A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Notebooks in the zombie apocalypse

Hey, how 'bout that pocket notebook in last Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead? Milton, the apparent scientific advisor to the evil "Governor," is asked why he is attending outside the meeting of the heads of two rival survivor factions, and answers that he's there to record things. In so responding, he whips out a soft cover, craft paper colored pocket notebook — the size of a standard Field Notes notebook, or Moleskine Cahier, or maybe a Word notebook (which is what I'm using right now) — and emphasizes how important it is to record events so that the world can learn from them.

Milton proffers the notebook with such pride in his role as historian and advisor. It's obviously very important to him. And this is a guy who still has computers at his disposal. (In the midst of the zombie apocalypse, the Governor's town still has power, presumably locally generated.) Yet, Milton does not pull out a tablet or smart phone, but a notebook.

I wonder if a notebook brand that actually has its name on the cover would have been interested in buying a product placement ad for that scene?

Anyway, I think I'd be able to record events just fine in the zombie apocalypse. I have an ample supply of notebooks, pens, and lots and lots of ink.

UPDATE (3/14/2013): Milton's words are part of an explanation for an answer in the Season 3 Episode 13 trivia quiz: "Somebody's gotta keep a record of what we've gone through. It'll be part of our history."


Friday, March 8, 2013

Medicine for writer's cramp?

They can have my fountain pen when they pry it from my gnarled, cramped fingers
As much as I like using a pen and paper, I find myself having to take frequent breaks from writing.

So today, I see a Dr. Komaroff column addressing writer's cramp:

With writer's cramp, the muscles of your fingers, hand or forearm cramp or spasm during writing. Why does this happen? The precise reasons are uncertain, but it is possible that insufficient nerve signals from your hand into your spinal cord and brain lead to an inadequate "relaxation signal" from your brain to your hand.


Most cases of writer's cramp have no identifiable cause. But in rare cases, writer's cramp may result from disc disease in the neck, certain drugs (such as lithium), or brain disease (including stroke or tumors).
No identifiable cause? Look through the penmanship forum at The Fountain Pen Network, and you'll find people claiming that fatigue and cramping are brought on by relying too much on one's fingers when writing. These posters advocate writing from the shoulder on down. I'm pretty sure my handwriting book (Getty and Dubay, Write Now) says to do the same thing. This is supposed to be not just a way of keeping one's arm an fingers relaxed (which seems intuitive), but also to give greater control of the pen (which strikes me as counterintuitive).

When I began my (still uncompleted) quest a few years ago to make my handwriting legible, I tried following the advice to use more than just my fingers to move the pen, but I haven't been able to adjust to that. My fingers keep taking over, and my forearm will tense up after just a few minutes. So, I take breaks. But believe it or not, drugs are not out of the question for everyone. Among recommendations to relax the hand, not concentrating too hard on your handwriting, and hypnosis, there's this:
With your doctor's supervision you may try certain medications. These include trihexyphenidyl (Artane), propranolol (Inderal, others) or botulinum toxin (Botox) injections. They seem to help some people, although there are not many good studies of this treatment.
I think I'm going to give that whole "write from the shoulder" thing another try.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are the White House calligraphers overpaid?

I generally try to keep this blog free of politics. (Well, there was that one time I posted about the perks of a being assigned a senate office across from the Senate stationery store.) And this isn't a political post, though the information in it comes from a political blog.

Anyway . . . someone today decided to ridicule the idea of the suspension of public tours of the White House as a part of the sequester spending cutbacks. He did it by pointing out other White House expenses that he apparently thought were frivolous:
Like the "Chief Calligrapher," Patricia A. Blair, who has an annual salary of $96,725, and her two deputies, Debra S. Brown, who gets paid $85,953 per year, and Richard T. Muffler, who gets paid $94,372 every year.
OK, let's set aside politics. I have no idea what these particular calligraphers do, and I suspect they stay on from president to president. But I'm wondering . . . is this the going rate, or are they overpaid?

If I could find someone to pay me nearly a hundred thousand dollars a year for my handwriting, I'd quit being a lawyer in a minute! But I know I could train from here until doomsday without coming up to snuff on calligraphy.

UPDATE (3/7/2013): My dad saw this post (he may be the only person still following this blog after my unscheduled and unannounced 6-month posting hiatus) and sent me this article that rounds up some reaction to "calligraphy-gate" from around the political spectrum.