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xadoc

xadoc

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Dear John...

Reviews written

since 26/10/2002

54

Lexmark P 706 Photo Jetprinter 23/02/2004

Some Day My Prints Will Come.

Lexmark P 706 Photo Jetprinter If you're anything like me, you'll abhor waste. It's inefficient and unethical. Trouble is, as much as we remember not to leave the tap running when we’re brushing our teeth, and to turn off lights when we leave a room, the big corporations have a way of making us be wasteful anyway. For example; when our mobile contract with O2 expired, it was cheaper to start a new, identical contract with O2, with a brand new phone, than continue with the current one?! We have a couple of tiny broken wheels on our Dyson DC04, but to fix it, we can’t buy just the wheels, no, we have to shell out £15 for an entire new foot assembly. A small part on my boyfriend’s bike broke, but again, the replacement part worth pennies is only sold complete with its entire housing, bumping the price up to £20 and wasting perfectly good equipment. How does this make sense? Forgive my rant, but this is how we came to be the owners of a brand new Lexmark P706 printer. We weren’t looking for a new printer. The Lexmark 1020 we had was fine for our needs. Sure, it only managed 600x300 dpi, was as slow as a tortoise on Valium and sounded like a battalion of Daleks falling down stairs, but it did the job. But a branded Lexmark colour cartridge costs around £28. A brand new P706 printer, bundled with a colour cartridge, photo cartridge, and photo paper is currently £29.99 (half price) at WHSmiths. It offers borderless printing, 4800x1200dpi, and says it prints 10x15cm prints in 60 seconds. What ...

Angel Falls 08/02/2004

Amber walks where Angels fear to tread...

Angel Falls To the Mountain of the God of Evil. I have already written a review of Venezuela in general, but Angel Falls didn’t deserve to be squished into a couple of paragraphs of a larger review. It’s a sight on a grand scale, and deserves an opinion of its very own. If you’re interested in facts, Angel Falls is the highest waterfall (longest uninterrupted drop) in the world. While its flow is a fraction of the water that tumbles over Niagara, it falls 16 times as far – that’s nearly a kilometre, straight down. It falls, a tributary of the Rio Carrao, from the top of Auyantepui – The Mountain of the God of Evil – a name the local Pemón tribe bestowed upon it. The reason the waterfall is so unique is due to the unusual landscape. Auyantepui is one of many tepuis dotted around this area of South America. They are flat topped, sheer-sided, massive remnants of compacted silt from prehistoric times, their surroundings eroded away over millennia. Because of their inaccessibility, many of the plants living on their plateaus have evolved independently from surrounding tepuis and from the floor below, or have hardly evolved at all. Some species are endemic only to their particular mountain, or are the only living examples of plants thought otherwise to be extinct. They were given the name Angel Falls as they were ‘discovered’ by Jimmy Angel – an American gold prospector in the 1930’s. He was canvassing the area for ...

General: Venezuela 30/01/2004

The Best Kept Secret of the Caribbean

General: Venezuela “So, tell me everything you know about Venezuela…” If someone had demanded that of me 6 months ago, I doubt I could have filled a postcard. How much do you know about Venezuela? So perhaps, then, it was a little surprising we chose to visit for three weeks this Christmas? Not at all. Sometimes it’s the enigmatic countries that are the most fun, usually less touristed, more educational, often more of a challenge, but equally more rewarding. That’s not to say that we didn’t do our homework first. After discovering we could get reasonable flights, we dug out a few guidebooks at the library, and discovered that Venezuela might have a lot to offer. Perhaps I’m quite thick, but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me that for Venezuela to have a coastline, that coastline would have to be on the Caribbean? Pictures in the books certainly looked every bit as nice as any Caribbean island. But that wasn’t the only draw: It’s not far from the equator, so there’s a fairly even temperature year-round, with only a slight difference between wet and dry seasons. There are also the plains, snow-capped mountains (the Andes, if you’re being specific), tepuis (table mountains), jungle, swamps, modern cities, colonial architecture, river delta, as well as Angel Falls. So, sometime back in the autumn we booked our flights, for £420 per person including taxes. This was directly with KLM, through their ...

Everything that starts with M ... 26/11/2003

Music be the food of love - Play on.

Everything that starts with M ... And it has no calories - what a bonus! When I read SohoBlack’s take on this challenge, I knew I had to add my tuppence worth. HOW MANY CD'S DO YOU OWN? That’s hard to gauge as lots of them belong to my partner. We have two 92 CD cases which are pretty much full and I just bought a third so we have space to add more. So, approximately 184 at the moment and growing. CD'S IN YOUR COLLECTION: MOST EMBARRASSING- Some people might say I have something to answer for with Boney M’s greatest hits, but I resolutely maintain that they’re classics. All the really cringy ones (George Formby, Crystal Waters, Vanilla Ice) belong to said partner, so that’s his problem, and I can always blame anything awful of mine on him too. MOST RECENT- Last album I purchased was second-hand from e-Bay – No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom. Most recent release I bought was Royksopp’s Melody AM. FIRST- Ooooh, hard to remember. My first cassette was FLM by Mel and Kim, which I bought with a WHSmith’s voucher I’d got for Christmas! My first CD was probably Automatic for the People by REM. MOST RELAXING- The soundtrack to The Piano, REM’s Out of Time, Julie London, or Olive, Extra Virgin (listening to it now). MOST THOUGHT PROVOKING- Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that one. Pretty much anything by Bjork (except the deplorable It’s Oh So Quiet) lead me to consider trying to unravel what she’s on ...

Everything that starts with I ... 20/09/2003

50 reaches us all... eventually.

Everything that starts with I ... If If you keep reviewing products when all about you Are lazing in the café writing haiku; If you can trust yourself when few members trust you, But add people to your circle of trust too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, For your newly requested category to arise, Or, being UH’d, don't give way to UHing, But rating fairly, leaving comments that are wise; If you can dream of diamonds - and not make gems your master; If you can write challenge ops - and not become too vain; If you can meet up in Bristol then Brum after And treat your fellows to drinks just the same; If you can bear to see the words you've written Misquoted by knaves to make a trap for fools, And smile at two fellow Ciaoers smitten, Or two mischievous friends, with their challenges and duels; If you can remember humble beginnings When not getting reads made you so cross; And refrain from gloating about your winnings The extra money, points, trust and kudos, If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To write about shampoo and not make people yawn, And read newbie ops when there’s nothing in you And you know you should be mowing the lawn; If you can talk with magicloudz and keep your virtue, And walk with blobbyqueen and not lose the common touch; Or if longstanding members seem to desert you; Because PF payments never came to much; If you’re logged on every minute And read every bad op, joke and pun ...

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC) 04/09/2003

Vice City is not a Nice City.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC) The game so good it was (somewhat controversially) the first computer game ever to garner its designers a nomination for the Designer of the Year award has finally come out on PC format! I’d like to introduce to you the dichotomy that is my computer games collection. I don’t own many, but my two favourite PC games are The Sims; nice, clean, family fun you wouldn’t be afraid to let your 4 year old play with, and the Grand Theft Auto franchise – its antithesis. You wouldn’t want to let a 4 year old anywhere near the box for fear of them turning it into an offensive weapon and machete-ing the kids at playgroup with it… But for anyone over 18, it’s the perfect opportunity to do all the things you can’t do in normal life, but sometimes wish you could. Had a bad day at work? Steal some cars, run-over some people, rob a jewellery store… Got cut up by some road-hog on the way home? Steal a bike, shoot some people, blow up a café… Kids annoying you? Steal a boat, throw grenades at the police, rob a bank. And if life’s really getting you down, or there’s just nothing on telly, you can graduate onto full-on gang warfare, drug-dealing, street racing, and bazooka-ing police helicopters into oblivion. For anyone who has read my opinion on its predecessor, GTA III, I won’t be going into the minutiae of how the game is played, as that hasn’t changed much. I will explain the basics, but most of ...

Natco Original Rose Syrup 01/08/2003

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of Natco

Natco Original Rose Syrup "Strange stuff that, isn't it?" offered my father-in-law last weekend, pointing at the bottle. I have no idea in what manner he sampled it. I hope he didn't drink it neat. It is an accurate assessment though. You have probably never even noticed it at the supermarket. It may not even be available at your local supermarket. If it is available, it will almost certainly be located in the “ethnic foods” section. You can’t miss it. It’ll be a glass bottle (like the one Vimto comes in) and it’s full of a deep magenta liquid, and has a large picture of a rose on it. Natco isn’t the only manufacturer of Rose Syrup – there’s another brand which hails from Singapore and has a lovely old-fashioned label with tigers on it, I think. You don’t tend to see that one in supermarkets, though, so I have the Natco one, which can be bought from Sainsbury’s and Tesco. I have only ever seen it come in the one size – 750ml, and it’s universally priced at £1.69. Both brands taste pretty much the same anyway. If you were to sniff it, it smells a lot like old ladies’ soap and bubble bath, but don’t let that put you off. So, you may be thinking, what would I do with the stuff? My preference is to mix it with a glass of milk – as you would with a “Crusha” milkshake syrup, for instance. It's up to you how strong you make it, but anywhere between 1:7 and 1:10 would probably be my ...

Member Advice on Ciao Addiction 28/07/2003

I need tablets now, to cure me of Ciao...

Member Advice on Ciao Addiction I haven't done the housework and the garden's in a mess. It's not that just want to shirk, as surely you can guess. I've got carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, RSI. I called the doctor to my home To find the reason why. She said, “I’ve seen these signs before, but you have got it bad. I’ll warn you now, there is no cure, and you’re the worst I’ve had.” I said, “Don’t spare my feelings Doc, just diagnose my affliction.” With a glint, she said “xadoc, you’ll find it’s Ciao Addiction.” With a sigh, I accepted it, for I knew it to be true, But before she left I asked if there was *something* she could do. Counselling was recommended. Alas, it wasn’t free. A hundred quid to be mended Which didn’t work on me. (I knew my mind had been corrupted, But I didn’t need to be bankrupted!) Next, I tried the 12-step plan, and joined a CA group. I’d heard Ciaoers Anonymous can help some escape the loop. It’s a cycle of addiction, see; you have to break the trend. Altered behaviour is the key, To getting on the mend. Odds of conquering the dragon, for the veteran Ciaoer are slim; for staying on the wagon gets harder every hour. Group therapy did not work for me, and so I had to stop as there was no CA category In which to write an op. At last they sent me to a shrink; free - on the NHS. At least he tried to make me think, about what my problem ...

Pimm's No 1 Cup 16/07/2003

Pimm's - not just for 'Tim nice but dim's.

Pimm's No 1 Cup Would you believe that there does not seem to be an official website for Pimm's? I was astonished. (There is a UK consumer e-mail address on the bottle: response@pimmsinfo.com, but typing www.pimmsinfo.com into your browser won’t get you anywhere – I tried it.) Anyway, according to the bottle; “James Pimm opened his first Oyster Bar in the City of London in the 1840’s and supplied Londoners with good food and a unique drink which became famous as PIMM’S ® No. 1 Cup. PIMM’S ® is still based on the original recipe which remains a closely guarded secret known only to six people…” So there you have it. I can’t tell you what is in it, but I can have a jolly good guess. The first smell is of oranges, and not a sweet artificial smell either, but proper orange-peel orange smell. There is another smell behind the oranges too, which I suspect could be pomegranate. There is also a distinct booziness if you have a sniff, although it’s not particularly apparent upon tasting it. I suspect that there are more flavours, particularly herbs, but my palate is not sufficiently trained to recognise any of them, I’m afraid. It reminds me a little of Benedictine, but without the “hwaaah” I tend to get at the back of my throat when I drink that. It describes itself as a “spirit drink” – which is very vague, if you ask me. One could argue that meths is also a spirit drink. Not that ...

Rimmel Lycra Wear Nail Polish 11/07/2003

Dzien dobry, my little polish chameleon.

Rimmel Lycra Wear Nail Polish This little bottle is very talented, as it manages to be not one nail colour, but several. I'd never noticed our local Tesco sold make-up, but I went down a hitherto undiscovered isle in our newly rearranged store last week and there it was – a Rimmel display (next to another cosmetics stand I’ve instantly forgotten). It was actually the lipstick I stopped to look at; there was a small promotional poster about their latest line, water-cooler-diamond-shiner-glitter-something-or-other, but I didn’t like any of the shades. Then I noticed this little bottle shimmering away interestingly among the other perfectly nice, yet bog-standard colours of nail varnish. On the stand it looked mostly purple, but with a hint of gold too. Hmmm, interesting. Zeitgeist it was called, and it looked cool. I picked it up and liked the colour a lot. As you turn it, the light catches it and reflects back different colours. Clever stuff, but don’t ask me how it works. My mum has some gorgeous nail varnish which looks very similar, and I know hers was close to £7 a bottle. At least, I think it was £7 a bottle. It might have been more. I figured this little 8g bottle would probably be somewhere around the £4 mark. Not a fortune, certainly, but I don’t like to pay more than a couple of quid for such things, especially when it’s not something I exactly need. Plus, I do have a *lot* of nail varnish, and buying this would probably raise an eyebrow of the ...

Jessops 27/06/2003

Video killed the radio star

Jessops Jessops have won Practical Photography magazine's 'People's Choice Award' for Best Photo Retailer for the last seven years, and it's not hard to see why. We have visited three different Jessops stores in the space of a month, on no less than ten different occasions in total, and all staff were exceedingly accommodating. Apart from one occasion, all staff were pretty knowledgeable, and the one time we did find ourselves with a chap who didn’t know a lot, we could have waited for the more experienced assistant had we wanted. For quite some time now, we've been looking at buying a digital camera. I had one of those little stylecam blink thingies (see one of my very early Ciao opinions), but while small, it didn’t really cut the mustard, especially if photographing indoors, so we wanted to trade up. More megapixels, flash, options for lighting etc. A generous and completely unexpected gift from my dear Gran, God love her cotton socks, meant that we were to go shopping in earnest, which is why I am now going to give Jessops a glowing review, as they were nothing but bend-over-backwards helpful. Our first visit was just for a brief nose and to collect a catalogue. Jessops catalogues are well organised. They are also free, which is incredibly good value for money. Cameras are grouped according to type – digital, SLR, video etc. Then each group is broken down further – all 2 megapixel cameras together, then the 3 megapixel cameras etc. Each ...

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling 27/06/2003

Wotter Lotter Potter

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling I apologise for the title now. I was going to say "JK's Rowling in it", but someone beat me to it. I don’t have time to read books much these days, but I was willing to make an exception here. I was determined to read this before anyone spoiled the story for me. Therefore, I’m not going to spoil the story for you either. Undoubtedly there are plenty of places you could find out the plot, should you want to. We’ve had to wait so long for this instalment! Mind you, I don’t blame JK Rowling in the slightest. It’s important to get it right, and she’s just got married and had a baby, I believe, so other things must come first. I thought it was well worth the wait. The story was as great as always, plenty of events keeping it ticking nicely along. While JKR may have some excellent ideas, however, the writing was occasionally awkward, with some overly long sentences and occasional overuse of the same verb or adjective. The clumsy use of language has always been my one bugbear with the Harry Potter books. In two separate instances in the same chapter, Rowling describes someone “extricating” something. Someone “extricates” themselves from a lift, someone else “extricates” a piece of paper from a pile. For a relatively unusual word, I think it was too soon to be using it again, and I’ve noticed she’s done this in most of the books at some point with various words she was evidently keen on at ...

Walkers Monster Munch Vanilla Ice Cream Flavour 20/06/2003

Some things just shouldn't happen...

Walkers Monster Munch Vanilla Ice Cream Flavour ... and Vanilla Ice Cream Flavoured Monster Munch may be one of them. Isn’t it daft? I read I don’t know how many ops about normal things and don’t go out and buy them. I read a very good op about Marks & Spencer drinking chocolate and every time I pass M&S I think about going in and buying it. But I never do. I read Seasonticketless’ op on this freaky version of Monster Munch, and even though the best I could hope was that they wouldn’t be as bad as I thought they’d be, they were the first thing I bought when I went shopping the very next Saturday. It just goes to show. I don’t know what it goes to show, but without doubt, it goes to show *something*... Anyway, as I said, I bought a 25g packet from Woolworths. I think the regular price was 32p, but I got them in a 4 packets for 99p multibuy deal. In case you’re wondering, no, the other 3 packets were not vanilla ice cream flavour Monster Munch. They were Doritos, just to be on the safe side. The packet looks much like a regular pack of Monster Munch – silvery foil, and the overriding colours on it were blue and cream, depicting a monster with a Flake sticking out of the top of his head melting in the sun. For anyone unfamiliar with MM they’re not crisps, but that somewhat peculiar “expanded corn” type of snack. Apparently they’re lower in fat than you’re average crisp, but I don’t remember where I read or heard ...

Buyer Beware! (urgent warnings about products/services to avoid at all costs) 15/06/2003

Windows... Don't get me started. Oh, too late.

Buyer Beware! (urgent warnings about products/services to avoid at all costs) Please be forewarned… what follows is a long and (dare I admit it?) dull report I wrote for the Plastics Window Federation about the thorough ineptitude of one of their member companies. It isn’t even lightened by sarcasm. When I wrote it I was past sarcasm, and if you do read it, you may guess why. I was also aware that sarcasm isn’t generally a great way to go when you’re attempting to write a potentially litigable document. It’s not, strictly speaking, an op. Nor is it a tale of woe in true “Watchdog” fashion. If I’d started by recounting *everything* that went wrong, I’d never have finished. But it is my attempt at a relatively unbiased account of a complete cock-up, by a supposedly professional company, which has been the bane of our lives since before Christmas. Although the company came with all manner of ISO standards and kitemarks, accolades and membership to several trade associations etc, the old adage “only as strong as the weakest link” particularly comes to mind. Basically, most of their workforce could be accurately described as “the weakest link” and so we had to say goodbye. Anyway, someone, who shall remain nameless, in case you want to lynch him, requested I post it. God only knows why, but it’s a fairly simple matter to do so, although I’m afraid you have to do without the 57 accompanying pictures and diagrams, and the 13 Appendices detailing all past ...

Terry's Chocolate Orange 06/05/2003

Thank God I'm done... this hasn't been fun.

Terry's Chocolate Orange I opened Pandora's box, So now I must write about chocs, And commit literary crimes, With my terrible rhymes, thediscerning's a wily old fox. He set a terrible curse, To write a food op in verse, Hoping, I guess, That it would impress. I find the challenge perverse. To those who have not read his op In haste, I urge you to stop. For you’ll be sucked in, And to my chagrin, My head might be for the chop. I know it’s taken a while. People thought I was in exile. For this bloody op All other writing did stop But my face can still crack a smile. It’s harder than it may look. In the end, I consulted a book. A dictionary, Not one, two but three, To help me, by hook or by crook. Enough now of my preamble, I feel I’ve started to ramble, In fact, I have got, Somewhat shy of the plot, So now, quickly back I shall scramble. The op I write is about, A product you know, I’ve no doubt. An orange from Terry, (It goes well with sherry), “Tap it, Unwrap it!” you shout. It comes in the shape of a sphere, Packed in a box, have no fear; It’s easy to wrap, A great gift, not crap, There’s one in my stocking each year. The price I find hovers around One-fifty or sometimes two pound, Four quid for three or Five quid for four; At Christmas time, offers abound. Endorsed by the lovely Dawn French L. Henry’s wife, busty wench. You’ll hear her chime: “It’s not ...
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