Sunday, 30 October 2011


Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Edition 2012, DVD-ROM.
The best encyclopaedia in the world. 5* review.

But it doesn't have the best search engine. I'll come back to that.

The one outstanding feature of Britannica is, unlike Wikipaedia (of which, don't misunderstand me, I'm a fan and regular user), you can completely depend on its accuracy (at the time it was written). If Britannica says something is true, you can bet your house, your partner, and children on it (though I don't recommend gambling on principle). In the days before home computers became ubiquitous, Britannica used to be only available in massive multi-volume paper editions costing hundreds and hundreds of pounds and the publishers could afford salesmen as my 13 year old self found out when, after writing off for a brochure, I was woken up shortly before lunch by one knocking on my door (the salesman not the brochure which had arrived days before). Now you can have the entire thing, including multi-media, on one DVD-ROM for about the same amount as a young teenagers's weekly pocket money is amazing, at least to my aging eyes. That it also includes 3 age-related version is even more so. Plus you get online updates albeit for a not so insignificant sum. As a good all-round encyclopaedia Britannica is the best.

Technical detail. When loading it onto your hard disk, you have a choice of installations: with or without the media content. If you opt for the latter you'll need the disc in the drive to access the media content, if the former it doubles the amount of space you need. I chose the latter and it took round about 20 minutes to install. Once installed it worked perfectly.

But even Britannica does have its limitations. It can't contain all the knowledge in the world. I checked out some of my favourites -Blues music, Science Fiction, the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami- and found the entries to be relatively slight and really little more than a starting point. Admittedly, in the grand scheme of things, these aren't major topics and there is much in depth material on history and the sciences.

Now the search engine isn't very flexible. I typed in soccer and got soca. No hyperlink for the acceptable term 'football'. Also when I first started using it, it seemed to only recognise a personal name by entering the surname first. However, in between the last couple of sentences, I've double checked this and now it is recognising both ways of entering the name. Odd. I've also checked soccer again and this time it has come up with a hyperlink for football. So it seems as if Britannica is learning as I use it. Either that or I've been doing something stupid which, sadly, is also possible. I'd be interested to learn if this has happened to anyone else.

I was going to rate Britannica at four stars but in the light of the preceding paragraph, I've upgraded it. It really is the best encyclopaedia in the world.
Ho-medics CBS-1000 max shiatsu massaging chair.
A great product. 5* review.
The prime criteria for something like this is: does it work? And the simple answer is: yes, very well.

Once you've got it out of the box, it's relatively easy to set up, though the manual (what there is of it) could have had a little more detail. It isn't obvious at first whether it's switched on or not because the indicator is two very thin rings around the flat switch which go red but once you known what you're looking for, it's fine. The controls -a small hand held device- are easy to use.

I started with the trial programme which I confess wasn't too comfortable. I felt like my back was being pulverised but you can either lower the setting or just endure the pain until you get used to it. Prior to this, I've just used wooden rollers or one of those things which heat up while you rub your muscles with it. This is way way better. I love it.

It also comes with a thin handy storage bag.

In short, this is a well-designed product which fulfills its purpose very well indeed. I can see me using it on a frequent basis. 
 One of the greats. 4* review.

There's no question that Berni Wrightson is one of the great horror story illustrators of all time and this is a good selection of his early work. Accompanying stories are numerous frontispieces from the two magazines mostly in colour, though the stories, with one exception, are in black and white.

What Amazon's blurb doesn't mention is that not all of the stories are actually drawn by Wrightson. Two of them are him inking Carmine Infantino's pencils to no great effect. Infantino being such a distinct stylist, there's no real apparent trace of Wrightson. Another is him inking Howard Chaykin. Although Chaykin's art is unmistakable, this is more of a collaboration with Wrightson's contribution being clearly visible and making it all the more interesting for it.

Many of the stories have been reprinted before but this is a nice collection to have. 
 Worth a try. 
3* review expanded from original Amazon.

Nice to see someone trying something a little different. It's just before D-Day and in an attempt to divert German attention from Normandy, Allied Command have sent two New Zealand commandos (the film is from NZ) to a Channel Island to destroy a gun emplacement but they find something else. Beneath the emplacement is a secret laboratory where one of Hitler's secret supernatural experiments have been taking place. Specifically, they've been trying to raise a demon. Unfortunately for them, they've succeeded.

It's low budget and much of it's set in one room. For most of the running time there are only three characters. Most of the gore is in the shape of already dead and mutilated German soldiers. There are only a couple of notable onscreen kills. Okay, this sounds as if I'm trying to put you off but I'm not. What is so good about this film is the sheer tension the director builds up between the characters that you can't look away from the screen and you really do not have any idea of what happens next. You have two enemies trapped with a devious man-eating demon who becomes the person you love. It is genuinely suspenseful and scary. The World War 2 setting is also an interesting factor which makes this different from the usual run of horror movies.

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