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NB: This review is about Specsavers and their Contact Lenses, not the Spectacle and Eyetest Departments.
I have been a customer of SpecSavers for at least 12 years now. I've had to wear glasses my whole life, and only have sight in one eye. For a very long time, I was never allowed to wear contacts lenses. I was advised that there was too much risk of me getting an infection in my good eye - potentially developing sight problems or even worse, causing me to lose my sight and be classified as blind. Over the years, with the advance in technology, the risks seem to have reduced. Upon having my eyes tested, I saw the nice people at SpecSavers who told me I could have contact lenses...at last! I was delighted as I was getting fed up of my glasses and really wanted some alternatives. Eager to go for the simplest option, I wanted daily disposables - I didn't want to risk keeping the same lenses and catch an infection if they weren't cleaned properly. At that time, daily disposables didn't come in my prescription. I'm also astigmatic (which means my eyeballs are rugby ball shaped), so needing toric lenses. So, daily disposable prescriptions that fit my criteria, just weren't available. Caving into the desire to be without glasses, I got the monthlys and became spectacle-less for the first time in my life.
Normally, if you wear contact lenses, you have two different lens, one for each eye. As I can only wear one contact lens, I got half of what customers would get regularly. People always think it's weird that I only wear one lens, but as I can't see out of my bad eye, there's no point - likewise, in my glasses, I just have a piece of plastic (or balance) lens for my left eye. At the time, I was paying for about £20 a month (less than the price of two lenses) and for that I received, in my quarterly lensmail post:
1) 3 contact lenses (to last 3 months)
2) Enough solution to make sure I clean could clean the lens after I had taken it out.
3) And a little pot, that when the lid was taken off, you could see that it was attached to a little cage, that would flip open, for you could keep the lens safe. Then you would fill up the pot with the solution, screw the lid back on, with the lens cradled in the cage, suspended in the solution to keep it moist and sanitised.
If I ran out of solution, I was always able to pop back into my local SpecSavers where they would give me extra for free. My lensmail package arrived in a long, flat, green box. The best thing about it, was that it was so convenient, it just arrived on your doorstep - there was no faff or hassle about having to go back to your local SpecSavers to pick up more lenses - they came to you.
How I got my Dailies
When I was at Uni in Cambridge, I lived with 3 housemates who were all studying to become Optical Dispensers. On a regular basis, they would share with me the highs and lows of eyecare. When they found out I could only see in one eye - I would find myself spending a few evenings sat in a chair, whilst they shined lights into my eyes and compared each one, asking me lots of questions (it's ok, they paid me with vodka, so I didn't mind). They would encourage me to go and get eyes checked, to see if there were any more variations of lenses I could go for. After receiving a letter from SpecSavers, telling me I was due a check up, my contact lens Optician informed me that I could now get dailies. New prescriptions and strength of lenses were becoming more and more available. I didn't particularly enjoy the fuss of monthlys, and having to clean and care for my lens after use, especially with the little voice at the back of my head saying "have you cleaned it properly, you don't want to go blind now, do you?". So, finding out that I could get dailies after all, I leapt at the chance to get them and haven't looked back.
Pay as You Go
I found with monthlys, that I wasn't wearing the lens as much as I thought I would, so the PAYG option really suited me. After a lens check up I found out that I could get even better dailies for my prescription, so of course, I ordered them. The problem with me and contact lenses, is that whilst I love the idea of them, I sometimes find that I don't wear them as much as I should. I work at a computer all day, so it's easier on my eyes just to wear glasses. I find my lens dries out quickly, because I blink less, so my eye can feel irritated. I found that if I open a monthly lens, I have the rest of the month to use it, before I need to dispose of it. So, I might only end up wearing it twice or three times in a month. Whereas, with dailies, I just buy a pack of 30, toric lenses, and open and use them whenever needed - so no need to worry about how long a lens has been open for or wasting it - the dailies are simply plug and play, so to speak.
The beauty of daily disposables is that whenever you fancy, you open a contact lens from its blister pack, and pop it in your eye. You know it's clean and fresh to use, as the pack hasn't been opened. The voice at the back of my head about infection has gone completely. Sometimes my eyes get tired if I wear them for a long period, so as long as I have my glasses nearby, I can pop out the lens at any point, and just throw it away. So simple!
I regularly receive letters from SpecSavers, inviting me to have my eyes, glasses and lens checked. I always have to go for the contact lens check wearing my lens, so they can look into my eyes and check its health, plus how the lens is sitting, or floating on my eye. Invariably, the lens needs to change prescription - not because my eyes have got worse, but because they have created a better lens for me. My prescription is such that I can't get lenses that are as good as wearing glasses, but with each check up, my sight improves due to the prescription getting that bit better. Therefore, each letter is usually greeted with a degree of excitement that I might get even better contacts.
I have always had great service from SpecSavers, and wouldn't go anywhere else. One thing I've noticed, is that if I'm talking to the staff about a problem I have with my eyes, they always seem to demonstrate that they're listening to me and understand, by repeating back what I've said in their response - a very useful customer service technique that I appreciate. For instance, if I'm talking to them about only having one useful eye, they've said to me in the past, that the dailies option is better for me, as it must take a weight off my mind, knowing that they are fresh out of the pack each time I use one - which reassures me that they want what is best for me, as their customer, rather than what will get them the most money.
When I first got my lens, they were very patient with me, to show me how to put the contact lens in, and how to take it out. I felt a bit of a wally, sat in front of a mirror with them, pulling my eyelids all over the place, trying to poke the lens in - but with the use of humour, they were able to train me how to do it, without making me feel uncomfortable or stupid (after all, it is weird having to fight your natural reactions to blink and stop yourself from poking your eyes out).
I find them to be punctual and generally running on time for my appointments, and any delays are greeted with profuse apology. They are organised, and my files are always up to date, and never lost (even when I moved from home, to university, to back home again). I remember going to another optician when I was at school, and they kept losing my notes (but that was for glasses, not lenses), so a lot of time was wasted at each visit. Specsavers are professional, and have a distinct air of showing care for the customer, and perhaps more importantly (in the current economic climate) giving them the best value.
If you wear glasses and have thought about getting lenses, I would definitely recommend heading over to SpecSavers for a check-up to find out how you can get the right contact lenses for you. You will probably be surprised at how straight forward and simple it is to get your eyecare perfected with the right options (monthly or daily lenses) to have a spectacle free face.
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012
This is a good question, and one we must ponder,
For is there much wrong in schools, we wonder.
We have a desire to keep changing, improving
When is enough enough, when do we stop not moving?
I feel our situ is good, better than before
So what else do we do, to move forward some more?
When I was at school, some fifteen years ago,
Things were not bad, some might say so-so.
I had a good time and my grades were good,
I didn't feel pressure as most of us would.
Nowadays it seems the buzz word is "targets",
Teachers get pressure, work themselves into bits.
Every year, the exam grades get better
But this year's the first time, that they were wetter!
Grades were down for the first time in years,
Has the bubble burst and is Gove in tears?
This I doubt, for if he really cared,
He would listen to schools and get ideas shared.
I wouldn't change the way kids are taught.
It seems to be fine, but more ways are saught!
The key to it, as it seems to me,
Is to keep teachers cool, help them to see:
There's more to teaching than grades and high marks
Let's get kids interested in books, less in the parks.
For why would a kid spend time on things boring,
When everyone knows in class they'd be snoring?
Learning should be lively, and it should be fun,
Get the kids engaged: You can teach them a tonne!
I had some teachers who would stick in my mind,
Who brought learning to life, and the answers we'd find!
I know this sounds unrealistic to some,
Idealistic and impractical for teachers to run.
But there's a lot to be said for teaching with passion,
It has strength, it has fibre, there's no fun to ration.
It's the way to keep learning fresh and alive,
Help children to learn and give them the drive.
If it was up to me, the things I would alter,
Would be take pressure off, even if kids falter!
Less focus on "doing better than last year",
More focus on the kids, helping them cheer:
"I did it, I understand, I get this at last.
The teacher took time with me, now I've passed!
I found maths hard, I found it tricky,
But my teacher was patient, fun and not picky."
A comfortable environment, conducive to good learning!
Let's help teachers keep cool without Goves constant yearning:
"You have targets and targets, and targets galore,
In fact you must work harder, than you have before.
I don't care if they're dumb, just make them pass.
Must get at least a C, to save my arse!"
Of course, as we know its not quite like that, is it?
But nevertheless, it might as well be, schools need to be fit.
I joke and I jest, but education's important,
Lets teach them the best, that teacher's know and want!
For a teacher's a teacher, because they care,
Not 'cause they have sales targets to hit and to bare!
Look at me! My teachers weren't worked to the bone,
And I came out fine, able to work things out on my own.
My education was fun, it was good, we were fine,
And look at me now...I can even rhyme!
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012
(NB: This piece is not about the Olympics as a whole, but about the Torch Bearing Ceremonies that happened before hand.)
When I reach into the depths of my mind, looking for significant memories that I associate with the Olympics, a couple of things spring up.
My first recollection of the Olympics, is the Seoul Olympics back in the 80s. At school we did so many projects based around it. I remember having to write out lists of the sporting events that took place and learning for the first time, what Volleyball and Badminton were. We used to have to colour in the rings, make performance graphs on previous games that took place and generally try to get as excited as we could - although at the age I was (about 7, I believe), we didn't really understand exactly what was going on. I just associate those Olympics with homework. More recently, I associate the Barcelona Olympics with Freddie Mercury and the Beijing Olympics with Mario and Sonic DA game - go figure.
When the Olympic games 2012 were first announced as being held in London, I was quite non-plussed. It's not until the date got closer and closer did I start to get excited. One of the biggest things about this Olympics, is the tour (and logistical nightmare) of the Olympic torch. It feels like its been going on for months and only visited my local town very recently.
I know we've had a naff summer with the largest amount of rainfall the world has ever seen (or that's as some people would like you to believe) which seems to make everyone act dreary and negative about being in the UK...but I really genuinely and truly believe this has been one of the best summers we've ever had. There has been a real sense of unity, community and togetherness. For me, it started with the Jubilee celebrations back in June, then we had Euro2012 and Wimbledon (I don't care that the UK weren't victorious in either, I still really enjoyed them)...and after the street parties and champagne, we're still congregating on the streets to watch a local hero carry the torch through our home towns. The sense of bringing everyone together, to celebrate and be positive about something and actually getting to be a part of that, marks the Olympic torch coming through my town in 2012 as one my best Olympic memories.
Now, I know there are cynics that will just damn the whole affair, and slander the corporate frivolity of it all, but that aspect of it isn't what I'm remembering. Yes, quite frankly watching the coaches loaded with corporate sponsors and branded freebies being thrown to all was quite nauseating, but what I'm focusing on, is the sheer number of people lining the streets cheering and clapping. It brought a little lump to my throat as I snapped away on my camera, as BBC Sports presented, Clare Balding glided past looking utterly bewildered at the number of people cheering her on, as if she was off to fight a dragon with her flaming torch.
Newbury was rammed! The torch came through just after 11, and there were people waiting along the barriers from 8 in the morning. Nutters! They were probably a bit loopy, but of course they wanted to experience first hand this once in a lifetime event! And that's the point of it... It was a once in a lifetime event. The UK won't be hosting the Olympics again anytime soon, so the flame from Olympics ceremony won't be on my doorstep again, so I want to see it, feel proud and join in the celebration whilst history is made...and I'm super happy that I did.
Clare Balding said on twitter the same day: "That was absolutely amazing. I was in bits getting off the bus, cried when I saw my family and grinned throughout". Brilliant!
Sure, there will inevitably be some records broken this year in the London2012 Olympics, and we probably will win something (although I'm not banking on us winning the most amount of medals - but I guess you never know), but the most memorable Olympic moment for me wasn't an event, or opening ceremony (although the London opening ceremony was utterly breathe taking), or records being broken for the worlds fastest caber toss... It was when the Newbury leg of the Olympic Torch Tour Relay came by.
Watch Clare Balding carry the torch through Newbury here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXDDfZmU3​Fc
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012
Recently I've needed to buy more kit, to help with my ventures into the world of CGI. Not only did I need a new laptop, but also a new style of mouse - infact not even a mouse, but a stylus pen with tablet. I'm on the move quite a lot and need to be able to transport my equipment quite easily, but of course, at the same time, keeping it protected and in full working order. I was worried about my tablet, as it didn't come with any sort of carry case...so I began my quest to find one. Looking online, tablet specific protective sleeves are quite expensive. Which led me to consider using a general laptop sleeve!
Tablets can be awkward, not only is it the actual tablet itself that needs to transported, but there's also the cable that needs to stay secure and not end up beaten out of shape to risk damaging it completely. There's also the stylus to contend with. Most tablet stylus's are just a pen shape, with mouse functions...so not many with clippy bits that will stay wherever you clip it! So, I figured to a laptop sleeve that I could modify to work for me.
I needed the sleeve to be just the right size, so not too big for the tablet to slip around in. I discovered that the best fit would be a 10.2 inch laptop sleeve - this would fit the unit and the cable in nicely, with enough room to pop the stylus in too.
I was really pleased with my purchase. The sleeve looks smart and does the job for me. It's not perfect, and I do need to modify the case slightly, I want to sew in some elastic to keep the cable together, as well as a small piece of elastic to hold the stylus pen too...but obviously, it's not designed to be a tablet case...so it would be great for the right sized laptop.
The design is simple and stylish. Not really designed to stand out per se, but it does add a certain professional charm to your portfolio of technological accessorises. It has a waxxy coating, which certainly makes it splash proof (I don't particularly want to test it's waterproof ability, just-in-case). The zip is added well to the sleeve, so that it tucks and blends into the sleeve - I've experienced some zips on laptop cases which have scratched the lid or base of the laptop, or the zip itself has caught itself to a jumper or other piece of clothing. Needless to say this case also offers quality for the value it gives you at checkout. No snagging clothes or unsightly scratches on your expensive equipment.
I'm pleased with my sleeve case, and was happy once I had taken it out of its amazon.co.uk packaging. It's kept my tablet free of dust and dirt, and it has kept it protected from general wear and tear. I like that it keeps everything zipped up well and securely. As I've already said it looks smart and wasn't too expensive - not sure where you can go wrong!
If you have a laptop on the small side of things, and are looking for a decent sleeve to protect it, this one will do the trick!
Thanks for reading
© MarcoG 2012
If anyone asks me for my favourite book, His Dark Materials, always leaps to mind. I first read trilogy about five years ago and it has stuck with me ever since.
You may recognise them better as individual titles. The first in the trilogy is Northern Lights (known in America as The Golden Compass). The second book is The Subtle Knife, then lastly, book three is The Amber Spyglass. Containing themes such as good and evil, ideas of faith, religion and ideology. I went through emotions of love, family, companionship right through to loss and death...these books really have something for everyone.
I love these books for so many reasons. The first book, Northern Lights pretty much starts off as a book aimed at the younger end of the Young Adult readership market, as the story at that stage is relatively straight forward. Then as soon as I got sucked into the books (which for me, happened very quickly), without realising it, the books started to develop into a story of epic proportions, especially as we go through Book2 and into Book3.
Very often, whilst reading, I've thought to myself, "wow that's so clever", or "I really like what Pullman has done with the story at that bit" but then as I got onto the 3rd book, my mind was blown! I was marveled at Pullman's ability to grab an audience and take them through so many ideas and themes. You might be familiar with Philip Pullman's other books? He is a British author and a CBE, from Norwich and has bee listed in the "Top50 list of authors since 1945" by The Times newspaper.
It's like Pullman has a clear message for the world, but knew the only way to do it, would be through his story and characters. He lets us go on a journey with them for the first half of the trilogy, then when we get towards the end of this epic tale - what the characters go through really speaks to us as humans, and lets us examine our perceptions of the world and the ideas we hold. For a book to do that, I believe is very special indeed.
So what are they about? Here's a very brief outline, but don't worry, no spoilers here:
We meet Lyra, an eleven year old girl, who lives with the scholars at Jordan college, amongst the colleges of Oxford. She doesn't have many friends, her trusted companion is her Daemon, Pan. Lyra doesn't live in our world, although it is very similar and has lots of parallels. One of the key differences are the Daemons; they are animals that are the embodiment of a human soul, this means that of course, they go everywhere with their human and can not be split apart. If you are male, your Daemon is a girl, if you are a girl, your daemon will be a boy. When you are young, your daemon can change into whatever creature it wants, but during puberty, it locks into one animal.
Lyra has another friend, Roger, a gyptian, who gets kidnapped by the Gobblers. This triggers a chain of events with vast proportions, what follows is an epic battle with the Polar Bears of Svalbard - which intertwines beautifully with a storyline about her devoted uncle, Lord Asriel as he begins his mission to find Dust, so he and his team head out for the Northern Lights. What's the connection between Dust and the Gobblers? How will Lyra find her friend? Who is Mrs.Coulter, and why is she do interested in Lyra? What is an Aliethometer and how does Lyra make it move?
A continuation of the first book, we learn of Lyra and the peril she in. She's gone too far and got too involved with the mystery of Mrs.Coulter. We meet Will, from our universe, who lives in the Oxford we know today. He finds a special knife and once harnassing its power, meets Lyra. But who is at the heart of the evil? Lord Asriel? Mrs.Coulter? The Gobblers? The Daemons? Iorek Bernerson, the reigning Polar Bear king? The Sky Witches? The Dust?
Is Lyra left for dead, and can Will get to her in time? As Lyra and Will jump from universe to universe, they discover something incredibly significant about Dust and why it needs to be saved. But what is the significance of the amber from another universe, and their Dust? Their journey takes them to clutches of hell and the gates of heaven.
An Amazon reviewer said: In concluding the spellbinding His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman produces what may well be the most controversial children's book of recent years. The witch Serafina Pekkala, quoting an angel, sums up the central theme: "All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity. The rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed."
I think young boys would particularly like this series - as they can look up the male protagonist, Will. I used to work in a bookshop and was there for the release of the 3rd book, The Amber Spyglass, by that time I hadn't read them, but the MASSIVE queues of people buying it pricked my interest, especially as most if the queue was young folk, in particularly boys with their parents. Knowing that reading levels of boys is not as high as it should be - this pleased me. It reminded me of the hype of a Harry Potter release. Having said that, I think this book series will appeal to everyone, although yes, His Dark Materials are aimed towards the Young Adult market, but were written for no age group in particular.
I feel very connected to the books, perhaps because I live in Oxford, where the book is set. Pullman's descriptions are so evocative and so real. I can't help falling in love with the books every time I read them. They really are excellent!
There's a gorgeous moment at the end of the series, that is set in the Oxford Botanical gardens, and as you may know, you can actually visit it in real life... and yes, I went to the gardens to visit specifically because I had read the trilogy! You'll understand what I mean, and why this is so significant, once you read them.
Thanks for reading
© MarcoG 2012
Recently, I've had to do a lot of travelling back and forth from Oxford to London, and London to Edinburgh. I always drift off to sleep, even on the shortest of journeys, but found that I never had anything to scrunch up into a pillow to stop me getting a crick in my neck. Flights are always uncomfortable with not a lot of room to maneuver, so anything to help get comfortable is always welcome.
I decided to buy one of those pillows that sit on and around your neck, so that when you sleep, you head can rest comfortably to the side, keeping your neck straight, and any cramps or cricks firmly away. After a browse online, I found that there were a lot to choose from, and so decided to a Royal Traveller Inflatable Travel Pillow from Amazon - the word "royal" in the title seemed to suggest quality somehow.
The best thing about this product is you can take it anywhere, it folds away neatly and takes up very little space, what this means for me, is I can always keep it in my bag, no matter where I go. It's light and small. So, even if I'm getting a coach to London, I can quickly whip it out, give it a blow until it's firm enough to support my head, and then I'm off to dreamland before I know it.
Well, that's the theory. The thing is, I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but it always slips off. To the touch, the pillow is soft and inviting, with just enough friction in the material to stay put on your shoulders, but maybe I'm leaning too hard and too far to the front, because it always comes away from the opposite shoulder and round to the side I'm resting my head, so it just doesn't stay in place - and before you know it, it's on the floor or on my lap - so I lose valuable sleep time, trying to find and secure in place my travel pillow!
It's very frustrating! To get the optimum use from it, I somehow have to use my arm to rest my head on - so my elbow is on an arm rest, and my hand is supporting my face - which sort of defies the purpose of getting the pillow in the first place. I see many people using pillows like this all the time, so it's probably just something wrong with my technique. When I can get the balance right, and there's no slipping, the pillow works fine for me. Of course, it's not as good as having a big, massive, feather filled pillow to nuzzle into, but then how are you supposed to travel with something like that? At least when the journey is over, I just have to deflate it and pop it back in my bag. Taking it around everywhere with you is really easy.
They are available in a number of colours, so you can pick whichever colour matches your mood or preference.
Doesn't really work for me, but could work for you.
Thanks for reading
© MarcoG 2012
Maya is a commonly used piece of software in the Computer Graphics, Film, TV and Games industry. It can do a lot of things. It is primarily used to create 3D objects in a virtual space. It can also be used for animations. Regarded as "the" piece of software to get your head round and master, in order to get on and be successful in the industry.
Every year the software gets rereleased and updated, I'm currently using 2012, but 2013 is already being used and absorbed by users and studios across the world. From what I can gather, updates can be subtle and things could be changed based on user feedback. I've been shown work from 2008 and it looks very, very different to my 2012 edition. So each edition, stands alone.
I've been used Maya for 2 months now (the software is named after the god Maya - creature of creation and beauty), and I'm only just scratching the surface, in finding out what this amazing piece of computer invention can do. I would guarantee that something you've seen on today was created using Maya.
This kit is incredibly advanced and I marvel at the multitude of things it can do. One of the things I've learned is that there are lots of different ways to do the same thing! The software has a lot of hot keys and shortcuts, as well as menus containing the same capabilities, as well as the same method for doing the same thing can be found in another area of the programme. There doesn't seem to be a absolutely correct way to do something, it's really down to the individual and what works for them. Only thing to remember is, always reset your settings for every tool you use.
The downside to Maya is that it crashes a LOT - we're constantly taught the mantra "save save save"... if you don't you stand to lose a lot of hard work, which of course can be devastating. Maya is buggy and can just crash on you, for no rhyme or reason, which is incredibly annoying, but you can easily forgive this downfall because its capabilities are so immense.
There is a lot of support to help users of Maya. Forums galore. As well as the trusty F1 button which will lead you to the interactive help menus. An invaluable resource and I can't imagine anyone would be very adept at using Maya without it. It's near on essential.
The layout and functions, after some getting used, are pretty intuitive. The look of it is rather industrial, lots of blacks and grey (as you may assume from their dragon like, black and grey logo). You might this this is a bit chic and trendy, and somewhat style over substance, but it's incredibly useful - chances are what you are creating uses more than just shades of grey, so your work stands out and can easily see what you are modelling or animating.
To get the most out of Maya, I would imagine you would have to be taught how to use it by an expert, unless you have the patience of a saint and are prepared to put in hours of work and research to teach yourself...which technically you can as there are videos all over the web that will show you tutorials (I have a few links on my blog, if you're keen to do this, link below, might be helpful, might not). The other question of course, is actually getting the software. If you're enrolled at a college learning how to use it, you can get a free student license with Autodesk, otherwise you could look to pay in the region of £3000 for the software (now, when you get over the shock of the price, go and clean your screen after spitting out your tea everywhere).
If you're looking to get into 3D computer graphic modelling and manipulation, this is the software to use. Of course there are plenty of other programmes the industry uses too, but in the world is CG, knowing and being able to use Maya is like being able to use PowerPoint in a regular office. It's not absolutely essentially but it's a definite advantage!
I've been thoroughly impressed so far with how it looks, and more importantly how it works, and would recommend it to any would-be 3D computer graphics professional.
© MarcoG 2012
**Written for the Dooyoo Triathlon competition**
p.s. You can also find my blog, about becoming an animator, and see some of the work I've done on Maya here: http://becominga3danimator.blogspot.co.uk (don't forget to say hi, when you visit)
I've recently enrolled on a course to learn how to become a 3D Animator. As part of this training, I was introduced for the first time to a Wacom Tablet. I had seen them before, but never actually used one. They are a way of communicating with your computer, through a tablet. So, instead of a mouse, you use a stylus on a tablet, to move around your screen and carry out whatever function you need.
I have 2 Wacom tablets (greedy greedy) one with a stylus, and one without. The one with the stylus is fine, but the one without a stylus, the Wacom Touch (which this is the review is for) just seems a bit pointless to me. I got them both in a deal online, so I wasn't too fussed about the expense...but on reflection, it's just the necessity that I'm pondering over.
Basically, the Wacom Touch is like plugging in your iPod, iPhone, iPad (or any touch technology device) tablet into your PC, and using that instead of the mouse. So, you slide you finger around on the tablet and it controls the cursor on your screen. Sounds fine, doesn't it?
I find the tablet quite redundant though. There's just no justifiable need for it. The pen version of the tablet is good if your designing, as it helps with any RSI you may incur in your hand, by trying to use a mouse. But using your fingers to scroll around your PC puts your hands in all sorts of awkward positions. I'm also using a MacBook Pro, which has a very similar trackpad on the laptop itself, which seems to do more than the Wacom touch - for instance with the Wacom touch you need to flick your finger on it (like a sweeping action) to move back, where as you can do this with 3 fingers on the MacBook - the Wacom doesn't let you use 3 fingers. Boo.
The tablet looks very smart - infact all of Wacom products looks very high tech and sophisticated. There are 4 buttons, that are smartly presented on the tablet. These allow you do whatever it is you want to do. You can edit the system preferences so the top button acts as a right click, and the bottom button acts as a middle click etc. You actually don't need to use these buttons at all, as you can tap the tablet pad, as you would with a mouse, and it will perform the same tasks for you - in much the same way you manipulate a touch sensitive device, such as an iPad. You are also able to adjust touch speeds using your touch pad too - for instance, if you want to double tap the tablet, it lets you set the speed at which you wish to do that.
There is a little light on the tablet, which lets you know when it's activated. When you plug the USB cable into your machine, it lights up, then when you touch the tablet, the light becomes stronger - kinda cool. It took minutes to download the software onto my Mac (I'm not a PC boy, sorry), so I had no issues with installation. The software is easy to understand and presented very well. After installation, you are guided through a few tutorials which is handy for those who don't like wasting time with manuals! It might sound obvious, but you can use this tablet if you are right handed or left handed, so whatever your orientation, it helps you get it set up in the way that suits you.
All in all, the equipment looks great, it's just a bit pointless, I plan to sell mine on ebay as I'm just not using it. It's good, but unnecessary.
© MarcoG 2012
**Written for the Dooyoo Triathlon competition**
p.s. You can also find my blog, about becoming an animator, here: http://becominga3danimator.blogspot.co.uk
I golf occasionally - not very often, but enough to know about what balls are good for what. I never really paid much attention to the type of balls I would play with, but as I got to know the game, I steered away from the bright fluorescent balls (just because they looked fun) and paid more attention to what the best players were using.
I found the Bridgestone Golf E5 balls in American Golf, whilst browsing with a friend (who is far more into the sport than me). I got a box of 6, and compared to your standard golf ball, these ones are pretty good indeed. I was skeptical about the claims about how they are better and can help you play a better game of golf, but as I began to play more with them, I can see the benefit.
The biggest selling point about these golf balls is the fact that they are double dimpled. They have the regular looking dimples all around the outside, but within this initial dimples, are smaller dimples. Fascinating you might say to yourself with an air of non-chalance, but these extra dimples help with getting distance on your ball, as you send it flying into the air, with your best swing.
The second set of little dimples give the balls the extra umph and thrust as you swing the ball into the sky. The extra air stream that this design gives to your balls, makes the gold ball less resistance to the air, thus adding extra distance. Clever stuff, eh? I'm sure if you remember your science lessons at school, that the more aerodynamic an object is, in other words, the smoother it is to allow the air to stream smoothly around and past it, the better it will travel through the air. Perfect for golf balls and golfers.
BUT does it work? Sadly, I'm no professional, but I'm not bad. So, I can't safely say these are any better than any of the more regular golf balls. However, I've been reliably informed by fellow golfers that it does improve their ball handling action. I prefer to use the Bridgestone Golf E5 balls, because I feel like I have science on my side, so it maybe it has more a placebo effect of my golfing. Regardless, they look good and make me feel like I'm upping my game on the course, and using my balls much better to help my game.
If you go to this URL http://cdn.americangolf.co.uk/Images/products/upload4/BA/BR/BABR022_4Popup.jpg you will be able to see an example of the extra distance your aim could go, by using these balls. The distance is impressive, making this design rather effective, I think you'll agree.
I would recommend them for anyone who wants to take their sport to the next level, or for someone that loves golf so much that they want all the best accessories available. If you couldn't care less about how well you play, and only play for fun, then £20 (or thereabouts) might be a bit much for you, as you can get cheaper golf balls...but at just over £3 per ball, it's not terribly bad value.
© MarcoG 2012
**Written for the Dooyoo Triathlon competition**
I'm one of these people who have resisted Kindles and E-book readers for as long as I could. I love books. I love holding and turning the pages of a book, I love the smell of a book, I like seeing how far into a book I am by where the bookmark is positioned. I just don't "get" electronic books or E-readers.
Slowly but surely, I made my way to a Kindle. Ok, so I liked it. but I've yet to own my own, my lovely friends let me borrow theirs from time to time, as they're keen to convert me.
The only e-Reader I've tried to date is a Kindle and this, the Sony PRS-T1. I've tried reading books on my iPhone and iPad but I wasn't a fan. I've never tried the Kobo to compare, so really I only have one decent e-reader that I've experienced to draw comparison, and that is the Kindle.
My friend let me borrow their Sony PRS T1 to review - luckily it came with a book already loaded. My first impression was that it look quite cheap compared to a Kindle. The casing is made of black plastic, and it doesn't have that sophisticated je-ne-sais-quoi that I like my tech to have. It's quite light in weight, so felt comfortable to hold and read (another reason why I don't like reading on the iPad - it's too heavy on the arms to keep held up).
The thing I like about the Sony PRS-T1 (especially compared to iProducts) is the display. It uses E-ink. What this is, is the display is lit in such a way that it creates the look of paper. It's like Magic. There's no glare on the screen, thanks to the matt instead of glossy look. The screen display is much better on the eye, and apparently reduces eyestrain (although I get eyestrain from reading real books, but hey). Some products that say they can also be E-Readers (like the iPhone or the iPad) have more of an LCD screen, which isn't conducive to a positive reading experience - especially the die-hard real books fans.
The device uses touch screen technology, much like the iPhone or iPad. So the interaction between you and it, is relatively harmonious - providing you know what all the menus do. The screen has an 800x600 pixel resolution, and 6inch display. Not bad. It can also display up to 16 different shades of grey. So, it's all black and white, no colour - which isn't really a show stopper for me, if I'm honest. You can also change the text display with 8 different fonts to choose from - this didn't really make much difference for me, but if you have to read your text in Times New Roman only, then never fear!
Now onto the bad stuff... I was able to add my own document to it, to see what the software side of things was like. I transferred a PDF onto the device, which took a while, but got there eventually (lots of clicking and menu searching, then waiting, then clicking and more waiting) - it wasn't as intuitive or friendly to use as the apple or amazon software, it was quite cumbersome to work my way around. But when uploaded, the PDF file did look fine. Shame it wasn't as straight forward to get it there though.
The device supports .epub, .txt. and .pdf files - so it wouldn't fare well trying to read your Kindle books. The whole package just feels a bit dinosaur. The software is clumsy and slow. It doesn't feel as slick as a kindle - the page turning can also be sluggish. Sad to report that it also crashed on me a couple of times, and I had to restart - boo!
An interesting thing about the e-reader, is that you can play music on it, using MP3 files. Admittedly, I've not tried this - why would I, I have an iPhone, I listen to music there, if anywhere. It does sound odd thought doesn't it, a book that will also play music...I can't read and listen to music, but some people probably can. You can also draw pictures (it's limited though, no colour), although, why would you be drawing if you're reading. Is this an E-reader, or a general Tablet? To access the Sony bookstore, you need WiFi, when this is hooked up, you can also browse the web, but it's not ideal. It's slow, dull, and the interface looks really old fashioned, like the very first computer to access cyberspace...and of course, there's no colour.
The battery lasts up to month, providing you only use it as an E-reader. As I've mentioned, you can also use for music, so obviously the battery would not last so long, if you listened to a lot of music.
Technically speaking, this is a very good product - but something doesn't work for me. It just doesn't look as great as I would like. It doesn't feel like a nice bit of kit. It doesn't have that beautiful flair or engineering and innovation that I always get impressed by with Apple products. It doesn't match up to a Kindle in my opinion, and I'd much rather get one of those. They look better, and do as much of decent a job.
Not recommended, get a Kindle.
© MarcoG 2012
**Written for the Relay-ables dooyoo relay team**
I love trying new products, especially personal and beauty type products. If there's a new type of toothpaste, I want to try it. If there's a new aftershave I want to test it. When I heard about Crystal Spring's totally Natural Deodorant Salt of the Earth ...yup, I wanted it.
I first heard about Salt of the Earth in a review, which explained why it not only works and makes for a good product, but also about how good it is for the environment. Trying to be enviro-conscious now and then, I wanted to get some.
I don't really like roll on deodorants, I find them sticky and generally ineffective, so I was slightly sceptical about trying this. However, what I do like about roll ons is that as there is no spray, you don't choke yourself stupid on the mist that you're applying to yourself...one particular brand always make me cough like a madman (hmmm, maybe I should review it!). Whilst, this isn't a roll on per se, it's actually a stick of salt, so you certainly don't get fumigated with each use!
Essentially, all this product is, is a stick of salt. Salt of course, is dry, so you can't just rub it on your skin for it to work. To apply it, you have to wet the stick -putting it under a running tap, or applying to wet skin - so straight out of the shower, is perfect, and use it as you would an ordinary roll on.
Salt has very drying properties, which is why it works on your skin to keep you dry and sweat free. I didn't really think it would work, but it does. Those astute amongst you, will immediately spot that, making salt wet, causes the salt to dissolve...so, once you've used the stick, it's a good idea to dry it, to make it last as long as possible.
The thing I don't like so much, is that it's non-scented. For some people this would be a huge benefit, but I like to be fragranced and know that I smell good, so I make sure I use some sort of aftershave and/or deodorant too.
What does the product say for itself? It boasts (and rightly so) being totally natural, really effective and won't leave embarrassing white marks on your clothes. First and foremost, it does work - it keeps me dry, and keeps me fresh...and it's natural! The packaging (which is a simple plastic tube) explains that it protects you for 24 hours, it's unisex, it's unscented and importantly, is not tested on animals. And lastly, and rather excitingly if you dry it, it can last for up to 6 months. The only ingredients used in it, is pure Ammonium Alum, which is a natural mineral salt. There is no Aluminium Chlorohydrate, and no parabens...bonus!
I bought mine for around £5 from Holland and Barrett (bizarrely) and I've had it for over 6 months. This is good stuff, and value for money! Do not apply it near cuts or broken skin...for those of you who have ever experienced salt in a wound...it hurts!
I recommend this product whole heartedly - it works, it's good on the environment, it's easy to use, it lasts for ages, and is excellent value for money.
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012
I always need a moisturiser. My face gets really dry, really quickly. Shaving doesn't help, my skin gets angry and red, unless I see to it with some sort of moisturisation relief. In my efforts to get a good face full of happy skin, I try different moisturisers until I find the one that works, sad to say, Nivea for Men, Skin Energy Moisturiser, Instant effect Q10, does not do the job. It's crap.
The moisturiser sits in a pump action tube, when you get some out, it looks thick and creamy, with a slight beigey tint. When you rub it between your fingers it feels thick too, none of this watery gumf that some moisturisers feel like.
The smell is feint and quite non-descript - I liked this. Some moisturisers can have quite a perfumed smell that can often sting once you rub it into your face, and some smell like something straight of a hospital medicine cabinet. This one just smells like clean product, not much going on.
This is where my love for this product goes out the window. Applying it your face is fine, and have no problem with this - it doesn't change consistency, it doesn't go thin, like lurpak, it's spreadable, so to speak. Once it's on your face, you can feel it, it feels heavy. I tried rubbing in some more, but it doesn't really seem to make a difference. I apply the moisturiser usually once I'm dried off out of the shower, which inevitably means the room is warm and moist - as soon as this lotion hits my face, it instantly feels sweaty, and small beads of sweat and moisture sits where I've just put the moisturiser. It's like my skin can't breathe. When I first tried, I just put it down that being the first effects and it will absorb soon enough and I'll be fine. Nope. Even hours later, when I'm a work, I can still feel it on my face, and light residue of moisture sitting on my face - especially above my top lip, very gross. Not what I want from a moisturiser, especially one that claims to give energy to the skin, and with an instant effect. Yuck, it's horrible. Don't do it kids.
You get a 50ml little pot of cream, in a pump action tube - as most little moisturisers seem to be these days. The bottle is grey and blue, and looks quite masculine. Simple design.
The bottle/container says that it is ideal for men who want an instant energy to revive tired looking skin - this stuff just make you look sweaty! It goes on to say that it's good for reducing noticeable signs of fatigue, energising and hydrating the skin, and intensely moisturising it. What a load of crap! The only way it hydrates the skin, is stop any moisture from leaving it, and keeping for all to see, in clear, sweaty glory. Apparently, it is enriched with the skin's own Coenzyme Q10 (whatever that is, either way, I don't like it) and Guarana extract (doesn't that stuff act like red bull? No wonder I'm sweating).
The moisturising lotion also contains vitamins and UVA/UVB filters to help protect against "environment stresses" - but clearly it doesn't help social stresses, because I just feel manky every time I put it on. Yuck!
I don't recommend this is anyway shape or form. I won't be buying Nivea moisturiser anymore, it's money down the drain, especially when there are so many better products elsewhere on the market.
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012
I often have dry skin on my face, especially after I shave, so having some sort of moisturiser to hand is essential for me. I've tried all sorts of different moisturisers, some better than others. It's almost like a gamble for me if I try a new one, whether or not it will do the job properly, or make my face feel greasy and gross. I'm pleased to report that L'Oreal Men Expert, Hydra Energetic, Daily Antifatigue Moisturising Lotion with Vitamin C (phew that's a face full of a product title, isn't it?) is a good'un.
Some moisturisers have a look of single cream, and a viscosity to match, but this L'Oreal cream looks slightly thicker than single cream and juicy as you depress the pump, to get it out of it's tube. It has a slight blueish tinge, making it look somehow medical, medicinal or mentholly - perhaps having a psychological healing effect on my mind, before actually applying it. It looked like it would feel fresh and good for my skin. And it did.
The moisturising lotion smells fresh too, with a clinically, medical, fresh smell that brings to mind a quality of not smelling of perfume fragrances, but rather the sort of lotion that will heal you (I hope that makes sense?). What I'm trying to say, is it smells pretty good.
There's nothing worse than a heavy, claggy, thick moisturiser that you can feel on your face for hours after you've used it. One of the things I love about this product, is that it feels light on the face. It's easy to apply, the viscosity is thick enough for a even coverage, but light enough to absorb into the skin in no time at all.
The 50ml tube of moisturiser came in a box, which I thought was probably a waste of packaging. The container uses pump action to get to the cream. You depress the pump to get a small squirt of lotion, meaning you can regulate how much you use, effectively. When the moisturiser is all gone, you can't depress the pump anymore, so you know it's used up.
The bottle/container says that the lotion fights the five signs of fatigue: Feeling dry, feeling tight, looking dull, feeling less firm, feeling rough. I think it does that. It also says that it helps to reinforce the skins natural resistance - too be honest, I just gauge it works by how little my face hurts from being dry and irritated - it certainly does a good job.
My skin really feels refreshed and indeed revitalised using this moisturiser, I think it's great. The only way it could be improved, would be to do away with the little box it comes in, it's just a waste of packaging and not needed, it goes straight in the bin, so what's the point?
However, I would definitely buy this product again, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. It's the best moisturiser I've used in a long time. I like that it feels light on the face, fresh to smell and small and compact to pop in your bag if you're travelling.
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012
The Now (that's what I call music) albums have become ingrained in our UK album charts as an institution of British Music Collections for a number of years, being around since the early 80s. I remember owning Now 5 on cassette, when I was little, back in the days of Tears for Fears and the Pet Shop Boys! The music is often varied, and compromises of a collection of music that is in and around the charts at time of publication. There may be a few number ones, a few top 10s, a few novelty songs and a few surprises too (including songs that you thought have been long forgotten, but suddenly make an appearance back in the charts, thanks to TV shows like X-Factor of Glee).
The genres of music are mixed, but have all been in the top40 - so you won't find any thrash metal, unless the song has made it into the top40 charts. Ranging from pop to rap, there is generally something for every taste. One of the things I like about the collection, is that I've found it to be a good way to discover new artists and listen to songs that you wouldn't necessarily choose to. I love it when a new Now album comes out, and having a scour to see what's been included. I have a taste barometer that I use though, before I decide on buying. I don't usually buy unless I like at least 10 tracks. Any less than that, then I don't see the value. However Now 81, I'm pleased to report is a pretty good collection.
Now then, what's on this edition? Boasting songs from artists such as Lady Gaga, Jessie J, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Rihanna, JLS. As well as the less "pop" Gotye, Lana Del Rey, Florence + the Machine and the Military Wives. We also have Brits award winners and nominees, Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sande and Olly Murs making appearances. A good test to see if an artist is popular, is if they get 2 songs on a NOW album - and surprisingly, Rizzle Kicks appear on both CDs (I didn't see that one coming), as does Jessie J (ok, I saw that one). But what's this? Isn't someone missing from the album? No Adele? (I didn't see that one coming either).
Some people ask "Is it worth the price?". Good question. You get 2 CDs, crammed with at least 20 tracks per disc, for a Recommended Retail Price of anywhere from £10-£15 (depending where you buy). On average, we're at looking 40 songs, for £15, giving us a price of 37p per song - which is a lot cheaper than most single downloads! Generally speaking, NOW release 2 albums a year, one around Easter, and the other before Christmas - hitting seasons nicely, so an easy stocking filler if ever there was one - chances are, there is something for everyone on these albums.
Now81 is one of the better collections (but not the best), with about half of the tunes agreeing with my personal taste. When I put the CD on in my car - this is a general guide to what I listen to, and which ones I skip:
PLAY 1. Somebody That I Used To Know-Gotye Feat. Kimbra
PLAY 2. Paradise-Coldplay
PLAY 3. Lego House-Ed Sheeran
SKIP 4. Next To Me-Emeli Sande (I'm sorry, but I just can't stand her)
PLAY 5. Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)-Kelly Clarkson
PLAY 6. Domino-Jessie J
PLAY 7. Titanium-David Guetta Feat. Sia
PLAY 8. Good Feeling-Flo Rida
PLAY 9. The One That Got Away-Katy Perry
SKIP 10. Last Time-Labrinth (meh)
PLAY 11. Mama Do The Hump-Rizzle Kicks
PLAY 12. Dance With Me Tonight-Olly Murs
SKIP 13. Kiss The Stars-Pixie Lott
SKIP 14. One Thing-One Direction (no thank you)
PLAY 15. Seven Nation Army-Marcus Collins
SKIP 16. Shake It Out-Florence + The Machine (meh)
SKIP 17. Take Care-Drake Feat. Rihanna
SKIP 18. Born To Die-Lana Del Rey (oh puh-lease, this song drives me nuts!)
PLAY 19. Cannonball-Little Mix
SKIP 20. Proud-JLS
PLAY 21. Wherever You Are-Military Wives Choir, Gareth Malone & The London Metropolitan Orchestra
PLAY 1. Sexy And I Know It-LMFAO
PLAY 2. Wild Ones-Flo Rida Feat. Sia
PLAY 3. Marry The Night-Lady Gaga
SKIP 4. Levels-Avicii (meh)
SKIP 5. International Love-Pitbull Feat. Chris Brown (not really liking this one)
SKIP 6. Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)-Lloyd Feat. Andre 3000 & Lil Wayne
SKIP 7. She Doesn't Mind-Sean Paul
SKIP 8. Troublemaker-Taio Cruz
SKIP 9. Elephant-Alexandra Burke Feat. Erick Morillo (I thought I was going to love this one, shame)
SKIP 10. Antidote-Swedish House Mafia Vs Knife Party
PLAY 11. When I Was A Youngster-Rizzle Kicks
SKIP 12. Love Me-Stooshe Feat. Travie McCoy
SKIP 13. Get Yourself Back Home-Gym Class Heroes Feat. Neon Hitch
SKIP 14. You Da One-Rihanna (not on the strongest Rihanna tunes)
PLAY 15. Bright Lights (Good Life)-Tinchy Stryder Feat. Pixie Lott
PLAY 16. Twilight-Cover Drive
SKIP 17. Alone Again-Alyssa Reid Feat. Jump Smokers (urgh, I hate this one)
PLAY 18. Who You Are-Jessie J
PLAY 19. Ray Charles-Chiddy Bang
SKIP 20. T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)-will.i.am Feat. Mick Jagger / Jennifer Lopez
SKIP 21. RockStar-Dappy Feat. Brian May (bleugh)
In total: 21 plays, 21 skips. I bought this CD for £15 from HMV, so I've paid 71p per song that I like, and 21 free tracks that I'm not too bothered about.
That's the music side of things, another element of the NOW albums that I always look out for, is the theme. I really like the covers and always make a point to see what the design is. It used to be that the colours and patterns would change every publication, but recently they've started to introduce objects - like umbrellas, presents, flip-flops - and this CD, the theme is bubbles...making quite an attractive cover.
I would recommend this CD - it's easy listening, and has some huge artists as past of its collection. If you don't want to commit yourself to an artist's album, this is a nice way to own a few of their singles - and at 37p (approx) per track, you can't go that wrong.
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012
I love plants, problem is I'm useless with them. I tend to over water them, or forget completely. I wonder if my fingers are destined to never be green! Good job I don't have kids! I used to live in a flat with very little natural light, which of course is bad for plants and their photosynthesising. I understood why my plants were dying then, but where I live now, I have everything a plant should need - but they still suffered. That was until I got some plant food to give them a helping hand.
Baby Bio is a plant food product, in liquid form, that you add to water, for when you water your plants. It's not suitable for all plants, but I've been quite liberal when following the instruction on which type of plants to feed, and haven't come a cropper...yet. The liquid is very dark, almost black, and all it takes is a few drops per pint of water. The dilution gives the plants enough nutrition to keep it healthy. It includes seaweed and humus (not the dip for your pitta!) as well as other trace minerals.
I had a pot of 3 money plants, and in about 4 weeks, 2 had died, and the 3rd was was looking ropey. Frustrated as I was, a took a trip to the garden centre and bought a small 175ml bottle, which cost me just around £3. Money plants are tricky, as you're not supposed to water them that much as they like warmer conditions (bit like a cactus), but anyway, I gave it some baby bio and it's been as good as gold! The leaves are bright and juicy looking, and the plant looks and feels strong, with new leaves and shoots sprouting - very happy, and quite in awe of this mystifying food nectar. I tend to use the dilution once a month, and as of yet, not experienced any nasty looking symptoms in my foliage - touch wood.
As you need to use so little, the food lasts a very long time. I bought mine back in September, and it looks like I've hardly used it - to be fair, I only have about 4 plants in the house, so if you have a huge array of plant life to feed, you would use it up quicker, obviously. It goes without saying that the liquid should be kept away from kids and pets. The bottle has a handy security cap, which means you have to push it down, to screw it off - but regardless, it's always best to keep it out of the way, and out of direct sunlight too for that matter.
I would recommend this to anyone looking to give their house plants a boost. It's been recommended that you don't use these outside in the garden - assumedly for the wildlife that could come along and eat the food - this stuff is not good for anyone to ingest! I'm glad I found Baby Bio and will continue to use it forever more, to keep my plants as my pride and joy!
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012