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Gemstones (8 March 2017)
I have rows of gems* on the bookshelves in front of me above my computer. They are like gold dust to me, but they are not made of gold nor are they particularly rare or expensive. They are a girl’s best friend but they are not diamonds*. Some are splendidly coloured but most of them are quite dull and uninteresting looking on the outside. They are all my shorthand books, old and modern, my treasures that enable me to take various shorthand journeys for whatever I want to know. Most of them are second hand, as I wasn’t around in the eighteen hundreds or early twentieth century to buy them new! I still have some of the books I learned from in the nineteen seventies, which were bought new, a pocket dictionary, a phrasing book and the big red dictionary. This last one has now been retired off, having fallen into several fragments, finished off by its extensive use in the early years of the websites. A replacement has now taken its place, as there is no let-up in searching for and checking on correct outlines.
* "gem" "diamond" Always insert the triphthong in "diamond" as these could be similar when hastily written
Ostro Stone - 2 kg topaz
A week ago we visited the Natural History Museum in central London where we saw many real gemstones. We wanted to see some historical wildlife paintings that were on a time limited display. Having seen those, we had a mind to revisit the dinosaurs nearby but the place seemed to be filling up rapidly with crowds of school children on their school trips, so instead we went upstairs to the minerals department. It was quite a contrast there, we had it to ourselves most of the time, empty and quiet, with row upon row of flat glass cases containing every mineral in existence, in all their varied forms. We had to be methodical about viewing it all, so we decided to go up one side and down the other. In the end we managed to see about a third of it and decided to save the rest for another day rather than cram in a tour of all the cases.
Minerals, Natural History Museum
As we came through the doorway, immediately in the centre is a very large deep blue topaz, the Ostro Stone, weighing about 2 kilograms, which has been treated to give it a deeper colour. It is about the size of my hand, and gleams and shines under its spotlights. We turned right and started with the vertical cases against the end wall. What a surprise, a truly* enormous natural nugget* of gold, at least two feet high. I mused on how the decision was made to either keep it as it is, a rare find, or to actually use the gold. Then I read the caption, it was a model, and the original had been melted down. The real nugget was called the Welcome Stranger, found in Australia in 1859, weighing 71.4 kilograms and it would be worth around half a million pounds today. The Greek poet Pindar* (5th century BC) described gold as a mythological personage “Gold is the child of Zeus, neither moth nor rust devours it but the mind of man is devoured.” Unfortunately it can also devour the landscape and its health, with certain mining techniques that consume vast quantities of rock to gain small amounts of gold, or the methods that use mercury or cyanide to release the gold from the ore, especially harmful if unregulated.
* "truly" Helpful to insert the first vowel, as this could look similar to "utterly"
* "nugget" Note that "ingot" is written with full N+G+T strokes, to differentiate
* "Pindar" This is the dictionary outline, but I would prefer to write with all full strokes (P+N+D+Ar), so that the 2nd vowel can be shown, otherwise this could equally be "Pinder" or "Pinter"
Welcome Stranger, replica gold nugget
There were many examples of polished gemstones, displayed alongside samples of their original state, dull rocks looking grey and lumpen, with no hint of what lay inside to the casual and ignorant observer. I was of course on the hunt for beryls of all types, and found every variation from small cut gems to enormous murky looking crystalline structures. My shorthand dictionary defines it as a kind of inferior emerald. In its pure form it is colourless and the colours come from impurities in the mineral. I was interested to discover that in the 13th century the first eyeglasses were made of beryl or rock crystal, before they had the knowledge to make lenses of glass, hence the German word for them “Brille”. The word means a sea-green blue colour, and the mineral is related to the aquamarine. To prevent myself being an inferior green version, I only need to run round the block and then I become a very rare and expensive red beryl. As the element beryllium, I am happy to aim for strong and lightweight but keen to avoid being steely grey and toxic. It might also be a disadvantage for me to be transparent to X-rays.
At the far end of the hall is The Vault, a strengthened secure circular room containing the most valuable items that need extra security. The most alluring was the Aurora Pyramid of Hope, a collection of 296 small diamonds in every available colour, collected over a 25 year period, and displayed in a triangle formation. The lighting changes from normal to ultra-violet, to bring out the changing colours. If you are going to collect every colour of diamond, then it makes sense not to aim for the big ones! We also saw some meteorites of Mars rock, and a small vial containing a smudge of white powder, which is a tiny quantity of microscopic diamonds obtained from meteorites. Three very dull rocks suddenly became rather interesting when I saw a large clear diamond sticking out of each of them. This is another type of rarity, in that the original find has been left intact and the gem not removed. Some larger diamonds were displayed at the other end of the hall, large, clear, and cut into various faceted shapes. I should have realised that they were replicas before I read the labels, and that such a collection of whoppers would not be lying around in ordinary museum cases.
Aurora Pyramid of Hope - coloured diamonds under ultraviolet light
The study of minerals is called mineralogy* and the persons are mineralogists and they do mineralogical work. The ores are mined by miners or mineworkers, who may spend their life in the mining industry, extracting* coal and metallic and other ores. The word ore is related to the word earth. Study of rocks in general is geology, and geological activities are carried on by geologists. The science of gems and precious stones is called gemmology. The most well-known gems are as follows: amethyst, aquamarine, citrine, diamond, emerald, garnet, jade, jasper, marcasite (another name for iron pyrite), onyx, opal, quartz, ruby, sapphire, topaz, tourmaline, tiger’s eye, turquoise, zircon. Note that granite has a different outline from garnet, and that silver and sulphur should have their vowels written in. Amber is tree resin from ancient forests that became fossilized through polymerisation. Jet is the fossilised wood of certain trees. Coral and pearl* are from animal origins. Some gems can be artificially created by growing them as crystals, or treating natural ones to produce different colours.
* "mineralogy" The second version shown is an optional contraction
* "extracting" Insert the middle vowel, and the 2nd or 3rd vowel in "extricating", as these have the same outline and similar meaning
* "pearl" An R-hooked stroke with this particular vowel is considered complete without a vowel sign
Star dust diamonds
As a child I was entranced by jewellery, not to wear but to just possess and admire. I did not actually collect it but I would often find a few bits of broken jewellery at jumble sales. I was given a few coins and I had to pay the person myself, this was in the hopes that they would only charge a penny or two, which they invariably did. I just wanted to look at the stones and silver coloured settings, so it was irrelevant if they were broken. Sometimes I wonder if a real diamond or gold setting ever passed through my hands, without any of us being aware of it. As time went by, I came to the conclusion that you could not really do anything with these items, or even real diamonds for that matter, other than gaze at them, and so interest waned.
My attention turned to my own version of treasure, this being colourful flowers, which seemed more precious as they would soon disappear and never stayed with us. When I moved to a house with my own garden, I became more patient and only had to wait for them to return the next year. They are always fresh and perfect, with a wider range of colours than the diamond collection mentioned earlier, and everyone can have their own at little cost. Maybe I should be growing a rose called White Diamond, Silver Shadow, Golden Showers, Ruby Celebration or Eye Of The Tiger. Or perhaps Little Gem lettuce would be cheaper and easier, and instead of admiring it I could have it on the dinner plate: one gemstone eating another. (1422 words)
Reminder of pairs to be differentiated:
Not lettuce, more celery
Misspellings 4 (9 March 2017)
Here are some more commonly misspelled* words. Converting speech to shorthand all takes place in the logical and orderly world of hearing groups of meaningful sounds (phonemes) and representing them in sequence along the lines of the notepad. Typing out your notes is rather different, your perfect world where sign and sound match is replaced by converting each outline to a learned spelling, quite often more of a visual clue to the word, than an exact representation of its sounds. When looking up outlines in the shorthand dictionary, it pays to be diligent with the spellings as well, so that both skills progress together. When the spell check shows up the red underlines, it is time to practice typing the correct versions, and even plain old keyboarding errors benefit from this, in order to* retrain the fingers.
* "misspelled" Note that "misspelt" uses upward halved normal L
It can be rather difficult to fit all these words into practice sentences, so I have asked the effusive but reliable Mr Speller to contribute some pages from his inimitable diary, where one never knows quite what he is going to get up to next, but we are nevertheless glad that he takes the time to record almost everything that he does. He clearly works for a publisher of English dictionaries and has swallowed more than a few in his time.
Dear Diary, This fine weather has been a cracking start to the month of March, as during FEBRUARY we had A LOT of ARCTIC weather with CHANGEABLE conditions and ADVICE from the weather BUREAU to take precautions to ADDRESS the problems it was causing. Fortunately my ACCOMMODATION remained at an ACCEPTABLE temperature and the postman* could still deliver my CORRESPONDENCE on his BICYCLE despite the snow. APPARENTLY there had been some AGGRESSION between NEIGHBOURS in the icy conditions but I hear they have been ACQUITTED by the court and we DEFINITELY won’t be seeing a repeat of that or anything like it OCCURRING again.
* "postman" Omits the lightly sounded T
Last week* I met up with COLONEL* Smith who is well-known in the world of COLLECTIBLES for his interest in ACQUIRING carved plum stone KERNELS. He has written a book on ATHEISM and another on the SCIENCE of growing BROCCOLI and also contributes a regular COLUMN in a local magazine. The last one was a HUMOROUS account of the antics of the BELLWETHER and other sheep on his farm and their PERSEVERANCE in the face of a very PERSISTENT and FIERY sheep dog called KETCHUP who HARASSES them during their ODYSSEYS over the hills and HEIGHTS of the area.
* Omission phrase "las(t w)eek"
* "Colonel" Written as pronounced, ignoring the first L of the longhand
Work at the office has been going well and there is much CAMARADERIE amongst my COLLEAGUES. The CONSENSUS is that we are a COMMITTED team, DEFINITELY worth more than our MEDIOCRE wages, and that it would be DISASTROUS for the company if we were to RECOMMEND that the staff never EXCEEDED their duties and refused extra MISCELLANEOUS projects that take* up their lunch breaks. However, after our almost SACRILEGIOUS remarks on being paid a positively MEDIEVAL wage, we were EXHILARATED to discover that our hard work and DISCIPLINE, carried out so SINCERELY and without PREJUDICE, has MYSTERIOUSLY come under the JUDGMENT of the chief accountant. He ordered an IMMEDIATE pay rise for all PERSONNEL which will bring an end to our financial EMBARRASSMENT and gives us confidence that BASICALLY everything would now be ALL RIGHT in our personal lives.
* "take" Insert the vowel, because as this is a narrative "took" could also make sense, but generally this common word would not need a vowel written in
On WEDNESDAY I had dinner at the MILLENNIUM Restaurant with SERGEANT Jones, the uncle of my DECEASED aunt, who died from eating a DISEASED fruit. He was a PROFESSOR of MATHEMATICS, which in England is known as MATHS for short and in the United States as MATH. He eventually became PRINCIPAL of the college. He had a FASCINATION with weight training and had invented a DEVICE to improve the DUMBBELL and other EQUIPMENT. However one day he MISGAUGED the weights, DECEIVED himself over his strength and hurt his back and so began a DESCENT into DISASTER filled circumstances. Over our coffee and a delicious RASPBERRY and PUMPKIN pie, I ADVISED him to take the ADVICE of his doctor and resume his former career in the JEWELLERY trade and in future be more JEALOUS to take SPECIAL care of his health. Finally we RECEIVED* the restaurant RECEIPT and we concluded our FRIENDLY afternoon LIAISON.
* Omission phrase "we (re)ceived"
I was pleased to RECEIVE a letter from a PLAYWRIGHT* friend of mine, who has written a book on the PRINCIPLES of stage production, with a guide to PRONUNCIATION, RHYTHM and the comic use of RHYME. For those who feel they PREFER this type of career, he has included a QUESTIONNAIRE* at the back to give them a THOROUGH understanding of the trade. He said that THEY’RE not going to get far unless THEIR enquiries are PRECEDED by a CONSCIENTIOUS study of the subject. He said that BUILDING YOUR library of information is the only way to PROCEED if YOU’RE interested in this PROFESSION. He states IT’S not rocket SCIENCE or NUCLEAR physics, and informing oneself* is the best way* to INOCULATE* oneself* against ITS disappointments.
* "playwright" The "wright" is related to "work/wrought" and means a worker/maker/builder, avoid the misspelling using "-write"
* "questionnaire" Note the outline for "questioner" omits the circle vowel
* Omission phrases "wu(n)self" "bes(t) way"
* "inoculate" Strictly speaking it is the halved L that should be resting on the line, but it is more sensible to let the N sit on the line rather than lowering it slightly, as it begins the outline
Recently the firm’s medical ADVISER* and health COUNSELLOR* both advised me to take a break, and this was endorsed by COUNCILLOR* Brown. So the end of the month saw me CEASE from my labours in the office and SEIZE the opportunity to take a SIZEABLE chunk of my holiday entitlement on my YACHT on the high seas. It was quite NECESSARY after all my hard work and UNNECESSARY to stay in the office. Mr Green will be AVAILABLE to stand in for me, and I will have a whole month entirely UNAVAILABLE to answer emails. I have decided to LOOSE the bonds of business life and LOSE myself in the pleasures of sea, sun, sand and SANDALS. I BELIEVE I can manage without emails but cannot GUARANTEE that I will not ACCIDENTALLY view one or two* on the phone. I will sail to FOREIGN shores and spend my LEISURE hours on the beaches. I hope* to OCCASIONALLY write more in my diary whenever there is an OCCURRENCE of something NOTICEABLE, a habit which is highly RECOMMENDED. (1015 words)
* "adviser" This is the correct spelling, although the (formerly) erroneous "advisor" is gaining ground
* "counsellor" is a person who gives counsel/advice
* "councillor" is someone who is a member of a council/administrative group
* Omission phrases "one (or) two" "I (h)ope"
"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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