Monthly Archives: April 2011

Times Articles on Cursive and My Comment

Hi! Has anyone seen these?

The Case for Cursive

and

Do You Write in Cursive? (The Learning Network blog at The NY Times)

I thought the first article, which I flipped to by chance when I was leafing through the paper last night, was pretty cool. I hadn’t really considered before the loss of fine motor skills and increased susceptibility to forgery as issues stemming from the slow loss of handwriting. It does make sense, I suppose, but I don’t see them making parents and teachers stand up at school meetings to demand more classroom time for Ps and Qs. The major issues for me are the losses of a basic means of self-expression and access to primary documents, as well as my skepticism of the longevity and constancy of technology.

Anyone else have thoughts? You should submit them to The Learning Network or comment here—I’d love to hear them!

I submitted my thoughts on handwriting to the blog in the second link, in response to a couple of questions there. It was a fun way to pass 15 minutes or so, though I don’t know if my comment will actually be approved. I’m not really the target audience, being that the blog asks for student responses (ages 13 and up). In the event that it doesn’t, I’ve copied my comment below. (It’s so long! I didn’t realize…)

I do write in cursive and have since the third grade or so, when it was taught at my private school. We didn’t receive instruction past the third grade, but all of our assignments were handwritten until well after the point that other grammar schools were requiring typed homework. This was in the mid- to late-90s and early 2000s. It wasn’t until I began high school, at an institution that made technology a priority, that almost all assignments were typed. With that background, all my college notes were handwritten and I still need a pen and reams of paper to get creative brainstorming started.

I don’t write with my grandmother’s cursive (though I’m working toward it!) but a print/script blend that connects letters, most of which are a rounder version of the official cursive shapes. It’s neat and pretty, it’s legible, and it’s uniquely mine.

My interest is mostly artistic–I love calligraphy and reading beautiful writing from my grandmother’s generation or French schools–but I also truly believe that technology is fragile and fleeting.

Websites go down without maintenance, digital mediums become obsolete, email providers change, unexpected tragedies cut people off from the internet. I have a pile of floppy disks from technological eons ago, containing information I may never see again, and an AOL email account that I have no idea how to access anymore. I do, however, have access to all my old written papers and a ton of handwritten letters, as well as a means of easy communication that doesn’t rely on a phone or laptop or anything else that may fail when I need it.

Technology–of which typed text is a part–is important. I couldn’t have written all those papers as well and as quickly as I did if I didn’t have online research options and a word processor. And honestly, my letter isn’t going to reach CA as fast as email. But it also isn’t and shouldn’t be everything. There’s a world of practical use and artistic expression that is every bit as important, and we should pay attention to those too.

116. Mrs. M. (@Send Something) -Appatomax

117. Lauren P. -New York

118. my sister the second -Boston (postcard)

AND Linsey (@Send Something) -Tulsa


Quarter Life Crisis

Yeeesh. Can I please crawl back into my academic cave?

I had another interview at a law firm yesterday and then spent all of last night reading workplace reviews of various firms and non-profit organizations, trying to wrap my head around what actually working means for my life. What I found was for the most part very discouraging: lots of politics getting in the way of work, incredibly poor treatment of staff, few career options, and the death of the individual person behind the job title. I’ve been bummed about still not having full-time work, but now I’m even more bummed that perhaps I’ve spent all this time looking in the wrong places.

I had been committed to staying in NYC because I love my city and at the very least I would have family to support me during the roughest moments, but I’m not so sure I can do this anymore. There seem to be so few options for international non-profit work here—but how is that possible with the UN right next door? Maybe I should move to DC and start over there?

Does anyone want to share their workplace experience? What to reasonably expect as an entry-level person? Issues do you come up against as women? What do you look for in a job? What you like about your jobs?

Any and every comment would be helpful.

112. Limner -Katy

113. Nick G. -Ann Arbor

114. Elaine Mary P. -Cochrane, Canada AND LR M. (@Send Something) -Decatur

115. Juli Girlonaglide (@Send Something) -Lander


On letters

My current book is a real treat, containing as it does almost a whole (fictional) 19th century correspondence between two poets and dynamic thinkers—hidden, of course, under the dolls’ bed in a dusty abandoned room in a musty grand old house where one of the two lived out her days in seclusion and was laid in the ground.

The scholars who study the lives and works of these two poets, a worldly married man and a reclusive single women, at one point secure permission to read the letters in the bitterly cold library of the dilapidated house. I particularly enjoyed this passage, from the point of view of the scholar on the worldly married man:

Letters, Roland discovered, are a form of narrative that envisages no outcome, no closure. His was a time of the dominance of narrative theories. Letters tell no story, because they do not know, from line to line, where they are going. If Maud had been less coldly hostile he would have pointed this out to her—as a matter of general interest—but she did not look up to meet his eye.

Letters, finally, exclude not only the reader as co-writer, or predictor, or guesser, but they exclude the reader as reader; they are written, if they are true letters, for a reader.

Isn’t that an interesting perspective? The letters included in this story—and such beautiful letters they are!—certainly fit this idea of letter writing. They are expressive, they are intensely personal and thoughtful…they begin with vague purpose and let the pen shape ideas and feelings.

I would eventually like to write like this.

Often I make drafts of letters, especially my most important or longest ones. They are sometimes written on scrap paper, but most are typed in Gmail and then changed a bit more when I commit them to paper. My mindset when I type is as though I do indeed have a pen in hand, but I must admit that the ability to easily revise and reestablish tone does steal some of the spiritedness of my letters even as it polishes them. I always like the finished products of these drafts because they say what I mean in my truest voice, I believe in them, and they carry a disproportionate investment of my time and care with them to someone else. They really are a gift.

Many other times I write quickly and disjointedly, with much redundancy and at the expense of eloquence and sophistication. The letters I begin without pausing to sketch a mental outline are the ones I like least upon rereading. Sometimes they are produced through lack of time on a busy day, or lack of inspiration when the world seems colorless, or perhaps because I need to finish my letter for the day so I can close my eyes before the sky begins to lighten. Yes, the days that this project is a chore are sad days for my recipients—luckily they are fewer and farther between!

The letters I like best are the ones that are written by someone else. I have a sense of what I want to share with someone and an excitement to get to it. And, strangely, as I begin to write I slip into another voice—slightly old-fashioned, with a whimsical lilt. I feel my most creative when I’m this girl, and I have the most fun! I don’t have to search for phrases or polish ideas because they blossom in my mind and flow to my hand with nary a prompt.

Does anyone else find this happen when they write letters? Is there a difference between your letter writing voice and how you speak or write emails? What is it? Why do you think it happens?

Possession, by A.S. Byatt

104. David D. -Cork City, Ireland

105. Jenny S. -Blacksburg AND PostMuse (Orphaned Postcard Project) – Pittsburgh

106. Jessica K. -Park Ridge

107. Misty D. (The Pen Thief) -Ravenna

108. Sr. Christian M. -Chicago

109. Sharon D. -Bellevue

110. my soldier in Iraq

111. Alex C. -Chicago


Plodding Along

97. Laura E. -Chicago

98. my sister the second

99. Grace H. -New York

100. Natalie L. -Livingston

101. Becky (@Send Something) -Bethlehem

102. Jamie D. -Chicago

103. Martin Posta (@Postcrossing) -Jilove, Czech Republic

Spring this year seems to have adopted the characteristics of a petulant pre-teen: long moody bouts of rain punctuated by the occasional brilliant, warm sunny day. Those precious days are so worth all the other crap though!

Today was sunny and warm enough for me to venture outside in one of my armadillo sweatshirts. I swung on the swing and again noticed that after 18 winters and summers the roof of our club house finally rotted away. Then I climbed the small steep hill in the southwest corner of our quarter acre and sat on the spongy green moss between the tree roots, looking down on the backyard. The grass is still an ugly yellow and I’ve finally conceded that the snowdrops will not be making an appearance this year. I hope the rest of our flowers are not so bullied, but I don’t have much hope if our snowdrops, the very plucky white buds that are always the first to repel winter, have been routed.

I went to go lie on my back, knees in the air, on the ugly grass. Then I uncovered the blue patio table and benches, and sat down to write a letter to the Czech Republic.


90. Maria R. -New York

91. Sarah M. -Arlington

92. Tiffany L. -Chicago

93. Dylan M. -Tuscon

94. Maria F. -Lincoln

95. Linsey (@Send Something) -Tulsa

96. Mello -Boston

Between Sarah and Tiff I made it a quarter of the way through the year! Yay! Sarah is transitioning from New Delhi back to the East Coast, so I’m holding on to her letter until I have an address for it.

Also, I’m pretty glad that a government shutdown won’t affect the Postal Service. That would be a major bummer.


Taking Stock: March

59. Alex C. -Chicago

60. Liz C. -Chicago

61. Stijn C. (@ Postcrossing) -Brussels (postcard)

62. Cora Beth T. -Chicago

63. Sharon D. -Seattle

64. Nick G. -Ann Arbor

65. my soldier in Iraq

66. Linsey (@Send Something) -Tulsa

67. Sventlana K. (@Postcrossing) -Minsk, Belarus

68. Becky (@ Send Something) -Bethlehem

69. Postmuse (@Orphaned Postcard Project) – Pittsburgh

70. Ganga -Spring Lake

71. Julie S. (@Postcrossing) -Isny, Germany

72. Maria K. (@Postcrossing) – Velikiy Novgorod, Russian Federation

73. Alex C. -Chicago

74. Olga S. (@Postcrossing) -Obninsk

75. Mrs. Doll (@Send Something) -St. Joseph

76. my sister the second

77. LR McArthur (@Send Something) -Atlanta

78. Girlonaglide Juli (@Send Something)

79. Marissa M. -Boston

80. Malwina M. (@Postcrossing) -Poznan, Poland

81. Larry T. (@Postcrossing) -East Windsor

82. Lauren E. (@ Send Something) -Denver

83. Becky (@ Send Something) -Bethlehem

84. Lamar M. -Chicago

85. Laura E. -Chicago

86. Jessica K. -Chicago

87. Cat B. -South Hadley

88. Roy R. -New York

89. Olivia W. -Clinton

Three months down! I never really thought about how far I’d get with this project, but part of me is actually slightly surprised at myself for getting out over 90 letters. (Another part of me is wondering whether I should be insulted by the implied lack of confidence in myself…)

The breakdown went thusly: Seven letters to friends from college. A whopping 15 to people I met through online mail sites and blogs. Just one each to my soldier (been a bad girl there), and my sister (I think I did see her in person a couple of times though), and grandmother. One to a new friend, and another to a friend of a college friend. Three to friends from high school. One to someone who has generously offered to help me with my job hunt.

I’m thankful that I have so many people to write to these days! The last week has been especially kind to the mailbox, so I have the next 10 days or so all planned out–how awesome is that?! I am a little concerned that I’ve been neglecting the people I hoped to reconnect with from my real life, so I’m going to make a greater effort in April to look up some other old teachers and classmates.

March wasn’t a great month for blogging, largely because I went from working only a few hours a week to spending everyday running all over the place with various bits of temp work. I even got a job interview for a full-time position! I don’t know what April will be like, but I’ve really enjoyed writing No Post on Sunday and getting to know the people who read it. I’m going to try to make a little more time to sit down and blog, but my first priorities are (1) working, (2) letters themselves, and (3) crafting/drawing.

Postcrossing update: I’ve gotten some really thoughtful comments from people who’ve received my postcards, which has done a lot to redeem the experience for me. I think I just needed to open my eyes a bit and shift my expectations a little. I’m still not sure it’s something I want to continue when so many of the postcards require international postage and sites like Send Something have so many cool people, but there is definitely something to be said for connecting with people internationally. I’m going to keep at it for a bit longer. I also need to take a day to catch up on responding to all the interesting people who’ve written to me through the site.

And that’s March!


Operation Bloodhound

Okay guys, I call on your superior postal wisdom: How do I track down a letter that has been lost in the mail?

I made my former roomie a rather fabulous (if I do say so myself) birthday card, envelope, and small gift of paper cranes strung together with beads and buttons. Sadly, I quite forgot to upgrade the postage from 44c to 64c because the envelope was lumpy.

I mailed it on the third of March, and it still hasn’t arrived or been returned to me. Is there anything I can do besides cross my fingers?

 

81. Becky (@ Send Something) -Bethlehem

82. Lamar M. -Chicago

83. Laura E. -Chicago

84. Jessica K. -Chicago

85. Cat B. -South Hadley

86. Roy R. -New York

87. Olivia W. -Clinton