Minggu, 27 Oktober 2013

Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves

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I have just returned to my cosy computer desk after an afternoon in one of the nearby parks, taking pictures of the autumnal colours of the shrubs and trees. As the weather forecast is gale force winds in a day or two, I decided that if I wanted to have colourful photos of the trees covered in red, orange and yellow leaves, I had better get them now before they all blow away. Fortunately this afternoon the sun managed to shine in between the scudding clouds, and the winds were mild, so I got my photos successfully. Eventually mizzly rain finally persuaded me to go home, and I was delighted to find my bus arriving at the bus-stop* at the same time as I did. I had everything I wanted safely within the camera and had no further argument with what the weather was likely to do.

* "bus-stop" - the large circle is used to ease the reading, although only one S is pronounced. With a small circle it could be read as "bus top", see www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/theory-4-circles.htm#Ses-other-uses

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The park people had put a notice board at the entrance instructing visitors to keep away from the trees in stormy weather. This reminded me of the Great Storm of 1987 that left a trail of devastation and damage across the country, both trees and buildings, and how all the leaves were stripped from the trees overnight. The landscape went from end-of-summer green to bare in just a few hours. Summer seemed to turn to winter overnight and I felt somewhat deprived of the autumn glory of the trees that always signals the beginning* of the slow march towards winter. The storm’s official description was an extra-tropical cyclone, and not the hurricane that it was commonly labelled as being. The highest gust was recorded as 122 mph in Norfolk, England, and 137 mph in Brittany, France. There was extensive damage to power lines and buildings, and 22 people lost their lives.

* "beginning" - you could also use G+N hook written through or up close to the preceding outline, see www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/phrasing8-intersections.htm

* "miles per hour" - you could keep the L in this phrase if preferred, see this and "miles an hour" on: www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/phrasing5-omission.htm

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I woke up during that night and realised something was missing – the street lights were all off as there was no electricity. In addition something was different about the sounds – the wind was strong and howling, not just gusts here and there* as might be expected but a continuous sound with only a slight variation in the noise to indicate the changing direction of the gusts. The thick mist and rain was whipping past almost horizontally. I immediately thought of the roof tiles and spent the next few hours in bed telling them to stay attached to the house – fortunately they did and there was no damage. Everywhere we went in the ensuing weeks brought sights of fallen branches and trees, and smashed walls.

* "here and there" - this phrase omits the "and", see www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/phrasing5-omission.htm

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In the past* I had no camera to record the colours of autumn, and I would sometimes collect up the brightest leaves, especially from the street  almond trees whose leaves were the most brilliant orange and yellow. I washed them in the bath, dried them off and then played with rearranging and admiring them. I never knew what happened to them after that, as being quite young, I lost interest after a while and my parents would have cleared them away when they had been abandoned for other toys. At school we were sometimes shown how to make rubbings of autumn leaves, using thin paper over them and soft crayons, in the manner of brass rubbings. We then had an accurate outline with all the veins, which we could colour in. An alternative was to cover the leaf in thick paint and press paper onto it, to produce a print of the shape. The resulting artwork lasted a lot longer than a rapidly drying and disintegrating leaf. The brightest autumn leaf is one with the sun shining through it, and against a dark background, and for this it needs to be almost ready to fall, but still just clinging to the tree – something I did manage to get this afternoon in several of the sunny periods, before the clouds came over. (643 words)

* "in the past" - this phrase omits "the" which is safe to do here as it forms an English phrase, as well as a shorthand phrase. But if followed immediately by other words (i.e. used as an adjective to describe the next word) you would need to write it in full and preferably separately e.g. "in the past days" versus "in past days".

Sunlit autumn leaves

Minggu, 13 Oktober 2013

World's Strongest Man

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Lifting the Atlas Stones 1
This Christmas Pudding
is mine, OK?!
Earlier this evening I was watching on television the World’s Strongest* Man competition held in Los Angeles in 2012*. I do not spend an inordinate amount of time watching TV but when I settle into the armchair, I am usually only interested in the gentler subjects such as nature, history or craft work. However, I do find the Strongest Man programme quite compelling, and, meaning to only catch a few minutes of their “hard labour”, I often end up seeing it all, mesmerised by the truck pulling, car lifting, stone humping and keg tossing. All the while, I am constantly comparing their efforts with my own struggles with stubborn jam jar lids, heavy shopping, shifting half a bag of sand along the garden path, or moving out the iron garden bench in order to sweep up behind it, as well as putting it back again. Even a recalcitrant ring pull on a can has me wishing to call upon their* services to open it safely and easily. These men would find such tasks easier than blowing a feather away.

* "strongest" is an optional contraction, omitting the G stroke, similarly "longest"

*Long slash representing current century, see www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/vocabulary-numbers.htm#long-slash

* "upon their" uses doubling to represent "their"

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Whilst gasping at their seemingly impossible endeavours, and the ease with which they can carry them out, I am at the same time concerned that they are approaching the limits of their strength and are about to tear a muscle, hurt their backs or burst a blood vessel somewhere. Then I remind myself that they are surrounded by a small army of trainers and advisers who look to their every health need, and that a lazy viewer lounging on the sofa, eating junk food or smoking, is probably doing themselves more harm in the long run. The strong men have obviously done the necessary training regularly over a long period. It would be quite ridiculous to suggest that any slackness could be made up for at the last minute, by cramming in extra training to build themselves up in a hurry. Their physique cannot be obtained except by even, day-by-day growth – including resting time and correct nourishment.

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Atlas Stones
Atlas Stones
When you have worked and trained hard to gain a skill, whether it is the strength for weight-lifting, or shorthand, or any other subject, it is very difficult to accept “praise” that implies that you have some inborn gift or ability that made it all very easy to accomplish. The innocent commenter is in all probability blissfully unaware that such an implication is really an insult to all your hard work. If an ability were indeed inherited, then no praise at all has been earned, any more than you could* be applauded for being tall, having blue eyes or learning to breathe! Fortunately the Strong Man competitors all present themselves as friendly, polite, good-humoured* and courteous, so we will be spared finding out what they might manage in the way of retaliation against such an unthinking slur on their achievements!

*"could" is not phrased with the "you", to prevent it looking like "you can". "May" and "might" are handled similarly

* "humoured" The hooked and halved M stroke is not thickened for the D sound (as you would with "mud") as that is used by the IMP series, compare "clamber, clambered"

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Once they have gained the bulk and the muscle, it is not going to desert them on the morning of the competition. I would like to suggest* to you that your shorthand learning is very similar. Dedicated and persistent training over a period of time, rather than last-minute cramming, will enable you to last through your exam dictation or lengthy work assignment, and carry you reasonably painlessly over the sprinkling of difficult words that might come up. Knowledge of the common words and short forms must be like the strong man’s muscles – large, solid, flexible and dependable, doing their job with complete ease every time they are called upon, and working together to overcome any other obstacle that comes their way.

* This phrases omits the "to"

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The good news is that such persistent training does not need to take up huge amounts of your time and energy. Something done every day will soon become a habit, especially if your self-imposed daily assignment is kept manageable and pleasant. This all this adds up over time, without the work on any given day becoming overwhelming.* Every new outline learned is like another small muscle fibre added to the bundle, until you have, as the phrase goes, “an arm like a leg”. I like this quote by Sir Winston Churchill: “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.” (705 words)

* This is the dictionary outline with the Dot Hay against the W-sign

PS: Sheaffer Skrip red ink for the shorthand, to match the men's
faces and eyes as they put in maximum effort to gain the victory.
I wonder if it speeds up shorthand as well?

Piece of chocolate
"Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces
with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces." Judith Viorst

Jumat, 11 Oktober 2013

Well Hall Pleasaunce

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Mediaeval stone bridge over moat
Mediaeval stone bridge over the moat
I recently visited Well Hall Pleasaunce in South London. I went there occasionally in the past, when I lived closer, and the last time I saw it was about 15 years ago, when I found it to be fallen into neglect, with bare beds and empty ponds. At that time I was rather disappointed to see it in such a poor state, and wished that it could be brought back to its former glory. Happily, the park refurbishment was completed in May 2003*, made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it is now in immaculate condition, an oasis of green space and flower gardens surrounded by the residential suburbs of Eltham* and Kidbrooke.

*Long slash representing current century, see www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/vocabulary-numbers.htm#long-slash

*Pronounced "Eltam" here, but may be different for same placename elsewhere in England. The second dot is the vowel before the M, and not after the halved L stroke.

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Tudor Barn and moatPleasaunce (also spelled pleasance) means pleasure garden. The general countryside in the past was not necessarily seen as an outdoor play area, like we do today, with few roads and little safety for anyone to travel through. It was either farmed or wildwood, and all the parks, as we know them today, would have been the private grounds of grand mansions and palaces, reserved for royalty, lords and ladies, and their retinue, for recreation, supply of provisions and hunting.

The Well Hall estate dates from the 13th century. It was bought by the Borough in 1930 and opened as a community pleasaunce in 1933. The central feature is the moated island, although the manor house* that once occupied it was demolished in 1733 and it is now a flat paved area with seats and hedges. The only building that remains is the Tudor Barn alongside the moat, a red brick building which was used for storage and servants’ quarters*. It is now a cafĂ©, restaurant and function venue.

*You could phrase "manor house" using the stroke S and dot Hay, see
http://www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/theory-12-hay-aspirate.htm#beerhouse for numerous examples

* "quarter" can also be written by doubling the stroke, thus omitting the middle R

Rose garden
Rose garden

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Next to the moat is a large square rose garden, quartered by crossing paths, with rose beds in geometrical shapes each containing one colour of flower. Along the edges are ornamental cherry and crab apple trees, and around the perimeter are wide herbaceous borders filled with tall plants, backed by ancient high brick walls. The replanting was designed to reflect the original 1930’s design. 

Rose garden - sunken pond fountainIn the centre of the square is a circular sunken pond surrounded by a low rock wall. The tall fountain is shaped like a pile of rocks, above which are three fishes supporting two dishes and topped by two child figures holding the water spout. The fish have dolphin-like faces with forward facing eyes and beaks, copying the traditional depictions of large sea fish (and monsters) before accurate portrayal of real sea creatures was possible. The constant water flow has led to the growth of long strings of blanket weed hanging from the bowls and blowing in the breeze. Behind the rose garden is a bowling green with traditional wooden hut at one end and a wooden seating bower at the other. Beyond the trees to one side is a bog garden with tall waving grasses and a duckweed covered pond.

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Bee boles in wall with straw skep
Repaired bee boles and straw skep
The ancient mediaeval walls around the rose garden have been repaired and some of the bee boles replaced, with a reproduction skep placed in one of them. Others have been bricked up many years ago. Although the pleasaunce is now mainly ornamental gardens the estate would have originally produced food for the manor house and of course the skeps yielding a supply of honey, as well as providing pollinators for the fruit orchards and vegetable plots.
Leaning wall with buttresses
The wall is leaning at the same
angle as the buttresses

The perimeter wall in the second photo is leaning at an alarming angle and has had hefty buttresses added all along its length to hold it up. The buttress brickwork also appears to be quite old so this wall must have been* leaning for a considerable time*. Although it looks quite dangerous, it is probably stronger than the original wall as it is now made up of a row of stable triangles; however I would definitely not recommend climbing on top of it!

* "must (have) been" omits the "have"

* "for (a) considerable time" - omits the "a" and halves the B for the T of "time". See more at http://www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/phrasing2-theory.htm#Halving

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Italianate gardenAt the south end is the Italianate garden with a sunken area and beyond it the Long Pond with tall fir trees lining the straight stone path. This year’s planting is very colourful, being mainly intense hot reds and oranges achieved by a dense planting of dahlias and coleus amongst the clipped box balls. The rectangular pond is also quite colourful, being colonised by cloud-like clumps of bright green blanket weed in between the white water lilies with glossy green leaves and tangled red stems. The spraying fountain in the centre provides both movement and sound. There are no fish, which I was rather glad about as the pond is quite shallow, and the only wildlife I saw were water boatmen paddling and rowing their way around just beneath the surface. On a hot summer’s day it would be pleasant to sit on the stonework of the low walls or on the shallow steps, with the stones warmed by the sun, rather than using the wooden seats.

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At the far end is a wisteria-covered pergola, no flowers at this time of year, so this has been noted for another visit in spring when it will be festooned with masses of hanging purple flowers. To the rear of the gardens are woodland walks and a glen, which invite a further visit with the camera when the trees turn to their autumn colours. A well laid-out garden is attractive at all times of the year and I think that even in wintry weather, this garden will be of interest, especially when the frost covers the seed heads in the borders, and the long shadows pick out the shapes of the low box hedging. (930 words)

Sabtu, 05 Oktober 2013

Perseverance Quotes

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Road sign "5 mph only"
Snail's ultimate ambition
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Calvin Coolidge

The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it has to be done, whether you like it or not. – Aldous Huxley

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. – Charles Spurgeon

Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little. – Plutarch

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Sho window advertisement "Monopoly"
Job interview +
The only shorthand
writer = M-N-P-L-
Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit. – Vince Lombardi

Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired. – Robert Strauss

The secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows. – Aristotle Onassis

High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation. – Charles Kettering

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. – Derek Bok

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Road sign "Caution work (force) ahead"
is forearmed
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. – Winston Churchill

Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses. – George Washington Carver

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will and the other from a strong won't. – Henry Ward Beecher
(275 words)