Tag Archives: telecommunications

Penmanship: It’s a goner

My day is almost over, but before “I lay me down to sleep,” I want to offer this minor regret about the craft I pursued for 37 years.

My handwriting has gone straight to hell.

I was blessed with good penmanship as a child. I got good grades from my elementary school teachers who used to actually grade students’ penmanship. My parents both had exquisite penmanship. I have in my possession a stack of letters Mom wrote to one of her brothers in the late 1940s. Her handwriting was impeccable.

I came of age with that kind of handwriting. I was inducted into the Army in 1968 and wrote letters home constantly. Dad would share them with friends and other family members.

I came home from the Army in the summer of 1970, re-enrolled in college in January 1971 and started taking mass communications classes.

I became a reporter, which required those of us in the profession at the time to learn how to write rapidly. I had to take copious notes from subjects I would interview. When one has to write like that so frequently, it stands to reason that one’s penmanship is going to suffer.

I finished school, got started in journalism. I kept writing quickly. My handwriting kept deteriorating.

Now? It’s shot all to hell. My wife needles me good-naturedly about it on occasion. She remembers my good penmanship.

Yes, I know that penmanship no longer is even taught in school these days. Children operate handheld “devices” to communicate. Many of them can’t tell time by looking at an old-fashioned clock dial.

My handwriting got so bad that I actually fantasized about some judge issuing a subpoena ordering me to turn over my notes. Hah! Go ahead and try to decipher this scribble, Your Honor!

But I do regret that I no longer can write with precision.

Mom and Dad no doubt would be unhappy with this admission.

Speak carefully … always

Secretary of State John Kerry is the latest victim of the urge to record everything everyone says every time they say it.

That does not for a moment excuse what he said the other day in what was supposed to be a closed-door meeting, which is that Israel may be turning into an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t hammer out a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority.


The term “apartheid” is poison in polite international policy company. South Africa implemented that disgraceful policy for many decades in which it denied the black majority living there the rights of citizenship. Whites and blacks couldn’t interact with each other. The policy ended with the release from prison in the early 1990s of the late Nelson Mandela. The rest is history.

Kerry’s use of the term at the very least was careless. It well may have damaged U.S.-Israel relations beyond repair.

Why wasn’t he smarter than to make his point another way? Didn’t he learn from recent history, such as the time Mitt Romney was caught on an audio recording at a fundraising dinner making his infamous “47 percent” remarks about how nearly half of Americans are going to vote Democratic because they depend on government subsidies and handouts? Didn’t he learn from the video recording of Congressman Vance McAllister making out with his staffer? There are countless other instances of people in high places being caught saying and doing things they regret because someone had a recording device hidden somewhere.

A Daily Beast reporter recorded Kerry’s statements the other day, getting past detection and apparently not heeding ground rules stipulating the meeting wasn’t open to the public.

In this world of instant communication where everyone has a set of electronic eyes and ears, the only response simply is: Too bad.

Where has my penmanship gone?

I made a startling discovery the other day as I picked up a pen to write a short note to someone.

It was that I am losing my ability to write … as in cursive writing, with pen and paper.

This is the Mother of Revolting Developments.

There once was a time when I had excellent penmanship. I think I inherited that skill from my parents, both of whom wrote with pen strokes that were things of beauty. I have in my possession letters that Mom wrote in the late 1940s to my Uncle Jim. Her handwriting was exquisite then and it remained that way until she died in 1984. Same with Dad, who was a bit of a wanna-be artist when he was younger; his handwriting reflected his artistic skill.

My sisters’ handwriting remains quite good.

Mine? It’s gone to hell.

I blame it on two factors.

One of them is the profession I chose to enter upon returning from the Army in 1970. Journalism is murder on penmanship.

Journalists spend the bulk of their day with a pen and notebook, scribbling furiously what they see and hear. You’re on the phone with a source, gathering information. The source is talking to you rapidly. You have to write just as rapidly to keep up. For the most part, the same process plays out when you’re talking in person to a source.

You can guess, then, what the scrawl looks like. It’s unintelligible to anyone except the author. A standing joke in the media business always has been to dare a lawyer or a judge to subpoena your notebook to enter as evidence in a court proceeding. Good luck trying to decipher what it says.

My handwriting skills deteriorated slowly over the 37 years I worked in daily journalism, a fact that never was lost on my wife — who to this day chides me over the loss of my handwriting skills.

The second thing that occurred was the introduction of the Internet. Yep, I’ll blame the rest of it on telecommunications technology.

I’m writing these words on a computer. I write almost everything now by punching keyboards. Send a note? Email.

The death of my handwriting isn’t yet complete. I can still sign my name, which is something a lot of youngsters reportedly no longer can do. I also can manage a legible note, but it requires greater attention and concentration than ever before.

Technology is a wonderful thing — most of the time.

It’s not so wonderful when it contributes to the decline of once-rudimentary skills.

When did phone-buying get so complicated?

I am about to make the most difficult, complex, mind-bending purchase of my life.

A new home? Nope. Already have one — and it’s paid in full, too.

A new vehicle? Did that one too recently. It was a piece of cake.

A recreational vehicle? Hah! Give me a break. It was love at first sight with our new fifth wheel.

I’m talking about a telephone. It’s the cellular kind, which you stick in your pocket and carry it around with you.

I know what you’re thinking. What can be so difficult about buying a cellphone? Well, let me tell you something: My wife and I will be able to settle pretty easily on the phone we want. It’s our sons and our daughter-in-law who are going to give us grief if we don’t get the “right” phone with the “right” calling plan and have all the “right” gizmos, gadgets and doo-dads that go with these devices.

My old-fashioned flip phone croaked this past week while my wife and I were celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. I charged the thing up one night. Turned it off, then turned it back the next morning; it was charged fully. Then during the day, it went dead — as in terminally dead. I tried to put it back on the charger at the end of the day. Nothing happened. I played “Taps” in my head.

So, with that we’ve decided we’re finally going to “upgrade” our phones. We don’t know what we’re going to do. Do we go with a “smart phone,” an “I-phone,” or are they the same thing?

Which provider do we use? I’m inclined to stay with the one we have used since we purchased these old-time flip phones.

For the record, let me state that I waged a public campaign over the course of several years to be the last human being on the planet to purchase a cellphone. I declared victory when I acquired one — although a friend of mine and at least one member of my family tell me they’ve never owned a cellphone.

Neither of them can prove it to my satisfaction … so my claim of victory still stands.

I remember the old days when my parents had to decide whether to go with a push-button phone or stay with the old rotary-dial device. Heck, I even remember back even further when Mom and Dad purchased a rotary phone with one of those new-fangled twisty stretch cords.

We’ve entered a new age when phone purchases have become more complicated than what used to be the decision that gave us the most headaches. A new home or motor vehicle? Forget about it.

I will make one vow at this very moment: I will not be caught walking and looking down at the device while sending a “text message.” Not ever. Period.

I’ll need some quiet time now to ponder the huge decision that awaits us.

Pray for us … please.