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since 27/07/2000

182 16/06/2005

A site to rival eBay? I am an eBay addict, so what am I doing writing about a rival auction site? I stumbled on eBid by accident, being desperate for an item that wasn't available on eBay. I did a search on google for auction sites, and so found eBid. I have been using the site for a couple of years now. In case anyone reading this does not know about eBay either, both sites are on-line auction sites where you can buy and sell almost anything - from a pencil to a car, and from a pair of knickers to a stereo system. You have to register to bid or sell, and the URL for ebid is or They have recently launched in the USA too, so you may see some international auctions on the site now. •• Background •• Before writing this opinion, I asked for a bit of background to the site. This is what the site owners said "Since 2000 we have gone from strength to strength. We are now the largest free auction site in the UK and we believe 2nd overall behind eBay. We are committed to remaining a free auction site and we are very vocal about this. There is no hidden agenda." Apparently ebid was founded by four friends with financial and business backgrounds. It was launched about 6 months after QXL, and has steadily grown ever since. On 13/6/02 ebid stopped charging a listing fee for standard listings, but they make money from charging a fee to be able to list auctions (a time based fee not an auction based fee), adverts, featured listings and pop ups. They ...

Hellmann's Warm Chicken Thai Salad 09/03/2005

Thaime for a different sort of salad!

Hellmann's Warm Chicken Thai Salad So you’re going through yet another healthy eating phase, but you are fed up with limp lettuce and soggy cucumber with no taste. Well, I just may have the answer to brighten up your mealtimes, in the Hellmann’s warm chicken Thai salad!

Indesit WE14 30/10/2004

Indesit proposal IMPORTANT UPDATE

Indesit WE14 UPDATE on reliability at the end, but a quick synopsis is "don't buy an Indesit washing machine". This is the third Indesit washing machine I have owned which may be considered stupid – why have I needed three and why did I even consider a third? It’s not all doom and gloom. The first one, I sold to a friend, as the second one was on offer and had more functions and a faster spin speed. Nine years later the second one started to play up, not always spinning properly. I commented on PhilRoots’ Hoover washing machine opinion that mine would not last much longer, but I didn’t actually expect to be ordering a new one only 2 weeks later having mopped the floor about 20 times that week. I couldn’t complain – it had given me nine long years of good service. •• THE HUNT FOR THE WASHING MACHINE •• So, you need a new washing machine then. The shops are full of them - how do you choose? Make a list of the functions and features that are important to you, such as spin speed, energy efficiency, delay timer, hand wash, half load, modern design, colour to fit your décor and load size. Speak to a sales assistant who will hopefully guide you towards the ones you will be interested in. Remember that you will pay more for better known brand names, which will not always give you a better machine. It’s a jungle out there, and you have to decide for yourself which brand to trust. I wanted at least a 1300 spin speed, energy efficiency, a half load and a hand wash function. ... 18/10/2004

Not so Easybus! Whilst driving home from work one evening, I heard an advert on my local radio station for It offered bus fares to North London from Milton Keynes for £1 each way. As I was due to meet an old school friend in London in a few weeks time, I thought I’d look into it, as the return train fare including Underground is normally about £15.

Puppetry Of The Penis (DVD) 17/10/2004

Dick tricks

Puppetry Of The Penis (DVD) ‘Dick tricks’ is what the creators of puppetry of the penis called their ‘art’. It is as it suggests, making images, such as hot dogs and hamburgers, out of male genitalia. •• History •• Years ago, a young Simon Morley from Australia was intrigued when his brother showed him an amazing trick with his penis – he formed it into a hamburger (details of how to do this later in the opinion). The legend goes that sibling rivalry then took over and practice became perfect, but did not make them blind. To quote from the website, it also ‘resulted in the evolution of a healthy repertoire of genital gesticulation’. In 1996 a calendar of the best dick tricks was produced called Puppetry of the Penis. In 1997 the calendar led to requests for live performances, so Simon asked his friend, David Friend to join him in bending, twisting and stretching his genitalia into absurd shapes for the pleasure of others. The show debuted at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 1998, followed by national tours. In 2000 they appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, then a run in the West End and their international willy bending careers were born. They now do stage shows, a video (which is what this opinion is mainly about) and a book. •• The Video •• I was running out of ideas for Christmas presents when someone told me that the stage show was out on video. I decided to embarrass my aunt by asking her to buy it for me (but I’m sure she’ll borrow it soon). The video is ... 21/09/2004

Money for nothing and your food for free How long would it take you to earn between £30 and £50 on Ciao? Certainly longer than 1.5 – 2 hours I’m sure! A while ago, I earned £30 for 1.5 hours of my time, met some interesting people, enjoyed myself immensely, ate some good food, gave my opinions and fulfilled one of my (sad) ambitions. I attended a focus group recruited by Saros Research. The purpose of a focus group (or forum or market research discussion) is to elicit opinions from various groups of people on products, brands, advertising, or in this case, about the general feeling following 11th September in relation to the economy, the world and advertising. Expert facilitators guide the groups of people through topics of interest by asking open questions, and ensuring that everyone gets their say. Sometimes you are recorded on video (if your reactions to a product are important) or watched through a one-way mirror (either to check reactions or for the commissioning company to see how the groups are going). Other times just the sound will be taped. I work for a Bank that occasionally uses focus groups and I watched one from behind a one-way mirror where the facilitator was trying to work out how people used Yellow Pages, to see if it was worth the bank continuing to pay for large adverts. It wasn’t. I have heard that since getting into power, Tony Blair also commissions focus groups to gauge public reaction to Labour policies. Oh, wouldn’t I like to tell him a thing or two! Certain sections of the ...

Rewards at Ciao 17/09/2004

Why bother with Ciao?

Rewards at Ciao It seems to be a bit of a tradition to do a Ciao opinion for your 100th, so here is mine (it has been updated a number of times since to keep it relevant). I assume this category was initially introduced to explain the financial rewards that Ciao offers. However, since the pay changes, this, to some, is of less importance than the non-financial rewards. I have therefore split my opinion up into 3 sections: financial, non-financial and disincentives (it’s not all rosy here you know!). Marketplace 26/07/2004

Amazon profits! Marketplace I’m sure we have all heard of Amazon, one of the best known on-line businesses in the world, but what is Amazon Marketplace, and why should we use it? Basically, Amazon Marketplace is an integrated part of the Amazon site, which sells new and secondhand goods through third parties. These third parties can be companies or just ‘normal’ sellers like me and you. Amazon Marketplace, actually sells the same goods as Amazon, and often at lower prices, but Amazon make their money from these sales by charging high fees. •• Buying •• When you browse around Amazon, you can be looking in the Marketplace without even realising it. When you click on an item, e.g. a book, the Amazon listing will be displayed first, but there will also be a link saying ’10 Used & New’ (or whatever number is relevant). By clicking on this link you are entering the Marketplace and will be shown new and used items for sale from third parties. The postage and packing rates are different here and you don’t qualify for Amazon's Super Saver offer (free postage on a total order of £25 or more). The current P&P rates you will be charged for Amazon Marketplace purchases is as follows:

Concrete Cows, Milton Keynes 12/06/2004

Stop abusing the cows

Concrete Cows, Milton Keynes So what is the point of the famous concrete cows of Milton Keynes? Having visited today specially to research this opinion, I still can’t really say! I moved to Milton Keynes in 1986 and they were here before me. I have heard conflicting reasons for their existence. Some say it was to prevent the children of this city from forgetting what cows look like, as real ones would be so far away (so why don’t they have some in London or Birmingham then?). Some say they were ‘crafted’ to represent the sprawling concrete in this new town. I have also heard that the local council commissioned an artist to ‘create’ them as a tourist attraction. Does anyone know the real reason (comments please)? Anyway, what are they really like? They do indeed appear to be made of concrete and are carefully painted in black and white to bring out the cow features. There are two adult cows (complete with concrete udders), one adult without udders (but with no horns) and three babies. They are full cow sized so you can easily sit on them (and thousands have). They are situated next to a busy dual carriageway the H3 – Monks Way (Milton Keynes has a grid system - Horizontal Ways and Vertical Streets) near Bancroft, about 3 miles from the shopping centre. If you are going more than 40 M.P.H. or don’t know where to look, you would miss them. They are in a field with no sign-post or other attractions nearby – very strange! Unfortunately, they are frequently abused (hence the title of this opinion). ...

Circle of Friends - Maeve Binchy 30/05/2004

No bitchiness, just Binchyness

Circle of Friends - Maeve Binchy Benny is what some people would call a ‘big’ girl and Eve is like a little elf. Benny is a calm placid child and Eve has a real temper. Benny is a much loved and protected only child and Eve has been brought up by nuns after her parents died tragically and her relatives abandoned her due to an ‘unsuitable’ marriage. But still they are inseparable friends. Add the very selfish and beautiful Nan, along with the handsome doctor’s son, Jack, to the equation, and there just has to be trouble brewing. Knockglen, where Benny and Eve both live, is a rural town on the outskirts of Dublin, full of real ‘characters’ such as Mr Flood the butcher who keeps talking to imaginary nuns who he thinks live in his tree, and Sean Walsh, the creepy sales assistant in Benny’s father’s menswear shop. Circle of Friends is a book about small town life in Ireland in the late 1950s, and follows Benny and Eve as they grow up and go to university in Dublin. I don’t normally *do* women’s literature, much preferring sci fi or crime novels, but Maeve Binchy is an exception. She write books about human nature - simple, beautifully crafted books that draw you in from the first page until the last, and leave you wondering what is happening in these characters’ lives long after you have finished the book. To me, that is a mark of true characterisation. I am known for my naughty reading habit of skipping paragraphs or even pages of (as I see it) meaningless descriptions in books, but I didn’t miss a single ...

Recipes for Desserts 09/05/2004

Diet, what diet?

Recipes for Desserts As some of you will know, I do not enjoy cooking, so anything I do cook needs to be quick and easy to make and very tasty, to make my effort worth the while. These two pudding recipes fulfil these criteria perfectly. 14/03/2004

I fancy your bird! My birthday was fast approaching, and I wanted to do something special on my day off. I did a search on google for ‘days out’, and as I love animals of any kind, when prompted by the various websites, I added ‘animals’ as a choice. This brought up a few choices such as zoos, but one that caught my eye was a day out with birds of prey. I then did a search for my home town ‘Milton Keynes’ and ‘hawks’ and I found Although this opinion is generally about the website, I will also be describing the actual day out, so people can know what to expect of this type of day. •• Home page •• The homepage of the website explains that they are “Specialists in giving people with no experience the chance to handle and fly a bird of prey.” The page (and indeed the whole site) is nicely laid out in green and white, and is not too cluttered. The home page has a search bar for the site and easy to use navigation links. It also explains a bit more about what they offer and the birds they fly, which are Harris Hawks, Common Buzzards, Tawny Eagles and a Turkey Vulture. •• Speed & Navigation•• The pages loaded very quickly (although I do have broadband), despite the few photos on most pages. Navigation is lovely and simple, with links on the left and top which remain through the site. The links are:

Fujifilm FinePix A101 12/03/2004

Fine Pix or nasty pics?

Fujifilm FinePix A101 I had been intrigued by digital photography for some time before my partner dropped our 35mm camera. I even had one of those tiny things that can be used as a web cam, but it really wasn’t up to much and had no flash. I decided it was time to buy myself a digital camera, but where should I begin? My dad has an extremely expensive, complicated one, which produces superb quality photos. However, I didn’t have the money or the brainpower to buy or work a camera like that (I am blonde you know!). I decided to go for a cheap entry-level camera and began to search on Ciao for some recommendations. I wasn’t sure exactly how much I would be using it, but I did know I would be using it for my ebay sales, so it definitely needed a flash. I am also extremely impatient with gadgets, so I wanted something simple to use. I also didn’t want to pay much, in case I didn’t get on with digital photography My investigations led me to believe that the Fujifilm FinePix A202 would do me fine, so I hunted around on ebay and then accidentally purchased a Fujifilm FinePix A101 – idiot! I have been using this camera for over 6 months now, so I though I’d share my experiences. I am not a technical person, so this opinion will concentrate on my experiences, although I will include the technical specification at the end for those it means something to. •• Look •• I’m afraid to say this camera looks and feels quite cheap! It is metallic and very lightweight, with a cheap looking shutter button and ...

Thomson DTI 1000 Terrestrial TV /Digital TV Adaptor 07/02/2004

Do you Thomson more channels?

Thomson DTI 1000 Terrestrial TV /Digital TV Adaptor So, how can you get up to 50 digital television and radio stations without having to pay each month for cable or satellite? The answer is to buy a Digital Terrestrial Receiver (or digibox as I call it) for under £100 and watch the free-to-view stations (as heavily advertised recently on BBC). When I bought a lovely Sony 32 inch widescreen television, it really showed up the poor quality signal we get in our area. I was also getting bored with the choices of channels 1-4 and an extremely grainy channel 5, but didn’t want to pay a monthly fee for cable or satellite, as I was unlikely to make the most of my money being an internet addict. I therefore decided to buy a digital terrestrial receiver suitable for using with my TV aerial. There are a number on the market including Panasonic, Pace and Thomson, but in the end I bought the Thomson DTI 1000, mainly because it was the only one in stock just before Christmas, but also because it also has an RF loop (more on this later). However, I also had a Pace digibox for 1 day, so I am able to compare the two. •• What do you need before you buy? •• Firstly, you will need to check the level of digital service in your area by going to, although I can actually get more channels than this site suggests. You do not want to pay £100 to find that you will not get any extra channels at the moment (unless your current signal is incredibly bad). Secondly, you need to check that your aerial is suitable for digital ...

My Ciao'ing 11/01/2004

How do you Ciao?

My Ciao'ing I couldn’t resist when I saw this challenge from ElizaF. She says: “This is a simple 25 questions on people's ways and means of using Ciao. I hope it will be fun to do and interesting to read. Leave a note in my GB when you complete the survey. I know I will really enjoy reading people's answers.” i. Full name: Ophelia (is all you need to know). ii. Ciao Username: offy iii. Date when you joined the Ciao community: 27/7/2000. Yep, I’m a real old timer here! I remember the days when you got paid a relative fortune per read, but I also remember those times having no community spirit at all, as you could leave no comments or see who rated your opinion. iv. Why did you join Ciao? I seem to remember getting an invitation by e-mail. v. Are you a member of any other review sites? I do occasionally cross post at Dooyoo, but I prefer Ciao, especially since Dooyoo’s disastrous ‘upgrade’. I also became heavily involved with U-Rate-It, before its sad demise. vi. Reviews written to date: This will be my 176th. vii. How many ops/reviews do you write in average a week? The correct question for me is how many per month, as I seem to be averaging 2 consumer opinions a month, and perhaps the odd challenge that appeals (like this one). viii. How long does it take you on average to write an op? It really depends on the subject. Something quite technical and detailed (like my recent digital camera review) could take me anything up to 3 ...
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