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September 2017


Autumn Weather





Autumn Weather (12 September 2017)



As we approach the end of summer, all the little reminders have been badgering us with subtle changes that lessen the impact of having to admit that it is truly over. We have had the ominous sprinkling of brown leaves on the grass and paths, days that promise hours of sunshine but which turn less pleasant by mid-morning, and the realisation at the end of August that chilly October is only a few weeks* away. This last one brings the inevitable question*, will September side with August and be kind and warm, or cruelly take sides with October against our hopes and wishes? Officially* autumn (or fall) begins on the 21st of September, but as far as I am concerned* it is all about the weather, and what it allows us to do comfortably (or not) and with what clothing or precautions.


* Omission phrases "few wee(k)s"  "I am (con)cerned"


* "question" Optional contraction


* "Officially" Ensure the Shel stroke is clearly upwards, so that this does not look like "finally" which would also make sense. Advisable to always insert the last vowel in "officially" and "finally".



This summer in the UK has had several hot spells but also a few periods of heavy stormy* rain, so there has not been a time when the fine weather has continued long enough for us to entirely forget that we are living in chilly Britain. I welcome the rain as it makes for a green and healthy garden, cleans the paths and the greenhouse glass of accumulated debris, and swells the apples and pears on my trees. Summer rain here is not particularly cold unless it is also windy. The fish in the pond love it, as they find flies washed into the water, or at least* they get the entertainment* of patrolling the pond, as the rain pelts down on it, looking for these goodies sent from above, much as we go round hunting for unexpected bargains in the shops and markets.


* "stormy" Helpful to insert the final vowel, as nouns can also be used as adjectives e.g. "storm rain"


* "at least" and "at last" Always insert the second vowel


* "entertainment" Omits the middle N for convenience of outline



The first day of cooler breezes is always noticeable, as I find myself out and about miles from home without a jumper, and the prospect of waiting for the bus or train wishing that I had brought one. That is the first reminder that the weather gives us a limited number of* carefree months to play with, and that they are nearly used up. I spent* my early years determined to be always prepared for the cold and generally went about encumbered with mostly* unnecessary coats and jumpers “just in case”. As I now travel round the city and suburbs more than I did in the past, I have taken the opposite point of view*, and become determined not to be carrying more stuff than I need. The answer to this is the “Kag In A Bag” a kagoule* (thin nylon rain jacket) that rolls up to fit into a small drawstring bag.


* "number of " Note that "brief", which looks similar, should always have its vowel written in


* "spent" The outlines for "spent" and "spend" are identical, so context is require to read back


* "mostly" Omits the lightly sounded T


* Omission phrase "point (of) view"


* "kagoule" Also spelled "cagoule"



It is easy to concentrate too much on these minute details of home life and comfort, but as I write we are seeing the devastation and destruction* caused* by two hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, in quick succession, sweeping over the islands of the Caribbean and onto mainland Florida. Our television screens are bringing us images of the damage caused and overflowing rivers cascading violently through city streets. It is easy for city dwellers to be more distanced from natural forces and, in the busy-ness of daily life, to forget that they are not far away and can wipe out our creations in a short space of time*. In our favour we have extensive* monitoring and forecasting capabilities, and the ability to travel large distances rapidly, although evacuation* may not be available to those living in the islands or in poor areas.


* "destruction" Omits the K sound


* "caused" Special outline, to differentiate it from "cost"


* Omission phrase "short space (of) time"


* "extensive" Ensure the T is clearly vertical, so it does not look like "expansive" which has a similar meaning


* "evacuation" Not using the Shun hook, as there is a triphone before it. This is a general rule for this combination of sounds and helps with differentiation when vowel signs are omitted e.g. evacuation/eviction, graduation/gradation, situation/station



During these events we definitely do not want to see a reporter broadcasting their piece live from the sea front or riverside, with the storm surge piling up behind them. Northern Britain has more storms than we do in the south but nothing remotely on that scale. The last big and widespread* storm we have had in southern England was in October 1987, which stripped the leaves from the trees and we went from the green of autumn to bare winter overnight. Being in full leaf, many trees fell, which would not have happened if the branches had been bare. The constant howling of the wind, without variation or gusts, was quite strange and unforgettable, especially as the electricity was also out, and is something that we hope we will not hear again. (713 words)


* "widespread" The circle goes upwards a little further, in order to show the hook on the P stroke.  "Spread" on its own has a D stroke.


Cassini (15 September 2017)



On Friday 15th September the spacecraft Cassini ended its mission by being sent* into the atmosphere of the planet Saturn, when it was burned up and destroyed. It was launched in October 1997, and in 2010 it set out* on a 7-year mission extension* to explore Saturn and its moons. It has run out of rocket fuel and one writer said it is just about running on fumes. Its deliberate destruction has the purpose of disposing of it rather than risk the possibility* of it colliding with one of the moons and thus contaminating it for future exploration. Cassini’s impact course has taken five months, in a series of 22 orbits that pass between the planet and the rings. As it made its final descent, it continued sending information until it could no longer function. It then burned up like a meteor.


* "sent" Special outline, above the line so that it is not misread as "send"


* "set out" Halving for the T of "out"


* "extension" Keep the T clearly vertical, so it does not look like "expansion" which has a similar meaning


* "possibility" Optional contraction



Everyone knows that scientists like to approach everything with a dispassionate*, level-headed and rational attitude. It needs a cool, detached and thoroughly objective turn of mind to plan and carry out these space missions that will add to our fund* of knowledge of the workings of the universe. Nothing but logical and analytical* plans, methods, investigations and discussions will do, with everyone’s theories, models, notions, and conjectures* given equal consideration. This way of dealing with scientific missions has brought us to the place where we can gain a huge amount of information on distant planets and heavenly bodies in the unending blackness of outer space. They don’t get upset by the cessation of mere mechanical devices and expendable* hardware - surely not?


* "dispassionate" Normally the shun hook would go in the opposite direction to an initial hook or circle, to balance the outline, but that is not possible with this word


* "fund" Insert the vowel, as "fount" could also make sense here


* "analytical" Compare with the root word "analysing" in para 5


* "conjectures" Doubling is used for "-ture" for convenience here, as there is no other word that it could be, similarly "picture" "structure"


* "expendable" This is similar to "expandable" which should have its vowel inserted for clarity, well up over the circle S so it is clear it is a first place dot



The write-ups on this end of mission event are somewhat different though. Cassini did not descend, it plunged into the depths. Its travels through the rings of Saturn were in fact daring dives and at one point it leapt over the rings. The exploration is more than merely interesting, it is positively thrilling, and its 20-year journey is remarkable rather than merely informative. All regions of space ought to be equal but for some reason this one is described as unique. Its mysteries are, most unscientifically, irksome until they are solved, a tiresome state of affairs that promises to be never-ending in the study of the universe! But there are many pictures that are not only helpful but utterly* and truly* amazing*. These end of mission events are entitled the Grand Finale, which rather lets the cat out of the bag as to why we have all these emotional adjectives. Cassini, and other similar spacecraft, are going where no-one has gone before, on our behalf, and we are all invited to watch the entertainment*, the performance and the show as the drama unfolds, and, in this case, the final curtain.


* "utterly" "truly" Always insert the first vowel in these, as the are similar in outline and could be read for each other in many contexts


* "amazing" and "amusing" Always insert the middle vowel


* "entertainment" Omits the middle N to gain a convenient outline



If you are learning shorthand in order to be* a reporter, it will be your job to write such articles, and decide on the type of approach that is necessary, or expected by your employers, for each story. Disasters, crime and violence need no help to be more compelling. Science, as above, may need an injection of excitement, if it is written to those outside the scientific readership. Harmless and trivial space fillers of amusing* stories are about the only ones that require all the punning and descriptive skills that can be mustered.


* "in order to be" The word "to" is included in the first phrase, so the "be" does not have to go through the line for "to be"


* "amazing" and "amusing" Always insert the middle vowel



Fortunately Nasa* and others discussing this mission are delighted to share with us their enthusiasm and emotional attachment to the faithful, fearless but fated Cassini. They are giving us every detail of its doings, comings and goings, from its beginning to its final dramatic death plunge, pulling our heartstrings with it, as it enters its fireball ending, its glorious and spectacular demise and terminal blaze of glory. It went out with a bang as it smashed into the atmosphere, got torn apart, became a streak of ash, melted and vaporised. The end has come for the intrepid probe, and we have had the final bittersweet kiss goodbye. Descriptions of its end are a requiem for a machine, there will be grieving, flowing tears and emotional tributes.


* "Nasa" This acronym is written as sounded, just like any other word, but it is helpful to insert the vowels, at least on the first occurrence of it in a dictation



Someone said that the sadness was really for themselves, not knowing what mission may replace it in their careers, although they will be poring* over and analysing* the voluminous amount of information for many years. For some it is their last mission and their sense of loss is a reality check as they are approaching retirement, albeit a more comfortable one than Cassini was granted. This affection for a tiny mechanical device, meeting its end all alone miles from home, reminds me of the last lines of a poem I learned in school, "For whatever we lose (like a you or a me*) it’s always ourselves that we find in the sea."* In fact I found a plaintive description just like this, accompanying a photo from Cassini showing a pinpoint of light that was planet Earth, small and alone in the vastness* of space.


* "poring" To pore is to study intently, to "pour" means tip out a liquid


* "analysing" The basic outline for this word, but compare "analytical" in para 2


* "me" Vowel added for clarity, as in a poem the context is often insufficient, as words are used in unusual ways


* Poem entitled "Maggie and Milly and Molly and May" by e e cummings


* "vastness" Omits the lightly sounded T. Also the V must be clearly thick, so it is not misread as "fastness" (a fortified place or stronghold)



Although the mourners knew this was coming, we ordinary folk are all truly* shocked, saddened and bereft as it went to its fiery end, which will have occurred 83 minutes before we received its final signal. How will we cope now it is gone, never to return? Then, a few minutes after seeing the programme or reading the article, all that is forgotten as we give in to the gravitational pull of the kitchen, the kettle and the biscuit tin or cookie* jar, and wonder whether tomorrow’s journey to the office will be sunny or rainy. As the cliché goes - End of Story*.  (919 words)


* "truly" Always insert the vowel in this and in "utterly" as they are similar in outline and could be read for each other in many contexts


* "cookie" and "cake" Always insert the vowel, as they could both make sense in most contexts


* "End of Story" This is often shortened to "End of" for extra emphasis on the speaker's attitude about the matter


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"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

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