Archive for December 2016

by Morgen Jahnke

World-famous architects like Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Rem Koolhaas often make headlines for their daring and creative buildings, but the vast majority of architects spend their time on more down-to-earth projects, like schools and fire houses. Their work is dictated by the needs of their clients, and their creativity is in service to solving any problems these needs might entail. But what happens when architects are given free rein? What do architects do for fun?

It is easy to imagine that Julia Morgan, the architect who designed William Randolph Hearst’s estate at San Simeon, enjoyed creating that fantastical world to Hearst’s specifications, or that Eduard Riedel, the architect of King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, found some pleasure in recreating a medieval castle in the 19th century. But these architects were still limited by the wishes and whims of their employers, unable to express themselves fully.

In comparison, the English-born Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1883–1978) found a way to realize his dearest architectural dreams on his own terms. After purchasing a particularly beautiful piece of property on the northern Welsh coast from his uncle in 1925, Clough set out to create a wonderland of architectural whimsy that he called Portmeirion (after the coastal setting and the Welsh name of the local county, Merioneth). The result of Clough’s work is a colorful Italianate village of cottages, towers, fountains, and cobbled streets that has drawn comparisons to Clough’s twin inspirations: the medieval hill towns of Tuscany and the world-renowned Italian coastal town of Portofino.

It Takes a Village
When Clough bought the Portmeirion site in 1925, his vision was not to simply construct individual buildings, but to create an entire town. As The Architects Journal noted of the project in 1926, the “results of his [Clough’s] scheme will be significant and should do much to shake the current notion that although houses must be designed with due care, towns may grow up by chance.” Over the next fifty years, this vision of Portmeirion began to take shape under Clough’s leadership, with construction occurring in two phases: from 1925 to 1939, and from 1954 to 1976.

Another part of Clough’s vision for Portmeirion was that it help to prove that beautiful natural spaces could be developed for commercial use without ruining their beauty, what he called “that strange necessity.” His choice of this particular site, a peninsula in the Snowdonia region of Wales, was no accident. He wanted to draw visitors to the area, and the balmy microclimate and coastal views of Portmeirion proved attractive even when the town had not been fully developed. In fact, early on Clough raised money for the construction costs by operating a hotel out of an existing building.

In this respect, it could be argued that Clough was a forerunner to the modern pursuit of sustainable development, the attempt to provide economic benefit while preserving natural resources. Clough cared deeply about environmental protection; he not only served on various councils related to this goal, but was a strong advocate for the creation of national parks in England and Wales, most especially for Snowdonia National Park in Wales.

Clough’s architectural credo, “Cherish the Past, Adorn the Present, Construct for the Future,” is in keeping with his passion for sustainability. At Portmeirion, Clough honored the past by salvaging old structures from demolition sites, relocating and renovating them to become part of what he called his “home for fallen buildings.” The vivid colors and enchanting streets of the town show Clough’s obvious love for “adorning the present,” while his larger vision of preserving the environment by pursuing limited economic development gives meaning to “constructing for the future.”

Escape to Portmeirion
Portmeirion has become a prime tourist destination for visitors to North Wales; visitors can see the town during the day, or may opt to stay the night in the main hotel, individual cottages, or at the newly renovated Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian castellated mansion on the estate. Tourists are drawn by the town’s legendary beauty, but it does have another claim to fame.

In 1966, Portmeirion was the setting for the filming of the British TV show The Prisoner, starring the popular stage and screen actor Patrick McGoohan. Although the show only ran for 17 episodes in 1967 and 1968, it became an enormous hit, and fans continue to be interested in every aspect of its production, including where it was filmed. As part of this interest, the official fan club of The Prisoner, Six of One, holds a convention in Portmeirion every year.

In these and other ways, the popularity of the town Sir Clough Williams-Ellis built lives on, nearly thirty years after his death. Although he may have created Portmeirion to satisfy his own architectural visions, he succeeded in bringing these dreams to life for the benefit of countless others. —Morgen Jahnke

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More Information about Portmeirion…

The official Portmeirion Web site is a good place to visit for news, visitor information, and history of the town.

Virtual Portmeirion, The Folly Pages, and the Wikipedia provide useful background information on Portmeirion.

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’s daughter, Susan Williams-Ellis, founded Portmeirion Pottery in 1960, which has become well-known for its beautiful products.

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One of my favorite travel writers, Jan Morris, has recently published a book about Portmeirion in honor of its 80th Anniversary: Portmeirion.

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The complete series of The Prisoner is now available on DVD from Amazon.

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Part 3 A journeys end ….

This is a continuation from Part 1 & Part 2 of my journal / journey through the IVF process & the thoughts that go with it.

So, as we come to the end of the journey and the more astute of you will have noticed the title doesn’t say failed in it anymore! After 105 Injections (Another 198 to go still), 749 Tablets, 20+ Appointments, 10 Months & 3 rounds of IVF we did it!

It is very early days but the other half is carrying a couple (yes you read that right!) of new additions to the household.

As journeys go this has been an arduous one for us both, personally it has pushed me close to breaking point emotionally, mentally & financially and is something I hope none of my friends ever has to go through themselves. Without the support of 2 strong families around us I don’t know how we would have made it through these multiple rounds of IVF each one harder than the last.

I seriously don’t know how I would have coped with another failure, I had nothing left to give and was truly drained of all 3.

We did find solace & comfort in the online Facebook IVF groups, but even at times that was hard as more and more people posted their successes as we found only failure.

Even though we only started IVF earlier this year (approximately 10 months ago) it feels like years have passed, with our lives, careers, holidays all on hold. In fact we’ve been together 8 years this year and we’ve only ever been on 2 holidays and one of them was the year after we met & the other was the honeymoon 5 years ago.

Now our IVF journey ends and we begin a new one as a family of 5, now comes the search for bigger cars, house extensions, double buggies, twice as many nappies etc.

The other upside of twins will hopefully be less arguing when picking names & God parents as there is twice as many spaces to fill this time, although the name suggestions Mrs S keeps coming out with I’m sure she’s a closet hippy! She didn’t like the lets name one each suggestion though, mainly because she knows I would pick Thor Oakenshield or Loki Morningstar.

As these kids have already cost us the same as a mid-size family saloon I’m also very tempted to name one Ford & the other Mondeo, but I don’t think she’ll will let me do that either.

I’m very glad this journey has come to an end successfully and we can move on with the rest of our lives. If you have gone through this already I’m sure you can understand what we went through. If you are going through it, I feel for you and I’m here if you need to talk about it. If you’re not, thank whoever you believe in that you’re not.

If you’ve been with me all the way I hope you enjoyed reading the journey, it’s been a useful cathartic output for me and I enjoyed it even if you didn’t. 🙂

If this was your 1st one please go back and read the 1st 2 parts as well (Part 1 & Part 2) and I hope you find them enlightening and slightly humorous in parts.

Thanks to everyone who read / commented / supported us along the way, it’s surprising how much a how you doing text or thinking of you both message on Facebook goes.

Most people don’t know what to say and just avoid you altogether, but it’s the closest friends that know it’s just any distraction and the odd how you holding up mate that reminds you that there is people outside the IVF bubble you’re in and that they are concerned but sometimes just scared to ask in case its bad news. The recent scope advert for disability actually had some parallels. (Apart from the introduce yourself bit)

Hopefully other friends who’ve been getting a bit tetchy with me will now understand why I’ve be preoccupied / unavailable for lads nights out this past 12 months, at the end of the day getting Mrs S through this IVF have been priority 1 and any slight hiccup with it, it’s been my job to fix / smooth over / reassure that everything is going to be OK while under the surface panicking like hell myself & trying not to show it.

Right I’m off to stockpile on pallets of nappies & wipes and as I’ve twice as many to buy this time make sure you go out and buy a copy of my new book 50 Shades of Blonde! – 50 Shades of Blonde Book

As I said this is the end of our IVF journey but the beginning of a twin pregnancy, so I may well keep posting updates if anyone’s interested.


(Father of 1 & Expectant Father of another 2 with very little hair / sanity left)

One of the very first things I remember learning in school, around age five or six, was the patriotic song “My County Tis of Thee,” which all the children would sing every morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that point, we hadn’t yet been taught how to read—priorities, you know—so we learned the words by listening and repeating. That was fine, except that I was confused about the very last word of the song. The way I heard the last line was, “from every mountainside, let free dumring.”

I didn’t know what a dumring was, and I wondered about that, fleetingly, every time I sang the song for years afterward. Clearly it was someone, or something, that had to be “let free,” which I assumed was the same thing as “set free.” Maybe a dumring was a slave or something. I had no idea. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I might be singing two separate words (“dumb ring”), although that would have been equally nonsensical. I must have been well into my teens before I saw the lyrics in print for the first time, and I was utterly shocked to discover what I’d actually been singing: “let freedom ring.” In my defense, my five-year-old self wouldn’t have identified freedom as something that could ring. But I certainly did feel stupid for having misunderstood those words.

Greens, Eggs, and Corn
I’ve run across numerous other instances of lyrics being misheard, sometimes with very funny implications. For example, I know someone who grew up thinking the hymn “Lead On, O King Eternal” was actually “Lead On, O Kinky Turtle”! Just a few months ago, I learned that there’s a linguistic term for exactly this type of misunderstanding. It’s called a mondegreen. That term was coined in 1954 by a writer named Sylvia Wright, who wrote an article for Harper’s Magazine describing how as a child she’d misheard a line from a poem. The actual text was “And laid him on the green,” but she’d understood it to say “And Lady Mondegreen.” In context, that alteration significantly changed the meaning of the poem, as it implied the mysterious and undeserved death of this hitherto unmentioned woman. Thus, “mondegreen” itself started out as a mondegreen, and Wright went on to give several other examples of this phenomenon from music and poetry.

Closely related to the mondegreen, yet subtly different, is the eggcorn. The term comes from a report of a woman who referred to acorns as “egg corns,” having made a reasonable but incorrect guess about the spelling of the word based on its sound and the fact that an acorn, like a corn kernel, is a kind of seed and could be considered roughly egg-shaped. In a 2003 discussion on a linguistics blog called Language Log, linguist Geoffrey Pullum suggested that the expression “egg corn” itself was as good as any to describe this phenomenon for which no other term seemed to fit. The name stuck (sometimes spelled as two words, sometimes as a single word), and already, after only a few short years, it has been mentioned on tens of thousands of Web pages. Hundreds of eggcorns have been catalogued, including “by enlarge” (or “by in large”) for by and large, “for all intensive purposes” for for all intents and purposes, “French benefit” for fringe benefit, “lack toast and tolerant” for lactose intolerant, and “tow the line” for toe the line. In most cases, the eggcorn is extremely close in pronunciation to the correct term, but it’s not a mere matter of misspelling a homophone; the eggcorn’s faulty etymology makes some sort of sense. For example, you might not be able to articulate what’s French about a “French benefit,” but one could easily imagine that if there are French cuffs and French fries, there are also “French benefits.”

Errors Aplenty
There are now numerous Web sites that exist solely to collect mondegreens and eggcorns; like malapropisms, they’ve officially achieved linguistic fad status. But considerable confusion still exists as to what makes the two phenomena different from each other—or from folk etymology or malapropisms, for that matter. As I understand it, mondegreens are restricted to verse—either spoken or sung. So a mondegreen could conceivably be an eggcorn, but only if the mistake is etymologically defensible in some fashion. Both mondegreens and eggcorns, however, are normally thought of as mistakes by individual speakers that don’t affect the language as a whole. Folk etymology, on the other hand, is a mistake in which one language borrows a word from another, but changing it in the process to reflect the new language’s assumptions—for example, turning cucaracha into “cockroach.” And malapropisms are sort of the reverse of eggcorns; they’re primarily unintended speech errors rather than ongoing errors of comprehension.

This is perhaps an appropriate time to reiterate that although English now has yet another term that means “the wrong word,” there’s still, as far as I know, just one that means “the right word.” That term is aproposism, which I coined even before the word eggcorn appeared. Sadly, although eggcorn might be an aproposism, aproposism is no eggcorn, having so far done very little to propagate itself. It’s been a “tough road to hoe,” but I’m taking it with “a grain assault.” —Joe Kissell

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More Information about Mondegreens and Eggcorns…

To learn more, begin with the articles on Eggcorn and in the Wikipedia.

The following sites are excellent resources on mondegreens:

You can read about the genesis of the term “eggcorn” and linguists’ opinions on its usage in these Language Log entries:

Last but not least, be sure to check out The Eggcorn Database, especially the About page.

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by Morgen Jahnke

The story of the mutinous crew of the British navy vessel HMS Bounty has remained a popular theme in books and movies ever since it occurred in 1789. Four major films have been made with the mutiny as their inspiration, featuring such acting heavyweights as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Anthony Hopkins; one version of the film earned a Best Picture Oscar. There is a good reason for the story’s popularity: the sequence of events ending with the setting adrift of the ship’s captain, William Bligh, along with eighteen of his men, in the middle of the Pacific, is inherently dramatic and fascinating.

The story of what happened to both the mutineers and those forced overboard may be paid less attention, but is equally fascinating. Captain Bligh, with the aid of only a sextant and pocket watch, successfully navigated the small boat to the Tongan island of Tofua, and then on to the island of Timor, a journey that took over 47 days and covered over 3,618 nautical miles (6710km) by Bligh’s reckoning. Only one of those set adrift with Bligh did not survive the voyage; a crewman was killed by the inhabitants of Tofua when the group landed there.

The mutineers, led by master’s mate Fletcher Christian, initially sailed to the island of Tubuai, but being unable to successfully settle there, went back to Tahiti (whence the ship initially departed). Sixteen members of the crew disembarked at this point, while Christian and eight of the mutineers, along with six Tahitian men and twelve Tahitian women (who were reputedly kidnapped), set sail to find a new island where they could settle in peace.

Bounty on the Mutineers
Fearing capture, Christian’s crew bypassed the Fiji and Cook Islands, eventually landing on the then-uninhabited Pitcairn Island in January 1790. To prevent discovery of their whereabouts, the group ran the Bounty aground, and after stripping it of its supplies, burned and abandoned it in the island’s primary bay (now known as Bounty Bay). They established a settlement on the island, growing crops and raising livestock.

The island, named after the boy who sighted it during the 1767 expedition of the HMS Swallow, had once been home to other inhabitants (most likely from Polynesia), but was deserted when the mutineers arrived. Measuring 6 miles (about 10km) in circumference and 2.5 miles (4 km) in length, Pitcairn Island is part of a group of four islands (now collectively called the Pitcairn Islands) that proved an ideal hiding place for the mutineers, owing to its incredible isolation in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, about halfway between New Zealand and the Americas.

The early community on Pitcairn experienced considerable violence among its members; clashes between the Tahitian men and the mutineers led to the deaths of all but four of the men by 1794, and by 1800, due to further violence and poor health, only one man remained alive. This man, an erstwhile mutineer named John Adams, became the leader of the settlement—now numbering 34 (counting 10 women and 23 children)—and oversaw its development into a viable and thriving entity. The group’s first contact with the outside world came with the arrival in 1808 of an American ship, but it was not until 1814 that Pitcairn became known to the wider world, when two British ships, the Briton and Tagus, landed on the island.

Surprisingly, Adams was not arrested by the British commanders on board these ships, but instead helped to establish a new relationship between Pitcairn and Britain. This relationship was formalized in 1838, when a constitution for the Island was created (which included the right of female suffrage eighty years before it was adopted in Britain), and was further enhanced when Pitcairn became a British Settlement under the British Settlements Act of 1887.

Throughout the 19th century, overpopulation and a lack of resources were constant problems for the islanders, leading to an exodus to Tahiti in 1831, which was reversed later that year, and a further resettlement to Norfolk Island, a former British penal colony, in 1856. This time the move was successful; the islanders became prosperous and permanently settled in their new home. However, a small group of former Pitcairn residents decided to return two years later, in 1858, and they are the ancestors of those who live on the island today.

Giving it Their Own Stamp
Although in 1937 the island’s population reached a high point of 233, currently there are about fifty residents on the island (most of them bearing the surnames of their mutineer ancestors). Pitcairn does not have an airport, so although ships do visit on an infrequent basis, the island cannot generate much-needed revenue from tourism or trade.

One attempt to support the local economy began in 1940, with the issuance of the first Pitcairn postage stamps. Now administered by the Pitcairn Island Philatelic Bureau (headquartered in New Zealand), Pitcairn issues six stamp series each year which are prized by avid philatelists. Another, more recent, economic initiative undertaken by the islanders is the cultivation of honey, flavored by the Mango, Lata, Passion Flower, Guava, and Roseapple flowers found on the island.

In addition to its economic woes, Pitcairn has faced social problems in recent years. In 2004, the island came under intense media scrutiny as seven male residents (including the mayor) were put on trial facing 55 charges of sexual offenses against young girls. Six of the men, including the mayor, were eventually convicted on a total of 35 of the charges, and six other men, former residents of Pitcairn, also went on trial in 2005 in New Zealand. These trials caused major upheaval in the community, since almost all of the adult male population was implicated in them. Some residents felt disheartened by the scandal, fearing that the island’s fate would be crippled by it, while others saw cause for optimism in the necessary rebuilding of the power structure on the island.

This is not the first time Pitcairn has faced violence and lawlessness; from its inception the settlement has had to deal with the consequences of such actions. While to most people the mutiny on the Bounty remains an entertaining story from the past, for the residents of Pitcairn Island it is part of their daily reality, and has shaped the course of their lives and those of their ancestors. —Morgen Jahnke

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More Information about Pitcairn Island…

Thanks to reader Bo Lockwood for suggesting today’s topic!

The official Web site of the Pitcairn Islands Office has a detailed history of the island, as well as links to local products for sale, and to the Pitcairn Island Philatelic Bureau.

Other versions of Pitcairn’s history are found in Welcome to Pitcairn Island and the Wikipedia.

The Pitcairn Island Web site provides information about the current residents of the island.

Well-known non-fiction author Simon Winchester (The Professor and the Madman) reports about the larger political issues facing Pitcairn today on the Travel Intelligence Web site.

The story of the mutiny on the Bounty has been the inspiration behind countless books, as well as four major films:

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In the Wake of the Bounty (1933) starring Errol Flynn

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Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable

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Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) starring Marlon Brando

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The Bounty (1984) starring Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson

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A company that truly embraces innovation as a path to company / product improvement should also adopt the Fail Often / Fail Quickly methodology, this can be a real head spin for entrenched companies as why would you reward failure?

The Fail Often / Fail Quickly methodology comes from the pretty much universal constant that your 1st idea isn’t your best one, it might be the seed that starts but it definitely won’t be the finished product. A famous example of this is WD-40, you may not know this was the chemist Norm Larsen’s 40th attempt to create a chemical that would prevent rust by displacing water. That’s 40 attempts, not many bosses would let you fail 39 times on a project without asking serious questions!

But look at it another way as long as you are learning something from each “trial” (Let’s stop calling them failures) you are fine tuning the end product, and as long as you are getting through these iterations quickly and not wasting large amounts of time down rabbit holes it will ultimately get you to the Million Dollar product much faster.

The image below surmises what people see of a successful product and the reality of the cycle behind the scenes.

Don’t ever get disheartened by failure in anything in your career or life, pick yourself up, take stock, learn what went wrong that time and why. Then make the next attempt better each time.