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Civilization 2 must rank as one of the best computer games of all time and is certainly about the best strategy game ever made. It builds on the strengths of the original, groundbreaking game and adds better graphics more variety and improved gameplay.
The game begins in the bronze age and your first task is to use your single settler unit to found a city in a suitable place. You then commence your journey to modern civilisation (and beyond), conquering your rivals, researching new technology and building wonders of the world. It is simply fascinating to watch your cities and troops gradually upgrade as you develop and your borders push further afield. The aim of the game is to either become the only civilisation remaining or by building a spaceship and reaching Alpha Centauri. Upon doing so the game grades your efforts and, in a nice touch, gives you a title such as "the magnificent" or "the pitiful" (if you haven't done so well!).
One nice touch is that you can consult your advisers each turn. These offer advice on different areas of your dominion such as military, economics, diplomacy etc. and are represented by little videos offering tidbits of info on the current state of affairs. Their continual demands, bickering and catchphrases do a lot to add humour to the game.
Civilization 2 has been installed on at least one of my computers since it's release in the late nineties and when I fancy some retro gaming it us one of the first I go to. It remains great gun to play, with no two run throughs ever being the same and an active community still churning out new maps and scenarios. While I have played the sequels I have found them over reliant on flashy graphics and new gameplay gimmicks without having the charm of this rdition.
I have been a fan of the Total War series since the first Medieval game (I missed out on the original Shogun). There's something about the mix of micromanagement strategic planning and fast paced battles that appeals to me. With this in mind I bought this game soon after it was released.
It immediately became apparent that the studio had worked hard on improving the graphics since the (already beautiful) last outing. The in-battle weather and individual soldier models in particular are fantastic. The strategic difficulty also seems to have increased, becoming a serious challenge to play on the top difficulty when previously I found myself breezing through the campaign.
The aim of the game is to take your chosen clan to dominance in 16th century Japan, by fighting, negotiating and back stabbing your rivals. You can also buy expansions set at the start of the Shogun era and at it's fall in the 19th century. I found that I didn't really engage with the campaign, not really caring what territories I was fighting over, who died in the last battle o et also on. Perhaps this was due to my relative ignorance or lack of interest in this era, in other total war games I have been thrilled to firefight Agincourt, crush barbarians beneath the boots of my Roman legionnaries or to thwart the plans of Napoleon but there was nothing to hook me in this time. Just another battle against similar opponents on some vaguely familiar part of Japan.
The 19th century campaign was a little better with new innovations for the series such as ironclad ships, coastal bombardments and railways workingwell. However on the whole I just couldn't get over my apathy and really into this game, which is a shame considering its outstanding attributes on paper and the high regard in which I hold its predecessors.
I have had a Victorinox Climber since I was a 13 year old scout (I am now a twenty something scout leader). The model is one of the simplest in the Victorinox range, containing the core, most used features and leaving out the more obscure (which I rarely need and just take up space and weight). The features it retains include the main blade (less than three inches long and non-locking so can be legally carried in public without a specific reason) which probably sees the most use of all the features. This is fairly thin metal and seems to blunt fairly quickly but can likewise be sharpened quite fast. Because of its thinness the blade does also pick up nicks and burrs if you use it on hard materials but is well suited to lighter tasks such as cutting sisal or rope. If you want to cut anything more heavy duty, you'd want to look at a sheath knife anyway, not a swiss army knife.
The other blade is smaller and suited to lighter work, cutting fruit or the like. There is also a small pair of scissors which are very handy and cut well. I have found that the small spring in them can pop out of it's socket after a few years of use and whilst easily returned is quite annoying. The screwdriver is mounted with the bottle opener (and apparently a wire stripper that I have never used) and is very robust and easy to use, handy for when you need screws loosening and you haven't got a proper screwdriver (or likewise when there's beer to be drunk and you find yourself without a bottle opener). The can opener is functional, if slow to use, and is mainly a backup if my can opener breaks or is forgotten on camp - the end if it is meant to he a smaller size screw driver but I have never used it. The same can be said for the corkscrew, a good backup but awkward to use full time. There's also some sort of hook and a blunt blade with a hole in (apparently a reamer and sowing eye) that I have we never had the need to use.
The body of the knife is red plastic, that sits well in the hand and stands up alright to tough handling. The body also houses a set of tweezers and a toothpick. On the whole the knife is easy to use and hard to break. A good starting knife ( I have since switched to the rival Wenger brand as their blades seem to hold their edge better but retain the Victorinox as a back up).
The first thing I should say is that the title of the Dooyoo page has been misspelt - it is in fact "Quatermain", without the "r".
This is the second book written in Haggard's Quatermain series, coming two years after we are first introduced to the grizzled adventurer in 1885's "King Solomon's Mines", and the last chronologically. Fans of Haggards earlier book will be pleased, with the sequel offering more in the same vein.
The book, like it's predecessor, purports to be the recollections of Quatermain and his adventures in Africa. At the start of the novel we find Quatermain living comfortably in England on the money made from selling the diamonds found in King Solomon's mine. He is distraught at the death of his only son and undertakes to return to Africa with his friends Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good of the Royal Navy. His objective this time is to investigate rumours of a fabled white skinned tribe dwelling in a remote part of the continent.
Needless to say there follows a series of scrapes and adventures as Quatermain's party journeys to the land of the white tribe (The Zu-Vendi, apparently survivors of a group from the Babylonian Empire). This book contains the same fast-paced style as the first and actually steps up the action with more large-scale battles and adventure. There is even some romance along the way and is something of an emotional rollercoaster as every triumph seems to presage another disaster for our friends.
Haggard understandably writes in the mindset of a Victorian and whilst European culture is almost always viewed as superior, he ensures he gives you an impression of the depth of African culture he knows from first hand experience and gives a well written leading part to a Zulu chieftain. One part of the book that slightly vexed me was the use of "Olde English" phrasing (thee, thy etc.) to represent the dialect of the Zu-Vendi as it renders some passages harder to read, though I did enjoy the in depth background that Haggard gave to this tribe.
This book will keep you enthralled from the start and the ending is sure to bring a tear to your eye (particularly if you have read others in the Quatermain series). It is a classic of the 19th century that can be read as easily (disregarding the Zu-Vendi dialect!) by a modern audience as by the Victorian boy dreaming of adventure in far off lands.
I have had these speakers for around five years now, purchasing them when I upgraded my PC. You can certainly buy much better speakers for your money nowdays but I have not yet felt the need to upgrade them (though I am not much of a sound enthusiast as some people are).
The set is the usual two speakers and one large bass speaker. One of the smaller speakers has the volume, bass and power controls and is connected to the other by a single wire, this speaker then connects to the audio sockets on your computer with a wire and via another wire to the bass unit (which then has the main power wire going to it. The wires seem to ample for the usual desk-based set up, though the power cable could be longer to reach the bass unit if you have it on top of your desk. You can also plug your headphones into the main small speaker (via a standard socket) which automatically turns of the speakers and re-routes the signal to your headphones.
The sound quality is fine to my rather un-demanding ears but I suppose could be improved upon by modern sets. One downside is that I am forever knocking over the smaller speakers that sit on the desk as they are rather top heavy, with small bases and tend to get caught by the curtains and other objects. The unit has been transported numerous times as I have moved house during my student years and has not suffered from being packed up and jolted around. All in all I rate this unit as a good initial investment that has lasted well and whilst I will probably replace them at some point in the nearish future I can honestly say I am very satisfied with them.
I acquired a Nokia 3109c as a work phone when I first started at my current company (a major civil engineering firm) just over two years ago. I must have inherited it from a former employee as it came second hand with some phone numbers and messages stored upon it. I use it mainly for making work calls, with some occasional texting and internet use.
The phone itself is the traditional old school Nokia build, around 10.5cm long, 4.5m wide and 1.5cm thick. This makes it thicker (and heavier) than most modern phone but provides a nice size for holding in one hand. The plastic material of the phone seems to be coated with some form of rubberised material that makes it easier to grip, though this is showing the phones age by scratching off. The screen is large and easy to view, though again this has been scratched through years of being in pockets alongside keys, nails and being dropped, and is nice and bright. The buttons are also large and easy to press compared to some modern handsets.
The phone is light on extras (though it does have a basic calendar, calculator etc) and does not have a camera but this makes it very battery efficient. I can go 3-4 days of fairly heavy use without recharging and if not used for calls (eg when on holiday) will easily last 10 days or so on a full battery. The bluetooth is easy to use and has had no problems communicating with my car or more exotic devices like my GPS surveying kit.
One of the best features of this phone is it's robust build. I have dropped it countless times, left it outside in the rain and even dropped it into a road gully full of water and it has survived every experience. The screen, though scratched is not cracked and all the functions still work, even now there is dirt and dust in all parts of the phone. This is a great advantage in my field of work and has allowed this phone to survive long after some of my colleagues' newer phones have thrown in the towel. Whilst it is now reaching the end of it's useful life, mainly due to the scratching on the screen, I shall be sad to see it go.
I use a Hewlett Packard DesignJet 510 at work. As we are a construction site it is mainly used for plotting a1 sized construction drawings. The unit is wired up to our wireless router so we are able to plot from a variety of portacabin offices. The plotter itself is fairly slim and it was no trouble finding a space to fit it in, despite having fairly cramped offices.
The plotter itself provides a good level of service. It can rattle off a colour a1 draft quality line drawing in a couple of minutes, up to ten minutes on a better quality setting, automatically cutting it off the paper roll when it is done and dropping it into a holding receptacle. Line quality is good, with definition maintained on even the thinnest lines, though it struggles sometimes with blocks of colour. I have not yet overloaded the internal memory, though this is conceivably a problem if you are plotting detailed colour images.
The dye cartridges and paper rolls seem to last a long time, though we are relatively light users, and we have never struggled to find replacements. The unit has never broken or required servicing and continues to function well 14 months after it was installed. The user interface I add very straightforward and easy to master and it seems to have no problems communicating with our windows based PCs. I could see this model being a handy on-site plotter or possibly an entry level unit for a small design office.
I bought this charger from Amazon for use with my Sony Ericsson smartphone. It cost me about a fiver and came from one of those independent companies that can list on Amazon. Delivery, as usual, was quick.
The item consists of two components: the adaptor from your in car charger to USB port and a separate USB to micro USB charger cable (such as is used with your device for charging or data transfer). This is useful as it means that not only can you charge your Sony Ericsson (or indeed any other micro USB smartphone) but any other device with a USB charger (such as an iPod). Thus this one device can f you'll think many of your in car charging needs.
I travel a lot for work so this charger sees a lot of action and has yet to let me down. It features a charging light so you can check that it is plugged in cocorrectly, which can sometimes be a problem with all in car chargers. The device is easy to plug in but is a little harder to remove than others due to its small size and the fact that you cannot pull on the cable to remove it (as it will separate).
The price was quite high compared to some alternatives but I was willing to pay more to receive a branded product as I have had bad experiences in the past with unbranded chargers and I knew this one would see a lot of use.
Please ignore the quick rating below for picture quality and battery life, for some reason it made me full them in.
I have a Konica Minolta Bizhub in the office at work. It is sourced through our IT department so I cannot comment much upon the initial cost (£4k+ I believe) or cost of running . Installation was relatively straight forward and the unit has been linked to our wireless router to allow remote printing from several portacabin offices. We have never had any problems with communicating with the machine, though sometimes it is a little slow to respond (I think the problem lies with our wireless network).
The unit comes with an adjustable/tiltable touchscreen display that allows the machine to be operated directly by the user as a scanner and photocopier (it can also be used for fax but we don't make use of this function). The photocopier/scanner function can make use of a top loading tray that automatically feeds into the machine and makes light work of large (50+ pages) documents. Double sided copying/printing is available and automatically undertaken by the unit. Print speed is exceptional compared to other units we have used and the quality is top notch. Scan resolution is likewise ample for our needs (construction site paperwork, drawings etc) and the software is helpfully able to output scanned documents as a single PDF file.
The paper storage is ample and capable of holding almost any size from a3 down. Toner life is good, we have only replaced one cartridge in around 10 months, though we probably use it less than the typical user. The machine stands up well to the rough and tumble of life on a construction site and copes well with the dust it has been subjected to, though we do occasionally have problems with the a3 paper feed jamming these are easily fixed by the user. User maintenance is aided by a multitude of different panels which can be opened to expose all the parts of the internal gubbins where paper might be caught. The unit also has a helpful info box/trouble shooter that pops up to inform the user of the exact nature of the problem and how to fix it.
All in all I highly recommend this printer for the multi-user business environment which requires a fast, high quality and easy to run machine.
I have had a current account with Nationwide since I was a child and though my main current account is with a bank my savings remain with Nationwide and I have a secondary current account there. I have always been a keen proponent for the idea of building societies, where there are no shareholders to pay and the customer holds voting rights. Being able to vote against big bonuses for the board is a power no bank would like to see in the hands of its savers! That's the reason I always vote against demutualisation when the option is offered.
I have always fkind branch staff to be very helpful and friendly. My branch has the ethos of a local company, very different. To the standard corporate treatment you experience in some banks. My only quibble is that the branches seem to have fewer cashiers than others and the queues, particularly at lunch time, can be long. Nationwide maintains a good national coverage of branches, which can be a problem with some building societies.
Nationwide offers the same services as the more usual banks and had a full complement of knowledgeable financial advisors and specialised banking products. The online banking system is quick and easy to use and protected by a personal password, pass number and a card reader log in. On the whole Nationwide offers as good alternative to the more usual high street banks and you feel they are always on your side.
Quartered Safe Out Here is unusual in the world of military memoirs in that it is written by one of the 'other ranks', the ordinary working man who, in the age of conscription found himself in the front rank of his country's fighting forces. Fraser was, before being selected for a commission, enlisted in the ranks of a Cumbrian regiment sent to fight the Japanese in the far east. His war is not one of grand arching strategies and larks in the officers mess but of trying to stay dry and making it to the next brew up.
Life for Fraser revolves around his immediate comrades in Nine Section. These at are the men that he loves and would risk his life for, not Churchill or Montgomery. Fraser's war is, like most, one of long periods of tedium separated by brief flashes of action. The slow periods are enlivened by Fraser's recollections of the absurd moments of war - being terrorised by a centipede and falling down a well spring to mind but it is his description of the action where he truely shines. Whether the terror of clearing bunkers at bayonet point or shooting at Japanese soldiers in cold blood Fraser isn't afraid of revealing his true feelings.
This book is very immersive - you will feel you are fighting in the war as a squaddie in Nine Section (Cumbrian accent and all) but it is the reflections of Fraser that hit you hardest. His continuing hatred of the Japanese and his fierce patriotism (he recalls singing the full national anthem, 'un PC second verse and all' at a remembrance event) are just two indicators of what a defining period his time with Nine Section was for him (as it must have been for tens of millions of other temporary soldiers in both of the world wars), despite his late war experiences as an officer (foretold by his comrades - with my permish you'll get a comish!).
A Sword of Honour is a Second World War novel but in many ways has little to do with the actual realities of life at the front. There is little real action for the blood and guts enthusiast but what there is is a brilliant account of the absurdities of life in 1940's Britain.
The protagonist is Guy Crouchback, the last male heir to a long lived and distinguished British Catholic family. At the start of the trilogy Guy finds himself living alone in a castle in Italy, in his mid thirties, divorced with no children and no apparent occupation. The looming of war inspires him tobecome an officer in the British Army if for no other reason than to lay his life down for some cause. Guy eventually finds himself training with the (fictional) Royal Corps of Halberdiers and after several humorous episodes he is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
Guy subsequently undertakes commando and parachute training, sees action in a daring raid in West Africa and the humiliating withdrawal from Crete and serves as a liaison officer in Yugoslavia. Guy is confronted at every turn by incompetence and varying degrees of insanity at all levels. He has his card marked by several unfortunate coincidences and is wrongly suspected of being a fascist spy. Guy is hopelessly entangled with a promiscuous ex-wife who provides a romantic sub-plot and comedy in Guy's situation, with his strong catholic belief (or rather the weight of tradition) binding him to her.
Waugh provides a gripping satire on military life and society in the 40's with a well thought out plot based on the author's own war experience. Guy's escapades show the absurdity of a war dictated by bureaucracy in a manner similar to Catch 22 whilst his position as an outsider (an Italy-dwelling Catholic) exposes the fickle nature of British society in the first half of the last century. Waugh will keep you turning the pages as his reluctant hero lurches from one crisis to the next whilst trying to do what he believes is expected of him. The final chapter provides something of a well deserved break for Guy but is not present in all editions.
King Solomon's Mines is one of Haggard's earliest works, reportedly written as the result of a bet with his brother that he couldn't write a novel half as good as Stevenson's Treasure Island. If so Haggard did well. Writing a nineteenth century best seller that remains popular today and has spawned a series of sequels, a Hollywood film and inspired a whole genre of works.
The book is the original 'lost world' storyline, written from the viewpoint of famed elephant hunter Allan Quatermain recounting his adventures in unexplored Africa. Quatermain is employed by Sir Henry Curtis, a burly aristocrat, who seeks to find his brother who went missing looking for the renowned mines of the biblical king for which the book is named. Along with the well dressed Captain Good, a lady's man whose career in the Royal Navy apparently leaves him plenty of tome for adventuring, and a mysterious African servant they plunge into the jungle armed with a map left to Quatermain by a dying Portuguese explorer. Sufficed to say they come through a number of close scrapes in their journey, are pitched against an imaginative cast of enemies and theit mysterious servant comes to the fore.
Don't expect exquisite writing, though it comes across well as the work of rough and ready Quatermain, but sprinkling of detail from Haggard's times in Africa and some well chosen quotations add much. The characterisation is brilliant, though being a work of its time the African characters tend to be cast as either villains, the 'noble savage' eager to help the white men or are simply glossed over. There are plenty of memorable scenes and the pacing will keep you turning the pages.
I first purchased Gillette Fusion Hydragel when it was on offer in the supermarket. I used to buy 'own brand' standard shaving gel but have been converted to this brand. Whilst it is more expensive than I was used to I found that it foams up well with a little water, meaning that a regular 200ml bottle lasts longer. The bottle itself is of the pressurised type and though easy to dispense sometimes seems to seep out of it's own accord, leaving a quantity of bubbly mess inside the cap when you come to use it.
Though I wouldn't say I have sensitive skin I found the gel lubricates the razor well, causing it to catch less and so reducing instances of razor burn. The gel also didn't seem to dry out the skin as much as some foams, possibly lending weight to it's claim that it is 'infused with hydrating emollients'.
All in all a good buy and a brand that has earnt a place in my shopping trolley.