Thursday/ Tintin, in Welsh

I have Welsh ancestors, and so a Welsh translation to add to my collection of translations of Tintin adventure called ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’ was definitely required.

Quick Quiz (answers below): In which country is Welsh is spoken? Which city is the country’s capital?
Welsh is the only language that is de jure* official in any part of the United Kingdom, with English being de facto official.
*de jure- by law; de facto- in fact/ the reality

Welsh has been spoken continuously in Wales throughout recorded history, but by 1911 it had already become a minority language. Today Welsh is spoken by some 850,000 people in Wales. The Welsh government plan to have one million Welsh language speakers by 2050. [Information from Wikipedia]

(Answers to the Quiz: Wales, in the southwest of Great Britain, capital Cardiff).

King Ottokar’s Sceptre, translated into Welsh by publisher Dalen (2019). ‘Braint y brenin’ translates as ‘The King’s Privilege’ in Google translate. Welsh is a Celtic language, and does not come out of the Germanic branch of the world’s language tree.
Here is the panel that I have looked at in other languages, this time in Welsh. (It’s weird that some words have no vowels at all, and the phrases are hard to translate, even with translation engines such as Google Translate).
The panel seems to be a play on the word ‘fur’ (referring to Tintin’s white pooch Snowy, called Milyn in Welsh):
Detective Parry-Williams: We are holding tight, to fur with you!
Detective Williams-Parry: In fact, we’re holding the fur, tight with you!
Tintin: All right!
Here’s the English translation, just for reference.

Monday/ don’t be a Maskenmuffel

die Maskenmuffel
definition of Maskenmuffel:
Grouches that refuse to wear masks, as in ‘Die Maskenmuffel weigern sich, Masken zu tragen‘.

Trust the Germans to come up with one word for the grouches that refuse to wear masks in this pandemic: Maskenmuffel.  The word is surely a contender for top new word for 2020, in Germany.

Translation: Hamburger Verkehrsverbund (Transport Network) takes action with a fine: in the future, ‘mask grouches’ will have to dig deep into their pockets (reportedly €50/ US$60). [Hamburger Morgenpost on Twitter @mopo].

Wednesday/ a slice of Irish

My Tintin book in Irish landed on my porch today.
Irish (written Gaeilge in Ireland and pronounced ‘gail-gyuh’) is spoken by some 2 million* people in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
It has been the dominant language of the Irish people for most of their recorded history, with inscriptions in primitive Irish of the names of people going back to at least the 4th century.

*These are level 2 speakers with some knowledge of the language. There are fewer than 100,000 daily speakers (outside the education system).

Here’s my little collection of objects in the house with an Irish connection: Kerrygold pure Irish butter, McCann’s Irish oatmeal, the Waterford crystal paperweight that I had bought in Dublin in 2013; the Tintin adventure ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’, translated into Irish as ‘Slat ríoga Ottokar‘ (2019), from the original 1939 version in French.
Here is the panel again with the English words. Tintin has detectives Thomson & Thompson on the back of the bike in a hot pursuit, one of them holding his dog Snowy.
This time around, the English reader will find it impossible to decipher the meaning of the Irish words (compared to the Scots translation, which can be made out, for the most part).
The clumsy detectives Thomson & Thompson are called Mac Grianma & O’Grianma in the Irish translation. (Mac means ‘son of’ and so does O’).
Tintin’s dog Snowy is Báinín, which is the Irish word for a collarless reverseless unlined man’s jacket made of white close-woven wool.

Friday/ Tintin, in Scots

Some of the Adventures of Tintin tales have now been translated into Scots*.
So of course, I had to add one of these books to my collection.
I ordered it on

*Scots is spoken in Scotland and parts of Ulster in Ireland. It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Goidelic Celtic language that was historically restricted to most of the Highlands, the Hebrides and Galloway after the 16th century. [Source: Wikipedia]

The 2019 translation into Scots is titled ‘Auld King Ottokar’s Sceptre‘ (Old King Ottokar’s Sceptre), just to distinguish the title of the book from the English translation, I suspect.
The King Ottokar’s Sceptre adventure is the 8th in the series. It was published in French in 1939, and first translated into English in 1958.
Alright, here’s a panel from ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’ (English). Tintin has the bungling detectives Thomson & Thompson on the back of the bike, one of them holding his dog Snowy. (The text is in Herge’s handwritten font, now digitized and called Remi).
Now look at the 2019 Scots translation: still quite understandable, right? It helps that it is written only, so the English reader does not ‘hear’ the Scottish accent. It is also an illustration that even in languages as close as English & Scots, differences and nuances emerge in the the two translated versions. The detectives are called Nesbit & Nisbet in the Scottish translation, and Snowy is Tarry.

Monday/ quelle belle journée!

It was a fine day here in the city: eighty (27°C) and sunny.
My English-French illustrated dictionary has landed on my porch.
It is illustrated with panels from Belgian cartoonist Hergé’s Tintin characters, which is why I had to have it, of course.

From Harrap’s Tintin Illustrated Dictionary, published 1989. The panels are from ‘The Castafiore Emerald’ (first appearance in newspapers: 1961-1962).
The top panel has Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Snowy (French name: Milou).
The traffic officer is apologizing to the Milanese opera diva Bianca Castafiore, for daring to write her a ticket for a fine.

Wednesday/ deciphering cryptic crossword clues

I have decided to improve my cryptic crossword skills, and so I printed out a few that I had found in online issues of The Irish Times.

I am not allowed to use Google too directly. (Shockingly, many of the clue phrases and their solutions can be found online).
I do use Google to look up synonyms, or the odd word or phrases that I do not understand.
Example: I think you need to be an Irishman or a Brit, to know that C of E stands for Church of England.

Check these clues out I that I have deciphered: Check these clues out I that I have deciphered:
Across 11: Very cold water in precipice, going to and fro. Answer: ICE. i-c-e appears forwards and backwards (to and fro) in ‘precipice‘.  
Across 12: Roots in ground, twisting. Answer: TURNIPS. It’s a root vegetable, and turn= twisting.
Across 15: Two companies with one hot drink. Answer: No, not Nestlé or hot chocolate, but COCOA. There are two ‘Co’s for Company in there.

Saturday/ why the truth is so hard to find

‘We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are’.
– from Seduction of the Minotaur, by Anais Nin (1961)

The entire Sept. issue of Scientific American is dedicated to the topic on the front page in bold letters: Truth, Lies & Uncertainty: Searching for Reality in Unreal Times. The articles are heavy on science and general philosophies about what is real and what is virtual. For example: to this day, philosophers cannot agree on whether mathematical objects (say, the number ‘7’) exist, or are pure fictions.

A summary of the article by Prof. Anil K. Seth that goes with the picture below, goes like this:
‘The reality we perceive is not a direct reflection of the external objective world. Instead it is the product of the brain’s predictions about the causes of incoming sensory signals. The property of realness that accompanies our perceptions may serve to guide our behavior so that we respond appropriately to the sources of sensory signals’.

So throw in Presidents that lie every day, greedy corporations with profit incentives, and worldwide social media networks ⁠— and holy cow: it’s more important than ever before to try to verify if something uncertain or new that we come across, is ‘true’.

Our realities are constructed by our brains, and no two brains are exactly alike.

Tuesday/ central Oslo & Aker Brygge

I spent the day running down the interesting architecture sights around central station, and the Aker Brygge (Aker docks), a little further along the waterfront.
I also checked into some stores and some bookstores.
I have so far come up empty handed, as far as finding Tintin books in Norwegian, to add to my collection.

Brunost cheese on display at breakfast here in the hotel. It’s a cheese made with whey, milk, and/or cream .. and it is very tasty.
Here’s the type of tram that gets one around central Oslo. Lots of buses available as well.
A selfie with the help of a food truck’s polished surface . I’m on my way the Astrup Fearnley Museum, the structure in the distance.
Find the mechanical reindeer in the picture! Polished marble and glass in the modern office and apartments around Aker Brygge.
Here’s the Astrup Fearnley Museet, a museum of  modern art. It’s been here awhile (since 1993), and was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.
Melkesjokolade .. hmm, yes, a very large slab of milk chocolate, and spelled almost identically to the way it is in Afrikaans: melksjokolade.
And a stuffed reindeer.
The Stortingsbygningen (Storting building) in central Oslo. It is the seat of the Storting, the parliament of Norway. It was designed by the Swedish architect Emil Victor Langlet and taken into use in 1866.
Here’s the regional train called the T-bane (so no U-bahn in Oslo!), coming into Carl Berners Plass station (Carl Berner plaza station).
I’m standing on the Akrobaten pedestrian bridge close to Central Station, and watching the trains come in. That’s the Nordenga road bridge in the distance. It opened in 2011.
To my left is the Akrobaten pedestrian bridge that I am standing on. The buildings on the other side of the tracks are called the Barcode buildings: twelve narrow high-rise buildings of different heights and widths.
Just a closer view of the glass, brick and steel of another one of the Barcode buildings.
Here is the new building for the (Edvard) Munch Museum, scheduled to open in spring 2020. The Munch museum collection, that includes the famous ‘The Scream’, is currently located in Toyen. (Is the building craning its neck to take a closer look at the water?).
The Oslo Opera House, at the head of the Oslofjord (but just a stone’s throw from Central Station, actually). It opened in 2008, and is the home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway.


Wednesday/ about Greenland

I just had to check out Greenland again on my Earth globe (with the stupid and completely unnecessary flap created around it, and all ⁠— by You-Know-Who in the White House).

Greenland is the world’s largest island and is a semi-autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for more than a millennium.

Greenland sits almost due north of the United States. It has some 56,000 inhabitants, 1/4 of which live in the capital, Nuuk. Ethnicity of its people: 88% Greenlandic Inuit (including Inuit-Danish mixed); 12% Danes and other Europeans. Insets: Coat-of-arms (a polar bear) and national flag.
It’s fun to use Google Streetview to do virtual tours of Greenland. In a few places they mounted the Streetview camera on a boat and recorded some views. This one in the bay by Narsaq.
Here is a little store in the capital Nuuk. Let’s see what the Danish translate into: Møbler: furniture, gaveartikler: gifts, slik & chokolade: sweets & candy, festartikler: party items, friske blomster: fresh flowers.
.. and a little Danish design flair for a new apartment building. Very nice.

Wednesday/ fear of an empty glass

Hmm.. is that a legitimate word: cenosillicaphobia? I wondered, as I looked at the letter board sign behind the bar counter in the Elysian Capitol Hill Brewery tonight.

Well, kind of. It looks like it was invented some 10 years ago. It is listed by Urban Dictionary, but not by Merriam-Webster (the gold standard for online dictionaries).

Ceno means empty, such as in cenotaph (a tomb or a monument erected in honor of a person, or group of persons, whose remains are elsewhere), sillica would be the glass and phobia (of course), the irrational fear.
No reason to suffer from cenosillicaphobia when the bartender is right there, though – unless you have had several too many, already.

Tuesday/ those unread books: ‘tsundoku’

I make full use of the Seattle public libraries at my disposal, but I don’t always get to all the books that I had taken out, before they are due back.

There is a Japanese word for buying or acquiring books that go unread: tsundoku (Japanese: 積ん読). The word is composed from tsunde (to stack things), oku (to leave it for a while), and doku (to read).

I went to the University branch of the Seattle Public Library today, on Roosevelt Avenue. It is actually one of the smaller branches, but one of the oldest. It opened its doors in 1910.
And I had to snap the Seattle Fire Department Station No 17 across the street as well, 1. since it is a Seattle City landmark building (same as the University branch library), and 2. thinking of yesterday’s terrible fire in Paris. The fire station was constructed in 1930 (hence the Art Deco touches), but renovated extensively in 1987.

Thursday/ sugarbush (I want you so)

The sugarbush is from the protea family. The ‘flowers’ are actually flower heads with a collection of true flowers in the center, surrounded by bracts (modified leaves). In days gone by, the nectar used to be collected and cooked into a syrup.

A famous Afrikaans folk dance song goes like this:
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Wat sal jou mama daarvan sê (What will your mama say of that)

Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Ek en my suikerbossie saam (My sugarbush and I together)

I found this beautiful sugarbush (Protea repens) flower in the Stellenbosch Botanical Garden today.

Thursday/ a little Danish for you?

.. no, not a pastry that you can eat – the kind you can read. I got this little first-grade reader book at a second-hand bookstore for a few dollars. For now, I don’t intend to learn Danish. I just like the o with the streg (ø) and the a with the overring (å).  So foreign

‘Søren and Mette’ was first published in 1954. The authors were teacher Knud Hermansen and psychologist Ejvind Jensen. The artist was Kirsten Jensenius. An updated version of the book is still in use today.


Hey! I can read Danish (a picture really is worth a thousand words). A cow. A sow. Mette sees a cow. Søren sees a sow. Søren and Mette see a cow and a sow.
This is at the end of the book, so a little (a lot) tougher to make out, so check out the translation at the left .. and look for the seven animals hiding in the forest!

Thursday/ detectives Schulze & Schultze

Tintin: ‘Professor, may I introduce to you the gentlemen Schulze and Schultze from the police crime unit? Professor Janus, sphragist’ Professor: ‘Good day’. Schulze: ‘Very delighted’.  (A spraghist is a person that studies document seals).


I have a few German ‘Adventures of Tintin’ books in my collection, and I can start to read those with a better understanding as well.

The two bungling detectives (Schulze & Schultze in the German translation), first appeared in King Ottokar’s Scepter. Check out the table for their names in the other translations.

My only beef with the German translation is that the text is in ALL CAPS – which means YELLING in today’s rules for text formats.  I would have much preferred it to be Mixed Case.  Carlson Comics, please take note of that for the next update to the German translation!

LanguageThe Detective Duo in Tintin's Adventures
AfrikaansUys and Buys
DutchJansen and Janssen
EnglishThomson and Thompson
FrenchDupond and Dupont
GermanSchulze and Schultze
RussianDyupon and Dyuponn (Дюпон and Дюпонн)
SpanishHernández and Fernández

Wednesday/ lost in translation

Duolingo rated this answer as correct. As a short phrase it’s the best we can do in English, even though ‘I am serious’ expresses a broad attitude and does not say that it is a specific thing that is taken seriously. A better translation would have been ‘It is something that I take seriously’.

I am working my way through a large set of German language lessons in duolingo. (It is a website and an app. I find the desktop/ website better to use, since it is easier to type in the answers to the lessons that way).

Every now and then, I get a German phrase that is remarkably easy to translate directly into my native Germanic language of Afrikaans, but impossible to translate directly into English. (And I love it – it’s what fascinates me about languages).

Here’s one :
German: Es ist mein Ernst.
Afrikaans : Dit is my erns.
English: It is my [Hmm. What word to use here? Cannot say ‘It is my serious/ It is my earnest’. Need a noun for some thing/ some issue that is taken seriously].

Friday! / fog

This morning a blanket of fog enveloped the whole area; it is amazing how warm and stuffy it got from just one week ago when we were sitting here in the office building shivering from the cold.    The marble floors and door thresholds – and even windows – in the building ‘sweat’ – all the moisture condensing on it.    It’s bad to have slippery marble floors, so the office management had to put non-slip mats in the lobbies and hallways.   Yesterday a few of us walked up to the reservoir close to the office building here where we work.

But hey! it’s Friday and I have a weekend in Hong Kong to look forward to.  The Marriott Courtyard hotel room waiting for me there will be a get away and a little lap of luxury, and I am going to snooze in that king-size bed with the six pillows.

A little reservoir on the hillside, near the Daya Bay nuclear power plant complex. The character behind me translates  to .. water, of course!   水 shui = water  / river /  liquid  / beverage /  additional charges  or  income  / (of clothes) classifier  for  number  of  washes.
The offices where I work are in the gray & black office building on the left. The Daya Bay nuclear power station is visible in the distance behind it.


Wednesday/ 加 满 fill up with premium

Two pictures from around the apartment complex here in Dameisha.

A beautiful dog outside the little grocery store here at the complex. It looks like a samoyed. The breed takes its name from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. These nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy white dogs to help with herding. [From Wikipedia]
Gasoline tank gap on a car here. (Little typo there with ‘premium’). The two Chinese characters below the 97 says 加 满  ‘Fill up with premium’.  

Tuesday/ more work sessions

Another day of work session facilitating for me – half of it in Chinese with me waiting patiently for the Daya Bay team animatedly discuss some design issue before them.  Then I get a translation from the team lead or my Chinese colleagues, and depending on my answer back they settle down or debate it a little further : ).

It’s tough for me, and tough for them : some are seeing SAP for the first time – in English – and they are not familiar with the terms or the processes.   It is packaged software, offering some setup choices, but not total freedom to redesign it. So sometimes I really have to shrug and say:  ‘We just cannot change it in such a fundamental way. That’s not the way the Germans designed it’.

Back at the apartments after a long day. The view from the shuttle bus. The sign says 小心行人 xiǎo xīn xíng rén which translates to ‘be careful for pedestrians‘ (watch out for pedestrians).

Monday/ Outside China Town

It was a long Monday at work – Mondays always seem long! but at least I can post these pictures from yesterday’s visit to the Outside China Town (OCT) theme park.   Disneyland or Six Flags it is not – but there is a spectacular and steep aerial tramway up the mountainside to provide panoramic views of Dameisha, the beach and the bay down below.

The parking lot for OCT theme park. We see the tower with the wrap-around screen every night from the Yanba Expressway when we came in from work with the shuttle bus.
The entrance: a nod to the Year of the Tiger, and the first of five or six escalators that takes one up the mountainside.
A misty pond on the way up to the space shuttle display on one of the levels.
Trinkets and refreshments are for sale everywhere, of course.
Here’s the Starbucks, with a food vendor in the foreground. If the Starbucks was a little easier to get to, and not inside OCT, I would have visited it every day.
The water spray is kicked up by a jet ski, and we did not stay long enough to see what other entertainment was offered in this show.
Here’s the aerial tramway, taking us to the top of the mountain ridge. Those pylons are really tall! That’s Dameisha beach on the right and Mirs Bay in the distance.
The arrival point at the top of the tramway. The little tramway cars take only 6 people, at most.
Posing for the obligatory photograph at the overlook. This is looking more or less west, with the coastline continuing on towards Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
Here’s the skywalk with its glass floor. Yikes. With these things, one has to trust that the civil engineers had double checked their design calculations, and that the builders had followed all the specifications without cutting corners.
Looking down at a new ride that is under construction, on the edge of the cliff. I’m too old for these kinds of heart-stopping experiences, so it’s a no for me, thank you very much.
Another Chinese only menu to decipher. The pictures are super helpful for the helpless (us), of course. The green section has the cold drinks (such as snow top coffee and iced tea) and hot drinks (black tea, green tea, milk tea, classic coffee).
Here is the view from the top, with some main areas and buildings of interest. Dameisha is really ‘big’ Meisha (‘da’ is big) and Xiaomeisha is ‘little’ Meisha (‘xiao’ means small or little).

Saturday night/ rough translation

Here’s the cute translation into English, from the back of the coconut coffee bag. (Would have posted it yesterday, but had to wait until I got home so that I could take a high-resolution picture). Note the creative breaks in the words T-his (wow) and su-mmer, and – the taste will be better when it is hot drink in winter.  Gotcha!  :).