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Nepenthe

Nepenthe
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Member since: 30.05.2013

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      18.06.2013 20:23
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      A well-performing but still imperfect BB cream

      I first discovered "blemish balm" cream some years ago - apparently Korean celebrities had appropriated a formulation used to cover facial scars from cosmetic surgery and from accidents to adorn their pristine, poreless faces. I initially saved up to buy a Korean brand, but caved as the popularity of BB cream soared and fell to trying out British versions. This is the second British BB cream I've tried, after Rimmel's, and it is by far my favourite.

      =The Product=

      Garnier BB cream comes in a semi-transparent, beige-tinted squeeze tube. It's printed with the name of the product, the variation - there are "anti-ageing" and "sensitive" varieties, along with three shades, light, medium, and dark - and, at the top, the Garnier logo. This review concerns the "sensitive", "light" BB cream.

      The cream is relatively viscous, but comes out of the tube in quite a thin stream, so the product isn't wasted. It has no fragrance that I can detect. A 50ml tube retails for £9.99, but I found m,ine at an independent chemist at a sale price of £7.50.

      =Use=

      To use the cream, squirt it into your hand and smooth it, using a brush or fingertips, over your face. Take care to blend it in at the jaw line, or you'll find yourself with a dramatically more porous neck!

      At first, the cream seems quite oily and greasy on the skin, but, thankfully, this effect quickly fades as the product settles into the skin. The cream feels quite pleasant on the face once the initial moisture overload has passed, and the skin becomes fresh, surprisingly matte, and firm.

      Upon application, the skin immediately looked smoother, less porous, and less embarrassingly acne-ridden. I spread it, as one would a foundation, across my face with a brush, and it all but eliminated the pores on my cheeks. It didn't quite catch out the darker pores around my T-zone, however; but it did such a good job of my cheeks, chin, and forehead that I'm willing to forgive it for not being a match for the worst my face can throw at it.

      My one bone to pick with the cosmetic side of the BB cream is that it doesn't come in terribly many shades - just ballpark "light", "medium", and "dark". The "light" is very nearly light enough for me, but not quite - it isn't noticeably too dark, but I have to be very, very careful to smooth the cream in so as not to be left with an ugly jawline.

      Despite being a very efficaceous moisturiser, primer, and firmer, it's important to remember that BB cream is still, in essence, foundation. It'd be ill-advised to sleep wearing this; I washed mine off before I went to bed, and reapplied in the morning.

      I'm prone to breakouts of acne, but this cream didn't provoke my skin into any such thing, even after two consecutive days of wearing the cream. I also didn't have to reapply the cream at all; despite lying face-down, eating messy meals (try to eat noodles without disrupting your makeup), and, er, crying, the effects of the cream didn't budge all day, and I had considerable trouble washing it off at night!

      =Conclusion=

      Garnier's BB cream is the best of the two BB creams that I've been able to try so far. It's pleasing to use, once the initial grease passes; it's unperfumed, so the scent won't annoy you; it covers, for the most part, evenly and effectively; and it doesn't cause skin irritation. The shades are not very varied, ad it doesn't quite eliminate all pores, but it gives the blemishes on my skin a good run for their money. I award this BB cream four out of five stars.

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        16.06.2013 21:48
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        My favourite chewing gum

        Whilst undergoing treatment for anorexia nervosa, I contracted an extreme antipathy for the sickly, milky, sugary taste of the sludgy meal replacements that so quickly become a staple of your diet. Another patient recommended chewing gum to get the tenacious taste out of your mouth, and so I returned to a habit that I thought I'd cured myself of as a little child. Oh, dear.

        After trying various brands, including Extra, Mentos, and Trident, I finally, on a friend's recommendation, settled on Airwaves as a brand of choice. My favourite, by far, is the classic Menthol & Eucalyptus.

        =The Product=

        Ten pellets of Wrigley's Airwaves, mint green in colour, sit within foil wrapping in a little paper packet. They're also available in packs of five normal packets, totalling 50 pellets, or in lots of approximately 46 in plastic bottles. A packet of 10 will set you back approximately 42 pence; five-packs retail in the area of £1.85, and bottles for £2. The best value of these is the five-packs, which come to ~4 pence per pellet.

        =Use=

        Like any chewing gum, this stuff is designed to be popped in the mouth and chewed. With brands such as Extra, I found that I often needed to pop in two pellets at once to get the desired strength. Not so with Airwaves. Popping two pellets simultaneously will more likely cause you to sneeze as the strength of the menthol travels up the back of your nose! This is seriously strong, bitingly minty gum.

        Underneath the main taste of mint, there's a taste that I would tentatively describe as essential oil-y. I presume that this is the eucalyptus. It adds a little extra tang to the taste of the gum, and raises it above your typical mint gum in terms of the complexity of the flavour. If there can be refinement in such a messy habit as chewing gum, this is it.

        The gum itself is satisfyingly tacky and chewy, and remains so even after a good half-hour of furious mastication. The one disadvantage to this gum is that, although the feeling of freshness hangs around for far longer than Mentos, Extra, or Trident can boast, the taste itself doesn't take long to dissipate. You'll find yourself replacing this gum quite often, and pulling the most risible faces as it accumulates inside your mouth and grows more and more difficult to chew without some oral gymnastics.

        This gum claims on the packet that it may have a laxative effect if overused, but I've chomped my way through a five-pack in a day due to the above failing and suffered no such effect. Perhaps this only applies to those naughty ones amongst us who swallow their gum? I wouldn't recommend swallowing this product, for reasons of general digestive health and common sense. Always spit into a tissue and throw into a bin.

        =Conclusion=

        Airwaves is a strong, refreshing, remarkably layered in taste, and criminally addictive chewing gum. I'm surprised that this stuff isn't scheduled, with the dependency I've developed upon it after meals! The price is quite reasonable when bought in the best way, and the freshness lasts long after you carefully, tidily dispose of your gum (you do carefully, tidily dispose of your gum, right?). Its one failing is the lack of a more enduring taste, but that can quickly be sholbed by shewinb mow gum... pardon me!

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          15.06.2013 20:54
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          A budget camera that feels like a budget camera

          The Technika SH-7065 is part of Tesco's Technika brand of consumer electronics, ranging from TVs to radios, and including a wide range of cameras. It's a budget camera, retailing originally for around £45. There are some things in life on which you can economise and get much the same quality, but electronics has not historically been one of them. Does the Technika SH-7065 break the mould, or is it another false economy?

          =The Camera=

          The SH-7065 is a nice-looking black plastic camera, with a cover that slides back from the 4x "zoom" (non-extending) lens. It has a 2.36" TFT screen on the reverse for viewfinding and reviewing photos, controls for shooting modes, reviewing, and zooming, and a flashbulb above the lens. It has a mere 14MB internal memory, but takes SD and SDHC cards. Rather than conventional commercial batteries, the camera runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, similar to a phone battery. The camera comes with a lanyard, USB connection, mains charging cable, and instruction manuals, although they aren't very detailed.

          =Use=

          The camera has several shooting modes - night, sport, portrait, and so on - and also the ability to manually adjust ISO, white balance, and so on. However, not very much fine-tuning is available, with only a limited number of presets of white balance.

          The camera takes pictures up to 7 megapixels, but they aren't of a very crisp, clear quality, even when on the highest quality setting. The camera has a tendency to focus wrongly, blurring the subject of your photograph. There's no apparent way to adjust the focus manually. It also lacks effective image stabilising - if there's the slightest movement in the frame while the shutter is open, you'll be left with an unsightly motion blur.

          The camera sits lightly in the hand, which, combined with the thin plastic body, makes it feel quite cheap - you can tell that this is a supermarket own-brand camera.

          The camera keeps digital picture order format files, which are little text files listing which photographs are to be printed from the camera - thus, you can print directly from the camera, without copying the photographs first to a computer. This is a nice touch, but something of a gimmick.

          When printed, even at a high DPI, the photos seem all the more blurry than they do on screen. For a camera that shoots (pun not intended) for the general consumer market, the holiday-album baby-growing-up pets-doing-silly-things market, it'd be expected that the photos wouldn't be so low-quality that they deteriorate into blobs when printed, even at a high DPI - but they are.

          =Conclusion=

          The sole practical use I can think of for this camera is perhaps as a first camera for a child. The photo quality is unremittingly awful, and the internal memory is truly criminal. It also feels tacky and plasticky, and doesn't have an extending lens, something that almost all point and shoots today manage to include. Sorry, Tesco, but your foray into photography hasn't impressed me; I award this camera a two out of five.

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          15.06.2013 17:10
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          A serviceable, but ultimately basic and poor-quality, headset

          I bought this headset quite some time ago, in search of a headset for Skype voice calls, but, soon after, a friend bought me a very nice microphone, and so it's gone unused. During my time away at the psych ward, my microphone seems to have become buried in the midden of papers and gadgets on my desk. My frenetic searching couldn't turn it up, but it did turn up this Logitech 981-000469 Stereo Chat Headset.

          =The Product=

          The headset consists of a thin plastic band connecting two headphone speakers, a hinged plastic microphone, and a little plastic control on the main cord with controls for turning the microphone on or off and changing the volume. The speakers are on telescopic plastic rods, and can be slid out or in to adjust to the size or shape of your head.

          I bought mine for around £15 on Amazon, but the product feels cheaper; the over-head band is thin and light, and the microphone doesn't have a fabric cover.

          =Use=

          I first tried to use the 981-000469 (how I wish this thing had a more human-readable name) as headphones. The sound quality, as headphones, is flat, muffled, and a mite tinny; bass frequencies, in particular, sound culpably flattened. The sound is also quite quiet, even on full volume.

          Mic performance suffers from much the same flaw: tinny-ness. Sound recorded through this microphone comes out sounding like the issue of a badly circuit-bent Game Boy. In addition, due to the lack of a fabric cover for the microphone, it picks up every unwanted background noise and often fails to catch the nuances of the sounds it's intended to record.

          =Conclusion=

          The - cough - 981-000469 is light, adjustable, and, I suppose, relatively cheap. However, it feels cheap'n'nasty, and the sound quality leaves much to be desired. For the occasional voice call, there's nothing wrong with this headset, but, for any use requiring anything approaching precision, or even pleasant sound, this headset isn't suitable. I award it a two out of five.

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          14.06.2013 22:08
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          A lovely, if questionably wholesome, "meal"

          Lately, there's been a surge in availability of yoghurts containing fresh or dried fruit pieces, oats, or granola. From Rumblers snack pots through Jumbo Oats to even Greggs, these yoghurts seem to be everywhere. The first one that I ever ate, years before the current boom, was the Starbucks All-Day Breakfast Pot. (I had a naughty tendency to have it as lunch.)

          =The Product=

          The clear plastic pot comes with a plastic spoon, and is filled with thickened "Greek-style" yoghurt. The purple colour comes from the fruit compote; in here, there's also shredded apple, rolled oats, dried cranberries, blueberries, and raspberries. It's also apparently one of your five a day, if that hasn't yet been debunked. Overall, it comes to 319 calories - perhaps a little much for a "breakfast" pot, unless you have a particularly busy day ahead, but it does mean that the pot is quite versatile and can, if you haven't much regard for a balanced diet, be eaten as other meals!

          =Taste=

          Yoghurt haters, don't run away: the pot doesn't have a very strong yoghurty taste. As it's not truly strained Greek yoghurt, but thickened "plain" yoghurt, only the texture of yoghurt is really present. I'd have liked a stronger taste of yoghurt, but I suppose Starbucks is shooting for mass appeal.

          The primary taste of this pot is that of the berries. The blueberry taste is very strong, along with that of the raspberries, and there's a hint of blackberry - not listed in the ingredients, but presumably part of the "berry fruit compote". If you like berry tastes - that's me - then this is for you.

          Texture-wise, this yoghurt is quite thick and bitty, with the scraps of apple and oats and the whole dried berries making for a consistency not dissimilar to muesli plus yoghurt. There's a nice balance between the sweet berry flavours and the savoury, crunchy texture. I, personally, like it a lot. Your mileage may vary.

          =Dietary Information=

          This yoghurt contains 12 grams of fat and 30 grams of sugar, so it's not perhaps the healthiest thing to be eating. Unlike many of the yoghurt-with-things products on the market today, it's certainly not suitable as a snack - at 319 calories per pot, it's certainly a light meal, of one type or another. However, enjoy in moderation, and what can go wrong?

          =Conclusion=

          I've tried many of the yoghurt-with-things products currently on the market, and must say that, of them all, this remains the best-tasting. If you happen to be stopping by a Starbucks and are in need of a quick breakfast, or of a nutritionally negligent lunch, this would be my top choice.

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          • Mepore Adhesive Dressing / First Aid / 45 Readings / 44 Ratings
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            13.06.2013 23:12
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            Excellent, highly absorbent, gentle synthetic fabric dressings

            There are times in life at which standard Elastoplasts simply aren't big, resistant, absorbent, or protective enough. I've ran headfirst into a good many such times, and have a history of resorting to sticking on tissue paper with microporous tape. Needless to say, when I arrived at the hospital, the nurses didn't think much of my dressing skills. They gave me a little "first aid box" for when I should run into difficulties, containing sterilising wipes, wound closures, and a few sheets of different sizes, with "Mepore" written on them in green lettering. On closer inspection, they turned out to be large, soft sticking plasters.

            =The Product=

            Mepores come in varying sizes, from 7 by 8 centimetres to 9 by 35. They come in little paper and plastic packets, sealed so as to keep the dressing sterile until used. The plasters themselves are made of white viscose, and full of little pores, so as to absorb body fluids. In the centre, there's an absorbent pad, similar to those in standard Elastoplasts - the principal difference being that, as the adhesive is quite gentle and the whole dressing is absorbent, it doesn't matter too much if the borders cover the wound, too. The corners are rounded, so as to seal better to the contours of the skin around the wound.

            =Use=

            To take a Mepore out of its packet, pull the tabs on the packet - although I've been known to become so frustrated with this sometimes fiddly process that I simply rip the end off! Be warned, though, that this can damage or ruck up the plaster inside (although I've found them impossible to tear), so I wouldn't recommend it unless you're in a hurry. Remove the plaster, peel off its Elastoplast-style backing, and smooth it over the affected skin, centring the pad in the middle on the middle of the wound. If the Mepore becomes old and scrabby before the wound is healed, it can be replaced as needed. Due to the gentle adhesive, there isn't the slightest pain in removal.

            =Notes=

            One disadvantage to the Mepore's incredible absorbency is that it absorbs not only fluids from a wound, but every liquid that touches it. This means that, with a Mepore on your wrist or hand, it can be difficult to wash your hands without it getting waterlogged, too heavy to stick, and falling off! The rounded corners also have a tendency to peel after about ten hours of being applied, although, to be frank, ten hours is too long for the same dressing to be left on a wound. If a Mepore is peeling at the corners, it's possibly an indication that it's been on too long to be hygienic!

            =Conclusion=

            When a large, absorbent dressing is necessary, a Mepore is ideal. I'd like to see them as staples in first aid boxes around the country - I've butchered myself with tissue paper and Elastoplasts one time too many. They're not without their failings, but their only failings are inevitable trade-offs with their advantages. In terms of gratitude, in terms of how much red stuff I'd have lost were it not for Molnlycke's kind invention, I give Mepores a hard-earned four out of five. Thank you, Big Healthcare. Thank you.

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              13.06.2013 22:27
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              An excellent comic album

              Stuck in a loony bin, there isn't terribly much space for mirth. One night, when my father had come to visit, we found ourselves poring over xkcd comics. My father had a recommendation - "if you like this ethic of humour, have you ever heard of Tom Lehrer?". I'd heard one of his songs before, remembered his name in the credits of a documentary about Dmitry Mendeleev - he'd managed to fit the elements to the tune of the Pirates from Penzance Major-General's Song, and, in a parody of a Bostonian accent, to rhyme "Harvard" with "discovered"! I knew sadly little else about him.

              Today, an Amazon delivery arrived for me; my father had ordered me a copy of An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer! After a difficult morning, I retired to my room and my headphones and sat back to waste time well. Many giggles later, here is my review.

              =Tom Lehrer?=

              Tom Lehrer is a former Harvard lecturer and mathematician, finding time somehow to run a nice sideline in satirical and comedic songs in the 1950s and 60s. Today, he teaches mathematics and music theatre - what a combination - at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His sense of humour, from this record, ranges from nerdy to risqué, through macabre and plain zany.

              =Track by Track=

              _Track 1. Poisoning Pigeons in the Park_

              # When they see us coming the birdies all try and hide
              But they still go for peanuts when coated with cyanide #

              This is one of the album's blacker tracks - it's said that a pianist once fell over in shock after being told the title of the song - and an excellent start to what I soon realised would be a very, very funny album. It starts as a cornily rollicking, jaunty celebration of springtime, before slipping into sadistic glee as the chorus opens. The funniest thing about the track is without a doubt its contrived rhymes, which put any B-listed rapper to shame: "try and hide"/"cyanide", "quickening"/"strychnine", the latter of which extracted such a snort from your humble reviewer that the nurse on checks asked me what was wrong.

              _Track 2. Bright College Days_

              # Turn on the spigot
              Pour the beer and swig it
              And gaudeamus igit-itur #

              Lehrer goes for a more topical song here, parodying Ivy League nostalgia anthems. The theme of hysterical contrived rhymes continues, eliciting much the same response from me as it did before. Preppie get-togethers have the mickey forcibly extracted from them.

              _Track 3. A Christmas Carol_

              # Hark the Herald Tribune sings
              Advertising wondrous things #

              This is certainly the most topical song on the disc, veering into the realms of boldly ideological satire. I personally have nothing to say against consumerism, but Lehrer's wit shines, as ever, and I found myself giggling along to his deriding of matching pen and pencil sets, Dickens, and many more.

              _Track 4. The Elements_

              # These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard
              And there may be many others but they haven't been discovered #

              Ed. note: or synthesised.

              The Elements is certainly Lehrer's best-known song - a run-down of the elements, as known in 1959, to the tune of the Major-General's Song from Pirates of Penzance. I'd heard it before in a documentary. The elements appear in the order that fits best with the rhythm, not in anything approaching chemical order - I could imagine IUPAC officials having heart attacks to the beat of this song. Needless to say, I love it. The closing lines are delivered in an exaggerated Brahmin drawl, carrying on the album's mickey-taking of all things Ivy League.

              _Track 5. Oedipus Rex_

              # You may have heard about his odd complex
              His name appears in Freud's index #

              Oedipus Rex tells the story of the titular character in Greek mythology, whose name is given to the Oedipus complex. I think that's quite enough detail on that front. This is another riot of a track, perhaps reaching its ludic apogee with the final, spoken line (...to which I can all too well relate): "I see the outpatients are out in force tonight!".

              _Track 6. In Old Mexico_

              # Then the picadors of course each one on his horse
              I shouted olé every time one was gored #

              A comic rampage through a stereotypical vision of ol' Mexico, this track opens with a monologue - funnier, in my opinion, than the song itself - on the subject of the gall bladder, "invented by Dr. Samuel Gall". The song itself might mean more to American audiences; it takes quick dips into US topical references, such as to the AFLCIO (a sort of American TUC). While the song itself is one of the weaker on the album in terms of belly-laughs verse^1, it has very tough competition, so I wouldn't do it justice to call it a weak point.

              _Track 7. Clementine_

              # When she said I could have her
              Her sister's cadaver
              Must surely have turned in its crypt #

              Oh My Darling Clementine is an American folk ballad, written in the 19th century. There was once a Spectator poetry competition challenging readers to rewrite a short topical text in the style of various famous poets; this song is the musical equivalent. First, the song is rendered in the style of Cole Porter, then in the style of a Mozart aria, complete with naughty mock Italian; then that of the 1950s Beatnik cool school, and finally - perhaps most apoplectically humorous of all - in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan, for whom Lehrer seems to have an affection.

              _Track 8. It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier_

              # Our old mess sergeant's taste buds had been shot off in the war
              But his savory collations add to our esprit de corps #

              Another topical song, but to a lesser extent, this one takes seemingly international stereotypes about the characters found in the armed forces and puts them to a mock-rousing melody, inducing all the usual Lehrer-induced snorts.

              _Track 9. She's My Girl_

              # So though for breakfast she makes coffee that tastes like shampoo
              I come home for dinner and get peanut butter stew #

              Lehrer's take on that old cliché of unconditional love, and a swing on the 1950s trope of love songs from a girl's perspective, unconditionally loving a man, this song gives an amusing account of the highs and, er, lows of a relationship with a slovenly woman. It's almost feminist in its attack on the unconditionally-loving-slobby-violent-men songs, and it's almost rib-breaking in its contrived rhymes, rollicking tempo, and mocking tone.

              _Track 10. The Masochism Tango_

              # I ache for the touch of your lips dear
              But much more for the touch of your whips dear #

              Possibly my favourite track, The Masochism Tango is a ludicrous treatise on the love of a painful lover, set to a bouncy tango melody. In its lyrical tone, it slips into the frankly brutal, then pops out on the other side, all in the name of making the listener guffaw. And guffaw I did: "my heart is in my hand - ugh!". The discordantly jolly tones of the refrain - "as we dance to the Masochism Tango" - are probably the best thing about this track.

              _Track 11. We Will All Go Together When We Go_

              # We will all go together when we go
              All suffused with an incandescent glow #

              In the final track, a musing on the inevitability of death, Lehrer reverts to the early tracks' trend of convoluted rhymes. Here, they're as funny as ever, with Lehrer's unique mangling of syllables and syntax reaching impressive new heights. Like in The Masochism Tango, it's the discord between the jolly and morbid lines of the song, and between the subject matter and the gleeful tone, that really make this track shine, giggle, and snort its way to the end of the CD.

              =Conclusion=

              Despite the occasional dip into specifically 1950s US references, An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer wasted my afternoon very, very well. I laughed; I snorted; I chortled. I hope that you will do the same. It's available very cheaply on Amazon, for around £1.50 plus postage. I'd recommend this album to anybody with a little cultural knowledge and a sense of humour.

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              • Dell Inspiron 1520 / Laptop / 37 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                13.06.2013 15:47
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                A typical Dell - a reliable workhorse of an everyday machine

                I recently bought a Dell Inspiron 1520 at a bargain price of £40, with the intent of reselling it. However, as I use it this very moment to type out this review, I fear that, like an over-attached farmer when the slaughterhouse comes calling, I shall have to be coerced into parting with it. The Inspiron 1520 is a solid general-use laptop that, while nothing special, far outperforms my humble iBook G4, and, while I wouldn't try to calculate pi or play anything very graphics-heavy on it, writes, explores the internet, and plays music - if not exactly "gracefully", then well enough for me to harbour an affection for it.

                =The Laptop=

                My Dell Inspiron 1520 - I must get used to it not being "mine" - has a black lid, though many other colours are available. It has a silver screen bezel and keyboard surround, holding a 15.4" glossy screen. It isn't perhaps the most portable thing, weighing in at over 3kg, so I find myself using it almost exclusively while sitting at a desk. Some 1520s apparently include webcams, but mine - ahem, the one currently in my possession - is, sadly, the non-webcam model.

                The laptop comes with 2GB RAM, nVidia 8600M-GT graphics, a 160GB SATA HDD, an optical drive, Wi-Fi capability, Bluetooth connectivity, and - inexplicably, for such an un-portable beast - HSDPA. There are also USB 2.0 ports, a wired Internet connection port, and extra buttons outside the keyboard to control audio features. This is a rather odd choice, as this clearly isn't intended as a media laptop; when I tried to play a normal-definition DVD, it stuttered and froze on frames, and, when I tried a 720p video file, it froze completely.

                =The Software=

                The Inspiron 1520 I own comes preloaded with several programs, including McAfee SecurityCenter, AOL(!), and Google Desktop; yours may vary, depending on where the laptop was originally purchased.

                SecurityCenter is something of a trigger-happy antivirus and firewall suite, and I eventually found the internet lag from its proxy service and its overzealous blocking of harmless connections so irritating that I uninstalled it and ran home to Windows Firewall and Defender. As I have an avid interest in computer security, I took the chance to test the thing out by installing some samples of known spyware, but, even after updating definitions, its scanner didn't catch any of them.

                In addition to these programs, the 1520 comes with a recovery partition that can be used to restore the disk to factory conditions. Very handy in case of getting tied up in errors, or, in my case, in justifying mucking about with the thing before selling it; a few keystrokes on boot, and you've got a tabula rasa. Admittedly, that's a tabula rasa with AOL, but it can't be denied that it's factory condition.

                The Inspiron 1520 which I own runs Windows Vista Home Basic. Not perhaps the best of OSes - it lacks many of the executive features of its bigger Vista brothers, and Vista isn't perhaps known for being an intuitive, pretty, fast, or convenient OS - but it runs quickly on this laptop and feels less clunky than its XP predecessors sometimes could.

                =Conclusion=

                The Dell Inspiron 1520 is far from the perfect laptop. It's heavy, not very powerful for its demographic, stumbles over media playing, and comes, in the case of this one, with some truly silly software. (Whose idea was AOL?) But, in everyday use, it is efficient, pleasant to use, and reliable. In short, it is a typical Dell, with the emphasis being on stability and simple tasks - and, as a typical Dell, I can't fault the 1520 at all.

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                  12.06.2013 22:34
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                  A fantastic set of hair straighteners

                  I was sent these Tresemme Salon Professional 2066U ceramic hair straighteners as a present by my aunt, who was alarmed by the prospect of my beauty regimen falling into disarray due to being packed off to a mental hospital. Prior to admission, I'd been saving for a pair of GHDs, whilst getting by with a pair of 1980s stylers of questionable electrical safety salvaged from a jumble sale. So I was overjoyed when I opened the Amazon box and pulled out these, in their sleek black oblong packaging. Not GHDs, I thought -- but the next best thing? I'd used GHDs at a friend's house, and I can truthfully say that I prefer these Tresemme straighteners to GHDs.

                  =The Straighteners=

                  The straighteners come in a black cardboard box, with the name and a picture of them, along with a black heatproof cover. They have 1"-long ceramic plates that heat up to 230°C on the highest heat setting, roughly the same heat as GHDs. There are three heat settings, an advantage over the majority other straighteners on the market, so they would suit any hair type or condition.

                  =Use=

                  The straighteners take about fifteen to twenty seconds to heat up. After that, it's up and away. To straighten hair, simply pull them down your hair for a smooth, straight look. You can also use the straighteners to create waves - flick them at periodic intervals while straightening - or curls - turn sharply at the end of the strand of hair. I've successfully used the straighteners to achieve all three styles -- they do every one with aplomb.

                  Like all straighteners, the hair has to be dry before use. It's potentially very dangerous to use straighteners on wet hair, so I seriously warn against it... not, I hope, that I have to so do! Electricity + water is never a good idea.

                  I find that the Tresemme 2066Us handle exceptionally well; they feel lighter in the hand than do GHDs, allowing for potentially better accuracy, and are still weighted enough to hold comfortably. They cause no smell of burning hair, unlike many cheaper straighteners, and give stunningly slick results.

                  =Conclusion=

                  For the fantastic price of £25 on Amazon, you get multi-purpose hair straighteners that perform as well as GHDs -- and, with multiple heat settings, might just be that bit more versatile. I don't like to be awfully fawning in my reviews, so I searched far and wide for flaws in this product, but can't seem to turf up any. I give the 2066Us a well-deserved five stars out of five.

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                    11.06.2013 20:39
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                    An average concealer with some fatal flaws

                    Rimmel Hide the Blemish Concealer has a special place in my heart. However, does it have a special place in my makeup bag? Let's see.

                    At the age of 16, this concealer was the first makeup that my mother had ever allowed me to wear. My mother had always been iron-fist strict about my use of cosmetics, with rules easily summarised as "don't wear any, you're too young". However, while prepping for an exam, I inadvertently fell asleep with my spectacles on. They slipped down my face in my sleep, and left me with a nice black-and-blue bruise beneath my eye. I woke up and howled when I saw my reflection - how was I to go to school, looking as if somebody had given me a shiner? My aunt suggested concealer, and so my mother allowed me to stop off at the pharmacy en route to school to pick some up. I bought the first brand that I saw on the display - Rimmel Hide the Blemish. That was the first opening I ever had to wear makeup.

                    Three years on, I still buy these sticks when I see them in the pharmacy makeup displays, but is it simply out of nostalgic feeling? Curiosity struck me today, and I used it for the first time in a year.

                    =The Product=

                    The concealer comes in a screw-type stick, like a lipstick, with a slanted top. The barrel of the stick is printed with the name and brand of the product, and is a shade of pink, according to which colour of concealer it is - I wear "ivory". A notably wide variety of shades are available.

                    =Use=

                    To use the concealer, apply to the skin - you can use the stick directly, fingertips, or a brush, which I prefer -- and blend into the surrounding skin using fingertips or a brush.

                    The concealer has no smell, and a soft, smooth texture. It applies to the skin quite evenly at first. However, where there are large pores or small bumps, the concealer looks powdery and flaky, and can appear caked on if used injudiciously -- and, with this concealer, one has to be very careful, as the line between use and apparent abuse is very fine.

                    The concealer can't be felt on the skin, but it looks, despite the light feel, as if it sits quite heavily, like oil on water. It never quite settles in. In addition, it doesn't perform well in heat at all. It has a tendency almost to melt on the skin.

                    =Conclusion=

                    This concealer comes in a stunning range of shades, so it's a pity that it has numerous shortcomings. It will always loiter in the bottom of my makeup bag, for personal reasons, and it's saved me a few times when my usual concealer has gone missing, but I wouldn't rely on it as part of my normal routine. Out of sentimentality, I'm willing to slip this concealer three stars.

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                    11.06.2013 16:10
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                    A lovely pen when working

                    I recently bought the Parker IM Premium on a hospital trip on which I managed to slip into Ryman's, to replace my poor, unfortunate, beloved Parker Sonnet - on my last leave, I left it someplace between the loony bin and home, and haven't seen it since. While not quite a Sonnet, the IM Premium has proved to be an excellent, if temperamental, writing pen.

                    =Initial Impressions=

                    My Parker IM Premium came on a blister card, held in a little plastic bubble. Also on the blister card were five cartridges of black Parker ink; the colours available from Parker, including black, blue, and green, are interchangeable. The pen comes in various colours. Dooyoo has the gunmetal one; mine is a deep black. It also comes in various widths of nib; mine is "fine", as I like to write with the slimmest nibs possible.

                    The pen is made entirely of metal, and has a signature arrow-shaped clip on the lid. The barrel of the pen, rather than being smoothly cylindrical as in most Parker pens, has a faceted, chiselled surface.

                    =Use=

                    It's easy to install an ink cartridge and begin to use the pen; simply unscrew the lower section of the barrel, containing the nib, and push a cartridge into the exposed inner end of the nib section. You may have to get the ink flowing by scribbling on scrap paper or rotating the cartridge before screwing the barrel closed again.

                    The Parker IM Premium sits quite comfortably in the hand. I find that the faceted surface allows for a better grip than other Parker pens allow. However, it isn't as comfortably weighted in the hand as the Sonnet, and feels at times decidedly too light. This is also a fairly thin pen; I find that I like that, but it's a matter of personal preference.

                    The IM Premium's fine nib writes clean, smooth, fine lines. It moves softly across paper, never snagging or scratching -- it performs similarly to the standard Parker IM and to the Sonnet. It's certainly up to the normal Parker standard.

                    However, I find that this pen can on occasion be temperamental. If it has been kept in a cold place, such as my bag in a stone building in Scotland, or has lay on its side for some time, the IM Premium may throw a hissy fit and point-blank refuse to issue forth any ink. A pen that doesn't write isn't very much fun, and I've found myself spending a lot of time scribbling wildly on scrap paper to reactivate the nib, which is awfully prone to clogging.

                    =Conclusion=

                    I love Parker pens, and I love the Parker IM Premium. It writes cleanly, smoothly, quickly, with an agility and grace uncommon amongst pens. However, all these things apply only when it writes, and, sadly, in the case of mine, that isn't very often. A clogging nib and a small range of operating conditions mean that sadly I can only give this lovely writing instrument a 3 out of 5.

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                      10.06.2013 21:12
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                      A brilliant house plant accessory

                      In need of a way to keep my house plants watered whilst busy, away, or, er, lazy, I looked into the concept of watering reservoirs that sit in the plant's pot and diffuse moisture into the compost. I found this adorable Bördy waterer at my local gardener, and bought two, in green and orange.

                      =Initial Impressions=

                      The Bördy waterer is a little plastic bird, with cute wide eyes and an open beak, sitting on a conical clay plug. Water is poured into the beak, and is slowly released through theclay plug as the plant needs it, so preventing neglect or over-watering. The bird has a clear plastic body so that you can easily see how much water has been slurped away by your plant. It's available in 15cm or 20cm sizes; my review will deal with the 15cm "small" edition.

                      =Use=

                      Once I'd prised green Bördy free of his cardboard enclosure, I popped him into the pot of a chrysanthemum, filled him up from a plastic cup, then gave his orange friend a home amongst some roses. Bördy looked appealing, nestled between the stalks and petals. They could be ornaments in their own right.

                      Perhaps it's simply that my roses are very thirsty - after all, they're roses - but I found myself refilling the roses' bird almost every day. The chrysanthemum fared slightly better, but neither approached the four days for which the small Bördy is said to distribute water. I suspect that the clay plug may be a little too porous.

                      When the little plastic bird is distributing water, however, it does it im-peck-ably. My roses flourish under its care, and it fixed the problem I'd had with drowning my chrysanths.

                      =Conclusion=

                      The Bördy waterer works excellently to water plants evenly over time, and has a clean, adorable design! I'd recommend it to anyone with house plants - but keep an eye on its water level if you have thirsty, greedy plants...

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                        10.06.2013 15:38
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                        As a nice, sweet, pretty scent, Dot cannot be faulted

                        Recently, on a day out from the hospital, my father and I wandered into a store selling scent. I was already a fan of Marc Jacobs's Daisy and Oh, Lola!, so, when I noticed a tester of Dot on the counter, I made a beeline for it and squirted it liberally onto a piece of paper for later review. No later review was needed; upon catching a whiff of it, my father immediately turned to the store assistant and bought me a 50ml bottle of Marc Jacobs Dot EDP.

                        =Initial Impressions=

                        Dot comes in a very nice ladybird/butterfly-themed glass bottle. The 50ml bottle is topped with a little red and black spotted orb, with a butterfly perched at a fetching angle, like one of Jacobs's famous fascinators. It's very nicely presented, coming in a similar cardboard box with the name of the scent on a golden panel and the stopper's spotted butterfly to the side. Every detail of the external design has been attended to.

                        =Use=

                        I won't pretend to be a connoisseur of scent (alas). However, I will endeavour to describe my experience with Dot as fully and as accurately as I can.

                        The bottle has a spray pump, so applying the scent is easy. However, I find that perhaps a little too much of it squirts out with each pump of the spray, so that I've found myself going through quite a lot in the space of under a week. Perhaps I'm simply spraying too hard, or perhaps it's a result of the pump's design. Either way, this bottle requires a very light touch.

                        There is little to no alcoholic smell from this scent when it's first applied, a certain advantage over so many such scents. The first smells to rise from it are sweet floral smells - somewhat similar to Daisy, but sweeter. Indeed, my first impression of Dot was that it was to Daisy as Chérie is to Miss Dior.

                        However, to my uncultured, philistine nose, that was it. I waited for more subtle fragrances to arise, but couldn't, sadly, discern any. I'm used to the nuances of Daisy and Oh, Lola!, so I expected similar from this scent, but, regrettably, it's a fairly flat sweet scent.

                        That isn't to say that it doesn't smell beautiful. Oh, no. A gorgeous smell emanates from these little bug bottles, and I'm proud to have it in my repertoire. However, I wouldn't say that Dot quite lives up to the complexity of Marc Jacobs's other offerings.

                        After spraying on, I find that Dot lasts me for most of the day. I've walked through rain storms and emerged as Dotty as I was when I first went outdoors. It has remarkable staying power, even amongst perfumes of its calibre.

                        =Conclusion=

                        As a nice, sweet, pretty scent, Dot cannot be faulted. It's little more than a nice, sweet, pretty scent, but I'd say that it's one of the nicest, prettiest, and sweetest simple scents on the market. It's long-lasting, easy to spray, and pleasant - mark another one up for Marc Jacobs.

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                        • Rimmel BB Cream 9 in 1 / Make Up / 36 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                          10.06.2013 12:54
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                          A good BB cream, if the skin tones fit you

                          I'd been interested in trying BB creams ever since I first heard about them - in an article in a Korean magazine, extolling the virtues of "blemish balm" cream, ported from the world of post-plastic surgery treatment to the faces of young, beautiful, squeaking, cheering popstars. I had been saving my money for a bona fide Korean brand, closest to the cream's clinical heritage, but, when I noticed this cream for under £5 in a pound store, I knew I had to try it out.

                          =Initial Impressions=

                          Rimmel BB cream comes in a 30ml skin-tone squeezy bottle, with, I'm afraid, a slightly cheap look; from the packaging alone, this could be a Collection 2000 product. Still it's important not to judge a book by it's cover! The packaging claims that it "primes, moisturises, minimises pores, conceals, covers, smoothes, mattifies, brightens and helps protect" - the titular nine in one. It has SPF 25, so is suitable to wear in summer without sun tan lotion. When I saw it in the shop, I squirted a little out of the tester (ruining my black turtleneck in the process - clumsy Nepenthe!) and saw that it was quite a thick cream, with a beige tone and a fresh, face cream-y smell.

                          =Use=

                          To use the cream, smooth it over the skin - no complicated instructions here. This is a foolproof product. The cream feels nice and hydrating on the skin, and settles in quickly and smoothly, not sitting heavily on the face. You can feel that you're wearing a product, but, to me, this can be reassuring.

                          I'll break down my review of the use into the cream's nine claims.

                          * Priming
                          The cream does a good job of prepping the skin for its covering effects - there's no need to use a primer before applying. This cream takes care of it all.

                          * Moisturising
                          As previously stated, the cream hydrates the skin and gives it a nice, even moisture.

                          * Minimising pores
                          Alas, this cream didn't quite manage to mitigate my pore ol' skin as much as I had hoped it would. It neatly smooths out pores in some areas, such as the T-zone, but the pores on my cheeks were more tenacious.

                          * Concealing
                          Such a thick, pigmented cream couldn't really fail to conceal, and conceal this cream indeed does. My favourite thing about it is that is obscures my icky acne far better than any stand-alone concealer.

                          * Covering
                          As above, really - I feel that Rimmel were cheating a little to list "concealing" and "covering" separately! The cream gives a nice, even cover, like very fine powder.

                          * Smoothing
                          This seems a little of a truism where "concealing pores" has already been listed. Naughty Rimmel! As previously observed, the cream makes short work of T-zone pores and of acne, but stumbles over cheek pores. Hélas.

                          * Mattifying
                          The cream does a very, very nice line in eliminating shine and grease! I love it for this purpose, as I have temperamental combination skin. As a result, I could recommend the cream to those with combination or oily skin for this alone, if nothing else.

                          * Brightening
                          I can't really give an impartial review of this cream's brightening power, as I imagine that it would brighten and freshen the appearance of skin which its limited shades actually matched. Only three tones - light, medium, and dark - are available, and I find the "light" too dark and too sludgy beige to suit my skin. It turns my face the colour of a 1970s sofa.

                          * Helping protect
                          The cream packs an impressive SPF 25, so its protective aptitude can't be faulted. I walked in strong sunlight wearing this cream, and it wasn't at all affected - it didn't melt or evaporate, and I didn't burn at all.

                          There is one central issue with Rimmel's 9-in-1 BB cream, and that, I'm afraid, is the lack of available tones. I tried every shade's tester for this review. The cream comes only in three basic shades, labeled "light", "medium", and "dark", but which could perhaps be more suitably named "1970s sofa", "mochaccino", and "Oompa-Loompa". There simply isn't a shade light enough to suit my skin, and I imagine that the darkest tone may be too orange for those with dark skin.

                          =Conclusion=

                          I'm ultimately, sadly, disappointed with this BB cream. It does what it does extremely well - it hydrates, it protects, it conceals evenly. However, it doesn't quite manage to cover every pore and pimple and blemish, and there simply isn't a wide enough range of skin shades available.

                          If you're a member of the small cross-section of the population whom these shades fit, I'd recommend this BB cream wholeheartedly - especially if you can dig it up, as I did, for under £5! However, I'd recommend that you test the cream thoroughly in the privacy of your bathroom mirror before you step outside, for fear of being mistaken for heading to a Charmander convention.

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                          • 3M Steri-Strip / First Aid / 59 Readings / 57 Ratings
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                            08.06.2013 22:20
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                            Efficient, if not completely secure, wound closures

                            For all sorts of fun reasons, the likes of which will make for marvellous dinner-party ice-breakers some day, I'm a veteran of deep cuts - and of the scarring which is so often left behind. Stitches leave you with a line of little complimentary scarlets, and plasters do nothing to close a cut over. Bio-oil is viciously expensive, and shea butter smells. Enter 3M's Steri-Strips.

                            =The Product=

                            Steri-strips are small adhesive strips, intended to close open skin wounds, so reducing scarring and the chance of infection. As the name suggests, they're treated with an antimicrobial substance. They're slightly porous, so as to be breathable, and they come in various widths, lengths, elasticities, and colours. There's also a "reinforced" range. This review will deal with the steri-strips to which I'm used, the standard, inelastic, porous white type.

                            =Use=

                            To apply a steri-strip, stick one end to one side of the cut, stretch it to the other side until the cut is closed, then stick down. Longer cuts may need multiple steri-strips, and additional strips can be used to secure the ends of the strips holding the wound.

                            The adhesive on the strips is strong enough to hold skin together, and holds up well against water and sweating. However, they aren't secure enough, I find, not to ruck up and slip off one side of the cut if used over joints or on other skin that moves often. It doesn't hurt at all to remove steri-strips, but I would be willing to sacrifice that comfort for a stronger adhesive.

                            When the strips are applied well, steri-stripped wounds not only leave thinner scars, but bleed less - the skin is held tightly over the incision, and blood can't get through. I usually like to have a large plaster or Mepore patch over steri-stripped areas, however, for the additional security, and to blot up any blood that does manage to escape.

                            =Conclusion=

                            Steri-strips are no miracle cure for wide cuts, and there are some situations in which stitches are the only option to stop bleeding and close skin. I have known lazy nurses to apply ridiculous numbers of steri-strips to wounds bleeding so profusely that doctors have later judged that they required stitches. However, in the majority of situations, steri-strips make a moderately strong, effective, non-invasive substitute for sutures, and quell bleeding, cut down on scarring, and guard against infection. They should be a staple in first-aid kits nationwide.

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