A review of the new movie “Before I Go To Sleep”

September 30th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

This is a solid enough film but not the best memory loss movie. See my review here.

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Fancy travelling somewhere different? Want a bit of excitement? Here are 13 suggestions.

September 30th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

As you’ll see from this section of my web site, Vee and I like to travel to different countries and, over the years have been to some fascinating places. Not just nations like Egypt, India and China, but quite exotic locations like Uzbekistan, Iran, Syria and Guatemala. and Vee especially has done some fun things like hang-gliding in Brazil, zip-wiring in Costa Rica, and bunjee-jumping in South Africa. Where should we go next?

In this article in today’s “Mirror’ newspaper, there are 13 suggestions for some very different – including very dangerous – holiday adventures. One of them is the Macau Tower in China which offers a bungee off the highest commercial jump in the world at 765 feet. But Vee has already done a bunjee jump of 708 feet [see here], so that’s really no big deal.

Actually, we’re thinking of Ethiopia. Any advice or suggestions?

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Why has the West been so globally dominant in the last 500 years? It’s latitudes not attitudes that explains it.

September 29th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I am currently reading “War: What Is It Good For”? by Ian Morris and this fascinating look at big history frequently refers to the ‘lucky latitudes’. This led me to look up earlier writing by Morris on this idea that it is geography and not biology that has largely shaped the history of civilisations.

In this article, Morris gives a lightning tour of world history. emphasising the advantages to humankind of farming in the latitudes between 20° and 35° north in the Old World and a similar band between 15° south and 20° north in the Americas.

“So what do we learn from all this history? Two main things, I think. First, since people are all much the same, it is our shared biology which explains humanity’s great upward leaps in wealth, productivity and power across the last 10,000 years; and, second, that it is geography which explains why one part of world – the nations we conventionally call ‘the West’ – now dominates the rest.

Geography determined that when the world warmed up at the end of the Ice Age a band of lucky latitudes stretching across Eurasia from the Mediterranean to China developed agriculture earlier than other parts of the world and then went on to be the first to invent cities, states and empires. But as social development increased, it changed what geography meant and the centres of power and wealth shifted around within these lucky latitudes.

Until about ad 500 the Western end of Eurasia hung on to its early lead, but after the fall of the Roman Empire and Han dynasty the centre of gravity moved eastward to China, where it stayed for more than a millennium. Only around 1700 did it shift westward again, largely due to inventions – guns, compasses, ocean-going ships – which were originally pioneered in the East but which, thanks to geography, proved more useful in the West.

Westerners then created an Atlantic economy which raised profound new questions about how the world worked, pushing westerners into a Scientific Revolution, an Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. By the mid-19th century, the West dominated the globe.”

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The fascination story of the remains of King Richard III

September 28th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I did a blog posting some time ago about the discovery in a Leicester car park of the skeleton of England’s King Richard III who was killed at the battle of Bosworth in .

The city of Leicester put on a temporary exhibition in the city about the discovery of the remains and the decretive work to establish that it was indeed the king. On one of my regular visits to leicester to see my sister Silvia, we visited this exhibition.

Now there is a permanent King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester and, on a visit ti the city this weekend, my sister and I went to see it. We still don’t know a lot about Richard but now we know a lot about his bones.

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A review of the film “Divergent”

September 28th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

If you enjoyed “The Hunger Games”, you’ll probably like “Divergent” – see my review of the movie here.

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Among all the trouble spots in the world, don’t forget Uzbekistan

September 26th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

There are so many places of armed conflict and human rights abuse around the globe that it’s tempting to cut oneself off from the news or to focus only on the current or largest threats like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But we should not overlook other trouble spots such as Uzbekistan where there are up to 12,000 political prisoners.

Human Rights Watch has just published a new report on the country entailed “Until The Very End”. This 121-page report presents disturbing new findings about the treatment of 34 of Uzbekistan’s most prominent people imprisoned on politically motivated charges. They include two of the world’s longest imprisoned journalists and others who have languished behind bars for more than two decades.

You can access the report here.

I cannot forget the situation in Uzbekistan because I read a book about the nation [my review here] and I visited the country as a tourist [my account here].

Posted in World current affairs | Comments (0)


Who was the first to suggest a standard system of tipping?

September 26th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

You might be surprised – apparently the idea in Britain goes back at least to 1768, as you will see from this story on the BBC web site.

Like many people, I really don’t like the system of tipping. It obscures the issue of low wages. One is never sure whom to tip and how much. And, if one travels abroad (as I do), one struggles to know the local practices. The USA is a nightmare.

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More fun time with my granddaughter Catrin

September 25th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Earlier this week, the Labour Party held its annual conference in Manchester and both parents of my granddaughter Catrin were attending parts of the event, so we looked after her for a couple of nights and a couple of days. We had lots of fun together and, as always, she was so chatty and funny.

We drove over to the Bekonscot model village in Beaconsfield. This is a delightful location which has been open since 1929. We’ve taken various children there over the years, including Catrin’s daddy when he was a little boy and Catrin herself almost two years ago [see account here]. She is now so much taller and was able to look down on the model buildings and features and enjoy even more the rides and the playground.


Catrin looks like a model herself


Catrin makes a friend of Noddy


The Three Stooges:
giant teddy, little Catrin and old granddad

That afternoon, we took Catrin to see a film which is now something of a regular feature. This time, it was an animated movie called “The Boxtrolls” [my review here]. She knows all about trolls from “Frozen” and other stories and these are very cleverly represented through stop-motion capture. It’s a little bit scary for young ones though, so Catrin held on to my hand most of the film and sat on my lap for the final third. During the credits, she went to the front of the cinema to dance to the music.

Next day, I took Catrin to one of London’s museums at South Kensington. Catrin has been to them all before but we’ve never managed to see the dinosaur gallery at the Natural History Museum because it has always been so crowded in the holiday season. This time, we were able to have a good look round and all went well until we came across a real dinosaur.

When I’d finished taking some photographs, I realised that Catrin had disappeared and that the dinosaur had gobbled her up. But I attacked him with great ferocity before he could swallow her and rescued her. I think it was a T-Rex but I had no opportunity to check out the type of dinosaur. Once I’d rescued Catrin, we had to run – to the museum shop to buy her a dinosaur egg which at her home was placed In warm water and revealed her own baby dinosaur.

Throughout her time with us, Catrin was just so good – no tears, no tantrums, always obedient – and so much fun. We played lots of games and had so many chases and tickles.  She is a credit to her wonderful parents. The only problem was night times – she woke in the night both times and needed attention and she was up early both mornings wanting a play companion. So I had much less sleep than I need and the night after she went home I slept almost 12 hours.

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How has market research changed in the age of social media?

September 24th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Less than two weeks before the referendum on Scottish independence, there was a YouGov poll suggesting that the ‘yes’ vote was in the lead but the actual result was a 10 percentage point victory for the ‘no’ vote. So was the YouGove poll flawed? According to the pollster’s Chief Executive Stephan Shakespeare, the poll was accurate but opinion changed. He argues that theses days political and consumer opinion is very volatile.

Shakespeare says YouGov has seen its polls fluctuate more because citizens and consumers think and act faster in the digital age, and everyone has a voice, thanks to social media. “People have become much less loyal and less fixed in their affiliations in political terms,” says Shakespeare. Attitudes to consumer brands are also more fickle. “Marketers are extremely nervous about the degree their brands are resilient to outside forces and knocks,” he says.

Real-time monitoring was once a novelty, but not any more. Shakespeare says: “Markets are moving faster, opinions are changing faster. Companies’ reputations go up and down because of a greater variety of forces. That’s where market research needs to be.

These are quotes from an article in today’s “Evening Standard”. You can read the piece here.

Posted in British current affairs, Consumer matters | Comments (0)


The war of Jenkin’s ear – the oddest name for a conflict in British history?

September 23rd, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I am currently reading “War: What Is It Good For”? by Ian Morris and he mentions the war of Jenkin’s ear which prompted me to remind myself what this oddly-named conflict was all about.

It was a war between Britain and Spain that lasted from 1739 to 1748, with major operations largely ended by 1742. The body part in question was an ear severed from Robert Jenkins, captain of a British merchant ship. The severed ear was subsequently exhibited before the British Parliament.

However, this incident happened  in 1731, years before the actual war which gave the conflict its name, and the colourful name was not coined by Thomas Carlyle until 1858, almost a century later.

You can read more about the war of Jenkin’s ear here.

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