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delawney

delawney
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Member since: 26.01.2002

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      15.11.2003 19:08
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      This Q&A challenge can help newbies find out what dooyoo is about and, if many established members participate, what the community is like and will hopefully convince them to stay and become active. To be sure, everything has been said before, but has it had any impact? Only for a limited time until the opinion disappeared from the front page. by presenting the tips on helping new members in the form of a questionnaire which can be done by several members the impact can perhaps be prolonged. Several members, better: Many members, to show that many roads lead to dooyoo. Q: When did you join dooyoo? A: January 2002 apparently. I had to go and look at my profile to find out! Q: How did you discover dooyoo? A: Completely by accident. It was from one of those websites that tell you how to make money on the internet. I was a bit skint at the time! Q: Why did you join? A: In all honesty I didn't really understand the site. I don't even remember the sign up process - it was all a bit of an accident! I posted a highly dodgy opinion (see below) and then suddenly people started reading it! Bit unfortunate for them that they did really! Q: What was your very first opinion on ? A: It was on the website that brought me to dooyoo in the first place. It was totally, totally pants, and subsequently got blocked! I did update it to make it a bit better, but I have to confess I'm still not proud of it. It would have helped if I actually understood the website I was reviewing at the time! D'oh. Q: Did you find it easy to get the hang of dooyoo? A: After I'd made the mistake so many new members do of churning a few rubbishy opinions (on the Speaker's Corner in my case) I finally discovered how to read the comments and had a bit of a shock! Showing an unprecedented amount of sense on my part I actually followed some of the advice offered, wrote my first "decent" opinion (fo
      r which I got my first crown - yay!) and updated the crappy ones I'd written before. Q: Did you read other opinions before you posted your first one? A: Only a couple and as it turned out they weren't really very good examples. Plus, I didn't really have an understanding of the site, so that didn't help. If I had one criticism of dooyoo it would be that they really don't provide new members with enough info, so it's really easy to start churning out a load of rubbish and make a twat of yourself. I would recommend all new members read loads of opinions before they post their own - remembering to rate and comment, then more people might read their first opinion when it's posted! Q: Do you write no/some/many comments? A: I try to comment wherever I can. I love to read the comments to my opinions, so it seems only fair to leave them. Admittedly, if I've been away for a while and I'm trying to catch up on lots of reading I may be a bit less conscientious, and I don't leave a comment if I can't think of anything intelligent to say! Q: When you click on the list of Newest Reviews, do you read your friends' opinions no matter what they're on/according to subject no matter who has written on it/preferably the opinions of new writers? A: I do try and read all the reviews of writers I like (emphasis on try there, since I have been away for some time!) no matter what the subject, though I may draw the line at opinions on football, even if they're written by my favourite writer! I do enjoy reading new writers as well, and that was one of the fun parts about being a guide. Q: Do you write your opinions in one sitting? A: Usually, but not always. Depends on how complicated the subject matter is! Q: Do you use a spell check? A: I'm afraid I don't, as I write in notepad to avoid all the punctuation complications. I know I could write
      in Wo rd and then copy it to notepad, but that would be too easy wouldn't it! So I guess the odd typo slips through. I do update my opinions and correct them when I spot them though! Q: Do you think you can improve your chances to get a crown if you suck up to a guide? A: Definitely not. Having been one I've never experienced that, and it would probably make me less likely to want to nominate an opionion, although as a fair person I would still nominate if I felt it was worthy. Q: Are you a member of a forum or a chat room? A: I am a member of Chatterweb but I have to confess to being really pants at remembering to go in and check what's going on! I do use the wonderful tooyoo though ;) Q: Does it get to you when members praise or condemn you? A: I love to get praise. I'm only human after all! If people make constructive criticism (such as some I received on my first highly dodgy opinions) then that's cool. If people are just obnoxious then I'm afraid I don't give a toss! Q: What did you do in your spare time before you joined dooyoo? A: Spare time? What's that? Seriously though, I don't think my use of my spare time has changed that much - I just have to make time for dooyoo! Q: What do you wish for the future? A: Capital letters (I religiously put them all in to MALU's heading - no doubt they will all be gone by the time this is posted!), no more "?" for punctuation, more emphasis on continuing to develop the community and fun which the members seem to want but the site seems to be hindering. Do write your own answers to Malu's questions. The heading paragraph on mine is hers.

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        10.11.2003 04:53
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        Every so often there comes a time in your life when you have to take a deep breath and say - "darn it, I need to sort my life out!" (or words to that effect). So, having finally decided I was indeed completely miserable in my job, I decided to look for a new one, closer to my family, 250 miles away. So, that's what I did, and now mr delawney and I have to find a new house 250 miles away, otherwise it might just be a little bit too far to commute. Thus, I'm in the process of taking out my fourth mortgage, and like the three before it it will be with the Natiowide Building Society. Choosing a mortgage is a tricky and confusing thing. Should I have a fixed rate? A discounted variable rate? A tracker? How much can I afford? How much will it cost? How much will I actually have to pay back? Isn't it all just a little bit too scary? Perhaps I should just by a caravan and be done with it. First time round I used one of those independent financial advisor thingys. Not sure how good they are really, unless you get very lucky. Anyway, all he seemed to do was print out a load of the current offers from some groovy search facility he had, and I pretty much did all the choosing. Darned quick way to earn a commission, if you ask me. The mortage I settled on was a fixed rate mortgage with the Nationwide. It wasn't the lowest interest rate, but it wasn't far off, and I liked the fact that although there were some redemption penalties during the fixed rate period, it was portable (i.e. you could continue the mortgage on another property if you moved house) and it didn't tie you in to a variable rate for any period after the fixed rate ended. *** Products on Offer *** The Nationwide currently offers the following types of mortgages: * Standard Variable Rate Mortgages (attached to their current mortgage rate) - no redemption penalties * Fixed Rate Mortg
        ages (2, 3 or 5 years) * Discounted Variable Rate Mortgages (2, 3 or 5 years) * Tracker mortgages (track the Bank of England Base Rate) (2, 3 or 5 years) - on these three types of mortgage, a reasonable redemption penalty if redeemed during the term, but no tie ins afterwards. The mortgage is portable, so you can move house without incurring a redemption penalty. As far as I am aware the Nationwide do not currently offer an "offsetting" arrangement with a current account. I have not provided interest rates as these change all the time, but whenever I have moved house I have always found their rates to be very competitive, and this time is no exception. *** So What's The Process Then? *** It was all a bit scary the first time, as I wasn't really sure what to expect, but the Nationwide made it really easy. You start off with a visit to your local branch to see your mortgage advisor, and they talk you through the whole process. Stage 1: Can you afford it? The first thing they will do is check your income (and your partner's income, if applicable) and your outgoings to see if they are going to be prepared to lend you what you want to borrow. Now, if you've been a bit over zealous with your offer you could fall at the first hurdle, but you can't blame the Nationwide for that! Stage 2: Choosing your mortgage Your mortgage advisor will then help you select the type of mortgage ("product") you want to apply for. Basically, this means they will explain what the different products are, and what the monthly repayments will be, but the final choice is really up to you. If you are not confident in this area, this may be the point where you wich to seek independent advice. Stage 3: The application Having decided which product you are going to spend the next 25 years or so servicing, the mortgage advisor will then work through the applicati
        on with you and if applicable your partner. They will need to see all your addresses for the last three years, proof of identification (current passport or driving licence) and if it is your first application with them they will probably want to see proof of income as well. This usually consists of your last three months payslips and your last P60 (year end tax form from your employer). They will also ask your employers details so they can contact them for a reference. Stage 4: Coughing up Before your application is submitted, they will also want some cash. They're not going to do anything for free you know! They will need a mortgage arrangement fee (currently £185) and payment for either a building society valuation of the property you are purchasing (£175) or a Homebuyer report (approx £350 depending on the property). They won't start processing your application until they have payment, and you also won't be guaranteed the mortgage rate you have applied for until they've got some of your hard earned dosh. Stage 5: The waiting Then, you wait. And wait. Maybe bite your nails a bit. You'll get your valuation/homebuyers report. And then if all is well, shortly after, you'll get your mortgage offer. In my experience (3 times and starting the fourth) the Nationwide have always proved extremely prompt in this respect. Stage 6: Afterwards I have never, ever had any reason to complain about the service offered from the Nationwide. Quite the opposite in fact. They send accurate annual statements (I check them!), and if you can't be doing with only checking them once a year, sign up for online banking and you can view them from the comfort of your computer chair. I have already moved twice since taking out my first mortgage, and have always found it extremely easy to make my new arrangements with the Nationwide. On both occasions, I took out additional mortgages rather than redeeming
        my original (fixed rate) one. This gives you the added bonus of being able to spread your risk, and have different types of mortgages (e.g. a fixed, a variable and a tracker). My portable fixed rate did indeed prove portable, as it has already moved twice! As an extra bonus, life is much easier for an existing Nationwide customer. When you move house, they give you free mortgage protection insurance for the first year. When your product comes to the end of its term (e.g. the end of a fixed rate period) the Nationwide will write to you in advance to let you know. If you do nothing, your mortgage will simply transfer to the Standard Variable Rate. If you want to arrange a new product, you just pop in to your branch and arrange an appointment with a mortgage advisor to do so. The process is extremely straightforward, and once you have decided on your new product all you will have to do is sign a piece of paper and hand over your £185 mortgage arrangement fee. Sounds steep for half an hour's work on the Nationwide's part, but in their defence I don't think they're any different to any other lender in this respect. *** The Verdict *** All in all, I have never had any reason to be anything but happy with the mortgage service I have been provided with by the Nationwide, which probably explains why I have been back again, and again, and again. Moving house once more (and this time on a much greater scale!) it's nice to have the familiarity and the confidence in the service I get from them as a lender.

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          06.07.2003 20:29
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          THE QUICK REVIEW (For those in a hurry) Michelle Branch made a little impact on these shores with her first major release, "The Spirit Room", released in the UK last year. It spawned a moderate hit with the brilliant "All You Wanted". "Hotel Paper" is the second major release from the delightful Michelle, and shows a little more maturity from the youngster whilst still maintaining the youthful energy and effervescence of her debut. The opening track and first single from the album "Are You Happy Now" grips you instantly, a vibrant rocky number with a delicious twist of bitterness. No doubt Michelle will be hoping to capitalise on the recent success of young rock(ish) chicks from across the Atlantic such as Avril Lavigne. That is not to say her music is by any means a carbon copy of the likes of Avril - Michelle came first for a start - and she definitely demonstrates more maturity in her music. A combination of great songwriting talent, a brilliant and solid vocal ability and a pinch of guest appearances from the likes of Sheryl Crow and Santana make this a real must-have for your collection. "Hotel Paper" is due for it's UK release on Monday 7 July. THE FULL OP Michelle has quite literally just turned 20 - on July 2nd in fact - and this is already her second major release. She positively oozes talent - as well as having an excellent voice, she is an accomplished guitarist and a talented songwriter, having written or co-written all the songs on the album with the exception of the Santana number "The Game of Love". Michelle offers us an accomplished follow up to her first major release "The Spirit Room". Admittedly the album is in a similar vein, with Michelle presumably hoping to repeat her success. However, you do feel Michelle has matured a little and grown into herself with this album, with I think somewhat b
          etter crafted songs showcasing more of her talent and skill. You can here the progression with the inclusion of "Everywhere" from her first album as a bonus track, which whilst not out of place on this album does demonstrate her development a little. "Hotel Paper" is full of exceptional songs, with a predictable but still delightful mix of up-tempo catchy numbers and delightful ballads. Michelle is beginning to demonstrate her versatility as an artist in a more coherent way than the brilliant but occasionally disjointed "Spirit Room" album. The album is not officially released here until Monday 7 July. I got it a little early thanks to CD Wow! who sent it out after it's US release a couple of weeks ago. *** The Packaging *** No unusual packaging or gimmicks here, but an attractive CD booklet nonetheless. It provides all the lyrics, so that's me happy! There are plenty of pictures of Michelle looking thoughtful and holding her guitar. *** The First Listen *** I loved this album right from its very first listen - and there are certainly some tracks that instantly catch attention. However, this is an album that benefits from further playing, and some of the less instant tracks certainly exhibit depth that grows on you. *** The Track Run-Down *** *** INTRO *** A bizarre opening - about 12 seconds of not much in particular. Just some strings that sound like they are being played through a radio. *** ARE YOU HAPPY NOW *** "Could you look me in the eye And tell me that you're happy now?" This is the first single from the album (in the US at least) and is an excellent album opener. It starts relatively placidly with a little bit of piano and some somewhat breathy vocals from Michelle. Slowly it builds up into a belter of a chorus that just begs to be sung-along to (in fact,
          I am singing along now!) It's a classic, bitter-tinged post relationship rant, and it's fantastic! I really hope that this will be released as a single here in the UK and will give Michelle the UK success she deserves. If you visit www.michellebranch.com you can view the video (which is also very good) on line. *** FIND YOUR WAY BACK *** "I used to get away with so much Now I can't get away" The mood lifts a little with the next track, which has a somewhat softer, more poppy edge than its predecessor. It's still a distinctly catchy number, and perhaps somewhat more uplifting than the bitter edge of the opening track. Definitely one to get the foot tapping, and perhaps the one I've been humming the most after the first few listens. *** EMPTY HANDED *** "I'm packing my bags 'cause I don't wanna be The only one who's drowning in their misery" Once more, a fairly gentle opening building up into a more powerful chorus, though not on the same rock level as "Are You Happy Now?". One thing Michelle does consistently throughout this album, and indeed on "The Spirit Room" is to show a real competence in the use of contrast, expertly constructing songs to make the best use of "light" and "shade". This is a really positive, uplifting track, with at times an asian feel and some nice "la da da" bits that enable you to sing along even before you know the words properly! *** TUESDAY MORNING *** As this song opens you feel you're approaching ballad territory. I wouldn't quite go that far, but you certainly sense things have slowed down a little. This is a romantic, gentle number that kind of makes you want to sway. Chilled and delicious, like a good Martini. *** ONE OF THESE DAYS *** &
          quot;One o f these days I won't be afraid of staying with you" A gentle piano intro and soft vocals from Michelle. Now we are definitely in ballad territory. This song keeps things simple and atmospheric, letting Michelle's vocal talent shine through. There is a definite element of "less is more" here. *** LOVE ME LIKE THAT (With Sheryl Crow) *** "How can you just break away? Why can't you find the words to say? Love is something you work at Tell me why ya gonna love me like that" After the ballad, Michelle picks up the tempo once more on a track that I anticipate is destined to be a single - not least because it features Sheryl Crow. Michelle and Sheryl's vocals compliment each other fantastically and the whole song makes great use of their harmonies. It starts relatively simply with just acoustic guitars accenting the delicious vocal harmony. It picks up throughout the course of the song, but every so often the music drops back a notch enabling you to fully appreciate the vocal combination. A real catchy number with just a tinge of country. Top stuff. *** DESPERATELY *** "and it's strange that things change But not me wanting you so desperately" Michelle slows it down once more on this track - safely back into ballad territory. A romantic, gentle number once more highlighting Michelle's vocal talent. No surprises here, but a delightful track nonetheless. *** BREATHE *** "If I just breathe Let it fill the space between I'll know everything is alright" A gentle beginning and then a build up for another more uptempo perfectly crafted pop rock number, which I predict will be another single. Top stuff indeed. *** WHERE ARE YOU NOW? *** Nearing the closing stages of the album, Michelle presents us w
          ith another foo t-tapping delightful pop-rock ditty, complete with sing-along chorus. *** HOTEL PAPER *** "I write mostly on hotel paper Knowing my thoughts will never leave this room" Finally we reach the album's title track, and there's a distinctly laid back, almost country feel on this bittersweet ballad. Another delicious moment. This song doesn't grab you instantly, but it's a delicate number and it definitely grabs you more each time you listen to it. *** 'TIL I GET OVER YOU *** We move deep into atmospheric territory on this track. A sparse opening with haunting vocals from Michelle leads us into a moody chorus accented by a snippet of French lyrics. Another beautifully crafted number. *** EVERYWHERE *** This is actually the opening track from Michelle's "Spirit Room" album, and was also a single. It's included here as a bonus track. Although you do feel Michelle has moved on a little, this track is still not out of place. A cracking little pop-rock number that deserved to be a big hit this side of the water. *** THE GAME OF LOVE (Santana featuring Michelle Branch) *** Another bonus track here, which is really more of a Santana track than a Michelle Branch number. It opens with the characteristic and unmistakable guitar tones of Mr. Santana. Not surprisingly, there is a distinctly latin feel to this catchy tune. Michelle's vocals are as brilliant as ever, and she and Santana seem to work well together. Fantastic and uplifting. *** IT'S YOU *** Bit odd to have two bonus tracks and then the final album track, but as it does not appear in the booklet you do wonder if it's been included as a bit of an afterthought. A delicate acoustic number, mainly just Michelle, her acoustic guitar and a few keys. Michelle's voice sounds fragile, full of
          emotion and mood. Captivating. *** OUTTRO *** After the rather strange intro, the album ends on a similarly bizarre outtro. Sorry, but I don't get it! Still, it's short and has no real impact on the album for me. *** The Verdict? *** There are no "middle of side two" tracks on this album - all the numbers are of a similarly high quality. "The Spirit Room" may only have been a moderate success here, but I believe it did much better in the States. Of course, after a successful first album a second can often present a difficult challenge. This is a challenge Michelle has taken on with gusto, and has produced a polished and sophisticated follow-up to her debut. In fact, I think I'm going to like this one even better! As for a star rating, I would probably give this four and a half, as I think as Michelle matures we're going to get something even better, but as dooyoo limits me to whole stars it will have to be five. *** The Useful Information *** "Hotel Paper" is currently selling on Amazon for a whopping £9.99, pr CD Wow! for just £8.99 For more information check out the websites at www.michellebranch.com and www.michellebranch.net. "Hotel Paper" (2003) Maverick 48508-2

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            02.07.2003 17:26
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            "Pensions. Hmm, how dull. I don't really want to think about them. I mean, after all, it will be years and years before I retire, right? I've got plenty of time to save up money before then, right?" Wrong. It is never, ever too early to start paying into a pension scheme. This is something I was fortunate enough to learn whilst working as an actuarial clerk for a large insurance company. One of my jobs was to produce statements of "Estimated Benefits", that is, the payments someone was likely to receive on their pension once they retired. Some of these were absolutely pitiful. They ranged from as little as £500 a year, to maybe £2,000. Thats right, that was a year. OK, so you may have your mortgage paid off by then, but even so, do you want to live on that? "Well, maybe I'll need to pay something in then. But still, I can leave it a bit longer and pay in lots when I'm older and I've got more cash". Doubtful. I remember we'd been asked by a chap to quote how much he would need to pay into a personal pension plan to get £20,000 a year. He was about fifty. The answer was, he simply couldn't. Even if he had the money, the government restricts the amount you are allowed to pay into a pension scheme, and at that time it was 15% of your income. It simply wasn't possible for him to pay in enough. I think this limit has increased a little now, but even so, you really don't want to be leaving it too long. I joined my employer's pension scheme as soon as I was able. I was 23. I do not, by any means, think that was too young to join a pension scheme. "What about the state pension?" I hate to be cycical, but I am extremely dubious that the state pension will even be around when I retire (in at least 30 years time). Even if it is, it is a pittance. If you had no other income than the state pens
            ion, you would qualify for Income Support. "That's all very well and good, but I'm not sure I trust those pension scheme thingies. After all, aren't they dependent on the stock market? And you keep hearing big scandals of firms going under. Can't I just stick a load of money in the building society?" Indeed you could - you could save it up and live off it in your retirement, or you could save and purchase an annuity (an annual income) later in life. But there are benefits of saving within a "proper" pension scheme. Firstly, payments into pensions are tax exempt, meaning that effectively the government helps contribute to your pension scheme. For every £100 you pay, £22 of that is coming off your tax, so the net cost is only £78. Bonus. Secondly, if you are lucky, you may be able to join an employer's scheme, and they will most likely make an additional contribution on your behalf. That's on top of your salary matey. They're giving you free money, what are you waiting for? As for "trusting" all those nice insurance companies and pension providers, I can understand your concerns, particularly in this world of dodgy stock markets. But don't let this worry you unduly, especially if you are still of a relatively young age. Like all things financial, the stock market will go through peaks and troughs, but over time the value of your investment will increase. The high-profile collapses of some insurance firms, seeing investors lose the pensions they thought were safe, is far more worrying. However, the good news is there is some new legislation currently going through parliament which will force pension providers to contribute to an insurance scheme to cover investors in such eventualities. Although this may push up costs slightly, this will still offer a great deal of reassurance in a currently uncertain market. "OK,
            OK, y ou've convinced me I need a pension, but it's all so darned confusing. Which one should I go for?" That rather depends what is on offer to you. If your employer offers a pension scheme, always find out about that first. They may well make additional contributions, and it will all be dealt with directly from your pay, saving you any hassle. Employers' Schemes can be either "Defined Benefit" Schemes (Sometimes also called "Final Salary Schemes"), or "Defined Contribution" (or "Money Purchase") Schemes. * DEFINED BENEFIT SCHEMES * Defined Benefit schemes are usually the best, but are unfortunately becoming rarer, as they are the most expensive for employers to offer. They are to the best of my knowledge only offered by employers - you cannot purchase one privately. Defined Benefit schemes, as the name suggests, base the final pension payable to you on your salary at retirement. This is usually calculated as a set fraction of your salary for each year you have contributed to the scheme. For example, the scheme may be a 1/60 scheme. This would mean that if you contributed to the scheme for 27 years, you would get 27/60 of your final salary - that is 1/60 for each year you have contributed. Your pension will then receive an inflationary increase each year. Some schemes are less generous, offering perhaps 1/70 or 1/80 for each year you contribute, but even so, you are likely to be better off that in a defined contribution scheme. Defined Benefit schemes often come with additional life insurance and dependants pensions should you die in service (i.e. whilst you are contributing to the scheme). Employee contributions to such schemes can vary from as little as 3% of your salary to as much as 8 or 9%, but it is worth every penny. If you are lucky enough to be offered a final salary scheme by your employer, my strictly non-professional advic
            e would be to snap it up while you can. If you work in the public sector you should be in the fortunate position of being offered such a scheme. * DEFINED CONTRIBUTION SCHEMES (Including Stakeholder Pensions) * Again, as the name suggests, defined contribution schemes focus on the amount you pay into the scheme, rather than the amount of benefit you get when you retire. This means there is no guarantee of how much you will receive in retirement - that all depends on how well your investment performs. This is why they are sometimes called "Money Purchase Schemes", because you are purchasing an investment. Once more, if you are lucky enough to have an employer operating a scheme, you will probably find they also pay contributions into the scheme for you. Again, this is free money, so is usually worth doing. However, with the Labour government came a new kind of pension scheme called the "Stakeholder Pension". This is a pension scheme that anyone can set up with contributions from as little as £15-£20 per month. The government is keen to encourage everyone to have some sort of private pension, and for once I agree with them. This has meant a lot of employers who previously didn't offer any kind of pension scheme setting up stakeholder schemes where contributions are deducted at source from your salary. Unfortunately, often they will not make any contribution into the scheme for you, so it is worth shopping around to see if the scheme offered by your employer is really the best. * SO WHICH SHOULD YOU GO FOR? * As a rule of thumb (and this won't necessarily be the case for everyone), if your employer offers a final salary scheme grab it while you can, as many employers are phasing these out. During the 1980s a lot of private pensions were sold to people with the option to join final salary schemes, which proved more expensive and gave less benefits than the final salary sche
            me would have. This led to the mis-selling of pensions scandal, where the insurance companies concerned had to make large compensation payments to people who had been mis-sold personal pension plans. This just serves to underline how good final salary schemes are. If your employer operates a defined contribution scheme into which they also pay contributions, this is probably your next best bet, as at least they will be paying in extra money for you. Most employers will only have one set scheme that they pay into - they won't let you shop around and pay their contribution into the scheme you favour, although on rare occasions some employers will. If your employer only offers a stakeholder pension or other defined contribution scheme into which they DO NOT make contributions, it could well be worth your while shopping around to see if the scheme they are offering is the best for you. When shopping around, remember you are only going to be looking at defined contribution schemes - unfortunately it is not possible to buy a final salary scheme off the shelf - if it was everyone would have one! If you are employed you can look at both stakeholder and other personal pension schemes. There are no definite ways of guaranteeing a good scheme, but here's a couple of pointers to help you out: * Look at the past performance of the scheme. Have the investments been growing at a reasonable rate? * Try and choose a well established company with proven results. This will offer some protection against the firm going under. I emphasise though that this is not guaranteed - as we have seen even the big names can go under. If you are unemployed or not working for any reason, until recently you would not have been able to pay into a pension scheme. However, the introduction of stakeholder pensions now offers you this flexibility, as absolutely anyone can have one - even children. Indeed, some parents, conscious of
            the changing world of pensions and the potential lack of financial security in the future are even paying into schemes for their kids. The same rules of thumb for choosing a scheme apply. "Unfortunately, my employer doesn't offer a scheme so I've had to get a private pension. How much should I pay in?" As much as you can afford! The more you can pay in - especially in the early years - the more your investments will grow and the better the pension you will get in the end. It's as simple as that. "OK, OK, you've convinced me! I'm off to get myself a pension sorted a.s.a.p!" Very good, pupil. You have learned well. May the force be with you ;)

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            • Coffee in general / Coffee / 7 Readings / 32 Ratings
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              29.06.2003 19:31
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              Those of you who read my opinions regularly (thank you!) will probably know by now that I am somewhat the coffee fan. I cannot start the day without my ritual injection of coffee. That delicious, tich, black liquid - mmmmm. Of course, I am well aware of all the health risks associated with coffee. During my student days I pretty much ignored them - I would quite happily sit drinking cafetiere after cafetiere full of rich, strong coffee delight whilst thumping my way through philosophy essays at the last minute as usual. As I got older, I became more sensible, and have tried to restrict myself to the recommended limit of three cups a day, save for special occasions ;) *** So What Are The Potential Risks? *** Don't expect me to get too technical here - I'm no expert! Excessive coffee intake can increase the risk of heart disease as it constricts the arteries. Drinking coffee during pregnancy (no worries there for delawney!) can increase the risk of birth defects. Of course, those of us who drink coffee regularly also know that it can increase agitation, irritability, nervousness and can cause headaches. Then again, those of us who are evidently addicted to caffiene also find that withdrawal can lead to all those effects too, especially headaches! *** So What's the Good News? *** Given all this, imagine my delight when a colleague at work presented me with a photocopy of an article from one of her dodgy womens' magazines detailing 20 good things about coffee. It turns out that it is not all doom and gloom for us coffee lovers. *DISCLAIMER* I am not a health, nutrition, or medical expert. The points I am about to make below were taken from the magazine article, and I do not know their original source. Please don't take my word for it! OK, formailities out of the way, what is the good news? The first thing that surprised me is
              that apparently coffee is no more diuretic (makes you wee) than water. As such it can actually be an important contributor to your daily fluid intake. I had always believed that drinking coffee had a negative effect on your fluid intake, and as such have always tried to alternate between coffee and a large glass of water. As it happens I don't intend to change that habit, but it's nice to think that just maybe the coffee drinking isn't having a negative effect on fluid intake. Interestingly, the article claims that if someone with an aroused or alert brain drinks coffee, it won't have a stimulant effect on them, but will calm them down. This actually seems to confirm my own experience. When I get very stressed at work, I often reach for a good cup of coffee to help calm me down. I had always assumed this was a purely psychological reaction. Maybe it is, but this did get me thinking. Not surprising, perhaps, is that studies have found that caffiene has a positive effect on energy and endurance. Students have known that for years, that's why they pop the pro plus pills! Similarly, coffee has been shown to be an effective performance enhancer, improving memory and energy levels for both physical and mental activities. Apparently, having a strong cup of coffee may help hayfever symptoms and might also prevent severe allergic reactions. As far as hayfever is concerned, this is something else I can back up with my own experience - coffee definitely lessens the symptoms of my hayfever. The article claims that a double expresso may improve a woman's (and presumably also a man's, but it didn't say!) tolerance to pain, e.g. leg waxing. I haven't ever tested this theory, but I don't have a problem with having my legs waxed and I do drink plenty of coffee, so maybe that's why! Similarly, caffeine can also speed up the painkilling powers of ibuprofen, and is included in some analgesic ta
              blets. As an aside here, I do have to say that the one time I definitely avoid coffee (hard though it is) is when I am suffering from period pains, as it definitely makes them worse! A study has shown that coffee could protect against suicidal depression. Again, as someone who has experienced depression (though by no means suicidal) I do not find this surprising. Howwever, I have to confess that I'd always put the improvement in my mood from drinking coffee down to my addiction rather than any potential benefits of the coffee itself. So far, I would not describe any of these potential benefits of coffee as particularly controversial. However, some of the other claims of the article are far more dramatic, and I have to say I have much less personal experience to relate them to. For example (lifted directly from the article): * Coffee drinkers have a reduced risk of type-2 diabetes, which usually occurs in later life; * Women who drink four or more cups a day are less likely to develop Parkinson's disease; * Coffee has a protective effect against cirrhosis of the liver, and drinking three or four cups a day is linked to an 80 per cent reduction in risk; * Coffee has shown a protective effect against colon cancer. The risk is 24 per cent lower among those who drink four or more cups a day, than among those who rarely or never drink it; * Tension headaches can be relieved by drinking caffeinated coffee; * Smokers may reduce their risk of bladder cancer if they consume coffee as well. The effect of drinking coffee roughly halves the extra risk created by a nicotine habit; * Drinking up to three cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by as much as 60 per cent; * Women coffee drinkers reduce their risk of kidney stones by 10 per cent. This confirms the results of an earlier study done on 45,000 men. * There are four times more antioxidants found in coffee than
              in green tea, and these mop up damaged body cells. Most controversial, though, are three claims relating to heart disease and blood pressure, which do seem to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. These are: * That regular coffee drinkers appear to be protected against an increase in blood pressure levels; * That coffee may in fact have a protective effect on the heart. A Scottish study of over 10,000 people found that coffee drinkers had a significantly lower rate of heart disease than those who didn't drink coffee at all; * The incidences of heart disease may be lower in coffee drinkers than tea (ugh) drinkers. As someone who has very low blood pressure, I have certainly never found a problem with increased blood pressure from coffee drinking - but then, if it does raise your blood pressure, who knows how low mine might be without it! My understanding is that stewed coffee (such as that sat in the jug on a coffee machine for hours) may be much worse for you than fresh or instant coffee, and that it can be the stewed coffee that has a detrimental effect on cholesterol levels and can contribute to heart disease. Whether coffee really does have a protective effect on the heart, I'm really not sure. It is extremely important to limit your intake of coffee if you are pregnant or suffer from high blood pressure or insomnia. The Food Standards Agency says pregnant women should drink no more than four cups a day - exceeding this limit could lead to low birth weight babies or even miscarriage. A small number of people (and boy oh boy does this include me) may experience mild, temporary effects of caffiene withdrawal - such as headache, fatigue or drowsiness. Apparently these should last no more than a day or two after stopping drinking coffee, but I've never stopped for that long so I cannot verify this! Personally, I think the moral of this story is that like many health issues, the
              re is very little that is downright good or downright bad for you, there are always shades of grey. If you ate nothing but carrots you could die of vitamin A poisoning after all. The lesson, surely, is to have a little bit of what you fancy, in moderation of course. Right. I'm off to enjoy the steaming hot cup of black goodness mr delawney has kindly prepared for me. At least it should help keep my hayfever at bay ;)

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              • More +
                22.05.2003 21:47
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                ... now to make sure you get the job! I have experience of job interviews as both a prospective employee and a prospective employer. I've been in my current job about 2 and a half years, so that's how long it is since I was last interviewed, but the nerves and the horror are still with me! Interviewing is not something I have to do a great deal, but I usually sit on an interview panel three or four times a year. Over the years I have encountered any number of different candidates, all of whom make some kind of impression, and from that I hope to be able to provide you with a few hints and tips to help you succeed at an interview and get the job you really desire. *** DISCLAIMER! *** All employers are different, and may be expecting different things from the candidate depending on the type of job that is being applied for. Everything I suggest here is a generalisation that may require some adapting for a particular job. ***** ***** ***** So, without further ado, some tips to help you bag your dream (or at least necessary!) job. 1. BE PREPARED! Sorry to sound like a girl guide, but this is really one of the best snippets of advice I can offer. If you have been asked to give a presentation (as we do for more senior positions), please make sure you have undertaken all necessary research and have made the effort to produce something of reasonable quality. This may sound obvious, but you wouldn't believe the number of times we've had candidtaes who's "computer broke over the weekend". If you have been asked to bring a piece of written work to an interview, please make sure you have put the effort into this as well. Don't boast on your application form how good you are with computer applications such as word processing and then present your work in some sort of illegible scrawl. Even if you don't have your own PC, make the effort to
                go to the library or use a friend's. Interviews are all about making the right impression, and at all times you should make sure your words and your actions reflect the information you provided in your initial application. On that note, you should re-read your application before you attend your interview, as well as thoroughly reading any literature that has been sent to you by your prospective employer. This can help you come up with interesting and relevant questions to ask at the end of your interview. Don't forget to take proof of any qualifications you have claimed to have on your application form in case your prosepective employer wishes to see it. 2. DRESS SMART Now I make no secret that I'm generally a bit of a scruff, but I will always make an effort for an interview, and so should you! Even if you're applying for a job where the last thing you're going to be wearing is a suit, it will impress your prospective employer to see that you have made the effort to present yourself well for the interview. If you come in your jeans and T-shirt, they are likely to wonder just how serious you really are about the job. 3. ARRIVE ON TIME! Make sure you allow plenty of time to get to your interview. If at all possible, try and check out the location the day before, especially if you fear it may be difficult to find. Allow plenty of time for potential traffic delays. If the worst comes to the worst and something completely beyond your control is going to make you late, at least contact your prospective employer and let them know. Equally, try not to arrive too ridiculously early - up to about fifteen minutes early I would think to be fine. 4. TAKE COMFORT - YOUR PANEL MAY BE NERVOUS TOO! Before I had ever sat on an interview panel, I though things must be so much easier over on the other side of the table. But that is not so. I actually get quite nervous befor
                e an interview, especially if I am the unfortunatel soul chairing the interview. I know from talking to my colleagues that I am not alone in this! 5. FACING THE QUESTIONS Never feel you have to rush your answer. Always consider the question carefully before responding. That said, best avoid any ridiculously long pauses! The length of your response will often depend upon the type of position for which you are applying. As a rule of thumb, prospective employers are likely to expect more detailed responses if you are applying for a more senior position. Generally, you should try and keep your answers concise and relevant, and should always try and back up what you say with an example. If you say you are organised, try and recount a particulary situation where you demonstrated your organisational skill. Try not to witter on too much in your answers - the panel are only human and are likely to start wondering what they are going to have for their tea, and this doesn't reflect well on you. I sat on the panel for one interview where I have to confess I lost the will to live. We had a list of about twenty questions, and it took us three quarters of an hour to get to the end of question four. I aaked her to "briefly summarise" for the next question, but it still took the poor lass fifteen minutes to respond. She didn't get the job. Be prepared for the difficult questions. The famous one of course is "What would you say is your biggest fault?", to which "I'm a bit of a perfectionist" is far too predictable a response. Try and think of some answers to questions such as these before your interview so you won't be floored when they come up. Some of our favourites include: "How would your best friend describe you?" (asked once to some poor lad who didn't look like he had any friends!) and "which non-physical characteristic would you change about your
                self?" - we had to insert the "non-physical" bit as people kept wanting to be thinner, younger etc. You will almost certainly be asked what interested you in the job. An answer like, "I needed a job, and this looked like one I could do" probably won't get you very far. Try and present some enthusiasm, even if you have to feign it a little. Try and keep some balance though - come across as over-enthusiastic and that can be just as bad! A good employer will have sent you plenty of literature as part of the application or interview pack - make sure you have read it and if possible refer back to it in questions such as these. 6. THE BIT WHERE YOU GET TO ASK SOME QUESTIONS This can be extremely revealing! Please please please don't ask about pay, pension, holiday entitlement or anything relating to remuneration here. If there is stuff you want to know, save it until you are offered a job. It will just make you look like someone who is after any job or personal gain, rather than someone who is particularly interested in this position. Personally I think it's OK to ask about car parking if this is a practical concern for you, or to inform your prospective employer about any pending holiday committments, but I would save those for the very end when hopefully you have asked two or three more relevant questions. Your prosepective employer will be impressed if you can ask something that relates specifically to the role and/or any literature or information you have been sent prior to interview. It demonstrates that you have an interest in this particular job, and that you have taken the time to prepare for the interview. Which leads us nicely back to point 1 - be prepared. For more general questions, you could ask if this is a new position, and if not what happened to the previous postholder. Beware with this one - mr delawney used it once only to discover that the previous postholde
                r had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Be careful when gauging the level of humour - mr delawney's "Why is the sky blue?" didn't go down too well... 7. SOME GENERAL POINTERS * Try and maintain eye contact with the interview panel - but don't be put off if they are taking notes! * A little bit of humour is no bad thing, but don't overdo it. You might want to avoid being giggly too. * Keep concise and relevant. Do not waffle. * In contrast, avoid one-word answers - that doesn't tell your prospective employer much about you! * Have a bath/shower and clean your teeth - some people don't, honest! * Don't be over-critical about previous employers. If you think they had genuine faults don't be afraid to say so but make sure you back that up. Otherwise your prospective employer may fear you are a troublemaker. * Don't be afraid to say "I don't know". Your prospective employer will almost certainly be able to tell if you are bluffing, and they will respect your honesty much more. Follow it up with something positive like "I would be more than willing to learn". * Try and avoid repeating the same example over and over again. * Don't be afraid to appear a little nervous - it is only to be expected. Do try and avoid letting your nerves get the better of you. 8. A FINAL WORD OF WARNING If you have fibbed on your application form, this is the bit where you are most likely to get caught out! delawney's words of wisdom - don't lie on your application form in the first place, and don't bother applying for jobs that are clearly beyonf your qualifications and experience. If you have to lie to get a job, you're not going to have much fun once you get there and can't do it! A job interview is all about selling yourself. You are a product, and you have t
                o market yourself to a particular niche market. This is why it is always important to tailor your interview approach to the specific job you are applying for. Always believe in yourself. You have already done well to get to interview stage - many of our jobs have over fifty applications, and only around five will get an interview. As long as you have been realistic on your application form, if you follow the advice above there is absolutely no reason why you should not be successful. That said, don't let any knockbacks get you down. It could be that there was an exceptionally qualified candidate who has just pipped you to the post. Whenever you are unsuccessful at interview, request feedback from the prospective employers, which most will be happy to provide. At least then you can get some pointers before your next opportunity.

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                • Purge - Bif Naked / Music Album / 1 Reading / 23 Ratings
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                  16.05.2003 18:25
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                  THE QUICK REVIEW (For those in a hurry) Bif Naked, although not terribly well known in the UK does have a small following, mainly due to her appearance on the fourth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the feature of her track "Lucky" on the BTVS soundtrack. "Purge" is her third 'music' album, although it is her fourth full-length release if you count her spoken-word album. It's a delicious mixture of hard rock, pop and thoughtful ballads - with a bit of dance thrown in for the remixed bonus track. Everything Bif Naked does has a twist - don't expect her ballads to be all sweet and soppy. This is a woman who is not afraid to speak her mind, and as such she will inject anger, irony and a good dose of humour into her music. Bif will push your buttons if you like rock or pop with a rocky edge that dares to be just a little bit different. Which delawney does, so that's handy! THE FULL OP Bif Naked is a person, not a band! Real name Beth Torbet, Bif came from an old school nickname, and she adopted the Naked during her time in the US punk rock scene. I first encountered Bif Naked with her track "Lucky" on the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television soundtrack CD, and it instantly became my favourite track on the album. I had to find out more. I purchased her then current album "I Bificus" from Amazon and was immediately hooked. When her latest album "Purge" was released in her home country of Canada in the summer of 2001, I couldn't wait for it to be released here. I ordered my copy from an online retailer in Canada for about £11, including shipping. *** The Packaging *** "The opinions I spew are completely my own and it's nobody's fault if I say things you don't like" Bif's CD inserts are always a treat, covered in her cartoons and gems of wis
                  dom - a real entertaining read. All lyrics are included (yippee!) and there's a good selection of Bif in sultry pose photos. *** The Track Run-Down *** *** CHOKING ON THE TRUTH *** "I thought it was my candy But I'm choking on the truth" The album starts as it means to go on with a catchy guitar intro to a real bouncy number. A good start that really gets your foot tapping. *** TANGO SHOES *** "My new tango shoes are gonna help me dance away from you" This is probably my favourite track on the album. It's a classic dump-your-useless-man-and-feel-good-about-it track, with an incredibly catchy sing-along chorus. (I'm singing it now!). I challenge any woman not to relate to this song, even if they've never worn a pair of tango shoes! It's pop, yet it's rock, and it's funky baby! A real corker. If you get the chance try and catch the video - good fun! *** DAWN *** "It's not that you don't know what love means It's just that you do not love me" Another cracker of a track, instantly catchy with a really delicious chorus that will seep into your subconscious and get lost there for weeks. In fact, I'd go as far as to say this track is beautiful. The verses are sultry and atmospheric, yet the chorus rocks. Yummy. *** I LOVE MYSELF TODAY *** "I love myself today! Not like yesterday I'm cool! I'm calm! I'm gonna be okay!" I have to confess I was a little dubious about a collaboration between Bif and songwriter/producer Desmond Child. He is probably most famed for his work with artists such as Bon Jovi on tracks like "Living on a Prayer". Good as those songs are, I didn't really associate them with Bif. I was delighted to be proved wrong. This is a real belter of a track, a
                  nother with a positive uplifting feel. From it's spoken verses to its roared chorus, it's a real rocking little number. If I have one small criticism here, it would be that there's one or two lyrics that are a little below par for Bif, definitely bordering on the cheesy. That said, it doesn't really detract from the track so, who cares? *** STOLEN SIDEWALK *** "And who said love would always mend and fill the emptiness again" Track five and finally we hit ballad mode - a simple piano-led track with suitably accompanying strings. This is a pleasant enough number, and it does have some moving lyrics, but it doesn't pull any surprises. *** OCTOBER SONG *** "I can't seem to find anyone Who hasn't fallen Fallen down" Another really catchy number, full of poppy hooks. We see Bif taking on a little taster of falsetto vocals on the chorus here, and it's effective - even if it does make her sound a bit girly! Although this song definitely has a pop feel to it, the lyrics certainly have a more grown-up edge than your average bubblegum pop. And this doesn't loose it's flavour either! *** LEADER (for the psychopath-crazy-sadsack-stalker) *** "You don't know me - so, don't touch me I'm not here to validate your behaviour" This is another one of my faves. A real angry, raucous belter of a track - contrasting well after it's poppy predecessor. Written in response to her experience of a stalker, Bif spits her anger out throughout the track, with some very clever lyrics. Loud guitars back her up nicely. The bridge before the final chorus is particularly menacing - brilliant. *** YOU ARE THE MASTER *** "I guess you are the master I am the dog, I am the dog Waiting for you to love me" I wasn't
                  sure about this one at first, but it has really grown on me. Bizarre as it sounds, the dog analogy employed throughout the lyrics of this song really works! Music-wise, this is an effective soft rocking number, but no particular surprises here. *** REGULAR GUY *** "I'm just lookin' for A four-eyes-really-square regular guy (Just like you)" Bif is never afraid to have a giggle in her songs, and this one is a classic example. "Let me tell ya 'bout the kind of guys that like me: they're in jail". So she's after a different kind of man! You also get an insight into the more romantic side of Bif. Upbeat and poppy, this is a great singalong track, with a very effective repeated hook at the end of the chorus - it'll get into your head and you will be humming it for hours. Great fun! *** HOLD ON *** "I'm a small honeybee I drown in the water You are my hand in the well" This one opens with an acoustic, almost spanish-sounding guitar. Yep, we're back in ballad mode, with a latin feel throughout. A delightful enough, expressive ballad. *** STORY OF MY LIFE *** "I dropped a trail of candy hearts hoping you would search for me" The pace is upped once more and the guitars are turned back up, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for a really catchy keyboard hook that's going to get right in your head! The song is pretty much an apology by Bif to her mother for her somewhat dubious behaviour in the past. *** RELIGION *** "You are my religion" A real gem to end the album on. It's one of those that starts relatively gently (in a kind of sexy way) and then builds and builds to an orgasmic climax. Top stuff indeed. *** 'HIDDEN' BONUS TRACK - DANCE VERSION OF I LOVE MYSELF
                  TODAY *** Whilst the rock version is far superior to this, it has to be said it still works surprisingly well as a dance number. I like it much more than a lot of the dance tracks in the charts anyway! *** The Verdict? *** This is a smashing follow-up to "I Bificus" and is no disappointment. There's a delicious mix of tracks from the hard-rocking to the poppy to the ballads, showing the real diversity Bif is capable of. While she may now have a more commercial edge, you can still hear the underlying US punk roots. If I were being particularly picky, I would say I would have loved it to feature just one of Bif's brilliant spoken word tracks, which really serve to exhibit her powers of observation and her skill with words, but I guess they are not so commercially popular. I give this four-and-a-half stars. All in all, this one receives a hearty recommendation from delawney - and you know I only speak the truth ;) *** The Useful Information *** "Purge" is currently selling on Amazon for a whopping £14.99, but it is only available on import. You might be better off doing as I did and ordering it direct from Amazon. For more information check out the website at www.herroyalmajestysrecords.com/bif/ "Purge" (2002) Lava/Atlantic CD 83509 *** If You Like This... *** ... you might also like Live On Release - "Seeing Red", also available on import from Canada.

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                  • TV adverts in general / Discussion / 0 Readings / 23 Ratings
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                    13.05.2003 02:08
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                    So, I was out the other day (I do go out sometimes) and I spotted one of those huge unattractive billboards advertising BBC Bitesize. It read, "BBC Bitesize nails revision". I was puzzled. Why would anyone need to revise nails? Hmmm. Anyway, this got me pondering (I do like to ponder) about adverts in general. I seem to waste inordinate amounts of time watching adverts on television. Mr delawney likes to channel hop during the adverts, and this annoys the pants off me as it often leads to missing the beginning of the next part of the programme. So me, I just sit through them like a muppet. You see, I think I must be totally oblivious to advertising. I really cannot think of any occasion when I have thought, "yes, I must go out and buy that" because I've seen an advertisement for it. And I've been racking my brain extremely hard (I don't recommend it, it's painful) to think of an occasion where I might have been encouraged subliminally to buy a particular product, and I honestly could not think of one. Most of what I buy isn't advertised on the telly anyway, since it's all weird "green" or vegan stuff. So what purpose do they serve? Are there really people out there who fall for that rubbish? (Apologies to anyone I've just inadvertently offended with that remark - ha, in-advert-ently!). I guess there must be else companies wouldn't spend millions of pounds peddling their goods on the box. Of course, some of the adverts are better than the programmes. I did enjoy the recent re-run of the "100 Greatest Adverts", especially the Smash one. But just because the advert is good, doesn't mean the product will be. Besides, half the time I can't even remember what the advert was for, and this goes double when it's a good one. And what is the current obsession with showing children on the loo? Excuse me? I can't think of anything worse t
                    han being filmed on the throne. I don't want to see anybody on the toilet, no matter what age they are. Especially when I'm eating my tea. And it seems we just can't get away from the adverts anymore. Slowly but surely they have started to invade not just the gaps in-between the programmes, but the programmes themselves, with all this blooming sponsorship stuff. Who wants to think about All Bran when they're watching Countdown? After all, you're already watching something tasteless. [Aside - I did enjoy the Skittles Sours (vegan) sponsorship of Buffy on Sky though - very witty.] It seems to me that adverts fall into several different categories, each of which can be given an annoying rating. Here's a small selection of my particular pet hates. 1. Being Blinded With Science (Annoying Rating = High) Cosmetics adverts are brilliant for this. What is a liposome when it's at home? And is an active liposome more fit than an inactive one? "New supercream full of mono-di-glyceride-heffalumps with smoothing effervescent saturate-chloride-liposomes for cleaner, fresher looking skin". Note the emphasis on the "looking" - crafty bar-stewards... Then they go and make up words. Top of delawney's annoying list at the present time is "mattifying". "Mattifying" is not even a word. Now I have annoying red lines all over my screen where the spellchecker doesn't recognise it. So take your "mattifying technology" and stick it where the sun doesn't shine. Of course, you also get it for cleaning products, especially the washing powders and the like, with their latest "stain removing technology". I just switch off (metaphorically speaking). I can't bear it. And tampons with lubrication - ew... Don't even go there. 2. Celebrity Endorsement (Annoying Rating = High) Who is John Stalker? Y
                    ou know, he's the bloke that advertises Nationwide Sun Awnings with his dog (see 3. below). I assume we are supposed to know who he is since his name flashes up on the screen. I haven't got a clue. OK, you can kind of forgive Thora Hird advertising the Relax Chair thingumy, but if I see Carol Vorderman on an advert one more time I will scream. Just because she's good at mental arithmetic doesn't give her the right to try and flog me some dodgy life insurance policy plan. As for the "quote me happy" one, (I can't remember what it's for or who the celebrity is, I was that convinced), purr-lease... And I'm not even going to mention Jamie Oliver (oops, just did). 3. The Cute Animal Sell (Annoying Rating = Medium) Now, I don't mind cute animals. Especially when they're cats. So when they're advertising cat food, or dog food, or whatever, I guess that's kind of OK. But for years I've been wondering what a puppy has to do with toilet paper. Are you going to go and wipe your bum on a dog? I think not. And if they're trying to say that their paper is as soft as a puppy, well, yuk. Besides, in my experience, puppies are not always soft. [Aside - I have a particular pet hate about that Andrex advert where the puppy replaces himself with a loo roll as he doesn't like being stroked to hard. Notice how gently the man in question strokes the loo roll?] 4. Make Mum and Dad Buy This (Annoying Rating = High) You know the ones, aimed directly at children to encourage them to employ the pester factor. Criminal. 'Nuff said. 5. Buy the Lifestyle (Annoying Rating = Medium) The ones that try and convince you that if you buy the product you'll get a lifestyle like the person in the advert. How not convincing is that? Some of them are particularly dubious lifestyles anyway. So I guess there's no love lost between me
                    and adverts. Still, I do appreciate that it is the adverts on the telly that pay for most of my favourite programmes, so I shouldn't complain. (Not that that ever stopped me mind...). Still, at least it seems that advertisers are generally putting more thoughts into the commercials, and yes, some of them are better that the programmes... ... so on that note, I'm off to watch some! *** A Final Thought *** All this thinking about adverts brought another pet hate of mine to mind - the renaming of longstanding brands (presumably) in line with our European counterparts. You know, like renaming Immac "Veet" and Opal Fruits "Starbursts". Why is there a tendency to give them new names sounding like venereal diseases? Like "Cif". Certainly doesn't make me want to run out and buy it. "Cor, I must get myself some Cif" really doesn't have a ring to it does it? To me, a Marathon will always be a Marathon, Opal Fruits will always be Opal Fruits (and they're vegan you know), and Jif will always be Jif. And Mr delawney will continue to threaten to Immac the cats.

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                    • Best Shots - Pat Benatar / Music Album / 0 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                      03.05.2003 23:39
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                      THE QUICK REVIEW (For those in a hurry) Pat Benatar has never enjoyed the same success here in the UK as she has in the States, though she has made a moderate impression with singles such as "Love Is A Battlefield" and "Shadows Of The Night". "Best Shots" is a collection of twelve of her most successful singles, and serves as a good introduction to this mostly up-tempo belting vocalist. Pat Benatar cannot exactly be described as an artist that breaks new ground. Since her first success with the pounding beat of "Heartbreaker" in 1979, Benatar has been belting out good old fashioned soft rock music ever since, and is still going strong. It may not be original, but she always gives a polished performance. She will appeal to you if you like a well-crafted soft rock tune. She will not appeal to you if you have an aversion to AOR. Standout tracks include "Heartbreaker", "Invincible", and "Fire and Ice". But really they're all pretty darn good tracks. You can't go wrong! THE FULL OP Am I going to lose some cred here? (Don't be silly delawney, you never had any in the first place!). OK, so I thought I'd review something a bit different from my usual. Well, not that different, she's still a girlie singer after all! But Pat's not exactly trendy is she? Well, I don't care. I like what I like and that's that, so ner. I'd always kind of liked Pat Benatar since I first heard my Dad playing "Love Is A Battlefield" back when I was about eleven or twelve. Then, a few years later my Mum bought a new stereo, and it turned out that the store had left a Pat Benatar CD in it. That CD was "Best Shots". I duly taped it off my mother (who decided she liked it too - darn) and played it over and over for a while. Since then, Pat has become a comfortable listen to return to time and time again w
                      hen I'm in the mood for a good singalong. Great decorating music too! Pat Benatar is actually a trained opera singer, although I gather a love for booze and fags convinced her that rock music might be a more acceptable career choice, as she could carry on with the smoking and the drinking. And make no mistake about it - although generally categorised into the AOR pigeon-hole, this woman can rock. She's generally a lot more popular in the States (where I understand AOR goes down a bit better) where she has seen huge success, but she has had a few moderately successful singles this side of the water, including "Love Is A Battlefield", "We Belong" and "All Fired Up". Nevertheless, "Best Shots" sold surprisingly well when it was originally released in the UK in the latter part of the 1980s. Most of the songs are co-written by guitarist Neil Giraldo with a number of different co-writers. Pat does occasionally contribute to the songwriting (for example on "Fire and Ice") but generally she concentrates on giving us a solid vocal performance. It's worth pointing out at this point that the UK version of "Best Shots" is completely different to the US release in 1989, with a whole different cover and track list. (being the sad muppet I am I do also have a vinyl copy (remember vinyl?) of the US version, which includes some excellent tracks missed from the UK release). I'm also not convinced that the UK version was released in 1989, I think it was a bit earlier, but maybe my memory fails me! *** The Track Run-Down *** *** HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT *** From "Crimes of Passion" (1980) "Before I put another notch in my lipstick case You better make sure you put me in my place" This is a real catchy little ditty, right from it's thumping guitar riff intro. Formulaic, yes, verse, chorus, verse,
                      chorus, guitar solo, verse, chorus, chorus. But it's darn good nonetheless, and always gets my foot tapping. Short and sweet. Top stuff. *** LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD *** "We are young, heartache to heartache we stand No promises, no demands Love Is A Battlefield" If you know any Pat Benatar song, you probably know this one. Although this was one of Pat's biggest hits here in the UK, it's not actually one of my favourites. It's not a bad song, I think it's just a tad overplayed. It opens with Pat speaking the chorus, which I actually really rather like. It is a polished song, though some may argue it borders on the over-produced. The fact that it's written by veteran songwriters Mike Chapman and Holly Knight might be a clue to it's success! *** WE BELONG *** From "Tropico" (1984) "Don't want to leave you really I've invested too much time To give you up that easy To the doubts that complicate your mind" Another moderate hit for Pat here in the UK, and once more a less favourite tracks. Still, it's a catchy sing-along pop-rock number. Again, perhaps a little over-produced for my liking - I like to hear her a bit more gritty! *** WE LIVE FOR LOVE *** From "In The Heat Of The Night" (1979) "Your love's contagious, one kiss is dangerous But I have more to risk, than you to lose" A cracking drum/guitar intro. It almost has a bit of an eighties edge to it, so you could argue Pat was ahead of her time! The song is built around a simple refrain of "We live for love", at quite a high pitch, bordering on the annoying, but somehow not quite becoming so. (Other than the fact that it's far too high for delawney to sing along too!). The bridge (you know, that bit before the final verse-chorus formula) is delightfully sparse and
                      very atmospheric. When I first started listening to this album, I wasn't over gone on this song, finding it a bit boring. But its subtlety has grown on me as I've gotten older! *** SEX AS A WEAPON *** From "Seven The Hard Way" (1985) "You know you're already my obsession Stop using Sex As A Weapon Love is more than a one way reflection Stop using Sex As A Weapon" A fairly straightforward rock number here. Another cracking one to sing along to, but doesn't pull any surprises. *** INVINCIBLE *** From "Seven The Hard Way" (1985) "What are we running for? We've got the right to be angry What are we running for? When there's no where we can run to anymore" Oooh, I love this one! I'm singing along to it now as I type! It's an out and out rocking number that should leave you with absolutely no excuse not to be tapping your feet. Pat really belts it out, showing of the strength and slightly rough texture of her voice. Marvellous. *** SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT *** From "Get Nervous" (1982) "You can cry tough baby, it's all right You can let me down easy, but not tonight" Another one that you may have stumbled across, as it was another semi-success here in the UK. Again, it probably suffers from a little overplay from the delawney perspective, but it's still a darned good mid-tempo soft rock love song, and lets face it, that's what Pat specialises in. It also has a few really nice lyrical touches, such as "Ransom my heart, but baby don't look back, Cause we got nobody else" (don't know why but I really like that!). *** HEARTBREAKER *** From "In The Heat Of The Night" (1979) "Your love is like a tidal wave, spinning over my head Drownin' me in your pro
                      mises, better left unsaid" Her first hit single, and it's a cracker. It starts with a pounding drum beat and complimentary guitar riff. Like a lot of Pat's earlier tracks, it is slightly less over-produced. This gives it a rougher, more gritty edge, which actually I have to admit I prefer. This is quite simply a belting rock song, and it's fantastic. Full marks here! *** FIRE AND ICE *** From "Precious Time" (1981) "Fire and Ice You come on like a flame Then you turn a cold shoulder" Oooh, another one of my faves! Fairly slow and controlled during the verses, and then a belting, emotional chorus. Again, some really nice lyrics here. Another safe love/anti-love song - well I guess it's something most people can relate to! *** TREAT ME RIGHT *** From "Crimes of Passion" (1980) "One of these days you're gonna reach out and find The one that you count on has left you behind Don't want to be no martyr, you know I'm no saint Oh my, my baby, before it's too late" Another stonking out and out rock number, again benefiting from a little less production giving it a more gritty edge. Another one of delawney's faves! *** IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW HOW TO LOVE ME *** From "In The Heat Of The Night" (1979) Personally I think this is probably the weakest track on this collection. It's not a bad track, it's just that personally I don't ever really feel it goes anywhere. *** YOU BETTER RUN *** From "Crimes of Passion" (1980) "You Better Run! You Better Hide! You better leave from my sight! Yeah" Making up for the song that comes before it is a cracking little number to round the album off. Admittedly, you do feel a bit like you're singing along to something a bit "Heads, Sho
                      ulders, Knees and Toes"-esque with it's formulaic lyrical structure, with each verse following a similar pattern to the first... "Whatcha' tryin' a do to my heart? Whatcha' tryin' a do to my heart? You go around tellin' lies And now you want to compromise Whatcha' tryin' a do to my heart?" ... as she also ponders what's being done to her soul and her head. Still, she really lets rip on this one and it's a corker! *** The Verdict? *** Personally, while I love this album and feel it is a great introduction to Pat Benatar, I do feel it is missing some of her other excellent tracks. This is partly because it was released (in the UK at least) prior to singles like "All Fired Up" and "Everybody Lay Down", as well as her excellent Blues album "True Love". However, there is no excuse for missing off classic tracks like "Promises In The Dark" and "Hell Is For Children", both of which were included on the US version. Because of this it gets four stars rather than the full five. On the whole I prefer "The Very Best of Pat Benatar" released in 1994, which has a greater selection of tracks. However, it lacks some of the better tracks from "Best Shots" such as "Treat Me Right", and does include the abysmal "Ooh Ooh Song" (lest said on that one the better). All in all though this is a good selection guaranteed to get you singing along, if you're a sad muppet like me that is! *** The Useful Information *** "Best Shots" is currently selling on Amazon for the grand price of £7.99. For more information check out the website at www.benatar.com "Best Shots" (supposedly 1989 though I'm not convinced!) Chrysalis CCD1538

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                      • Beck's (bottle) / Beer / Cider / 2 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                        03.05.2003 05:25
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                        OK, so I'm sat here feeling creative yet uninspired. What to write an opinion about? And then I look at the bottle in my hand and think - "Beck's, yes, I'll write about Beck's". Not David Beckham you understand. I know naff all about David Beckham other than he's a footballer often sporting silly hair and a dress with a wife who sings, supposedly. No, I'm talking about the thoroughly more German Beck's - the frequently overpriced bottled lager. Now actually, come to think of it, the fact it's German is important. You see, life is not easy for a consciencious vegan like myself when it comes to having a wee drinkie-poo. That's because they put all sorts of nasties into alcoholic drinks, and for some obscure reason alcoholic beverages do not have to list their ingredients. Many of these nasties take the form of so called "fining agents", used to clarify your tipple. Such agents include isinglass, a fish derivitive. Other non-vegan "delights" that can find their way into your alcohol include egg albumen and nasty colourings - yuk. Honestly, I am getting to the part about Beck's being German being important, I hadn't forgotton. You see, any beer brewed in Germany has to conform to the German Purity Law of 1516. This states that "only the natural ingredients of barley-malt, hops, yeast and brewing water be used in the brewing process". Thus, 'tis suitable for a fussy awkward vegan like me. And available (if at a premium) in almost any pub! Of course, Beck's has the additional advantage for delawney of not being cider... Oh stop wittering on delawney. Get to the beer! Now generally I'm partial to a glass or several (unless it's a big glass) of red wine, but I do also appreciate a good beer. So, Beck's may be suitable for vegans, but is it a fine beverage? *** A Very Brief History ***
                        Beck's has been brewed since 1873 and apparently it's available in over 120 countries. That's good - I should be able to get a beer when I travel then! Apparently it ranks amongst the top 10 Pilsener beers in Germany. The website doesn't say where abouts in the top 10, but I'm assuming it's the latter half else they would have said top 5 wouldn't they?! *** Type of Beer *** Beck's is a Pilsener beer, so it is a pale in colour and has quite a strong hop flavour. It is a "bottom-fermented" beer. This refers to the type of yeast used to produce all that yummy alcohol. Bottom-fermenting yeast prefers lower temperatures (5-10 degrees C), and sinks to the bottom of the tank at the end of the fermentation process. This is presumably why no fining agents are needed - yippee! *** Nutritional Information *** Apparently it has 42 calories per 100g of beer. That doesn't sound like a lot to me, but since I have never counted calories in my life I'm not really sure. Of course, 100g isn't very much - drink a litre and you're actually getting 420 calories. But hey, it's not all bad. This will ease your conscience! According to the Beck's website (as annotated by delawney): "Consumed in moderation [as if that's likely], beer is a highly nutritious beverage containing important vitamins and carbohydrates as well as minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Hops not only gives beer its characteristic aroma [beer smelling], they can also produce a relaxing, sedative effect [they make you pass out]. In addition, beer is almost completely free of fat and cholesterol". Apparently they do a non-alcoholic version as well, although for the life of me I can't imagine what the point of that is. (Apologies to any tee-totallers ;) ). *** A Bit About The World *** After visiting the website I was pleasantly surp
                        rised to discover how Beck's are making efforts to improve the "environmentally-friendliness" of their product. For example they attempt to make better use of water and now use closed-circulation systems and recycling, reducing the amount of water needed to produce one litre of beer to a third less than it was in 1994. They are also working to reduce their comsumption of detergents and cleaning agents to minimise pollution, have a comprehensive energy conservation programme, are working to reduce waste and promote recycling and are working hard to reduce emissions. All good stuff. *** There's A Lot Of It About Isn't There? *** Now, I don't even know what a hectolitre is (100 litres, apparently), but Germany produces 108 million hectolitres of beer each year, placing it third in the world after the US (they make beer?) and China. *** Alcohol Content *** Like most bottled beers, Beck's contains around 5% alcohol. More than enough for delawney, who only needs a few to get decidedly tipsy. (Again, thank goodness it's not cider). *** Serving Suggestion *** Much to my surprise, I discover the recommended serving temperature is 8-10 degrees C. This sounds a tad on the warm side to me - I like mine fresh out of the fridge (4 degrees). If you're doing it properly you should serve it in a Pilsener glass rinsed out with water first. However, although delawney is quite skilled at the tipping the glass and pouring to get the perfect head (no giigling at the back please), she generally prefers the totally unladylike swigging it out of the bottle approach. Mr delawney prefers this also as it saves on washing up. It goes especially well with a darned good curry. *** Value for Money *** Beck's is not the cheapest beer around, especially if you buy it down the pub. Round these parts it can set you back as much as £2.50 a bo
                        ttle! (delawney's money saving tip - sneak a few bottles into the pub in a generously-sized handbag. Buy one bottle at the bar so as not to arouse suspicion, and then surruptitiously replace it with fresh bottles from your bag as the evening progresses). From the local supermarket, it's not such a painful experience. Our local Tesco sells a 6 pack for £4.99. Each bottle is 275 ml. *** Availability *** Beck's is not hard to find. You'll get it in almost any pub, supermarket or offy. *** Enough of all that - what's the verdict? *** Well, I seem to drink an awful lot of it, so it can't be all that bad. Truth is, it is not my favourite beer. The winner of that award will have to go to the delightful wheatbeery goodness of Hoegaarden (subject of a future op). It is, however, a pleasant tipple, and relatively inexpensive when bought in a decent quantity down at your local supermarket. It is far superior to some of the other more dodgy vegan options I occasionally have to endure, such as Heineken or Budweiser. It has a good beery, hoppy flavour without being too overpowering. It is decidedly refreshing, especially on a hot sunny day. (But be careful - alcohol and sun = sunstroke - I've seen it happen!). Overall, I give it 4 stars - a pleasant, regular drink, but not quite a five star treat! Right, I've been typing far too long - I'm off to finish the bottle....

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                        • More +
                          29.04.2003 02:56
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                          THE QUICK REVIEW (For those in a hurry) Kerrang! says "If you give your heart to a rock goddess this year let it be Harry". Well, to be honest my heart's not really on the market, and if it were I'm not sure it would really bond with a rock goddess. But my ears might be willing to give it a go. "The Trouble With... Harry" is the debut album from rock chick Harry. Purchased by me on the strength of her excellent cover of "Imagination" and the excellent "Under the Covers" e.p., despite having a few not so hot tracks, as a whole it has not proved to be a disappointment. Harry will appeal to you if you like your music loud, raunchy, rebellious in a traditional-rocky kind of way (that's a deliberate oxymoron) and at times experimental. Standout tracks have to include "Imagination", but also "10 Things", "So Real" and "Eye". As a whole, an excellent album. THE FULL OP Anyone remember a somewhat tedious 1980s hit "Imagination" by Belouis Some? You'd remember it if you heard it. It was OK, but it didn't really do a lot. Anyway, a few weeks ago I was watching Kerrang! TV in the hope they'd play "Tribute" again (I just never tire of that video), and suddenly I'm hearing "Imagination", but it doesn't sound at all how I remember it. Suddenly it's raunchy, it's rocky, and well, the video's a bit, rude. Just slightly. Probably more to the taste of the men (or women who like women) as the song was performed by Harry, and Harry is most definitely a girl. And she likes stockings. Having spied Harry's "Under the Covers" e.p. for sale at just £1.99, curiosity got the better of me. Along with "Imagination" I was treated to covers of Salt 'n' Pepa's "Push It" and Bauhaus' "She's
                          in Parties". Oooh, and that rather raunchy video. I was impressed. (With the music, not the raunchy vid!). I was hooked. So, the album "The Trouble With... Harry" came out last Tuesday (22 April) and I spotted it in Virgin for £9.99. Since it was not on CD Wow and more expensive at Amazon, I couldn't resist! When you look at Harry's website and the links to artists Harry loves, you immediately pick up on their influence in her music. These artists include Madonna, PJ Harvey, The Strokes, Bauhaus, Gary Numan, Hole and David Bowie. So, preamble over, onto the review! *** The Packaging *** Hmmm, I think they might be focusing on a particular market here. All Harry pics in stockings and suspenders and long blonde hair everywhere. No lyrics unfortunately (I hate that!), but these are available at the website www.h-a-r-r-y.com. (although not all of them, as it turns out, and there are typing errors!). What I do find a little strange is though I've trawled through the CD insert and the website, I can't find any reference to any musicians. Whether that means they're just not listed, or whether Harry plays most of the instruments, I have not the faintest idea. If anyone can shine any light on this for me I'd be grateful! *** The Track Run-Down *** *** GODDESS ON THE FLOOR *** "I am the Goddess on the floor The daughter, the wife The vixen whore" Having got you all in the mood for a storming rock album, I'm going to confuse you all by telling you that the first track is almost like a techno track - with Harry emitting breathy vocals here and there. When she does start to sing properly. she almost sounds like Toyah (which is no bad thing in my view - I quite like Toyah!). *** 10 THINGS *** "And I always do what you tell me to And I kill myself trying Finding it
                          hard to respect myself And I feel the love I had dying" Most of you will be glad to know she stops sounding like Toyah from this track onwards. A piano/keyboard opening, some funky drum beats, cue Harry with the half-sung half-rapped verses before the catchy chorus. This is moderately upbeat number, though not exactly pounding. This is an excellent song - it's both catchy and moody, and you really get to appreciate Harry's voice. *** SO REAL *** "Wouldn't it be so nice to feel something so real You wouldn't have to live at all" This is an out and out cracking pop song with some loud guitars. It's bouncy, it's fun, it's a great sing-a-long. I think this is going to be one of the future singles. *** FOLLOW ME *** Starts with a techie drum sound and a distant guitar riff, before the guitar comes a little more to the fore. The verses are almost shouted/rapped rather than sung (almost a la Blondie, if I dare make the obvious Harry comparison...). The chorus has a great sing-a-long/swaying kind of vibe. I gather this is also going to be a future single. Harry describes this song as being about things she shouldn't have been doing at 16... I find this song really catchy, although I have to confess I'm not really sure why! *** VALLEY *** A gentle opening this time - yep we're into the ballad zone! But it does pick up tempo a little for the chorus. This is a nice little number where we get to hear a bit more of the softer side of Harry's voice (other than shouting and sexy, breathy whispering). A nice little number, and one that's really a bit of a grower. I thought it was a bit boring at first, but the more I heard it, the more I liked it. *** UNDERGROUND *** Is it me or have we slipped into 80s Lita Ford territory? No, I stand corrected, it
                          9;s way better than Lita Ford, but you do feel a bit like you've slipped into a bit of a time warp here. Actually, now I think of it the guitar sound is almost Thin Lizzy-esque - we're 70s not 80s, I take it all back! Not a bad track, but not one that really gets my juices flowing. You kind of feel you've reached the middle of side two a bit early... *** EYE *** This has more of an 80s New Romantic/bordering on goth sound to it in it's opening bars. Obviously Harry's spent too much time at Slimelight (where she used to work the doors - only been there once myself). Then we find ourselves melting in the chorus of: "Hail hail, honey honey Hail hail, honey honey Oh yeah" which is sung almost mantra-like, and it sounds fantastic, mixed well into the foreground over some pounding guitars. I love this track - it has a real haunting kind of edge to it. It is also quite probably the most creative and original track on the album. *** PUSH IT (REAL GOOD) *** "I bet you look at me and think that I'm a dumb blonde But you have no idea how far I've actually come from I've lived right on the edge that I almost became it I can't believe the things that I've done and I can't change it" Yep, it's the Salt 'n' Pepa cover, and it has to be said it's pretty darned good! Now, as Harry has a writing credit here, I'm assuming that she may well have tampered with the lyrics somewhat, but not exactly being familiar enough with the words of the original. It definitely sounds enough like the original that you are in no doubt what the song is, but she has definitely covered it with a Harry "twist" - well, it rocks - in a kind of semi-disco way. I guess you have to hear it. (Incidently, this proved to be a great song for painting kitchen cupboards to...). Top stuff. <
                          br> *** I DO WHAT I DO *** "I do what I do and I hate to regret" A hard rocking guitar intro this time. I was going to become repetitive and say this was another one with a sing-a-long chorus, but actually it's more of a shout-a-long chorus. This song is nothing special. It is not inventive, it is not breaking any new ground, but it is a belting rocky/poppy number and unashamedly so. I really like it. *** TASTE LIKE KISSES *** There's some interesting synth sounds where you can pick up on the Gary Numan influence. The bridge is quite nice too. This one seemed a bit tedious on first listening, but it has layers and it's definitely a grower. It's one of those that seeps into your subconscious... *** HEROIN *** Once more, a pretty good rock/pop track, more synth sounds but not the best track on the album. *** NOTHING REALLY MATTERS *** "Educated strippers and cross-dressing vicars Disgusting politicians and animal petitions" I love this track! Harry kind of drawls her way through the verses against they're rock/techno/hint of industrial background, while the chorus is somewhere off in the background. The whole song has a really kicking, funky vibe, and it just oozes atmosphere. It's a kind of strange blend of anger and apathy. Brilliant. *** IMAGINATION *** "She blamed excesses on the American dream So seldom witnessed, never seen Imagination, will make a man of you Imagination, can make me love you too Imagination, is all I want from you" So, she saves the debut single for last. It has to be said that this is a truly excellent version of what was initially quite a dull song. Now, while the chorus really rocks, the verses ooze sex and naughtiness creating wonderful contrast. Of course, she sells the sex for all it's w
                          orth in the video! *** The Verdict? *** So what is the trouble with Harry? According to the lady herself on the promo for the album they keep showing on Kerrang! TV, it's that she just can't say no. I think that the trouble with Harry is that she's too blooming good! This is an excellent album. Some of the tracks on here are absolutely fantastic - they either truly kick ass, or they are delightfully original. To say when she's good, she's very very good sums it up well. She's never really bad, but for the sake of balance I do have to say that one or two tracks really don't have the same impact. Although that could be because the good songs are so good. Thus, my overall verdict is going to be four stars. There are some truly fantastic tracks here, but the one or two slightly weaker tracks lose a star for me. But take my word for it, Harry is destined for big things! *** The Useful Information *** For more information, the "Imagination" and "So Real" videos and various audio samples check out the website at www.h-a-r-r-y.com "The Trouble With... Harry" 2003 Dirty World/Telstar Records DWRCD004

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                          • A / Archive General / 0 Readings / 34 Ratings
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                            26.04.2003 20:22
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                            Hmmm - an A-Z of delawney - where to begin? Some choices seem so obvious, and others are such hard work - it took me ages to come up with a "J". Others - simply too many choices for that letter! Well, without further ado... A is for All About Eve I don't know what it is about this band, but for me it seems they can simply do no wrong. I was quite tickled to see a young lass on "Stars in Their Eyes - Kids" last Saturday doing the lovely Julianne Regan from All About Eve, and most disappointed that she didn't win. Of course, she performed "the hit", "Martha's Harbour", which due to it's much over-played-ness is not my most favourite AAE song. AAE started as a sort of goth-folk-rock band for their first couple of albums, but had evolved into something more Curve-esque by their fourth album "Ultraviolet". They split in the early 90's, only to reform and start gigging about three years ago, since when they've released a plethora of live CDs and a new album is on the way soon - yippee! B is for Bed Probably my favourite place to be! I so love sleeping! Nothing beats that feeling when you wake up on a Saturday morning and realise you can just snuggle up and stay there for another few hours. And listen to "Home Truths". C is for Cats I grew up amongst cats - my mother used to breed siamese cats when I was a small child. Despite having a rather nasty allergy to them, I find I can overcome this once I have been around any individual cat long enough. At present we have two little furmonsters - Pavlov and Schrodinger - who provide us with hours of entertainment, although not the amount of love and affection I would like to receive, since they are not exactly lap cats! They both have the strangest fascination with water - as long as it's not from their bowl. They will drink out of the bathroo
                            m sink, the bath, flowerpots, puddles - and their most favourite of all, our glasses. So much so that Mr delawney now leaves a glass of water down for them next to their water bowl (big softy that he is). Pavlov has actually mastered the art of sticking her head in a pint glass, tipping it so that she can reach thewater, drinking and then standing it back up again before taking her head out. I should video that for "You've Been Framed". ("C" could also have been for coffee...) D is for delawney It's somehow become my online identity, and it really is a part of me. Sometimes I think of myself as delawney, rather than as my real name. I kind of relish the anonymity of it all - it allows you a certain element of freedom to be honest. It's not a pseudonym I hide behind, it really is me. E is for Ethics Sounds a bit of a funny choice I know. I studied philosophy (see "P"!) and my most favourite branch of philosophy was ethics. I am fascinated both by the fundamental questions such as "why be ethical?" and "where do ethics come from?", and the specific arguments about ethical issues of the day. As a teenager I was highly opinionated and had very strong ideas of right and wrong. Somehow, as you get older you learn to appreciate that there are more "shades of grey". To be fair, I am still highly opinionated, and still have very strong views on various matters, but at least I know have some pretty impressive arguments to back them up! F is for Family and Friends OK, I know it's highly predictable and it's so many people's "F", but they are important to me so I'm not going to stray away from the norm here. I have been blessed with the most amazing family. My parents divorced at seven, and now I'm in the extremely priviliged position of having four fantastic parents. I was an only
                            child, but now I also have four brothers and sisters - the best of both worlds. Of course, it wasn't always easy, and there were lots of issues I had to come to terms with along the way. But I wouldn't change my family for the world. I am not the most gregarious person in the world, and I don't surround myself with large groups of friends. But the friends I have are very important and special to me, I value them highly and would do anything I could for them. Some of my friends are spread across the country, and whilst we may not speak for long periods of time, when we do there is still a closeness and the time just slips away. Surely the value of such relationships is immeasurable. G is for Growing Up Or to be more accurate, not growing up! I have no intention of ever growing up. My parents haven't done so yet, so why on earth should I have to? Sometimes I am hit with the sudden realisation that I am actually an adult, that I am married, have a responsible job, and own a house. And I think "crikey! Who let me do that?!" H is for Home I have to confess I'm a bit of a homebody. I don't go away very often - I enjoy spending time at home, especially with Mr delawney ;). I like my home to be a reflection of me, indeed of us, so having moved a year ago we are gradually working round the house decorating and making it feel like ours. Home is my sanctuary. It's where I come at the end of a crappy day at work and curl up and relax. I is for Internet Hmm, I fear I may have turned into a bit of a geek! I seem to spend an unhealthy amount of time sat in front of my PC engaging with the internet - be it opinionating, updating my website, chatting with family and friends, sending emails, listening to music or just surfing for the hell of it. I am constantly amazed by the wealth of information available on the internet. I am somewha
                            t jealous that it wasn't around in it's present form when I was at school, as it sure as hell would have helped with the homework! As I have grown accustomed to the internet I have been presently surprised by the sense of community that thrives there - especially on sites such as dooyoo. Internet relationships (by which I am not necessarily referring to romantic relationships) may be "unconventional" by more traditional standards, but I still regard some of the people I have only ever spoken to through a computer as friends as much as those in real life. J is for Job I have a job, which is in itself something to be thankful for. I currently have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my job. Sometimes I really love it - it can be exhilirating, challenging and highly rewarding. It can also be boring, stressful or almost impossible, and thus can take up substatial amounts of my life, which I object to. I think it's important to have a job you enjoy, but it's important to have a life outside of work too. K is for Kids Or not as the case may be! Having been married for 4 years, the question "so, no kids yet?" comes up far to often for my liking. Why is there this strange assumption that everyone wants children? Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike children - I dote on my neices and nephews, they're just simply not for me. I recognise that I am too selfish and that I don't want to spend my time devoted to kids. But I think it's more selfish to try and have your own life and your own career, and try and squeeze children in too. If you're going to have kids, you've got to be prepared to give them the time and attention they deserve. And I'm not. L is for Learning I am always learning. Sometimes that is in a formal sense - I did a degree, I have recently qualified as an accountant. But I don't think you ever stop learning. I ha
                            ve a thirst for knowledge, and I like to fill myself full of information on a variety of subjects. Perhaps that's why I like quizzes so much. And of course, the whole experience of life is a learning process in itself. M is for Mr delawney Well, there had to be a soppy moment. He is not just my husband, he is my best friend. He is my strength, my support, and the person with whom I laugh more than anyone else. I couldn't imagine my life without him. N is for Not Eating Animals OK, it's predictable, it had to come up somewhere! But not eating animals is a very important part of who I am. Although I'm extremely open about it, I hope that whilst I may be encouraging, I hope I am never preachy, as there is nothing worse than a preachy vegetarian. But get me started on it, and it is clear it is something I feel very strongly about. Going vegan was never a whim - it was a carefully thought out rational decision based on my personal inability to reconcile meat-and-dairy-eating to my ethical position. O is for Opinionated I am, I can't help it. Perhaps that's why I enjoy dooyoo so much! P is for Philosophy Despite going on to become an accountant, I studied philosophy at university and my love for it has never gone away. It is an excellent way to train your mind to think things through rationally. My favourite areas centre around ethics (see above). At the moment I'm reading a particularly fascinating book - "Philosophy Behind the Headlines" - examining the philosophical background around issues of the day. (I can also thoroughly recommend "The D'Oh of Homer - The Simpsons and Philosophy", a collection of philosophical essays inspired by our favourite TV family). Q is for Quality Music OK, so I'm cheating a little here so I can get music in ;) I can't imagine life without music. I think I've
                            said on dooyoo before, that when people ask you that age old question "would you rather be deaf or blind?" (bloody stupid question if you ask me) I have to answer blind, as I don't think I could cope if I did not have music. I grew up in a family with a professional musician, so was surrounded by music from a young age. This music took a variety of forms, but I remember at 5 years old my favourites being Abba and Kate Bush, although my favourite song was "Narnia" by Steve Hackett. (It's still a fave now, as it happens!). Nowadays I refuse to be constrained by musical style. I like what I like be it rock, metal, folk, jazz, pop, singer-songwriter types or the downright bizarre. R is for aRithmetic Cheating again! Well, it is one of the three "R"s, so ner! I finally had to admit that I love numbers. At school, although I was good at it I could never really get into maths as it all seemed so meaningless - all that algebra and trigonometry and stuff. I was interested in "issues" and "politics" and "music", and maths just didn't seem to relate to any of that. So I left school and abandoned mathematics completely, choosing to involve myself in artsy-fartsy subjects instead. But as time moved on, I happened to fall into a job that gave me an opportunity to play with numbers and spreadsheets, and slowly came to the realisation that no only was I good at it, but I actually quite enjoyed it. I like the patterns and regularity of numbers. In fact, they almost have a rhythm - I "hear" telephone numbers as a kind of syncopated beat. Once it dawned on me that you could actually employ number skills in a useful work environment - such as for a charitable or social-orientated organisation, I finally realised what I wanted to do. So now I am an officially boring accountant. S is for Sarcasm I can't help i
                            t. It just slips out. Sometimes it gets me into trouble - it can so easily be misunderstood, especially online when you are unable to present the tone of voice indicating you are being sarcastic. T is for Television I really like this more than I should. I spend far too much time vegetating in front of the gogglebox, and sometimes (OK, often) it has to be said that I watch some absolute drivel. I really like all the sad decorating programmes, or programmes about selling houses/buying houses/building houses. I think I'm just nosey and like to see inside other people's homes. I also have a bit of a penchant for "cult" TV, especially Buffy and Angel of course ;) However, I also spend a lot of time shouting at the television. I get so cross when I see people like Bush and Blair spouting their unadulterated crap at us. Do they really think we're stupid? I hate being taken for stupid. U is for Unconventional This is not to say I truly am unconventional - many things in my life are highly conventional. I'm married, I have a regular job etc. I do not strive to be unconvetional. But I will not do something just because convention demands it. Like choosing not to have children. Like having a house-husband. Like wearing what I want to wear regardless of whether it happens to be in fashion or not. Like listening to the music I want to listen to regardless of the genre. I guess I just know my own mind! V is for Voice I'm cheating a little here, as "voice" sums up two things for me. First - we all have a voice, and we should not be afraid to use it. When you believe that something is wrong, you should be prepared to stand up and be counted. Even at school I was obsessed with signing petitions, writing off letters, running campaigns. As I got older I got into full-on protesting, marching against the Poll Tax before I was even old enough to pa
                            y it. Then there were the live export protests that took up months of my life and led to my first ever arrest (for "wilful obstruction of the Queen's highway". Never seen the Queen there myself). Second, is singing. Since I'd used up my "S" on sarcasm I had to get singing in here somewhere! I adore singing. I sing along to my CDs all the time. Whilst decorating over the Easter weekend, I pulled out my favourite selection of decorating CDs (Best of Pat Benatar, Guns n Roses "Appetite for Destruction", Yes "90125") and sung along heartily as I painted. The windows were open. I dread to think what the neighbours thought. W is for Writing Writing is something I've kind of re-discovered via dooyoo. I used to love writing as a child, and had aspirations to be a journalist in my younger years. As my love for music florished, I decided I wanted to be a rock journalist so I could combine the two loves. Now I'm an accountant, I'm not quite sure what happened! As a teenager I spent ages engaged in creative writing and some extremely dodgy poetry - none of which I'm going to share with you here, as it was all decidedly rubbish. Nowadays, I confine myself to opinion sites and my webpage, where I have recently added two sections - "delawney's diary" and "delawney explains it all" where I have the freedom to write about pretty much anything I want. I doubt many people read it, but for me, it's enough simply to have written it - that's where I get the satisfaction. I like writing about real things rather than fiction - I'm not sure why, perhaps that's because it's where I feel I have something valid to say. X is for eXperience My Dad says "there's no such thing as good experience or bad experience, there's just experience" and I think he's right. Everything I've experienced
                            in my life up until now, whether it felt good or bad at the time, has helped make me the person who I am today, and I like and feel comfortable with the person I am today. Thus, I try not to regret anything, although that is not always easy! Y is for Why? OK, I can't stop bending the rules. But "Why?" is one of the most important questions you can ask. Admittedly, when toddlers go through that annoying stage of saying "why?" to everything it can be somewhat annoying, but that aside, it is something I feel we should ask more often. All too often it seems we take the information we receive from television and the newspapers and accept their spin on things, without ever asking why. This also brings me back to philosophy, and the fundamental questions of life, the universe and everything - "why are we here?" etc. OK, we may never know the answer, but we can have great fun trying. Z is for Zany I like to think I'm a bit zany. Truthfully, this is probably just wishful thinking, in reality I suspect I am probably quite boring. So there you have it - the A-Z of delawney. I'm off to read some more of other people's A-Zs now I can no longer be subliminally influenced by other people's choices!

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                            • Dulux / Household Product / 2 Readings / 23 Ratings
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                              21.04.2003 18:36
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                              Having finally completed decorating our living room (at one o clock this morning) I figured, why should I suffer alone? Why not share the horrors of my Easter weekend (supposedly a holiday?) with all my chums at dooyoo? Perhaps I might be able to impart some useful knowledge along the way... I'm exaggerating, it wasn't that bad really. It's just after hours and hours of kneeling on the floor painting skirting boards and breathing in the fumes I've lost a little perspective. *** A WORD OF WARNING *** As I felt talking about paint was a little boring, I have thrown in a few other tips along the way. If all you're really interested in is the paint, just skip to the two sections headed "Emulsion" and "Gloss" and the summary ;) *** A LITTLE SCENE SETTING *** This won't take long, honest. I promise I'll talk about the paint soon! Mr delawney and I are now in our third house in four years. Being the individual I am, I have never been happy with the decor in these properties, and have been keen to stamp my mark on them as soon as possible. Mr delawney is fed up to the back teeth of decorsting. I've had to promise that if we ever move again, we have to live with the decor that is already there, at least for the time being. Good job I've absolutely no intention of moving anytime soon. The house we live in now had previously been lovingly cared for by a delightful couple who had lived there the full 35 years of its life. Whilst most of the decor was not to our taste, it has been reasonably "livable with". Unfortunately, they seemed to have an enexplained affection for brown gloss - brown doors, brown windowsills, you get the picture. Great fun for painting over in lighter colours. Another hurdle in our lounge was the one wall papered in anaglypta (delawney hopes she's spelt that correctly!). Having had to strip wal
                              lpaper in our entire first flat, Mr delawney declared he was not prepared to strip again (but that's a whole other story). We decided to risk it for a biscuit and just try to paint over the anaglpta. Having scoured my eyes over paint charts for months on end (they make great toilet reading too - sorry was that too much information?) I had decided to paint the majority of the house using the Dulux "Discovery" range. There are three such ranges - "African", "Urban" and "Oriental". Each range gives you a selection of colours in both emulsion and gloss, all of which you are supposed to be able to use in any combination and everything should match. I like this idea immensely, as whilst I like each room to have a different feel, I like the notion of the whole house blending together into a seemless whole. (With the exception of the toilet, which is bright turquoise. Mr delawney chose that one!). We've gone for the "Oriental" range - a selection of creams, greens and the magic deciding colour - purple. These are quite warm colours and seem very homely. Anyway, in my ultimate wisdom, I had decided we should use two colours in the lounge, just to make life a little more complicated and exciting. These would be the subtle cream of "rice paper" (not quite as pinky a cream as magnolia) and the deep aubergine of "siamese orchid". Of course, this left us with the interesting question of how you get a nice clean line on the adjoining walls, but more of that later... *** THE EMULSIONS *** So, after Mr delawney had spent most of Thursday prepping the lounge whilst I had been at work, Thursday night ended up with the first coat of the light coloured emulsion going up. This included the anaglypta wall... The general rule is that I do the cutting in (fiddly, takes ages) and Mr delawney follows up later with the roller (quick, looks like you&
                              #39;ve done an awful lot more in a lot less time!). The Dulux Discovery emulsions are all wipeable matt finishes. The paint looks to have a really good consistency - it's thick but it's not so thick as to be almost unworkable (as I have found with some one-coat paints). The answer is that you can paint over anaglypta but be warned - it will take bucketloads of paint! It seems to soak up masses of it. Thus, the anaglypta wall doesn't help me give you an accurate description of coverage. Still, given that the surface was very textured and uneven, I found the paint very easy to use and managed to get it into all the nooks and crannies without too much difficulty. Mr delawney had to employ a thick piled roller on the anaglypta wall, but also found it covered without too much difficulty - other than the massive paint use. After the anaglypta wall, the other walls were a breeze. The paint glided on, coverage was good and economical, and the finished effect marvellous. Note though that with the Discovery range you will require at least two coats, and they do not seem to offer the range in a "Once" finish. Having said that, as the anaglypta wall had much brown showing through after it's first coat (with a cream colour don't forget) we feared that it might need three coats. It didn't. The second coat finished the job off beautifully. Having used this range of paint already in other rooms in my house, I feel confident about its durability. The wipe clean matt is indeed that - our cats have a habit of rubbing themselves against corners and leaving lots of greasy marks. These all wipe off with no bother, no damage to the painted surface and look as good as new. *** THE GLOSS *** Mr delawney hates glossing. The smell makes him feel ill, and he hasn't got the patience to work carefully with it for all the time required. Thus, the majority of the glossing falls to
                              me, so I'm starting to think of myself as rather an amatuer expert. I have tried all sorts of glosses, water based, one coat, gloss finish, satin finish, etc. etc. Dulux's water based gloss isn't bad - it certainly smells better and cleaning the brushes afterwards are a lot less effort. However, I don't find it quite so easy to work with, and it has one major disadvantage - it only comes in white. No good for this room! Not that I like to make my life difficult or anything, but we also planned to use two colours of gloss. "Bamboo screen" (another cream) on all the skirting boards and the door frames and "plum satin" (a plum colour, not surprisingly) on the windowsill, doors and the radiator. Just to confuse the issue - we had run out of "bamboo screen" in another room, and when Mr delawney purchased some more, he discovered Dulux had altered the range slightly and the gloss was no longer non-drip. (At least not the one he picked up). So, the cream gloss - professional, and the plum gloss - non-drip. I loved using the "bamboo screen" professional gloss. I actually found it much easier to use than the non-drip. It just glided on and covered well. I certainly didn't find drips a problem - I solve this by just doing a little at a time! I found it's slightly thinner consistency made it much easier to get a clean line at the top of the skirting boards. The finished look is impressive - the brush marks seem to vanish as the paint dries, giving a lovely smooth sheen. The non-drip plum gloss was a slightly more gloopy affair. Fortunately most of the surfaces we were painting in the plum had a large flat surface area, which can mean only one thing - gloss rollers. These are truly the best invention known to man. Rather than spending hours painting a door trying to get a smooth finish and not leave brush marks, you can just whack it on with a roller in j
                              ust ten minutes and get a much smoother, more professional effect. And yes, the roller will work with the thicker non-drip gloss, just ignore the instructions on the can and give it a good shake first! Once more, the finished result is excellent. The finish is once more smooth, and where a brush was used the brush marks have virtually disappeared. Both the gloss paints I have used give a "satin sheen" finish - that's a "matt" version of gloss to you and me - it has less shine. Again, having used these paints elsewhere in the house, I can once more vouch for their practicality and durability. They are easy to clean with no damage to the paint surface. *** HEROES AND VILLAINS *** To sum up my account of our decorating experience, I thought I'd quickly introduce you to some heroes and villains of the piece... * Heroes * - Low Tack Masking Tape - Aha! The solution to a smooth line on adjoining walls of different colours! Make sure it is low tack though, and remove it as swiftly as possible after painting (preferably while the paint's still wet) else you risk peeling of paint from the surface underneath. - Plastic Dust Sheets - Mr delawney tripped and spilt some washing-down water. Good job it wasn't on the carpet... thanks to the dust sheets! - Harris "No Loss" Brushes - I won't use real bristle brushes for obvious reasons, but these ones are totally man made. And you won't lose any bristles into your skirting board (how annoying is that?). - Gloss Rollers - Just how did I ever survive without these? Painting doors is now a joy, not a chore. - Tack Rags - To remove any bits of fluff before you paint. - Kerrang! TV - For a bouncy musical experience while you paint. - Mr delawney - For doing the majority of the rubbing down (I hate that!) and cooking whi
                              le I painted! * Villains * - Cats - Having got over the trauma of seeing their lounge emptied and wondering why we were sat in the lounge, curiosity took over. Pavlov - care to explain why I found some of your fur stuck to the door? Shrodinger - how come there was a large paw print and bits of fluff on my windowsill, hmmm? - Fumes - My house stinks. So I have the windows open and now I feel cold. Won't last forever though. - Anaglypta - Just how much paint do you need? *** COST *** I'm having to do this from memory as Homebase's website is down, and it's about a year since we originally purchased the paint. However, I think this is a reasonable approximation. I will update once I get more accurate information! A standard can of gloss will set you back around eight or nine pounds. A standard can of emusion I think was about thirteen or fourteen pounds. I recommend 10% discount days at Homebase for purchasing! *** SUMMARY *** Overall, I have no complaints about Dulux's paints at all. I have used other brands in the past, but have never been as happy with them as I am with Dulux. Both the gloss and the emulsion paints give good coverage (anaglypta excepted) that matches the coverage stated on the tin. With standard paint, two coats is generally sufficient, depending on the surface you are covering. Even when you are covering dark brown doors with a cream gloss. Obviously, you do pay a little bit more for Dulux, and you pay an additional premium for the "Discovery" range, presumably because it's supposed to be all posh and designery. However, not being a professional interior designer, I like having the colours grouped together in such a way that I know I can mix and match the colours without clashing. I have no hesitation in recommending Dulux - indeed, I now wouldn't use anything else.

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                              • Dr Hadwen Trust / Other Service / 1 Reading / 20 Ratings
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                                18.04.2003 00:02
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                                I, like many others, have spoken out against any kind of animal testing over in Speaker's Corner in the past. Debate rages as to whether human beings are more important than animals, and whether or not animal testing can ever be justified. The use of animal testing for medical research is perhaps the most contentious area. Although personally against animal testing for any reason, I can understand the strong emotions involved when considering this life or death matter for both animals and people. Which is why it's really good to have a charity like the Dr. Hadwen Trust for Humane Research. The Trust (as I shall call it for the sake of my poor fingers) is a medical research charity. But it only finances research that does not involve the use of animal testing. *** The Background *** (I'm not trying to present an argument for or against animal testing here, just giving you an idea of how much of it goes on) The statistics on animal testing (available on the Trust's website) are horrifying to view. In 2001 there was a stunning 2,622,442 procedures carried out on animals according to Home Office statistics. 1,580 were on cats, 7,945 on dogs and a staggering 3,986 on primates. Other animals used include mice, rabbits, birds and horses. More surprisingly, 15,850 were carried out on amphibians and 171,092 on fish! Given the huge differences between the species, you have to wonder what benefit can really come of this kind of research. 1,551,071 of these tests were carried out without the use of anaesthetic - that's 59%. Despite the ban in this country on cosmetic testing, only 30% of procedures were carried out for what the Home Office call "fundamental research". The majority of this was for cancer research. I doubt anyone would deny the importance of financing useful research to push forward medical advances and find better ways to treat or even cure the myriad of ho
                                rrific conditions from which people could suffer. What the Trust argues is that there is a better, more effective way of doing that, and more importantly they put their money where their mouth is and finance such research. *** So What Are the Alternatives? *** Non-animal testing techniques are currently at the cutting edge of medical research, and there is a huge variety of techniques available. There's the use of cell cultures, which uses human tissue obtained from biopsies, post-mortems or surgical waste. The use of human tissue is preferable to the use of animals - it avoids possible differences in results between species. There are molecular methods, (which not being sciency I don't fully understand) but apparently this research is being used to understand the biochemistry and genetics underlying various illnesses. Research with simple micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeasr can be employed as an early indicator of chemicals which can be harmful, and has been used to aid research into diabetes. Then there's the use of computer models, population research and volunteer studies. So what sort of research does the Trust fund? It's current research programme includes research into heart disease, meningitis, lung disease, cancer gene therapy, migraine, skin sensitisation, kidney failure and drug testing. *** How Can You Support the Dr Hadwen Trust? *** You can download a word file from their website (or request a form by post) that gives you a variety of easy ways to support the Trust. You can simply make a donation (don't forget to include your Gift Aid statement if you are a UK taxpayer!), you can become a member (£10 a year ordinary membership), you can set up a regular standing order, and you can refer your friends. Like most charitable organisations these days they have their own catalogue to help raise funds. Whilst I have to confess a lot of this is made up of the tacky
                                gifts you expect from such catalogues, they do have an unsurpassed collection of yummy vegan chocolates at very reasonable prices - the best place to buy your Booja Boojas! They also offer non-leather footware and vegan toiletries. More importantly, you can now shop online via their website. *** So Where Can You Find More Information? *** Simply visit their website at www.drhadwentrust.org.uk. As a consciencious vegan I feel very uncomfortable about donating to the main medical research charities, knowing they fund animal testing as part of their research. But I very much care about people too, and I want to be able to contribute to medical research. The Trust offers me a way to do this in a manner I feel comfortable with. So much is my respect for this organisation that mr delawney and I have remembered them in our will. But even if you don't have a problem giving to the larger medical research charites, a position I don't agree with but do respect, I would humbly ask you to consider making some contribution to alternative research via the Trust as well.

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                                • Fallen - Evanescence / Music Album / 2 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                                  15.04.2003 19:09
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                                  THE QUICK REVIEW (For those in a hurry) "Fallen" is the debut major release from the delightfully goth-tinged Evanescence. Chief amongst its attractions is the catchy single "Bring Me To Life", currently flying high in the movie "Daredevil". From the moment I heard "Bring Me To Life" on Launch, I was totally hooked and had to get the CD. Currently only available on import, it set me back a whopping £15.99, an amount I would never normally dream of spending on a single CD. That's how much I think of this band! Evanescence will appeal to you if you like your music loud, but also dark, haunting and at times ethereal. They will probably not appeal if you're only into fluffy pop songs. Standout tracks have to include "Bring Me To Life", but also "Imaginart", "Taking Over Me" and "My Last Breath". They're all so darned good though it's hard to choose! THE FULL OP I used to be a bit of a goth, and I still absolutely adore a wealth of goth music. I'm not sure whether Evanescence would take it as a compliment or not, but "Fallen" represents for me the very best of goth-rock music updated for the noughties. "evanescence (ev'e-nes'ens ): a dissipation or disappearance like vapor" (Taken from the Evanescence website - hence the American spelling of "vapour"). From Little Rock, Arkansas, original band members Ben Moody (guitarist) and Amy Lee (vocals) met as teenagers at a youth camp and hit it off straight away. Evanescence first evovolved in Little Rock in the late 1990s, and were a bit off the wall for a town usually populated by death metal and soft rock bands, apparently. Taking their influences from a variety of different artists including Bjork, Danny Elfman and Tori Amos, Evanescence mix it all together to create a powerful dark rock with
                                  a twist of delicate beauty from Amy's vocals. *** The Packaging *** A very goth-looking Amy adorns the cover of the CD in a super goth mood. Just my cup of tea. All lyrics are included in the CD booklet (I get very upset if they're not) and it is readable - not one of those that's so arty-farty you can't read it. *** The Track Run-Down *** *** GOING UNDER *** "Blurring and stirring the truth and the lies So I don't know what's real and what's not" A cracker of an opening track, that really gives you a taste of what's to come on the rest of the album. Thumping guitars and passionate belting vocals. There's clever use of vocal effects and good contrast, with a piano gently tinkling in the background under the wall of sound from the guitars. *** BRING ME TO LIFE *** "Bid my blood to run before I come undone Save me from the nothing I've become Bring me to life" The current single and the track featured in the movie "Daredevil". This is the track that first introduced me to Evanescence, and from the moment I heard it I was instantly hooked. It begins with a gentle, haunting piano sound before Amy's delicious vocals kick in. Then suddenly a thumping guitar riff and a build up to a pounding chorus. This song is given another layer with the guest vocals of Paul McCoy of 12 Stones, another band I'm now figuring I'm going to have to check out. The tonal qualities of the two singers compliment each other really well. The video for this track is excellent, and you can watch it at www.evanescence.com *** EVERYBODY'S FOOL *** Another cracking rock number, full of delightful bitterness and spitting lyrics. It follows on well from the opening two tracks, and carries an appropriate progression of mood. This track I
                                  didn't find as instant as "Bring Me To Life", but after a few listens I can tell you it's a real singer-alonger. *** MY IMMORTAL *** "These wounds won't seem to heal This pain is just too real There's too much that time cannot erase" After three belting tracks we get to see a different side of Evanescence on track four. A gentle piano ballad, with Amy's exquisite voice complemented by a string section. I'm delighted that they have not over-complicated this song - it's simple and not at all fussy. In fact it's truly beautiful. It's delicateness serves to emphasise the power and strenght of the more rocking numbers on the album. *** HAUNTED *** Focused on a mid-tempo thumping rhythm, this is a real foot-tapper and head-nodder. The choral arrangements on this song are fantastic, and for me stir up memories of The Sisters of Mercy's "This Corrosion", although I hasten to add the two songs are completely different. *** TORNIQUET *** "And I'm pouring crimson regret and betrayal I'm dying praying bleeding and screaming Am I too lost to be saved Am I too lost?" Another loud, pounding rock song. Good use of vocal effects on this one, that really help emphasise the mood. Just one small niggle here - I'm really not convinced about Amy's pronounciation of "Torniquet", but I'm not going to let that ruin a perfectly good song. *** IMAGINARY *** "In my field of paper flowers And candy clouds of lullaby I lie inside myself for hours And watch my purple sky fly over me" Power-ballad time. We've slowed things down a little once more, but this is not the delicate minimalism of "My Immortal". Here the chorus still kicks ass. Still, this song beautifully crafts a mix of
                                  light and shade - delightful contrast between loud guitars, gentle piano and gliding string sections. Top stuff. *** TAKING OVER ME *** "I believe in you I'll give up everything just to find you I have to be with you to live to breathe You're taking over me" This track opens with the same careful use of contrast between the delicate piano and the aggressive guitars. Probably also bordering on power-ballad, this is another corker of a track. *** HELLO *** "Don't try to fix me I'm not broken" We return once more to the more austere ballad. Somehow you are completely captivated by Amy's voice, and you can focus on every single word, sung with absolute clarity. Probably not a song to listen to if you are in need of cheering up. *** MY LAST BREATH *** "Holding my last breath Safe inside myself All my thoughts are of you" Evanescence pick up the temp again once more with another cracker of a song. Like most of the songs on the album, a great one to belt out in the shower (not that I do it justice). A potential future single? *** WHISPER *** Evanescence seem to manage to combine a bit of everything in this album closer. There's the piano, the belting guitars, the lilting chior and a hint of string section. I don't find it quite as gripping as some of the earlier tracks on the album and I'm not convinced of it as the dramatic album-closer I think they'd intended. Make no mistake though, this is still a darned good track. It may be a grower - maybe I'll change my mind in due course! That said, I absolutely adore the ending, where Amy's voice and the music fades out and we are left with the strings and the choir. Very effective. Make no mistake, this album is dark. Some of the song titles are almost go
                                  th cliche, such as "My Immortal", "Torniquet" and "My Last Breath" - but for me I have to say that just adds to the mood and I really don't mind. Nevertheless it manages to be catchy, emotive, deliciously haunting yet delightfully feisty. Evanescence are probably never going to be the sort of band to hit number one (in this country at least) as they're style of music may lack that mass appeal, but I still think they are destined for big things. Currently only available on import, I got mine from Amazon for £15.99. They appear to only be selling it via their marketplace sellers now, at the more reasonable price of £10.99. The good news is that it appears the album will be released in the UK on 28 April, and you can currently order it on Amazon for just £9.99. But whatever you pay for it, it's worth every penny. Amy Lee - Vocals Ben Moody - Lead Guitar John LeCompt - Guitar Rocky Gray - Drums For more information, the "Bring Me To Life" video and audio samples check out the website at www.evanescence.com "Fallen" 2003 Wind-up 60150-13063-2 Produced by Dave Fortman

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