Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Martian Bombshells

Martian Bombshells - Part 1 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Mangled shorthandIt is easy after a long day of working in front of the computer screen to find one's eyes beginning to close all by themselves. You only know about it when they suddenly spring open again some moments later. I was recently searching to find the plans for the rebuilding of my local shopping centre, when my tired eyes were arrested by the unexpected arrival on the screen of a page of cryptic writing. The unfamiliar squiggles seemed to rearrange themselves in my brain and I quickly typed a transcription before it disappeared. So, with a few grammatical corrections, here it is, an amazing archived report from our friendly neighbourhood Martian newspaper. Fortunately for us, they have unwittingly provided some good shorthand practice in the art of dealing with dictation "bombshells", that is, those difficult words buried amongst the simple ones, for which no outline of any sort comes to mind, resulting in shorthand paralysis and confidence-denting gaps, or worse. Practising all the awkward outlines before taking it from dictation should prevent you from falling by the shorthand wayside.

Martian Bombshells - Part 2 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Digging machine
Digging into the past
Earthlings Time Machine - Readers of The Martian Chronicle will be interested to know that our National Organisation for Space Survey Advancement (NOSSA) has been sending us reports of an Earth Time Machine that is being tested in an undisclosed terrestrial location that Earthlings call Kent England. Our roving cloud-covered Earth cams picked up the extraordinary visual, acoustic and vibrational activity a few weeks ago* and our scientists immediately relocated some of the geostationary observation vessels to the area to make additional recordings of the disturbances.

* Omission phrase "few wee(k)s ago"

Martian Bombshells - Part 3 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Demolition wall crunching machine
Feeding frenzy
The Earthlings seem to have reversed time in a small rectangular area in an unassuming shopping centre, apparently taking it back to a prehistoric era, possibly Jurassic or even Cretaceous, resulting in the demolition of certain of the central buildings. A huge rock strewn sink hole has appeared and fierce steel dinosaurs have emerged from its murky depths, eating up the buildings and chopping the fragments into a pile of amorphous rubble. The noise of these monsters has been picked up by several of our satellite audio and vibration sensors, enabling us to pinpoint the cataclysmic event and so focus the Earth cams with greater accuracy.

Martian Bombshells - Part 4 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Wall crunching closeup
Megadontosaurus Lithoraptor
We are not sure whether the dinosaurs have been enticed into consuming the buildings, or whether the Earthlings have accidentally created an earthquake which demolished them, with the giant theropods emerging from the past via a Time Hole and merely taking advantage of their new surroundings. One theory is that the creatures are pulling the buildings apart looking for prehistoric insects, worms or maybe bees nests where they can find energy-rich honey in large quantities. A powerful waterspout, released by the Time Machine, is dousing the rubble at regular intervals, and although the dinosaurs do not appear to drink very often, at least the water spray is keeping the demolition dust levels down, which enables our long-range camera lenses to record the action quite clearly.

Martian Bombshells - Part 5 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Caution signThis scene of controlled destruction is contained within a perimeter fence of white-painted hardboard, with plastic notice sheets pinned at several places stating that workers inside the experimental area must wear hard hats for their own protection. Little perspex windows have been made in the boards, so that the shoppers can observe the behaviour of the dinosaurs and report any creature nibbling the retaining fences, or run for cover in the event of an attempted breakout. The indigenous Earthlings are all walking up and down past the fences very calmly and continuing with their food gathering, which has led our sociological scientists to theorise that the resourceful Earthlings are either very resilient and adaptable, or extremely obedient to their leaders, or possibly it is just that getting the bread, milk and eggs from their local supermarket is much more* important to them at this cold time of year, when their priority is stocking the larder before the icy winds start to blow again.

* Omission phrase "much mo(re)"

Martian Bombshells - Part 6 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Water dome souvenir
Our Crystal Dome souvenir
with model of feathered dinosaur
Once the dinosaurs have exhausted* their food supply in this small area, we suspect* that they will be immediately despatched back to the past, and we would not be in the least surprised if the residents started to rebuild their environment. They already have pictures displayed in prominent locations of how they would like it to look in the future, including new shops and a cinema, and this has led to some of our more imaginative reporters guessing that it is all a gigantic stunt by a film company to advertise their new entertainment facilities, with their first feature movie obviously being of the "Dinosaurs invade the world" variety. We are at a loss as to why the inhabitants want to watch scary films, when their entire planet is a beautiful green and well-watered paradise, unlike our dry rocky world where all the greenery has to be grown in tiny quantities under crystal domes and our scarce water reserves* have to be augmented by supplies extracted from passing comets.

* The short E vowel dot is the only sign not written inside the Ses Circle

* The contraction is only used for the verb

* Keep the final hook and circle small, so that it does not look like "resources" which has a similar meaning

Martian Bombshells - Part 7 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Building site rubble
One of our reporters offered the outlandish theory that the Earthlings’ local council has found that using dinosaurs from the past is a brilliant way of saving money on demolition contractors’ charges, and as a result they are now able to afford to replace it all with a smart new pedestrian area containing seats and trees, where the hunter-gatherer shoppers can rest before they resume their search for essential supplies and bargains. We have not yet located the Time Machine, but we do suspect that they are actually storing it somewhere in the past, along with its operatives, and that it is scheduled for return when the demolition is complete, and they will then send the dinosaurs back to their normal Mesozoic jungle habitats.

Martian Bombshells - Part 8 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Ipod and notepad
Astronomy student
about to start homework
Our Earth cams are recording all that takes place in meticulous detail, in order to* produce a complete historical record of this highly interesting venture. The pictures of progress are being streamed live to our technical colleges*, so that our students can produce their own reports and summaries, which will help them with their final theses at the end of their courses. We are very grateful to the industrious Earthlings for providing such a wonderful educational spectacle for our inquisitive youngsters and, once it is all finished, we will be showing our appreciation by visiting the area in disguise and spending some Earth money tokens, to help their economy and keep the shops in business.

* Omission phrase "in ord(er to)"

* Omission phrase "tech(nical) colleges"

Martian Bombshells - Part 9 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Mars-like marbles
Mars before: with water   Mars after: without
Note our recent discovery that
 the fabric of space is actually knitted
If you are wondering how we will get Earth money tokens legally, that will be solved by bringing with us some of our industrial waste gold nuggets* for sale in the local market. We will form them into keyrings, phone cases and bottle openers, so that they are more attractive to the buyers. We will then spend the metallic and paper money tokens on that most precious commodity, bottled water, which amazingly* is available in large quantities at very low cost in the supermarkets. This will delight everyone back home on our dry dusty planet. One thousand bottles will be presented to the Monarch, one hundred to the Heads of Area Government, and fifty as prizes to our best pupils on the Astronomy, Science and Interplanetary Relations course at the Higher Martian Technical College*. Watch this space for further updates and a chance to win one of the bottles of water in our upcoming competition. Follow the  link below to see a picture of what we believe is a diagram of the control panel of the time machine. (1244 words)

* "ingots" uses full stroke T instead of halving, to differentiate it

* Always insert the 2nd vowel in "amaze, amuse" and all derivatives

* Omission phrase "Tech(nical) College"


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Making A Start

Making A Start - Part 1 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Animatronic at Natural History Museum, London
Yippee, Ebay books have arrived!
Here we are, three quarters* of the way through January and somehow I have avoided being sucked into the mire of New Year's Resolutions. My view is that when someone really is enthusiastic about doing something new, it is likely they would start as soon as possible, preferably immediately, and not wait for the excuse of just filling the empty months at the beginning of the year. When I clear away after Christmas, I often find myself continuing on with sorting out the cupboards and, with the first sunny day, it escalates into a spring clean of the corners most in need of attention. If you are one of those making a start on shorthand or making that extra push towards speed goals, then I suggest you get stuck in straight away*, and not wait until you have an expensive pen, deluxe notepaper and a pile of books with all the supposed miraculous* shortcuts. You can use a pencil on cheap notepaper and learn the strokes from the main website without any delay and put your decision into action so that it does not evaporate before the ordered books arrive.

* Optional contraction, using doubling "qua(r)ters"

* The archaic version "straightway" would be best signified by a wavy line underneath

* Advisable to insert last vowel, as the noun "miracle" is sometimes used as an adjective

Making A Start - Part 2 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Meridian Line, Stratford Station, North London
Step over the line, no going back
Making a start is the biggest hurdle, but once you have begun your shorthand journey, there will be no stopping you and you will not* care whether it is new year or old year. I have found that it is not resolutions that are needed but plain resolve which my onscreen thesaurus describes as ambition, aspiration, commitment, concentration, decisiveness, dedication*, determination, diligence, dynamism, energy and enthusiasm. Here are some more - firmness, fortitude, intensity, interest, keenness, motivation, perseverance, persistence, resilience, self-discipline*, steadfastness, tenacity and willpower.

* "you are not" uses full strokes, if halved it would look too similar

* Keep the D clearly halved, so it does not look like "education" (as in para 6)

* On the line, as the first vowel is the E in self, not the I in discipline. Of all the prefixes, only the Con Dot is ignored when choosing outline placement, because con words are so numerous.

Making A Start - Part 3 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

All these are different flavours of the same thing, but I prefer the more punchy single syllable versions: drive, zeal, guts, nerve, pluck, bottle, grit and, my favourite, oomph. Excuse me while I get a drink and a snack, and settle down in the comfortable armchair with the shorthand dictionary, before I think about beginning to get ready to make the initial preparations for a small preliminary start on one of them, if I feel up to it. I feel I need some inspirational quotes from the past to help me get moving.

Blackfriars Bridge, London
Everything looks like outlines
Making A Start - Part 4 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
  • The best time to do something worthwhile* is between yesterday and  tomorrow. - Unknown
  • A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. - Harvey Mackay
  • In the field of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind. - Louis Pasteur*
  • The only place where Success comes before Work is in the dictionary. - Anon
  • That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Don't be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small steps. - David Lloyd George
* Omits the Ith "wor(th)while"

* The French vowel is signified by writing the dash parallel to the stroke

Victoria Station, London
Looking for one that says "Hundred Wpm Town" (calling at All Speeds Inbetween)

Making A Start - Part 5 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
  • Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. – Nido Qubein
  • The secret of a good memory is attention, and attention to a subject depends upon our interest in it. We rarely forget that which has made a deep impression on our minds. - Tryon Edwards
  • Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed. – Peter Drucker
  • Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. – Daniel J Boorstin
Making A Start - Part 6 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

    Park stairs ascending
  • No great man* ever complains of want of opportunity.- Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • One's mind has a way of making itself up in the background, and it suddenly becomes clear what one means to do. – A. C. Benson
  • Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb. - Sir Winston Churchill
  • Regret for wasted time is more wasted time. - Mason Cooley
  • Speech is the mirror of the mind. - Seneca (for speech read: your written outlines)
* Helpful to insert the vowel, as "mind" would also make sense in this context

Making A Start - Part 7 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny*. - Tryon Edwards
  • To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. - Anon (the hammer is your shorthand and the nails are outlines)
  • The world belongs to the energetic. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Enthusiasm moves the world. – Arthur Balfour
  • Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (804 words)
* Ensure the N is not curled at the end, so that it does not look like "destination" which has a similar meaning

Countryside sunset

Friday, 16 January 2015

Tall Ships Regatta

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 1 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Tall Ships GreenwichLast September we visited the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta and Festival. I always enjoy going back to Greenwich, where I used to live, as there is much to see, both in Greenwich Park and by the riverside. Greenwich is always full of tourists and the town centre, being small, gets very crowded but this time the whole river front area was thick with people, families and children, enjoying all the historical displays and stalls. The event had begun with a 4-day regatta in Falmouth, Cornwall, followed by a 3-day race to Greenwich, and then a further 5 days of events held at both Greenwich and Woolwich, which is a few miles further down the river. Our first thought was to get to the riverside to see the ships sailing up and down but we found that the people at the railings formed an impenetrable wall of backs! We decided to look round the stalls first and later on find a riverside gap away from the main events area.

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 2 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Officer in uniformMost of the stalls were manned by history enthusiasts in full period costume. The most popular seemed to be the sailors, from the simply dressed humble seamen up to the officers in their bright red uniforms, with gold buttons and gleaming swords. They spent most of their time posing with people for photographs, and answering questions* about their lives and jobs. In such a grand historical setting, it seemed to me that it was the ordinary present-day people who looked out of place, and I really felt as if all the characters from the paintings in the nearby museums had just walked out for some fresh air and to meet their descendants. As I looked at them, it was difficult to imagine them in suits or jeans, wearing trainers, at work in front of their computers, driving a bus or flying a plane, or serving in the local supermarket. Fortunately not one of them was tempted to use their smartphone whilst on view to the public!

* Optional contraction

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 3 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Officer's navigation equipmentI enjoyed visiting the stalls that showed the occupations and daily lives of people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries - sewing and making clothes, wool dyeing, food preparation and storage, book-binding, navigation, medicines, wheelwright, wood turning, care and repair of swords and guns, and making lead shot, ropes and fishing nets. One of the tents was made up as an officer's quarters, with the table outside displaying maps, charts, compass, sextant and other navigational equipment. The most noticeable aspect of all these was how everything was hand-made by the artisan, something that was to disappear rapidly as the Industrial Revolution got underway in the mid eighteen hundreds.

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 4 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Sailors' foodThe tables showing the sailors' food had salted meat, coarse bread, dried beans, dried fruit, and ship's biscuits called hard tack. An original ship's biscuit can be seen in the museum, full of weevil holes. Some large earthenware jugs contained grog, which was a mixture of weak beer or rum, lemon or lime juice, and sometimes with additional sugar or cinnamon. The flavours were added to the grog to disguise the taste of the water, which would quickly turn green in storage, and also the water diluted the alcoholic element.

Officer's foodIn contrast, the spread on the table of officers' food was very much more* attractive. The tablecloth was covered in fine china plates laden with delicious looking food, including fresh fruit and vegetables.

* Omission phrase "very much mo(re)"

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 5 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Model sailing boat poolOne very interesting activity was a large rectangular blue paddling pool, not for paddling but for model sail boats. The boats were simple sturdy chunks of wood plus sail, and two very large fans provided the wind to blow along the length of the pool. The boats plied back and forth*, surrounded by excited shrieking children, who turned each boat around as it came up to them, and sent it back across the miniature ocean again. I think many of them were having competitions with their friends as to whose one would arrive at the other side first, and were probably also making plans to construct their own boats as soon as possible when they got home. It was great fun to watch and very educational*, showing how sailing ships can travel in a direction different from the one in which the wind is blowing.

* Omission phrase "back (and) forth"

* The U diphthong sign would normally be written outside a shun hook, but here there is nowhere else to put it

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 6 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Climbing rigging for childrenIn the grounds of the Royal Naval College were rows of tents, displaying the literature and wares of many societies and organisations that one could support or join, such as sea cadets and marine conservation. One tent had seascape paintings and giant wood carvings in the manner of figureheads, which one could place an order for. Further along were some wooden masts with sails and rope ladders, where children could try their strength, skill and bravery in climbing, with safety harness, to the top of the rigging. At the far end were two traditional fairground rides -  a helter skelter and the swinging gondolas. Along the other side were a multitude of food and refreshment stalls with seating* areas, smelling very delicious and causing some hunger where there was none before! Fortunately, we had our sandwiches in our bags, and the only problem was finding somewhere to sit. Eventually we ended up by the riverside and entertained ourselves with throwing some spare old bread to the seagulls, with one person throwing and the other taking video and photos of the birds swooping and screeching.

*Essential to put in the dot vowel, very clearly thick, as "sitting" has the same meaning

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 7 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

We returned the next day in order to see the Queen's royal row barge Gloriana come past at midday. We knew that there would be few gaps at the railings and we wanted to get good photos, so we travelled the short distance on the Docklands Light Railway to the other side of the river, where there is a small park and plenty of space to view the river scene. The barge came past right on time, although a good zoom on the camera was necessary as it stayed nearer to the far bank. It went on round the bend of the river and out of sight, on its way to Woolwich, and after a short while I was delighted to see it returning upriver again, with the skilled oarsmen working hard to keep the vessel moving at a good speed. The sun was out and the sparkling river and golden barge made a glorious spectacle. In the National Maritime Museum is Prince Frederick's state barge of 1732, gilded in 24-carat gold leaf, and seeing the Gloriana made me wonder how that one must have looked when it was in use.

Queen's row barge Gloriana

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 8 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Mermaid figureheadWe returned via the foot tunnel which goes directly from the park to the Cutty Sark area on the other side*. The Cutty Sark was teeming with visitors as usual but was rather outshone by the other sailing vessels going slowly up and down the Thames. Their slow progress seemed unhurried and stately, as we are used to seeing the river traffic moving much faster, with the Thames clippers constantly zipping past at high speed. The ships were giving tours of their decks when moored, and rides along the river. I enjoyed seeing the various figureheads, from pale seahorse to a fiery flying serpent in brilliant colours. My favourite was the beautiful mermaid, guiding the ship across the seas and ensuring its safe arrival in port after its hazardous journey across her domain.

* Omission phrase "on the oth(er) side"

Tall Ships Regatta - Part 9 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Talls Ships Greenwich
The next Tall Ships Races will start in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in July 2015 at the Titanic Maritime Festival, and the ships will go on from there to events in Norway at the end of July and Denmark in early August. Greenwich will have to wait until April 2017 when it will be the starting point for the Transatlantic* Tall Ship Regatta which will go via Portugal, Bermuda and Boston to Quebec in Canada, and finally returning to Europe in September. (1300 words)

* This can also be contracted to "traslantic" (see www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/contractions-optional.htm)