R.I.P. for PBTD – Anyone following me?
When I was a cub reporter on a small newspaper in Devon, UK, I sent away to the US for a book that I felt would help my career. It was written by a court reporter called Maurice Kligman and was titled: How to Write 240 Words a Minute in Pitman’s Shorthand. It was an amazing book, filled with short-cut phrases he had devised during his years as a court reporter. A little squiggle and it covered a whole sentence such as: ‘What did you say to him and what did he say to you?’ A couple of slashes of the pen and he’d covered the question: ‘Will you tell the judge and jury…’
Having spent months teaching myself Pitman’s shorthand, – downward strokes and forward slashes for sounds (it was all phonetic) such as P,B,T, D, CH, J, K, Gay – I set to work devising my own short forms as they are known, which I applied over the years as a journalist. I couldn’t live without it and wondered how other journalists, who hadn’t learned shorthand, could really get things down accurately in their longhand scrawls, or spare the time tape-recording an interviewee and then having to play it all back again.
My, how things have changed. Just recently I had to cover a court case and found that while I still knew all the strokes I fell way behind in actually getting them down in my notebook fast enough. I’d lost the knack. And why was this? Because I’d fallen victim to modern technology. I’d learned how to type almost as fast on my laptop as I’d been able to write in Pitman’s. Out on the road I found it quicker to touch the screen on my iPhone and thanks to one of the apps start recording. OK, I then had to play it back, but my improved typing speed meant that little time was lost – and I could immediately despatch my emails and stories from wherever I found myself, again thanks to the iPhone which I could tether to my computer via Bluetooth.
Is this, then, the death of shorthand? I hope not, but it seems that today’s young reporters haven’t learned it. A prime example was a reporter sitting next to me in a court in Queensland, watching as I took notes in Pitman’s. I learned that when he returned to his office he told his News Editor that the case was getting international coverage because sitting next to him was a reporter taking notes in Arabic. Sigh…
A merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all. I took this picture in the wilds of west Papua during a controversy over whether the blood of remote tribal people should be used to find out if there was a gene in it that killed cancer. American researchers were working on this 15 years ago – and the world is still waiting!
In the meantime these folks wished me to pass on their good wishes to the outside world, so I hope they’ll be happy with me taking the liberty to include Christmas.
New reports about Tiger (sorry, he’s still the talk of the towns) say that his mother, Kultilda, is furious with him over his philandering. I wonder why – because she knew about Rachel Uchitel’s rendezvous with him in Melbourne.
How do I know this? Well, I personally saw Rachel checking in to the Crown Casino and then riding up to the VIP floors where Tiger and his mother were staying. I have all the evidence of this, but putting that aside it must be wondered why ‘mom’ is reported to be putting on such a song and dance about his love life.
Reports say she is hurt and angry because she likes Tiger’s wife Elin and adores her grandchildren and doesn’t want to see them hurt. In that case why on earth didn’t she confront Tiger in Melbourne and ask him what he was doing, flying ‘that woman’ across the world to Australia – then ask her what she thought she was doing there?
It must be wondered just how much real anger there is in Kutilda’s voice.
As we prepare to remember the 230,000 people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami five years ago, a tragic aftermath of that terrifying event has emerged in Indonesia.
A 10-year-old boy whose parents died when that giant wave smashed down their home has been charged with savagely murdering his adoptive mother after she allegedly taunted him about having no real mother and father any more.
The boy, who has not been named, comes from the island of Nias, which lies off the south west coast of Aceh, the worst-hit region of the tsunami, described as ‘ground zero’, where more than 170,000 people died on December 26, 2004.
It has not been revealed how he survived or the exact circumstances of how his parents died, but he was eventually adopted by Etty Rochyati, who was aged 50 when she took him into her care.
But, Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection has established, the relationship between the orphaned boy and his new mother was far from loving.
The commission has learned from police that the boy had told them his adoptive mother had threatened to kick him out of the house if he did not obey her.
She is said to have taunted him with words like: ‘Don’t you know that you don’t have a mother and father any more?’
Etty Rochyati has been found dead in a ditch near her house in Ciracas, East Jakarta, with multiple wounds to her head, having possibly been beaten with a blunt instrument, and a stab wound to the stomach.
Police who questioned the boy claim he told them he had killed her because she had taunted him about being orphaned after the tsunami.
Now the child protection commission is fighting to save the boy from a lengthy prison sentence, claiming it is ‘inappropriate’.
Mr Arist Sirait, secretary general of the commission, said that if the boy was formally accused, the charge should be under a law relating to ‘violence leading to death’ which carries a sentence of 10 years but which allows minors to serve only a third of that sentence.
Mr Sirit said police investigators had failed to consider the mistreatment the orphaned boy had received from his adoptive mother as she raised him following the death of his parents in the tsunami.
‘What the boy did may be seen as self-defence against abuse and was not intentional,’ he said.
The boy, he said, had been traumatised following the tsunami and the authorities were not dealing with a 22-year-old man ‘but a 10-year old who is unstable and still has a long life ahead of him.’
The child’s future now rests in the hands of judges of the East Jakarta Court and relatives of the boy’s adoptive mother.
If you’ve had some narrow escapes on the highway, you’ll know how this young Australian man felt – trapped in a car that had taken on a mind of its own.
It needed just a touch on the brakes to disengage the cruise control on his 4×4. Or so 22-year-old Chase Weir thought as he neared his motorway exit.
But when he tapped his foot on the brake pedal nothing happened. The car carried on at 50mph. He tried again, but still it sped on.
In fact, it kept going for 25miles as Chase frantically thumped his foot on the brake pedal, yanked on the handbrake and tried to turn off the engine with the ignition key.
It seemed that only a crash would stop the car and Chase, weaving in and out of city traffic, honking his horn and flashing his lights at other vehicles, became convinced he was going to die.
For 30 minutes, with the help of police, he was able to keep hurtling along. Then he was confronted by the sight he dreaded most – a traffic jam.
He swerved, pulled on the handbrake and stood on the brake pedal.
After what seemed an eternity of screeching he bumped across a traffic island and came to halt inches from another car.
‘I really thought I was dead,’ he said. ‘When the police opened the door and asked if I was OK I have never screamed as much in my life.’
Chase had flicked a switch on his Ford Explorer 4×4 to engage the cruise control when he joined the fast Eastern Freeway leaving Melbourne.
A touch of the brake or accelerator pedal should have put the car back into manual drive.
But when his slip road came up, the cruise control failed to disengage.
Chase’s terrifying journey led him through the streets of Melbourne to the suburb of Frankston, and now he had the police to help him after a frantic emergency call.
A van was despatched to get in front of him and, with sirens blaring, ensured that vehicles ahead were moved to other lanes.
His biggest fear as he struggled with the controls was what lay ahead.
Eventually he did run out of motorway and ended up in the suburb of Frankston.
Aided by his police escort, he passed through a busy road junction before reaching another highway – and the traffic jam.
‘There was traffic in every lane,’ he said. ‘I just didn’t just have anywhere to go.
‘I just put all my weight on that footbrake, pulled on the handbrake again, swerved on the wrong side of the road to avoid running into the back of everyone, went over the concrete road island and bounced a bit.
‘I could hear the tyres skidding on the road for what seemed like for ever.
‘When I opened my eyes, I was bonnet-to- bonnet with the car in front of me.’
Chase was taken to hospital suffering from shock.
The Explorer is sold in the U.S. and Australia.
A Ford Australia spokesman said the frozen cruise control was not an issue the company had encountered before.