540 Kilometers later

In the last week of May, I rode my bicycle from London to Brussels stopping in Amsterdam and Turnhout on the way. The ride was in aid of Make-A-Wish, a children’s charity that grants children with life threatening illnesses their dreams. From a personal perspective, I was very pleased with the ride. I did not have to walk up any hills with the bike and I logged some good average speeds.

I stopped riding a bicycle when I was 17 after learning to drive a car. I could not bring myself to ride a bike after seeing how they are overtaken on the roads. I bought a hybrid bike in April 2011 after researching cycle lanes as an alternative way to get into work. I won’t repeat all the details on the progress that I made since 2011 with my health (you can read that here) but buying the bicycle was fundamental in reducing my weight from 102kg to below 80kg.

Last year, I upgraded to a road bike and eventually took my hybrid bike to Prague where I travel frequently for work. I used the hybrid bike to train for the Brussels ride on the bike in Prague. The gears have never really worked on it properly but I used it to practice hill work. Strava had some good challenges in May and one of them was to ascend 2300m in 6 days. I managed to complete the ascent challenge that was very good training for the ride.

We started on Wednesday 28th May in Stratford, East London. I had intended to get there by train, but as usual I packed too much stuff, so I took a taxi. Immediately I met 3 people who I would be in contact with during the ride – Donna, Matthew and Steve.

London Traffic

We set off through the London traffic – to begin with, the proximity of the other cyclists feels a little claustrophobic. Some of the less experienced riders appeared to be a bit nervous and unsure on the road. Once we had got through Walthamstow, the pack separated out. In what felt like no time at all, we were at the first water stop. The weather was not particularly pleasant as it was raining but it was not drenching us. After a lunch of pastas, salads, meat and sausage rolls, I got a good energy boost and rode with Donna. We ended up on a country road that was not particularly nice for a road cyclist. Road bikes have narrow high-pressure tires and should not really be taken off road (okay, okay, many of you will argue about this, but I avoid off-roading on a road bike). The road had a lot of gravel and debris. In fact, think of the film Gravity, forget Sandra Bullock for a minute and imagine all the debris flying around in the film. I think all of it was on this road. Furthermore there were stinging nettles either side. Not pleasant.

At the top of the road, we met Graham. Graham was already the highest performing member of the Strava group for the ride and as usual it felt bizarre to know him but not have met him… The Internet is good for that.

One of Les Roulers fixes his bike.

We carried on, hit a similar road and then went on a road that had recently been re-laid with loose gravel. Donna needed to stop to eat some food and it was at this point I noticed that I had a puncture. In the rain. Due to me being exceptionally rubbish at mechanics, Donna started to repair it for me. There were a bunch of six chaps (Les Roulers including Gary Goldsmith) on the ride with matching gear and several of them were very good riders. Three of the crew stopped to help with the puncture and together with Donna got me back on the road. I could not get the tire up to a high enough pressure but got it to high enough that I could continue riding.

Actually earlier in the day I had passed Les Roulers having a crafty half of Guinness at a pub just below a hill. They had an aura of fun about them and I had to chuckle as I cycled past. That got me up the hill.

Unfortunately the new tube was faulty. Donna decided to go to the next water stop and I called the mechanic. I had run out of spares. It was frustrating waiting but I eventually calmed down – I had plenty of time to get the ferry at Harwich. Kenny and Steve turned up and did a fantastic job. I was back on the road properly.

The biggest steak available

I stopped briefly at the water stop and pressed on to the holding point. I met Donna, Graham and Shona, and ordered the biggest steak available. We were later convoyed to the Harwich ferry and I showered and went to bed almost immediately.

Around 630am, there was a very kind announcement telling us all to get up. Given that I was about to get grubby, my morning routine was simply to apply Vaseline (before you ask, you need to use Vaseline for a long ride to prevent soreness and rashes), put on my bike gear and pack up. I headed for breakfast and decided to carb up. I had 5 hash browns, bacon and eggs. I could not get going on Thursday and I think the reasons are simple: 1. the hash browns were the wrong carbs (or rather too much fat), 2. I didn’t sleep very well and 3. I didn’t have a coffee.

We set off from the ferry to a holding point and from there started to cycle up the coast through The Hague and then took a right hand turn to Amsterdam. The weather was not fantastic – it was quite windy. No punctures.

Some of the trip is a blur to be frank. I cannot remember the exact point where we got together, but I ran into Donna again and she was riding with Bob and Reggie. Bob and Reggie are from Guernsey and were riding for a cancer charity along with 4 others. I rode with these three for the rest of the ride. When I could keep up with them that is. Very nice people indeed.

The cycle lanes in the Netherlands are fantastic. You cannot beat them. They segregate the riders from the traffic. Furthermore, the law favours the cyclist and the car drivers are respectful of the cyclists. However some kind local had removed the markers between Haarlem and Amsterdam, and a couple of us got lost. We simply followed the cycle path to Amsterdam and picked the official route up again.

Tan lines must be cultivated and kept razor sharp

I skipped the evening meal and met two of my friends in Amsterdam at a food festival. It was a public holiday in the Netherlands (Ascension day) and they had been tracking my progress on Apple’s Find my Friends app. I cycled through the centre of Amsterdam, got to the hotel, showered quickly and met them. We ended up having a Chinese at Nam Kee on Nieuwmarkt.

On day three, the weather was brilliant but we had 182km of cycling to do. At the time, this was the most I’ve every ridden in a day. Most of it was flat. On the road, I was passed by Keith. Keith was one of the Strava group and is a good rider. He lives in Scotland and does long rides for breakfast. I was determined to keep up with him but it was impossible.

Matthew was not doing so well by the third day and his knee was playing up. It was a common complaint amongst the riders. One of the Guernsey crew, Amanda, has had both her hips replaced and had no trouble with them. Her knee stopped her from finishing on the last day – it must have been very frustrating for her, but she made a very good effort indeed. Keith’s brother Shaun also had an issue with his knee – I was carrying some cold spray that seemed to help him. He was better by the end of the day.

My knees were definitely stressed but the cold spray and knee supports I brought along were used by other people. I did use a bit of spray on the last night, but not during the ride. Also I did not use any gels or isotonic drinks. I just used food and drink at the stops.

There was a lovely couple on the ride – I’m afraid their names escape me because I’m useless. I was riding with them for a bit on day 3, but shot off ahead. I’d got lost with Shaun and we were making our way back to the route when we passed them. Unfortunately one of the couple had a broken shifter and he had to finish the ride on a loaned hybrid bike.

Having a jar towards the end of long ride

Donna, Bob, Reggie and I rewarded ourselves towards the end of day 3 and stopped for a beer. What a welcome stop that was.

On the fourth day, we had 100km or so to complete, but the stress of the ride was over for most of us. The cycle paths are not as good in Belgium and we were not aware of the rules there. In places one is only allowed on the cycle path and not on the road. I got bibbed a few times but others were pulled across by the police. We soon got the message. The worst bit were the cycle lanes that were two way but on the left hand side of the road. When faced with an aggressive cyclist coming toward you, the only way place to go was into the oncoming traffic. Highly dangerous.

There were more inclines in Belgium and I felt it. I’m glad I did the hill work practice the week before, but it’s safe to say that one can never do enough hill work. Donna flies up hills – she lives in Wales and is used to it. I’d lost my power on the fourth day and I think it is because I did not have a particularly good night’s sleep.

Brunching with the ladies

When we got to Brussels we were convoyed to Grand Place where we congratulated each other and took photos. We went back to the hotel, had a celebration dinner and some went out for drinks. I didn’t – I was in bed at 2330 where my head hit the pillow and I slept constantly until 800. I went down for breakfast, met the team and we decided to go back to Grand Place where we had champagne, lattes and waffles. That was a fantastic end to the trip before Eurostar’ing it back to London.

Thanks to Reggie for the picture of me in Grand Place, Brussels.

Strava maps:

  1. http://www.strava.com/activities/146870185
  2. http://www.strava.com/activities/146870186
  3. http://www.strava.com/activities/147760840
  4. http://www.strava.com/activities/147760841
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When technology becomes a burden

Systems and Technology should add value and make life easier, not harder. Here are some consumer examples from my life over the past 2 weeks.

1. TripIt – I am no longer a Tripit premium subscriber as of Wednesday last week. I was due to fly to London on Tuesday night and I received an iPhone notification to tell me that the flight was cancelled. I checked the Easyjet site and the flight was still showing as flying.

As it was a business flight, I popped into my travel office and got them to check. We wasted 30 minutes determining that the flight was still on. It was a very important flight for me – I needed to be in London for Wednesday. I filed a support case with Tripit in the morning and got a response several hours later to say that it had been a mistake. Then my iPhone app decided to ask me for customer feedback. The feedback was negative obviously. I got a response telling me that Tripit get their information from several sources and that I should continue to send anomalies into the support desk.

The flight was still on and I took it.  The Tripit service costs $49 a year and I’m still required to check out any flights that may be cancelled. This makes the service worthless. When it works, it works well. When it doesn’t, “it’s not our fault sir, we get our information from a number of different sources”. I don’t have time to waste and am paying for a service (that interestingly a lot of airlines are providing for free now via e-mail or SMS).

Exercising the “Power of No“, I decided to cut this small piece of negativity out of my life and save $49. Sorry Tripit – I’m cancelling. What you should have done is at least offered me some service credits and then fixed my account information.

2. Garmin Edge 200 – Normally an excellent device to use, I’m beginning to see issues with it. Actually it is a brilliant device most of the time. It tracks your bike rides basically. It has a very simple satellite navigation function that does not rely on maps but is still very usable. Most of the time.

Two weekends ago I completed a 200km bicycle ride and I intended to use a course on the Garmin. It is very easy to load a course – you simply copy a GPX file into a folder on the Garmin and it processes it into a course for use. I stopped at the Old Garrison for a splendid carvery lunch and in doing so the Garmin lost its connection to the GPS satellites. On resuming the Garmin from power save, it knew where I was but it could not connect my location to the course. For the rest of the day it was telling me I was off course. Very unhelpful.

Today the Garmin let me down again. I paused the ride and the unit went into power save. When one powers it on again, one can usually resume the ride. Not today. Perhaps I fat fingered it and deleted the progress but it is unlikely because you have to confirm the delete. I cannot find any trace of the 45km or so on the Garmin. This is very annoying as I’m doing a Strava Challenge to complete 600km in 16 days and every km counts.

The Garmin stays in my toolbox because it has worked for me really well other than these two occasions. Perhaps it just needs a factory reset.

3. Card Clash – If you have recently travelled in London you will probably have heard an announcement about keeping your contact-less cards separate to avoid confusion or Card Clash #cardclash. Basically your Oyster card will open the underground ticket barrier but now your contact-less Mastercard will open it and bill you. Both in your wallet? Which one actually opened the gate?

I have a similar problem with multiple travel cards. I have three cards – the Oystercard for London, the Opencard for Prague and the equivalent card for Amsterdam. These live with my iPhone on the basis that it is usually in my hand. The Opencard and the Oystercard conflict – that is, an underground barrier in London will “see” the Opencard and put up a “Seek assistance” sign, and the Oystercard will confuse the ticket inspectors in Prague when they scan the Opencard. These cards have to be removed from a wallet when they are scanned. Isn’t modern life rubbish?

The interesting thing is that the Amsterdam card just works. The readers in the trams in Amsterdam seem to ignore the Opencard and Oystercard. It is in the middle slot of the iPhone wallet so I would have thought I would have seen a problem already if there was one.

In theory there should be a way to set a smart card ID so that the relevant system only recognises the equivalent smart card. Years ago at a previous job, my work ID card would open any door in a neighbouring building because the ID system hadn’t been set up properly. In that building, I was recognised as Delroy the Cleaner. I had access everywhere. Not very secure is it?

But of course now multiple cards are able to do the same thing – a bank card can be used on the underground in place of the Oystercard. There needs to be some more thought on card clash – in places, swipe card systems do not appear to have been implemented with the use case of different cards in mind. Perhaps the answer is for there to be one card with one RFID and the user of the card subscribes to the services via a web front-end? Perhaps that solution is over-complicated.

That’s the end of the rant. I’m off to cry over the missing 45km. I’ve ordered Fish and Chips in Prague via the Internet. What could possible go wrong?

Posted in Rants and Opinion, Technology and Web | Leave a comment

Gathering social media posts into Day One

Day One is a great journalling application that runs on the Mac, iPad and iPhone. I have been using it since January to write a diary, keep track of my diet, keep track of my exercise and record a few other things.

Sometimes, it is nice to drag items from other sources into Day One. This is possible to do by hand but automating it is better. I have been looking at integrating Twitter and Insta.gram into Day One using IFTTT, a web based tool for triggering actions between web sites. An example of the use of IFTTT is that you can setup a rule to post on Facebook when you post on Twitter.

The integration of Day One with IFTTT is not a new idea at all. The GiftttDy script will do most of the work provided you are prepared to buy Hazel for $28. Hazel is a tool for running scripts or actions on the basis of files appearing in directories.

I used GiftttDy for a couple of days and it does the job. For me, a couple of things were missing:

1. I don’t like the format of the Twitter journal entries

2. I don’t want every Tweet to be imported. For example a blog post like this will be manually added by me in DayOne, so adding any related tweets is not necessary.

3. I couldn’t see how to tag my tweets in GiftttDy

So I set about writing my own scripts to do it. The way it works is exactly the same to GiftttDy. I have an action on IFTTT that saves every tweet to a file on Dropbox in a designated directory. Hazel monitors this directory and runs my script against the text file. The script uses the Day One command line tool to add the entry to Day One.

The Day One command line tool could do with some extra features, but the one that is missing is an option to tag a post. I didn’t have too long to spend on this, but I decided that the best way to proceed was to add a second directory that Hazel monitors. This directory contains details of the new Day One file and I have a script to hack in the tags. This script is truly horrible – it edits an XML file and inserts text in the right place. And this nastiness can simply disappear when a command line option to the tool is added to tags.

Obviously owning the code to the script means that I can format the tweets exactly how I want them. I have some ugly code to tag the tweets. What about my second problem? For this, I use curl and some simply pattern matching on the tweet. I use curl to expand any URLs in the tweet to their actual full versions because usually they are short URLs. Once I have the full versions, I can determine if I want to ignore them on the basis of the URL.

By a similar means, it is possible to add Instagram photographs to Day One – this is even easier than a tweet because IFTTT will write the picture file to a directory with the message in the filename.

My scripts are so ugly I won’t publish them here, but you can contact me if you want to see them. You should probably start with GiftttDy and go from there. I may well start using GiftttDy again if I can work out how to format the messages but one cannot beat a little exercise in programming to stretch the mind.

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Don’t let your own marketing work against you

This was the weekend to buy an Xbox One or for me at least. I saw an offer at a leading games store and that convinced me to go ahead and finally purchase one. I wrote in November that I would not go out and buy one immediately, but it felt like the right time.

The store had an offer on for an Xbox One, Titanfall download and Call of Duty Ghosts at £399. I went to the store and the offer was advertised outside. I allowed my lady to choose an addition game (Need for Speed Rivals for the record) and I picked up a second controller. All this would have brought the store about £500 of sales but when I got to the till they could not sell me the offer. They had no copies of Call of Duty. All they could offer me was the Titanfall Xbox at the same price as the offer, £399. They were not prepared to let me pick up Call of Duty at a later date, so I left it.

We checked a second shop and the prices were too high. Then we checked a third shop where they had an Xbox One, Titanfall and Kinect Sports for £420. We ended up buying this with Need for Speed Rivals and a second controller.

What is the moral of this tale? Well, I guess the original advert whetted my appetite and I decided to make the decision to buy an Xbox. At this point, I’d made the decision and I was going to get one regardless. The marketing at one store enticed me to buy an Xbox at a different store. The lack of willingness on the behalf of the first store meant they lost my business – they were advertising a deal outside the store and they should not have been given the lack of stock.

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5 ways to avoid pointless eating

Since April 2011 I have taken more care about what I eat and furthermore since July 2012, I have been eating less sugars and starchy carbohydrates. I have become more sensitive to “pointless eating”.

The fact is, when we go out to a sporting event, the cinema or the theatre we have the option to buy junk. It is everywhere. At the football it is traditional to have a pie and a pint. At the cinema, I get sick to death of the sound of popcorn being munched. At the baseball stadium, it is easy to buy hot dogs, popcorn, crackerjacks, fried dough, burgers, fries and beer at your seat. It is true that you can find a decent steak sandwich and a salad at some baseball stadiums but it is rare (I mean non-existent rather than the way it is cooked before you ask).

The time when I lost the most weight (or rather fat) in my life was when I spent September 2012 travelling around New England and Baltimore. I was on the Slow-Carb diet. At the beginning of September i was wearing 38 slim jeans which were a little baggy. Three weeks into September and I had to visit Gap in a hurry to buy 36″ ones. I was living off scrambled eggs and broccoli, rice-less Chipotle bowls, steaks and fish with vegetables. In the oldest restaurant in America, I ordered a lobster for dessert. On Saturdays I was stuffing my face with anything I could get my hands on. The only exercise I was doing was walking. The diet itself was doing its magic and by October I’d got to 76kg down from 86kg in July.

Being on my own and travelling made me very observant of others. I sat on a Greyhound bus from Boston to New Hampshire. There was a dude on the bus. He looked like a cool dude, but he was severely overweight. In the space of an hour he got through a pack of Reese Peanut butter cakes and a pack of cola bottles. I doubt very much he was hungry.

These are snacks that are completely pointless and unnecessary – you should forget about them for most of your week.

Here are some steps to take to avoid stuffing your face with pointless foods:

  1. Go nuts. A handful of cashew nuts will stop your hunger. Buy a large bag and portion them off into 8-10 pieces. Keep these for emergencies. After 15 minutes of eating them, your hunger will have gone. So will celery sticks laden with peanut butter (choose a pure one – peanut butter does not need any other ingredients other than peanuts).
  2. Hydrate. Are you hungry or thirsty? Yes, you are probably thirsty. Contribute to your 2 litres of water a day by drinking instead of snacking.
  3. Treat yourself with a glass of red. Out at the theatre or with friends? A small glass of red wine will not kill you and may have positive health benefits, but small means 125ml. You can have two of these a day. Make sure you are hydrated however.
  4. Queue it up. Want a doughnut? Write it on a list. On Saturday allow yourself what you want and revisit that list. 
  5. Try to think about those less fortunate in the world. Did you have a choice for breakfast today? Congratulations. Many in the world did not this morning and will not tomorrow morning either. If you have a choice to eat healthily, why choose otherwise?
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It has been a month of setbacks. About one month ago I went to the gym and did some shoulder exercises. The following day, I carried a large suitcase and a very full backpack to the office in London, intending to carry it onto the Heathrow Express later in the day. Strangely, it was picking up a small laptop that caused the back problem. Twang!

I still flew to Prague but went to an Osteopath there and got fixed up. In parallel to all this, I have been working on a personal project that has taken a lot of my time but alas has gone nowhere. I have not been able to train for my bike ride in May (London to Amsterdam then to Brussels) either. When I have had the time, I have not felt like it.

Oh, and I had a Burger King for lunch today. Big King XXL of a fail.

Basically all these silly little things have affected my diet and my fitness. I can see the difference in my muscles just by looking in the mirror.

The only way to start riding a bike after falling off is to get back on it. Start again. And if you fail, start again. Keep starting again and never give up. I went to the gym this evening and working on my chest and triceps, finishing with a bike ride. It was great to feel the pump of the gym again.

Posted in Diet, Fitness, Rants and Opinion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Cyrillic Alphabet

I have an interest in foreign languages but I have to say that I’m not very good at learning them. I did reasonably well at French at school but could never really apply what I learnt. I did 5 years of French and 2 years of German, and I can speak neither if the truth be told. 

In early 2012 I started to learn Czech and took lessons. It didn’t really sink in and I had to stop the lessons. In late 2012 I started to learn Dutch and did 4 hours of the Michal Thomas course. I picked up a lot but again I had trouble applying it. The way to learn a language is to use it. The most I’ve done with Dutch is order some chicken in a Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam and a couple of beers in a bar in Sluis.

Over the past 2 years I have been exposed to the Cyrillic alphabet, particularly with my travels to Sofia and Moscow. In December I decided to spend some time on Russian. In addition to my usual language barrier of actually learning the thing, I also have the barrier of not being able to read the words in the first place. My strategy is to learn the alphabet first and then try and learn some phrases. Luckily I have found a book called Read and Write Russian Script by Daphne West.

Interestingly Daphne got into Russian because it was taught as an alternative to Physics at her school at O-level. The result of this early decision has led her to a degree in Russian, a PhD on Russian poetry and winning the Pushkin medal for her contributions to the teaching of Russian. The path of life is fragile – make your choices wisely.

Anyway, the Cyrillic alphabet is named after St Cyril who with St Methodius created the Glagolitic alphabet which was a forerunner of the Cyrillic alphabet. It is now the third official script of the European Union – the first two being the Latin alphabet and the Greek alphabet.

Cyrillic takes a lot from Greek in fact. At a first glance, the ignoramus (i.e. me) wonders why someone would write В for a V sound and Р for an R sound. The answer lies in the fact that the Modern Greek letter beta is pronounced v and the Р is similar to the Greek letter row which sounds like r. As someone who had to learn the Greek alphabet to study mathematics where one runs out of letters quickly, I have found the Greek connection a good way to remember how to pronounce Cyrillic letters (concentrating on the Russian pronunciations). I’m still not there yet… Of course, if you are a Latin only person you will have to start from scratch. However remembering some of the explanations below may help you with remembering the differences, particularly of the letters that look familiar but sound different.

Here is a summary of the alphabet and its origins. One can group the letters as follows:

1. Letters similar to Latin ones, probably because the Romans nicked them off the Greeks in the first place.

The Cyrillic letter а, for example, is similar to our a and is pronounced ah or the a in father – much in the same way that a is pronounced in Dutch, German and Czech. In both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, this letter is derived from the Greek letter alpha α.

The letters are the vowels А(а) and О(о), and the consonants К(к), М(м) and Т(т). These letters are similar to their Latin counterparts, but also to their Greek counterparts Α(α), Ο(ο), Κ(κ), Μ(μ) and Τ(τ).

2. Letters that are similar to Latin ones but sound different. 

Е(е) – pronounced ye. It has a different sound but it derives from the Greek ε like the Latin e.

У(у) – pronounced oo and is related to the Greek Υ(υ) which is more like the Latin u. 

В(в) – pronounced v. It derives from the Greek β which in modern Greek is more of a v sound.

Н(н) – pronounced n as in new. Derived from the Greek Ν(ν). Go back a bit further in time – this letter comes from an equivalent in the Phoenician alphabet which looks similar to an H.

Р(р) – pronounced r as in rat but rolled. Derived from the Greek ρ.

С(с) – pronounced s as in sip. This letter is derived from a version of the Greek Σ which was more C-shaped, called the Lunate Sigma.

Х(х) – pronounced ch as in loch. Derived from the Greek χ called Chi.

3. Letters that sound familiar to Latin users but look different. All of Greek origin again.

И(и) – pronounced ee in feet like a European i which is how it is transliterated. It is derived from the Greek eta Η(η) and in fact was written like this up to the 13th century.

Й(й) – pronounced like the y in toy and usually transliterated as a j. Active use of this letter started between the 15th and 16th centuries with it becoming considered a separate letter from И in the 1930s.

Б(б) – pronounced like the Latin b and it is derived from the ancient Greek β, much like the Latin b.

Г(г) – a soft g and derived from the Greek gamma Γ.

Д(д) – a d sound and derived from the Greek delta Δ

З(з) – derived from the Greek zetta ζ, this is pronounced like the z in zoo.

Л(л) – pronounced l. This is the Greek λ lambda in disguise. Actually I have trouble with this one because I confuse it with pi π because of the curly line.

П(п) – pronounced p as this one is derived from the Greek π.

Ф(ф) – derived from the Greek Phi φ, this is pronounced like the f in fill.

4. Letters that neither sound familiar or look familiar

Ё(ё) – pronounced like the yo in yonder. A variation of е.

Ы(ы) – yes, it is one letter. I itself has been removed from the Russian alphabet but this letter remains. The sound does not exist in the English language but you can get there by trying a shortened i as in ill. It is derived from the combination of the soft sign Ь and the defunct Cyrillic i which was derived from the Greek iota ι.

Э(э) – the backwards e is in fact an e and similar to the Latin e, it is derived from the Greek epsilon ε.

Ю(ю) – pronounced like the u in university. Believed to originate from the Greek combination omicron-iota οι.

Я(я) – derived from an older Cyrillic character called Little Yus, this letter is pronounced ya as in yard.

Ж(ж) – pronounced like the s in treasure. It is not known where this letter derives from.

Ц(ц) – pronounced like the zz in pizza. This letter is thought to have come from a similar Glagolitic letter.

Ч(ч) – pronounced like the ch in choose.

Ш(ш) – pronounced like sh and is thought to derive from a Hebrew letter.

Щ(щ) – pronounced like shsh in EnglishShampoo. Derives from a Glagolitic letter.

5. Letters that have no sound of their own

Ъ – the hard sign which for practical purposes adds a tiny pause between syllables.

Ь – the soft sign which for practical purposes means that a gentle soft y is included after the preceding consonant.

The letters originate in Old Church Slavonic. Here endeth the lesson.

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