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Over the weekend, Jim Fleming of NPR's To the Best of Our Knowledge hosted an episode he called "Precious Ink." The subject was the written word, or rather, the hand-written word. Included in the program was a long foray into the tangible and intangible values to be found in the handwritten letter, and in the process of such writing. I was listening in my car on a short trip to the grocery, and I found it compelling enough to listen later to the entire broadcast, which you can find at the link above or the podcast.

Among other things, "Precious Ink" includes personal stories from listeners about poignant hand-written letters they have received—the first short note of a young son, the last letter from a grandfather. Fleming engages in a gentle give-and-take with Kitty Burns Florey, author of Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting. Hers is a subject I hadn't previously paid attention to: the fact many schoolchildren today aren't learning how to write legible cursive or rather, learning cursive at all. Unneeded say the modernists. What's the point, they ask, when computer and phone keyboards are available everywhere and the school-year is already overcrowded with...ahem...important stuff?

That attitude is mistaken, so Florey says, and one with unknown but potentially negative consequences. For one thing, not being able to write cursive means not being able to read it either, so no ability to decipher manuscripts.

The discussion between Fleming and Florey could not help but stir up awkward memories of my own first efforts at putting words on paper and my forever mixed feelings about using pen or pencil to carry out that process.

I was taught by nuns of the Dominican order for the first five years of my formal education. They supervised everything that occurred in the classroom, of course, including penmanship classes, which began for me in the first half of third grade. Palmer method. Which required left-handers like me to switch to the right hand, a process which approximates psychological (and neurological) torture. The nuns had done the same thing to my mother. Had they chosen another technique to teach us cursive, they would still have have made us left-handers switch. That's just the way they were wired.

So in class-time set aside for learning cursive, I made endless, well-shaped loops and swirls for practice, all of which my right hand refused to apply when it came to producing actual letters. My handwriting started out ugly but legible and remains so today. A readable scribble.

I began writing letters to my aunts and grandfather at age 14. Eventually hundreds, painstakingly penned, with large numbers of cross-outs and false starts.

About the same time, I became fascinated with letters people wrote, their style and form. Their directness. Their economy of words. At 16, I began reading books containing the correspondence of a number of famous people to their lovers, friends, colleagues. Usually, these books contained at least one sample of the actual hand-writing amid all the typeface. Some was gorgeous, the physical curve and flow of letters and words crafted with as much manual poetry as was created in the text itself. I marveled at this pairing.

Italic handwriting
An example of Italic writing.


Unlike they, however, I was liberated by the typewriter. This gave me speed, flexibility. Even more so with the keyboard, and no cross-outs. The only thing I write now by hand are grocery lists and bad poetry.

I had learned what I was required to learn with pen and pencil. And I all-but-abandoned it as soon as a substitute was found. But what if I hadn't learned to write cursive at all? Or what if I had been taught how to write the way Mother Nature intended: with my left hand?

Dr. Norman Doidge is psychiatrist who wrote The Brain That Changes Itself. It is his view that if cursive dies out, we will lose cognitive skills that handwriting builds. The brains of children who don't learn the movements required for cursive, he claims, "will develop in a different way that no one has really thought through. When a child types or prints, he produces a letter the same way each time. In cursive, however, each letter connects slightly differently to the next, which is more demanding on the part of the brain that converts symbol sequences into motor movements in the hand."

On the radio, Florey made a similar argument and added that there is a difference between writing a letter by hand and pushing a key that does the rest for us. Without citing research, which she regards as sparse, she says kids learn better when the connection is direct from hand to brain, and the more complex technique required to write a letter as opposed to make a keystroke is—I'm paraphrasing now—food for the brain's development. Florey not only recommends that children continue to be instructed in cursive, she also suggests a return to a 16th Century Renaissance style, Italic, which is actually a combination of cursive and printing. It has the advantage of being both graceful and easy to learn.

Edward Tenner cites neurologist Frank Wilson, who wrote The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture, and says:

"Although the repetitive drills that accompany hand-writing lessons seem outdated, such physical instruction will help students to succeed. [...] [T]hese activities stimulate brain activity, lead to increased language fluency, and aid in the development of important knowledge." He describes in detail the pivotal role of hand movements, in particular the development of thinking and language capacities, and in "developing deep feelings of confidence and interest in the world-all-together, the essential prerequistes for the emergence of the capable and caring individual."
Whoa. Handwriting creates humanitarianism? I think I'll take a pass on that.

Do you have beautiful handwriting?

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Latest Updates on Kossack Regional Meet-Up News Below the New Day sunrise cloud

:: COMMUNITY BUILDING UPDATES ::
Let's build communities!

Every region needs a meatspace community like SFKossacks.
We take care of each other in real life.
I urge YOU to take the lead and organize one in your region.
Please tell us about it if you do and we're here for advice.


THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY

:: Regions Organizing ::
>>>Instructions on HOW TO FORM A NEW DAILY KOS GROUP
NEW GROUPS IN THE PROCESS OF ORGANIZING:
Send a Kosmail to the organizers and ask for an invitation to the group.
Northern Indiana Area: Kosmail Tim Delaney

Long Island: Kosmail grannycarol

Northern Michigan: Kosmail JillS

Nebraska: Kosmail Nebraska68847Dem

Westburbia Chicago Kossacks: Kosmail Majordomo

New York Hudson Valley Kossacks: Kosmail boran2

North Carolina Triangle Kossacks: Kosmail highacidity

Caprock Kossacks (Panhandle/Caprock/Lubbock/Amarillo area) : Kosmail shesaid

West Texas Kossacks (including Big Bend Region and El Paso) : Kosmail Yo Bubba

Note to the above new leaders: Feel free to leave a comment any day reminding readers about your new group. Also, tell us about your progress in gathering members. Kosmail me when you've chosen a good name for your group and have created a the group. Then I'll move you to the NEW GROUPS LIST. When you've planned a date for your first event I'll make a banner for you to highlight your event in our diaries and your diaries.
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These are the groups that have started since * NEW DAY * began. Please Kosmail navajo if you have started a group before that.
NEW GROUPS LIST:

California Central Valley Kossacks - Formed: Jul 29, 2012, Organizer: tgypsy

New England Kossacks - Formed: Aug 6, 2012, Organizers:
Clytemnestra for Lower New England (Conneticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island)
nhox42 for Upper New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont)

Houston Area Kossacks - Formed: Aug 7, 2012, Organizer: Chrislove

Kossacks in India - Formed: Aug 14, 2012, Organizer: chandu

CenTex Kossacks - Formed: Sep 9, 2012, Organizer: papa monzano

Central Ohio Kossacks - Formed: Sep 26, 2012, Organizer: VetGrl

Kansas City Kossacks - Formed Oct 15, 2012, Organizer: [Founder stepped down]

Phoenix Kossacks - Formed Oct 16, 2012, Organizer: arizonablue

Chicago Kossacks - Formed: Oct 31, 2012, Organizer: figbash

Koscadia the Pacific Northwest coast from Northern California to Alaska  
- Formed Oct 17, 2012, Oganizer: Horace Boothroyd III based in Portland, OR

Boston Kossacks - Formed: Nov 7, 2012, Organizer: GreyHawk

Motor City Kossacks South East Michigan (Detroit) Area - Formed: Nov 10, 2012, Organizer:  peregrine kate

Pittsburgh Area Kossacks - Formed: Nov 12, 2012, Organizer: dweb8231

Salt Lake City Kossacks - Formed: Nov 17, 2012, Organizer: War on Error

Twin Cities Kossacks - Formed: Nov 17, 2012, Organizer: imonlylurking

Dallas Kossacks North Texas - Formed: Nov 21, 2012, Admins: Catte Nappe and dalfireplug. Please contact them to join the group. An Event Organizer needed.

The Southern California Inland Empire Kossacks - Formed: Dec 3, 2012, Organizer: SoCaliana

Los Angeles Kossacks - Formed: Dec 17, 2012, Organizer: Dave in Northridge  

Northeast Ohio Kossacks - Formed: Jan 16, 2013,  Organizer: GenXangster

Kansas & Missouri Kossacks - Formed: Jan 17, 2013, Organizer: tmservo433

I-77 Carolina Kossacks who live from Columbia, SC to north of Winston-Salem, NC. - Formed: Jan 30, 2013, Organizers: gulfgal98 and eeff

Indianapolis Kossacks - Formed: Feb 6, 2013, Organizer: CityLightsLover

Southwest Ohio Kossacks - Formed: May 10, 2013, Organizer: Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

Northern Arizona Kossacks - Formed:  Jul 5, 2013, Organizer: Sam Sara

Mexican Kossacks - Formed: Apr 14, 2013, Organizer: roberb7

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ESTABLISHED GROUPS LIST: (List will grow as we discover them)

SFKossacks Founded by navajo, Formed: May 2, 2005

Maryland Kos Founded by timmyc, Formed: Feb 23, 2011. Contact: JamieG from Md for a group invite.

New York City Founded by Eddie C - Contact the group organizer for meet-up events: sidnora

Baja Arizona Kossacks, Event Organizer: Azazello

Three Star Kossacks Tennessee, Founded by maryKK, Formed: Apr 8, 2011

Nashville KosKats, Founded by ZenTrainer Formed: Jan 30, 2012

Virginia Kos Founded by JamieG from Md, Formed: May 3, 2011

Kos Georgia Founded by pat208, Formed: Feb 13, 2011

Colorado COmmunity Founded by Leftcandid, Formed: Feb 13, 2011

New Mexico Kossaks Founded by claude

Philly Kos Founded by mconvente Formed: Aug 29, 2011

DKos Florida Founded by ThirstyGator, Formed: Feb 14, 2011, Currently organizing: Kosmail Vetwife to be included in next event.

Oklahoma Roundup Founded by BigOkie, Formed: Feb 13, 2011, Currently organizing: Kosmail peacearena to be included.

DKos Asheville Founded by davehouck, Formed: Feb 13, 2011 - Organizing Assist by: randallt

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:: Events Currently on the Books for ALL Kossacks ::
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Saturday, October 19th

Los Angeles Kossacks Dine at Saladang Song Again

TIME: 2:00 PM
LOCATION: Saladang Song
383 S Fair Oaks Ave • Pasadena

ORGANIZER: Send Dave in Northridge a kosmail to attend.

RSVPs:
1. Dave in Northridge
2. 714day
3. SanFernandoValleyMom
4. susans
5. otoelbc
6. philipmerrill
7. gmats
8. ducktape
9. Shockwave
Maybees:
Latest diary: LA Kossacks: Meetup: October 19, 2:00 PM, Pasadena, Saladang Song
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Dkos Asheville
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Saturday, October 19th

DKos Asheville Kossacks Meet-up

TIME: 1:00 PM
LOCATION: The Bywater
796 Riverside Dr. • Asheville

ORGANIZER: Send randallt a kosmail to attend.

RSVPs:
1. randallt
2. davehouck
3. Joieau
4. Gordon20024
5. gulfgal98
6. DawnN
7. Sandy on Signal
8. Mr Sandy on Signal
9. Munchkin
10. Alecia
11. Mr Alecia
12. cultjake
13. flwrightman
14. Otteray Scribe
15. Burns Lass
Maybees:
people power granny
One Pissed Off Liberal
Christian Dem in NC
SteelerGrrl
SteelerGuy
polecat
Audri
Phil S 33
bobwilk
Elaine
Latest diary: DKos Asheville - Weekly Open Thread
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Sunday, October 20th

MEGA Philly/NJ/NYC Kossacks Meet-up!

TIME: Noon
LOCATION: Stuff Yer Face
49 Easton Avenue • New Brunswick, NJ

ORGANIZER: Send mconvente a kosmail to attend.

RSVPs:
1. mconvente
2. belinda ridgewood
3. thankgodforairamerica
4. gchaucer2
5. sidnora
6. rubyr
7. mattc129
8. hayden
9. mallyroyal
10. Avilyn
11. blue jersey mom
12. ericlewis0
13. Rogneid + husband
14. aoeu
Maybees:
aravir and son
ask
Cinnamon
No Exit
andgarden
asterkitty
pfiore8
joanneleon
renzo capetti
MRA NY
Latest diary: Philly/NJ/NYC Mega Meetup! Additional Call for People Interested in Attending!
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Friday, October 25th

LAKossacks & SoCal Inland Empire See Lewis Black!

TIME: 9:00 PM
LOCATION: Agua Caliente Casino Resort & Spa
32-250 Bob Hope Dr. • Rancho Mirage

ORGANIZER: Send 714day a kosmail to attend.

RSVPs:
1. 714day
2. jakedog42
3. susans
4. Otoelbc
Maybees:
Shockwave
SoCaliana
Latest diary: L.A. Kossacks, Lewis Black Fans in So Cal
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Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise with SFKossacks banner treatment
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Friday, October 25th

Meet the Daily Kos Editorial Staff!

TIME: 6:00 PM
LOCATION: Daily Kos HQ
Address given privately to RSVP'ers • Berkeley

ORGANIZER: Send navajo a kosmail to attend.
You will need to bring Potluck.

HQ will be providing the main course; Salvadoran pupusas queso y loroco, (thick corn masa tortilla stuffed with cheese & Salvadoran vegetables and served with curtido & salsa) tamales de sal, (chicken tamales with potato & gravy steamed in plantain leaves) tamales de elote, (white ground corn served steamed) fried yucca and plantain.

Please volunteer for beverages & side dishes needed below.

- POTLUCK SIGNUP -

Beverages:
20 bottles of wine [11 down, 9 to go]
16 six-packs of beer [7 down, 9 to go]
8 six-packs soft drinks [1 down, 7 to go]
6 six-packs bottles of water [6 complete]

Appetizers:
5 appetizers, anything goes here. Whatcha' got? [3 down, 2 to go]

Side Dishes:
4 green salads needed, each to feed 10 [4 complete]
3 black bean side dishes needed, each to feed 10 (need Salvadoran inspiration?)
3 rice side dishes needed, each to feed 10 (need Salvadoran inspiration?)

Desserts:
6 desserts, a dozen hand-held desserts each [5 down, 1 to go]

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ANNOUNCING: A Carved Pumpkin Contest with 1st, 2nd and 3rd Prizes.
Feel free (or not) to bring an already carved pumpkin complete with candle. They will be placed on the tables for decoration and then voted on by attendees. Remember, a PRE-carved pumpkin.



RSVPs:
1. Markos
Editorial Staff:
2. Susan Gardner
3. Meteor Blades
4. Joan McCarter
5. Hunter
Staff:
6. Faith Gardner
7. Will Rockafellow
8. Jen Hayden
Activism Team:
9. Paul Hogarth
10. Chris Bowers
11. Rachel Colyer
12. Michael Langenmayr
Tech Team:
13. Jason Libsch
14. Scott
15. John
16. elfing
SFKossacks:
17. navajo + large ice chest with ice + 4 bottles of red wine
18. Lusty + dessert
19. side pocket + four 6pks beer + 2 wines + stuffed mushrooms appetizer
20. paradise50 + two 6pks beer
21. smileycreek + 2 wines
22. citisven + beer + beet dip
23. norm + pumpkin bars
24. Lorikeet + big bowl of fruit
25. kimoconnor + appetizer
26. remembrance and TLO + 1 wine
27. Glen the Plumber + Pasta Mystery Dish
28. madhaus
29. dharmasyd + brownies
30. ceebee7 + green salad
31. lineatus
32. Dave in Northridge + 2 bottles of wine
33. linkage
34. LinSea + six 6pks of bottled water
35. Shockwave
36. catilinus
37. FogCityJohn
38. justiceputnam + grilled balsamic veggies
39. zmom
40. exlrrp + souvenirs ;) !
41. shanikka + salad
42. DAH
43. BroadBlogs
44. jpmassar + dessert
45. PatG + dessert
46. LaughingPlanet + one 6pk of juice drinks
47. Mrs. side pocket

Maybees:
Cedwyn

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Saturday, October 26th

Drinks and Dinner at Lefty O'Doul's

TIME: 5:00 PM
LOCATION: Lefty O'Doul's
333 Geary St • San Francisco near Union Square

ORGANIZER: Send navajo a kosmail to attend.

RSVPs:
1. navajo
2. smileycreek
3. paradise50
4. dharmasyd
5. kimoconnor
6. Glen the Plumber
7. remembrance
8. norm
9. Dave in Northridge
Maybees:
Eyesbright
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Saturday, October 26th

New England Kossacks Meet-up

TIME: 10:30 AM
LOCATION: Silly’s
40 Washington Avenue • Portland, ME

ORGANIZER: Send nhox42 a kosmail to attend.

RSVPs:
1. nhox42
2. rebereads
3. Portia Elm (a potential mileage winner!)
4. bjedward
5. nailbender
6. Bill in Portland Maine
7. Common Sense Mainer
8. mdevine
9. theMarti
10. patmoshimer
11. commonmass
12. Actbriniel
13. LoreleiHI
14. mayim
15. Jane in Maine
16. Padula
17. bluesheep
Maybees:
Latest diary: C+J Kossack Fall Meetup (Updated 9/25/13)
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Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise with SFKossacks banner treatment
andrew mcguire
Saturday, November 2nd

SFKossacks BBQ in the Wine Country

TIME: NOON
LOCATION: Andrew McGuire's home in the Wine Country
Address to be given privately to RSVPs • Windsor
Andrew McGuire is Executive Director of California One Care

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We will also be honoring Día de los Muertos with an altar, feel free to bring something to place there.






ORGANIZER: Send navajo a kosmail to attend.
RSVPs:
1. Andrew McGuire
2. navajo
3. Shockwave
4. Hunter
5. elfing
6. Hunter/elfling offspring
7. smileycreek
8. paradise50
9. dharmasyd
10. maggiejean
11. norm
12. Lusty
13. dksbook
14. Mr. dksbook
15. kimoconnor
16. jpmassar
17. side pocket
18. Mrs. side pocket
19. ceebee7
20. ceebee7's sister
21. leema (will carpool from Marin)
22. Meteor Blades
23. Glen The Plumber
24. remembrance
25. TLO™

Maybees:

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Send navajo a kosmail if you post a diary about an event so we can update our round-up.

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