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Yesterday, my flatmate and I decided to visit the latest Body Worlds (BW) exhibition, the Mirror of Time, at London's O2 Arena. BW sells itself as a lesson in anatomy using real bodies. It consists of 200 specimens, ranging from full bodies, body parts, and a few animal bodies thrown in for good measure. Now... I am a fairly squeamish person - let there be no BONES about it (Sorry, I couldn't resist!). I was, however, lured by the 2-for-1 deal currently available on the exhibition's website. For adults, tickets are ordinarily priced at £14 on the weekends, and £12 on weekdays, with concessions available for children, students, seniors, and groups. With the 2-for-1 deal, we paid the grand total of £14 for both of us. Bargain!
The creator of BW, Dr Gunther von Hagens, is the mastermind of a body preservation technique called "plastination". According to the website, plastination involves draining the body of fat and fluids to prevent decomposition. Ick! From what I gather, the body is then filled with liquid plastic, which hardens and facilitates permanence. Anyway, von Hagens decided that plastination would be the perfect vehicle for educating people about the anatomy of the body. Call me cynical, but I have a feeling that von Hagens also saw this as an excellent opportunity to generate an endless flow of cash, and a method for plastinating his credit card collection!
Arriving at the O2, I insisted that we eat some lunch. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had a feeling I wouldn't want to eat afterwards. When you book your ticket, you'll receive a pre-specified time for showing up at the exhibition. In our case, our tickets told us to be there at 1pm, but we were half an hour late as we lost track of time whilst noshing on our burgers. Woops. Thankfully, this wasn't a problem. There was no queue, and we were ushered in the direction of a dark opening, towards the exhibition.
Upon entering, a plaque told us that the bodies and body parts contained within are used with the permission of their former owners. The first thing that struck me was the black decor everywhere. Black floors, black walls, black materials upon which the exhibits rested. Four large video screens at the entrance display people morphing from youth through to old age, Indeed, the focus of the Mirror of Time is on the life cycle, and the ageing process.
Instead of describing everything in the exhibition, I am going to describe a few of the most memorable (for me) exhibits. Please be aware that some people may find the material on display to be upsetting. I should also note that each exhibit is positioned near a plaque describing first, what it is, and second, some basic anatomical blurb.
The start of the exhibition features five glass cylinders, each of which contain a tiny embryo at various stages of development. This part of the exhibition has attracted a lot of controversy, I think primarily because it is unclear exactly how they ended up there... an embryo is not capable of giving consent. What I will say though, is that the atmosphere was very, very respectful, and there was the most complete silence. I found being in the presence of these tiny little angels (can't think of a better word for them really) to be very, very humbling. In fact, since leaving the exhibition, I cannot get out of my mind their tiny hands, and peaceful looking expressions. I didn't expect to be moved by BW, but I was instantly affected, right from the moment I saw those cylinders.
Another memorable exhibit, showed a woman kneeling, raising her open palms, upon which perched two birds, about to take flight. If my memory serves me correctly, it was called 'Phoenix rising from the Ashes'. I was moved by the accompanying blurb, which stated that ultimately as human beings, we fail to rise from the ashes (i.e. we die), but we can continue through our children - symbolised by the birds.
The bodies in the exhibit are displayed in various poses, with sections of the body opened or peeled back in order to provide the viewer with a glimpse of the anatomy underneath. It was really quite an eye-opener to see. I have only a basic understanding of biology and anatomy, so I found it incredibly interesting. With each exhibit, I was more and more astounded at the complexity of the human body. This might sound a bit strange, but I was surprised at how much the human body resembles a tree, in that it consists of lots of lots of tiny nerves that seem to grow outwards from the spine. It was stunning to see!
Surprisingly, I didn't feel as nauseated as I thought I would. The only time I felt slightly sick, was whilst looking at a man who was holding his entire skin from head to toe, in his right hand (shown in the dooyoo product photo). I could have sworn that I saw three hairs poking out from it, and I quickly moved away!
The penultimate room contains the sex and reproductive exhibits, and this room is for over-16s only. Not to go into too much description, but suffice to say that there were two bodies in a very compromising position. At this point, I will let you know that the use of cameras or mobile phones is banned. I say this because as I moved around this particular exhibit, a huge flash signified the presence of an idiot who had positioned himself before the "bits" as it were. He was quickly taken to the side, and ushered from the room. A day out wouldn't be quite the same without at least one idiot showing up somewhere!
It took us 45 minutes to walk from the start of the exhibit to the end. However, if you want to browse for longer, there is no limit to the amount of time you can spend in there. Upon reaching the end, we were given a life certificate which states: 'In recognition of resolve and commitment to embrace a healthy lifestyle, I accept physical and intellectual challenges, strive for fellowship and aim to live a purposeful live in longevity'. In the spirit of this, we headed straight to the pub for a drink afterwards!
BW was quite an experience. I can honestly say that I feel it has affected me on a deep level. The atmosphere in there felt sacred, if that makes sense. Hushed, quiet, and intimate - other than the man with the camera of course! BW is not for everyone. I can imagine it could be very upsetting for some, particular the embryo (and baby) exhibits. Did BW live up to its promise as an educational experience? Yes, I think it did. It has enlightened me to the complexity of the human body. Heck, we are wandering around in these things every day! It's very interesting to take a look at what's going on inside! Well worth the price!
Body Worlds & the Mirror of Time is at the O2 Arena until the 23rd August 2009. Wheelchair access available.
For those who don't know, USB flash drives (FDs) are portable devices for storing electronic data (sometimes referred to as USB keys or memory sticks). FDs typically have two functions. First, they are used to back-up important files, i.e. to store a second copy of the original file in case of data-loss. Indeed, anyone who has experienced the aftermath of a data-loss disaster - weeping, frothing and foaming at the mouth, and violent acts directed towards one's computer - will recognise the value in this. Second, FDs provide a portable solution for transporting data if one works with multiple computers in multiple locations.
But what happens if you lose your FD? This is not a problem for most types of data. You'll have the original copy stored on your laptop or computer, you'll buy another FD and create another back-up. If, however, your FD contains highly confidential or sensitive data, then losing it will drop you into a large pot of poo and result in a fast-track ticket to the nearest dole queue. NOT if you have an Ironkey!
In common with other FDs, the Ironkey can be used to back-up important files, and to transport data for use with multiple computers. The Ironkey differs, however, in that it brings an unprecedented level of security to your data. Let me explain.
The Ironkey is the sort of device that M from the Bond movies would be proud of. Indeed, one might be forgiven for thinking that M had a hand in its design. To look at, it's rather plain. Thin and rectangular in shape, it is three inches long, and half an inch wide. Carrying it in one's pocket can feel quite uncomfortable due to its relatively sharp edges. In this case, however, it's what's on the inside that matters: a military level security cryptochip, that protects ANYONE or ANYTHING from gaining access to the data contained within. According to the manual, the Ironkey is also waterproof and resistant to extreme environments. Impressed? I was!
If someone tries to tamper with your Ironkey - e.g. a pesky hacker - the cryptochip will, and I quote from the manual, "initiate a self-destruct sequence"! NO... it will NOT explode and shower said tamperer in debris like a scene from the 60's show the Avengers. Less spectacularly, but equally as effective, it will permanently erase all data using "flash-trash" technology. Very nifty!
The Ironkey is incredibly easy to use. You plug it into one of the USB ports on your laptop or computer, and a few moments later the Ironkey login will appear on the bottom right of your screen. On first use, you will be asked to set a password. At this point, it is incredibly important to write it down! I say this because if you forget your password, you will be given a total of 10 chances to enter it correctly before all your data gets flushed (FLASHed??) down the electronic toilet bowl. Indeed, beads of sweat will form across your brow in panic, as each failed attempt is greeted with "You have X more attempts before your Ironkey will permanently self-destruct". You do not want to be in that predicament!
At this point, I will mention the encrypted virtual keyboard. Fancy! This is a keyboard appearing on your computer screen, that can be accessed when prompted to enter your Ironkey password. You can choose to enter your password with your physical keyboard, i.e. the one in front of you, OR you can choose extra security by clicking the letters on the encrypted keyboard with your mouse. This is helpful if you are using the key on an unfamiliar computer and want to avoid detection from key loggers, etc.
After entering your password, you will be directed to the Ironkey control panel. Here, you can create an encrypted file containing everything on your Ironkey directly onto your laptop or PC. This is very handy, in case your Ironkey is stolen and not returned. If this happened, you would have to restore the encrypted file to a new Ironkey in order to gain access. Additionally, whilst I am on the topic of thievery, a further option on the control panel is to create a "Lost and Found" tag. Here, you can enter your contact details, in case someone were to find your Ironkey and wished to return it. Neat! The Ironkey control panel also contains a copy of the user's guide. And I should add that it the Ironkey can be used with Windows XP, Vista, Mac and Linux OS, and does not install any drivers or software onto your computer.
My Ironkey can store up to 2GB of data. I should add, however, that although my key is 2GB, when I looked at the file space prior to use, it said 1.83GB. Hmmmnnn. Perhaps someone had skilfully managed to access my Ironkey and had stolen storage space!? Paranoid!
Finally, the price. Expect to pay through your back teeth for one of these Bond-esque beauties. In my case, my employer paid the grand sum of £80. The price gets even higher for keys with greater storage space.
If you are working with highly sensitive or confidential data, then the price of the Ironkey is, in my opinion, worth it. I've never seen this level of security in any other USB FD!!! I would therefore highly recommend it for those who use this sort of data. If, however, you are looking for a FD to store your Christmas shopping list, then I would seriously considering looking at a cheaper, less secure option!!! All in all, a great buy!!!
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting my lovely mum in London. Mama Pixis77 has a thing for theatre shows and musicals, so we bought some tickets for the Saturday afternoon performance of Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych Theatre. Whilst i'd much rather watch a stage adaptation of Saw, I am not averse to romantic-cheese.
Mum is a wheelchair user, so we bought our tickets directly from the theatre, over the telephone. Wheelchair users and their companions pay a reduced price. We purchased two top price tickets (ordinarily costing £60) for £35 each. Most impressive.
On previous theatre outings, i've had to deposit mum at the doors whilst I struggle to find a member of staff to help her gain access. On this occasion, I was pleasantly surprised to find a staff member waiting for us at the side door. No, this was not a cruel illusion! We had been allocated our own personal theatre escort! This lovely lady led us down a bumpy slope into the theatre, pointing out the location of the theatre's disabled access facilities, before showing us to our seats.
We were positioned at the front of the dress circle with a great view of the stage. I had some difficulty positioning mum beside my chair, due to the limited space available for wheelchair manoeuvres. Eventually, after much dragging, and skillful sliding, I managed to straighten her chair up, so that it was aligned to my own. I wanted mum to be as comfortable as possible, and my main concern was that she had a good time! Thankfully, no-one tried to get out from our row during the performance, as I would have had to go through the whole dragging and sliding process once more.
It's been a long time since I saw the movie, but the story seemed pretty much identical. The general theme is that of 1950s holiday romance. Baby (played by Hannah Vassallo) is a fresh-faced American gal who visits a holiday resort with her family. There, she meets Johnny (played by Martin Harvey), a dance-instructor at the resort. Soon, she becomes his student, falling in love with him, much to the dislike of her father. Expect a cheese-fest of gigantic proportions!
At times, there were slight technical difficulties with the microphones, with some parts spoken so quietly, I had to strain to hear what was being said. Additionally, some parts made me cringe. For example, during the second act, Baby and Johnny were lain in bed getting all slushy with one another. From what I could see, there was absolutely no chemistry between the two actors and the dialogue was stilted. To add to this cringe-fest, some idiot in the box decided to start laughing her head off. Why is there always one?
The music was great, when it was live. There was of course the staple tune from the movie, '(I've had) the time of my life'. However, I have to say I was disappointed that some of the major songs were actually recordings played in the background. If you look at the show's website, you'll see 'Hungry eyes' and other songs such as 'Mama said' listed as part of the show's two acts. However, these songs were not sung by cast members, but played in parts (not in full) throughout the show, with either recorded vocals, or no vocals at all. Of those songs that were sung, NONE were sung by the shows two main characters. Instead, the singing was left to two of the show's 'extras', who I should add, did an excellent job. I did, however, find this a tad strange as in my experiences of musical theatre, the main characters usually do most of the singing!
You might be wondering what mum thought of all this. Well... she fell asleep 15 minutes into the show! I spent the majority of it nudging her to wake her up. The show lasted for around two and a half hours including the intermission, so that was a lot of nudging! And whilst we are talking about the intermission, I should add that you can expect to pay £8 for two midget-sized pots of ice-cream.
Overall, our Dirty Dancing experience was OK. If you're a wheelchair user, you'll be treated very, very well at the Aldwych theatre. In fact, I really have to applaud the theatre for the way they assisted us. I just wish the show had been a bit more engaging. As an aside, mum insists that she wasn't sleeping, but watching the show through half-closed eyes!
Beconase nasal spray is an essential weapon in my arsenal against hayfever - the other being Boots Non-drowsy hayfever and allergy relief tablets (review on this site). This dual-action approach helps to keep my hayfever in check, and makes the Summer time easier on my nose (Beconase) and my eyes (Hayfever tablets). This review focuses upon the healing effects of Beconase upon my pollen sensitive beak, a product I have used for many years.
I always know when it is time to purchase Beconase. This year, it was a hot day in May and I was travelling into work via bus. It was packed, and I could feel my nose itching. I started to sneeze, one after the other. I rubbed my nose vigorously, before it started to run. Unfortunately for me, I did not have any tissues. I therefore tried to sniffle quietly but became increasingly concerned at the level of noise I was making. By the time I had sniffed my way to Trafalgar Square, many of my fellow passengers had turned to identify who was making all the noise. Ofcourse, I may have just been paranoid, but this was the predicament I found myself in.
So... that morning I bought my first of this year's supply of Beconase. The packaging is pleasing on the eye: the outline of a face against a blue, slightly cloudy Summer's sky. "Freedom from hayfever", it reads. Beconase reduces "swelling and irritation" in the nose, combating irritation caused by pollen. I can attest that it does exactly that!
Beconase comes in a nozzle-tipped container and is very simple to use. You spray it into your nose twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. There are some days, however, when I find one spray is sufficient - on days where the pollen is high, I always use two squirts. Prior to squirting, you must first blow your nose. You then poke the nozzle into one nostril, squeeze down on a little lever whilst sniffing at the same time. At first, this can feel quite unpleasant, and can leave a lingering aftertaste in one's mouth (perhaps because some of the spray drips down the back of one's nose into one's throat - ick!). However, the slight unpleasantness soon wears off with more use. After squirting into one nostril, you then do the same with the other. If I am experiencing hayfever symptoms at the time of use, I find that it takes perhaps 20 or so minutes for them to ease off. The effect is also longlasting.
Of the few times I have used this in public, I have often felt quite self-conscious. This might just be me, but there is something slightly embarrassing about sticking something up your nose and sniffing it whilst in the presence of other people. However, this is a small price to pay for hayfever control!
Cost-wise, Beconase can be bought from Boots for around £3.50, and during the summer months is often offered as part of a deal. It's very much worth it, if only to be able to enjoy hot days without worrying about sporting a drizzling, sneezy, and itchy red nose.
As a long-standing hayfever sufferer, I am all too familiar with the evil lure of pollen-irritated eyes. The sensation of scratching the LIVING HELL out of one's eyeballs on a hot summer's day is, quite simply, divine! There are however, dire consequences to using one's fists as a pair of human window-wipers. These are namely, swollen, puffy, painful and bloodshot eyes, and in particularly vigorous scratch-fests, the generation of sticky yellowy-white gloop. Yuck!
So, how does one deal with this problem? Purchase a massive pair of sunglasses to serve as a shield against pollen infiltration? Lock oneself indoors with all windows firmly closed? Assuming the disguise of a human-bee or becoming a hermit are not reasonable options in my opinion! Thankfully, medication is on hand.
Boots Non-Drowsy Hayfever and Allergy Relief tablets contain 10mg of Loratadine, an anti-histamine. They are very small, easy to swallow, taken once per day, and as it says on the label are non-drowsy. You therefore don't need to worry about feeling drugged up in your quest for a allergy-relief. The tablets come in a soothing blue package, with the image of a person surrounded by a yellow aura - or is that yellow irritants? Unclear! Anyway, you'll notice that the largest word on the pack is RELIEF. And, in my opinion, these tablets provide exactly that.
I've sampled numerous hayfever tablets over the years, yet these non-drowsy Boots variety are my favourite. I've found them to be consistently reliable, and they provide quick relief. For example, a couple of weeks back, on a particularly sunny, pollen-saturated day, I decided to walk into town. I'd only been out of the door for 15 minutes before I could feel the evil itch of pollen in my eyes. I downed one of these little beauties with some water, and half an hour later felt fine. No itchiness or irritation whatsoever. Another major advantage of these tablets is that they are long-lasting. I've tried other varieties, and found that the effect wears off after a few hours. With these, my pollen shields are up all day. Bliss!
I keep a pack of these in my desk drawer at work and one at home also. On hot days, I have often worried about my hayfever coming along to ruin my plans. With these tablets, I have gained control over my allergy. A pack of seven can be purchased for just over £2.50, and Boots often have these as part of a two for one offer.
I should add that I use this product in conjunction with a Beconase nasal spray to combat the nasal effects of my allergy (separate review to come later). Additionally, my review of this product is written from the perspective of a hayfever sufferer. It'd be interesting to hear the opinions of others in relation to its effectiveness for other allergies.
Overall, if you are a hayfever sufferer, give these a try. They may just be exactly what you are looking for!
Up until earlier this month, and the eviction of my downstairs neighbour, I was relying heavily on earplugs to get some much needed shut-eye. My neighbour was partying most nights, with music on full-blast, and at one point had a game of indoor football at 4am in the morning. Urgh!
After trying numerous methods to get him to shut the hell up - including lowering my ankles from bed and simultaneously bashing them vigorously against the floor like crazy - I decided to dip my toe (or ears I should say) into the earplug market.
I stumbled upon Boots Muffles Wax Earplugs in my local boots, and quickly snatched them up. This was going to be my salvation from noisy neighbour and I was eager to try them out. To be quite honest, I couldn't have cared less about the packaging. I just needed to sleep, and would have bought them even if they had come in the most hideously designed box going. As an aside, however, the packaging is pleasing on the eye, but if you are buying these during a period of sleep deprivation, you'll most likely only notice the line "Effectively reduces levels of unwanted noise" before you find yourself at the counter.
So, how did it go? Well... they were certainly effective. They did indeed reduce levels of unwanted noise. Two problems though: 1) I found it difficult to sleep with them in my ear, and 2) I got jaw ache of the kind that could have been caused by chewing on a piece of metal. A closer look at each disadvantage.
The earplugs are relatively hard, and have to be rolled into a squidgy ball of wax to fit into one's ears. Once lodged in your head, they harden. I don't know if I was doing it wrong - I don't think so, because I followed the skimpy instructions for insertion to the letter - but it felt as though someone was sticking two long nailed fingers into both ears. The minute the plugs go in the ear, there is a major reduction in noise. BLISS!!! The sensation of having them in there was too uncomfortable for me though. I persevered in the hope that it would get better, and eventually I did fall asleep. Not for long though. I'd wake up and fall asleep, wake up and fall asleep and so on until morning. On the first morning after I used these, I woke up with them squashed into my bedsheets. They'd fallen out of my ears during the night.
I also noticed considerable jaw pain after use. I'm not sure what caused this, but I have spoken to friends of mine who have told me that this is a common problem with all ear plugs. Perhaps having something in the ear shifts the jaw forward? All I know is that I felt as if i'd been gnawing on a piece of concrete all evening. Maybe it's just me though!!!
I later purchased a box of Boots foam earplugs. They are not as effective in reducing noise, but they do it enough so as to give me a good night's sleep. Thankfully my neighbour has since been evicted!
I've given these two out of five because they do reduce noise. However, they were not comfortable at all (for me!).
My previous reviews have been fairly lighthearted, so I wanted to tackle something a little more serious and a topic I feel strongly about.
I was reading some of the reviews under the topic heading of HIV, and felt there was something missing...
HOPE and a positive take on living with the virus.
I've known a few HIV positive people over the years and flatshared with a guy during the period in which he was diagnosed. HIV is no party regardless of where you are in the world. In the developing world, poor access to anti-retroviral medication (used to keep HIV in check) means an almost certain death. In the developed world, with access to anti-retrovirals, an HIV diagnosis means a lifetime of managing chronic illness and medication side-effects.
The key thing is to be tested. Without knowing your status, you are putting yourself in an incredibly dangerous situation, both to yourself and to others. I read somewhere that undiagnosed HIV accounts for almost 50% of new infections in the UK. Think about it like this... an undiagnosed HIV positive person may have millions of HIV virions in his or her blood replicating 24/7. A medicated HIV positive person will have far less as a consequence of treatment. Additionally, treatment stops the virus from replicating. Those with undiagnosed HIV are HIGHLY infectious - i.e. have more virus in the blood that can be transmitted to another person. In my opinion, everyone should be getting tested, on a regular basis. That is, ofcourse, in addition to wearing condoms in order to prevent infection occurring in the first place. Obviously, everyone has a choice though - i'm not preaching to anyone I hasten to add!!!
Now onto my experience...
I remember the week around four years ago that my old flatmate was diagnosed. He had been experiencing shortness of breath and fevers on a regular basis. One Friday morning, I had a phone call from him to tell me he was in hospital and that he needed to talk with me. He gave me the name of the ward, and I duly showed up. Instantly, I was concerned as there was a poster for an HIV positive patient forum on the ward wall. As I made my way through, I noticed that most of the beds were empty. Of the few that were occupied, most were filled with relatively healthy looking men and women. There was one bed, however, occupied by the sickest-looking person I have ever seen in my life. He was completely emaciated, hollow-cheeked, with the most wretched and saddest expression I have ever witnessed. I moved away from him hurriedly, spoke with a nurse and was directed to my flatmate.
My flatmate was propped up in bed, attached to a drip. The moment I saw him, he just blurted it out: 'My HIV test came back positive'. He looked absolutely terrified, and understandably so. I gave him a hug, whilst trying to keep my panic at bay. 'He's going to be dead in a couple of years', I thought. I am ashamed to admit that I also thought to myself, 'Am I at risk for infection?'. He informed me that his shortness of breath and fevers were the result of his contracting an opportunistic infection due to his weak immune system.
He was released from hospital one week later. We had numerous discussions relating to how HIV is transmitted. Not by hugging, not by kissing, not by sharing cutlery, not by sharing toilet seats, etc, etc. He told me that the majority of people on the ward were newly diagnosed. And for some of those, the HIV diagnosis came too late, after the immune system had sustained a great deal of damage. I thought of the sick looking man in the hospital bed. He told me that the busiest section of HIV care is now the outpatient department, which is more geared towards managing the condition. We talked about life expectancy. His doctors told him that with treatment he could expect to live a relatively normal life-span. In fact, a recent study published in the Lancet, showed that many HIV positive people can live into their sixties and beyond, if they stick to their treatment regimen. This might come as a surprise to some people - it certainly did to me!!!
The treatment itself - anti-retrovirals - are no walk in the park. I remember my flatmate had terrible stomach pains when he started these, in addition to feeling anxious, and paranoid. Eventually, these side effects died down and things started to get back to normal. Another thing that surprised me is that recently, he has only taken one pill once a day. The pill is a combination of three different medications. Only 15 years ago, most HIV positive people had to take multiple pills at multiple times of the day. HIV medication has come a long way. One particularly frightening side-effect I have heard of, is body-fat changes. These happen to a few people who take the medications, yet no-one is sure exactly how they are caused.
In addition to treatment side-effects, there are of course psychological problems and the stigma attached to the disease. No-one wants HIV. It affects relationships, and can lead to loneliness and feelings of complete and utter despair, even though the prognosis for an HIV positive person has changed so much, at least in the developed world. HIV is a mind-****.
So... I guess my message is that getting tested for HIV is a good idea. If you get tested, and you are diagnosed positive, you can start treatment and re-assess your life and what's important to you. If you don't get tested, you might end up in hospital, too late for treatment to have any effect. And ofcourse, wear a raincoat!!!
I still keep in touch with my old flatmate, and he is doing just great. Ironically, he says he is now healthier than he has ever been. His diagnosis motivated him to change in many, many positive ways.
Stay safe everyone!
Dongle. What is the first thing you think of when you hear that word? Actually, perhaps let's not go there. Ha! A dongle, as far as I understand it, is a USB wireless modem, i.e. a modem you can stick into the side of your laptop or PC to connect to the internet via a mobile telephone connection. Sounds just lovely doesn't it? Well... it is... and it isn't.
I used the T-Mobile Web'n'walk USB modem over a period of one and a half years. I've had a mixed bag of experiences. At times, the dongle was a great comfort for me - I know that sounds ridiculous, but i'll expand later. Other times, I felt like poking my eyes out with a sharp pencil as a consequence of lag, and slow (and sometimes non-existent) connections. First, a closer look at the product.
It's a relatively small white oblong modem. No bells and whistles attached, and the general presentation is one of unglamness. However, I am not one to judge a dongle by its plastic casing. One must look at its most important qualities which are, in my opinion, speed and reliability. Anyway, before that, the dongle comes with a white USB cable and a disc containing a piece of software that will help you to use it. It is very, very easy to install, and on-screen instructions will prompt you to make all the right moves at the right time. A monkey could do it!
After installation, accessing the internet is easy via the Web'n'walk USB manager - this is the piece of software installed on your computer as mentioned previously. Here, you can also monitor your internet usage. I started off with a 3GB allowance, which is a fair amount. This is more than enough for someone who only uses the internet to browse. If you want to download movies or music, a larger allowance is recommended. I eventually moved onto 'Unlimited' allowance. And here is my first gripe. Although my package was labelled as 'Unlimited' internet usage, if you check out the fine print, you will see that T-Mobile operate a fair-usage policy. And in actual fact, my 'Unlimited' internet access was 15GB. I don't know how they get away with this, and if you look online, you will see numerous complaints about this policy in connection with T-Mobile. I left T-Mobile shortly after discovering this and I will from now on be reading fine print EVERYWHERE!!! I went over the 15GB allowance once, whereby T-Mobile reduced my internet speed. Not impressed by that move, particularly considering the fact that I was paying for 'Unlimited' internet time. The man I spoke with in customer service did not seem to understand the difference between limited and unlimited. I despaired!!!
The main problem with the dongle is that it fails to provide a consistent, reliable internet connection. Here's the deal. When I bought it, I was living on the fourth floor of a building right next to the BT Tower in London. I got a great signal and a great connection. When I visited home in Scotland, I got a crap signal and a poor connection. I then moved to south London and my signal was weak and at times non-existent. Another reason for me to get rid of the thing. My advice is to check that T-Mobile provides good coverage in your area before you buy. Otherwise you might be better off trying to access the internet via a tin can with a rope on the end of it!
It's not all bad though. The dongle is a very, very handy thing to have at times. At the beginning of the year, I spent around three weeks in hospital. Thankfully, the nurses were happy to let me bring my dongle into the ward. I was, however, on the ninth floor of a hospital building, therefore my signal was great... excellent signal, great connection. I dread to think how I would have coped if I had been in the basement, or even the first floor.
Overall... if you want to try out the T-Mobile Web'n'walk, make sure that they provide good coverage where you live. Don't be fooled by the 'Unlimited' allowance. Also, it's promoted as internet 'on the go'... however... the coverage varies so much in my experience that i'm not so sure this is an apt description... perhaps it should also be, internet 'on the go slow' or 'no go' at all. Personally, I wouldn't buy T-Mobile again (even though it kept me company in hospital!)... however, i'd be open to looking at alternatives!!!
Have fun with yer dongles!
The title of my review is a lyric from the opening score to the seventies TV tack-fest that was Wonder Woman. No such soundtrack in this - the latest Wonder Woman (WW) animated "movie" - but I just couldn't resist alluding to it!
I have fond memories of watching re-reruns of the TV show back in the eighties. Heck, I even remember trying to BE Diana Prince - i.e. WW - on a number of occasions, much to the disappointment of my father. Is it any wonder (HA! No pun intended) that I turned into a gay man! Anyway, it was my initial enthusiasm for WW that led me to stumble upon this little animated gem.
For those of you who think this wilI be an innocent, light-hearted romp around cartoon-world, think again. The first ten minutes includes a spectacularly bloody battle, during which there is one very extreme act of violence. I wont ruin it for you, but I was pretty shocked by it... I think mainly because I was expecting something a little more fluffy and glittery. Anyway, from that point onwards, I was gripped. OK... so quick overview of the story, withough spoiling it for you!
The story begins on the predominantly-female island of Themyscira, home to the Amazon Sisterhood and of course our glammed-up superheroine. The island is hidden from the world by a magical forcefield. New Yorker Steve Trevor - a fighter pilot - finds himself shot down, at the same time as someone tampers with the forcefield, bringing it into view. He crashes on the island and is captured by the Sisterhood. There is one particularly funny part in which Steve comes round after being captured, to find himself surrounded by the super-model esque Amazonians. He announces that he has dreamt of the moment since he was thirteen, to which he receives an almighty crack across the face by Hippolyta, Queen of the Island. At the same time as this is going on, Ares, God of War... prisoner, and only captive man on the island (for reasons linked to the opening battle) escapes. Diana (WW) is tasked with taking Steve back to New York, in addition to capturing Ares. All in all, the story is great and keeps the viewer hooked right up until the end.
One surprise with this film is the level of sexual innuendo throughout. In fact, there are some fairly adult themes alluded to throughout the film. One of my favourite scenes is set in Central Park, in which Steve alludes to Diana's appearance (her skimpy glam WW outfit) as being hookerish. He doesn't use those words... it's all alluded to... which really shows the level of thought that has gone into developing the story-line and script!! I laughed out loud in parts, which is a rare thing for me!!!
My only criticism of WW, is that I felt it was too short. The film lasts just over 70 minutes! It left me wanting more!!! Hopefully there will be a sequel!!!
My advice on this one is to give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised, and perhaps a bit shocked!
A piece of advice. Do not play this game with the volume on whilst in public. Trust me on this one!
I bought Wipeout Pulse to keep me amused on a particulary long train journey from London to Glasgow. I've played the Wipeout series of games before, mainly on the Playstation and Playstation 2, so I was keen to see test out a portable version of the game. I had the choice between Wipeout Pure, and Wipeout Pulse, so I opted for the latter (although I later returned to purchase Wipeout Pure also - I just can't help myself and will post a review of Pure at a later date).
Wipeout is a futuristic racing game, in which players can take control of a variety of space craft each with advantages and disadvantages in relation to speed, handling, and shield abilities. The range of craft available is good, with something for everyone. My advice is to try each one out until you find the one that best suits your 'racing style'.
The aim of the game is to progress through grids, each of which contain a variety of different race types. These include time trials, single lap races against one and multiple opponents, and eliminator races in which the object is to destroy your opponents craft. Additionally, there is a zone type race, in which the speed of your craft notches up every few seconds or so until you are racing around the track faster than your eyes can cope with, desperately trying to avoid smashing up your craft! I should add that the zone type race was my LEAST favourite, owing to induced dizziness!!! This game is long, and you'll be playing it for a while - if you like racing games, this is up there in the top 10 (at least in my opinion!).
The graphics are lush. This includes the craft details, and the game's beautifully crafted selection of tracks. I should add that you can download additional tracks and crafts for this game from the PSP store at a small cost. Ummm... yes... I could not help myself in that regard either, and downloaded all of them...
The soundtrack is great - think dance music with a techno feel to it. The game also comes with the ability to upload your own music - although you need a USB cable and a laptop or PC to do this.
Finally, in your bid to win races, you are supplied with an arsenal of very useful weaponry. These range from shield depletion weapons, guns, and a particularly fun weapon called "quake". If one of your opponents launches a weapon at you, a robotic sounding woman will announce what is heading in your direction. Now, as I said in my opening paragraph, you might want to be careful with the audio on this one. As I sat on the train, my fellow travellers did not appreciate my robotic Wipeout gal announcing "Bomb" just as we pulled out of Newcastle.
Finally, there is multiplayer functionality with this game. You can play it online. However, whenever I have tried to do so, there is no-one online to play with!!! Argh! For that, I have to give this game 4 out of 5.
You might wonder why on earth a 32 year old man would want to buy Pokemon Platinum, the latest addition to the Pokemon game series. And... I must admit, I was slightly red-faced as I stood in the queue, clutching this title in my sweaty, game greedy hands! The sad thing is that Pokemon Platinum's initial 'childishness' - think cutesy, goofy graphics accompanied by sugar-coated and slightly demented soundtrack - might be the main obstacle to it reaching a more mature audience. So... let's get one thing straight before I commence with my review:
Pokemon Platinum is not just a children's game. For those of you over the age of 20 - there is no need to feel ashamed in making this purchase!!!
And let's get another thing straight also:
Pokemon Platinum is a very addictive experience. Be prepared to lose a substantial amount of hours in front of your DS.
Pokemon Platinum is more or less the same game as it's predecessors, Pokemon Pearl and Pokemon Diamond. In fact, the mechanics, graphics, sounds and gameplay of the Pokemon games have changed very little over the years. The aim of the game is to travel the fantasy land of Sinnoh, catching and training Pokemon, beating Pokemon trainers and obtaining Gym Badges. As you train your Pokemon, they start to grow, changing in physical appearance, and acquire more battle abilities. The battles themselves are nothing special to look at... think 2D figures, with minimal movement based on a turn-based battle system. The gameplay mechanic is however, so addictive that before long I found myself losing hours on end training up my Pokemon. And yes, let's not forget that I am a 32 year old man! Ha! See what I mean about it being addictive?
A new addition to Platinum is the WiFi-Plaza, an online gathering ground for players across the globe. The WiFi-Plaza comes with it's own set of mini-games, you can play with other people. My only gripe with this aspect of the game, is that it all seemed pretty pointless. Also, most of the mini-games are actually fairly tedious, not to mention very difficult. I am thinking in particular of one called Merry Mime Jr, in which the player has to balance a bizarre looking (dare I say creepy!) individual upon a moving ball. After numerous frustrating and unsuccessful attempts, I felt like beating my head to a bloody pulp against a hard surface!
Another gripe with this game, is that it is practically the same as Diamond and Pearl, except with the addition of a newer area towards the end of the game (and no, I wont spoil it for you!). I can't help but think that the game developers perhaps should have been a bit less lazy and more creative in trying to differentiate this title from its predecessors.
All in all, I would recommend Pokemon Platinum for those who like RPG and strategy games. It's a great and addictive adventure, for all ages. Don't be fooled by its goofiness. In fact, buy it, play it for a few hours and come back to tell me that you didn't enjoy the experience. However, if you have Diamond or Pearl you might want to hire it first before purchasing it, in order to decide whether or not you want to fork out the extra cash for what is a very similar gaming experience.