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danrange

danrange
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Member since: 24.02.2010

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      12.08.2010 01:16
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      Not one that I would recommend for a romantic night away

      Travelodge London Covent Garden is really a difficult place to review. On one hand it is a Travelodge and you should know what to expect when you book in there but on the other hand, this place isn't even that cheap at busy times.

      I stayed there at the end of May during pretty major looking building work, however apart from looking unsightly, it wasn't an issue as we stayed on a Saturday night and no work was being done there. We ended up at the Travelodge as we left it late and couldn't get a room anywhere local for less than £300 and this place was 'only' £160 for a double room including breakfast.

      The staff were helpful but in a vaguely disinterested way and seemed to just be rushing through everything and they clearly rushed through making up our room key as it didn't work. Not normally a major issue but not very good when you are staying in a different building across a main road from where the Reception is.

      The room itself was very large but also incredibly, incredibly basic. Aside from a (relatively comfortable) bed, a fitted wardrobe and a tiny desk, there was no other furniture in what was a very empty looking room. The bathroom was smaller but similarly basic. Most annoying though was that there was no air conditioning or fan in the room and this meant that at night there was a straight up choice between not being able to sleep because the room was sweltering hot or having the window open and not being able to sleep because of the constant noise from the main road.

      Breakfast in the morning was a redeeming feature though and I would recommend it if you stay there. It is a basic breakfast buffet with some cooked foods but it really does the job.

      In short, stay here if you have to stay near Covent Garden but if you can get somewhere else for a similar price, then do.

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      10.08.2010 00:24
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      Recommended reading if you are keen on Soviet history. Less recommended if you are not.

      Gulag by Anne Applebaum is the winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize and is possibly the definitive one volume book on the Soviet Gulag system.

      I am very keen on Soviet history and have read a number of books that have touched on themes such as how the Gulag system operated, what life was like in the Gulags and how many people were involved in both the operations of them and how many were incarcerated. Nothing that I had previously read though gave nearly as much detail as Applebaum's book and very little of it was as shocking. To be sure this really is not a book for those who are easily upset as it details what is little more than the systematic torture of over 18 million people across just over half a century.

      That said though, I do wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this era of history.

      The book begins with a look back at the prison systems of Tsarist Russia in an attempt to trace the ancestry of the Gulags and then goes on to look in depth at how the first was formed and how it was run. From there the spread of the Gulag system and the fascination that Stalin in particular had with it is explored before the book starts to go into more detail about who was in the Gulags, what life was like in them and the diversity in the system. For example some inmates mined gold, some made children's toys and some did nothing. From there the book in it's final few chapters explores the demise of the Gulag system after Stalin's death and finally talks about how the Gulag system has (or rather hasn't) permeated Russian culture today.

      If I have one real criticism of the book it is that Applebaum herself sounds rather weary and fed up with the subject by the time that we reach the epilogue. I certainly wasn't!

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      06.08.2010 01:07
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      They gave my wife and I a day to remember and I can't speak highly enough of the Chapel.

      My wife and I got married at Gracelands Chapel at the end of May. This being the first (and hopefully only) time that I have been married, I have no other experiences of being wed to compare Gracelands Chapel to. What I can say though is that it was a fantastic experience and that the staff at Gracelands were fantastic.

      We picked the Chapel out online and that Jon Bon Jovi got married there seemed to swing it for my wife. Being from the UK we had not laid eyes on the Chapel until the big day came and I have to say that en route there I was petrified at the thought of it being a cheap, tacky and grotty place. Stepping out of the limo it seemed that my fears were about to be confirmed as I will be frank and say that the Chapel is not in a nice place in Vegas. It is on a busy main road that is littered with Bail Bonds premises and places to pawn gold.

      However stepping through the doors of the Chapel calmed my fears. Inside it is very nicely and tastefully decorated and the staff there were incredibly hospitable and kind. They really made it feel like it was our big day and ours alone, yet they did a wedding every hour. I really don't know how they do it and that we enjoyed the day is a credit to them.

      We had an Elvis package wedding where an Elvis impersonator sings 3 songs for you during the ceremony and I must say that he was very good and did not mind posing for photos after either.

      In all the ceremony, the Elvis impersonator, the Minister and having the ceremony hosted online for those back home cost us just under $400. A snip compared to the price of a wedding in the UK.

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      • Fallout 3 (Xbox 360) / Xbox 360 Game / 3 Readings / 3 Ratings
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        06.08.2010 00:55
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        Not just one of the best games of it's generation but one of the best ever

        Where to start? This game is so huge that one could write a book length review and still miss bits out! I am not even joking there.

        To start with the basics of the plot and premise seems the best place and so this game is set in the near future of an alternate timeline from our own. A timeline that has experienced a massive nuclear war and that still has a distinctly 60s feel to it. You begin the game in a secure underground Vault, safe from the horrors of the war and the world outside but sealed in and unable to leave. All this changes when your father suddenly escapes and you are forced to follow him out into the Capital Wastes of what was Washington DC.

        From the moment that you leave the Vault you are pretty much free to do as you please. You can follow the main quest and track your father down if you want or you can just spend day after day wandering the wastes and choosing your own path. Want to be a scrap trader? Then do it. Want to be a slave trader? Then do it. Want to kill everything in sight? Then you can do that too. This really is the most open ended game that I have ever played.

        As for the actual gameplay itself, it is part first person shooter and part role playing game. You can just run and gun as you please but the VATS auto aiming system is great fun to use and by far the most economical way of doing things in terms of conserving ammo. You gain experience and build up your strengths and abilities as you go and after a few days play, things that were seemingly impossible are now a piece of cake.

        The graphics in this game are stunning, particularly in high definition, and the game is incredibly tense and atmospheric in places. Stalking around the smoldering ruins of DC picking off armed mutants is literally hair raising.

        The only true faults that lie in the game are with the often dodgy voice acting (though there must be thousands of hours of it and so some bad stuff can be forgiven) and the all too frequent bugs and crashes. They only happen every now and then but the game suddenly freezing and crashing on you shouldn't happen once let alone the 5 or 6 times that it has happened to me.

        That said though, you would be mad not to try this game out. It is one of the greats.

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          06.08.2010 00:36
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          Well worth a try now that it is at a budget price

          Having been a long time player of the Konami football series from when it was originally called International Superstar Soccer back in the Super Nintendo days up until now with the XBox 360 PES incarnations, I was intruiged to see how this game and this genre would work on the Wii.

          I have to say that I have not been disappointed. Some of the controls are absolutely great such as being able to point and click to have players make runs to where you want them to go off the ball and swinging the Wiimote to activate an offside trap. Some however are less great such as the idea that swinging the nunchuck should be the primary method of shooting. It doesn't work well and takes you out of the game somewhat- a real flaw with many Wii games that rely on motion control.

          However I am prepared to give Konami the benefit of the doubt here. What they have done with PES on the Wii is give it a new lease of life with innovative and generally very well thought out controls. All the usual features are in the game such as Exhibition matches, all the cup variants that you can think of, the Master League mode where you take a team to the top from scratch and a more than passable online mode.

          I must also say too that the commentary is as awful as it has ever been in PES games (though some dismiss this as being a charm of the series) and that the graphics in comparison to XBox and PS3 versions are really dated looking. That final gripe though maybe says more about the Wii than Konami's efforts.

          You can pick this up for under £10 now and if you are a PES fan then you owe it to yourself to try it.

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        • Virgin Trains / Transport National / 9 Readings / 6 Ratings
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          27.02.2010 03:23
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          They aren't perfect but I don't hate travelling with them

          I commute from London to Coventry at least once a week and often have to travel between London and Liverpool and London and Manchester too. This over the last year or so has made me very experienced in the good and bad sides of Virgin Trains.

          Virgin Trains run from London Euston along 5 different lines that terminate in Holyhead, Sandwell and Dudley, Liverpool Lime Street, Glasgow Central and Manchester Piccadilly. There is one further line that runs from Birmingham International to both Glasgow Central and Edinburgh. This is the only line that I do not have any experience of. Generally my experiences on all the lines that I have used have been rather generic.

          The good points about Virgin Trains are that they usually run to time, the newer trains are very nice and the Pendolino ones shave a lot of time off of your journey (most trains are new), there is reasonably good on board wi-fi and a trolley service/buffet car. All trains have First Class sections as well as two designated but unpoliced quiet carriages. If you travel First Class then wi-fi is free as is access to a very snazzy lounge at the major stations. You also get a round of tea and biscuits.

          Now for the negative points: Virgin Trains are very dear if you pay on the day or are travelling at peak times before 0930 on weekdays and some of the older stock trains are still in service. These are very dated. Also the trains, old and new, are almost always very busy and there have been several occasions when I have had to stand for a 2 hour + train journey. Not what you need at the end of the day and the staff were not very helpful either.

          On one occasion the train was very busy because the previous two had been cancelled. The standing hordes (many of whom had reservations on those two cancelled trains) were not allowed into the near empty First Class section without buying a ticket upgrade and so had to stand.

          To get the best and most cost effective experience from Virgin Trains I would advise booking off peak tickets well in advance to save yourself a fortune and get yourself a seat reserved. I have paid £256 for an open peak return to Liverpool from London on the day but have also paid £22 return between the same stations by booking in advance and on fixed, off peak trains. The difference in price is huge.

          Overall Virgin Trains offer a good service that gets you from A to B quickly when things run smoothly. When things don't run smoothly is when the cracks appear and you end up cursing them but that is probably true of all rail operators and we are inclined to remember the journeys that don't run smoothly far more than the uneventful ones.

          In short: Book in advance and cross your fingers on the day.

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          27.02.2010 02:53
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          Nice but a bit of a one use wonder

          I have always wanted a globe, I don't really know why, I just have and my Fiancée has always wanted to brush up on her questionable geography skills and so buying a new house seemed an ideal time for us to splash out on the The World Puzzleball.

          The World Puzzleball is a 540 piece jigsaw puzzle made up of slightly curved pieces that when clicked together form a football sized globe. It also comes complete with a little stand that keeps the World on its axis and enables you to rotate it. The stand also keeps you or anything else from having to touch or exert any pressure on the assembled globe. We have already had to make a few emergency repairs when it has been knocked or over-enthusiastically touched!

          The pieces themselves are sturdy enough and are made out of a good quality plastic. They also have to really be clicked into place. The problems come when clipping large assembled sections together or when trying to put the final piece in the puzzle. We ended up having to employ a set of tweezers to finish the job.

          None of that is the manufacturers fault though, it is just the nature of the beast and there isn't much that they could do about it being difficult. Just as there isn't much that they could do about most of the Earth being covered in blue water. It is no surprise but the Oceans were the dullest and most difficult bits to put together, luckily though the pieces are numbered on the back if you decide that you want to cheat.

          Overall we had great fun putting it together and I got my globe whilst she learnt where Peru is. It also makes a nice quirky living room decoration and pretty much everyone who has visited us has commented on it. I felt that it was expensive at around £20 but I never thought I would enjoy putting it together as much as I did. In total it took the two of us 4 or 5 hours over two sittings.

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          27.02.2010 02:14
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          If you like literature then there is no reason not to read this.

          The Old Man and the Sea is a short story be Ernest Hemingway set over several days in the life of an aged and impoverished Cuban fisherman. This fisherman is the Old Man in the title and is only ever referred to in the story as the Old Man, in the same vein the Old Man's companion is simply known as the Boy.

          The Old Man is very down on his luck and hasn't caught a fish in 84 days. Because of this the Boy is not allowed by his parents to fish with the Old Man any longer and the Old Man relies without asking or being asked on the Boy to take care of him. The Boy dotes on him and it really is a very touching and simple story of friendship based around their love of fishing, baseball and though never spoken, one another.

          This all sets the scene over the opening few pages of what is a very short book of less than 100 pages in my recent edition. Things however become rather less placid and much more dramatic when the old man heads out to Sea alone on the 85th day. What follows over the next two thirds of the book is both a gripping tale of one man against nature itself and a very clever and well written inner monologue from the Old Man.

          Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 for this piece and I can see why. This was the first Hemingway book that I ever read and one that I have loved since. You can read it in a few hours and I believe that every fan of literature should. It is a beautifully and nearly flawlessly written piece and is both deceptively simple to read and incredibly concise.

          I have heard various deeper meanings for the story debated by I prefer to think of it as just being a great piece of accessible literature.

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          • Commando (DVD) / DVD / 4 Readings / 4 Ratings
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            27.02.2010 01:32
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            Great for what it is- A non-pretentious explosion and one-liner fest

            Commando is a 1985 action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and is real great example of both a pumped up Arnie and the 1980s genre of cheesey action films. The film also stars a very young Alyssa Milano as Arnie's on screen daughter. Schwarzenegger plays a retired Special Forces Colonel called John Matrix and the story is set around his daughter's kidnap from their idyllic mountainside home by Matrix's old commanding officer and his mayhem wreaking battle to save her and get her back.

            The film is 18 rated in the UK and does feature a lot of violence, explosions, gunfire and death but the thing that makes this film stand out from other 80s action films such as the first 3 Rambo films is that it is funny. Very funny in fact. There are a huge number of great set pieces and one liners that are incredibly quotable be it Arnie killing someone on a plane and asking the unaware Stewardess not to wake him because he is 'dead tired' or him ripping out the seats of a sports car in order to keep a 'low profile'. Whoever wrote the script had some fun because I really doubt that Schwarzenegger was ad-libbing.

            The storyline is, almost as you would expect, not up to much though and follows the basic plot of Matrix's old commanding officer wants him to come back and fight under him, Matrix says no and so they kidnap her and force him to work for them. Matrix fights back and in the process jumps out of an airplane, runs amok in a mall, steals a car complete with female lead, loots a gunstore and blows a lot of things up before setting a big final fight scene up. It is an 80s action film by numbers in that respect.

            The only other major failing in the film from my viewpoint is that they only appeared to employ 3 stuntmen and so when Matrix is single-handedly massacring an army all you see is him killing the same 3 men over and over in a number of different ways. One has a beard, one is a bit fat and the other one is very average looking. Keep an eye out for them towards the end!

            To conclude, this clearly isn't a film for when you want something intelligent to watch and nor is it a film for first dates, anniversaries or Valentine's Day but it is one of the best for when you want to switch off your brain for 85 minutes and laugh along as a musclebound lunatic blows up everything in sight.

            I upgraded from old copy on VHS to DVD recently and at around £5 I would advise fans of the action film genre who don't already own this to buy it.

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          • betfair.com / Internet Site / 5 Readings / 4 Ratings
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            27.02.2010 00:16
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            A great site and one that gives a new dimension to betting

            Betfair is an online gambling site with a major difference, on here you can be the bookie. Betfair is what is known as a betting exchange and is the largest such site in the World. In betting exchanges rather than betting against a bookmaker with odds set by them you bet against other punters with odds either set by yourself or themselves. The Betfair site merely provides you with the means to do this and takes a commission (between 5% and 2% of winnings dependent on how much you spend on the site). The site taking commission, whilst annoying, is somewhat offset by you generally being able to get much better odds on it than you do at traditional bookies. Betfair claim that odds on their site are around 20% better.

            The basic premise is that if you think an outcome of an event will happen then you can 'back' it whilst if you think that it will not happen, then you can 'lay' it. If you think say Arsenal will beat Manchester United next time they play them and you back this at 2/1 then you will win back twice your stake and get your stake back. However if you think that Arsenal will not beat Manchester United next time they play then you can lay on this and win the other person's stake whilst risking whatever they would win. In the case of £10 bets you would be risking your £20 to win the person backing Arsenal's £10 and they would be risking £10 to win your £20.

            This may initially sound quite confusing and daunting, but trust me when I say that it isn't as complicated as it sounds. Betfair also have excellent customer service and should you have any questions or queries you can either use their online guides or call them up 24 hours a day and speak to a real and knowledgeable person. You can tinker with the odds if you wish and see if anyone will accept them and you can, of course, put limits on your liabilities.

            Because of this ability to bet on an outcome not happening Betfair has had its critics and the most vociferous of these have been other bookmaking firms and some sporting bodies, both of whom claim that the concept leaves sport much more open to fixing. After all it is much easier to make sure a horse doesn't win a race than it is to make sure that one does isn't it? However I personally think that it is a brilliant concept and though most of my bets are traditional ones where I back an outcome, I do use the ability to lay quite often.

            An example of the sort of thing that I lay on regularly is the team playing against Inter Milan at home. Jose Mourinho, the former Chelsea Manager and current Inter Milan Manager, has not been in charge of a team that has lost a home league game in well over 5 years now and so if you lay on whoever Inter Milan are playing (basically betting on any result other than an Inter Milan defeat), then you tend to win a lot as Inter don't tend to lose at home. You can also use the lay feature to 'hedge' other bets.

            Away from my gambling habits and back to the site though and it offers the full range of markets to bet on. You can do your traditional sports like Horse Racing, Dog Racing, Football, Tennis, Golf and Boxing as well as pretty much every other sport that you can care to name and you can bet on other markets such as TV events like Big Brother and X-Factor, politics, the stockmarket and the currency exchanges. Domestic and international markets are available for pretty much all events and there are normally multiple markets available- with football there are about 30 things in a game that you can bet on or against ranging from correct score to first goalscorer to the number of corners in a game.

            With most events, and especially the bigger ones, you can be sure of always having someone to bet against. As I said, Betfair is the largest betting exchange in the World and they claim that they had over £30 million worth of bets placed when Andy Murray played Roger Federer recently.

            The layout of the site is very user friendly once you have taken a tour of it and got the gist of how it works but the basics such as depositing money and withdrawing it are a doddle. All major debit and credit cards are accepted and unlike any other gambling site that I know Betfair also allows you to keep track of how much you have deposited and how much you have withdrawn. I feel that this is a very responsible thing for them to do as it is occasionally very sobering and stops you getting carried away.

            Betfair also run their own onsite casino with a full range of table and slot games. Several of the casino games claim to have zero house edge (meaning that they are completely fair) and the roulette wheel for instance does not have a Green 0 meaning that bets on Red or Black are actually 50/50 bets.

            The site does have its flaws though. The first would be that it tends to run and update very slowly during big events. I presume that this is because of the amount of activity on the site and the number of bets getting placed and accepted but it can still be very frustrating. My other quibble with the site is that because of the nature of the exchange system you cannot place football accumulators in the same way that you can place single bets. You can place accumulators in a separate section of the site but it is not as good and it is against a traditional bookmaker and not other punters.

            To conclude I would say that if you are a comfortable bettor who understands the general concepts of backing and laying or of you are keen to learn, then Betfair is a great site to use. However if you want to place a simple bet every now and then, there are better and more straightforward options out there. Personally I love it though.

            If you are looking at signing up then hunt around online first and you will find special offers that give you £20 credit when you deposit £20 and the like. Every little helps and all that!

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              26.02.2010 17:02
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              Worth a read but not before you have read 'A Million Little Pieces'

              'My Friend Leonard' is the sequel to James Frey's debut book 'A Million Little Pieces' and picks up with him leaving jail and setting off to embark on his new (and hopefully sober) life. Things however do not go to plan right from the start, but I don't want to fill this review with spoilers in case anyone goes on to read it.

              To set the scene Frey was a 23 year old alcoholic and drug addict who was on the run in 3 States at the time that his parents placed him in rehab. 'A Million Little Pieces' covers the time that he spent in rehab and this memoir covers his life after his release from the jail term that he served immediately after his spell in rehab. The time span covered by the memoir isn't made expressly clear but by adding together the time between events you could estimate it to be about 5 years.

              The main theme of the book is Frey's relationship with his adpoted father figure Leonard, a shady gangster type whom he met in rehab, but the book also deals with Frey's many ups and downs on his quest to live a normal and sober life.

              I read this book almost immediately after finishing 'A Million Little Pieces' but not before I had found out that Frey had been exposed as having fabricated events in both books. Upon inspection there is a disclaimer in latter editions that the work isn't entirely non-fiction. This soured the book for me somewhat, though not to the point that I didn't enjoy it and I would not like it to be said that Frey is anything but an outstanding and talented writer. Again, as with his first book, he conveys raw emotion and human feeling incredibly vividly.

              My main problem with 'My Friend Leonard' is that it all seems too far-fetched. This is nothing that isn't on the back cover of the book and so it isn't spoilers but Frey effectively ends up working for and being looked after by Leonard the gangster father figure that he met in rehab and makes a small fortune. Maybe it is all true give or take and maybe it is mostly made up but either way it is a fantastic and enthralling read. As with the first book I struggled to put this down and got through it very quickly.

              I would definitely recommend this book but will say that if you intend to read it then you have to read 'A Million Little Pieces' first as Frey does give some of the backstory at the start of 'My Friend Leonard' but not hardly enough. Also keep in mind that it isn't entirely a non-fictional memoir and you should really enjoy it.

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              • Wii Fit (Wii) / Nintendo Wii Game / 4 Readings / 3 Ratings
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                26.02.2010 01:56
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                Worth it if you are thinking of getting fitter without massive lifestyle changes

                Wii Fit is the first of Nintendo's games to make use of the balance board that comes packaged with the game. This makes the price of the package rather steep but it is a great piece of kit and is incredibly sensitive to the even the most minor of movements.

                The basic premise of the game itself is to encourage physical activity and increase fitness whilst having fun. The presentation of the game is very similar to that of Wii Sports and you can even use your Mii avatar in the game as well as seeing those your friends etc popping up against you in games and in the crowds. It is a very nice and typically Nintendo touch.

                The games themselves are broadly split into 3 categories: There are the fun mini games were you use muscle groups and exercise without really noticing, there are the Mii based activities such as jogging where you certainly do know that you are exercising and there are the Yoga and stretching based regimes which are a more seriously presented. You can either play these as and when you feel like it or you can set up your own training regimes. With all of these games and activities you can unlock more and more as you go based on how long you spend playing the game.

                The game also keeps track of your weight, your Body Mass Index (BMI) and can help you to monitor and improve your posture and weight distribution. The accuracy of the balance board and its sensitivity really is remarkable and everything is very easy to control and very straightforward. My Fiancée is the main user of the game in our household but I have taken it round to my parents so that my Mum could have a go at it and she didn't struggle to use it at all. Quite remarkable given that she has never played a console game before and a credit to the game's designers.

                The package is really good, very well designed and slick and is a good exercise tool but it does have its faults. The presentation of the game and the emphasis on using the Mii avatars is possibly a bit kiddy and whilst there is a good selection of games and activities, they do get a bit samey and repetitive after a while. The only other fault with it that jumped out at me was that the game pushes you to use it and measure your progress (ie weight loss) every day and I am not entirely sure that this is a healthy approach.

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                26.02.2010 01:42
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                Stay here if you are on a budget and/or not planning on spending much time in the hotel.

                The Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino is a moderately priced 3 star hotel located smack bang in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. When we stayed there towards the end of last year we paid around £30 per night and I really doubt that there are many hotels in the World that offer such a prime location at such a low price. I have heard that it is closing soon to be replaced with a 5 star hotel and this would certainly make sense given where it is located.

                As to be expected with a hotel of this calibre, the rooms and amenities are okay but not great. The decor looks a bit tired and in need of a refurbishment in places (though if the rumours of it closing are true then this isn't going to happen) and the walls seem to be a bit on thin side as you can hear everything that goes on in the corridor and rooms either side of you. The other negatives of the rooms are the lack of safety deposit boxes and that there are very few elevators that go up to them. Quite often we ended up queuing on the ground floor and needing to let 2 or 3 elevator loads of people go ahead of us.

                However it isn't all bad. As I have already said, the hotel has an absolutely prime location but it also has its own rather nice casino. The casino is a bit on the small side compared to others on the Strip but it is also very moderately priced and seems friendlier than most. In typical Vegas fashion they are also very liberal with giving out complementary drinks too!

                The Imperial Palace is also a good place to dine on a budget. There is the main buffet which runs all day and is absolutely huge as well as a very solid room service menu of Club Sandwiches, Burgers etc. I ordered room service once when we were there and it was prompt and good.

                Overall I would recommend The Imperial Palace if you are looking to do Vegas on a budget. It doesn't have the glitz and the glamour of the hotels and casinos around it, but it does have them for neighbours.

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                26.02.2010 01:05
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                A must for Whisky fans

                Having been introduced to the world of Whiskies by a friend of mine several years ago I quickly settled on Islay Malts as my preferred Dram of choice. Islay is an island off the West coast of Scotland that pretty much solely produces Whisky. With around just 4,000 people living there Islay has 8 large distilleries. One of these is the Laphroaig distillery.

                The Laphroaig distillery is known for producing some of the most intensely flavoured Whiskies available and Laphroaig Original Cask Strength is a great example of this. Cask Strength means that is not chill filtered or diluted at all, what you get is what comes straight from the cask. This means that not only is it notably stronger in terms of alcohol by volume than normal store bought Whisky (circa 58% compared to 40%) but also that it has a much stronger flavour. It is recommended that you add a drop or two of water to enhance the flavours and I would support this.

                The taste itself is exceptionally peaty and very smoky, very full bodied and incredibly smooth. There is no harsh acidic aftertaste. A non-Whisky drinking friend of mine likened it to breathing in cigar smoke and I can see where he was coming from with that. It is certainly one to be sampled slowly and makes an excellent end of evening or after dinner drink.

                To conclude if you haven't really tried good Whisky before and would like a good and not stupidly priced introduction or if you are looking for a good gift, then I would recommend this. If you aren't sure that you would enjoy it then I would suggest finding a bar or pub that serves it and trying out a Dram or two there before forking out on a bottle. The taste isn't for everyone.

                PS: Don't pay more than £40-£45 for a bottle. It is priced higher than this in some places.

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                • More +
                  25.02.2010 14:09
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                  A book that needs to be read

                  This book is billed as being a memoir of a 23 year old hardcore drug and alcohol addict who has abused his body to the point of near death before being checked in to a rehab clinic by his parents. The book found widespread fame in the US when Oprah Winfrey picked it in her book club. This pick was a break from the norm as she generally only picks 'safe' books that are considered classics and therefore a memoir full of tales of drink and drug abuse as well as violence and bad language from a relatively unknown author caused quite a shock.

                  The book hit the headlines again a year or so later when an independent investigation found that Frey had over-dramatized some events whilst flat out making others up. Finding this out after I had read the book somewhat soured it for me and I think this should be disclosed by the publisher and author at the start of it.

                  That aside though, this is a great book. I read a lot but can safely say that this book is one of the first 300+ pagers that I have been unable to put down and gone through in a day. I honestly sat up until nearly 4am finishing it off and then went out and bought the sequel the next day.

                  The story starts with an injured Frey being loaded off an airplane and into the arms of his parents who take him somewhat against his will to a rehab centre. We then follow his detoxification and are introduced to a wide range of characters that he meets, befriends, becomes enemies with and falls in love with in the centre. We are also treated to him having root canal surgery performed on four of his teeth with any painkillers, not for the squeamish or those that already fear the dentist!

                  I want to say more about the story, however I am very mindful of spoilers and I don't want to give too much away.

                  Ultimately this a really good book and one that really rips open the full range of human emotion and lays them bare. If Frey did fictionalise most of this, then he is still one hell of a writer. The furore around it not being a true memoir did, as I said, sour it a bit for me and I felt a bit cheated when I found out. Had I known beforehand then this may not have been the case but that is the only thing stopping me from giving it 5 stars.

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