Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Science Fiction Double Feature

I just love this cartoon from Tom Gauld! I am a sci-fi geek and utopian societies and dystopian societies fascinate me. Well done for combining both into one brilliant comic!

Do you prefer to read about utopian societies or dystopian? I prefer dystopian because you feel like "well, at least it is not as bad as all that!" But also I am interested how power corrupts or how we have brought distruction on ourselves through greed and could maybe learn how to NOT make those same mistakes.

My friend Priya will only read utopian novels because she likes thinking about perfect scenarios.

What about you?

Monday, 28 September 2015

Mrs Tittlemouse Joins the Suffragettes by Beatrix Potter

Click to (hopefully) enlarge! 

One of our favourite cartoonists Tom Gauld strikes again. We just love his surreal take on stuff. I bet this is the book Beatrix Potter *wanted* to write. We have two of his original drawings and would love to have this too, but alas, the days of buying art are over. At least for now.

Stay tuned for some Tom Gauld science fiction!

Friday, 25 September 2015

That Darn Welsh eto (again)

I was discussing with my dear ole Mum via email about the confusing bits of learning to speak Welsh.  It is not as tricky as it first appears. It just looks different to our eyes because some of the alphabet is different (letters like dd and ll spring to mind) as well as grammatically sentence structure is *completely* different from English. 

In English if it is a regular verb you just add -ed.  If it is irregular you might change the whole word (as in go becomes went.) Thankfully there are only 5 irregular verbs in Cymraeg (cael--to get or to have, mynd--to go, gwneud--to do or to make, dod--to come and bod--to be). Here are the verb endings and pronoun for past tense: (remember verb first then subject so coginiais i says cooked I but means I cooked)
-ais i
-aist ti
-odd e/odd hi
-on ni
-och chi
-on nhw

 So the verb darllen meaning to read would look like this in the past tense:
Darllenais i
Darllenaist ti
Darllenodd e/ darllenodd hi
Darllenon ni
Darllenoch chi
Darllenon nhw

As I said before if a pronoun precedes a preposition then it has to conjugate. The preposition may also make the word that follows mutate!

Endings for prepositions with pronoun:
-a i
-at ti (or -ot ti in the case of wrth)
-o fe/-i hi
-on ni
-och chi
-yn nhw

So becso am means to worry about so to say Worry about me,  worry about you, worry about him/her etc looks like this--
Becso amdana i
Becso amdanat ti
Becso amdano fe/becso amdani hi
Becso amdanon ni
Becso amdanoch chi
Becso amdanyn nhw

In a sentence that might look like this:
They worry about her.
Maen nhw'n becso amdani hi.

The more I do it, the easier it gets on paper. It is still incredibly difficult to say and to hear. But I keep telling myself Paid becso, bydd hapus.  Don't worry, be happy!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

That Darn Welsh

Well folks, we have started our second year of Welsh classes and let me say we have been thrown into deep end. We had been told that it would start slowly with a review and then build up gradually.

 Na-unh. Nope. No way, Jose'.

I had a momentary panic because looking at the first chapter was like reading a foreign language. Spiderman pointed out that it *is* a foreign language, bur you know what I mean.

There was just so much unfamiliar stuff--new words, new concepts etc that I felt a teency bit overwhelmed.

I am ashamed to say, there was some whining and self pitying that went on that wasn't pretty but Spiderman stopped that in it's tracks.

I have a perfectionist streak that can sometimes rule my life. I can be very driven. Driven to be the best, the smartest, the cleverest, top of the class Last year i was pretty confident in class. I grasped concepts easily and did exceedingly well on my exam. But suddenly I was feeling out of my depth. It all looked like gobbledy-gook to me. I had a panic.

Spiderman told me that most people feel out of their depth.  This is how the other half lives, baby--get used to it.

So I am trying. And not just trying his patience. I have developed a mantra to repeat when I feel the urge to say in my whiniest voice, "Welsh is hhhhhaaaard!"  and want to quit because I won't be the top of the class. I say, I don't have to be the best, I just have to do my best." 

So what was causing me to have a major freak out?

Prepositions. You know words like to or on or at or with. There is a list of nine of them that cause a soft mutation in the word that follows (where one letter changes to another letter--like c becomes g or p becomes b or m becomes f that makes the v sound).

They are:
i, o, am
ar, at, dan,
hyd, wrth, heb,
trwy, dros, gan

Did I mention that each one has at least two different meanings depending on the context? But that is not the worst part. The worst part is that i, o, am, ar,at and wrth all have to be conjugated if they precede a pronoun. CONJUGATED. Like a verb. WTF????

Those wacky Welsh.

Actually, after a day of drilling it on flashcards it makes more sense. I can do it in print but ask me to speak it and I sound like a Dalek as I stumble over the many syllables and tricky pronunciations (the accented syllable is always the second to last in Welsh). If someone said it to me quickly I would have no idea what they were on about as often beginnings or endings are just lopped off willy-nilly in speaking making listening skills the hardest to develop. But at least I can read it and write it, right folks?

Want to see it in action? Of course you do.

If I said I have seen Ffred it would look like Dw i wedi edrych ar Ffred. With me so far? See the preposition ar? If I wanted to say I have seen him  it suddenly becomes Dw i wedi edrych arno fe. Notice that conjugation? If I wanted to say I have seen her or I have seen them it would look like Dw i wedi edrych arni hi and Dw i wedi edrych arnyn nhw.  

Did I mention that ar is one of the *easier* prepositions? Am becomes amdan (plus conjugated ending) so I have searched for you looks like Dw i wedi chwillio amdanoch chi. And o becomes ohon (plus conjugated ending) and I don't know how to use it in a sentence yet.

But I will.

In spite of my momentary panic, I actually have a better grasp than i thought. I may not be the best at it, but I am certainly going to try my little heart out.

Monday, 21 September 2015

I left my butt in Brecon Beacons

Or I left my arse in Aberhonddu (if you use the Welsh name for it)

Whew! Last week we went hiking with the Carmarthen Vegans in the Brecon Beacons.   It was a blast as usual but with a bit more exertion than our regular walks. Dave from Swansea said it was about a mile and a half walk to a lake where we could picnic. He said it was suitable for munchkins so we brought the vegan kiddos.

Well, it was and it wasn’t.

It was about a mile and half but it was a very vertical mile and half  through quite marshy ground with lots of rivers and tricky, uneven areas to cross. It took about two hours to get up to the top.

Here’s me mucking about pretending to recreate that famous painting of John Ruskin by Millais (who later ran off with Ruskin’s wife after their marriage was annulled due to non-consummation).


We were beginning to doubt the existence of this mythical lake but then it appeared and we all rejoiced.

Once we were up at the top we could take off our soaking wet shoes and socks and let them dry on a rock and walk around barefoot which was lovely.

We waded in the lake, looked out for interesting insects and ate lots of delicious vegan food. We had certainly worked up an appetite.

Here’s me trying to go find a discreet hill where I could have a wee. Yes folks, I had to pee behind a hill. Not as glamorous as it sounds!

Spiderman hiked a bit further up as his shoes were dry and snapped us down below on our little peninsula.
with the zoom lens
without it--you can just make us out if you look hard

After several hours of resting, it was time to go back down.


Here’s where things got a bit sticky. It was decided to go an alternate way down that was supposed to be drier.

Well….it was drier.

It was also longer, steeper, more treacherous and in the opposite direction from the car park.

Perhaps because we were all tired and we had several exhausted munchkins (including a very cranky three year old who needed to be carried the whole way down) it took us more than three hours to get back to the bottom.

It was a glorious day and we certainly exhibited lots of teamwork carrying Little Dude and playing distracting games and singing distracting songs to keep the increasingly tired kiddo’s minds off the long journey home.

It also taught me I needed to invest in better footwear. I was muddy and sore from head to toe after several slips while trying to hold the hand of small child as we tried to cross various canyons.

But despite the length and difficulty of the climb we had a blast because being with friends and exerting oneself in the open air actually feels pretty good.  

Plus the view was spectacular.

So despite getting home bone weary and wet and feeling I left my butt in the Brecon Beacons--it was brilliant.
I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

 But with better shoes.            

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Dysgu am ddim (free learning)

Spiderman and I have often ruminated over the fact that if we were independently wealthy, we would be full time students. There is nothing so fun as learning new things.

Recently we have discovered something called Future Learn which is part of the open university. It is chock full of FREE interesting courses you can take online. Go here and find some for yourself:  The beauty of it is that you can just do it whenever you can--when you've got a bit of spare time, in the evening or on your daily commute --you can do it on your laptop, your tablet or your phone! It is a combination of videos and documents to read and everything sounds so interesting! Many top universities all over the world are leading these lectures and so you are getting the benefits of experts in every field.

And did I mention it was free?????

For the next six weeks Spiderman and I are talking Identifying the dead: Forensic Science and Human Identification. 

According to the website:

Join forensic experts to identify the dead

In the shadow of Dundee’s Law Hill, a grim discovery demands the attention of forensic experts. Unidentified human remains have been found and the police need to identify the victim to move forward with their investigation.
After a meticulous recovery of the remains, it will be your job to:
  • document and attempt to explain any evidence of trauma;
  • identify the victim through biological profiling;
  • and undertake a facial reconstruction.
Experts from the University of Dundee’s award-winning Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHId) will guide you through the process of human identification.
They will introduce you to the fields of human identification; forensic anthropology and archaeology; craniofacial identification; and the study of the human body.

Evaluate evidence as the case unfolds

Week-by-week, the case will unfold, providing you with more information about the victim. You will be presented with theoretical material and hands-on learning opportunities, to evaluate the case information and use what you have learned, to piece together clues to the victim’s identity.
You will be able to discuss, with educators and others learners, your thoughts on the identity of the deceased, based on your evaluation of the evidence.

Get your own copy of the murder mystery

After you submit your evaluation of the victim’s identity, all will be revealed at the end of the final week. You can continue your journey into the life and death of our victim in your very own ebook copy of a specially-written murder mystery by international best-selling crime novelist Val McDermid.

Can you use the skills that you will learn on this course to identify the dead?

Doesn't that sound fascinating? We started it last night and it did not disappoint.  It is not too late to sign up for it if you want to join us. Plus, you could pay at the end to get a certificate if this would be appropriate for your job--you could use it as professional development. We're just doing it because we love mysteries and  both are interested in criminology. We love CSI and Waking the Dead and all those types of programmes. I adored Quincy as a child--I often thought I would like to be a coroner as I am interested in the human body.

In October we will be taking a course on Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales.

We will be learning:

Interpret Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales with experts from his birthplace

You will learn with experts from the HC Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark – an internationally renowned research institution located in the writer’s birthplace, Odense.
Each week, these experts will guide a discussion, analysis and interpretation of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, including:
  • The Tinderbox
  • The Travelling Companion
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Snow Queen (the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen)
  • The Story of a Mother
  • The Red Shoes
You will explore the themes of each story, and investigate how they both conform with and digress from the fairy tale. This genre became very popular in the period of literary history to which Hans Christian Andersen belongs, Romanticism, when childhood was discovered as an age that is important in its own right.
But what Hans Christian Andersen did with this genre is absolutely unique - there are no other writers of fairy tales like him.

Explore Hans Christian Andersen’s enduring, universal appeal

The majority of Hans Christian Andersen’s 157 fairy tales have been translated into at least 150 languages. They not only create a fantasy world for children, but also explore universal, sinister and more adult themes such as death, grief and loss.
Through this course, you will discover why his stories have such an enduring and universal appeal - for both children and adults.

Understand the writer’s life - from humble beginnings to global fame

Hans Christian Andersen often described himself as a “bog plant” - his roots were deeply anchored in mire and mud, but he constantly stretched up for the light of the sun.
Through the course, you will understand this analogy, reflecting on how the writer grew from humble beginnings, to achieve fame and acknowledgement as an artist in both Europe and America while he was in his prime. After his death, he became famous in Asia and all other parts of the world.

Since it is free and it is something we can do together I hope we can sign up for a new course every six weeks (most courses run for six weeks with about four hours a week that you need to put into it) and that would be an enjoyable way to spend time together as well as learning new and interesting things.

What could be better?

It is available to people all over the world since you just work through the videos and readings in your own time, anyone can do it. browse the site and pick something of interest and go for it.

It's free! what have you got to lose?