about a gay bookshop in late 70s/80s London, and three (3,6,7) are one offs, including one that reads like an extended anecdote about the author's own health problems (but which may well be completely invented). The epilogue rounds off the two main stories. The various stories aren't quite disconnected, the Strauss waltz used as the book's title appears repeatedly, and there are plenty of shared themes, especially that of the suspicion, distrust, and persecution which a minority group can arouse when it challenges mainstream society. However, it would be quite easy to rearrange this novel into two disconnected short novels and three short stories, leading me to wonder whether the author is just trying to be clever, and perhaps make the reader who successfully navigates it all feel cleverer too, in choosing to interleave all this material in the way he has. I think it does work, just: "The Emperor Waltz" is a kind of literary waltz - the author's chosen arrangement gives us three triads of three books, three chords made up of the verbal and thematic echoes between the separate stories in each triad, and the two continuing stories are perhaps a pair of dancers dancing the waltz. Perhaps I'm in danger of getting too mathematical here, but I suspect that Philip Hensher has done all this quite consciously, and title has been very carefully considered. I've only listened to the waltz after reading the novel, but like it, it seems to be made up of several different sections with themes reappearing from time to time. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the author had analysed this waltz's structure quite carefully and used his analysis to help structure his novel. Arranging the novel like this also helped me to want to keep reading - the interleaving of the stories meant that I sometimes had a lot to read if I wanted to know what would happen next in one story or the other.
So, this novel has a complex musical structure, but are its tunes any good? The answer to this is a fairly emphatic yes, though I have to admit to being slightly disappointed in how several promising story lines seem to fizzle out, or are left unexplored. But, there are plenty of interesting characters and incidents, and the period and location detail is very good indeed, especially in the two main stories.
The loose ends and dropped storylines mean I don't think five stars are deserved, but I think this is certainly a very interesting novel, and its clever structure will probably be very much appreciated by literary academics. Well worth reading.

OXA® 10000mAh 2A/1A Dual USB Outputs Portable External Battery Charger Power Bank With Digital Screen And LED Flashlight for Andriod phones, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iphone 3GS, iPad, HTC, Samsung, Tablets, Digital Camera, MP3 Players, and other USB Devices (Black)
OXA® 10000mAh 2A/1A Dual USB Outputs Portable External Battery Charger Power Bank With Digital Screen And LED Flashlight for Andriod phones, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iphone 3GS, iPad, HTC, Samsung, Tablets, Digital Camera, MP3 Players, and other USB Devices (Black)
Offered by DBPOWER
Price: £39.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful, but capacity not as high as stated., 11 Jun. 2014
This power bank can be used to recharge mobile phones and similar items, and comes with a USB output cable with four different connectors (mini and micro USB, lightning (iPhone 5) and iPhone 4 connector. There's a micro-USB input for charging the power bank, and two USB outputs for charging from it. It's quite a nice item, and one which you can easily pack for a holiday (it's a bit bulky for a pocket), but you might find you need to charge it by plugging it into a computer, unless you have a recharger with a micro-USB output (which fortunately I did), or a charger that you can plug a USB cable into (in which case you could use the supplied cable and the micro-USB connector. In practice the supplied connectors are only likely to come in useful if a friend needs to charge up their phone, or you want to charge items with different connectors, as otherwise you can just use the cable your device came with.

I found that the power bank took a long time to charge up - it's certainly an overnight job rather than an hour or two. Since charging it up I've recharged my mobile phone (a Sony Experia SP) three times, though in most cases only from about 50% to 80 or 90%. I reckon I'd only get three and a bit full charges out this unit, as charging from 30% to 100% used exactly 25% of the power bank's reserve. However, at least the display telling you how much is left in reserve is easy to read (though not perhaps as accurate as you might think, as I find the remaining power tends to drop very quickly when a device is first plugged in).

This is the sort of item that could come in very handy on a shortish camping holiday, or a few days abroad, especially if you have several items that might need charging up, but if you are going to be away for a fortnight you'd probably need something with a bigger power reserve. It comes with a little velvet carrying bag, so it should be easy to protect it from scratches.

This model also has flashlight function, though I'm not convinced this is a good thing - I think it would be a bit too easy to turn this on unintentionally without noticing and drain the reserve. The shape of the device isn't ideal as a flashlight, though it might perhaps make a handy reading light in a tent or something like that.

I was sent this item free in exchange for a review, but I'd be quite happy if I had bought it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 12, 2014 7:29 AM BST

OXA Cree LED Flashlight with 5 models (CE/FCC/ROHS Approved) (240 lumens Q5)
OXA Cree LED Flashlight with 5 models (CE/FCC/ROHS Approved) (240 lumens Q5)

5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely made, handy size, very bright torch, 11 Jun. 2014
I was sent this item free in exchange for a review by the manufacturer.
I've not had a torch for years before this one. The torches I remember were too heavy, not bright enough, and too easy to drop. This one is small enough too easily fit in a pocket, weighs less than 7oz/200gm (with battery), and is very bright indeed (though by half pressing the on/off switch you can switch it too a less bright mode). There's a wrist lanyard, and the surface of the torch is milled, so there is no excuse for dropping it. It's a very nice object indeed to hold, and comes in a very swish little black box with a charger included. The charger indicates how charged the battery is with a light which by gradually changes from red to green. There's also an attachment that will allow you to fix the torch to something tubular if you need to work by torchlight.

The lithium battery it is supplied with is a non-standard size. Only time will tell if that is a problem, but the battery is supposed to have a ten year shelf life, and it is possible to get a replacement at Maplin (though it costs nearly as much as the torch).

The light from the torch can't be focused, which might be a problem for some intended uses.

The product is let down by the instruction booklet ("The handbook of used") , which appears to have been written by someone Chinese who has learned a little English from Yoda, and also to apply to a different model from the one I received. However, as I didn't even notice the booklet until after I'd worked out how to use the torch, this wasn't really a problem. I'd certainly urge the manufacturer to improve this however, particularly as neither the torch itself, nor the instruction booklet mention any particular model name/number.

Still, this is a cracking little torch, and I'll certainly be making sure I have it with me when I'm on holiday or out late at night.

Smart Weigh Digital Kitchen Scale and Timer - Food Scale - Slim Stainless Steel Design - High Accuracy - LCD Backlight
Smart Weigh Digital Kitchen Scale and Timer - Food Scale - Slim Stainless Steel Design - High Accuracy - LCD Backlight
Offered by Five Star
Price: £19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Nearly very good, but some annoyances, 11 April 2014
I was sent these scales for free in exchange for a review, and I used them for about three weeks for a variety of cooking tasks. Good features:

-Very easy to keep clean
-Very clear display (when it's on! - see below)
-Hole in centre which allows scale to be hung up somewhere instead of being kept on a worktop the whole time.
-Easy to use
-Tare button makes it easy to weigh several ingredients into one bowl, and isn't pressed too easily (e.g. if an item rolls when placed directly on the scale)
-Scales can't easily be turned off by accident (but see bad features below)

Bad features:

-The display goes dim too quickly if the weight is not changing (though the display is still just legible).
-If you weigh things very slowly (e.g. if grating cheese into a bowl) then the scale may switch off completely before you are done.
-The scales turn themselves on too easily - just touching them with the edge of a cloth may switch them on.
-When weighing in ounces weight increase in increments of 0.1 ounce. I'd have preferred 1/8 of an ounce as this makes it easier to use old fashioned recipes.
-The instructions seem not to match what is actually supplied.
- Scales beep when you use controls
- Scales need to be on a very firm surface. Unless I put mine in the corner weights could vary by up to 10g when I leaned against my worktop (which is 50mm thick). My Salter scales aren't so badly affected when I try this test.

The scales also come with a timer, which was useless to me, but might be useful to some I suppose. I'd have preferred not to have the timer, as it a bit too easy to put the scales into timer mode.

After using these scales for a few weeks I am going back to my Salter 1240 SSDR scales (not stocked by Amazon afaik). The two models are quite similar, but the Salter model weighs in 1/8oz units, and doesn't have the annoying battery saving dimming of the display, though it is too easy to zero compared with this model. I do prefer this model to scales with a separate glass/plastic shelf on top of the main unit. I've previously owned some of those, and found they were much harder to keep clean.

The Sustainable MBA: A Business Guide to Sustainability, 2nd edition
The Sustainable MBA: A Business Guide to Sustainability, 2nd edition
by Giselle Weybrecht
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful overview, 26 Feb. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very useful and comprehensive book, with a huge amount of information in it. It is very much written from an international perspective - there are examples of business practice from all around the world, and a real effort is made to help readers from any part of the world discover sources of further information. It's also refreshingly free from gloom and doom and from any hint of anti-capitalist rhetoric; even the most eco-averse business leader reading this will surely be given pause for thought: Giselle Weybrecht argues persuasively that sustainable business is good business, and that ignoring the sustainability agenda is not an option if you want your business to remain viable. At the same time she recognises that it is not possible to change everything at once; the author frequently reminds the reader to be realistic when setting targets.
The book is structured in a way that should make it easy for an MBA student to use it as a companion to (or part of) their studies with chapters on topics like finance, marketing, operations amongst many others. This should also be helpful to employees who want to learn what role they might play in making their business more sustainable.
"The Sustainable MBA" could perhaps benefit from challenging the reader more: while it full of suggestions for how to incorporate sustainability considerations into the different areas of running a business, it doesn't do much to teach ways of recognising situations where sustainability may be in danger of being ignored. It might have been helpful to include some real or hypothetical case studies where things have gone badly wrong, together with some suggestions for how disaster might have been averted.
If I were rating this book purely on my own reaction to it, I'd only be giving three stars, but that really would be churlish: there's too much useful information in here, and the book is too well organised and readable, for it not to deserve to be very widely read. And, every time it is read and acted upon it will help make the world a little more sustainable.

Joseph Losey Collection [DVD]
Joseph Losey Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dirk Bogarde

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A collection of mostly slow but disturbing films, 4 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If ever a film-maker deserved the adjective "transgressive" to be applied to his oeuvre then Joseph Losey surely did. This collection has three films where Losey and Harold Pinter collaborated: "The Servant", "The Accident", and "The Go-Between". In all three we see a human being almost disintegrating before our eyes, and in all three class plays an important role, and again in all three the norms of civilised behaviour and conventional morality are no match for lust, envy or hatred. There are three other films where the themes are very similar: "Sleeping Tiger", "The Criminal" and "Eva". After watching all six of these "British" films I've become quite a fan of Stanley Baker, whom I'd previously only come across in the old BBC TV series of "How Green was my Valley". Joseph Losey also got the best out of Dirk Bogarde in several of the films.
As well as the six British films there is one of Losey's early American efforts: "The Big Night". It's an OK film noir, and the transgressive quality is there too, but I'd rather "The Boy with Green Hair" had been included instead of it. As far the last film "Monsieur Klein" that's a French film, and I'm yet to watch it, but as it won 4 César awards, I am expecting it to be well worth watching.
For an American, Losey is a very European director; the films are mostly very slow moving, sometimes perhaps too slow, and there is a lot more emphasis on the interaction and development of characters than on plot. But, though these films are getting on for fifty years old, they have mostly aged very well, and retain a power to shock and disturb a new generation of film buffs.

The Tell-tale Heart
The Tell-tale Heart
by Jill Dawson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The heart has its mysteries, 4 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Tell-tale Heart (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a 52 year old resident of Cambridgeshire this book about a 52 year old man recovering from a heart-transplant in Papworth Hospital looked very interesting, and on the whole I wasn't disappointed. "The Tell-tale Heart" isn't a long book, and is very readable, and there is plenty of variety in its 240 or so pages. In fact the book tells not only Patrick's story, but also that of Drew Beamish, the boy whose heart he has received, and perhaps most interestingly, that of Will Beamiss, a distant forbear of Drew, and one of the Littleport rioters of 1816. I enjoyed the different voices, especially the smattering of fenland dialect, which though comical at times, didn't turn either Will or Drew into caricatures. There is a good sense of place - I found it very easy to visualise the locations - even those I don't know personally. My main criticism of the book is that it ends too soon: Patrick's story in particular ends rather suddenly. In a review of a book about a heart transplant patient that may seem like a very big spoiler, but in fact I'm not really quite sure what has happened to Patrick at the end.
There are plenty of interesting characters in the book: Patrick's love life has been quite complicated, and both his past and that of Drew invade his new life. But, on the whole I enjoyed the section about Will Beamiss most: his is perhaps the most lively voice, and I was left wanting to learn more about the riots.Jill Dawson has included a very helpful afterword about her sources from this part of the story, and I was fascinated to learn that Sabine Baring-Gould (author of "Onward Christian Soldiers"), had written a novel about them.
I've not come across Jill Dawson before, but I'll certainly look out for her in future: while this is quite an easy read, it's also a very well-written and well-researched one.

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