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flyingsparks
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Member since: 14.03.2007

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      13.07.2007 15:59
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      Great family friendly hotel in a unbeatable location

      The Min-y-mor building with its distinctive turret and imposing appearance has been a feature on the Barmouth seafront for many years. In the past the building has served many different functions including a school, but today it is holidaymakers rather than schoolchildren who enjoy the use of this structure.
      The Min-y-mor hotel is best described as comfortable and family orientated. The décor could not be described as modern style, and the place does not offer five star luxury, but what it does have is character, a friendly atmosphere, and a stunning location on the edge of one of the most beautiful beaches to be found anywhere.
      The hotel is on Barmouth promenade, you can walk out of the front door and you are on the front lawn of the hotel. There are a few tables and chairs here for outside eating and drinking. Beyond the lawn is the promenade and the long sandy beach that has made Barmouth so popular as a holiday destination.
      Upon entering the hotel you are immediately facing the reception desk, around you there is a comfortably furnished lobby area with several leather sofas. On your right there is a doorway to the bar area and family room. The bar area is large, there are quite a few tables here as it is possible to eat here in the evenings, there is often entertainment arranged here, this is popular with both the local population and guests.
      The family room has a pool table, and a dart board, and is designed to provide somewhere for families with younger children to relax away from the bar. There is a separate pool table nearer the bar for bar customers to use.

      To the left of the reception is the entrance to the dining room, and several lounges where guests can relax and talk.
      Meals at the Min-y-mor are always well prepared, and rarely too long in coming. The range of food is not great, but quite adequate for a stay of a week or more. Breakfast is usually, cereal, and toast, then a choice of hot meal, either kippers, or the traditional full English breakfast, plenty to keep you going all day until the evening meal comes around.

      The bedrooms are on the upper floors of the hotel. The staircase is on your left as you enter the hotel. I have stayed in three or four different rooms over quite a long period of time. The rooms are simply furnished, but have always been clean and well presented. The single rooms tend to have views of the mountains behind Barmouth, while the best sea views are found from the large family rooms at the front of the hotel. All the rooms have tea and coffee making facilities, en suite bathroom, and a television, everything that you would expect from a mid-range hotel.
      This hotel is great for anyone with children wanting to visit the west Wales area, or anyone just wanting somewhere to stay for a few days. I have stayed there many times, and would be happy to return again. With a friendly, helpful staff, and great surroundings what more could you ask from any hotel?

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    • Vacancy (DVD) / DVD / 16 Readings / 14 Ratings
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      09.07.2007 19:39
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      An interesting film that makes you think

      What makes a good horror film? For me it has to be more than a long bloody killing spree, there really isn't much to scare anyone in endless cycles of gore and guts.
      This is why I enjoyed 'Vacancy' so much. There is very little blood and killing in this film, but Vacancy still manages to pack plenty of real tension and excitement into its 85 minute length.
      The story starts in a very traditional horror setting. David and Amy Fox, played by Luke Wilson, and Kate Beckinsale, are driving along a lonely country road late at night, the car develops engine problems and they are forced to spend the night as the only guests at a run-down motel which is the only inhabited places for miles around.
      It isn't long before they start hearing noises from the supposedly empty room next door.
      In their motel room the only entertainment David and Amy can find is a pile of videos apparently left by a previous occupant, upon playing these tapes they discover that they are all real life torture and murder scenes, and all apparently filmed in the very room they are now in.
      From this point on the film develops into a frantic race to escape a sustained attack by unknown, but very human attackers.
      On one level this is just another horror film, but it does have another level to it. At the start of the film David and Amy have serious marital difficulties, and have apparently already agreed on a divorce, but as the film progresses we see them draw closer, and closer, as they have to work together to survive. This film is only 85 minutes long, and manages to sustain its momentum throughout. It is certainly worth a viewing and I recommend it to anyone looking for an evenings entertainment.

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        08.07.2007 16:21
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        Great value resort, beautiful views, but may be too isolated for some.

        Blue Sky Resort is a secluded holiday resort in Bohol, Philippines.
        The accommodation is what is often described as 'Native Style'. This can mean a variety of different things in hotels and resorts across the Philippines, in the case of the Blue Sky resort it means that residents stay in square huts, the outside of each hut is made of woven work, and the roof is made of thatch. The internal appearance of the hut is overwhelmingly of white plaster.
        The accommodation could fairly be described as basic. There is a bed, a small table, a chair, and an open wardrobe unit to store your clothes. There is electricity, and a bathroom with hot and cold water in the shower.
        If you want to rent a television the resort can arrange that for a small daily charge.

        The huts are arranged in rows going up the hillside. This arrangement gives excellent views across the coast, my only slight concern with this arrangement was that the doors to the huts are are located at the back facing the hillside, and the doors have a gap at the bottom. One one occasion I discovered a large rat entering the room through that gap and settling down to sleep under my bed. I was soon able to persuade him that it would be better for him to sleep outside my hotel room.
        Directly in front of the huts there is a patio area with a small swimming pool and some sun loungers. Right next to the patio there are the resort facilities, this is a roofed area which is mainly taken up with tables and chairs for the restaurant area. At one end is the resort reception desk. This roofed area is really quite an attractive place to sit and eat, the menu is varied, and the food is generally excellently prepared, and delivered promptly, again the chief attraction here is the view out to sea. It is possible to sit there and relax watching the local fisherman at work out at sea. If you look in the other direction then you have a view of a long sandy beach to delight your eyes.

        The one feature of this resort which might not be to everyone's taste is the isolation. We got there by flying from Manila to Tagbilaran City, from there it was a 45 minute tricycle ride to the Blue Sky Sea Resort. There are always plenty of tricycle drivers willing to take to the resort, but it is best to have some idea of where you are going as not all the drivers know the way, and they generally don't admit this until they are driving you down the road miles from any sign of civilisation. On several nights I found myself leaning out of the side of a tricycle trying to find the right turning on a deserted and unlit road. It doesn't help that the resort can only to accessed from the road along an unsurfaced dirt track which is marked as being the way to a bird sanctuary.

        Blue Sky is certainly a quiet resort but there is no shortage of water based activities, and land based tours that can be arranged by the resort, however it is possible to arrange many of these things independently at a lower price, it will just take you a little longer to get everything planned.

        Blue Sky styles itself as a Sea Resort, but there is a small private sandy beach at the resort which offers great swimming opportunities, or if you prefer you can follow the cliff top path out of the resort and walk for 15 minutes to the main beach which is several miles of beautiful and almost deserted sand.
        I would suggest that this resort is ideal for anyone seeking a few days away from the world. It is easy enough to get back to Tagbilaran City if you want more human company, and modern shopping facilities, but if that is what you are looking for then you would probably prefer a more centrally located resort, and there are plenty to choose from.
        I was very happy during the week I spent at the Blue Sky Sea Resort, and with a price of only $30 a night for the room I think it would be hard to beat it for value.

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        01.07.2007 17:37
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        An easy way to reach central London, and deserves to be more widely known.

        Thames Clippers operate a fleet of fast commuter boats along the river Thames between Woolwich Arsenal and central London via Canary wharf.
        I'd been intending to try their service for some time, but as I don't travel to London too often my first opportunity didn't arrive until a recent bank holiday Monday.

        For my first trip I decided to travel from Canary wharf to London, Canary wharf pier is easy to find, I just had a few minutes to walk from the DLR station, and the route was clearly signposted.
        There are several ticket booths at Canary Wharf pier, and the pier is used by boats from a number of different companies so it is important to check you are getting on the right boat. At the time I was there although the office at the pier was staffed, the tickets were sold on board the boat, I don't know whether or not this is standard practice.

        Even though it was a bank holiday 'Thames Clippers' were still operating a frequent timetable of services, and right on schedule the boat pulled in and we were able to board. The boat was neatly laid out with a large covered cabin which consisted of rows of seats with two wide aisles. Around the front and sides of the cabin were windows which provided an excellent view of everything happening on the river, at the back of the cabin there was a small counter which was set up to sell drinks and snacks, although this did not seem to be in use on any of the boats I travelled on that day.
        At the rear of the main cabin was roofed open air area which held additional seating if required. This proved popular with some of my fellow passengers but would probably be too cold to endure a long journey there except in the height of summer.

        One of the advantages in using the Thames Clipper service instead of the train was the timekeeping, I did not observe any congestion on any of the river routes I used that day, and every boat I took that day arrived and departed almost exactly on time. In order to travel from Canary Wharf to Waterloo Pier I needed to change boats at Bankside pier. The changeover was effected very efficiently, we disembarked from our first boat, (named Sun Clipper) and were immediately able to board the Hurricane Clipper to continue our journey. Arriving at Waterloo pier we were relaxed and 'frazzle free' as their brochure describes it.

        Our return journey was equally easy and stress free, the only difference being that we travelled back to Greenwich instead of Canary Wharf. I would have preferred to travel all the way back to Woolwich Arsenal but there are no Woolwich services available on the timetable apart from the morning or evening rush hour times. This is a shame, but it must be admitted that at present there does not seem to be a significant demand for such a service. I would like to see this service extended to Erith, or even Gravesend, but maybe this will have to wait until the service is more established.

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          31.05.2007 08:39
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          Beautiful sandy beaches, go now before it gets too popular

          My first experience of the province of Zambales was certainly memorable. I arrived at Manila airport in the late evening and was met by a group of friends in a hired van, we immediately set out to drive to Zambales. Our destination was the northern Zambales town of Masinloc. I don't remember too much of the first part of that trip, we were travelling through the evening and night, and the first few hours we were driving through the Manila traffic and I was catching up on my sleep after the long flight, but after a short break at one of the roadside rest stops I was feeling more awake and able to enjoy the scenery.
          In this review I am only able to give you a small flavour of the province and if you would like more detail, the best advice is to explore it for yourself. There is a lot to see, and it would never fit into just one review.

          The first thing I noticed about Zambales was how open and wild everything looked. Zambales does have some larger towns but with a population density of only 170 per square kilometre, they are few and far between, and the general impression is one of space.
          The provincial capital is the town of Iba, the rest of the province is rural and composed of small widely separated villages.

          There is an anomaly in the south of the province where the self governing city of Olongapo is situated. This is one of the reminders of the time when the Philippines was an American colony and there was an important naval base in the area.
          Two important geographical features of Zambales are the Zambales mountains in the east, and Mt Pinatubo in the south. Mt Pinatubo is an active volcano which caused a large amount of devastation when it erupted in 1991.
          It is the coastline of Zambales which must count as its most significant feature. Zambales has more than 170km of coastline which includes some of the best beaches in the world, and for me the chief attraction is that these beaches are largely unspoiled by development. There are many many 'beach resorts' dotted along the coast but these are rarely more than small hotels with access to the beach. If you are planning to stay at one of them then you will be guaranteed peace and quiet, and probably the beach to yourself. The downside is that you must be sure to bring with you everything that you are going to need for your holiday, as the nearest shopping centre will be several hours drive away.
          The most developed area for tourists is around Subic and Olongapo, there are a number of large and comfortable hotels here, two that I can personally recommend are the 'Grand seasons' hotel, and the Legenda hotel. These hotels will provide everything that you would expect from a first class hotel anywhere in the world. The problem is that the best beaches are some distance north of this area.

          One area that is not generally on a tourists itinerary is the town of Masinloc in northern Zambales. This is an ordinary provincial town with its busy food market and dusty roads, however a short boat ride from Masinloc is the island of San Salvador. It was this island that was my destination on my first visit to Zambales.
          This island boasts a marine conservation area, a good sandy beach, and the best dive spots in Zambales, although the main industry is collecting aquarium fish rather than tourism. There are no hotels here, and no regular ferry service, so if you want to visit you will have to find a local fisherman to take you there and back.
          Another nearby island is Magalawala, where many of the locals from the surrounding islands can regularly be found relaxing on the beach, or enjoying a seafood picnic.
          One food that you will find eaten everywhere across Zambales is Mango. The province holds the world record for the sweetest Mangoes in the world, and they seem to form a part of almost every meal, and along with rice and fish form part of the populations staple diet.

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            08.05.2007 22:24
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            The start of a great crime thriller series

            It was nearly three years ago that I first came across the work of Harlan Coben, and that wasn't through his printed books at all. I listen to a lot of speech radio, and I heard several serialisations of his novels on Oneword radio. I enjoyed hearing the stories, and about six months ago when I was stuck at Heathrow airport for five hours waiting for a flight that looked like it was never going to take off. A trip to the airport bookshop seemed in order, and I discovered that they were selling 'Dealbreaker' on special offer, that finally persuaded me to give Harlan Coben a try. I had almost finished the book before the flight was called.

            First a brief outline of the plot.

            Christian Steele is a young American football quaterback at the start of his professional career, one day his life is thrown into chaos when he receives a phone call from his former fiancee whom he, and everyone else believes to be dead.

            Christian turns to his sports agent, Myron Bolitar for help, and it falls to Myron to investigate to case and find out what is going on. The case soon broadens out from the disappearance of one girl, to a situation involving sex, blackmail and murder in the world of American college sport, and the wider academic world.

            I can't really say too much more about the plot without disclosing the story. This book takes a series of plot twists and turns, and the reader is constantly wondering where the investigation will go next.

            Dealbreaker is very tightly plotted for all of its' almost 400 pages, and will certainly satisfy any lover of crime thrillers. I was a little worried before I started the book, because it is set in America, and it does involve a Sports Agent, and there is a lot of sport related themes in the book.
            I'm not American, nor a huge sports fan, and I wondered if Harlan Coben might have the same effect on me as John Grisham, who always manages to send me to sleep, with his American legal novels.

            with Harlan Coben and Dealbreaker, I find that the story is compelling enough to keep me interested even if he is describing something that wouldn't usually interest me.

            I'd recommend Dealbreaker to anyone who enjoys crime fiction, I've certainly gone on to read further books in the series and I think you will too.

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              06.05.2007 10:13
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              Good, Cheap Hotel with Great food

              I came across the Central Spa Hotel by accident. I needed a room in Blackpool for the night and an internet search on two or three sites turned up the Central Spa Hotel. At only £30 a night for a double room and two breakfasts it was the cheapest hotel in Blackpool, and seemed to offer great value for money.

              The Central Spa Hotel is in a great location right on the central Blackpool seafront. This makes it easy to find, although it is not necessarily easy to park near. Hotel parking is very limited and you may struggle to get a space there.
              On first entering the hotel the first challenge is to find the reception desk, this is not as easy as you might expect. Upon climbing the front steps and opening the door visitors are confronted with a long corridor on the right, and a long corridor on the left. Part way down the corridor on the right side is a door leading to a bar / lounge that has some comfortable seating and views of the seafront. If you keep on walking past the stairs, and past the lounge, you will eventually reach a hatch in the wall. This is the reception. The only problem is that it is not usually staffed. The hotel website promises a receptionist, barman, chef, and night porter. During my time at the hotel all these roles were being performed by the same person. The only other member of staff that I saw was a girl who assisted by waiting on tables during the breakfast session.

              After checking in the next object was to find my room. The hotel has rooms on two levels, my room was on the upper floor, to get there necessitated going back down the corridor, up the stairs mentioned earlier, and go all the way down another corridor, turn around a corner, go down a couple of steps, and finally discover my room at the farthest extremity of hotel.

              The room was small but adequate, there was just room for the double bed, a small wardrobe, along one wall there was a storage unit with a television, and tea and coffee making facilities. There was also a small electric heater which was useful as the room was a little cold in the morning.

              The en-suite bathroom was the size of a large cupboard, it contained a toilet, sink, and shower, it was accessed by climbing up two steps from the bedroom. One concern in the bathroom was the maze of pull cords with which I was presented. One worked the main bathroom light, another one controlled the heating for the shower, and I could never decide what the others did. The problem was that done of them were marked, and none of the were situated near the item they operated. I just had to pull them and see what happened.

              I passed a comfortable night in my room which had a fair, if unremarkable view of the back streets of Blackpool.
              In the morning when it was time for breakfast I discovered that this was served in the basement of the hotel. The food was really excellent. Tea, coffee, and fruit juice was unlimited, as was the cereal, all of that was self service, and guests just helped themselves to whatever they wanted.
              Each table in the breakfast room was provided with a menu, although a full English breakfast seemed to arrive in front of every guest whether they requested it or not, and if they didn't want it they had to send it back and request something different from the menu. The food was all excellently cooked and was certainly plentiful. Extra toast was provided several times without being requested.

              After breakfast it was time to check out. As the room bill was paid in full during my check in, it was simply a case of slipping the key under the shutter of the now unstaffed reception and leaving quietly while the hotel staff were all busy serving breakfast to the remaining hotel guests.
              I would be happy to recommend this hotel as a comfortable, good value place to spend a few nights. It doesn't have the luxury of some of the bigger hotels that I've stayed in, but the beds are comfortable, and the food is good, and for the price I paid I wouldn't really expect more.

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                05.05.2007 13:01
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                It's time to reform our parliamentary system

                When considering the possible abolition of the House of Lords there are several aspects of the question to consider.

                1. Does the British parliamentary system, of which the House of Lords is a part, operate as effectively as possible for the benefit of the British people?

                2. Would the abolition of the House of Lords improve parliamentary system?

                To answer the first question,

                Does our present parliamentary system, and the House of Lords in particular operate as effectively as possible, I believe that this question must be answered with a 'No', the main reason for that is because the parliament we have at the moment is a mess. It has been reformed piecemeal over many years, but each attempt at reform has introduced new anomalies into the system.

                We have a House of Commons which contains elected members of parliament from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the Commons passes it's legislation to an unelected House of Lords that can delay government bills but cannot reject them. Elsewhere around the United Kingdom we have parliaments or assemblies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but for some reason that I have never been able to understand England has been denied this democratic privilege that the rest of the UK has been granted.

                This situation means that laws that relate to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can be dealt with locally by their own elected officials, but laws that relate specifically to England need to be passed by elected members from across the UK in the house of Commons, and then by the unelected House of Lords.

                So who are the members of the House of Lords?
                Quoting Wikipedia
                "The House of Lords does not have a fixed number of members: currently there are 751 members, consisting of 26 "Lords Spiritual" and 725 "Lords Temporal". The Lords Spiritual are the two archbishops and 24 most senior bishops of the Church of England, while the Lords Temporal are 633 current Life Peers, the 90 Hereditary Peers and two Great Officers of State."
                Leaving aside the suitability of Bishops from the church of England to sit in the House of Lords, although personally I would have thought being a bishop was a full time job, and if it was being done properly should not leave much time to visit the Lords anyway!

                The majority of the members in the Lords are either Hereditary, or Life Peers. I want to suggest that neither of these groups should be governing the country. Hereditary peers have no special skills at crafting legislation, or understanding the intricacies of government, they are only there because they were born in the right family, and even if one or two of them may be excellent at their job, we have no guarantees that their successors will be.

                Life Peers, these are a more mixed group of people. Many of them are career politicians, and former members of the House of Commons, others may be there because they have performed some service for the government or society in general. The major problem is that this people are not accountable to anyone.
                Another of the serious problems with having an appointed House of Lords, is that whichever party is in control of the House of Commons will generally attempt to avoid defeat in the House of Lords by appointing sufficient new life peers to ensure a majority in that house.
                There are of course many excellent life peers doing a fine job of actively scrutinising government bills and trying to improve them, but it does not make sense to maintain a bad system simply because there are some good people within that system.

                Having decided that the House of Lords is not the best possible system to govern the country we are immediately faced with the problem of how to replace it.
                As I mentioned earlier the main job of the House of Lords is to scrutinise government legislation, to revise, and amend it as required. I would suggest that these functions could be equally well performed by a series of committees set up for the purpose.
                The committees could be appointed by the House of Commons on a proportionate basis so that the composition of the committee members matches that of the House of Commons. This has the advantage that the committees could be filled with people who were experts on the particular subjects under discussion. These experts would not have to be elected politicians, but could be drafted into the committee on an 'as required' basis. They could claim a daily attendance allowance in a similar way to present House of Lords members do now.

                This solution does not completely solve all the problems with our parliamentary system. In particular it puts too much power in the hands of the House of Commons. I would resolve this situation by increasing the power of the national assemblies/parliaments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and the creation of a similar parliament in England. This would leave the House of Commons solely to deal with matters which affect the whole of the United Kingdom.

                This is of course only an outline solution of the problem, and I will leave it to others to flesh out the details, no doubt there will be those with a different solution to the House of Lords problem, but this is how I would do it.

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                  30.04.2007 13:37
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                  Superb sound from a great portable radio, easy to use and will provide hours of enjoyment.

                  I have owned an Evoke-1 from Pure since the model first came out, and I think it was one of the best investments I ever made. This little radio is starting to look a little battered now, but that is due to my taking it with me wherever I travel around in the UK. It's performance is unaffected by the passing of time, in fact it has improved as new transmitters are built, providing many new stations, and stronger signals for other stations.

                  To start with, a physical description of the radio.
                  There is a fairly simplistic style to this unit when compared to some of the more recent DAB radios.
                  The radio comes in a wooden outer casing with silver grey front panel. It is mounted on four plastic feet which enable proper airflow under the unit. It is powered by a 12V DC mains lead.

                  On the front of the unit there is a blue on/off button, a volume knob, a tuning knob, and nine other buttons, six of these are to pre-set your favourite stations, one is a setup button, another is a display button, and the final button is for autotuning the radio. There is also a small LCD display which shows the name and description of the station to which you are listening.
                  On the back of the radio there is the extendible aerial. Helpfully this is removable so if you wish to attach the radio to an external aerial it is easy to do so. Other sockets on the back of the radio are for an optional additional speaker, a 'line out' socket, and a headphone socket.
                  On the top of the radio there is a useful handle, that I use all the time for carrying this radio around.

                  Setting up and using the radio

                  Almost all of the UK now has DAB reception, so setting this radio should not be a problem.
                  Just extend the aerial, turn on the radio, and press the autotune button. The radio the searches for all the radio signals it can find.
                  The Evoke-1 displays the stations it finds in alphabetical order and twisting the tuning knob allows you to scan through all available stations, when you find a station you like then press the knob in, and the radio tunes to that station.

                  For me the main advantages of this radio are it's portability, and it's great sound quality.
                  This radio has been all over the country, and has stood up to quite a bit of battering in rucksacks and travelling bags. I've been able to get good DAB signals almost everywhere.
                  For quite a while I used this radio at work, and despite it's small size it's sound was able to fill a huge factory floor without a problem.
                  I can't really think of anything bad to say about this radio. A few more pre-set buttons would be nice, but that's probably me being greedy, six pre-set stations should be enough for most people.
                  I paid £99 for this radio, but that was a few years ago and you can now get them for a lot less. I suggest you get one now.

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                    28.04.2007 13:54
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                    A free NEWSpaper that's actually worth reading

                    One of the first things I do when I get home on a Friday evening is to make a mug of tea and to sit down to read my copy of the Bexley Extra.

                    The Bexley Extra is my favourite local newspaper for several reasons.
                    The first reason is the generally high standard of the journalism that features in each edition. Being part of the Kent Messenger Group of companies, and having access to their resources probably helps, but certainly there is a high standard of reporting week after week, they also seem to better prioritise the news stories than some of the other local papers. There was a good example of that this week. The main story on the front page of the Bexley Extra was about a new report which showed Bexley is the safest place in London to live. This same story was the subject of a special report on pages 10 and 11, detailing exactly how the crime statistics have improved in the area.

                    By contrast, in another well known local newspaper this story was relegated to one paragraph on an inside page, while their front page was given over to a story about a student prank that people had mistaken for a UFO encounter, a fun story but probably a better fit for a bit of light relief inside the paper, not suited to the front page.

                    Other regular features of the Bexley Extra include 'Community news' 'Club news' 'What's On', and the 'Opinion' section featuring readers letters. All of these sections in their different ways enable the paper to interact with it's readership. This gives a real feel of local people having their say in a local paper, giving it a proper connection to the local community.

                    One other part of the Bexley Extra that I like is their three day television guide. It makes planning my viewing nice and easy and ensures that I keep the paper around the house long enough to give it a thorough reading.

                    If you live in the Bexley area then don't miss you copy of the Bexley Extra. It adds something extra to your weekend.

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                    27.04.2007 12:21
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                    Fascinating journey through time measurement. This is how to make museums fun and interactive.

                    It was an 1884 conference in Washington that finally settled on Greenwich as the prime meridian. That is longitude 0. The point on earth from which time is measured.
                    The story of Greenwich actually starts much earlier than that. It was in 1675 that Sir John Flamsteed was appointed the first Astronomer Royal, and it was also in that year that Christopher Wren began work on the Royal Observatory building at Greenwich, the first purpose built scientific research facility in the country.
                    The primary purpose of the observatory was to improve the navigation of ships by helping them to determine their exact location while at sea.

                    The Royal Observatory moved out of Greenwich in the 1950's due to increased light pollution from London. Today the observatory site forms a part of the National Maritime museum and houses a fascinating collection of clocks and navigational instruments.

                    I visited the site with my wife recently and this is what we found:
                    On first entering the observatory site you cannot miss the famous meridian line with an almost constant stream of visitors queuing up to stand with one foot in each hemisphere. We joined the queue and got some photographs taken with one of us in the east, and the other in the west.
                    Before starting on the main tour of the observatory we headed for the camera obscura which is housed in Flamsteed house. This is the only public camera obscura in London and is well worth the visit on on its own. When you first enter the room you can see almost nothing, but once your eyes start to get accustomed to the gloom you discover that there is a table in the centre of the room and onto that is projected an image of everything that the camera can see in the outside world.

                    In the main galleries of the observatory a real effort has been to be interactive, and to engage with visitors. Generous use has been made of touch screen technology, and there are plenty of moving parts, and exhibits to keep the attention younger visitors. The galleries tell the history of time measurement, which includes everything from John Harrisons famous clocks, to the the precision clocks of today.

                    The one area of the observatory that I was disappointed with was the gift shop. This was ridiculously overpriced, and I would suggest any future visitors would do well to give it a miss.

                    The observatory itself is free to enter and look around, as indeed is to entire National Maritime museum of which it forms a part.

                    One important point to mention is that the site is presently undergoing a major redevelopment which will see improved display, and educational facilities, but most interestingly there will also be a new planetarium, something that has been seriously lacking in London since the closure of the one associated with Madame Tussards.

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                    • Resensa Green Iced Tea / Tea / 28 Readings / 26 Ratings
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                      24.04.2007 21:25
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                      Cool refreshing drink that comes in a convenient powder form

                      It's been nearly three years since I discovered iced tea. While I was travelling around south east Asia I discovered that this seems to be the soft drink of choice for many people there. I acquired quite a taste for it and upon my return to the UK began to look around for something similar to relieve my thirst during the long hot summers we seem to be enjoying these days.
                      Bottled iced tea was just starting to make an appearance in a few shops but somehow the taste just wasn't right.
                      It took an online search to discover Resensa Green Iced Tea. It is green tea, rather than the black iced tea I was looking for, but I discovered that I actually preferred the taste of the green tea.

                      Resensa Green Iced Tea is shipped to you in powder form and you just add water (and optionally ice cubes) to produce your own refreshing drink. The mix is supposed to be 1 sachet of powder produces 1 litre of tea, but I actually find this a little sweet so I add more water than that. This flexibility is of course one of the great advantages of being able to mix the tea yourself.

                      The tea arrives in boxes, each box contains six sachets of powdered tea and a helpful leaflet outlining the health benefits of the product. These claims sound very impressive, and it is undeniable that green tea does have some health benefits, but I wonder just how much research have gone into some of the more spectacular promises. I really don't know if Resensa Green Iced Tea will really slow the ageing process or reduce the risk of cancer, but I do know that it tastes great, and for that fact alone it is worth drinking.

                      Resensa Green Iced Tea costs around £0.90-£1 a litre if you include the cost of the postage, I would happily recommend it to anyone, just add your own ice cubes and water for a cool refreshing drink that will help you enjoy those hot summer afternoons.

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                      • More +
                        23.04.2007 23:05
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                        Not a perfect system, but does provide many benefits to the nation

                        Reasons for abolishing the monarchy usually fall into one of two main groups. The ‘democracy’ argument and the ‘expense’ argument.

                        The first argument generally asserts a position similar to “…in the 21st century it is entirely wrong that one family should have the absolute right to rule over a nation simply as an accident of birth.”

                        This is a similar argument to one often used in debates concerning House of Lords reform. In that debate I think the argument has some value but when used in reference to the monarchy it falls down on one simple point.
                        The Monarch does not rule the nation in any political sense of the word. Members of the House of Lords can control legislation and help change the laws of the land. The Monarch does not do that in any practical way at all. The forms of an absolute Monarch may remain, but the reality faded long ago. Her Majesty is a constitutional Monarch, we fought a civil war which helped define the boundary lines between Parliament and the King, and the results should never be forgotten. Whatever the, generally unhelpful, archaic words used to describe the role of the Monarch, it is a fact that the Queen is a figurehead with no real power to rule the nation.
                        If the Monarch is not ruling the nation what is their role in the 21st century?
                        I believe that a 21st century Monarch has two main roles

                        1.They provide a focus for the nation, especially in times of national celebration or national mourning. In either of those situations being non-elected is the Monarchs biggest asset. It de-politicize the situation and provides an opportunity to bring all sides together regardless of their political views.

                        2.The Monarch acts as an ambassador for Britain, both within Britain, and around the world. Her Majesty promotes British interests around the world, this gives Britain a considerably higher profile in the world than we would otherwise enjoy. The point about both of these roles is that they would need to be fulfilled by someone even if the monarchy was abolished.

                        This brings me to the second argument commonly used to call for the abolition of the monarchy. The cost of the monarchy. It has to be admitted that there are savings that could be made in the running costs on the monarchy. Particular areas that could be looked at include royal travel expenses which can be extravagant at times. There is a strong case for reducing the number of minor royals in the public eye. We should also look at opening up more of the royal palaces to the public, or at least making them available to hire.

                        However, what is often not taken into account when calculating these costs is that many of these same jobs would have to be done by someone else even if the monarchy was abolished, so many of these costs would not be reduced even without the royal family.

                        If we can provide a slimmed down, value for money monarchy then the nation will be in a strong position to move forward as with a governing system capable of uniting the country behind the monarch while allowing the political leadership to remain with the nations elected government.

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                        • Advice on relationships / Discussion / 29 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                          23.04.2007 14:18
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                          Advice on maintaining a long distance relationship

                          Relationship Advice
                          This review subject is very wide ranging, so I hope you will allow me just to focus on one small but growing aspect of relationships.
                          I want to talk about ‘How to maintain a long distance relationship’. As the Internet continues to grow, the number of people in long distance relationships is also continuing to grow.
                          There are a number of reasons that some people prefer to meet someone online. It provides an easy way to meet prospective partners who share your own values and ideas about life without being restricted to your own immediate local area.
                          This is an area that I know something about as for more than three years I had an online relationship with a girl on the other side of the world. A relationship which eventually led to a wedding, and an ongoing successful marriage.
                          In this review I am going to try and explain some of the ways we kept this relationship alive even when it was impossible for us to be together.
                          Long distance relationship advice is much the same as conventional relationship advice.
                          1. Be Yourself
                          2. Keeping Talking
                          Concentrate on getting to know the other person, and building your relationship over time. Your relationship is not going to progress very far unless you talk to each other, the problem is often that you may live some distance apart, often even in different countries with different time zones. The Internet offers many ways to keep talking online, and the method you choose will depend on your own personal circumstances. Some of the possible options are:
                          · Email
                          · Instant Messaging
                          · VoIP
                          · SMS
                          If you both have access to Internet enabled computers at a convenient time then you can use an instant messaging service with a webcam like Yahoo Messenger, or MSN messenger and talk and see each other all day without it costing you a penny.
                          In a situation where only one of you has regular access to a computer then the best Internet dating advice I can give you is “Be inventive” It may well be possible to set up your Yahoo Messenger (or other instant messaging service) to send your IM's directly to your partners mobile phone. If you can get this set up then you are texting without cost, and your partner is only having to pay local rates to reply to you. Some countries have email to text services which work in a similar way but utilise email instead of an instant messaging service.
                          If you want to actually use your voice and talk to each other but only one of you has a computer then some form of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is the best solution. This could be done using your computer, but you might find a cheaper deal using one of the many VoIP services now being advertised on the Internet or in newspapers which offer pay-per-minute dial up services, or phonecards. You will have to do some research on your best options.
                          This is one area that long distance relationships actually have an advantage over the more conventional type of relationship. As your relationship is almost exclusively confined to talking / Emailing each other you are able to get to know each other much more quickly than you might do if you were more physically involved and didn’t talk as much.
                          Understand Each Others World
                          One of the problems with a very long distance relationship, especially one where the two of you come from different countries, or different cultures, can be a lack of understanding of each others approach to the world. This is where the Internet can be your best research tool. Even if you can't be together you can still read your partners local newspapers, listen to the same radio stations, you can know what is going on in their world so you have something to talk about together, and you should get a better grasp of what is shaping their world view. This will be helpful when problems arise later in the relationship, and you don’t understand why your partner reacts in the way that they do.
                          Keep the Surprises Coming
                          You can use the Internet to send your partner flowers or other gifts from a company close to where she lives. Gifts bought close to her home will cost you less in postage, and will also arrive quicker.
                          This is the best advice I can give you about long distance relationships. Much of it is drawn from my own experience, but as each relationship is unique. It must be up to you to keep your long distance relationship alive.

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                          • Exodus Travels / Travel Agent / 19 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                            20.04.2007 17:42
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                            Some great experiences away from the tourist crowds

                            I have taken Exodus holidays on a few occasions in recent years, and I would be happy to recommend them to anyone.

                            Exodus specialise in group holidays that visit destinations you might not usually put at the top of your 'must visit' list.
                            Countries that I have visited with them include India, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

                            Group holidays are not for everyone. If you have enough time to spend weeks exploring a country on your own, and don't mind plenty of your own company then perhaps you should consider planning an independent trip.

                            If like most people you are pressed for time and still want to do something more interesting than sitting on the beach for a week, then Exodus may well be the answer. Exodus do a great job of fitting a lot of different experiences in a short time. Travelling independently would involve making your own transport arrangements within the countries and that could prove time consuming and expensive in many of these countries that are not always as tourist friendly as they might be. Exodus holidays vary, but there is generally a mix of an organized itinerary, and free days to go off exploring, or doing your own things, the trips are normally led by a native of the country who will be in charge of your transport, arranging entry to any sites, museums, tourist attractions that you may visit. They may also arrange meals for you if your day trip includes a meal-time.

                            Exodus trips are designed to be stress free, it is possible to relax and follow the planned itinerary, or you can be more adventurous and use your free time to explore the cities on your own. It is even possible to use an Exodus trip as part of a longer independent trip.

                            In general the guides that I have had on these trips have been excellent. One of the trips I went on had three different guides, one for each country visited during the trip.

                            These people are usually knowledgeable about their country, and in some cases are able to arrange extra trips, not on the itinerary if enough people are interested in making the trip.

                            Sometimes I think the guides try a little to hard too find something for the group to do. I remember one time when we had just arrived in Trat after crossing the border from Cambodia to Thailand and there was little to do in the town at night, so we were taken on a tour of a closed market and then we were taken to view every brothel in the town as these were the only places that were open. Later in the trip this same guide took us all on a tour which ended in a visit to a bar featuring performances by naked girl dancers. Not uncommon in Bangkok but a number of the tour party were uncomfortable with it.

                            Aside from these small details all the Exodus trips that I have enjoyed have been superb experiences, a chance to visit some countries well off the beaten track, and to engage with local people, and get a taste for the local culture.

                            Try a trip with them, its an experience you won't easily forget.

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