Day: July 26, 2013

Friday, 26 July 2013

07:31 – Yet more evidence, as if any more was needed, that really smart people sometimes do incredibly stupid things. Dr. Robert Ferrante, a University of Pittsburgh medical researcher, is accused of murdering his wife, neurologist Dr. Autumn Klein, by poisoning her with cyanide.

I mean, come on. Conventional wisdom has it that physicians make the most dangerous murderers. (I’d put them fourth, behind toxicologists, biologists, and organic chemists/biochemists.) But the point is that any of those people should be able to figure out how to murder someone without being caught. Dr. Ferrrante moronically decided to use cyanide, which is trivially easy to detect both from the symptoms exhibited by the victim and in the body after death. To top it all off, having decided to use cyanide, rather than synthesizing it himself–which is trivially easy even without access to a lab–he actually ordered 250 grams of the stuff on his university credit card, the only item he ordered that had no place in his research activities.

Barbara is off on a day trip with her friend Bonnie Richardson. She’s been working very hard lately and needs a break. I’ll be working on science kits, as usual.

11:37 – I just got email from AmEx saying that they believed an unauthorized charge had been made on my card. Indeed it was unauthorized, which I told the lady on the phone. She’s canceled the current card and issued me a new one, which is supposed to arrive Monday. This is getting annoying. It seems to happen about once a year, although my record was only two or three months between new cards. Each time, it takes an hour or so of my time to get the new card issued and update sites like Amazon, Netflix, PhonePower, GoDaddy, Dreamhost, and the many others with whom I have recurring transactions set up. They really need to bring back the death penalty for scammers.

12:48 – Has technology ruined handwriting?

Who cares? Teaching schoolchildren to write cursive is a waste of time. Other than my signature, I haven’t used cursive in more than 40 years, and I’ve barely used it in 50. Like everyone else at the time, I was required to learn cursive in elementary school, but I used it only when forced. Otherwise, I printed, which I could do faster and more legibly. In junior high-school, we had one required course each year in a “practical” subject. Girls took home economics and the like; boys took mechanical drawing, wood shop, and so on. Mechanical drawing emphasized neatness and, yes, printing. I don’t think I ever used cursive after that other than for those few teachers who required reports be done in cursive. Then in 10th grade I started computer programming, and that really put a nail in cursive. Well, that and the fact that I also took a typing course in 10th grade, taught by Brenda Spanish, who was an extremely attractive young woman but, alas, married to Dan Spanish, our ex-DI gym teacher.

So, I just checked. For the first time in at least 40 years, I just wrote a sentence in cursive. (Now is the time for all good men…) Not surprisingly, it was relatively neat and quite readable, if I do say so myself. Even after 40 years, muscle memory abides. I wonder if that means I could still hit the cover off a tennis ball. I also tried writing cursively left-handed, which made an unreadable mess; interestingly, I can print left-handed, albeit not as neatly as I can right-handed, but I can’t write cursively at all.

Again, I wonder why anyone cares about the decline and eventual death of cursive. Teach elementary school kids to print and to use a keyboard. Spend a little bit of time teaching them to make a reproducible cursive signature. That’s all they need.

I’ll admit that at one point I wondered whether cursive might be useful in teaching young children fine muscle control, but we now have many people in their 30’s and 40’s who never learned cursive. If they lack fine muscle control, that’s not evident from any data I’ve seen.

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