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woozle
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Member since: 11.11.2008

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      09.11.2011 11:32
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      If you like to ponder upon the complexities of the human mind and the universe, go for it.

      The End of Mr Y
      Scarlett Thomas

      The tale is presented to the reader in a book of black edged pages with black lettering on a cover of bright orange, red and yellow. A silhouette of a Victorian figure on the back adds to the general mystical, magical feel of the book and the whole look is genuinely suggestive of the content.
      The idea of a fictional story woven around a fictional story may not be new but the sheer complexity of the ideas and subjects involved in the tale threatens to overpower the unsuspecting reader quite early in the story.

      I had been forewarned by the friend who passed the book on to me (having herself received it with the same warning) that I would need a certain commitment to get through it. Both had given up less than a third of the way through, or were they just afraid of the "curse". More of that later......
      I soon recognised this book would be not so much an entertaining piece of fantasy as a challenge to my staying power.

      The End of Mr Y is in fact a book which tells the story of a book about the story of the end of a certain Mr Y, are you with me so far?
      It appears that everyone who reads the book described in the story is cursed and is doomed to die which includes the main character Ariel Manto and since the book of the book is also called The End of Mr Y one can only assume......

      Anyway, moving swiftly on, Ariel, a somewhat troubled soul, ponders at some considerable length on the universe, the meaning of time, space and other mind mashing abstract theories. One day she stumbles into a bookshop and finds the only existing copy of the book of the title.
      The book contains a recipe for the means to travel through time and space in an alternative consciousness ......then science fiction gets Weird.

      The currency of this book is quarks, electrons, the theory of relativity, matter, antimatter, parallel universes, and anything a particle physicist could lay their hands on (or not). There's some dealing in psychology and religion too for good measure. The reader is given such subjects as the "infinite divisibility of particles" and "thoughts having mass" to ponder upon while considering the cruelty of man towards his fellow beasts and human beings. The power of words and in particular the written word and the influence they have over emotions is also thrown into the pot.

      The plot itself is quite straightforward and no unexpected twists that I could see but it is the way in which the reader is forced to consider such complex theories both of fantasy and science that makes the book such a challenge to read. There are scenes reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland including a giant mouse on a motor scooter, yes well I did warn you that it got weird....and some unsavoury sex which only adds to the oddness of it all. Whilst there is violence and sex and sometimes in the same context this is not overly graphic or at least I didn't find it so.
      I strongly suspect that this book will be different things to different people a bit like the Troposhpere which we explore in the book. The more open and varied your interests probably the more you will see to entertain in this book.

      I found the book to be well written, with interesting descriptions and theories whist a bit beyond me, as they say, it certainly stimulates the old grey matter. It is full of contradictions, a bit like theoretical science I suppose but this just serves to make you think even more. It's certainly not everyone's cup of tea (oh and that reminds me, the main characters stop for a cup of coffee in a world that doesn't exist where there is no physical pain or feeling or hunger or thirst?!!


      Don't look too hard for logic or reason, accept any anomalies at face value and if you've read a passage three times and still don't get it, move on. If you can do all of that then you may just finish the book........if you really want to.

      I find it really to difficult to rate this book. I don't love it, I don't hate it, it's interesting but not wildly exciting but it is original and well done. I think it loses a couple of stars on little too much vagueness of descriptions and theory although you could argue that that is the nature of the book. It has limited appeal but those who do stick with it will, no doubt, be of a deep thinking nature. All I can say is give it a go you will find it an experience if nothing else.

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      • KiteKat / Cat Food / 63 Readings / 60 Ratings
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        17.03.2011 11:08
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        good value, little waste, healthy cats.

        I have two cats with approximately 7 years between them, the younger one is a rescue cat and his age is uncertain. The older cat, in his 13th year, is quite fussy and like all cats prefers fresh meat to the canned variety.

        I don't have the time or funds to feed them with fresh meat other than the odd treat and so next best is the foil packed varieties. Again these tend to be expensive and so, for my cats, are in the treat category. Fortunately neither is an adept hunter so the bird table is indeed a place to feed the birds and not the cats! (although I am not convinced that the younger one's interest is purely innocent!)

        As I said before the older cat is a little picky and turns his nose up at most "own" brand canned food. Sometimes he will "taste" a newly opened can but then a few mouthfuls later turns his back on it and will not touch it again.
        As I have found out to my cost, even the more expensive brands don't tempt him, foil tray or no and many a luxury pate has "fed" the bin.

        The one brand that I know I am safe with is Kit-E-Kat, in particular their varieties in jelly. When the dinner gong sounds in the form of ring pull can opening both are guaranteed to come running. Priced at the lower end of the pet foods, it suits my purse and the cats' palate. The fussy cat, Dave, (yes I know but I didn't chose the name) does have a tendency to eat the jelly and leave the meat but I have found the answer to this is to give him very small portions and then he happily cleans his plate. Jimmy ( I wasn't responsible for his name either) just cleans his plate....
        There are both meat and fish varieties available in the "with jelly" range and specially formulated ranges for kittens, adults and seniors. My cats are both on the adult range, seem to thriving and not particularly overweight so I don't think I'll change this just yet.

        One advantage of having two cats over one is that a can of cat food is used up in a day (they have dried food left out for between meals snacks) as it does seem to be quite smelly and the cats go off it if it's more than a day old. I don't like it hanging around for too long either even if it is kept sealed in the fridge.

        The regulations governing pet foods are somewhat flimsy and as far as I can tell centre on traceability of content, hygiene and labelling but it does appear that minimum requirements of nutrition values should be met.
        If you do have a fussy pet I would say don't make the assumption that you need to go for the most expensive varieties to tempt him, he won't have seen the adverts, be reading the label or admiring the can.
        My opinion, for what it's worth, is that you may well be paying for more expensive packaging and marketing strategies, not necessarily better content.

        I have awarded stars on ease of opening, variety available, value for money a well as cat appeal.

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          11.03.2011 14:23
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          Nice product, worth buying

          I have had my hair highlighted for some years now in the belief that it helps to conceal the fact that my hair is becoming, ever increasing grey.

          Constant colouring and blow drying / straightening means that the hair is being regularly stripped of its natural oils and without a conditioner would look and feel very dry.
          Blow drying the hair with the airflow following the growth of the hair from root to tip helps flatten the scales of the hairs and give a smoother look but extra help in the form of a good conditioner is essential for me. I am always scanning the supermarket shelves for something a little different and when I saw Elvive Nourish and Shimmer with "Royal Jelly and Brighteners" I popped it into my trolley to give it a try.

          I have to admit to being somewhat cynical when it comes to many beauty products but will give most things a go if my interest is aroused and if Royal Jelly is good enough for a queen bee then I reckon its good enough for me. The golden colour of the bottle is a not so subtle reference to blonde highlights and Royal Jelly but looks expensive and impressive enough to make me think the 400ml size worth the £3.63 price tag.

          The bottle stands up on its flip top in common with many hair products but I found that this is perhaps not the best design for this particular one because when I opened it the contents poured out onto my hands without my having to squeeze the bottle. Closing the flip top quickly I ended up losing most of the product through my fingers and all over the flip top. Not a good start. The contents were far more fluid than I expected and I found this awkward to deal with. When the bottle has been standing the conditioner does tend to seep into the flip top making opening it a messy operation.

          However, on applying the conditioner I found that it quickly spread through my hair and had a very pleasant fragrance. It seems to coat the hair well and it was soon tangle free. I find that conditioner on the scalp makes my hair feel greasy too soon after washing and the downside of a very liquid product is that it is slightly more difficult to apply it selectively to the hair ends.

          After drying I found that my hair felt smooth, looked healthy and the fragrance was discreetly pleasant. I can't honestly say that my hair had a shimmer as promised by the blurb on the back of the bottle but I did try leaving some to dry on the back of my hand and there did indeed seem to be some very fine particles shining faintly. I can only assume that the blow drying process gets rid of these particles and rules out that particular benefit or renders it too subtle to notice. Perhaps I just didn't use enough, but I think too much makes the hair look and feel lank.
          Shame, it would be quite nice to have shimmering hair.
          All in all, a nice product.
          Would I buy it again? Probably, unless of course something else caught my eye.....

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            06.12.2010 16:41
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            Highly efficient at removing plaque.

            Flossing the teeth after brushing is essential for good dental hygiene but is often the thing I will skip when in a hurry in the morning, which for me, is most days. So when my dentist asked me to give these flossers a try I was happy to give them a whirl.
            The flossers consist of two parallel strands of mint flavoured floss stretched across a flattened, angled Y shape.
            I will admit that at first I did find theses quite awkward to use but in no time at all I was converted.
            Having been used to the simple strand of floss stretched between one finger of each hand I initially felt that I didn't have the same degree of control and was a little afraid of threading to deeply down the side of the tooth and cutting into my gum. These fears were however totally unfounded and after a little practice I found these little tools so easy to use and much more effective than simple floss. They are comfortable to grip and you do in fact have much more manoeuvrability and control than with conventional floss. The double strand means that they trap plaque far more effectively and the angle of the head allows you to reach awkward corners that would otherwise be difficult to floss.
            They can be rinsed during and after use and because they are so strong can be used used again and again. I was amazed at the amount of plaque these flossers removed even after the most thorough brushing and will definitely buy them again.
            A pack of 36 is available from Sainsbury's for £1.89.

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              12.11.2010 15:41
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              Smacking, not the best way to discipline a child.

              I admit to (occasionally) smacking my children when they were school age, but at the time, (they are now 28 and 30 respectively) it was the "norm" and perfectly acceptable.
              Smacking by reasoned, loving parents in a controlled way can I think be harmless and even useful, but it is not with these parents that the risk lies. I don't believe that smacking should be illegal but it should not be socially accepted as a desirable practice. There are always better alternatives.

              In an ideal world all children should be brought up to recognise and respond to adult authority in a disciplined framework and learn that "no means no". I realise how pompous that may sound but discipline should start in very small ways with very young children. Children need boundaries; they have the ability to understand rules from very early on and will thrive on reason and explanation rather than chastisement. How often do we see parents of young children calling their offspring to their side only to be totally ignored and rather than enforce their request they will just repeat it ad infinitum until eventually the parent bellows out a "get here now" and is still ignored.
              The child has thus had its first lesson in disregarding authority and asserting his/her own desires over those of the parents. Parent's have the responsibility of ensuring that a child learns to respect their wishes as a fundamental to learning good behaviour. When a child has reached the stage of ignoring the parent then the parent is well on the way to losing the power to reason with the child

              More often than not I think I used smacking when harassed and short on temper and was never very proud of myself afterwards even though it never amounted to more than a rap on the bottom or back of the legs. I do remember on one occasion however, smacking my 6 year old hard for running across the road and being very narrowly missed by a car. This, I think was an automatic response to fear and anger, almost as if the body requires a physical action as a result of a sudden mental trauma. So I believe that smacking is to a certain extent is a coping mechanism when a quick solution is required and a natural outlet for a parent's stress.
              But what about the child? What of his/her feelings both mental and physical in response to the physical reprimand?
              For a child rarely smacked I would take bets on their main feeling being an affront to their dignity and humiliation if in a public environment. Any pain felt (assuming the rebuke is from a responsible parent) is secondary to the emotional impact. I base this on my own childhood recollections and the response of my own children.

              Of course it is a totally different picture if the smacking results in real pain and injury and this is where the real danger lies. This has nothing to do with discipline and everything to do with violence, deplorable parenting and total absence of self control, in short, criminal behaviour. A child subjected to such treatment must quickly learn to fear and then feel anger and resentment which in themselves can manifest in antisocial behaviour.
              Of course the problem is as always, where do we draw the line? Smacking is a lazy means of punishment; it sidesteps the process of thinking out and enforcement of, suitable alternative punitive measures.
              There can be little excuse for smacking pre schoolers who have yet to learn what constitutes "naughty behaviour", far better to teach them why such behaviour is unacceptable and considered naughty. After all, smacking in itself is really nothing short of a demonstration of a sort of violence which few would like to see children copying.
              It is deemed unacceptable for a teacher, controlling a classroom full of youngsters, to resort to a short, sharp slap and they are expected to discipline a child with alternative means. How then, can it be acceptable for a parent to not make the effort that alternative methods demand and shortcut to physical punishment?

              I am certainly not making a case for smacking to become a legal issue but I do think that as it is very difficult to generally determine, occasions when, how frequent and how severe, smacking may be then as a means of disciplining a child it should be regarded as socially unacceptable and as such parents would seek a more constructive method, that doesn't set an example of violence to their children.

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                30.10.2010 13:53
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                Expensive toy, doesn't really entertain.

                My son and daughter bought this toy for our cats last Christmas. It basically produces a dot of light which randomly jerks and jumps about, a bit like when your watch catches the sunlight and reflects a dot of light across the room.
                It is about 8 inches high with a bulbous shape at the top which houses a mirror to reflect the laser and an on off switch at the back. There is an in built timer so that the device switches itself off after about 15 minutes and it is powered by 4 x AA batteries which are not included in the pack.

                The mirror inside the top is adjustable and directs the laser. The light dot is reflected across the floor in an irregular pattern and pauses at intervals.

                I switched it on and set it down on the floor. Our two cats were immediately mesmerised on spotting the laser dot and adopted the crouched stalking position that they assume when hunting. Fortunately they are not very adept hunters and only manage to catch the odd leaf, although Jimmy did once come home with a barbequed sausage, but that's another story.....

                The red light dot zoomed about the room driven by a slightly noisy battery driven motor and the cats attempted to pounce on the dot of light whenever they managed to get within striking distance.

                However the noise of the motor was distracting them and they appeared to quickly realise that the "prey" could not be caught.
                They lost interest in the red light dot and began to investigate the source of the noise.
                Whilst the younger of the two cats totally lost interest altogether and wandered off to find something to eat, the older one, Dave (yes I know, but I disclaim all responsibility for naming either cat) seemed to like the noise and lay down next to it and catnapped (as you do if you're a cat).

                I have periodically brought out the toy and they will briefly chase the light dot before becoming bored but neither cat is interested for very long.

                You can also use the Frolicat in a manual mode by pressing and holding the on off button for three seconds and I have to say that this was marginally more effective than just leaving it on the floor to do its own thing.

                One word of warning be careful to lower the angle of the beam unless you are partial to claw marks up your curtains and furniture!

                You may have more success with kittens but certainly my older cats weren't fooled for long.

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                  27.10.2010 20:41
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                  A comfort blanket for adults.

                  An electric blanket is something that I've always related to the elderly, certainly not an item that I envisioned purchasing anytime soon. However since my husband likes a warm bedroom and I hate the central heating on in bedrooms we needed a compromise and that, we thought, might be achieved by a warmed bed to get into.

                  I set about looking for a king size electric blanket and to be honest this proved more difficult than I thought. Shopping locally drew a blank; Neither Tesco, Curry's nor Sainsbury's had anything to offer so I resorted to the internet and ended up at the Amazon site. The only king size blanket I could find was somewhat confusingly described as a mattress cover, however it proved to be exactly what we needed as it covers the whole of the mattress instead of just being a strip across the middle.
                  The "mattress cover" arrived a few days after ordering in time for a bit of a cold snap and was immediately put onto the bed.

                  The mattress cover differs from a conventional electric blanket in that it entirely covers the mattress rather like a fitted sheet and consequently doesn't dislodge or "ruck up" in the night and has no tapes to tie.
                  It has a generous fitting and easily fits over our mattress which is quite deep. It is possible to safely leave this appliance switched on all night if you should so desire but I haven't tried this as we don't feel this is necessary for us.

                  Dual controls, one on each side can be operated independently to individual needs. One person can have their side on a different setting or off if required. There are separate handset controls on each side near the pillow which light up and can easily be seen in the dark to set the temperature or switch off .

                  My husband loves the fact that it has an extra warm foot area. An added bonus that means he doesn't have to put up with my cold feet!
                  There are three settings for temperature and we have found that on the lowest setting the bed is just "aired" and only slightly warm, setting two gives definite warmth to the bed and three is toasty!
                  We tend to switch the "blanket" on setting two for about twenty minutes before retiring and that is enough to make the bed is deliciously warm and cosy.

                  I never expected to like this blanket as much as I do as it was primarily for my husband but I absolutely love it and he doesn't mind not having a stuffy hot bedroom when he can jump into a warm bed. It really is heavenly on a chilly night.

                  Highly recommended and I can't understand why they are not more widely available.
                  Since writing this review I have seen kingsized electric blankets in Tesco Home, although they are Tesco's own brand and not mattress covers.
                  One last point, this electric blanket is machine washable!

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                  25.10.2010 13:01
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                  More about Elizabeth than her women.

                  Born on 7thSeptember 1533 at Greenwich Palace, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.
                  Although her birth was a great disappointment to Henry, her reign was a period of great achievement and prosperity and by the time she died England had become a major European power.

                  This book claims to be the story of those women behind the most famous Queen in English history. Her ladies of the bedchamber, her maids of honour, her governesses and female relatives are all here. These are the women who surrounded Elizabeth throughout her life and the part they played in shaping, influencing and caring for arguably the greatest Queen in British history.

                  The book starts not surprisingly with Elizabeth's mother Anne Boleyn whose intelligence and guile she inherited, attributes that stood her in good stead as England's unmarried Virgin Queen.
                  Anne Boleyn's rise and fall in the court of Henry is well known but not so her (albeit brief) relationship with her only child and it is the lesser documented details such as these that make this book so fascinating.

                  In the early days were the women who cared for the royal infant, beginning with the 65 year old Lady Margaret Bryan at Hatfield to whom Elizabeth formed a strong attachment only to lose her to her baby brother, the new prince, Edward.

                  Among the women instrumental in Elizabeth's childhood were the wives of Henry VIII and Tracy Borman demonstrates how they bought about first the estrangement and then the reconciliation of father and daughter and how each influenced the young girl who was to become a future queen.
                  Jane Seymour, who though favouring her sister Mary, had little time for Elizabeth
                  Anne of Cleves, kind and friendly towards Henry's neglected younger daughter and a positive influence in her early years
                  Katherine Howard, the young reckless bride who was delighted by her young stepdaughter and Kathryn Parr the "foster" mother who neglected her moral upbringing with quite dangerous consequences but nevertheless formed a strong bond with Elizabeth.

                  We learn of her relationship with the sister who was in turn her enemy, best friend and rival and who contrasted sharply with Elizabeth in every way from looks and style to character and religion.

                  There are those who tutored and mentored the young princess in her formative years.
                  Women such Blanche Parry and Kat Astley were close to Elizabeth for much of their adult lives and they feature strongly in the book.
                  Blanche from the Welsh Marches, whose family had a history of long service to the crown, was in the background of Elizabeth's formative years but a lifelong loyal servant and Kat Astley, well educated but somewhat lacking in judgement who was as near a friend and confidant as Elizabeth was likely to allow. Both of these women's lives are closely linked to Elizabeth and are covered in some detail.

                  Death and danger surrounded Elizabeth in her formative years, she had witnessed a succession of step mothers come and go and the author reports that from the age of eight she always declared that she would never marry and of course she never did. She did though, have her "favourites", the Lords Leicester, Essex and Walter Raleigh among them. Although obviously not women these characters are smuggled into the narrative by virtue of their wives and lovers, who were at Elizabeth's court at some time or other in their lives.

                  Mary Stuart was a thorn in the side of the English monarch but as a cousin and an anointed Queen, Elizabeth felt it prudent to at least appear to support her until she abdicated the Scottish crown and appealed for safe passage through England. There can't be many readers who are not aware of how that ended but the author provides the detail of Elizabeth's hand in Mary's demise.

                  Bess of Hardwicke, Arbella Stuart, Margaret Douglas were all very important and relevant personages of the time and their stories as far as they resonate with Elizabeth are included.

                  Tracy Borman gives many examples of how Elizabeth could be demanding, ruthless and even cruel in her treatment of her ladies but goes on to show how in her latter years they would flout her authority and even laugh behind her back. Despite this the book has many examples of women who showed selfless devotion to this powerful and later, delusional queen.
                  Her attempts to pretend that she was still a young and desirable woman made her the object of covert ridicule to certain members of her court and nobility.

                  If there is one criticism it is that this is a book not really wholly dedicated to the stories of Elizabeth's women for there are a considerable number of pages devoted to her men and those who have a tenuous link to the queen.

                  I was expecting a book about the private lives of Elizabeth's women, what I got was another biography of Elizabeth.
                  That is not to say that this is "just" another biography for it is most certainly a credit worthy read. I felt that this was a hugely ambitious subject for a single book and in trying to cover so many of Elizabeth's women, courtiers and favourites throughout her life, the author manages to include a substantial amount of detail.
                  However, the narrative tends to move through the various characters at a swift if not hasty pace and I feel that the title is more than a little misleading.

                  Maybe there is still a book about Elizabeth's women to be written narrowing the field with fewer characters but more depth.

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                    20.10.2010 22:56
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                    Wouldn't be without one.

                    I have been using this toothbrush for about a year now and I have to say that in the main I am extremely pleased with it and wouldn't go back to a manual toothbrush.

                    I always tried to be thorough in my dental care but I have to admit to always rushing the brushing of my teeth. It's a pretty tedious exercise at the best of times and since I'm usually in a hurry in the morning to get out to work or tired late at night I used to end up brushing too vigorously and missing bits that I shouldn't have.
                    This resulted in receding gums and a build up of tartar.

                    After a suggestion by my dentist I ended up investing in a Braun Oral-B Professional Electric Toothbrush.
                    The toothbrush is supplied with a stand in which to charge it and a spare toothbrush head with two coloured rings to differentiate between the two heads for two users.
                    I did find the head supplied quite a hard one and bearing in mind my dentist's advice for me to always use a soft toothbrush I immediately bought a new pack of soft sensitive brush heads. At over £8 for a pack of two these do bump up the price somewhat and I do think it a shame that there is no soft brush head alternative set.

                    The toothbrush has an in built timer and pulses at 30 second intervals to let you know to move on to the next, quadrant. If you pause the toothbrush at any time within the 30 seconds it does remember how long is left and when you restart the brush it continues timing where it left off. So you can replenish the toothpaste on the brush without upsetting the timer.

                    The sensation of the brush vibrating against the teeth does take a little bit of getting used to but I genuinely feel that my teeth are getting a thorough clean. This is born out at my dental check-ups because I have had no further problems with receding gums and very little plaque build up.

                    Battery life is pretty good and I find mine only needs recharging about once every two weeks, although I do run it absolutely flat before recharging to preserve the battery.
                    I do find the charger quite noisy as it emits a buzzing noise clearly audible outside the bathroom and across the landing! It also takes about 18 hours to fully recharge.

                    All in all I would highly recommend this toothbrush despite the slight drawback of a noisy and lengthy recharge (although that may be due to me running it quite flat before recharging!).

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                    • Hotter Shoes / Highstreet Shopping / 42 Readings / 40 Ratings
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                      12.10.2010 23:38
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                      If comfort is important, these are for you

                      Buying shoes can be something of a nightmare for me as I have wide feet with a very high instep. The fact that I work long shifts on my feet for up to 11 hours at a time means that I need strong good quality shoes with a high degree of shock absorbency in the sole and heel.

                      Unfortunately it is a fact of life that "hardworking" functional shoes are not pretty. On the plus side wearing trousers for work means that I can get away with shoes that I wouldn't ever consider if I had to wear a skirt and Hotter "Carole" shoes fit into this category.
                      These shoes are black leather, with a thick cushioned sole, cushioned removable insole and 1.5 inch platform heel. They allow height in the toe area to give room for toes to wiggle and are very soft underfoot. The leather is supple enough ensure comfort but firm enough to support the foot.

                      These shoes are so comfortable as to be a dream to wear especially after a long shift and look quite plain and non descript under trousers (a good point for me).

                      I am currently wearing my second pair of these shoes, the first pair having lasted a good 2 years, which is remarkable given the hammering they get from me. They clean up well and look smart too.

                      I usually manage to get them at a discounted price of around £42 or so and for that price I reckon they are an excellent bargain. They are well constructed and protect the feet from excessive stresses, an essential consideration for anyone who spends long periods on their feet and I would highly recommend them.
                      I am aware of some negative reviews of the Hotter website but I have always bought my shoes on the high street and have never had any problems.

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                        11.10.2010 21:42
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                        Excellent product

                        I wouldn't be without my I Pod Classic
                        I am not a great fan of music on the move and rarely if ever, listen to music when out.
                        These two statements are not as contradictory as they may seem.
                        Let me explain.
                        Whilst not exactly an insomniac I often find myself lying awake at night and until I got my ( husbands) I Pod I would often toss and turn until the early hours getting more and more frustrated as sleep continued to elude me, but now I keep "my" I Pod at hand, pop in the earphones and listen to the latest downloaded podcast. It doesn't disturb my husband and I find the spoken word relaxes me, takes my mind off not sleeping and pleasantly passes the time until I'm able to fall asleep again.
                        There is a wealth of free podcasts to choose from and downloading them from sites such as I Tunes is simplicity itself.

                        Consisting of a wheel on the front with a push button centre the controls on the I Pod classic are minimal and easy to use once you get the hang of them, even in the dark! You can access the menu, scroll through the contents, rewind, fast forward and adjust the volume all from the turnwheel.
                        There is a small sliding lock on the top of the I Pod to lock the wheel when needed.

                        There is a huge memory capacity and even though I have a fair number of photos (it will hold up to 20,000), a small collection of music on there and about 20 podcasts at any one time I find I am nowhere near using the 80GB available.
                        Although you can apparently download films (it holds up to 100 hours of video) I cannot imagine watching them on the tiny 2.5 inch diagonal colour screen, but each to his own.
                        If games are your thing then there is a even a selection of those preloaded.

                        The I Pod comes with its own earphones and a cable to connect to your computer. The battery is recharged by connecting to your computer or a separate I Pod dock and data can be synchronised to the I Pod through your computer using a programme such as I Tunes.
                        My I Pod is the silver version and its slimline case is small enough to slip into a pocket (or under a pillow). It looks classy and has worn really well over the three years that I have been using it.

                        If I had to mark it down on something it would be the earphones, they are not the most comfortable to wear for long periods but that is my only gripe, otherwise full marks.

                        Footnote,
                        A few weeks ago I did have a panic moment when it appeared to have "died". After searching the internet for clues as to what could have been wrong I read a post which guaranteed a "cure". Consisting of holding down the menu button for at least 30 seconds followed by 3 really hard bangs on the heel of the hand. It worked! The I Pod came back to life and I 've had no problems since. Not that I'm recommending it, but it worked for me.

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                        11.10.2010 11:10
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                        good value and witha little cat nip it works.

                        We always tried to make sure that our cat never got the opportunity to scratch the furniture, i.e. he was never left alone in a room with temptation.
                        However, when we took in my daughter's cat following her re-location to a London flat where pets were not practical it was a different story. Her black and white "Tuxedo" cat already had a well developed furniture scratching habit and would go for anything that he could hook his claws into without warning.
                        Immediate action was required so I scouted about for a quick solution.

                        I remember years ago that my daughter bought a "pyramid cat house" which was intended to be a scratching post come toy house type of thing that the cats at the time didn't even so much as glance at. With this in mind I was wary of spending too much money on something that would possibly never be used.

                        My friend already had one of these scratching posts that her cat was happily ripping to pieces so that seemed a pretty good option. We set of to Argos and found the post still available and at £6.99 I didn't hesitate. After all if the cats didn't take to it then it wasn't going to break the bank.

                        Basically consisting of a carpet covered flat base with an upright post entwined with string, it was very quick and easy to assemble, simply screwing the post into the base. There is a pom-pom like toy attached with a length of string to the top of the post.
                        I must admit that I did think it a little flimsy, but at the price I didn't really expect much.

                        Initially both cats totally ignored it. I tried it in various locations throughout the house but they showed no interest whatsoever and I had almost given up on it. I had rubbed it with some cat nip treats to no avail but after some weeks decided to give it another go and voila! Jimmy the black and white cat went for it and has never looked back. He scratches on it regularly and we thankfully no-longer need to watch him so carefully when he is around the furniture.
                        Strangely though, our mackerel tabby, while happy to watch Jimmy going mental at the post shows no inclination to use it himself. Perhaps the rule of no scratching allowed indoors has been far more deeply imbedded, him being the older (and some would say wiser) of the two.

                        So after a delayed start, yes, I would highly recommend this post in terms of price and efficacy, for after 3 months, despite its somewhat flimsy appearance it has stood up to the fairly ferocious "Jimmy" attacks extremely well.

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                          10.10.2010 21:45
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                          Murder, tragedy, injustice and vengence.

                          "...rumor had it that a white feather indicated a visitation of an angel."
                          A quote from R J Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels and the premise on which the story is built.
                          Joseph Vaughan is a young boy who, at the beginning of the book. comes to believe that a white feather from an angel is a portent of tragedy and tragedy surrounds this boy's childhood, following him throughout his life.

                          In 1939, in the small town of Augusta Falls in Georgia, there is the first of what is to become an obscene series of child murders. The young Joseph, a sensitive boy of twelve years old, is deeply affected by the horrific events and feels that he has somehow failed these children in not protecting them from the monster in their midst. He suffers nightmares about the girls who were murdered and mutilated.
                          A morose and tormented teenager, Joseph's life is dogged by tragedy and misfortune and the murders return to haunt him again and again.

                          Determined to become a writer, he moves to New York and with the hope of starting a new life meets new friends.

                          A happy book this most certainly is not, for it has dark, very dark, descriptions but it is so beautifully written as to be almost poetic,
                          "She stepped out of the fabric as if from a second skin. The rush of the cotton, as it kept its promise with gravity."
                          The book is worth reading if only for lines such as these, but there is much more to Ellory's writing and I was enthralled from the first page.

                          The reader is kept in ignorance of the identity of the murderer for almost as long as Joseph himself and yet the book is not entirely about finding out who committed these heinous murders.
                          This is a tale of a boy, who becomes a man coming to terms with the responsibility that he feels, the horrors that life inflicts upon him and ultimately his need for retribution.

                          We are submerged in the hardships, poverty and prejudice of the 1930's American South, led through a passionate love story, heartbreaking sadness and cruel injustice. Utterly absorbing and thought provoking, the author succeeds in making the reader believe in Joseph as a person and feel his story. A Quiet Belief in Angels spans the years from Joseph finding a white feather in his hallway in July 1939 to it's conclusion in 2005 passing through the major historical events of the intervening years.
                          If there is a downside it would be that I would have liked to understand a little more of how the realisation of the identity the killer, finally dawned on Joseph.
                          This was the only area of the story that I felt was slightly lacking and left me a little dissappointed in an otherwisw faultless tale.
                          If I could give 4 and a half stars I would.

                          This is an excellent read and highly recommended as a beautifully descriptive crime thriller.
                          I will certainly be reading more of R J Ellory.

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                          • Advice on Bra Fitting / Discussion / 69 Readings / 66 Ratings
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                            10.08.2010 14:11
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                            Something every woman needs at least once.

                            I hate buying bras. They never seem to fit properly.

                            I have been measured for bra's on several occasions throughout my adult life but have never really found the experience very pleasant or helpful.
                            I have a drawer full of "boobs" that I have made in bra purchases that are too uncomfortable to wear and tend to stick with the old faithful.
                            As a result the "old faithfuls" were long past their sell by and I decided that the time had come to bite the bullet and re-stock the bra drawer. Deciding that I would do the thing properly and go and get measured, I took myself off to Marks and Spencer bright and early, determined to give myself time to shop around and get kitted up before it got too busy to move in town.


                            When I arrived in M&S I headed to the Lingerie changing room and hovered uncertainly looking out for a member of staff.
                            There was no one to be seen but I heard voices coming from within and realised that early though I thought I was (just after 9:30 in the morning) actually someone had beaten me to it. It wasn't long before an assistant appeared from behind the curtain and pleasantly greeted me.

                            I asked if it were possible to be measured for a bra and she explained that they didn't actually "measure" as such,for a bra and that the service that M&S offered was actually a bra fitting service. When I asked what the difference was she explained that she would help me to choose the correct style of bra suitable for my shape and ensure that the bra I purchased today fitted correctly, but that they tended not to give a definitive bra size as bras fitted differently according to the shape of the breast.


                            The assistant explained that she was fitting another customer at the moment but invited me to take a seat and assured me that she would be with me as soon as she was free. Unfortunately she wasn't able to tell me how long she would be as they didn't put a time limit on fittings but as I was early I was first in the queue (what queue thought I?). Determined to get the job done I took a seat and resolved to patiently await my turn.

                            The "said queue" did indeed soon materialise and another lady joined me on the seat after about 10 minutes followed by another a few minutes later. At this point I was pleased that I had only one person ahead of me because the process was obviously taking a lot longer than I expected and had I been much later arriving I would indeed have been in for a long wait.

                            Eventually the assistant who had been flitting in and out of the changing room with an array of bras came out with the lady she had been with and after directing her to the paying desk invited me in to the bra fitting cubicle.
                            She apologised for keeping me waiting and when I said that I was surprised how early people turned up she said it usually got busier later so it was a good time to come.


                            Now I am naturally a shy person and hate the thought of undressing in front of a stranger but the assistant was very relaxed and chatted about the different shapes of bra cups and how this affects the fit whilst I took of my top and I felt quite at ease.
                            She talked about the shape of a balcony bra as opposed to a plunge bra and a full cup and how different shapes suit different women.
                            What she said made a lot of sense but surprising though it may seem I had never looked at it that way before.

                            First she measured my ribcage under the bust, explaining what she was doing all the time, then she asked what size bra I was currently wearing. She assessed the cup size by what I was already wearing and "experience" and asked what sort of bra I was looking for. I needed a selection of bras so I said I was open to suggestions and would try a variety. She left the cubicle and came back a few moments later with three very differently styled bras for me to try for size and to see what type of look I liked.

                            She stepped outside the curtain, without me having to ask,while I changed into one of the bras and then came back inside to "adjust" the fit.
                            I have to say that the first bra felt okay but the assistant wasn't happy with the fit and showed me the areas that were not fitting so well.
                            It was a classic case of "oh yes now that you mention it, it doesn't feel right"
                            When I tried on the next size which she had fetched for me I could tell the difference straight away and perhaps for the first time in my life I felt that I was comfortable in a well fitting bra. I immediately felt confident that my bra drawer would be replenished after all!
                            She went on to "fit" me with two more bras and she made me feel that nothing was too much trouble as she fetched bra after bra for me to try.
                            I was impressed by her knowledge and obvious experience in bra fitting, not to mention her determination to get the right fit.

                            I have to confess that I never realised how important finding the right cup shape is and how different a well fitting bra feels. I even look better too!

                            My only reservation about the whole experience was the guilt in keeping the other customers waiting but as the assistant pointed out to me that they would get the same service when their turn came I didn't feel quite so bad, but I did feel that I should apologise to those waiting as I left.

                            The whole procedure took longer than I thought it would but it was well worth the time spent and I actually feel more confident in choosing a bra myself.
                            I realise from reading other reviews that not everyone has had the same positive experience and that services are bound to vary from store to store. However I would recommend that you give it a try but allow yourself plenty of time and be prepared to wait.
                            Since writing this review I have returned to M&S and discovered that their service is now on an appointment basis, so ring before you go to make your appointment and cut that waiting time.

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                              07.08.2010 12:31
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                              Reliable internet networking

                              Linksys Wireless-N Broadband Networking Kit

                              In addition to my laptop we have a desktop computer located on the first floor of our house and our cable internet connection is on the ground floor. We don't like to have wires trailing all over the place so we have been using a wireless router with an adapter for the desktop.

                              After the original adapter was involved in a "hit and run" collision recently (no-one has yet confessed) it suffered terminal damage and the search began for a replacement. Considering the fact that the wireless connection with the old router was a bit hit and miss at times, I decided to get a new and improved router too.

                              My desktop is Windows XP but the new laptop has Windows 7 so after studying the compatible products I plumbed for the Linksys Wireless N Broadband Networking Kit which includes a Dual Band Wireless-N USB adapter.

                              So you're wondering what's with the Wireless-N stuff - I know I did. Well apparently its the speed and range of operation of data throughput, it's pretty up to date and effective. So that's alright then. This router gives you enhanced speed and range, allowing you to share files, print wirelessly, and access the Internet across a larger home. Not that I have a particularly large home but given the problems of connection with the old router this was an attractive option.

                              The router is sleek and unobtrusive in design being roughly 8 inches by 6 inches in size and sits flat on the desk. My old router stood vertically taking up less space on the desk but didn't look anywhere near as good as the Linksys.

                              Connection to the internet is via the internet port in the back and a light on the front indicates a successful connection and flashes during internet activity.
                              There are 4 ethernet ports in the back to connect devices and correspondingly numbered blue lights on the front tell you when each device is connected through that port. The blue LED lights flash with network activity through its associated port.
                              The power light flashes during boot up whilst the self diagnostic runs and then remains steady when this is completed.
                              The other lights on the front of the router relate to wireless connection and activity. When these flash the router is actively sending or receiving data over the network.

                              Installation of the router and adapter is simple even for a novice like me. There are leaflet guides inside the pack along with CD Roms to guide you simply through the installation and set up. I found this process very straightforward with no problems and it was easy to follow but I confess to having my clued up son peering over my shoulder and pointing out what should have been obvious from time to time.

                              The Wireless-N Broadband Router can help parents create policies for each PC in the house, to control access by time and day, specific website, keyword, protocols, or applications. They can block specific applications, like online games, by communication ports used.
                              I don't pretend to fully understand all of the available functions of the security features but I believe any measures assisting parents to control or manage their children's internet access is a bonus.

                              The system uses advanced wireless security and firewall protection to help safeguard your home network and computers from most Internet attacks and the WI-FI Protected Setup Button automatically configures wireless security for your wireless network.
                              If you have client devices, such as wireless adapters, that support WI-FI protected setup this is simplicity itself to use and completes in minutes.

                              One small niggle would be the fact that the plastic case scratches very easily and already shows a few scratches simply with dusting, which is a shame because this really is a smart piece of design.

                              So far I have had no connectivity problems at all and everything is running smooth as clockwork or should that be network?

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