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The place I currently work has mandated that all non-employees must park in the NCP car park across the road, so not only forcing us for the privilege of working at the said establishment, but also giving us the joy of parking in a public car park. I had an incident with a Norwich Union driver and this is about my experience in dealing with Norwich Union on the matter.
Day 1 - day of the accident, a white van towing a burger trailer moves up the driver side of my vehicle whilst my vehicle is parked stationary in the public car park. I get back to my car after work thinking (WTF) has happened to my car upon seeing the damage. The security guard is already on the case and the white van man, after some further discussion, eventually realises what he has done and is extremely apologetic and provides all the details required for me to make the claim against his insurance
Day 2 - I get hold of my insurance company and report the incident to get the ball rolling and I arrange for my car to be repaired at a non-approved repair centre.
Day 4 - I get a call from the 3rd party insurance company (Aviva/Norwich Union) accepting liability and stating they will pay for the repairs as well as a hire car charges. At this point I was so pleased that I had not been done over by someone without insurance or claiming that I was liable that I forgot to ask them to put this in writing or for contact details if I needed to get in touch. All I had was a call from Chris on a Norwich Union number that had a recorded message when you called back. No problem I thought, I'll ring the claims number and request this. Easy or so I thought.
Day 6 - I finally managed to find the time to ring Norwich Union back on the claims number on their website. After explaining the whole situation to the person that answered the call (it was a call centre based in India) which was difficult in itself. Imagine trying to explain that you are a 3rd party trying to claim against one of their drivers - they don't take too kindly to that. So after explaining all of this, I was told I had to ring another number, but never mind, they are so helpful that they can transfer me. Great, I have to hold again! After holding a little while and going through the details again I spoke to another person from what appeared to be the same call centre and stated that I needed confirmation of acceptance of liability on the matter. Yes, they can send that to me, even better they can email it to me. Great, these folks couldn't be of more help, or so I thought.......
Day 7 - no email has arrived, never mind, give it another day after all who knows how the system works
Day 8 - still no email so I rang back the second number I had been given. The usual rigmorole of who I am, what the situation is, what do I want, only for the Indian-based call centre to tell me that they had no record of accepting liability but never mind I need to ring another department that is dealing with the matter.
My thoughts: Oh ok, yet another number to ring, I was starting to get worried, no record and all I am getting is people who want to be helpful, but actually have no clue about what I am asking....
So, I did what I would usually do is request to speak to the manager. After about 5 minutes of debate where the call-centre based guy did not want to transfer me I got put through to someone who was supposedly senior. He claimed there was no record or liability. So at this point I proceeded to explain that I had a call from a certain name and number on Day 4. The manager claimed this number did not exist within Norwich Union, to which I responded that there was a recorded message at the end saying I had a courtesy call from Norwich Union. For heaven's sake. So no joy from the manager, he gave me another number to call, which he stated was the department that deal with a claim like this. After getting the number, I just hung up.
My thoughts: I don't need this, the car is booked in for repairs, the hire car is arranged and now the insurance company are reneging on the deal and I'm supposed to be working!!!!!! All I want is a bloody letter that states Norwich Union's position on liability!
After ringing the 3rd number, a recorded message said this number was not in use and referred me back to the 2nd number. So I duly rang back the 2nd number and told them the whole situation (it was becoming a farce and I was the only one experiencing it) and how I was being bounced between numbers. Rest assured, this fellow had given me the correct number.
My thoughts: sure you think it is the correct number (like all the others who thought they were correct numbers) and once I've hung up, I am not your problem. Then people wonder why I am so cynical?
So, I rang the 4th number given to me, to speak to a lady in what appeared to be the same call centre, explained the situation and what I wanted and she said those immortal words, you need to ring another number. OMG, my blood was boiling and she started reciting the number and I finished it off for her. She still hadn't got it, she was referring me back to a number I had already tried, in fact it was telephone number 2. I went nuts. so she said she would hold with me until the call was passed through and explain my situation, as she was confident it was the right number/department and couldn't understand why it didn't work. So she held for 10 minutes and couldn't get through at which point I stated I would go back to my insurance company, even though Norwich Union came direct to me.
At this point I was seriously considering re-engaging my insurance company to process my claim, but before I did, I rang the accident repair centre to see if they had had contact from Norwich Union and she had, so she kindly gave me the number she had been given. I rang that number and explained where I had got the number from and the English lady on the phone said she didn't deal with accidents so I was extremely annoyed about this (unsurprisingly) and then I explained that I had been given 4 numbers to call by various people in NU and I wasn't making any progress. So she said she would put me through to complaints and they would get to the bottom of the matter. I wasn't so sure.
But, yes indeed I did speak to a complaints handler and even though this wasn't a complaint from me, they dealt with it efficiently and the lady I spoke to took the claim details I had and sent me an email stating they had accepted liability. FINALLY! What was supposed to take 10 minutes maximum had taken me about 2-3 hours over the course of a few days.
Day 11 - Car is in for repair and I now have a hire car, paid for by Norwich Union - result.
Day 12 - I got a call from someone claiming to be from Claims Direct (or something) following up my incident on behalf of Norwich Union. After asking me an initial question of whether I had any other damages, which I thought strange in itself rather than asking who I am, I stated that any communications should be in writing before I would act upon it. I'm not in the habit of agreeing or compromising my situation on the phone from some random caller. The caller said that was fine and then hung up. Didn't even ask or check my address or registration or even name, so if they are genuine they will have my details, then I will get a formal letter about this. If not I haven't passed on any sensitive details which I'm thankful for.
Whether I am a policyholder or not, I think this state of affairs is quite shocking. I find it extremely inefficient at how the call centre is managed and am disappointed in general at the disjointed operation of this whole situation. I suppose I could have made a complaint but I just wanted my car repaired and this inconvenience and hassle over. What really gets me is that you as an individual coming up against a company will not be considered seriously. I felt I was accused of lying by Norwich Union just because their part of the claim record did not state they were liable.
After this experience, there is no doubt about whether I will use Norwich Union or Aviva and I'll think twice before I give them a call for a competitive quote. No doubt, there are countless other people who have had a positive experience with Norwich Union and I might be in the minority. I think the Insurance companies should now consider following a lot of the UK banks (Natwest comes to mind) and bring back the call centres to the UK. This situation will now cause me to avoid Norwich Union where I can.
I know Norwich Union are in the process of re-branding, but I wonder if the change of name to Aviva is really to rid them of the bad image that Norwich Union may be associated with....giving 1 star is still too much.
Thank you for reading. This review will be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
My friend gave me this book recommending it as a compulsive read and once started you couldn't stop. I have to disagree on the compulsive part, but more of that later.
The book is autobiographical and written by Kerry Cohen, telling the story of her promiscuity and addiction to sex which as we learn through the book is a way of feeling wanted and desired by the opposite sex. The author is from the US and the tale starts in New Jersey where she grew up. The cover of the book is a close-up of the right-side of a womans bottom and thigh, dressed only in knickers. Whilst I would not call this smutty, I wouldn't class it as sophisticated either. This isn't the sort of book I would have felt comfortable reading on the train or indeed in public.
Now when I first started reading the book I expected it to be quite glamourous and dramatic. Similar to Siobhan's story in the TV drama Mistresses. For those of you not familiar with Mistresses, Siobhan is in a sexless marriage so spends most nights picking up random guys in bars and ending up in hotel rooms until the early hours. This book is about sex addiction but not necessarily in a coarse way. The first part of the book starts with Kerry in her mid-teens and how she comes to terms with her sexuality, but it takes a good third of the book (and it is only 300 pages) to actually describe the first conquest.
Coupled with the fact that the psychoanalysis about why the author was in this state, was crammed into the last 15 pages, the book played out very much like a little black book as we went through conquest after conquest for Kerry. I am not sure whether the book is intended to titillate the readers senses, but truth be told it did bore me at various phases throughout the book. It seemed like the whole experience for the author was very much textbook. Divorced parents, absent mother, immature father, distant sister, regular visits to various therapists all seemed contrived and very much stereotypical. For this reason I couldn't empathise or even sympathise with the author.
The book itself was very easy to read as it is written mainly with speech and paragraphs written in the first person. The paragraphs interject with the
speech and some context or deep thought that must have been going through Kerry's mind at the time.
What disappoints me greatly about this book is the inaccuracy of written
grammar. There are many points in the book where the author uses 'it don't' instead of 'it doesn't' and not with speech but actual written text. I did wonder if this could be due to writing style or American colloquialisms but I do not think a book like this passed an appropriate proof-read. Nor would I consider grammatical errors as a writing style. What makes this point even more strange, is that the author herself is a writing teacher so something like this should not enter the market without checks.
Autobiographies are my favourite type of book and I tend to veer towards the famous side of the autobiography spectrums, so this was a bit of a change. The book was originally explained to me as compulsive and it didn't feel that way to me and it struggled to hold my attention for more than a few pages at a time. I did not feel engaged in any of the characters, especially the author considering this is an autobiography. The did not seem different to anything I have read before, nor did it stand out for me.
Even though this is an autobiography, Kerry Cohen, the author, is a writer
herself. I did some research on the author and discovered that she writes under Kerry Cohen and Kerry Cohen Hoffman. It seems Kerry writes under the latter in junior fiction and has written about 3 books including this one.
Personally I have read much better books, both autobiographical and fictional, so I wouldn't whole-heartedly recommend this book. As it is very quick to read, you could probably finish it within a couple of days on holiday. I am only giving it 2 stars, due to the lack of engagement, the errors and lack of character depth. General thumbs down from me.
Author: Kerry Cohen
Published: 3 July 2008
Thank you for reading. This review will be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
Christmas 2005, Sharon Osbourne's autobiography covering her tumultuous and tempestuous relationships has been launched in time for Christmas and has gone down a storm, becoming the UK's number 1 book. I got this from the library over the Christmas holidays and found it so engrossing that I finished reading this in 3 days. Yes, it was that good.
Fast forward 2 years and the second instalment in Sharon's life is penned and released for the public. After the greatness of the first one, I wanted to buy this book on the strength of the first book. After all, Sharon Osbourne seems to have been more in the public limelight during the time of these books so will have a lot of juicy gossip to share, right?
wrong, for many reasons. What made the first instalment such great quality reading was that it covered 40 years of Sharon's life and given the number of experiences Sharon has been through there was more than enough to choose from so in essence the depth of each scenario had a lot more substance. This book covers about 5 years or so in about 11 chapters and there is only so much you can say about relatively few incidents during that time before the reader gets bored. For example, moving house is a fairly routine thing. Ok if you have lived in there for the majority of your life it is a watershed but only to yourself and not necessarily the reader. For Sharon to move house and subsequently justify why she had done so was quite a snooze-fest.
What seemed to be a common theme throughout the book was the following motto: "Say or do anything bad about my family and I will come for you". I would say about 70% of the book was filled with altercations, arguments and confrontations that Sharon had with most of her colleagues and the public. Yes we know Sharon is devoted to her family but did we need a rundown of her spats with people like Chris Tarrant or Piers Morgan, to name a few?
Really strangely, Sharon did a flashback to some event involving herself, Kelly and Hugh Grant, where as a teenager, Kelly pointed out to Hugh Grant that he had an incident with a prostitute. To which Sharon explained in the book, that Kelly hadn't meant it the way it sounded and was completely unapologetic about it, stating Kelly was just a kid. Sorry, if Kelly was just a kid at the time, what was she doing at such an event and why was she allowed to speak to someone (anyone) like that. To me, it didn't make sense to portray such an incident which I felt only exposed the lack of discipline she instilled in to her family.
A lot of the book was about 'sticking two fingers up' at the institutions, the media and the other celebrities. In contrast to this description, the epilogue contained frank responses about what other celebrities thought of Sharon and most of the time they were so sweet it was actually quite dire to see celebrities being so 'luvvy' to each other when you know they are not...yuck! Had I known that I would have steered well clear of this book, let alone bought my own personal copy. On a good note, the pictures were very nice to review, but not so different from the first.
One of the good things about the book was the flashback to her and Ozzy touring in Russia and when they went back (during the time period of the book), how stark the comparisons were. That part was interesting especially with the change in communism and also the break up of the USSR but to be honest, there were too few of these.
Sharon spent a lot of time justifying her choices in the book, such as caring for her father in stark contrast to the first. However, Sharon did cover her cancer though not in as much detail as I would have liked. As with the first book, this was definitely easy to read, but I was disappointed, to say the least, in the way situations were described. Given the quality of this book, the cynic in me says that there must have been an opportunity to cash in on the sensation of the first. I can only offer this book one star I'm afraid. If you really want to read it, don't buy it, borrow from the library, or I am sure you can pick one up from car boot sale!
Author: Sharon Osbourne
Published: 4 Oct 2007
Thank you for reading. This review will be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
***NOTE*** I tried to suggest a new category for this and after some lengthy email conversations, my review has ended up in this category. Feel free to pass on advice on whether it needs to be moved. This is also a long review :O)
I was in New York for my sister's 40th and we decided to take in a day in New York City and catch a musical. My brother-in-law had no idea what to go for, we had children to cater for as well so we decided to check out Mary Poppins on Broadway. I don't know anyone who doesn't know the lovely story of Mary Poppins.
Mary Poppins is the story of the mystical and stern English nanny, blown to Cherry Tree Lane and takes up the vacant post of Nanny at the Banks Household. Immortalised in a classic Disney movie, Mary Poppins was adapted for stage in both London's West End and New York's Broadway.
~~~ THE VENUE ~~~
Mary Poppins, the musical is showing at the New Amsterdam Theater located on West 42nd Street. It was built in 1903 and is Broadway's oldest venue still in production. It was restored in 1997 after Disney had taken up a lease on the building. On re-opening, this theater staged The Lion King.
From the moment you step inside into the entrance way, you can see the ornate design along the wall. I can only describe it as gold filigree covered carvings. It certainly looks dated, but is in very good condition and looks like it is maintained regularly. We were on the balcony and all the way up the stairs, the theater looked lavish with rich red carpet and further carvings along the wall and at the end of each banister. There were also pictures of stars of eras gone by in productions staged at the theater.
One of the other things you notice when you walk into the seating area is that everything is very cosy. The stage is no bigger than a cinema screen, but the seats are very close and around the stage. I imagine if you suffer from claustrophobia, the closeness of the walls would not suit you at all. As mentioned we were on the balcony which is the highest level of seats and above the mezzanine and orchestra. I not a regular theatre-goer, but I do know that the orchestra is always lower than the stage and the ground seats. However, in this theatre, the orchestra was actually under the stage with a little opening so you could see the conductor during the break.
Our specific seats were in the 3rd row to the left of the stage and we had a direct view over the stage. The seats on this level did extend quite a way back, probably about 30 rows and I did wonder what kind of view the audience at the rear would see and whether the tickets were any cheaper. Our seats had a very good view of the set as well as the stage and if I am going to a show, I make it a point to get seats as close as possible. We were close enough that although the cast were not life-size, we could still see the expressions on their faces. There are no close-ups in theatre!
The biggest disappointment of the venue was the variety of food on offer. We were going to see a matinee which traverses the lunch period and not a good time for me. During the only break in the show, the only refreshments on offer were chips (American crisps at that!), cookies, sweets and beer! Not appealing at all. I think the venue has missed out on cashing in on a captive market as you do not have enough time to venture out to get something.
~~~ THE CAST ~~~
The lead role of Mary Poppins is, thankfully, played by a British actress and in fact, played by Scarlett Strallen. For the showbiz luvvies out there, you will notice that Scarlett shares the same name as Summer Strallen, who was chosen to play Maria in the Sound of Music and appeared in Hollyoaks over Summer 2008. The girls are in fact sisters, with Scarlett being the elder and with a massive tumble of blonde curls. Scarlett appears courtesy of Equity, the actors association.
Scarlett's portrayal of Mary Poppins is nothing short of stunning. Scarlett plays the magical nanny with such poise and aplomb. There are a few scenes in the musical where Mary ascends and descends the stairs and Scarlett always held her head up high and even when she was acting she would hold her head up and off to one side with the utmost elegance and grace. It seemed odd at first, but then it fell into line with the stern but lovely character that is Mary Poppins. The transformation from Scarlett's natural look to Mary Poppins makes Scarlett unnoticeable and once you see her as Mary Poppins, it is as if she is Mary Poppins.
In our matinée, Bert was played by Tony Mansker, who is normally in the ensemble but also plays understudy for Bert's role. We were not advised as to why he was replaced, but it didn't matter. Tony played Bert's role very tongue in cheek, just as Dick van Dyke did in the movie. In fact I think anyone who plays Bert has a lot to live up to after Dick's performance in the movie. In the musical, Bert's role is to link up many of scenes and provide transition between the Acts.
The Banks children, Jane and Michael, were played by Alison Jaye Horowitz and Neil McCaffrey. The production has a set of children that play these characters as regulations restrict the number of shows children can partake in. There is nothing notable about the actor playing Michael's role as the child has little to say, although does pipe up at the right moment. I did not think he was overly cute either, well not as cute as the boy who played the role in the film. Alison's portrayal of Jane was definitely memorable. The actress had this really annoying high-pitched whiney voice which only seemed to grate on me. This role has a lot of lines and at times it felts so sharp I would have scraped my fingers down the proverbial blackboard. Nevertheless, the role was believable and didn't detract from my enjoyment.
These are the main characters, I could go through everyone but that would make for too long a review.
Generally, I did not pick this showing of Mary Poppins for the cast, but I am grateful that I saw Scarlett Strallen in the lead role as the production comes alive when she is on stage.
~~~ THE SONGS ~~~
All the songs that were in the original were also in the Broadway production. Classics such as Chim Chim Cher-ee, A Spoonful of Sugar, Practically Perfect were all sung to perfection and true to the originals.
However, the highlight of the songs repertoire was Supercallifragilistic......I cannot wholly remember the rendition in the movie but the rendition in this musical had that little bit extra and so much energy that you were left open-mouthed. The 2 leads, Bert and Mary did not seem to take break during this song. Further to that, once you thought the song had ended, the curtain came down with the words written on the curtain. The cast came to the audience side of the curtain to continue the song at such a pace I felt I was going to burst, they did even pause for breath. The cast were so full of energy that you felt they could have gone on for a while This was definitely the best moment for me and one that I can remember most vividly. It certainly takes a high level of fitness to tread the boards that you cannot appreciate.
There were also some new songs on the repertoire that were specifically penned for this musical and they are identified in the Showbill.
You can see clips of the songs at either of the Mary Poppins websites at the end of the review.
~~~ PRODUCTION ~~~
Across the whole production you can tell that attention to detail has been paramount and nothing has escaped this. The majority of the show takes place at the Banks' House on Cherry Tree Lane and what the set designers have done is create a cross-section of the house, showing the three floors of the Banks' house, the office of George Banks, the Banks' main bedroom, 2 flights of stairs and the attic, where the children's room is.
This set is constructed in such a way, that when the focus is on the childrens attic room, the roof of the house is removed and the ground floor and first floor move back to leave just the children's room. This is then lowered so scenes in the children's bedroom takes place on the stage rather than suspended. The other setting is the parkside and it includes everything from park railings and benches to status that are played by the cast.
The switching between different sets is seamless and it makes you wonder how much planning must go into something like that to make it appear so easy. Sets go up, back and sideways automatically. Mary even disappeared into an opening to the underside of the stage! Further to that, there is a scene where Mary provides her coat stand and a lamp all from her bag. I'm intrigued to know how that works and I wondered about that throughout the show.
The highlight of this production is Mary Poppins ascending over the audience as she flies away for the final time. Of course, the actress was in a harness but she was flying above our heads. The lighting is also used to great effect as Mary disappeared when she got to the top and then re-appeared on stage in magically quick Who said special effects are only for the big screen?
~~~ MY THOUGHTS ~~~
I am always in awe of how writers, producers and directors manage to transition movie productions from the screen to the stage and always pleasantly surprised. Mary Poppins is certainly no exception. I have previously seen Chicago and Beauty & the Beast on the stage. I was very disappointed with Chicago but love Beauty & the Beast. Mary Poppins is also a Disney production and it looks like Disney know how to present Mary Poppins as a stage production in the most magical and enchanting way, I do not know anyone who has not grown up with Mary Poppins during their childhood and this production took me back to being a little child. At times I had a smile on my face remembering some of the scenes from the movie when it was playing out on stage, You know that look when you are remembering a fond childhood memory? Yes, that one!
This particular showing of the musical had me and my group entranced. We could recite all of the songs along with the production, though we had to watch in fascination as the stage production recited their version of the extended Supercallifragilistic.......
All of the performances were great too and really helped the production move along. I really wish I could have written more in the review, but you need to experience it for yourself. You will truly be captivated. I think by now, you know what I think of this musical and I cannot rate it highly enough. The tickets were $120 (approx £80) a bit on the expensive side, but to demonstrate it's popularity, the show has been running for 3 years on Broadway so it speaks for itself. In the words of Mary Poppins, this musical is more than 'Practically Perfect...!' and if you get the opportunity to see it, go for it.
Mary Poppins UK is touring the UK, currently in Cardiff. Mary Poppins US is on Broadway in the New Amsterdam Theatre. You will not be disappointed with either version.
~~~ OTHER INFORMATION ~~~
Thank you for reading. This review will be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
*** FILM ONLY REVIEW ***
Easter is nearly upon us, which means the usual release of children friendly movies with this one being an exception. I was lucky enough to get tickets for a private screening at the Waterloo Imax Cinema and a great treat it was for us and the little ones.
Starting in Modesto, California, the plot centres around Susan, a normal young lady about to marry the man of her dreams and live in supposed married bliss when she experiences the radioactive fallout of a meteor which falls to Earth. After absorbing a substance called quantonium, Susan grows into a giant and is captured by a secret group within the US military who operate to capture different types of monsters. An alien called Gallaxhar seeks out the quantonium and after tracing it to Earth, heads to Earth to retrieve the quantonium.
After the US military fail to overcome Gallaxhar, Susan (now renamed to Ginormica) and some of her fellow Monsters are deployed to battle with the Aliens. What ensues is some hilarious and madcap entertainment as well as soul searching in the quest to prevent the Aliens taking over Earth.
~~~ THE MAIN CHARACTERS ~~~
Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) is the heroine of the film searching for a reason to exist and at the start of the movie, being a wife of a Weatherman seems to be her destiny. After being exposed to quantonium from a meteor fallout, grows to giant proportions and becomes very strong from the quantonium. After experiencing this and being captured, Susan wishes she could go back to her own life. As soon as Susan leads her team of monsters against the Aliens, things begin to fall into place and she finds the strength and courage to be different as well as stand on her own feet.
Dr Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) is a madcap scientist who is actually very clever but has the huge head of a cockroach and eats garbage. would you believe he provides sanity to solving problems but in a maniacal manner.
The Missing Link (Will Arnett) is a 20,000 year old fish/ape combination that was found by the US military, frozen in ice. Very strong but mis-guided in his strength.
B.O.B (Seth Rogen) is a blue jelly like mass formed from a tomato which was altered using ranch dressing. Far-fetched I know, but complete fantasy and hilarious nonetheless. B.O.B's character is quite weak and his permanent state of confusion makes him think other people's life are actually his own.
Insectosaurus (Conrad Vernon) is a gigantic grub who follows bright lights and matures throughout the movie.
Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) is the evil alien who tries to take over Earth and creates an army out of clones of himself. Although this character is the only baddie in the movie, he doesn't play a huge part in the movie. In terms of looks, he is not too scary and more odd looking with 6 legs/tentacles upon which he stands. More as a supporting role to Susan's heroics.
General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) is leader of the military group responsible for capturing monsters and uses them to fight Gallaxhar. The portrayal of this character actually looks like a caricature with pronounced features that are bound to make you laugh.
President Hathaway (Stephen Colbert) is the US President and is actually portrayed as a parody. Everyone expects the President to be a forceful and commanding leader, but this character seems to be written tongue-in-cheek with weaknesses and a nervous disposition. Laugh out loud moments include him playing Axel F when the Aliens first arrive as some sort of welcoming message.
Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd) plays Susan's fiancé and is far more interested in his career rather than Susan.
~~~ THE 3-D EXPERIENCE ~~~
Monsters vs Aliens is from the Dreamworks Production company who have also produced the very popular Shrek, Madagascar and Over the Hedge to name a few. Monsters is certainly no exception to this. This particular movie is produced specifically in IMAX 3D providing a very entertaining and thrilling 3D experience.
As we walked into the theatre we were presented with these plastic 3-D glasses that are bigger than your face and just about sit on your ears. You would think they would fall off but somehow they stayed on and are so lightweight that you forget they are there and they do not present any problem to the viewing experience of this movie.
As part of the run-up to the movie a clip of a red ball was played. It bounced on the floor a few times and with our glasses on it looked like the ball actually bounced off of the screen. A few wows from the audience was proof that 3-D was working. As the whole movie is shot in 3-D, all the CGI special effects actually came away from the screen and looked life-like. Sure, the movie is an animated cartoon, but with the colours being so vivid, it looked like the stairs were something the audience could hold on to. Even the space rocks looked real and appeared to be something you could reach out and touch.
Having recently converted to HD viewing with Television programmes, I would say this 3-D experience is like having HD for the cinema screen. As well as the 3-D effects, the movie was presented with very imaginative and strong colours. I found that all this combined made the movie seem all the more real rather than just an animated movie.
The movie is also presented in 2-D for standard viewing.
~~~ OTHER THOUGHTS ~~~
I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. The plotline although quite simple far exceeded my expectations and was extremely enjoyable. The CGI special effects are captivating and the characters are portrayed such that you get involved in each of their traits and nuances and start to understand their humour. This is obviously aimed at children but it does capture the adult's imagination. It certainly did mine.
What made the viewing more enjoyable was the 3-D experience. My previous experience was of the Matrix and I came away with a headache. This was more light-hearted and the runtime was not too long. The 3-D effects weren't everywhere in the movie but placed so that when they appeared it made it more special. I certainly feel that Dreamworks have raised the standard on animated movie presentation and I'm not sure if I could go back to watching animations in 2-D. I will be interested to see how this transfers to eventual DVD and whether the effects that make this movie experience can be maintained.
The ending of the movie left it open for sequels so expect more from the Monsters. My niece and nephew were thoroughly entertained by this and gave it a definite thumbs-up. I would definitely recommend this for viewing by children and adults alike especially in 3-D, but even standard viewing.
~~~ Other Information ~~~
Released on: 3 April 2009
Directed by: Conrad Vernon/Rob Letterman
Run time: 94 mins
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2008
Well it is that time of year again. The dreaded cold has made its way into my system and I can sense that this will slowly move to my chest. In the interest of prevention I was browsing the Chemist aisle at my local Sainsbury in the hope of picking up some Vicks VapoRub. Everyone remembers that, when you are a kid it is the first thing your mum used to put on your chest (and sometimes your nose!).
When I homed in on the Vicks product I was very shocked, £4.39 for a 100g tub. WHAT? It was never that expensive when I was a kid. Well, I have never bought any but I was still concerned. However right next to it was the Sainsbury's own brand version of the product. A 50g tub for only 94p.
Surely there must be some difference for the branded version to be twice as much? After some close scrutiny of both boxes, the ingredients were exactly the same and with a medicinal product, that is the most important thing. It wasn't a tough decision, I chose the Sainsbury's version firstly because of the price and secondly because I did not think I would get through 100g of the stuff, so thought it would go to waste as it has a symbol that means once opened, you must use it within 12 months. Plus it smells good but more of that later.
The product comes in an indigo plastic tub with a green lid and comes inside a cardboard box. Ingredients and usage are listed on the back. You can use this on adults and children but it is not recommended for infants under 6 months. Vapour Rub is primarily for helping clear congestion and can be applied directly to the body on the chest and back. Alternatively you can mix 2 teaspoons in hot water and inhale the vapours but only for adults.
Upon opening the tub you are immediately hit with the piercing smell of the menthol and it feels sharp on the inside of the nose. The sensation is a really mild burning sensation. This really took me back to my childhood where you stank of antiseptic medicine. The colour of the product is solid white and has the consistency of a gooey paste, exactly like Vaseline. To apply, there is no choice but to dip your finger right in and rub into your chest and back or the chest and back of the patient. The product absorbs into the skin quite easily. After application you get the menthol and the vapours infiltrating your airways and you can feel some clearing of your nose and chest. I did find that it slightly loosened the phlegm. Not much as I wasn't too congested.
The only downside I found with this was that the effects of this product only seemed to last an hour. The instructions on the back do tell you to apply just before going to bed. However, I think if you were really stuffy and congested, this would not help you much as you would have to keep re-applying. At night you would not really benefit as you would be asleep whilst it wore off very early in the night. I found that if I applied a thick amount and rubbed it in, the effect did last longer.
The ingredients are listed on the tub and on the box: Petrolatum, Camphor, Turpentine, Menthol, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil
Camphor is used in many medicines as a cough suppressant. Turpentine and Petrolatum are similar and used in products for topical application (products applied to the skin) due to their waxy nature. Interestingly menthol is used for small aches and pains. Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil is a plant-based ingredient that has an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effect to calm symptoms. I did actually find that the tightness across my chest eased off after applying this product twice before I went to bed.
All combined these provide a waxy paste that can be applied to the body to provide loosening properties and help clear the airways.
The expiry date of my version is Jan 2012 which means the product can be used unopened within that time. Once opened it is best used within 12 months. To be honest, I am not sure how much I believe the time symbol on products like medicines and cosmetics. After working at the Pharmacy in Boots, I do know that the active ingredients lose their strength once the product goes out of date so you would not get the desired effect. Best to use within the indicated timescales.
Comparing this to Vicks is not easy. I have not used Vicks in 20 years so I cannot directly compare this product but the experience was similar. The aroma of the product reminded me immediately of Vicks and the consistency was the same - aaah memories. I am usually hesitant of using over-the-counter medicines as I have never found them quite as effective as prescribed drugs. I think if you have mild symptoms then this product will help clear these up and help to alleviate stronger symptoms. That aside, this product goes to prove that non-branded items can be exactly the same as their branded counterparts without having to pay branded prices.
I am going to give this product 4 stars for price and effect, one deducted for the length of time this lasted.
Thank you for reading. This may be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
My favourite type of book has to be an autobiography. I don't read many books and when I do my genre of choice is autobiography. Whether it is true or not, I like the insight into peoples life and it is almost a world away from your world. To top it all off, autobiographies come with a set of pictures that you wouldn't normally have and I have to control my urge to view the pictures straightaway rather than wait till I get to that section of the book. That is a lot of fun for me.
This is John McEnroe's autobiography, published in 2002 and there were two things that drew me towards this. Firstly, my passion and fascination of tennis meant this is a must have and secondly, I felt that John McEnroe's life definitely warrants an autobiography. You feel that after all of this time and after a tumultuous and glittering professional career, a couple of marriages and a subsequent career this is definitely the time in your life to write an autobiography. In fact this autobiography developed from a newspaper article.
The front cover on mine is slightly different to the one shown here. My edition shows a half-lit picture of John McEnroe, with the left half of the picture hidden in darkness on the right hand side of the cover. The title and author are depicted in the bottom left (might be because I have an Australian copy). This picture made me smile, especially as I noticed John's earring on his left ear. Personally, I don't think it suits him, but then it his choice.
I expect you all know who John McEnroe is, but just in case you don't John McEnroe is the original Super Brat of the tennis world. A New Yorker from Queens famous for on-court outbursts borne out of passion for his game but an extremely talented tennis player who dominated the men's game during the 80s.
The book is constructed slightly different to most autobiographies I have read. There are 14 chapters but none of the chapters are titled. Being a New Yorker, the book begins with John recollecting September 11 2001, returning back to recollect key moments in John's career, private life and post-retirement career. The book covers about 25 years of John McEnroe's life. I won't explain every chapter, otherwise there would be no point reading the book.
The style of the book is written in the first person in a way where it seems John is just talking to you and recounting the significant moments of his life. It is told in an honest and candid way, as if a friend is speaking to you and sharing their secret moments. McEnroe himself says of the book, he is "thinking out loud" so this book does not seem overly polished.
What is very evident as you read the book is John's passion for tennis. He explains his on-court outbursts as part of being a driven player and wanting to succeed. A lot of people thought this behaviour was a stalling egotistical tactic or a tactic to put his opponent off but he genuinely thought he was fighting for what is right and it had nothing to do with the opponent. A lot of people would probably think that John was just a tennis player who got overheated at times, but this book explains the person behind that. Behind the glitz, glamour and glory is just an ordinary person of ordinary means. There are numerous moments in the book where John even makes fun if himself and his outrageous behaviour.
I know some autobiographies do not have the credentials to call themselves a life story, but the amount of drama that has unfolded in this book and as part of John's life makes for very good reading. Will this be a movie? I don't see how this could be made into a movie and remain as good as the book. I never got to see John McEnroe live as I was too young and I am a bit disappointed, but having him on TV commentating on a match is the next best thing. John McEnroe has a no-nonsense approach to commentating and that shows in this book, reinforcing his credibility even further.
There are a fair amount of pictures included within the book covering John's tennis playing career, his current family, as well as some celebrity shots. Strangely enough all the pictures are in black & white.
I bought this book in Australia in 2002 and it took me only a few days to read this. A thoroughly engrossing, engaging and absorbing read. 5 stars for the honest, reflective, non-egotistical recollection of a varied professional and private life. My love of the book stems from my interest in tennis iteself. I imagine for those not into tennis or sport it may not be everyones cup of tea, but I still think you should give it a go.
You can pick this up for £5.99 on Amazon. My review title is courtesy of those immortal words spoken by John during his career.
~~~ OTHER INFORMATION ~~~
* John McEnroe turned 50 this year on February 16 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY John
* Seven Grand Slam singles titles, with a total of 99 titles
* World Number 1 for 4 years
ISBN: 0316860883 (paperback)
Author: John McEnroe
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
Straight after the gym, I use a 2-in-1 to clean my hair before I start on my more intense conditioning shampoos and conditioners. I recently tried the Sainsbury's version of Kids 2-in-1 and the L'Oreal version is a far superior version.
L'Oreal Kids is available in the following versions in the UK:
- Tropical Mango
- Soothie Smoothie (Lavender)
- Burst of Cherry
My variety of L'Oreal Kids was the Mango version. The packaging for each of the varieties is bright and eye-catching. The mango version is a bright orange bottle. The shape of the bottle is flat and wide with a flip-top cap at the top and to the side of the bottle. The shape of the bottle makes it very easy to hold and dispense shampoo as it fits flat in the palm of your hand. The rear of the bottle gives you information on how to use the product, ingredient information and the packaging tells you that the bottle is recyclable.
My only gripe with the packaging is the way the way the flip-top cap works. When you are holding the bottle in your hand, you have to use the other hand to open the cap and sometimes it can be too secure, so you have to use force to open the cap. When your hands are wet, as they are in a shower, you tend to exert too much force and this means the cap can break. I've had occasion when it has broken off but held on slightly so you can still close it. Another time, I dropped the bottle and the cap broke completely, so I wondered how on earth I could seal the bottle. Fortunately, the plug was just about ok, but I worried every time I opened my bag that I would find kids 2-in-1 all over my clothes!
The product claims that there will be no tears, knots or split ends. I can definitely say that the product does not irritate the eyes and when I have used this product on its own, it provides enough moisturise and hydration for my hair to prevent any tangling. After washing with this product only it is easy to run my comb through my hair without it dragging.
The product lathers up really really well and without too much effort. It is certainly a soapy sudsy (if that is a word) shampoo but it doesn't lather too much. I find a 10p sized piece of shampoo is enough with this to make it effective. Now, the smell is one of the best things about this shampoo. When you open the cap, you can smell the aroma straightaway and it does linger. The smell is absolutely delightful and not offensive or too strong at all. It really is a lovely tropical smell and smells delicious, but that is not to say one can eat it and the packaging warns you not to do so :O).
A couple of months ago I managed to get this from Boots at £1.76 and I was astonished very recently to say that I had to pay £2.06. What a leap in price. the bottle is 250ml and I have found that with 3 hair washes a week and using the product twice each wash, this bottle lasts about 3 months, so on average 66p per month is not bad going.
Ok I have been using a kids product on myself, technically a big kid, but also an adult. I have tried it on my niece who stole my strawberry version because it smelt so good and it was a big thumbs up from her. I like the idea of being able to use this product, so when we go swimming I only need to take one type of shampoo that is suitable for everyone.
Highly recommended. Thank you for reading. This review might be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
Well folks it is time for the digital radio revolution. Aah, who am I kidding? I am getting into Digital Radio very late compared to when it first became available in the 1990s. I had an 18-year old twin cassette/radio player and was happy enough with the retro look and function of it, until it was finally sent to radio heaven by my builders last year.
So new (almost) house and I need a radio for the kitchen. Inexplicably there is now so much variety with radios that you need a bit of help to understand the choices.
~~~ WHAT IS DAB? ~~~
DAB stands for digital audio broadcasting, a digital radio technology for radio stations. Over the years I have heard a number of great things about DAB and how it is the future of radio broadcasting.
DAB is touted to provide a number of benefits over analogue radio broadcasting with superior reception quality, greater bandwidth for more stations within a smaller broadcasting spectrum and better features on DAB-enabled radios such as automatic tuning to all stations and providing a lot of information about the broadcast (songs, traffic info and station information).
However all is not good and there are some downsides. Reception quality can vary depending on where you live and how close the transmitter is to your location, though DAB+ should address this and as additional transmitters are built. Also compared to FM, DAB is not as established and it is more expensive to broadcast of DAB so you may not get every single station that is available on FM.
For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Audio_Broadcasting
To check DAB is available at your postcode http://www.bbc.co.uk/reception/digitalradio/dab.shtml
To check DAB stations are your postcode http://www.ukdigitalradio.com/
~~~ PURE ONE MINI ~~~
My main requirement with a DAB radio was to be able to play radio but for it to also look aesthetically pleasing. When I was wandering around the electronics department to gauge the type of products on display I noticed the shelves were primarily lined with the following brands:
And I noticed that the Pure models were more abundant than the other brands. I counted nearly 3 times as many Pure DAB radios than the next brand. They also have some very eye-catching designs. The Pure models are available in simple models or the retro look. I was after something inexpensive, portable and simple which is when my eye fell on the Pure One mini. the Pure One mini is available in glossy black, white or pink. I went with the glossy white version.
The Pure One mini is only 6 inches by 6 inches and 2.5 inches deep and without the battery pack is less than 1kg in weight. It has a digital display that can display text on 2 rows on the front at the top with a single 3 inch speaker beneath covering about two-thirds of the front. The speaker is described as full range which means it plays treble, mid-range and bass sounds. On the left of the display you have the PURE branding. On the right of the display it shows you the model name 'one mini'. The digital displays the volume, signal strength, station, a clock and scrolling text.
~~~ OPERATION & FEATURES ~~~
You get the following buttons on the top from left to right:
- On/off switch
- Button to switch between DAB, FM receiver
- Info - this allows you to switch between scrolling text and date on the display
- Autotune - allows you to add new stations and remove inactive stations
- Presets - 16 presets can be stored, both FM and DAB (8 of each)
To the right of the device is a dial which you use to operate the device. You select a button and turn it to browse through the stations or to tune a station. Independently the dial also controls the volume.
The device comes with a mains adapter to power the radio or you can purchase a battery back at extra price. You will need the battery to make the radio portable. The battery pack is about £20. The radio also comes with a mini USB port for future upgrades to firmware, a line in to connect up an MP3 player and a port to connect up headphones. The radio comes with an integral telescopic aerial for better reception.
The instructions tell me that the radio uses 0.89 watts in standby and 2.42 watts in operation. This radio is part of the PURE EcoPlus range which means they use less energy than most other DAB radios. To save further energy I always turn the radio off at the socket which means you can lose the presets unless you choose to use the rechargeable battery pack.
The device has a feature called Intellitext which provides scrolling information on news, sports and web pages, numbers or song names which you can pause if you want to note anything down. With the dual DAB/FM receiver you can ensure you get radio coverage wherever you take the device meaning there is always something to listen to.
~~~ VERDICT ~~~
Generally, the device is not imposing on the worktop and looks like a neat addition to the counter. The sound quality to my untrained ears is excellent. There is no vibration from a loud volume and the sound can be heard clearly 15m away.
The information bar has been useful for all sorts of snippets from the news headlines to that song you have heard a million times but still cannot remember the name. As well as simple and clean look the radio is very easy to use and can be operated before you even read the instructions which is great for me as I don't tend to read instructions.
The device is available in the region of £36-£39 and has won the What Hi-Fi Sound & Vision award 2008 for the Best Portable under £50 which also influenced my decision to purchase. The only disappointment I have with the device is that you cannot use conventional batteries and if you want it to be fully portable you have to purchase the £20 B1 ChargePAK. For this to cost half the price of the device you feel is very expensive and the manufacturer is taking full advantage by using proprietary batteries. Due to this I have reduced my rating by 1 star.
The Pure One range does have advanced models that can pause/rewind live DAB radio with a tactile feel and these models start at £47 upwards. However if all you are after is a radio to listen to then you cannot go wrong with this for both price and looks.
Product Website http://www.pure.com/products/product.asp?Product=VL-61028&Category=
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
Walkers have introduced a number of limited edition flavoured crisps that are going forward to a competition titled 'Do Us A Flavour'. The public get to decide which flavour stays.
The flavours are:
Fish & Chips
Crispy Duck & Hoisin
Chilli & Chocolate
I am reviewing the Chilli & Chocolate product. No idea about Cajun Squirrel.....!
~~~ THE PACKAGING ~~~
Walkers is synonymous with crisps and I doubt there is anyone who hasn't heard or tried Walker's Crisps. Endorsement by people such Gary Lineker, Denise Van Outen and Charlotte Church has helped the popularity of the product rise even further.
So to the product itself. Standard Walkers crisp packet with the Walkers logo centre top and the variety in the middle of the packet front. At the bottom of the packet is a picture of a red chilli lying on a chocolate bar. It is a very cute picture with the Chilli lying back with hands behind its head. Apparently this was a picture from a girl called Catherine from High Wycombe, who is also credited with the idea of the flavour.
On the back of the packet, you have details about how you can vote for your favourite limited edition for free and nutritional information including ingredients.
Interestingly, my version of the product is 46g. The usual size of a Walkers packet of crisps is 36.5g and 50g is usually the grab bag (similar to king-size chocolates) but not sure why this product is at the weight it is. It was certainly too much for me to eat at once.
~~~ THE PRODUCT TASTE ~~~
I'm hoping there is no need for me to describe the product and the fact that it is a crisp is enough of a description for you! However, the crisps are well covered in the flavouring and each crisp is generously covered in chilli and paprika powder.
Walkers describe this as 'Spicy heat with a dark cocoa kick' and where 'Heat Meets Sweet' The chocolate flavour is a misnomer as the listed ingredient is Cocoa Powder. I was expecting this to be sweet chocolatey but was disappointed it wasn't the flavour of a chocolate bar! However, that is not to say that I didn't enjoy the taste. In terms of the heat from the chilli, there is reasonable warmth but not too spicy. Don't think you will have to sit with a glass of water on standby.
The overall taste of the crisp is one that is really smoky and you do get a slightly sweet aroma when you put the crisp in your mouth.
~~~ INGREDIENTS & NUTRITIONAL INFO ~~~
Potatoes, Sunflower Oil (33%), Chilli and Chocolate Seasoning (Flavourings, Cocoa Powder, Chilli, Paprika, Garlic, Salt, Sugar, Glucose, citric Acid, Barley Malt Extract, Cinnamon, Cumin, Paprika.
I am please to see that Walkers have removed MSG from this product for the usual reasons. However, I found it quite strange that Paprika is listed twice in the same set of ingredients. One other thing that intrigued me is that it has listed an ingredient called flavourings. So what exactly is that? I can't identify them and I would have thought Walkers is duty bound to tell me what is really in the product.
Per 46g pack:
The first thing I noticed from the nutritional breakdown was that the salt is extremely low. I have seen on other flavours the salt can be quite high, but I was remarkably impressed by this, especially as the pack size is approximately a third larger than normal.
~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~
My expectation of this product is that it would be a spicy chocolatey crisp. After all the name of the product lends to that. But it was neither and that disappointed me. Though the crisps are tasty enough I would still place cheese and onion above this in the flavour stakes and I would not go out of my way for this flavour.
I am pleased to see that the actual ingredients are used with others to add more flavouring whilst Walkers meat-flavoured crisps are suitable for vegetarians and hence contain nothing of natural flavour. Not entirely sure I would recommend this. It is a very unsual combination. If you want something with flavour I would opt for Cheese and Onion. For spice and heat levels I would rate this quite low as I have tried chilli crisps that have a great and enjoyable kick to them.
3 stars from me.
Product Website http://www.walkers.co.uk/flavours/default.aspx? ver=low#/flavours/section=chilli&view=pitch
Thank you for reading. This review might be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009
My beloved rechargeable Sonicare, died a slow death recently. It would not charge on its station and then would discharge immediately during use. The sonicare I had was of the variety where the lithium battery was internal and could not be removed or repaired, at least unless you have the patience and tools.
Which is where I decided to purchase this battery-powered model.
~~~ WHY THIS SONICARE? ~~~
Sonicare's range of electric toothbrushes are considered the Rolls Royce of toothbrushes as said by my own dentist nonetheless so after that endorsement, I was not going to try anything else. I have had 2 toothbrushes previously and have found the toothbrushing experience very pleasant and easy.
Disappointingly both of my previous toothbrushes have met a similar fate and also outside of the warranty period. But having lasted an average of 3 years each I was quite happy to stay with the Sonicare range.
I bought this particular model for a variety of reasons. The Sonicare I really want is £100-plus currently and there was no way I could justify such spend right now. So this model was half-price and only £25 so I figured it was a reasonable price to spend whilst I waited for the model I wanted to come down in price.
I also get the Sonicare experience which provides the easy timed brushing and the best brushed mouth you can get.
~~~ USING HYDROCLEAN ~~~
Arguably, this is Philips cheapest electric toothbrush and compromises on a lot of the features that you get with the higher models. For those of you that have not seen the Sonicare, this model is 9.5 inches in height. The brush head is 3.5 inches in height and is removable, held on by thick metal spoke of about 3/4 inch. The base unit (also the handle), has a rubbery blue back which extends slightly to the front with a couple of rubber dots on the rear that act as a stand when you place the brush horizontally. The bottom 2/3 at the front of the handle is white plastic and has a green round rubber button mid-way on the handle. The button also has a power symbol which you use to turn the brush on/off and a light which is green when on and flashes in use.
At the base of the handle, you are given information about the product, which tells you the product is powered at 2 watts. There is a symbol of a bin crossed out. This "shows that a product can be recycled separately from other household waste under the WEEE directive"
This model is battery-powered only, which means no need for a separate charging station and it makes this model truly portable as you only need to take the brush with you. The model uses two AA batteries. The batteries are inserted in series and is hiiden within the handle. The cap at the bottom that holds them in is a blue colour.
However, unless you use rechargeable batteries, this model will go through batteries as if they are going out of fashion. I would have thought I would get about 6 weeks brushing from one setof batteries, but I don't even get 3 weeks. I brush morning and night, so that is only 42 brushings. This is very disappointing as the cost can run high if you have to keep replacing the batteries. If you do buy this brush it would be wise to consider rechargeablesto reduce the running cost.
As the batteries start to run low, the unit will beep a couple of times at the end of the 2-minute cycle and this indicates there is less than 4 2-minutes brushes to go. I have found there can be more brushes but when the batteries do run low and inertia has prevented me replacing them, you will have to start the brush a few times before the proper cycle begins. This can be a bit annoying unless the new batteries are close by.
With the batteries in place, the unit is quite light and probably about 250grams.
The hydroclean comes with the timed brushing which provides the recommended brushing time. However unlike other Sonicare models, this runs for a solid 2-minutes without a break. The other models provide 30-second interval beeps which tell you to move the brush to the next quarter of your mouth. However 2 minutes is better than no beeping but it can make for very lazy brushing. You only realise the value of this feature when you have to use an ordinary toothbrush and have to ensure you manage to brush your teeth for the recommended time. A feature I wouldn't want to be without.
The hydroclean provides the same brushing sensation as the other models and from my perspective the same strength cleaning. You are supposed to hold the brush gently between the gum and teeth and you should not use a brushing motion. This can be quite hard as we are used to moving a normal toothbrush through the mouth so you do have to concentrate to get the full benefit out of the product.
The brush head is a conventional shape for toothbrush heads and has white filaments around the edge of the head. In the centre of the head there are something called fins in a blue colour which are inset and lower than the filaments. These fins are designed to remove more plaque and give teeth a better clean.
The brush head is removable and replaceable so easy to keep clean and replace with a new brush head as you should do every few months. The brush head comes with a clear plastic cap to keep the brush protected and away from dirt. Don't even think of using the brush head to clean - you would be foolish lol. Replacement brush heads are available in a pack of 3 for £15.65 in Boots.
~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~
I think this is a well-priced product. For £25 you get the sonicare experience at a quarter of the price and I personally think you cannot beat the Sonicare product for the high quality of brushing and the hydroclean is claimed to remove more plaque than a manual brush and also Oral-B brushes! I cannot comment as I have only every use the Sonicare electric toothbrushes. At full-price this brush is £50, and I do not believe it is worth this price tag.
The battery power is disappointing and is a pain to have to change batteries, though if you take this away you do not have to take any charging station or adapters with you. This is definitely a compromise due to the price, and for me it is one that I am prepared to make in the short-term and I will look to use rechargeable batteries for this unit to provide a bit more efficiency.
All in all I would give this unit 4 stars, purely for the ease of brushing with 1 star deducted for the battery operation.
Product Website http://www.homeandbody.philips.com/sonicare/ gb_en/brushes/HydroClean/HydroClean_overview.asp
Thank you for reading. This review might be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2008
As with most people I am looking to cut back on my spending and looking at the store's own alternatives of the more expensive brands.
When I am at the gym I like to use L'oreal kids 2-in-1 shampoo a couple of times to clean the sweat before I use my regular shampoo. My regular shampoo is an expensive premium brand so using this one helps me save on the expensive shampoo.
This time round I was looking for an even cheaper alternative and whilst browsing the aisles at Sainsbury's I came across their version of kids 2-in-1, so I decided to give it a go at 57p compared to £1.92 for L'oreal kids.
~~~ THE PACKAGING ~~~
The product comes in a bright green bottle which is oval shaped, almost flat with a slight curve from right to left. As you would expect of a children's product it is eye-catching and loud and wouldn't go unnoticed on the bathroom shelf.
The bottle is a flip-top and this flip top is a neon yellow and alongside the green looks psychedelic. On the front of the bottle is a label with a picture of a multi-eyed alien. You know the kind with eyes at the end of tentacles???? The following claims are also on the label:
"Smells Out of This World"
"Kind to Eyes"
On the back of the bottle is another label with the same claims as the front but also says it "leaves hair feeling soft shiny and smelling fruitastic".
There are also the directions which if you wash your hair is pretty much the same and not worth mentioning here. This product is available in 250ml size.
~~~ THE PRODUCT ~~~
So, in the shower cubicle at the gym, I soaked my hair in water and poured some shampoo. It has a consistency like handwash and is not too runny. So I rubbed my hands together in a bid too lather and this was the first disappointment. It hardly lathered at all, so I thought I might not have enough and proceeded to use more. It lathered a bit more but not greatly, so I decided to apply it to my hair.
The second disappointment: This product did not glide into my hair at all. while I was shampooing into my hair it felt like the product was dragging along my hair and to an extent pulling the hair. If you imagine glue would not slide in the hair it was like that. I also could not lather up into my hair.
The second time I washed my hair I decided to lather up before it hit my hair and whilst the product lathered in my hands, it did not in my hair. Equally, when I rinsed the product out of my hair, the water didn't run easily through my hair and my hair felt squeaky clean, too squeaky clean and it is not a nice feeling.
After rinsing I tried to run my hand through my hair and my hair felt really coarse and I could not get my hand through without it dragging and rubbing, also it was still quite tangly and rough.
To try and calm my hair I used my rich shampoo which helped a bit but I think the damage was done and I couldn't get the shampoo through my hair as easily as when I use l'oreal kids. Once I'd used my extra rich conditioner my hair felt much better and less shocked.
A strange thing with this product is that I bought the Melon smell and on a positive note the smell of the product is quite strong. However, I would have placed the smell more apple than melon (unless my senses have left me!) but I liked it, so it did not bother me. I didn't notice the smell in my hair after it was rinsed, but that could be 2 things:
 the smell is not strong
 I didn't leave it long enough
Oh, one other thing. Now before you think I'm weird, I don't drink shampoo, but when I am rinsing my hair I go straight under the shower and to keep breathing I need to open my mouth. Occasionally you can get run-off and taste the shampoo. Now, when this happened with this product, the first thing I noticed was it tasted so bitter, unpleasantly bitter that I had to rinse my mouth out a few times. I never get that with any other product I use, so it is indeed quite strange and off-putting.
~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~
After drying my hair, there is no doubt my hair felt squeaky clean, but as this is a harsh product on the hair that I would not use it again. The product is not rich enough and very abrasive, so I will have to give this a definite thumbs down.
Also, it did not live up to any of its claims. My hair was neither soft nor shiny although the smells was strong and pleasant. I didn't find my hair de-tangled either, but it didn't hurt my eyes, so a good one for kids.
I'm grateful it was only 57p and compared to l'oreal kids it is not something you can save on. No, I won't be buying this again. Only 1 star from me. The search continues...
~~~ INGREDIENTS ~~~
Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Citric Acid, Parfum, PEG-150 Distearate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Triethylene Glycol, Benzyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Denatonium Benzoate, Magnesium Chloride, Magnesium Nitrate, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, CI 42090, CI 47005.
Thank you for reading. This review might be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2008
*** ALERT Very long review, hope you can make it through and I do appreciate it if you do :O) ***
I am a former Sky TV customer but after some serious cost-cutting a few years ago I did not see the need to pay for a multitude of channels I did not have time to watch. Don't worry you still get the free to air channels from BBC1 to Channel 5 so I did not lose out. However I still have to use my combi VCR and DVD-Recorder to records programs I was never around to watch.
The progression from a VCR and DVD-Recorder has to be a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) recorder. Simply put you can record programmes straight to a hard drive. Great if you do not want to keep having to change tapes or DVDs.
I have always been wanting to get one of these which I meant could free myself of my combi. I never wanted to miss my programmes but it is quite cumbersome to have to routinely plan the programmes you want to watch. However with the continual introduction of new features such as Freeview, Sky+, Freeview+ there never seemed to a good time to buy especially as what you buy would immediately be succeeded by the latest and greatest. Furthermore with the introduction of High-Definition and hearing that there is a free service I was happy to wait until a product that provided all the benefits of the various features.
So the Humax Foxsat-HDR is subscription-free satellite that gives you High Definition viewing on certain channels and allows you to record TV too. It is the first device of it's kind.
~~~ WHAT DO YOU GET? ~~~
The product comes packaged in a cardboard box with instructions, RCA, SCART and HDMI cables, and the remote control. It is very well packaged in egg carton like cardboard and is very secure in the box. The device also comes wrapped in a thin poly bag. So the packaging is fully recyclable.
The device is pure black with a shiny black front panel that flips down. With the flap down, you get controls for the following functions:
- Left/Right/Up/Down controls
There is a USB port to connect a USB pen/memory stick or a portable hard drive. This is for transfer of recordings.
On the right of the device is a CI module slot. Not knowing what this is for a quick search in the instructions means you can use this for channels that require a subscription. You would need to purchase additional hardware to use this feature.
Centrally placed on the device is a bright digital display that darkens when the device is off. Below the digital display is a light. The light is blue when the device is on and red when the device is turned off.
In terms of measurement, for those of you with Sky receivers, this device is slightly shorter and not as wide as the sky receiver. It is the same height as a DVD player/recorder.
On the back of the device you get the following ports:
- Two LNB In ports so you can connect 2 cables from the satellite dish
- LNB out for connecting up another digital satellite receiver (like sky multiroom)
- Audio port for connecting to a TV or VCR
- Video port
- TV SCART
- Video SCART
- SPDIF for connecting to an audio system using an S/PDIF cable
- Another USB port
- Ethernet (not currently active)
- Power On/Off
In my configuration I have the satellite dish connected to the LNB In and an HDMI cable to connect up to the TV. For the future I want to connect up a DVD-recorder and record straight to DVD. I'm informed that this is possible, I just haven't figured out how.
~~~ CONNECTING UP THE DEVICE ~~~
Cabling is a very basic activity. All you need to do is connect the LNB IN to your satellite dish and if you had Sky previously you can use the same connection from the dish. If you have never had sky you will need to get a dish installed. If you want to connect both tuners you may need to upgrade or install a dish with dual LNB which means you can have 2 feeds from the dish. . It is easy enough to do, ask my boyfriend Steve on....... :O)
The connectors on the aerial feed are screw-in so there is no chance they will fall out. Next you need to connect the device to the TV using the HDMI cable and then connect the power cable.
Most TVs are very intelligent and as soon as you turn your device on, it will recognise it as an HDMI interface.
~~~ SETTING UP THE DEVICE ~~~
When you switch the device on the First Time Installation appears and it asks you to set configuration items such as language, screen ratio/resolution. Then it asks you to confirm the cables are connected to the satellite dish after which it tries to detect a freesat connection. If there are no problems this succeeds and it asks you to enter your postcode.
Strange I thought, why does it need my postcode? I'm not registering this device through the Satellite and I certainly don't want my postcode broadcast. Relax, it uses the postcode to cross check what type of Satellite service you should receive and it detects England. Dur, I could have told it that and would have preferred to. Entering the postcode is very easy if you are a texter because it uses the same keypad configuration as a mobile phone.
After detecting what type of service you receive it starts searching for channels. It is very quick.
In fact installation from power on to sitting there watching my first HD channel took 10 minutes. It was so easy and intuitive that I didn't even have to read the manual.
5 out of 5 stars from me.
~~~ CONTROLLING THE DEVICE ~~~
So, the remote control is the primary object for controlling the device. I haven't even used the buttons as I can't consider standing there holding my hand up to keep pressing buttons. So the remote control is as you would expect. You can change channels 3 ways:
 Using the up/down button
 Typing the channel number in (usually 3 digits: 101 is BBC1, 102 is BBC2, 105 is Five etc...)
 Navigating the electronic programme guide and selecting a channel
The remote control also comes with the standard features: Volume control, Text buttons, Subtitles, Playback buttons and Menu buttons. There is also a wheel like button that is left, right and up, down with an ok button in the centre.
The remote control is very light and the front is very shiny. So shiny you can see the buttons I use the most as they are smudged and the shine will probably fade from overuse.
~~~ FUNCTIONS ~~~
Accessing the electronic programme guide (EPG) is easy, you press the 'GUIDE' button and you are taken into the EPG, where you can move back/forth 2 or 24 hours and up/down to see the different channels. Within the guide you can select programmes to either watch and record.
You can browse programmes up to 8 days ahead. I would like 14 days but this is not too much of a disappointment.
Within the guide, you can choose to view the TV schedule ahead by using the wheel in table format. So the channels are listed on the left top/down and across the programmes are displayed in half hour chunks.
Using the interactive buttons (red, green, yellow and blue) you can select the following functions with the EPG:
- RED: table list of programmes by channel
- GREEN: a list of programmes per channel
- YELLOW: Schedule of programmes/series selected for recording
- BLUE: Find programmes using keyword, genre or time filters
Recording can be selected in 2 ways. If the recording is for a future programme you can select it through the EPG. If the programme has already started you can simply press the record button and the device will record the show until it ends.
If menu setting AUTO is selected the programme will start recording within the allocated broadcasting slot and will start if the programme is delayed. Sometimes, you miss about the first 30 seconds but this is usually the credits. I have not yet missed a recording.
If you choose to record a programme that forms part of a series, you can choose whether to record a single programme or the whole series.
Playback is accessed via the media button on the remote control. When you first enter the media screen you are presented with a list of all recordings by default. If the recording is part of a series then you will get each recording categorised by the show name in Alphabetical order like a folder, which you can press ok to open a folder.
If the programme is a one-off it will be listed beneath the folders. Each programme will be listed along with the name, duration, date, channel and format (HD or SD).
In this window you can press the 'i' button and it will present a short summary of the programme and when it was broadcast (date and time)
Other screens are selected by using the coloured buttons:
- RED is video recording
- GREEN is Radio recording
- YELLOW is music
- BLUE is photos
To select a video or radio for viewing navigate to the programme using the coloured buttons and select using the Ok button. You'll be presented with a number of options to view:
 Play from last position
 Play from start
Alternatively a really cool feature is the thumbnails of each chapter so you can navigate to a specific part of the programme. The only downside with this is that it presents a thumbnail every 8 seconds. In an hour long show this would be tedious to navigate to the later part of the show. I would suggest you play a programme from the start and use the fast-forward buttons which will allow you to move ahead 2 minutes each time.
You can manage your hard disk space by either deleting recordings or moving them to an external hard drive.
You can delete a recording by selecting an option in the playback screens. You cannot edit or delete programmes while the device is recording another programme.
HUGE NOTE: Only BBC HD and ITV HD are available on Freesat currently. Channel 4 HD should be arriving on Freesat in 2009.
~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~
Well, the best thing about this device is that you get HD for free. Ok, you don't get all the HD channels, but this will start to expand later in the year. I don't watch subscription channels anyway, so any HD is a plus for me. The device itself is very easy to use and its interfaces are intuitive that I didn't even need to consult the instruction manual, it is mostly plug and play.
I paid £292 for the device from John Lewis after inclusion of the VAT rate cut and if you are on the market for a TV recording device I can't recommend this enough. You will get so many more features than the freeview+ devices I have seen and there is only a one-off cost.
- List of Freesat channels
- Humax product website http://www.humaxdigital.com/uk/products/ product_stb_satellite_foxsathdr.asp
- Specifications http://www.humaxdigital.com/uk/products/new_leaflet/ FOXSAT-HDR_leaflet.pdf
- User Manual http://www.humaxdigital.com/global/products/ new_manual/UM_FOXSATHDR_100GB_101308_low.pdf
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites by me. I had to cut the URLS as Dooyoo cannot take more than 80 characters in a single string.
© jupiter28 2008
~~~ Synopsis ~~~
Picture the scene, it is 1974 and Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, becomes the first and only president to resign from office for likely impeachment for his involvement in the infamous Watergate scandal of 1972.
Watergate is the presidential scandal that involved a series of political scandals where it appears Nixon abused his position of power to his advantage for things like a laundered slush fund, wiretapping and break-ins.
David Frost, a British broadcaster sees the events unfolding and takes it upon himself to pursue a series of interviews with the former President in a bid to gain worldwide acclaim and financial security with exceptional viewing figures. What transpires is akin to a switching tale of cat and mouse as Nixon tries to revive his political career and Frost tries to avoid bankruptcy from the financing of the interview as well as prove that Nixon was a key-decision maker in the scandal.
~~~ My Thoughts ~~~
The movie is a depiction of the historical presidential events of 1972 to 1974. The movie starts with actual footage and newsreel of various scenes of the Watergate scandal to set the scene.
This is a factual drama using retrospective interviews with the supporting characters dispersed throughout the movie. This is mixed in with the dramatisation of the build-up to the interviews and the actual interview itself. You could actually call this a docu-drama as the events are entirely based on actual historical events with actors playing the key characters.
I had not even been born when these events broke so I had no in-depth knowledge about them. After getting free tickets to see this movie (yay for me!) I thought about it. I knew about Nixon and how he had resigned but not much else. I knew about the phrase Watergate, but I didn't know what it was about. After some research about Watergate and also Nixon, I knew more and was glad I had looked this up so I had an idea of what to expect.
However, I had no idea what the Frost connection was. The name of the movie is Frost/Nixon and I thought, the only Frost I know is Sir David Frost, but then it can't be him, can it? Well, I was surprised. After settling into the film, once the character Frost, said "Hello, Good Evening and Welcome", I knew it was Sir David Frost. These interviews are David Frost's greatest acclaim and the thing he will be remembered for. Even more so after this movie.
The film is very well told that you do not need to know much about these events so the movie stands on its own. The movie runtime is just over 2 hours, but it does not feel like long at all. The story moves along at a good speed that enables you to absorb the historical aspect as well admire the emotional portrayal of the characters. This movie absorbs you and does not throw too much information at the viewer at once.
~~~ Cast & Characters ~~~
Frank Langella plays Richard Nixon and is so convincing that I actually thought the footage of him after the introduction was actually Richard Nixon, the likeness is amazing, you'd think he was made for the role. I have never seen anything worthy of mention from Frank Langella but his portrayal of Nixon is absolutely spot-on. During the first part of the movie, Langella shows two sides of Nixon. As well as portraying Nixon as if he has nothing to show remorse for, he also portrays the burden that comes with carrying the guilt of his activities and eventually shows Nixon a broken but released man.
Strangely enough, David Frost is initially portrayed as a complete playboy without any morals. The only things that entice him are fame, money and girls. The David Frost I know is the fine upstanding political interviewer and I'm not sure I believe the way David is portrayed in this film initially, but it seems like this interview is what made him. But I wasn't around at the time so cannot be sure. Michael Sheen is the actor who plays David Frost and immediately, Michael has got the David Frost accent and annunciation down to a tee. If you close your eyes, it is as if David Frost himself is speaking the dialogue. When I saw Michael on screen as David Frost, I initially thought of Tony Blair, which I thought was strange. However in research for this review, I saw that Michael Sheen played Tony Blair in The Queen. Remember the scene where he becomes Prime Minister for the first time? A sense of déjà vu.
Kevin Bacon plays Jack Brennan, the Presidents Chief of Staff. It is like a military role and Kevin Bacon plays the role with a sternness and serious side whilst looking out for the President's best interest. Despite any misdealings the President has been involved in, Jack Brennan was politically there for him.
Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell) play US investigators who are hired by David Frost to find dirt on the president within the Watergate scandal. Both investigators are looking for the opportunity to uphold the president for his involvement in the scandal and are keen for retribution. Both roles are played with a passion and are often at loggerheads with David Frost, when they see Nixon trying to exonerate himself from the scandal.
Matthew Macfadyen ... John Birt
Rebecca Hall ... Caroline Cushing
Toby Jones ... Swifty Lazar
Andy Milder ... Frank Gannon
Kate Jennings Grant ... Diane Sawyer
Gabriel Jarret ... Ken Khachigian
Jim Meskimen ... Ray Price
Patty McCormack ... Pat Nixon
Geoffrey Blake ... Interview Director
Clint Howard ... Lloyd Davis
~~~ Conclusion ~~~
Ron Howard, the director, has directed many movies (Apollo 13, Splash, A Beautiful Mind) but this is his second foray into historical dramas. As with Apollo 13 the tension builds in the appropriate places. The most notable is when David Frost concludes the interviews with the Watergate interview and as any political interviewer keeps interjecting when Nixon tries to speak to defend himself. Eventually he draws the interview to the point of confirming Nixon's role in the scandal and there was a slight pause. I actually inhaled with tension even though I knew what was coming I was still surprised at how it was derived.
Ron Howard has kept the drama true to the historical facts and it must help that the interviews are still available and this is a well documented historical event. Even though I was not around for these events during the 1970's I did not feel like I was missing any information from the incidents.
I wholly recommend this movie as both a drama and a factual depiction. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I imagine that many students that study this event will no doubt use this movie as an aid and a tool.
I'm giving it 5 out of 5 stars and I certainly hope Ron Howard receives the awards and acclaim he deserves for depicting one of the most controversial events in political history.
~~~ Other Information ~~~
Released on: 23 January 2009
Directed by: Ron Howard
Run time: 122 mins
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2008
~~~ SURROUND SOUND ~~~
The product is a 5.1 surround sound speaker system. I have never actually fully understood the definition of 5.1 but after a bit of research I learn that 5.1 is actually a version of surround sound. 5.1 is also a standard and the most widely used surround sound configuration.
Essentially this means that the sound system provides sound from 3 devices in front of you and 2 devices behind you. Being surrounded by speakers is where the term originates.
~~~ LOGITECH X-540 ~~~
Logitech is a well established computer peripheral manufacturer and produces high quality and reliable devices. My choice for this product was driven mainly by price. I have just bought a new TV and want to get the effect of surround without having to pay the high price of a TV sound system.
The speakers on my TV are only 5 watts each and I had read that high volume could burst the speakers, not wanting to take a chance I opted for the Logitech sound system. I found this system on the internet for about £50 which is very reasonable for what I was looking for and the total was a whopping 70 Watts. Not a lot I hear you say, but far better than the built-in TV speakers.
After researching many computer sound systems, it was confirmed that the sound system would need some adapting to use with a TV. However, I quickly discovered that you only need to be able plug this into the headphone jack of the TV.
The difficulty here is that your TV needs to provide 3 connections and usually there is only 1 headphone jack. So 2 headphone jack doublers were required. 1 to plug into the TV directly and the second plugged into it. This would provide 3 headphone jack connections. 1 connection for the front speakers, 1 for the rear speakers and 1 for the central/sub speakers.
~~~ OUT OF THE BOX ~~~
There is not a lot things to describe with this product. It is your standard 5.1 sound system with the following:
- 1 centre speaker
- 1 sub-woofer
- 2 front speakers (left and right)
- 2 rear speakers (left and right)
The sub-woofer also has a remote control connected, which is a contradiction. The remote control is hard-wired to the sub-woofer and the cable is no longer than 75cm making operation further than that impossible.
The control provides an on/off button and allows you to control the volume with a dial.
The satellite speakers (those that you place around the room) are rectangular in design with a wire mesh covering the 2 circles. The center speaker is designed such that it allows you to place the speaker horizontally on the top of a flat screen TV with a flap that holds the TV in place.
The remaining 4 speakers for front and rear can be wall-mounted or left free-standing. The base is flat allowing you to stand them up or you can spin the base to wall mount them.
~~~ CONNECTING IT UP ~~~
The sub-woofer controls the output and on the rear of the device is a plate with all the connections. Each connection is clearly labelled as well as colour coded so there is no confusion as to where to connect the cables between the sub-woofer, the speakers and the TV.
So on the back of the sub-woofer you have the following connections/colours from top to bottom and the speakers have the same coloured cable so you know where to place and connect each speaker.
- Front (green)
- Rear (black)
- Center/Sub (yellow)
- Front Left (green)
- Front Right (red)
- Center (yellow)
- Rear Left (black)
- Rear Right (white)
Ordinarily, the output would match the PC sound card, but on a TV they plug into the headphone jack (using 2 doublers).
As mentioned the speakers are very easy to connect to the sub-woofer by matching up the cables to the coloured audio ports on the rear of the sub-woofer.
The sound system is mains powered and is ready to use once connected up.
~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~
Even though I am not using the device in its intended configuration, in my configuration the quality of the sound system is really good. When I first used the built-in speakers on my TV I was disappointed. When I turned up the volume on the TV, the sound did not increase in line with the volume increase. Once I had connected up the sound system to the TV, the difference in sound quality was immensely noticeable. You can still use the TV volume to control the sound. The sound has more oomph to it and a single point increase in TV volume has a great impact on the sound being produced.
Technically this is a PC sound system, but I have proved that it can be used with a TV and for the price this provides a great sound. The only disappointment is the hard-wired remote control. It is hard-wired into the sub-woofer so you can't even extend it and for the sake of avoiding the hassle I wouldn't try. The product is excellent specification for the price and I have been using this for over 2 years now, so reliability is also good.
I've just bought the same system for the main TV, although I have needed audio/phono extension cables to place the speakers further away from the TV and sub-woofer.
Product Website http://www.logitech.com/
Thank you for reading. This review may also be posted on other sites.
© jupiter28 2008