This is the place for my rants, raves, reviews and just general "stuff". May you be amused, enlightened, and perhaps even a little pissed off.


The Death of Cursive, Thank God!

When I was growing up, oh so many years ago, we had to learn the alternative penmanship form of writing called "cursive". Even back then it seemed like busy work, but I went along because; A) I had to, B) I slightly bought into efficiency argument, and C) it's what adults did. I was never very good at it and thus argument B never really materialized. Argument C became much less important when I became an adult, although some would argue that they are still waiting for that to occur. So flash forward nearly 40 years. Apparently in the intervening years, it seems to have been de-emphasized, atleast in our school district. Our son never seemed to deal with it much and he was pretty much inclined to type anyways, something that I would have done had it been more of an option for me when I was young.

But here's the rub. These days, two uses dominate the cursive landscape, signatures and writing amounts on checks. I'll take the latter first. That's the way I was taught to do it and thats how everybody else did it. The reason, as stated, was that it makes it much harder to alter the amount and thus affords your checking account a modicum of safety from unethical check recipients. I didn't think about it much and most certainly didn't challenge the notion, until I really started using checks. As it turns out, my aforementioned deficits in cursive writing skills became a big pain in the butt. I often made cursive mistakes in writing the amounts, which lead to wasted checks and wasted time. Quickly realizing that it wasn't some sort of law, I went to "printing" and the errors didn't occur and I never looked back. Problem solved.

The primary usage of cursive is now signatures. When you stop and think about it, nearly all signatures are a visible statement of individuality and bear little resemblance to the cursive that we learned in primary school. It's now a service mark for people. My signature can barely be distinguished as a form of writing, let alone anything Mrs Fleming would have taught me. I have quite a bit of signed sports memorabilia and I am really happy that nearly all of it has the player's name elsewhere, as I wouldn't be able to divine even 5% of the signatures by themselves. It's actually the signature that causes us problems right now. In the past, any "document" that our son had to sign wasn't terribly important in the long term and pretty much any scribbling, or printed name in his case, would do. Things like signing syllabus sheets that indicated that he had read them are plentiful. But now it becomes serious. He just got his new passport and it requires a signature. Suddenly the printed name doesn't seem adequate and his cursive skills aren't such that he can "just do it". It's gonna require the development of a real signature. Thankfully we have plenty of time to do that, so its not a problem.

So, in the end, cursive isn't really used in any manner that it terribly important or required, so they should pretty much dispense with it all together. Rather than waste that critical time in the classroom giving the impression of providing them with a valuable skill, why don't they do something else, like teach them the rudimentary bits of some relevant foreign language. In absence of any other better guidance, most any qualified elementary school teacher should be able to grasp the fundamentals of say Spanish and teach it to little kids. Written and audio materials are plentiful to teach the teachers the basics. You're not going to make them fluent and ready for a job in a foreign country, but you will help prepare the eager little sponges that are their brains for the future. Ours is an intertwined and interdependent culture that would be well served by learning an alternate language, rather than an alternative script.


My best case for an iPad

After reading a blog entry, I have found the thing that seals the deal for me getting an iPad. Of course, being gadget-ophile that I am, I still require atleast a modicum of rationality for getting a new gadget. For instance, my getting an iPhone was green-lighted because it allowed me to go on vacation without a laptop and still keep in touch with the world, as seen through the internet and email. The iPhone is a great platform that is useful yet not overwhelmingly seductive like a laptop in terms of time spent.

Anyways... the aforementioned blog post gave me the killer app for an iPad. Essentially I will use it as essentially a third monitor for my macbook-based development environment on which I would put things like email and facebook and the like. In my home office, the primary monitor is a 24" LG LCD and the secondary is the laptop screen. In my work office, the primary is a 19" LCD. I have already started down this path, using my iPhone as a Biff will running without an email client (thunderbird) on the desktop machine. Most of the time, the email client is just an "attractive hazard" and make me prone to distraction, rather than aiding productivity. On the iPhone its easy to oversee or ignore incoming email without spending too much time on it. When something important comes in, I fire up thunderbird ands its business as usual, except that I close it when finished. The iPad will be a better platform for doing this, as compared to the iPhone, mostly due to the larger screen. As Lucy from "Peanuts" clearly recognizes, its all about real estate.