Note Booker, Esq.

A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Monday, March 10, 2014

I don't care how long it's been . . . write that letter!

February was International Correspondence Writing Month (, the idea being to post a letter or postcard every day of the month. Many use the opportunity to write to people they don't know (but have signed up on the website to receive letters) in the hope of gaining a new pen pal.

I didn't make it every day, but I think I sent out about 20 letters. I chose to use some of my letters to contact people I had not seen, or even been in contact with, for a long, long time.These proved especially rewarding.

One of my letters was to a Naval Academy classmate of mine, a fellow electrical engineering major, whom I had not seen since we graduated more than 30 years ago. I wrote him because I discovered (I don't remember how) that he is a physics professor at a very prestigious college, and I knew he always wanted to be a professor. So, I thought I'd send him a note about how pleased I was for him. I also reminisced a little about struggling with engineering at USNA, told him I was a lawyer, where I lived, etc.

Another of my letters was to a friend from my Marine Corps days. He and I were lieutenants in the same company of an infantry battalion for a couple of years in the early 80s at Camp Pendleton, California, and a six-month overseas "pump" to Okinawa (from where we deployed to exercises all over the Pacific).  We were close enough that a few years later, he traveled 500 miles to attend my wedding — which was the last time I had any contact with him, nearly 27 years ago. I could't find any definitive current information for him, so I wrote to the address I had for him in Massachusetts from all those years ago. I wrote about some memorable moments of our service together, my family situation, my career, etc. and gave him and his family my best wishes.

I assured both of them that there was no pressure on them to write back. I really had no idea what either of them would think to hear from me after so long. Would they think I was an oddball for thinking that I could just barge into their lives in a personal way after such a long time?


My friend the professor wrote a very nice letter back quite promptly, thanking me for writing. He told me a little about what it's like to be a physics professor (I can't even imagine — reading a description of his research on his faculty page is almost like reading a foreign language, but then this guy got his Ph.D. at Caltech — sometimes referred to as "the MIT of the West.") He also told me how much he and his family enjoy living where they do, and I learned that each of us has a 12-year old only child daughter. Quite the coincidence! He also had some very nice things to say about our time at Navy. I was grinning all evening after reading the letter. I might even get a chance to meet up with him sometime, as he and his wife sometimes travel to the California coast.

Even more astonishing was the response I got from my Marine buddy. Within about two weeks of my letter, I got an email from him telling me how glad he was to hear from me, telling me that he and his wife were flying out to California that evening for a week (they travel this way regularly), and asking if we could get together while he was out here. I was blown away! We met and talked most of Sunday afternoon. He was able to fill me in on some of our common friends and acquaintances. We talked about old times and times since, good times and hard times, our families and values, and life lessons learned. It was a very meaningful and wonderful afternoon.

Two great experiences. From two simple letters.

Is there someone out there you've been meaning to contact, but just never got around to it? Maybe you're embarrassed about not writing earlier, so you're afraid to write now.

Don't be. Write them. Write them right now.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who else wants one of these for Christmas?

I was looking through a catalog we got in the mail today from and saw at least 10 or 20 funny T-shirts I'd like to have, but for a pen-and-paper nut, their best offering appears to be this one:

You can order it here.


Friday, November 1, 2013

My kind of judge!

Our local legal newspaper ran a profile of a state appellate justice, Timothy Reardon, who saw a computer on a colleague's desk for the first time around 25 years ago. Here's what I like about this guy:
That "machine," as Reardon frequently refers to it, has been the biggest change on the court in his 30 years as a judge. He now has a computer himself, but he misses the days when judges and attorneys would interact more in person instead of emailing. He still handwrites his opinions, which his judicial assistant types out.

"I think there is an inclination to just go on the computer without thinking through everything: that you are putting down," Reardon said. ''That's kind of why I enjoy writing it myself."
I liked this, but the article left me hanging. How could the interviewer learn that the justice handwrites his opinions (which can be many thousands of words long, by the way) and not follow up by asking about the pens and paper he uses?

I agree with Justice Reardon that writing by hand generally results in more thoughtful writing (or note-taking, which has led some professors to ban laptops in their classrooms). On the other hand, when you are stuck and just need to get some ideas down on paper in a rapid-fire manner, typing can be a great kick-starter. And, I suspect many clients (and partners) would look askance at anyone trying to write out a 20-page or 30-page brief by hand, considering what lawyers charge by the hour. But if it leads to a more thoughtful first draft and less editing down the road, maybe it really costs nothing more (especially if you're like me and you can't touch-type.)


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Polar Pen at Kickstarter

This pen is "polar" in a different sense than Noodler's polar ink colors, which are formulated to resist freezing. Here, polar refers (presumably) to the magnetic poles of the magnets that make up the body of this modular pen/stylus. Looks like some fun, but I'm not sure I'd wan to own one:

The Kickstarter campaign has been wildly successful. The project owner had a goal of raising $14,000, and instead has raised nearly $600,000 (Canadian), with 13 days left to go in the Kickstarter campaign!

For more information, check out Polar Pen's Kickstarter page.

Thanks to my dad for sending me this link. That's two posts in a  row based on emails from my dad.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Paper is not dead!

I'm not sure this commercial is from France — home of Clairfontaine, Rhodia, Quo Vadis, and the rest of the Exaclair family of brands. But it is in French. So, it's fun to think that Exaclair had something to do with this:

And, if you're wondering . . .yes it has been sixth months since my last post.

Thanks to my Dad for sending this.


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.