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Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck "Essentials") - John Steinbeck 19/01/2011

"The best laid plans of mice an' men- Gang aft agley"

Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck "Essentials") - John Steinbeck Mice and Men is a story written by the American author John Steinbeck It is set in California in the 1930's during the Great Depression. The title is taken from Robert Burns' poem “To a Mouse” The title is a quote from the poem “The best laid plans of mice an' men – Gang aft agley” (go awry) The book is set on a ranch south-east of Salinas in California, the time scale is approximately 3 days. There is a mixed group of characters who “live” on the ranch. In truth most of then were passing through, most in the hopes of realising their own “American Dream” George Milton and Lennie Small are two itinerant workers who are bound together by a trust which is not fully explained in the book. As many of the situations occur, you are left to draw your own conclusions! The exact nature of why George looks after Lennie is never clear. George clearly becomes exasperated by Lennie at times. George is quick witted and able. Lennie is portrayed as being mentally challenged. It is unusual for itinerant workers to travel in pairs. It may be that they are related. Other fascinating characters emerge in the novel, each one has a part to play in the eventual but extremely sad, yet thought provoking ending. Curly, the ranch owner's son, seems to have an obsession with fighting, as soon as he sees Lennie, his hackles are raised, he eventually goads Lennie. He is no match for Lennie's strength. Candy a retained worker on the ranch has an injured and useless arm, however he seems to have been paid ...

Samsung SpinPoint S250 HD250HJ 250 GB 16/01/2011

Samsung, perhaps

Samsung SpinPoint S250 HD250HJ 250 GB This drive is approximately 2 years old. It is of course a sata drive. I purchased it from PC world. It is the second drive I purchased. The first Samsung drive allowed me to install XP, ran for a week and then failed, well it didn't exactly fail, more went into a shall I shan't I mode. When I took it back to PC World the first time it decided to work beautifully. Fortunately the second time the drive was as dead as a dodo. They replaced it with no quibbles. For 18 months the drive has performed faultlessly. It has been " drive D" in a couple of my computers now. I added another drive to my latest PC, a 1Tera drive and copied all the info onto this drive. Although not as a raid, I always made the effort to copy pictures and scans on both drives. My XP installation had inexplicable crashes, Always thought that the "C Drive" was to blame. An ancient WD 80 G Drive. However after installing Ubuntu errors were flagged up from the Samsung. Towards the end of its life there were sometimes very long reads and writes. Even de-fragmenting took a longer time than expected. There were no immediate signs of failure. Testing did not reveal any inadequacies. The drive is very quiet, reliable. There were no issues installing it. The BIOS found it straight away. After formatting the drive it installed. It has never been used as a boot drive. It was the best value for the price I was paying, and for me represented a monster drive! I have included a screen grab from the Ubuntu Disc Utility. ...

Belkin Switch2 for PC KVM switch USB 2 x KVM port(s) 26/03/2007

Prretty good, but confusing?

Belkin Switch2 for PC KVM switch USB 2 x KVM port(s) Why I bought one? I inherited an old Duron 800 from my daughter who is a teacher - she kept the monitor and the speakers and the mouse (I bought for Christmas!) and the strange keyboard that bends in 2. But it's a worker and I couldn't bear to see it go to waste. I saw this strange article in one of the PC Weeklies about KVM's and I thought, that will never work! but it sat at the back of my mind until the Duron turned up. KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, Mouse. The purpose of a KVM unit is to connect a single keyboard, monitor and mouse to a certain number of computers. The Switch2 just connects 2 computers to one keyboard, monitor and mouse. I believe they can be had for any number (16?) computers. How confusing can this be? (Oh and they are seriously expensive.) This version connects PS/2 connectors and the D shaped older VGA connectors They can also switch audio. Would that make it a KVMA? THE Switch2 version with Audio cost £10 more! First the good stuff! Cost £29.99 from PC World - a good price for a second computer. Everything you need is in the very attractive box. The switching button is visible at the front for every one to press! The package hangs up on display. The actual unit is hidden from view by the cardboard sleeve. The name of the product is Switch2 - Click to switch between 2 computers. I do think this is probably the nicest looking piece of equipment Belkin have made! The front shows a laptop and a tower. The physical appearance of the ...

If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (Digitally Remastered) - Mamas & the Papas (The) 26/02/2007

If you can believe your ears and maybe eyes!

If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (Digitally Remastered) - Mamas & the Papas (The) What an unusual bunch they seemed to be however for just a few short years they were the 60's. Hippy Afghan coats, guitars, long flowing dresses,loons and cowbells. Did I mention free love? That didn't seem to happen to me though. Need a bit of the background history of the band. Most of this is on the liner notes, you'll just have to buy the CD to read it all! John Phillips is the acknowledged leader, tall and thin, takes everything seriously, played and sang his way round Greenwich village either on his own or with various musical partners. He is unusually creative and has written and co-written many of the songs on the album. Master at musical arrangement and musical harmony. His male counterpart is Canadian Denny Doherty. He supplies the tenor voice in many of the songs. In one way he is the voice of the the Mamas and the Papas having taken the lead vocal in Californian Dreamin' and Monday Monday. The looks to die for one, is Michelle, a former model, recently starred in films and TV (Valentino, Knots Landing as well as Star Treck!)and was the estranged wife of John. The most interesting one is Cass, she is the other voice of the Mamas and the Papas, She can belt out a song like no other singer. She has appeared on many shows, (Ed Sullivan, Julie Andrews and Andy Williams) Started a very successful single and solo career until she died from a heart attack. Although I have really emphasised the two "voices", the emphasis should be on the mix that John Phillips made ...

HANNS.G HU196D 19 in 20/02/2007

Hanns down winner

HANNS.G HU196D 19 in I have 2 computers. One was almost always in a state of disarray. It was the machine that was being used to test boards and software on, so it was not my working machine. When my wife moved her office downstairs she took with her the better of the 2 machines and left me with the ratty one. As the monitor was almost next to useless I decided on a rebuild. The motherboard, memory and processor were fine, the hard drive was quite large, and the rest of the ancillary stuff was reasonably OK except for the graphics card. This was replaced with a Radeon board, (reviewed elsewhere.) As the Radeon had a choice of outputs, digital and analogue, I could use my ancient monitor. This 17 inch monitor was huge and took up an immense amount of space. It also took great gulps of electricity! so it had to go. I had bought the Radeon from Misco, and their service was good, so I used them again. These are the main specifications that are understandable and useful to a buyer! 19 inch screen. The body is a bit bulkier extending an inch either side. The image is a conventional shape, not wide screen. It's roughly 6 inches from front to back. The monitor sits on a plinth and the screen can be tilted. This has to be fitted when the monitor is set up. A little fiddly as the monitor weighs about 6 kilogrammes, and you have to tilt it and fit it upside down. There is no overall height adjustment which is not unusual. There are apparently 6 adjusting buttons on the front, but only 5 ...

Wainwright - Hunter Davies 09/02/2007

He started it all. (Well almost!)

Wainwright - Hunter Davies It is impossible to think of the Lake District without thinking of the pocket sized books that seem to inhabit every fellwalker and dreamers collection. "Doing the Wainwrights" is almost pursued with religious fervor by those who rate the challenge as almost a pinnacle of fell walking/running achievements. Alfred Wainwright seems to have been there forever. The books seem dated now, yet when using them they are not. They remain scarily accurate and are full of good advice. Critics of the books complain that it is fell walking by numbers or it takes all the planning out of it. Not so, but that's only my opinion, and my opinion is no more valid than the next man. My youngest son bought me the book for Christmas, and it was read in a day. It is absorbing, intriguing and full of plot and subplot. It tells of a dreamer with his feet truly anchored on the ground. Hunter Davis does an excellent job with his research. Wainwright was a very private man and he certainly did not see himself as public property. I feel, and this is what I derive from the biographer, a man with a twinkle in his eye and a quiet pride in his achievements. There is certainly a wry sense of humour there about some of the circumstances he found himself in. There is little doubt that he was achingly shy when faced with public acclaim. Alfred Wainwright was born in Blackburn on the 17th January in 1907, the youngest child of a drunken stonemason. Very competent at school he loved maths and facts and ...

Nescafe Latte 06/02/2007

Skinny coffee type stuff!

Nescafe Latte My wife thinks these are wonderful - she almost goes into denial if we don't have them in the house! Me, I'm not convinced. There are several sorts of drinks - working drinks if you like. There is the, I'm on a diet I only drink water, let me suffer - the sort of drink that you sip at your desk, not really liking it but you are desperate because you are soooo thirsty. Because its doing you GOOD! (Really) I'm going for a break. (I'm actually quite bored, and I don't mind standing in a queue because its better than marking) kind of drink. This is generally a boring type of tea or coffee out of a machine. This is a chance to get a cake or a chocolate bar, and have a chin wag with your buddies. Not a great event but at least a proper break. The final sort of drink should be an event, something to commemorate, An I've got through to Friday in one piece kind of drink! This is where a proper drink should fit. This is where the Nescafe Skinny Latte should fit! However for me it doesn't quite fit the bill. Why not.? Maybe there is some sense of expectation. Nescafe should know some serious stuff about coffee, after all they probably invented the instant variety (I am expecting a torrent of corrections here!) so I am expecting a really good quality product here. The product is in a nicely sized hand friendly box , admittedly there is a lot of competition on the shelves at Morrisons. This product was on the next to the bottom shelf. The eyes are drawn to the product ...

SealSkinz Socks 19/01/2007

Secret Weapon against mud and wet

SealSkinz Socks In this day of technical outdoor clothing the humble sock has largely been ignored. There are some socks out there that claim to be really good inside the climbing boot or running shoe. However the SealSkinz sock has got a whole lot more going for it . There is little doubt that in the world of the serious runner the feet takes the brunt of all our efforts. In mountain and fell running this is multiplied by twisting, bogs, wet, stones and boulders and dust.. In short a lot more pressure is pushed on the feet. than in road running. In summer feet can stay dry and largely clean, they also stay quite cool. Many runners use either thin socks or none at all. Most fell shoes allow the water to drain out too. In winter the bogs are either at freezing point or frozen. If your feet get wet they stay wet, very uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous, because you lose your ability to accurately place them because they have gone numb! Tripping and stumbling can occur. Wet feet tend to blister too, but its not something that happens to me thankfully! Sealskinz claim to prevent a lot of these difficulties by making their socks waterproof and breathable, seems like a contradiction. The innermost layer is Merino wool. This is very soft to the touch, quite springy. It is finer than "traditional" wool and exhibits antibacterial properties. It however has a high lanolin content which is a warning for those with lanolin allegies. The middle layer comprises of a membrane made of Porelle. ...

plug in power and energy monitor 12/01/2007

Check your Electricity consumption.

plug in power and energy monitor Made in China and to a high standard. Expect to pay 25 pounds for this device. This seems to be a very fair price for an accurate instrument that literaly did not exist in this form 5 years ago. There are a series of buttons to press - however it defaults to 1. So what does it do? 1. Measures the voltage coming out of the socket - it does need to have the socket switched on. There are no batteries or serviceble parts inside. It is surprising how the voltage drifts up and down through the day tracking demand. 2. Measures the current that an appliance is taking. My electric kettle takes just over 9 amps ( More about the kettle later!) There is a maximum current of 15 amps - apparently the display flashes, and a buzzer sounds. Domestic plugs are rated at 13 amps, I would expect the fuses to blow before then. 3. Button 3 has two different displays it toggles between. The top one measures the Watts the device is taking. 1000 is 1 unit of electricity (What we get billed on!) The other value is VA which is VoltsAmps - essentially the same unless you are an electrical engineer. 4. This measures the frequency that the mains is operating at - this should be at 50HZ. Mine seems to dip to 49.9 occasionally. Electical suppliers have to maintain the frequency accurately. Clocks and timers used to use this. The other toggle on this buttton measures the Phase Angle. This is also only of use to engineers. 5. This is possibly the most useful button of all. There are two ...

10 Things About My Job 05/01/2007

I used to have a proper job!

10 Things About My Job I was not always a teacher, I used to do other stuff too. I have been a civil servant, baker, bus conductor, life guard,arcade technician, and engineer. So I've been around the block, just a few times. Lets talk about why teaching can be so fantastic at times and so awful at others. Quick discussion about what I actually do at the moment. I assess across college for exam arrangements and Spld (Dyslexia) - which involves lengthy reports I also teach ICT on the degree program, this involves lengthy revision and updating as well as setting assignments, teaching and marking. My final area of responsibility is heading up a small team which supplies support for people with learning difficulties in the college. All this in 35 hours - I wish! 1. Lets blow a big hole in the really good hours. If you really stick to the clock, the job is impossible to do. I'm at my desk by 8.30, dealing with the telephone, staff sickness, student appointments, morning meetings and the e-mail. And anything or anyone who walks through that door. Supposed to be all done by 9. I have decided to check the email last thing the previous night, saves me having any nasty surprises the following day! Also gives me the opportunity to fire off one or two to my colleagues to deal with first thing in the morning. Lucky to get away by 5.30. There is always something to do. Have a coffee with my staff or students and try to unravel some of the mysteries of the day, share support needs and issues - that sort of ...

Fifteen-Firsts 31/12/2006

Number 1

Fifteen-Firsts I don't think I've set out to be first at anything - always dreamed of being the great athlete or academic but never had the will or intellect to spend the hours needed to really excel. However there are some things that I have been proud of and of course some things that are just disgraceful and possibly close to stupid. Lets look at academic achievment first. 1. I was "lucky" to have passed my 11plus and go to a proper school. My mother and father were over the Moon, I wasn't so sure - all my friends went to the secondary modern down the road, and I went on a 2 hour bus journey every day for 5 miserable years. Where's the First bit. I was a real toe rag at school - I was the first to be caned in my class - oh it hurt but didn't cure me. Probably because I was the first to actually abscond in my year.... Parents in school and promises made and kept under the threat of obscene violence. Did our parents have the same upbringing or were they just goody two shoes. Enough of this simpering self pity. I became a teacher . My pupils and students actually praise me. More a case of poacher turned gamekeeper. Oddly I ended up sending my own children, or at least giving them the option of going to a "good" school. Three of the four did and have benifited hugely from it although it absolutely skinted us. 2. First success at school. Coming top in a geography exam. I had never come in the top half before let alone top. 80% WOW! I knew I had never cheated, but people thought I had. ...

BT Voyager 240 - router - DSL - desktop 30/12/2006

Good router too!

BT Voyager 240 - router - DSL - desktop The difficulty in writing a report on a technical product is keeping the balance between satisfying the technical people out there and giving sufficient information to those who just use this equipment. As routers and switches and modems etc just make a huge chunk of our readers glaze over! I want to reduce the report to the basics. I have a BT account, I don't swap around. The system works and although I know can get a cheaper service elsewhere, I can't be sure that it will be as good. What has this to do with the BT Voyager 240 though? My initial connection to the internet was a voyager 205. This is the standard broadband modem that BT sell(free!) you with an account. It works very well and I still have it as back up in case the 240 fails. The 205 has 2 connectors to the internet - a USB connector and an ethernet. My computer population started to grow so I needed some way of connecting them all to the internet.I also needed a way of connecting info on one machine to another - networking. There seemed to be several issues here. What about wireless? Wired? Conveniently all the machines are used upstairs. They are also quite close. I also have worries about using a wireless network, data security, neighbours using it, speed. I decided a wired network would be actually fine. If I needed to expand I could always expand with a wireless switch/router if I needed to. However as wireless seems to be the BIG selling thing in the major PC store at the moment my choice ...

Sapphire 9550 Graphics card 256 MB DDR SDRAM 24/11/2006

Cheapish but OK

Sapphire 9550 Graphics card 256 MB DDR SDRAM The Radeon 9550 is a good card. It bridges a gap between the truly awfull performer and a half decent card. As its an AGP card it can only go in machines with an AGP slot. There does seem to be various versions around as other reviewers have highlighted. There does seem to be a mix of cards out there! My card had a fan on, a quite small heatsink. Seems just a bit too small... The specifications of the card are 256Megabytes of DDR memory. The memory clock runs at a standard rate of 200 Megahertz. The video processing unit runs at 250 Megahertz. 5 years ago these speeds would have been astronomical, but now they are just run of the mill! Lets have a closer look at some of the detail. The board is effectivly cooled, the fan is quiet - even when cranked up with the overclocking facility. There are 3 outputs, the usual VGA adapter, the one I am using now, good picture even though I am using a budget monitor. A DVI output. This also works well, the picture seems sharper and more responsive. The S video to the composite adapter. This I have never used. Installing the card. No problems, not fiddly at all providing you remember there is a little plastic catch to hold back when you take the old card out. Turn on the computer and the first thing the machine sees is the new adapter. Put in the disc and it automatically installs the drivers. Perfect!. Quick check in the control panel, yes its there. Lets see what resolution it can go upto? 1280 x 1024 at the ...

Blackpool Solaris Centre, Blackpool 19/07/2006

This is in Blackpool, You're Joking?

Blackpool Solaris Centre, Blackpool How strange! A centre in the middle of Blackpool Illuminations mentioning the virtues of saving energy, recycling and sustainabiity. First impressions - two fairly large wind turbines at the front of the building. Well there is always plenty of wind! I knew this building as the Harrowside Solarium. It originally had citrus trees inside. Apparently it was rather well to do in its early days. It then became a cafe. Understandably expenses were high. There is no particular passing trade as the building is the last commercial building on seafront before Squires Gate. Proprieters came and then went. It stood vacant for a while. For a considerable time the locals were concerned at the dilapidation. It became unfeasable to restore back to its original purpose. I don't think a private individual could have afforded to put it right. It is on one floor and stretches a some way back from the seafront. It is not set on the sea side of the prom, but on the other side of the road. The front has a low brick wall. This has a low hedge on top. There is an entrance in the middle. It is also possible to find a way in from the sides and the back. It is set in 4 acres of garden. This is all surrounded by the same low wall and hedge. There is a public toilet on the south side.There is a car park on the north side of Solaris. This holds about 15 to 20 cars. Parking is free. What the situation will be like in summer I can only guess. Parking on the seafront is expensive. Most of the other ...

Perfectly Clear Sparkling Water 31/05/2006

Strange brew

Perfectly Clear Sparkling Water I was in the local "El Cheapo" store and thirsty. They have a wide range of waters, fizzy pop, beers and spirits. The occasionaly have products that are clearly destined for foreign stores because some of the packaging is in Arabic, Cinese or whatever, I am sure you met these things before. Hower on the shelf were these bottles of of "Perfectly Clear", 500 ml, sports top and at 25p. The water was clear and still. The best before date was 21st Nov 2006. I generally take at least one water a day to work, so I thought something flavoured would be a change. The contents are fairly standard and need not be repeated except my concerns for flavourings, and sweetners and preservatives. It has all three! Aspartame has had some very bad press, but it appears nothing has been proved! No idea of the amount added. It does say that the flavourings contain natural fruit extracts but again it doesn't say how much or how little. Again it mentions preservatives, Sodium Benzoate and Pottasium Sorbate. There is no idea about the quantity. It also utters the magic word Phenylalanine,. This is definately worth a quick prowl on Wikipedia. Difficult to know the implications of the injestion of large quantities of this substance, it appears to be produced by the Aspartame. Again, this does not appear to be a warning more a statement. This has been discussed in the comments section and expands on the concerns I hold with this substance. How does one know of the effects until it ...
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