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aestro

aestro
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Member since: 28.01.2007

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    • Requiem for a Dream (DVD) / DVD / 45 Readings / 40 Ratings
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      20.08.2007 15:48
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      Approach with caution.

      When I was encouraged to watch 'Requiem For A Dream' by another member of DooYoo, I honestly didn't expect anything as visually stunning or heart rendering as the reality. In simple terms, the film is about the effects of drug abuse on a select few people. It follows the lives of these people and captivates you in every sense, by showing certain aspects through their eyes. The battle with the phycological and physical dependence on the drugs which have destroyed the lives of the characters, and the ending which the viewer is submitted to, is shocking enough so that it puts you off drugs for life. The characters are generally very well played by the actors, and almost a sense of understanding and compassion is formed between viewer and character. To be honest, although the film is one of the very best I have seen in a long time, if I could go back in time and choose not to watch it, then I would do so. It left me feeling physically sickened, but this is a major credit to the director and others with a hardened stomach may benefit deeply from it. I doubt anyone will enjoy watching it.

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      • Ikea / Highstreet Shopping / 56 Readings / 51 Ratings
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        11.08.2007 16:51
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        Definitly worth a look.

        Seeing as my entire home pretty much resembles an Ikea showroom, I thought it appropriate that I should write a review on the subject. Each Ikea building is different, but in Wembley, a massive blue and yellow box (presumably adopting the colours of the Swedish flag) stands out against Wembley stadium. The iconic design of the building gives a pretty good idea of the products you'll find inside. Ikea, a Swedish company, sells furniture, cooking utensils, art work and pretty much anything you would find inside an average household; but what makes Ikea - 'Ikea' is probably more the shopping 'experience' that you are indulged in rather than the, admittedly brilliant, low cost, modern stock that the shop sells. You enter the shop and pick up any equipment you may need for your shopping 'experience' such as a tape measure, big yellow bag or sheet to write down item numbers or codes. If you wish you can then leave the kiddies in a crèche, although on weekend the queues to get inside can be horrendous. The layout of Ikea various from shop to shop, but in general, a showroom is the first thing you are greeted with. This is basically room upon room of ready made rooms, and even in some cases, houses, where you can find inspiration, pick up little odds and ends that you never knew you needed, and write down the codes for larger items you wish to purchase. You may skip this section if you only wish to purchase smaller items, which do not come with a code, but its good fun and worth the walk anyway. At the end of this you'll come to a restaurant where you can buy full meals, snacks or coffee. I have only ever eaten here a long time ago as a small child, but from what I can remember the food was good and they had a children's speciality menu. From here you then progress to the shopping 'mall' where you acquire a trolley and pick up any smaller items you may have your eye on. One thing that i have noticed regarding this section is that although it seems fully stocked, they NEVER have the items you want! It takes weeks to restock and without calling ahead and asking if every single item you want is in stock (which doesn't go down too well with the staff, believe me) then there is no way of knowing. From here onwards is the warehouse, an absolutely massive maze of high shelves and heavy boxes. This is where having taken down the codes from the showroom helps, as you wont find any information on the products here, it is literally just a place for you to pick up the items. Long queues await, and then there is a further place to buy hot food or Swedish produce. If carrying very heavy items then you may park in a docking bay and have load the car yourself, as all items are flat packed. Drive home, and assemble your new furniture yourself (good luck with that one.)

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        • Thirteen (DVD) / DVD / 58 Readings / 44 Ratings
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          04.07.2007 18:45
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          There are better films showing the same ideas, but still a good attempt.

          I rented this because i saw a review of it on ciao, and it turned out to be quite good. The issues tackled are realistic, and its not hard to believe that the person who made the film had based it on her own life. However there are many dissapointing parts. For example the main character is introduced to the lifestyle because she impresses a popular girl, and all of a sudden she just becomes 'bad'. And then this same girl breaks up with her, and despite the drug taking, and the way that she has been pulled in, she just stops being 'bad'? Overall though, its a good portrayal of teenage life.

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            29.05.2007 12:38
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            Must go!

            Stains is host to a theme park that i go to most years, called Thorpe Park. Its expensive, but considering that its not something your going to do every weekend the price is fine. You'll find yourself queing for any amount of time up to about an hour simply to get into the park, and then there are massive queues, especially for sought after rides such as collosus (which holds the world record for most iverts in a roller coaster.) Its worth the wait though, as there are many brilliant rides, some scary, some wet and wild, some just for fun. I would recommend Stealth as its the newest, and in my opinion the best ride to come to Thorpe Park yet. In addition to the actual ride you can get momento's such as photographs and keyrings with a picture of you onride. The food at the park is expenisve, but they offer plenty of choice, including all the common high street fast food chains and a few little cafe's and resteraunts. Getting to the actual park is easy, as if you are travelling by car the roads are well signposted and you can also travel by bus.

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            • More +
              23.05.2007 15:32
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              A must read.

              'This Book Will Save Your Life' may not save your life, but it will definitaly make you look at it in a new way. It features a man disconnected from the world, who suffers a life scare, and it makes him realise that he has to do something to stop his life from becoming a waste. There is a series of odd events, a new best friend, a son with whom he emotionally reconnects with, and a house by the sea. It was hard to put down, and left a lasting impression upon me. I would definitaly reccommend it.

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              • River Island / Highstreet Shopping / 60 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                13.05.2007 18:40
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                Greatly recommended.

                River Island is a brilliant shop, where i usually buy most of my clothes. They are most famous for their selection of jeans. I also love the way that you can buy casual clothing and fancy things at the same place. The only bad thing is that it takes them a long time to change their lines. The prices are also very expensive. They have a great selection of shoes. Overall i would definitly recommend them.

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                • Hula Hoops / Snacks / 68 Readings / 53 Ratings
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                  03.05.2007 18:02
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                  Bring back the old version!

                  Hula Hoops, those little O's that you put on each finger and suck all the flavour out of. I've not had them in a long time, so i decided to try them again a few weeks ago. What i remember was an incredable tasting snack, but what met my lips (you know when they 'improve' crisps) was much less tasty. They're healthier than before but i dont think that this is worth the loss in taste. I dont usually eat crisps, apart from pringles, and trying these again has completely pursuaded me.

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                  • Life after Death / Discussion / 62 Readings / 54 Ratings
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                    05.04.2007 19:14
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                    Is it right to spend a life a lifetime waiting to die?

                    he debate about whether or not there could be an afterlife or some kind of reincarnation has been present for centuries, unfortunately there will probably only ever be circumstantial evidence to support either side of the argument; however people will always have their theories.

                    Personally I do not believe in life after death, I believe that we only get one chance, and one life, I believe that we should make the most of what we have been blessed with. And the mere proposition of ghosts and spirits roaming the earth undiscovered makes me laugh. Man has discovered how to clone animals, man has set foot on the moon, man has even gained the knowledge of how to prolong human life, and yet after all these years the ghost busters have still not claimed the reward for concrete evidence of paranormal activity. It is not that I dislike those who go in search of an afterlife; it is just that I think they are wasting their time.

                    The earliest recorded evidence of ghost hunting was during 1909, but there are also indications that it was pursued during the mid 1800's, and of course even before then many people had claimed to have experienced ghost encounters. The actual origin, or who concocted the conception of ghosts is unknown. It could have been a little fat boy, sitting in his living room in America, trying to think of another great prank which would cause deception and lies, or it could have been a renowned scientist who found actual overwhelming evidence of paranormal activity but died before he had the sense to write it down. No one will even know, and that is what makes the spiritual afterlife such a great mystery.

                    There is also the idea that stems from religion about life after death, although this is certainly a much more sustainable, and believable argument, it still has its faults, for one, as with all others life after death theories there is a complete lack of evidence. But religion has become such an important part of society that we are brought up to accept that there are god/gods, and not to question it. Atheists and non believers probably have more sense then theists, but they are not blessed with the comfort that knowing your loved ones are up there, smiling down on us and guiding us through life brings.

                    I cannot speak for people of other religions, but it is a basic principle of the Christian church that we should live our lives in order to be accepted into the kingdom of god. The bible clearly states that it should be harder for a rich man to gain entry to the heavens than a poor man, which symbolizes that god would want us to live a simplistic and plain life, in anticipation for the luxuries to come. However, with no way of determining if these promises are fallacies or truth; is It really worth risking the life in which we own for certain, for something that has not even been confirmed? Although many others would disagree with me, I cannot say I believe it is.

                    After questioning friends and family asking whether or not they believed in life after death, and if so why? Only 12% claimed to believe in spirits and ghosts, but almost 80% held strong beliefs about the religious afterlife. When asked why the most common answer was: "Because we need to believe that our beloved late friends and family are still around." This, among other similar answers led me to believe that maybe it is more morality than faith, more hope than evidence that brought people to say that they believed in the afterlife. Perhaps it is because we need to clutch on to the memories to keep sane we fool ourselves into a world of deceitful and hurtful lies.

                    By imagining in out minds that people we love will never leave us then we do not have to let go, we can keep them close to us long after they have passed away. We can easily hold them near to our hearts in times of trying, and we need never believe that we are alone in this world. Comparable to a second god, but with more humanly advice to give these people can become. For others it may be the exact opposite, a way to let go. Knowing that they are somewhere better now could help people cope with loss and grieve, rather than having to face up to the harsh truth that they are simply dead, gone, done, over with. As long as these beliefs do not become extremes then they are probably what keep this world from becoming bitter with hatred and despair.

                    There is a thin line between an innocent belief, and a murderous, callus one. So many people have died in this world as a direct result of terrorism. These are religious extremists, people who will do whatever it takes to destroy the western world, people who will take young minds and form robotized killers. They are willing to give up everything for their faith, and because they think that at the end, when their lives are finished there will be a leader waiting for them, congratulating them on their work to mould the world into a place of worship and fear, they are able to take pride in it. People though out the world watched, mesmerized as the twin towers collapsed on that sad day. The people who did this were sick and twisted, because they lost sight of the beauty of THIS world, they refused to admit that even though an afterlife may exist, there was still plenty of value in the one they were so determined to destroy. They lost sight of life, and that is something I believe we should not do for the cause of any life after death. I may be a Christian, but I am not naïve. There is no doubt that faith, and the afterlife beliefs associated with it cause more problems than they solve. The world would be a much safer place if nobody believed in anything, but than again, maybe it would not be human.

                    When it comes to it - we will all find out one day whether there is an afterlife or not. There is no way to avoid it. We wont be able to share out experiences, and so five generations down the line there will still be people wandering the same things we are now, but that's what makes the life we were given for certain so interesting, the unknown.

                    This life is here to be lived, we have to make the most of every second, cherish every memory. So for now, concentrate on birdsong, the wonders of the ocean, the feeling of love, because someday it will be time for all of us to leave this world and the people we love - whatever comes next.

                    xXx

                    © aestro 2006

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                    • Poetry / Discussion / 72 Readings / 62 Ratings
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                      21.03.2007 15:51
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                      Its a few poems! What am i supposed to summerise!?!?

                      I've written a few (well three) poems that im just a tad proud of... and decided it was my duty to share the magic! :-)

                      It's not that i dont love you

                      I can't stand to be near you.
                      Its not that I don't love you,
                      Because I do,
                      It's just that I can't stand here and watch,
                      While this illness eats away at you.

                      Your too frightned to open the front door
                      Your husband is delusional and your daughter is a whore
                      You can't make decisions; you don't know what to do,
                      I know the feeling, why did it have to be you?

                      I feel lost inside, like im not complete,
                      So guilty I can't help you,
                      Knowing it's an illness neither you nor I can beat.

                      Suspended in the past, entwined in your circumstance,
                      Leaving you will break my heart,
                      But staying would tear it apart.

                      I know that god is there beside you,
                      But sadly I cannot be,
                      So find love, find peace my mighty warrior,
                      Maybe… Another lifetime… it could have been ok between you and me.

                      ------------------------------------------------------------------

                      Reality

                      Tearing me up inside,
                      This anguish I cannot bear,
                      Pain rooted so deep,
                      And yet you need me there.

                      I watch over you in your sleep,
                      Holding you in my arms,
                      I'm whispering that it's all ok,
                      That you won't come to any harm.

                      You were so pure and innocent,
                      But then he came along,
                      The Satan of your own imagination,
                      To take away your song.

                      And so I watch you fade away,
                      A shadow of the past,
                      Haunted by your own demise,
                      Tears fall thick and fast.

                      Im hiding all the bruises,
                      Ignoring the damage that's been done,
                      But in my heart im bleeding,
                      And there's nowhere else to run.

                      ---------------------------------------------

                      Forever Loved

                      You loved with the heart of an angel,
                      You felt with the hands of a saint,
                      You breathed with lungs of freedom,
                      So why were you filled with such hate?

                      Your face was an image of grace,
                      Your smile a symbol of faith,
                      Our love was like an eternal flame,
                      Extinguished by your inevitable fate.

                      --------------------------------------------

                      I dont quite know what to rate it. I think putting 5 stars would seem cocky, and dispite what you may think its NOT bad enough for 1 (stop saying yes - i mean it!)... so i think i'll be nice and safe and give it three!

                      xXx

                      © aestro 2006

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                      • Gliding in General / Discussion / 83 Readings / 76 Ratings
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                        15.03.2007 17:29
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                        If you ever have the chance this is something to treasure, hell even if you dont get a chance...

                        Less than a week before my 14th birthday I was flicking through magazines trying to find a birthday present which would suit my rather dangerous personality, but with no luck. So when my father came into the room and asked me if I had picked a present I was stuck for words, and casually replied maybe skydiving (worth a try.) To my dismay he laughed the idea off, which struck me as odd as I was not joking. But then another idea came to mind - gliding. With a bit of luck it would crash and burn and then I could try skydiving instead! He couldn't argue then. Ok so I wasn't really hoping for it to crash and burn, but gliding had always been one of those things which you see on TV and thought "Wow - it would be awesome if I could try that," full well knowing no-one had heard you and there would be no way you would have to follow through.

                        However I knew that this was one trial flight that would be expensive, as the cheapest price was roughly £80 for 15 minutes flying, no that was not a typing error, so I thought little about it until a week later on the 28th October, when a little brown package arrived amongst all the cards and presents. I opened it bewildered - and then before It had even had a chance to sink in a voice piped up behind me - "happy birthday."

                        A trial flight had been booked for that day at 12:30pm, at booker aerodrome in High Wycombe. But when we phoned up to confirm that the weather was good enough to fly they weren't all too hopeful. Apparently there are three types of weather which will keep a glider grounded. Rain, although it is often possible to fly between showers, heavy wind (and im talking about 30mph here) and a low cloud base. The latter was the problem on this particular day, as apparently it was barely 1500ft. The flight was set to be for 2000ft and they could not fly above the clouds. We decided to go along anyway, if not just to find out where the center was.

                        When we got there we were greeted by an all too friendly lady who explained to us that they had a glider out and were just waiting for clearance to fly. I was then asked to sign a declaration, basically stating that if I died, it was on no part the companies fault. Not really calming if you know what I mean but it had to be done. I was then asked to sign a blue card which came in the envelope which stated I had not been drinking within the last 8 hours or more than 5 units within the last 12 hours. The lady seemed to think that it was funny that a 14 year old should be asked to sign this. But ummmm…. Does anyone know how many units in 3 bottles of WKD and a magners? Anyway… Another man then appeared who further explained the weather situation. Originally I had been set to have been aero tugged to 2000ft but he decided it would be better if I just had two launches to 1400ft instead. I agreed, and after waiting around for another 10 minutes I was lead out of the cabin onto the airfield where we watched the last victim to go up endure a rather bumpy landing.

                        At this point it was freezing, and I was worried that It might be just a tad colder up there, but I was ensured that once inside the glider it would get a whole lot warmer. The last person to have gone out came out of the glider - wielding a smile that was just too big for his face and shouting how awesome it had been. Apparently this was called the gliding bug, and I would be soon to catch it. I was slightly apprehensive about this but went along with it anyway. I was then shown a bright blue parachute; this wasn't actually to save my life - but to make sure that I fitted well into the seat, as all gliders that are used for competition must have space for a parachute. He did explain it though, relatively simple really - just pull the big silver rip cord. This seemed a little too simple and I became worried that I might pull it accidentally and just go flying off. So for the duration of the flight I stayed well away. The parachute was pretty loose - and hanging from my back. The straps were attached under my legs (I didn't know how to use these and it was a bit awkward having him do it for me) and across my chest. To be honest the parachute wasn't all that comfortable - and was so loose that the chest strap was beginning to strangle me. I think I was having second thoughts on the parachuting idea at that point.

                        He then asked me my weight (rather rude as a lady never reveals.) Apparently I was just in the middle of the maximum and minimum which permitted me to sit in the front seat of the glider. He lowered the nose to make it easier for me to get on, and after a bit of fumbling I was in. The glider was cluttered with different equipment - some of which could turn quite nasty if I pressed or pulled them by accident; such as the release for the roof in case of emergency. There was a joystick type control right in-between my legs. This on second thought could look quite wrong if a passing plane were to look in. Imagine what they would see! But I also found this awkward as during the flight when we took a steep turn or dive it would bang up against my leg quite painfully. There was also a bit of yarn attached to the canopy, which although was not explained to me, looked ridiculous for a modern age bit of technology. Nearby were a number of meters or such on the "dashboard" in front of me, such as an altimeter, a speedometer and a compass. I preferred not to know how close to the ground, or certain death we were, the same with the speedometer. So for the entire flight I kept my glaze directly UP. The rudders were kept out of reach from me, so I couldn't control them. Greg - the pilot, then strapped himself in behind me and closed the canopy. Only now did it strike me that I was about to go 2000ft in the air with no engine in something the size of coffin, rather appropriate I thought. I was then briefed on the fact that if I saw another airplane or helicopter or glider I was to shout its co ordinates i.e. 12:00, 3:00… And when in the air before he handed the controls over to me he would shout "you have control" and I was to reply "I have control." By now the butterflies in my stomach were going crazy and out of the mentality that had brought me to this airfield I asked, "What happens if I kill us." Greg smiled and replied that if I died so would he, and he had dinner reservations that evening so that wasn't going to happen, he was quite understanding in the fact that I was absolutely petrified.

                        Somebody else then held the wing of the glider to keep it steady, and to run alongside it for a few seconds as it built up speed, but gliders have exceptional balance, and will come to a standstill before keeling over again. After a few, admittedly odd looking hand signals I felt the tug go taught, and gripping onto my harness for dear life we took off. The glider was airborne, and in fact quite a few meters up before the tug had even left the ground, and this was a really weird feeling in itself. All was noisy at this time but as we rapidly gained height we managed to have a rather pleasant conversation about skydiving, me expressing my interest and him bragging about being qualified. I was aware from the one subject I actually pay attention in that concrete lets out large amounts of convectional heat, which in turn would give us a great amount of height. But it was only as we passed the motorway that I gained perspective of exactly what that means. It was to be the first of many frightening occasions. During the tug to the top there was a lot of turbulence. Now I am not a religious kid, but I found myself praying a lot at that time. This was nothing like turbulence on a commercial aircraft, this was proper, out of your seat, cheeks all funny turbulence. And then there was a click, and all went quite, things became so peaceful and heavenly, and I realized why people could become addicted to this sport. I had touched the face of god.

                        We flew effortlessly for a few moments, in what I was convinced was a complete standstill and then I heard a voice and was brought back to reality. The first thing he said was "do you want to take control", which was followed abruptly by a "no, thanks for the offer but im too young to die." However after a few moments gentle persuasion I put my hand to the joystick. The joystick went in four basic directions, up, left, right and down. However it was nothing like on a computer game, it was amazingly responsive to the touch when making small maneuvers, but once it was pushed into a certain position it did not simply stop going that way when you centered it, it had to be pushed in the opposite direction with equal force. This was tricky to get used too. I also learnt that you could not simply push up to make the glider go up. You had to first push the nose down and go into a dive to gain speed and then bring it up. I wasn't so keen on the idea of going head first down but whatever. So to start with I performed some gentle turns, and a dive which went a bit steeper then I had hoped for, it was only then that I realized the forces it was putting on my body. Safe in the knowledge that the pilot could override anytime I tried a few steeper turns and even managed to catch a few thermals, which we spotted by finding birds that weren't flapping their wings.

                        Greg then asked if I wanted him to perform a turn which would be a lot steeper, I eagerly agreed and he sent the glider into a dive before pulling up and around. The canopy went far below my line of vision, so I was pretty much scared sh*tless at this time, as I looked over the countryside far below, with what seemed like nothing in-between me and the ground.
                        By this time I seemed to have caught the gliding bug and was shouting "AWESOME" at the top of my voice. We performed a few more steep turns and then I was asked if I wanted to do a loop the loop. I gave that one a miss although I am regretting it now, but instead we did a stall turn. At the time I was unaware of what exactly that was, and stupidly didn't ask. So when I found myself looking straight down at the ground at picking up speed at a rather uncomfortable pace to the point where I didn't believe anything in the known universe could save me I was… how do you say, rather surprised. He pulled out of the vertical dive steeply and we, still carrying a lot of speed, went straight up vertically. Until he appeared to let go of the controls at the peak (a rather crazy idea if you ask me) and we swung round to face the ground again, falling fast. When we pulled out I couldn't even speak, I just stayed there, mouth open, trying to take in what had just happened. "You like?" he asked. "I LIKE!" I yelled back, and he performed another for my enjoyment. I was about to ask if it was too late to try that loop the loop when he announced that we had lost too much height to perform any more maneuvers. All went quite for a few moments until I announced that I had felt so heavy there. He told me that we had pulled around 3g and I would be 3 times my weight at that time. Jokingly I smiled and told him we better pull some zero g then just to make sure I was back to normal. Why did I open my mouth? When he asked if I had ever experienced zero g and then if I would like to. How could I say no? We pulled into the steepest dive of the flight, which worried me as we were rather near the ground, and then pulled out - before lobbing it down again. Now when he said zero g I though he meant I would 'feel' it. I didn't think I would actually 'be' it like in space. But he defiantly meant 'be' it. Wow, it was the most amazing feeling of my entire life. I came straight out of my seat, and was floating around mid air for at least 3 or four seconds. All the little particles of dust and dirt came up and floated beside me, and I became instantly breathless, my eyes popping, mouth wide open. When it was over I just couldn't control myself, I yelled out.

                        Now for the landing, as it turned out I had been right - we were considerably close to the ground during the zero g episode, but this had been intentional, as we were coming up to land. At this point it became very obvious to me that I was sitting less than 6 inches above the ground, and we about to land onto a BUMPY, muddy plain of grass. At a very high speed. I was instructed to hold onto my harness again, but to my delight the landing went without problem. And after a few seconds we came to a standstill. "So, you coming back next birthday" he asked. "Im coming back at Christmas" I replied.

                        The flight was organized with booker aerodrome which is situated in High Wycombe, near john Lewis and waitrose. It cost £85 for a trial lesson, but half day and full day courses can be booked for the price of around £200. It takes around 60 flights to go solo and I know I'll be there on my 16th birthday. I even received a sweet little certificate at the end to prove I had been there, done that.

                        For more information visit www.bookergliding.co.uk

                        xXx

                        © aestro 2006

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                        • Paintball in General / Discussion / 67 Readings / 66 Ratings
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                          10.03.2007 18:03
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                          Its going to hurt in the morning so dont go if your a wimp! :-)

                          'There was dull thud, followed almost instantly by a muffled scream. I dared a glance around; Josh was lying flat on his back, clutching his stomach. His gun and ammunition sprawled out beside him. A bead of sweat trickled slowly down the side of my face. Even in the brilliant light of day I couldn't determine where the shots where coming from. All around me I could see people collapsing to the ground, doubled over in agony. I had no bullets left. I stared longingly at the center of the field, where a bright blue flag was displayed. That was when I decided, I was going to go down fighting. Throwing my gun to the floor, I leapt out of the safety of cover, picked myself off the ground and ran. I could hear the sound of bullets whistling past. My vision transfixed on that little blue flag; terror pulsing through my veins. My legs where aching like I had never felt before, and my heart was thudding violently inside me chest, but I carried on, too scared to give in, too scared to give up. Suddenly something hot hit me square in the back, I stumbled with the force. It happened again, in the shoulder this time, pain shuddered through me. I realized now that I was not standing anymore, I was on the ground. My face was wet, and I knew it was not just perspiration behind the mask any more. The world was rapidly loosing colour. I could feel something hot and red between my fingers as I clutched my shoulder. I heard shouting, and a whistle, but they were worlds away, as if I was listening from a distance. Shutting my eyes, I let the world escape me.'

                          During the months following Christmas 2005 I had watched in awe as a friend of mine had rapidly gone through as many ideas for her birthday party as there were hours in the day. Her expectations of the party were minimal; with one simple characteristic she was adamant it would feature; an age limit of 13. Whether she honestly couldn't decided or was just being purposefully annoying I will never know, but to this day I cannot figure out how she managed to spend almost half a year just deciding what she wanted to do. Eventually, to the relief of just about every person she knew, she decided upon paintballing. I couldn't help but smile as she broke the news; it was something I had always wanted to try. And so in the days leading to her birthday, I was overcome with anticipation.

                          I awoke that morning to heavy rain thundering down on my window, and even though it had cleared by the time we were set to leave, it had left in its wake a country clogged with muddy fields and vast puddles. So it was in poor spirits that we trudged down the base. The company she had chosen was 'Delta Paintballing' which was situated in Hemel Hempstead. Finding it was relatively simple, it wasn't well signposted but the directions given post-event were clear and helpful. Because it's situated in the countryside you will also find that locals are willing and able to be of assistance if you do get lost. Not that im implying that people who live urban areas are rude. The time that had been set for arrival was 9:30am, but the event started behind schedule to allow latecomers time to arrive.

                          After trudging down a long, crowded and extremely muddy path we were greeted by staff to check in. They pointed us in the direction of the supply house and we joined a long winding queue. The supply house was basically an oversized chicken shed. They hurriedly handed out overalls and masks before turning their attention to the next in the queue, leaving us to find our own way to a table. This was where we changed, and kept all supplies. We bought gloves, and an extra value pack of paintballs, before being assigned a team. There were around 6 - 8 teams altogether. The teams were set up in pairs, and the team they joined you with would be your opposition for the day. We were green, fighting purple.

                          A long safety demonstration followed. This was both effective and well thought out. Whilst the instructors were comical, they also know when to be serious. The game was explained to us, as was the gun. At this point they made it extremely clear that the guns were dangerous. But it was only when they explained that the paintballs would be traveling at speeds surpassing 200mph, and had been known to knock careless people cold that the realization of where I was, and what I was about to do hit me. The overalls were chaffing my skin, and would provide little protection.

                          There were a total of 6 game areas, which we would pass through in turn throughout the day. Each area would provide two, five minute games. It wasn't only the surroundings that would differ, but also the game play and rules with each new area, so we were warned that we should be flexible. Unfortunately we hadn't chosen the center with the most variety, the majority of the areas consisted of trees, and although they all offered different characteristics, such as a massive ditch, or huts or a fortress, it soon became repetitive. There was one area in which we played speedball that mimicked a farm, with haystacks stacked up to offer minimal protection. This was by far my favourite.

                          After the safety demonstration we waited for half an hour before being led off into the game area. Individually our helmets were checked, before being asked to pick up a gun from the stacks and follow the leader. I found the guns incredibly unreliable, they packed up on me at least twice during the duration of the day, which left me in rather uncomfortable situations as you can imagine. The walk down to each game area was an event in itself, they were rocky and uneven. With the mask restricting your view I saw many people stumble. It also became stuffy and hot inside the ninja suit.

                          Within seconds of arriving at the first area, and positioning ourselves a whistle blew twice to indicate 'game start'. It took a while to adjust to the equipment, and form tactics. Five minutes later I arrived at the 'safety zone' hot, sweaty and covered in dirt. One of my friends had been taken back to base after being shot in the face, and I could hear groaning all around me. I myself could feel a number of bruises forming. The second half of the game was easier, as it involved the same objective as the first half and by now I knew my way around. This time I stayed on till the end, and our team won. It was hard to feel a sense of pride when every muscle in my body was complaining about the way it was being treated. The hike back to base was even more difficult than the one there, as by now we were exhausted.

                          Two more game areas followed, before being allowed a welcome break for lunch. This consisted of either burgers or hotdogs with complimentary salad. We wolfed these down with no problem, paintballing works up a real appetite, and then watched in dismay as someone, im not mentioning any names (Jessica) eagerly got through thirds and fourths. The time which remained was a frantic rush or cleaning guns and masks at the specially designed booth, restocking paintballs and gaining five minutes rest and relaxation. Before we knew it a bell had gone signaling our return to the game.

                          The remaining games were reasonably uneventful. Striking an uncanning resemblance to the first few. They passed in a whirlwind of adrenalin, and I am hardly even able to recollect them. During the last game an event occurred which I was involved in. Someone was stretchered out of the arena and the opposition was disqualified. This won us the game. It was dealt with promptly and strictly by the instructors, showing a great deal of professionalism.

                          I limped for a week after that day. If I look closely I can still see the remains of some of the bruises. But I don't think it would have been paintballing without this agony. There would have been no sense of danger, no sense of adventure. Despite the painful side of it, paintballing is something I will always hold closely to my heart, and I will always remember the people I met, and the funny moments. I would advise anyone looking into trying paintballing, to check out Delta Paintball.

                          More contact information is available on http://www.deltaforcedirect.co.uk/

                          xXx

                          © aestro 2006

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                          • More +
                            18.02.2007 20:29
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                            Whatever age you are, this book is for you.

                            A less than satisfactory grade in my English module last term resulted in the purchase of this book. Well, that was the excuse I used for the bank of mum. In reality I had heard of it through friends and decided that it was time to read something new. Having just recently read things such as 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Pride and Prejudice' i assumed that the novel would be quite an easy read by my standards. In actual fact it was a surprisingly hard read, and there were several times I had to use a dictionary as reference.

                            Although the book does contain a warning that it is not suitable for younger readers, it is also generally categorized under 'teen reading.' Some of the more advanced younger children would probably have no problem understanding the context, in exception to a few words as I stated above, and therefore might be able to gain access to it through a parent or guardian. I am well aware that kids grow up faster these days (I am one of them,) but I wouldn't recommend the book for children of roughly under eight or nine, depending on the maturity of the child, as it does have things of an explicit nature written down, including a pretty heavy love scene around half way through the book.

                            The book is one of the very few I have read that kept me glued to the text throughout. Out of the trilogy it is certainly the most preferable. The writer has managed to create a world of exact opposites to the one we live on now, which gives the reader a much clearer perspective of racial prejudice. With many unexpected and sudden twists to the storyline, and an ending to die for (literally.)

                            The novel revolves around the lives of two people, of two different cultural backgrounds, who grow up together and fall in love, a love which they must keep secret from the world for fear of criticism and even corruption from within the government. Callum is a nought, one of the underprivileged in a society ruled by crosses, such as Sephy. Sephy refuses to conform, as she fights for equality. Even though they both share the same ethnics, the same love, in a world so eaten up by hatred and bitterness they must learn the hard way that some things are never meant to be.

                            The story follows Sephy and Callum as they grow up together, as they share memories. It follows them as they learn about the harsh realities of the world and fight to bring down injustice. Their friendship is frowned upon by many even as young children. But as they grow and develop criticism turns to hostility, and eventually violence. The reader is forced to watch as the children, once so innocent, turn callus and cynical. Even through the love that they share they begin to form resentment for the others status, and eventually, bitter with fear and hatred, turn into what they spent their lives fighting.

                            The last few chapters of the book are by the far the best, although they leave unanswered questions. I kept expecting there to be more, I turned the page and I hoped with all my heart that there would be more, that what had just happened could not be the end. I almost cried when I realized that there wasn't. Malorie Blackman has the completely indivual power to create relationships between fictional characters and the reader, making the ending even harder to bear.

                            The book contain 422 pages of medium size print, so even for the most experienced of readers there's a good three or four hours reading involved.

                            In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this book. It is truly one of the most moving, heartbreaking novels I have ever read, and whatever age the reader it's a book they will be sure to enjoy.

                            xXx

                            © aestro 2007

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                            • Motorola RAZR V3i / Mobile Phone / 74 Readings / 69 Ratings
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                              07.02.2007 08:59
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                              Unlike the phone, you'd have to be thick to get this! Aka me.

                              It was only after my old 3g phone was dropped from a considerable height (4 stories) and completely smashed to pieces that I was finally able to indulge in a new phone. So after looking through a few magazines and websites, and then actually seeing the phone once I made the impulse decision to buy the Motorola v3i. Next time I know I will put a lot more thought in, maybe then I won't make the same mistake.

                              Inside the box, firstly and most importantly you get the actual phone. A slim, sleek mixture of navy casing, black plastic and rubber weighing in at just 100g. With a depth of just 13.9 mm it's easy to see why this phone became such a best seller. Although it's slim it's not actually small, and when you open it out it's transformed into a modern day, slimmer version of the brick phone. It's decorated with an "M" sign which lights up when the phone is opened or closed, or a call is received. This is admittedly a very useful feature. There is also a small screen on the front which portrays the time, and a smaller version of your display picture. One thing I noticed about this phone was how easily it scratched; I wouldn't be lying if I said my ipod scratched less. For some reason greasy fingerprints had a resilience to being rubbed off, and because of this, alongside with the scratching, within 2 months the phone was a mess. The one thing the Motorola came out tops in was how it fared in wet weather. Although it would completely soak the phone, I never had any problems because of it; simply leaving it to dry seemed to do fine. The battery slots into the back of the phone, underneath which you place your sim card and literally TINY memory card, which I was having problems putting in because I couldn't see it. The cover then clips onto the back. This took some time to achieve, and at first I thought the phone was broken. But after a good half hour fiddling I smacked the phone down on the table in frustration and miraculously, the cover was securely on. You then leave the phone to charge for around 6 hours, although this is what was recommended in the manual, I only left it for 3 or 4 and it seemed to work fine. Alongside the charger in the box there is a USB cable which allowed synchronization between the phone and computer where using the software, a software CD (more on that later,) a guidebook, a useful information booklet which gave information of customer services, a little brochure with quick easy to use information on the most prominent features and a small book which explained the warranty. The items inside the box may vary slightly depending on who you bought the phone from and what service you've signed up for. The guidebook in particular was easy to read and gave clear, helpful instructions.

                              You may also receive a number of other devices, depending on which service provider you use. But I signed up with T-mobile and they didn't offer any.

                              At first sight the camera was actually one of the things that attracted me to the phone. Being 12 and incredibly naïve I believed that if you could turn the picture black and white - it must be the best phone on the market. However the 1.3 mega pixel camera was incredibly hard to use. In retrospect it's not that complicated. There is one camera, but two different methods of viewing what you are photographing. The first is through the main screen, but the second is slightly more unusual. You close the phone once the camera function had been commenced, and you can view yourself through the small screen on the front I mentioned earlier, almost like a mirror. Once the photo has been taken it is stored to the memory card (or phone but there is a lot less space here) on a 1280 x 960 pixels resolution. From there it can be set as wallpaper, screensaver, or uploaded to your PC vie the Motorola phone tools software. It can also be sent by multimedia messaging to another phone or by Bluetooth. Despite all the assuring specifications, the camera really isn't that good. 1.3 mp isn't that brilliant to begin with, but to get even a half decent picture the lighting needs to be perfect, and all subject of the picture must be completely still. Around 50% of the photos I have taken with this phone have come out blurred, and to be honest - I don't think it's worth the space it uses up.

                              Although I am aware that the Motorola v3i supposedly supports quad band, I have not been able to access it. I have traveled to Germany, America and Portugal since I purchased the phone, and it hasn't worked in any of those destinations. Despite the fact that I realize I may have to activate something or contact Motorola to enable the feature, I received no instruction on how to do so, and it is not mentioned in the guidebook. I have the same problem with the internet, in my opinion this is malpractice on the part of Motorola.

                              All popular forms of messaging are supported by the V3i. Simple text messages can be sent and received with a limit of 160 characters via SMS, and most people I know would get nowhere near that amount when texting. Audio, video and picture files can be sent and received via Multimedia messaging (MMS) easily but not efficiently as it can take up to three hours to arrive. The Motorola V3i also supports the next generation of texting, enhanced messaging service or EMS. And an email address can be easily obtained. The phone also claims to support instant messaging, but I have found no evidence of that.

                              The video reveals the same problems as the camera, and eats away at memory space at a remarkable speed. It is low quality even on the highest setting and once into 4x zoom it is basically impossible to recognize more than an outline of what you are videoing. I believe roughly one minute of video can be taken at a time, but it depends greatly on how much space you have left on the memory card, as even a half full memory will cut down videoing time considerably. Once taken the video can be viewed and renamed easily.

                              The Motorola V3i doesn't have infa red technology, but it does support Bluetooth. Bluetooth enables the phone to connect wirelessly with other phones or a computer. If you wish to go hands free then this feature is essential. When the Bluetooth is working well then it is fine, but sometimes it is just a complete disaster. Other people have found it hard to pick up my Bluetooth and I have found it hard to transfer data via it.

                              The mp3 player on this phone is sufficient for anyone who just wants to store a few songs, but for die hard music fanatics I wouldn't recommend it. The phone comes without headphones, and large arrays of formats are unacceptable. So transferring songs from your computer to the phone is a lengthy and tiring process.

                              Alongside the phone when you first venture into the box you will find a CD, this enables you to download the Motorola phone tools software onto your computer. This in turn allows you to transfer data between your phone and computer. It was easy to install and although it takes a few minutes to work each time you use it is relatively hassle free, a lot better than the majority of phone software.

                              The phone also features a voice dial/memo, a speaker independent voice dial, a speakerphone, a currency converter and calculator, a PIM function as well as T9. It supports Java Games and is compatible with apple itunes.

                              The battery life doesn't commend praise. If the phone was being used heavily than a phone charged that night would die out before 3:00pm the same day, and even in light use a 2 day span was rare. The meter which indicates how much battery was left was incredibly misleading, as I would pick up my phone and check the battery life before leaving home, it would be fine and then ten minutes later I would open it again to find a glowing red message "BATTERY LOW."

                              After all the disappointment with the extra features on the phone, I at least expected the reception to be good. But it wasn't. When I first invested in the phone and made a call, there was a faint but noticeable buzzing sound in the background. I managed to persuade myself that it was just a small technical error and would soon fade, but as time went on it only grew more persistent, and gradually louder. I was also annoyed to find that, for instance when I came out of the underground into the open it would generally take around 10 minutes for the phone to pick up a signal again. At times the signal on the phone would disappear without warning, and take up to an hour to reappear. Texts could also go walkabouts or take copious amounts of time to be received. As far as I know im not im a well known area for poor reception and none of my old phones have had the same problem, so im led to believe that this phone is just special.

                              So there I was, stuck under contract with a phone that refused to work for 18 months. I was dreading what my mental status would be like when it was finally time to trade it in. But then, one day my phone did something - it froze. I noticed it starting to freeze more often, within weeks the display picture had faded and gone off center. It was finally time to accept that my Motorola v3i was dying. Such as young death - only 6 months old, but even so, a plausible excuse to exchange a piece of equipment that I had grown to hate. Eventually I stepped back inside the carphone warehouse store, this was where it had all started, and this was where it would end - or so I thought. Because the phone had only been bought 6 months ago I expected a replacement, or at the very least a repair. They agreed to repair it and we left it with them, expecting a phone call once it had been dealt with. But weeks came and went and still no phone call, so the decision was made to go back without one. They claimed it had been fixed almost a week ago, and refused to answer when we asked why we hadn't been contacted, but grateful at least that it had been fixed we went home. The Motorola repair company had not fixed the phone as it turned out; all they had managed to do was transform a phone that was dying into a phone that was dead. It would not even turn on now. So we took it back again. This process of taken back and then returned in worse condition than before went on for quite some time. And it is still not over. The next time I go back it will not be to pointlessly attempt to fix a phone beyond repair; it will be to cancel my contract or demand a new phone. Who knows, I might miss the little fella once it's gone.

                              For more information on Motorola visit www.motorola.com

                              xXx

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                              • More +
                                01.02.2007 21:58
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                                Quick, cheap, easy... but with the odd bit of bone!

                                Gregg's was founded as a family bakery business on Tyneside in the 1930's by John Gregg. But it was only when John Gregg passed away during 1964, that under the careful supervision of Ian Gregg, the son of the deceased, the business truly began to flourish and develop. He embarked on an ambitious expansion plan, which would see multiple stores opening - first in the north east, and then finally the entire country. Carrying on with the family tradition the business ensured that all produce was baked fresh, and it line with that particular part of the countries heritage (such as stotties in the north east.)

                                It was 1972 when Gregg's first expanded abroad, with Gregg's of Rutherglen opening in Scotland. And by 1984, with each individual shop based on the principle of good, freshly baked food, there were a total of 261 shops across four divisions and Gregg's, now an internationally recognized icon, finally made the decision to float onto the stock exchange.

                                Growth continued over the next 10 years, with further shops opening in both already well established divisions of England and the additional acquisition of new regions. By 1994 the company had grown to have seven regional divisions operating more than 500 shops. The acquisition of the retail bakery interests of Allied Bakeries Ltd enabled them to venture into new geographic markets and the conversion of 90 of these shops in South and West London created their eighth regional division - Gregg's of Twickenham (which was recently merged with Gregg's of Enfield to create Gregg's south east.) The final piece of the Gregg's jigsaw was the purchase of Birketts, a family bakery business in the Lake District, to create Gregg's of Cumbria.

                                Since then Gregg's has developed into the most widely known, best established, value for money bakery to ever bless out streets, with over 1000 stores nationwide. Thank god for John Gregg or I would never have had the pleasure of tasting 'The Gregg's Sausage Roll.'

                                Back to the year 2006 and in particular Eastcote high street, where I live, and where there happens to be a rather conveniently placed Gregg's. There is of course also a Gregg's in Ruislip, Ruislip manor, Uxbridge (all places near where I am situated,) in fact there seems to be a Gregg's hiding on every street known to man. However the Gregg's in question I pass every morning on the way to school, and what would I do without it? I must know the menu better than the hospitals (anyone who gets to know me will quickly learn what I mean by that.) And I have come to love the authentic British taste that oozes out of every aspect of Gregg's.

                                When passing I will often pop in for a steak melt, or a sausage roll or a sandwich. In fact, it is very rarely that I will purchase something sweet. Unlike the majority of modern bakeries, Gregg's business is at least 2/3 based on savories.

                                Before my long awaited and expected hormonal teenage diet, the customer service at Gregg's was impeccable. My regular visits initiated a friendly, almost mother to daughter like relationship with the woman - Grace I think her name was, who worked the morning shift on weekdays. We would exchange a quick chat about exams or whatever was on my mind, and I never had a problem with incorrect change or anything formal like that. The customer service was almost part of the Gregg's experience. Then, after the diet, and the realization that I could eat cr*p as long as it wasn't a regular thing I returned, only to be greeted with the knowledge that Grace had been fired. I still do not know why, but it wasn't so much loosing the old staff that irritated me, although obviously it upset me slightly, it was meeting the new staff. God what a b*tch, from the moment I met her it was blatantly obvious that she had a problem with me, and although I managed to act politely around her, it took all my willpower not to do something very vindictive, and very evil, which I will not explain as there may be small children reading this review. I spoke to friends and a few people who I know shop at Gregg's and they complained of the same problem, so after she had been working there for less than 6 months, she disappeared mysteriously, this may or may not have had something to do with my chat to the manager about her less than friendly service. But im happy to say her replacement was fine and I have had no problems since.

                                Gregg's stock a wide range of sandwiches, ranging from the more conventional tuna mayo, chicken salad and BLT to somewhat stranger combinations. I think I have even seen a chicken tika and cheese once! Not only do they sell a wide range of fillings, but also of breads. Crescent shaped whole meal sandwiches, triangular white (perfect for fussy children,) French bread sandwiches. You name, Gregg's will stock it and more. I am certain about the freshness of these as I have watched them being made individually by members of staff in the morning. Their freshness guaranties their absolute delectable taste. Almost definitely among the best I have eaten, and I'm a sandwich freak so that really is a compliment. They also cater for people who would like to not just pick up a sandwich off the shelf, but choose exactly what they want in it, including whether or not they want butter/mayo. There is no extra cost for this which I think is fantastic. The only complaint I would have is that I once or twice have found a bone in my chicken sandwiches, although this is not a major problem, I found it considerately annoying. Prices range from roughly £1.15 - £2.00, although I know this will vary in different stores nationwide, all though this may not be perceived as amazing at first, when you are aware that a soggy equivalent from budgens costs generally 40% higher, it suddenly becomes a lot more favorable.

                                I have never actually purchased a loaf of bread from Gregg's, being a supermarket shopper, but I can clearly see from behind the counter that they offer a superb variety. And from word of mouth it certainly receives an at least decent rating.

                                Gregg's are the proud founders of so many original ideas for sweet treats, updating some of the old cakes, and selling the ones we love best at exceptional quality. They concentrate mainly on donuts, and through the years I have seen at least 15 to 20 different forms of donuts be born, and eventually gain a respected place in bakery through the Gregg's name. First there is the traditional jam donut. Not only do they sell these individually, but they also sell them in packs of 5, and in packs of 20 (mini donuts.) I think when I was a lot younger I tried these, and from memory they were as good as any other common brand name donut or even small bakery businesses. They also sell ring donuts in the form of chocolate, pink icing, white icing, chocolate drops, sprinkled… you get the idea. And then just to add the icing to the cake (yes that was corny) they also sell caramel donuts, which is basically a jam donut but with a caramel filling and caramel icing covering the top. I don't usually like caramel, but these, like so much of Gregg's produce, were just special. One thing I strongly disagree with is the lack of chocolate donut (I get very angry when these aren't sold lol,) and although I can easily purchase them elsewhere, it is annoying having to alternate shops. Gregg does also sell all the other cakes you would expect, gingerbread men, chocolate éclairs and a whole range of other gorgeous cakes. Although they are indeed gorgeous, cakes were not what made Gregg's famous, and it shows. Because there are other places out there that sell much better quality sweet food. (Try 66 bakery is Ruislip manor if you're in town.)

                                And now we come to what is my eyes is Gregg's ultimate selling point, the savories. I'm deadly serious that if you have not tried a Gregg's sausage roll then you have not tasted real proper English grub, no, scrub that, you have not lived. Crunchy, yet still soft and succulent golden flakey crust, covering a tender, spicy (not sure why but it works well) juicy sausage. (OMG THAT SOUNDS WRONG!) I used to be addicted to these, it is worse than alcohol, it is worse than nicotine, I am surprised there are not yet Gregg's sausage roll support groups. Anyone who has had the privilege of tasting one will agree with me, I will bet my ipod nano on that. They also sell bakes. Steak bakes are by far the most popular, although I have never tasted one. And chicken bakes are my favourite, although cheese is following close behind. For the vegetarians out there vegetable bakes are also available, although you wouldn't get me eating one. And it wasn't until I walked through the door of Gregg's for the first time that I realized someone would be insane enough to conjure up and sausage and baked bean bake. I must admit I haven't been brave enough to try one, but It certainly sounds… interesting. Cornish pasties are also a firm favourite. The entire savory range is at the very least, heaven on earth.

                                Gregg's also sell a SMALL range of crisps and chocolate, and drinks such as water and coke which are chilled to perfection. But if that's what you are looking for I wouldn't come here.

                                Gregg's really isn't for the health conscious, as apart from the breads and a few of the healthier sandwiches, they don't cater very well for people watching the carbs/calories. My only real concern with Gregg's is how quickly things tend to sell out. My mid day (I'm often very late for school,) all the sausage rolls are gone, and be 3:30 so are the bakes. But I guess that's just the living reminder of how popular Gregg's are, and always will be. I've said it before and I'll say it again, all praise the Gregg's Bakery.

                                For more information on the history of Gregg's and their ethics and beliefs visit www.greggs.co.uk

                                xXx

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                                  28.01.2007 20:19
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                                  Good Ipod... shame about the dock.

                                  When the original ipod nano was released - of course I wanted one. Every child within reach of a TV or newspaper wanted one; the slender design and stunning good looks captivated the entire buying market. Shops were overcome with demand, as everyone from thirty year old recovering alcoholics to five year old juvenile delinquents with credit cards rushed to seize up what remained. Meanwhile, the creators at Apple lapped it up; they sat and watched the stampedes forming with smug grins on their faces - anticipating the inevitable success that was still to come.

                                  Less than a year later and Apple have sprung back into the limelight with a revelation they call the 'second generation'. Admittedly it hasn't been greeted with the same media frenzy, but that isn't it's purpose. Over the past year, competition for the top name as an mp3 player has become fiercer than ever, and while more advanced players are being developed - Apple are hanging on for dear life with a conception that has gotten old. The new range of Ipod's, (a second generation shuffle has also been released and the video should be updated in the new year) is in my opinion, a marketing ploy that will enforce Apple's 'name' and keep them relatively safe from any competition, at least for the next few months. Not being one to allow a crazed millionaire to sell an essentially average product at extortionate prices without getting a piece of the action, the new Ipod took first place on my Christmas wish list.

                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                  The new line of Ipod Nano's, available in 2gb, 4gb and 8gb, check in at £99.99, £129.99 and £179.99 respectively. The price of the higher end version is interesting, due to the fact that it falls only £10 short of the 30gb Ipod video. This suggests that prospective buyers of the Ipod Nano would be more interested in the iconic reputation that comes with it, or the aesthetics, than they would be with the storage capacity. Apparently Apple knows their customers better than we thought.

                                  Each particular model of the Ipod Nano range comes with its own pre-selected list of colourations. And whilst both the model with the lowest storage capacity and the model with the highest are limited to only one colour each, the mid-range 4gb exceeds with a multitude of versions being sold. The fact that the 2gb Ipod Nano is only produced in silver; which could be perceived as slightly dull, could have been intended to propel colour-envious individuals to opt for the more expensive 4gb - a devious move by any standards. Meanwhile the 4gb is produced in not only silver, but blue, green and pink. Considering that the Nano's target market is mainly teenagers, these colours seem to suit everyone. A limited charity edition has also seen red being added to the list of colours, alongside the original four. The only colour the top of the range black model permanently features is black, although it is also temporarily reaping the benefits of the red charity edition. The black model also hosts a black clickwheel, and is the only Nano where the colour of the clickwheel matches the colour of the body. As I opted for the 2gb silver, this is what I shall be reviewing.

                                  What's in the Box?
                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                  The packaging of the second generation Ipod Nano has experienced a radical change since the original was brought out, with an immensely small plastic shell replacing the thick black box that Ipod's are usually housed inside. This 52% reduction in volume seems to understate the whole nano feel, as well as being something for the environmentalists to shout about. Suspended between two transparent supports lies the actual ipod, underneath which the accessories are hidden in a white box.

                                  Removing the Ipod from it's supports is enough to leave anyone breathless. It feels incredibly desirable resting in my palm, and within seconds has left a lasting impression upon me. Apple have designed yet another winner, and exactly as you would expect - the Ipod Nano could be described as both elegant and simplistic. Aluminum casing has replaced the aged 'shiny' metal, which strikes an uncanny resemblance to the short-lived 'Ipod Mini', but the infamous clickwheel remains. Something that struck me with the first generation Ipod Nano was how fragile it felt, as though it would break with the slightest gesture; and I was keen to test out whether this fault remained. Amazingly, it hasn't. The Nano feels sturdy, and I've learnt to trust myself with it.

                                  According to Steve Jobs, the second generation Ipod Nano is even thinner than the first. Common sense disagrees with him, as does a naked eye comparison. If it's thinner than it's not by much. Upon inspection of the specs, I discovered that it is indeed thinner, by an entire 0.01 inches. Well, no-one said that Steve Jobs wasn't one for exaggeration. Aside from the incredible difference in depth, all dimensions remain the same. The newer Ipod Nano does seem a tad taller, but im assuming that this is a trick of the eye.

                                  Once the ipod has been safely removed - the plate of plastic which features the supports can be lifted up to reveal two white cardboard flaps. Delve even deeper and we come across the contents of the box.

                                  Apparently the size of the packaging hints at what's inside, because I had to use a magnifying glass to find anything. The usual three tree's worth of paperwork is missing, and in its place we find a small wad of leaflets, neatly held together with a plastic seal. I would have deemed these completely useless, if it had not been for the illustrations. I remember my first Ipod, and the nightmares I had pointlessly trying to discover what went where - so I can imagine the illustrations would be extremely useful to 'Ipod Virgins'. Saying that, the written instructions told me nothing that I needed, or even wanted to know, and I set up my Ipod based on memorized experience rather than from non-existent guidance from Apple. Being stubborn, I just couldn't accept that Apple might have decided to banish the full set of instructions - and so I set about finding them. Sure enough, squashed into the back of a leaflet, I found a link to the Apple website; full to the brim with helpful hints and tips.

                                  We then come across a seemingly useless piece of white plastic. Apparently this is called a dock adapter, and allows me to use the nano in a universal docking station; where I would charge my Ipod. The actual docking station isn't included with the Nano, thanks to certain tight individuals - and having already spent in excess of £150 on the Ipod, insurance and accessories, I couldn't ignore the advice of my parent's bank manager any further without risking serious punishment; therefore I can't comment on it. However I seriously can't imagine there being much wrong with a piece of white plastic.

                                  The USB cable included has proved invaluable to me. Obviously without it I wouldn't be able to transfer files, nor would I be able to charge. But my old one was beginning to look like it'd spent a week in the coal mines.

                                  Compared to those included with the last Ipod generation, the new remodeled set of earphones are incredible. Aside from the structure change, which I noticed helped keep them in my ears; they're not at all discomfortable. They've also become more slimlined, and therefore better looking, which is always a plus. However, it's not because of the way these earphones look or feel that im singing their praise. It's because of the amount of noise reduction. With my old earphones I would find myself turning the Ipod up to maximum volume, in an attempt to cut out background noise. Not only was I damaging my hearing by doing this, but it was in vain anyway. With these, there is simply no need. Noise reduction is not effected by volume, and background noise is minimal. It's true that there are better earphones out there, but for Apple this is a significant improvement, and a tribute to their advances.

                                  One thing that was missing was a CD. Apple claim that this is no longer needed, because the software can be downloaded from their website. Call me old-fashioned (at your own risk,) but I much preferred the CD as a method of getting Itunes; it was much more straightforward, and downloading had no chance of being interrupted by a faulty internet connection. I already had Itunes 6 installed on my computer, but needed an upgrade to Itunes 7, which is readily compatible with the new range of Ipod's. Frankly, the new Itunes isn't that much of an improvement, although it's easier on the eye.

                                  Usability
                                  ~~~~~~~

                                  In case of the unfortunate event that you have been locked in a dark room for the last five years; I'll explain how the Ipod works. The actual Mp3 player features one simple click wheel, which in fairness is all you need; and the simplicity of which has made Apple famous. You spin your finger around the wheel to change volume or browse through tracks, and press the center button to go forward, (like an enter button.) There's then a play/pause button at the bottom of the wheel, and a menu button at the top. The menu buttons takes you back, so it's strange that it's called a 'menu' button. On each side of the clickwheel there is also a fast-forward/backward button. The click wheel is touch sensitive, and feels almost next-generation to use. There is also a small switch at the top, which in effect locks the wheel. Because Ipod's are touch sensitive, it's extremely easy to press something you didn't want to press whilst it's in your pocket, such as the volume control - so I'd advise you always use this. On the bottom of the Ipod are two sockets, one for the earphones, and one for the USB cord.

                                  Something which has always been a characteristic of the Ipod range, is that they never switch off. They seem to sit in a semi-sleep form until you press a button and activate it again. Hypothetically you can hold down the play button and it should switch off, but I find this has the same effect as simply leaving the backlight to switch itself off. This guzzles unnecessary energy. Once the Ipod is 'awake' you are brought to a main menu - featuring the options - music, photos, extras, settings, shuffle songs and now playing.

                                  Press the music button and you come across a whole range of ways to find the song you're looking for. New to this ipod is the search feature, which doesn't live up to expectations.

                                  You can upload photos to your Ipod via the USB cord, I've tried this and I have to say I don't see the point. The screen is so small that viewing becomes a chore instead of a pleasure, and even with the new improved screen, quality is nothing to boast about. I also found it a waste of valuable memory.

                                  There is also an extra's menu. Basically you get a clock; with Californian time already installed, (I assume this is where they make the Ipod.) Setting the time and date for England couldn't be easier, as all times zones around the world are included in a list, from which you pick and choose to go on the main screen. If I, for any reason found myself without a phone or watch, (presumably I'm on a desert island here?) then the Ipod makes for a great replacement. The clock is also handy whilst traveling because you can view multiple times simultaneously. A few simple games, which I found hard to use with the clickwheel, also feature. As does a contacts list, a calendar, stopwatch and notes section. Just don't ask me what I was timing with the stopwatch. ;-P

                                  The last three items on the main menu explain themselves.

                                  Durability
                                  ~~~~~~~

                                  The last time a nano was released people went home with sparkling new, gorgeous ipod's, and returned a few days later to the shop complaining about the fact that their ipod was now a scratched up mess. A law suit was even claimed; personally I didn't see the point. Yes, my ipod too was completely scratched up, but I took out insurance for a reason. And they should have been aware when they invested what it was they were investing in. It's hardly the manufactures problem if they weren't insured. Deep breath…

                                  Whatever your view, this time round it's not a problem. I've had the ipod for a few weeks now and although it's obtained a few minor scratches there's nothing serious. I've dropped it numerous times, and on the one occasion that it actually pulled free from the earphones and fell to the ground it left the incident unscathed. I've also sat on it, and it came out from that fine as well.

                                  A friend of mine put it through a washing machine (im assured that it accidental) and although it effectively died during the cycle, it came back to life after a few hours of being dried, with no lasting damage. For me this is a relief, knowing how accident prone I am!

                                  Improvements
                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~

                                  According to apple, the new ipod nano is updated with a 40% brighter screen. Held alongside the older version there is certainly a noticeable difference. Everything about the first generation ipod is starting to look slightly aged, but I think this is where the biggest improvement lies. The words are easily recognizable on the screen, in comparison to being blurred as with the first generation; and the brighter backlight makes usage in dark places easier.

                                  Apple also claims a longer battery life of 24 hours. Especially for this review I decided to test that theory out, and left it playing music overnight. I returned the following morning expecting the ipod to have died, but as a pleasant surprise I found it just over 2/3 full. In fact, the little bugger refused to die. It took a grand total of 29 hours 34 minutes for it to stop working. This is by far the best battery life I've ever seen in an ipod. And not only does it fulfill the claims made by apple, but they seem to have underrated it's powers. This is a day I thought I'd never see.

                                  Accessories
                                  ~~~~~~~~~

                                  Alongside the ipod I bought a pack of six 'ipod socks' to protect it. They look jazzy and seem to be doing a good job. I hated having to dress my ipod in the dull thick casing (eliminating the whole point of the nano in my point) which for a long time was the only option - so this somewhat more fashionable form of protection is a must. The only downside was the cost, as even on Amazon they were upwards of £15. Cheaper alternatives are available, but for me it's all about the label.

                                  There are hundreds of accessories to go alongside the nano range, all of which are marketed at excessive prices (in the true name of apple) and all of which look simply stunning. The only other thing I have thought of investing in is the Nike + ipod set, although that could get rather costly with the trainers having to be bought as well.

                                  ~~~~~~~~~

                                  So has it worked? Has apple come foreword with an mp3 player that will continue to stun prospective buyers throughout the New Year? For me, yes. True, the instructions are junk, and apple were too tight to include a docking station; but as an mp3 player, this is the daddy.

                                  xXx

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