Two days with my special young friend Joshua

October 30th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

In the last few months, Vee and I have hosted stays from a  number of youngsters. We’ve had our granddaughter Catrin (three and three-quarters) – see account here; we’ve had Vee’s great niece Yasmin (8) and great nephew Lucas (almost 6) – see account here; and this week – half term in the south of England – we looked after Joshua (seven and a half ) for a couple of days and nights.

Vee and I have known Joshua’s Chinese parents for almost a decade and half and we are as close as family. Indeed, a few years ago, all five of us went to China for three weeks together  - see account here.

Joshua & Roger ready to hit London town

Joshua is very, very keen on Lego, so I began his time with us by taking him to the exhibition in the east end of London called “The Art Of The Brick”. This comprises over 85 remarkable art sculptures created from more than a million Lego bricks by the American artist Nathan Sawaya. Then we went to “Hamleys” on Regent Street, which is billed as the finest toy shop in the world, where we bought a Lego construction kit. It was of some kind of space fighter and, although it was categorised as for kids of 8-14, Joshua had no problem making it up. Finally that day we returned to Harrow and went to see a movie in 3D called “The Book Of Life” which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Joshua with his Lego purchase

Next day, Joshua & I headed back in central London to visit the London Aquarium. I have been here many times, including with Catrin and with Yasmin & Lucas, but it was Joshua’s first time there. He loved it and we spent an hour and a half there. He got to touch a star fish and see sharks and penguins. After lunch at a Turkish restaurant, we took a black cab east along the River Thames to view some famous London sights: “HMS Belfast”, Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London.  At the Tower, we saw the wonderful and moving commemoration of the 888,246 British servicemen and women who died in the First World War. Titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” after a poem written by an unknown soldier, this is a collaboration between ceramic artist Paul Cummins and set designer Tom Piper with one poppy representing each fallen hero.

“Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”

Joshua was a joy to have with us – so well-behaved and no trouble at all. We are so blessed to have such little ones in our lives to keep us young at heart.

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18 weird German words you won’t believe exist

October 29th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

The Germans certainly have a way with words – a weird way – as you’ll see from these examples.

Ist Wunderbar, ja?

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)

Are there really multiple universes out there?

October 28th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Vee and I are currently watching the new BBC 2 series titled “Human Universe” which is written and presented by Professor Brian Cox. In the second programme in the series, entitled “Why Are We Here?”, Cox concludes that our universe is simply one of an infinite number of universes making up the multiverse.

I confess that I find this notion mind-blowing. Among the many questions it raises in my mind are the following:

Will we ever be able to prove the validity of such a theory? Is it simply like the medieval debate about the number of angels than could dance on the head of a pin? If the theory is correct, does it have any practical consequences for us in our universe? Or will it just be subject matter for works of fiction like the three novels by Philip Pullman that make up “His Dark Materials”.

You can read a brief article on five reasons why there may be multiple universes here.

Posted in Science & technology | Comments (1)

Britain’s intervention in Afghanistan – the cold facts

October 27th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

As Britain’s combat role in Afghanistan comes to an end, some facts to ponder on concerning our involvement:

  • Length of intervention: 13 years
  • Maximum troop deployment: 10,000
  • Total number who served: 140,000
  • Number of British troops killed: 453
  • Number of British troops wounded: 2,188
  • Financial cost: £37 billion

During this period:

  • Number of US military deaths: 2,210
  • Number of Taliban killed: up to 35,000
  • Number of Afghan civilians killed: estimated 21,000

Let is hope that it was worth it and that the Afghan army can beat or at least contain the Taliban and that the Afghan government can offer political stability and economic growth.

Posted in History | Comments (0)

As we turn the clocks back in the UK, around the world who does and who does not practice daylight saving time?

October 26th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

If you look at the world map on this web page, you’ll see that almost 80 nations – notably those of Europe and North America – practice daylight saving, but most of the rest of the world manages without this practice. The same web page provides some interesting facts on the practice:

  • The USA has daylight saving but not Arizona or Hawaii
  • Canada has daylight saving but not Saskatchewan
  • Half of Australia practices daylight saving but half does not
  • In Brazil, only the southern states practice daylight saving

The time arrangement of countries is often a varied and controversial matter. For instance, continental United States has four time zones but China manages with one.

Here in the UK, one suggestion – which I support – is that England, Wales and Northern Ireland adopt double summer time, leaving Scotland on its own time. You can read the case for this here.

In the USA, one suggestion – which is worth debating – is that the continental United States should move to just two time zones. You can read the case for this here.

What do you think about daylight saving?

Posted in British current affairs, World current affairs | Comments (5)

A review of the new Brad Pitt film “Fury”

October 26th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Brad Pitt is back in a Second World War movie, but “Inglourious Basterds” it ain’t – see my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)

Do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? Want to know mine?

October 25th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Someone asked me today what my personality type was in terms of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? I had to search through my personal records to find the report booklet from when I completed the MBTI questionnaire on a training course which I did many years ago.

I was assigned type ENTJ. What does that mean? The official description is as follows:

“Frank, decisive, assume leadership readily. Quickly see illogical and inefficient procedures and policies, develop and implement comprehensive systems to solve organizational problems. Enjoy long-term planning and goal setting. Usually well informed, well read, enjoy expanding their knowledge and passing it on to others. Forceful in presenting their ideas.”

If you know me, is this how you see me? If you don’t know me, on this assessment would you want to know or work with me?

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A review of the film “Gone Girl”

October 24th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I haven’t read the novel (I will now) but I have seen the film (I want to see it again) and “Gone Girl” is a terrific thriller – two and half hours of edge of the seat tension. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)

Do you accept that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin in the killing of President John F Kennedy?

October 22nd, 2014 by Roger Darlington

The 1960s was my decade – I was aged 12-22, so it was the formative years for me and I remember it all: James Bond, the Beatles, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam …

I am currently watching the showing on British television of an American series called simply “The Sixties” and Episode 3 is devoted entirely to the assassination of President Kennedy.

The programme reminds viewers how independent were the members of the Warren Commission and how thorough was their report. I have always accepted their conclusion that Kennedy was shot by Oswald alone.

The programme looks at a few of the many conspiracy theories around the assassination, dismissing each. Indeed no alternative theory has ever been supported by credible evidence.

Yet, at no point since the assassination has a majority of the American public accepted the conclusion of the Warren Commission. Even today twice as many Americans believe that others were involved in the killing than accept that Oswald was the sole assassin – see polling data here.

Of course, the United States is the society where many believe that Area 51 is hiding evidence of aliens, that the Government was responsible for 9/11, and that Obama is not an American. Why are Americans so prone to believing conspiracy theories and why do they have such an ambiguous relationship with the truth?

Posted in History | Comments (3)

Bye-elections in the House of Lords

October 21st, 2014 by Roger Darlington

If you’re British and interested in politics, you’ll know that that we have recently had two bye-elections to the House of Commons: Rochester and Strood, where UKIP took the seat from the Conservatives, and Heywood and Middleton, where UKIP narrowly failed to take the seat from Labour.

Even if you’re obsessive about British politics, it’s unlikely that you know that in recent months there have also been two bye-elections in the House of Lords. The possible candidates (hereditary peers) and the electorate (all current Lords members) are pathetically tiny. Sound crazy? It is. You can learn more in this blog posting and comments and read the experience of one of the voters.

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)