Who Mourns for Cursive?

CursiveSometimes I think that Ramona Grigg of Ramona’s Voices exists just to annoy me. Don’t get me wrong. I love her work. Look over there on the right under “Friends”: she’s there. But there are so many versions of her that I find myself constantly getting confused. For some time, Google+ kept telling me that I ought to add someone named “Ramona Grigg” even though I had already added Romona Grigg. So I emailed her, and sure enough, she has two Google+ accounts. (In her defense, it isn’t clear how one gets rid of a Google+ account—just like everything Google.) Who knows, she may have have ten twitter feeds. I just couldn’t say.

Well, this morning, Ramona added something to her Google+ feed (or whatever you call it) from Constant Commoner, and on a very interesting subject, What Does The Death Of Cursive Mean? Now that was a subject on which I was sure to have something to say. So I read it and indeed, I do have a few comment. But first, I wanted to find out who this Constant Commoner was. And, of course, it was Ramona Grigg. It’s the blog she uses for her non-political writing. Fine. I just wish that she could send out a map of her various names and places! Now onto the issue of cursive.

Ramona says that she had a very hard time learning cursive. I was the opposite. It was the only part of my early grades that I seemed to be good at. And that is interesting because she quotes an educator who works with children who suffer from dyslexia. And I had dyslexia. Although, as is typical of such people, I rarely dotted my Is nor crossed my Ts. And may I just say that what is the point of having cursive if there are these two very big exceptions. I mean, the letter T is the most common consonant in the whole language. But I do remember when I was very young that people were very impressed with my cursive and even at the time I thought that was pathetic. I mean, really: it’s kind of an insult. “What you write is garbage, but the way it looks on the page is excellent!”

To this day, I have decent handwriting. This is a skill that has one and only one purpose: writing notes on greeting cards. And even still, I have to look up how to do a capital Q, which looks more like the number two than anything else. But contrary to what I learned is generally true, when writing in cursive, I am slow. But I suppose I would be faster if I ever used cursive to write something that wasn’t formal.

In the end, I disagree with Ramona. I do not mind seeing cursive go the way of Latin. And that is the way it is going. It will never disappear. It will simply be something that just a few people know how to do because occasionally you need someone to translate Horace or to make sure that our legible copies of the United States Constitution actually say what the silly looking original one says. And that’s a fine state of affairs as far as I’m concerned.

After all, Ramona admits that she does most of her writing on the keyboard. And to be honest, most of my spelling knowledge is now dependent upon my fingers just knowing the keys to press. My conscious mind is lost on anything longer than six characters. But there is, I think the ultimate reason why we should not mourn the passing of cursive and it comes from Ramona herself. She ended her article with the following image:

Sincerely Ramona

I had to look at the “About Me” page to know it was Ramona. I could tell the first word was “Sincerely.” But “Ramona”? Really?! Is that a capital R? Much of the beauty of cursive is that everyone’s is different. But that’s also much of its difficulty. It is hard to read. It is better than all capital letters printed, but that isn’t saying much. And printing is for the purpose of the reader, not the writer. And that’s why this site uses Times New Roman as its base font, and not some hellish script font.

Cursive is fine, but the only problem with 41 states not requiring that it be taught is that 9 states still do.

Sincerely Frank


I just noticed: I still forget to dot my Is!

Gun Lobby: Profits Before People!

Peter Rodger and Richard Martinez

Where this photo comes from is a bit of a complicated story, and if you want the details, you can go to my sources, David Atkins’ article, Two of the Most Heartbreaking Photos You Will See All Year. The picture of two of the fathers of boys involved in the Isla Vista killings—one of the perpetrator and the other of one of his victims. Both boys are dead now, of course. They met on 1 June and the photos were just released. They are already working together to end gun violence. And the photos are heartbreaking.

Atkins wrote, “Any politician who looks into the eyes of these two men and does nothing to curb the proliferation of guns in America deserves universal scorn and public shaming.” Of course, we all know that. Sadly, we also all know that they will not get universal scorn and public shaming. In fact, it will work the other way around. Any politician (Republicans most especially) who even suggests that the smallest thing be done about gun violence will be publicly shamed. And as usual, the NRA will get their folks out to vote while the vast majority of people who want sensible gun restrictions will sit at home and watch as any politicians who does anything is thrown out of office.

This isn’t just an issue of the NRA being a lobbying group for gun manufacturers. It is also the case that there is a sizable group of people who are not only single issue voters, they are single letter voters. The NRA rates the candidate and the members vote for whoever happens to have a higher rating, even if the politician would get an F on every other issue that the NRA member cares about.

There were seven people killed at Isla Vista. There were 27 at Sandy Hook. And not only was nothing done after that shooting, there are a whole bunch of people who claim the shooting never took place. Really, enter “Sandy Hook” into Google, and it will offer you, “Sandy Hook conspiracy.” Enter “Sandy Hook shooting,” and it will offer you “Sandy Hook shooting fake.” The same thing doesn’t happen when you enter “Isla Vista shooting.” But give it time.

As I’ve argued for a long time, this isn’t about gun rights. After all, there isn’t a mass movement calling for the right to own flame throwers, bazookas, and nuclear bombs. This is a mass movement developed by the gun manufacturers’ lobby. This is all about profits. And it isn’t just guns. It’s everything. The rallying cry of the conservative movement ought to be, “Profits Before People!” Because that is what they think. Just to take a single example at random: over the last four decades, almost 2,000 coal miners died each year of black lung. Yet all we hear about is how coal companies might lose profits if we modernize our power plants.

I ask you: what are 30,000 gun deaths per year in this country compared to the $30 billion gun industry? That’s only a million dollars per person. Is a human life really worth a million dollars? To the people who make that money, the answer is clear enough: no.

“Uncertainty” Not Holding Back Hiring

Dean BakerDean Baker is back with another one of those great snarky headlines, Is Uncertainty Delaying Hiring or Is This Just Another Make Work Project for People Who Write About the Economy? This is the ultimate zombie idea: it has been killed countless times but just keeps shambling on. Apparently, it is back.

Over at the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell has noticed that there are more job postings but still companies are not increasing their hiring. She thinks this must mean that the companies know they need more workers, but they just can’t bring themselves to hire because of “uncertainty.” Who knows? Tomorrow, Obama may nationalize every business in America. Then where would they be? Seriously though, no one is ever clear as to what these companies are more uncertain about now than they ever are.

Dean Baker, of course, is addicted to simple math and he showed that even now, employee turnover is high enough that even if an employer were wrong to hire an employee, within a few months another employee would quit or be fired and so the new hire would be needed. Every six months, almost 20% of all employees leaves a job for one reason or another. What’s more, if this “uncertainty” claim were true, it would be apparent because companies would be working their existing employees more hours. And they aren’t.

So why are there more job listings even though there really are no more jobs? Bake explained:

Listing is cheap. In a weak labor market there are more potential good hires out there than would be the case in a strong labor market. This means that there is likely to be a greater return to having a greater search effort. In a strong economy and strong labor market an employer might face a substantial cost for delaying a hire, since they need to fill a position and their business will suffer from having a vacancy sit open. Furthermore, there is little likelihood that if they let an acceptable worker get away that the employer will find a better worker later.

In other words, the labor market is slack, so employers know that they can always get acceptable workers on a moments notice. This would not be true in a tight labor market. So they list jobs, hoping that they can find a really great employee at a really great price. Meanwhile, the fact remains: there is low demand in the economy. Businesses are not hiring because businesses do not need to be hiring. None of this is difficult to understand, but I’m not in favor of firing economics writers. A make work program is a very good thing right now. We could use a lot more of them in other fields that actually matter.

More Republican Delay on Global Warming

Climate Change Is a HoaxHere’s a question for you, what has saved more lives: condoms or new AIDS drugs? That’s a rhetorical question unless you are a complete idiot. As the saying goes: an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure. But I think the weights are off. It ought to be more like, “A gram of prevention is worth a metric ton of cure.” And so it is with global warming. This morning, Jonathan Chait wrote, Best New Republican Climate Ideas Still Pretty Bad.

The article is about how various conservative writers are pushing the idea that we don’t need to do anything to stop or slow carbon emissions. Technology will save us! What I find most amusing about this is that this is not a new idea. Conservatives always say that technology will save us. We never have to do anything because technology will save us. But then a hundred people die in one night in London because of the air pollution, and the people decide that maybe they can’t wait for the miracle cure that technology will bring some day.

This idea is even stupider in its current incarnation. These reformicons want the government to invest money into creating the technology. But as Chait pointed out, the government already has such a program. It’s called: the Advanced Research Projects—Energy. It was created back in 2009 as part of the stimulus, and since that time, Republicans in Congress have been trying to kill it.

But are you ready for the even stupider than even stupider? One of the big ideas behind taxing carbon was that it would spur on technological innovation in green energy. That’s why “cap and trade” used to be the favored policy response to global warming. Remember just six years ago when John McCain was running for president? He was in favor of this plan. Of course, he was also in favor of the free market approach to healthcare reform we now call Obamacare. But no more! As soon as a Democrat accepts a Republican policy, it because, “Socialism! Socialism I tell you!”

Liberals are not against technological solutions to global warming. But the truth is that conservatives are. All the reformicons are doing is what conservatives always do about everything: they delay. This is just another delaying tactic. But this time it comes with the hilarious addition that the government is already doing what they claim we absolutely must do. Meanwhile, the problem of global warming gets worse and worse with every instant we don’t reduce our carbon emissions.

The Evolution of M C Escher

M C EscherOn this day in 1898, the great lithographer Maurits Cornelis Escher was born. As a young man, he was sickly in ways that I don’t like to think about. In college, for example, he failed some of his courses because of skin infections. Nonetheless, he seemed to get past this, attract a wife, have children, and live what seems to have been a fairly normal life.

He was born in the Netherlands, but moved to Italy in his early 20s. Everything was fine there. He liked the scenery. But with the rise of the fascists, he could stand it no more. Escher saw himself as non-political, but I doubt that’s really true. He was an artistic bourgeoisie and wasn’t political because the system worked for him. But fascism pushed against that. So he moved the family various places before ending up back in the Netherlands where he spent the rest of his life.

Escher is known for his mind-bending lithographs, but his early work wasn’t like that at all. He did a lot of landscapes. Very pretty stuff. There is no doubt that the man was a master of his trade early on in his career. Here is an example from 1930, Castrovalva:


Later in his life, he dismissed all of his work before 1935 as merely practice exercises. But that’s clearly not true. As with Magritte, I think sometimes the conceptual aspects of his later work distract from its beauty. But we definitely see his work evolve over time. In 1934, he created Still Life with Spherical Mirror, which contains some elements that will eventually become a recognizable part of his repertoire:

Still Life with Spherical Mirror

And the rest is history. I’m sure you’ve seen all his famous works, so I don’t feel the need to present them here. He did important work very late into his life.

Happy birthday Maurits Cornelis Escher!