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Time magazine on the end of handwriting

SEATTLE, Washington - Time has an article this week from a twentysomething woman discussing handwriting - her incompetence at it, a bit of history of it, and some hand-wringing over its demise.

Everyone except college professors of literacy understands that computers are the reason for this:

The knee-jerk explanation is that computers are responsible for our increasingly illegible scrawl, but Steve Graham, a special-education and literacy professor at Vanderbilt University, says that's not the case. The simple fact is that kids haven't learned to write neatly because no one has forced them to. "Writing is just not part of the national agenda anymore," he says.
This is an example of why it's not a good idea to have "national agendas" driven by professors (or maybe anyone else either).

Penmanship was where I was a consistent underperformer in grammar school, and when the report card would come my father would then assign me writing drills, usually transcribing from a book of essays by Andy Rooney.

I haven't tried to write entire sentences in cursive in many years, so I just gave it a shot:

My hand was sore after this effort. Turns out, the hardest part was crossing the t's and dotting the i's... when writing single letters, you do that right away, but with cursive you have to go over the whole word after writing it. This was old hat for many years, but I just now struggled horribly with it.

found @ Slashdot


Lindsay Lohan's dad attempts hot Tiffani-Amber Thiessen pose

SEATTLE, Washington - A sheer top doesn't work for everyone. It definitely worked for Tiffani-Amber Thiessen back in the day. I thought the pic of her below was just about the hottest pic on the young mid-1990s internet. It has an understated sexiness to it. The clothing is perfect. The hair, perfect.

Now we have Michael Lohan, in what looks like a man-version of the same clothing? Why the hell are there pictures of him on the internet at all? Never mind one where he looks like he's trying to imitate one of the great photos of the 1990s.

I spotted Mr Lohan at Just Jared


Astronaut and ape, forever linked, at least in the movies

SEATTLE, Washington - Looks like a small model kit is available (or was available a few years ago) that is a conceptual cousin of one of my 2001: A Space Odyssey paintings.

A modeling fanatic went into detail on all the various flaws and difficulties of the kit. I'm not one of those model kit guys.

At least the kit does not have any features that unsophisticated observers will keep mistaking for a penis.


Summer Glau may be the Russell Branyan of science fiction

Warning: mixing of sports and science fiction ahead

NEW YORK, New York - I've finished watching Firefly and it's clearly another instance of Summer Glau not being given the chance to show her full potential. She spent most of her time prowling around the ship in her muumuu, having the occasional breakdown or uttering a cryptic comment or two. She did not have a prominent role until the final episode.

She had a beefier role in Terminator, but still was not the featured player.

And now, she's going to play second or third fiddle to Eliza Dushku on Dollhouse. Eliza Dushku!

I've questioned Glau's potential before, but after seeing a lot of her work I think she can handle something big. She's just not being given the chance.

Things like this happen in sports. Look at Russell Branyan. For years, he's only been given a chance to be a part-time player: he strikes out too much, he can't field, he can't stay healthy, he can't hit left-handed pitchers, etc.

Now Branyan has been given a chance to be a full-timer in Seattle this year, and he's having a big season. His hitting against left-handed pitchers is not great but is adequate, and he's doing everything else asked of him.

Someone needs to do this with Summer Glau. It's a shame I'm not a television producer, because I'd do it. I'd throw her into the fire, work her hard. To quote from The Mack, I'd work that broad like nobody's ever worked her before. See if she can handle it. I think I'd have a star on my hands.


Powerful drug offered at Cupcake Royale

SEATTLE, Washington - Cupcake Royale has placed a large, well-labeled shaker of nutmeg on their condiment bar. Do they not know that nutmeg is a powerful psychoactive drug? Maybe they do know and that's why it's there.

William S. Burroughs discussed nutmeg in a letter to The British Journal of Addiction in the 1950s, a letter that was reproduced in some editions of Naked Lunch:

Convicts and sailors sometimes have recourse to nutmeg. About a tablespoon is swallowed with water. Results are vaguely similar to marijuana with side effects of headache and nausea. Death would probably supervene before addiction if such addiction is possible. I have only taken nutmeg once.

There are a number of narcotics of the nutmeg family in use among the Indians of South America.
Wikipedia also has some information on the *power* of nutmeg:
Large doses can be dangerous (potentially inducing convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalized body pain). In large amounts it is reputed to be a strong deliriant. Users report both negative and positive experiences, involving strong open-eye-visuals (hallucinations), and in some cases quite severe anxiety. Users may feel a sensation of blood rush to the head, or a strong euphoria and dissociation.
This probably isn't much of an issue at the West Seattle location, because there aren't enough people around with either the knowledge or the desire to dip into the nutmeg. But, Cupcake Royale is opening a Capitol Hill location later this month, and I'm pretty sure the Capitol Hill hipster/indigent population will blast right through the nutmeg supply. May want to keep the nutmeg behind the counter there, just like how Twice Sold Tales in the U-District can't leave Kerouac books sitting around on the bookshelves where poor students will take them and shove them into their pants.


Sometimes foreclosure is a strategy, not a disaster

SEATTLE, Washington - Media treatments of foreclosures often have an air of treating the foreclosee as a noble victim, someone who's trying to do the right thing but has fallen victim to extraordinary circumstances. An example of this is a Seattle Times story from May on government help for these unfortunate victims:

Aurora Loan Services is set to foreclose on her home overlooking Seattle's Puget Sound on Friday. Despite numerous calls, e-mails and letters, she says she's only been able to have one phone conversation with a company representative.

"It's like this huge, concrete thick wall that you cannot get through," said Inman, 58, who is working as a human resources consultant, but making much less than she was before she was laid off by the City of Seattle.
Let's ignore for a second that we have a city employee who can afford a Puget Sound view property - the tone of the entire article is (1) foreclosees are victims and (2) President Obama is riding to their rescue.

I get an image in my head after reading stories like this, of a cruel bank sending four masked goons to haul the hapless residents from their properties, one goon on each limb, perhaps as a hungry child looks on with a tattered doll in her hands.

First of all - if you're a paycheck or three away from falling into a foreclosure that you don't want to fall into, you should have mortgage insurance. I get solicited for such insurance every month, and I've determined that I don't need it. The woman above (in a view property on a municipal salary where a pay cut has resulted in her not being able to make payments) has simply not been responsible. But I guess this is why the people have elected the politicians that they have elected - to dig them out of these holes.

But beyond that - getting foreclosed is often a strategy for a property owner, not a disaster to be averted at all costs. A friend of mine back east is doing it, and explained his plan to me in detail. He has an underwater condo with a paying renter. He's done the math on his income from the rent and his various costs (mortgage, taxes, condo fee, etc.) and has decided that the best move is to just stop paying everything, keep collecting the rent, and let the slow slow process of foreclosure grab the place when the time comes. He's 60+ years old and doesn't give a damn about his credit rating.

I've always sensed that situations like my friend's are more common than the media are letting on, and now I have some evidence to back me up: analysis of the causes of foreclosure show negative equity to be the leading cause of foreclosures in the second half of 2008, not the reasons more commonly cited in the media (e.g. evil banks offering "teaser" loan rates that roll into higher rates that the victimized borrower cannot afford). Negative equity does not in and of itself make you unable to afford payments, but it may make a thinking owner (like my friend) decide that walking away is the best option.

Of course, all the government "fixes" to the foreclosure "crisis" are either shooting at the wrong targets or aren't likely to lower foreclosure rates much even if they hit their targets (as the WSJ article above discusses in some detail).

codicil: When it comes to real estate, nobody has a more blinkered, myopic view than realtors. An Arizona realtor has dubbed people like my friend "sympathy foreclosees" (who is being sympathetic to whom, I'm still not sure) and declared that Something Must Be Done:
Everybody loses in a sympathy foreclosure, the lender loses money, the buyer damages their credit and usually they neighborhoods with many foreclosures are less attractive to buyers due to high crime in some of these abandoned homes. Something must be done....