Friday, September 21, 2018

A real Masshole story…

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, but as I sit here writing this post on Wednesday evening, it doesn’t look like this is going to be the night when the Red Sox clinch the American League Eastern Division title. Our boys are trailing the Yankees 6-1 in the 7th, and I don’t have a good feeling about this one. (O me of little faith…)

But, as of this writing, there are still another 10 games left in the season, and the Magic Number is 2. Which means any combination of Red Sox wins and Yankee losses that adds up to 2 means the Red Sox clinch. Probabilistically speaking, this is going to happen. The Sox aren’t going to lose 10; New York isn’t going to win 10.

We will be in like Flynn.

I don’t know how far into October the Sox will still be playing. (O me of little faith.) But clinching the division? We got this.

Which leads me to one of the all time great Masshole stories.

On Wednesday, it was reported that a couple of jamokes, make that Massholes, had found the 2018 division championship banner that the Red Sox were planning on putting up once the team clinches the AL East.

[Louie] Iacuzzi said Wednesday by phone that he and his buddies spotted an object wrapped up on McGrath Highway in Somerville Monday morning. So he pulled over and crossed multiple lanes of busy traffic to retrieve it. Inside was a massive banner that read “ ‘2018 American League East Champions’; it’s the banner,” Iacuzzi said. (Source: Boston Globe)

And then the wheels in Louie Iacuzzi’s brain began to spin, and he decided that he wasn’t just going to give this treasure back and get nothing in return.

“We want to return it, we’re trying to do the right thing, but I’m not just going to hand it to them, know what I mean?” Iacuzzi said…

“My dad’s telling me to put it on eBay and sell it for a lot of money,” Iacuzzi said. “But I want to give it to the original owner.”

My guess is that a banner for the divisional championship (yawn: big nothing) that fell off the truck and never actually hung in Fenway Park doesn’t have all that Bannermuch value. Seriously, folks, before you paid someone for the official one that fell off the truck, you could make a reasonable facsimile for yourself. Maybe it would have some value if, against all odds, the Red Sox actually don’t clinch. But I mean they’re not going to lose 10 games in a row while the Yankees win 10 games in a row.

Anyway, Louie Iacuzzi wasn’t thinkin’ eBay. So he called the Red Sox. And waited for a response.

Meanwhile, Louie and his fellow Masshole were cooking up a plan for what they were going to do if the Red Sox decided to just go ahead and print up another banner.

“If they do try to put a duplicate up, you best believe we’re going to show up and say, ‘That’s not the original,’ ” [James] Amaral said. “We’re hoping they do the right thing. You know, we did the right thing. We could have kept it, we could have put it on eBay. You know, we got connections where we could have reached out to other sources.”

“Connections”? That sounds ominous, in a ‘leave the gun, take the cannoli’ kind of way.

But all the planning and possible connections came to naught. Louie handed the banner back and got nada in return. In any case, a duplicate had already been made by the banner company. The owner of that banner company – who (can this get any Mass-holier?) is an alderman in Somerville - doesn’t believe that the original banner fell off the truck. He thinks it “walked off the truck.”

Louie Iacuzzi isn’t happy with the implications of the banner having walked, not fallen, off the truck:

“If I didn’t pick it up, a hundred people would have ran over it,” he said. “I don’t want a million dollars. I don’t need a million dollars. All I wanted was to maybe bring my family, my friends to a [expletive] baseball game, maybe meet a player. . . . The flag is back home with the Boston Red Sox.”

He also lamented his newfound notoriety.

“I want to tell you guys something: I found the flag,” Iacuzzi said. “I was never looking for money or fame or anything. I wanted to return it ever since I seen it.”

Needless to say, the comments on this story have been a wicked pissah thing of beauty, and include multiple mentions of Mark Wahlberg’s making a movie out of the saga.

As Masshole stories go, this story is just about perfection. The only thing missing, as far as I can tell, is a sidekick named Sully.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

When you want to bag your baggage

Years ago – make that decades ago – bus stations,train stations, and aiport terminals had lockers where you could store your luggage. Then those lockers began disappearing from public spaces.

Some trace such their disappearance to the 1970s, after a bomb believed to be hidden in a coin-operated locker killed 11 people and wounded dozens more at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. By 1995, after Muslim extremists were convicted of planning a terrorist campaign in New York, Grand Central Terminal shut down its baggage, the New York Times reported. The terminal’s lockers had disappeared even before that, partly because of security concerns but also to discourage their use by homeless people. (Source: WaPo)

But the need to dump your luggage didn’t disappear.

Sometimes you have a couple of hours before your train and you want to walk around the city without dragging your roller bag behind you. Sometimes you take the offer to get on the later flight and all of a sudden have enough hours to buzz into a new town and do a bit of tourism. Sometimes you finish your business and have time to kill before your next call. Sometimes you’ve checked out of your hotel, have someplace to go, but don’t want to have to backtrack to your hotel and retrieve a bag you’ve left with the bellhop. So there you are, stuck with your overnight bag. Your brief case. Your laptop. What a drag!

But if you’re fortunate enough to live in Boston, NY, Philadelphia or Washington DC, and you’re fortunate enough to have a StoreMe location nearby, you can drop your bags off and run. Or walk. Or stroll. Or window shop. Or lunch. Or whatever.

StoreMe is the brainchild of Peter Korbel. It’s:

…an app-based service that allows people to park their gym bags or luggage with cooperating merchants for short periods of time. The idea — which is sort of a cross between Uber and Airbnb for luggage — transforms unused storage space around the city into something like those coin-operated lockers that used to be found in many airports, bus depots and train stations. StoreMe users can take the backpack off their backs for as little as $7.50 a day.

I think that this is a terrific idea. So much so that I’m actually toying with the idea of making a small investment in the company. (No, I didn’t win the 50-50 at Fenway the other day, but – wonder of wonders – a little startup I did some work for when I first began freelancing just got sold and they’d granted me some shares that –wonder of wonders – turned out to be worth something. Given that I could have papered my condo with options from companies I worked for that never stuck their nose above water, shares in companies I worked for (and thus should have known better than to invest in) that went to zero so all I ever got out of them was a capital loss, it was a pleasant surprise to have, if not my ship, then my rowboat come in.)

Anyway, to get back to StoreMe being a terrific idea, success will rest on having drop off locations convenient to wear you want to drop your stuff off. And on your being willing to drop your bag off at that venue.

I took a quick look at the places that have been signed up in Boston and I recognized a few – convenient to tourist locations and/or colleges and universities – and willing to store bags for up to 7 days. Others were a bit more off the beaten track – at least off of my beaten track. But one caught my eye. My old friend, the Underground Express on Winter Street, a store I blogged about in January, writing:

What intrigues me about this really crappy store is not the lottery tickets and three-dollar umbrellas. It’s the display out front, a display that’s been there for years. This display has never been attractive. Even in its prime, these were not exactly nice suitcases. But over the years, this luggage has become patchily sun-faded. And cracked in places. There are holes in each of these bags. Sun-faded you can live with. But cracks and holes in luggage? I wouldn’t be surprised to find that these suitcases have become rats nests. (I will not be exploring this theory, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rat sticking its twitchy nose out when I’m passing by after dark.)

And, oh, yes, you may not be able to see it clearly, but these bags are roped together with heavy duty metal rope. So that someone won’t steal them? (Source: Pink Slip)

Would I trust my luggage with this place? Hmmmmm….

Still, I think that StoreMe is on to something. Some times you just want to reduce your burden, lighten your load, drift around hands free. Maybe not enough to drop my bag at the Underground Express. But, theoretically at least, I’m down with it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

As a gray hair AND an old head…

At 68, I’m still working a bit, taking small writing projects when they come my way. God knows I couldn’t actually live on what I make, but it’s definitely a nice-to-have. It means I can throw a few bucks Beto O’Rourke’s way without blinking. Order the high-end noise canceling earphones from Bose when the incessant drilling from the gut-reno next door starts driving me cra. And, every 7 or 8 weeks or so, fork over the $$$ needed to keep my gray hairs hidden away.

But if I were still working working, I wouldn’t be. Not in high tech, where I’m no longer old enough to be everyone’s mother. I’m now old enough to be everyone’s grandmother.

A few years back, I went to one client’s marketing group offsite. By my estimate, there were two of us over the age of 40: me and the Chief Marketing Officer, who was forced out a couple of months later. (Having discussed it with this CMO, our shared belief was that the force out was because she was the only woman in this boys’ club, rather than that she was “older” – i.e., a good decade younger than I am. This woman is incredibly smart and good at what she does and – bravo! – is still working as a CMO in high tech.)

Recently, I talked ageism with another client – a woman in her early forties who told me that she thinks she has a few more years because she looks a lot younger than she is.

I’ve also had the discussion with high tech marketing friends – M and F -  who’ve hit their late forties or early fifties. They talk openly about whether they have another job in them, whether they’ll be employable in a few years, what they’ll do next.

It should go without saying: everyone I’m talking about here is whip smart, super competent, great to work with and for, and keeping completely up with the latest in technology, in marketing, in technology as it relates to marketing, and in marketing as it relates to technology.

Yet they all live in fear of the grim reaper, in the guise of a 20-something HR manager, beckoning them into their office and handing them their walking papers.

We hear all this about how everyone “needs” older workers to hang on, hang in, yet there is no doubt about it that there is a shit-ton of age discrimination in high tech, on both the marketing and on the techie sides.

So I was certainly not surprised to see an article in the Boston Globe on a complaint filed against IBM that:

….alleges the technology giant systematically fired tens of thousands of older workers in recent years as part of an effort to recruit more millennials and “make the face of IBM younger.”(Source: Boston Globe)

IBM maintains that they don’t do this and, in fact, claims that there’s been no change in the average age of their workers. Which is not to say that there may not be certain groups (e.g., marketing and techie) that aren’t finding themselves croaked while others (e.g., finance) make out okay. That’s my guess, anyway.

As part of its move to “embrace the Millennial mindset,” the suit said, IBM has been “pushing out older employees,” paring more than 20,000 jobs of employees 40 and over in the United States during the past five years alone.

The complaint cited a 2006 paper by an IBM consulting arm that described the company’s older employees as “gray hairs” and “old heads” and said younger workers are “generally much more innovative and receptive to technology than baby boomers.”

As a gray hair (under there, somewhere) old head, I would like to point a couple of things out there.

For one thing, we do have to be open to new ideas (these days known as “innovation”), and I have seen some fellow gray hair old heads sitting their with crossed arms and sourpusses resisting change. And yet, a lot of what passes for innovation is just plain dumb. And this has always been the case.

As for receptivity to technology, it is my observation that baby boomers who have spent their career in technology are quite receptive to technology or they wouldn’t be there to begin with. Admittedly, I do on occasion admit to boredom with the new and the shiny, but I can write a mean tweet. I can throw terms in that optimize content so smoothly that the reader can’t begin to figure out that those terms were added in for search engine optimization purposes. And, as it turns out, I’m “up” on AI, machine learning, natural language processing, and the deep-geek technology underlying “stuff” like autonomous vehicles.

And keeping up is something that everyone I know still working in tech, however gray haired and geezerish, still does. The ones that didn’t, they already got out.

I suspect that proving age discrimination by IBM will be an uphill climb. IBM probably has all sorts of metrics to demonstrate that they haven’t discriminated against anyone. But, in truth, I suspect that when they swept out the deadwood, the sourpuss arm-crossers, they also tossed folks who were keeping up, still productive, etc. Just because they could.

Good luck to the plaintiffs.

In my gray haired, old head way I’ll be rooting for you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Plastics

In an iconic scene from an iconic movie (The Graduate), Benjamin – played by Dustin Hoffman – is advised by a friend of his parents to pursue a career in plastics.

That was in 1967, and we had no idea whatsoever just how BIG (and god-awful) plastics would end up being.

Sure, we had plastic. Our phones were no longer Bakelite. We wrapped our lunch sandwiches in Saran Wrap. But there was nowhere near the packaging we have now. While polyester had been invented well before, in 1967 no one was actually wearing it. (Give us a few years…) And the Big Wheel had yet to replace the sturdy steel trike with the chrome bell.

Plus, way back in those ancient times, people didn’t discard stuff quite as rapidly as they do now.

So fast forward five decades, and we end up with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a flotsam-chocked mass: “45,000 and 129,000 tonnes of plastic debris spread over an area roughly the size of Alaska.”

This is plastic waste that makes it way into our oceans through rivers or overboard from ships, widening, widening in the gyre.

The idea of sweeping it all up might sound fanciful. To Boyan Slat it seemed merely ambitious. What if, he wondered in 2012 (then aged 18), you could build a massive bow-shaped floating barrier, anchor it to the seabed and let currents shuffle the litter into the scoop? Despite his youthful age and madcap scheme, Mr Slat set up the Ocean Cleanup to put it into practice. Six years, €20m ($23m) and several prototypes later, the device set sail from San Francisco on September 8th, escorted by a Coast Guard vessel, a shipload of camera crews and a flotilla of curious boaters.

System 001, as the contraption has been christened, is a hollow cylinder 600 metres long and 1.2 metres in diameter, itself made of plastic (polyethylene). It was moulded together into a seamless whole from 12-metre segments at a shipyard across the San Francisco Bay in Oakland. A three-metre-deep skirt (made of sturdy polyester) dangles beneath the boom to prevent litter from escaping under it; buoyant plastic tends to float within a metre of the water’s surface. (Source: The Economist)

Unfortunately, System 001 doesn’t miraculously get rid of the Garbage Patch. It hoovers it up, hangs on, and waits for another vessel to collect it for sale to recyclers.

And sadly,

The system can do little about plastic that has fragmented into microscopic particles, but these make up just 8% of plastic in the gyre.

Still, that 8% goes into fish and poisons the fish and those of us who consume them.

Anyway, at least 92% is being seen to. So bravo Boyan Slat! What a great invention. What a great mission.

If you’re wondering what the recyclers are going to do with it:

Recycled plastic is already used to make some products, such as guttering and sewage pipes. Now attention is turning to roads. On September 11th in Zwolle, a town in the Netherlands, a 30-metre bicycle track made from 70% recycled plastic and the rest from polypropylene was opened. It will be used to test a product called PlasticRoad, which is being developed by two Dutch firms—KWS, a road builder, and Wavin, a firm that makes plastic piping—in partnership with Total, a French oil-and-gas firm…If all goes well, the inventors hope to develop the idea and make the sections entirely from recycled plastic. Paths, car parks and railway platforms could follow. Eventually, sections for use as actual roads are planned. These could contain sensors for traffic monitoring. In time, the circuits in the plastic roads might extend to assisting autonomous vehicles and recharging electric cars wirelessly.Source: The Economist)

And – get this – these roads should last two to three times longer than asphalt roads, and cost less to lay down.

There’s also another method of recycling plastic for roads – this one will include plastic in with asphalt. The mix can be customized for things like bus lanes or areas where there’s a lot of turning. Plus it helps prevent potholes, which will be of interest to any cold-weather city or state.

Maybe technology will, in fact, save us from ourselves.

Anyway, I’m delighted that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is being taken care of. (We just need to stop dumping plastic into the ocean.) And I’m glad that plastics can be recycled into roads.

Meanwhile, Nike lets you drop off old sneakers (whether they’re Nike’s or not) that they’ll recycle for you. The other day, I dropped off a worn out pair of Asics and a worn out pair of Brooks. Since I wear sneakers about 90% of the time, and since I walk about 5 miles a day, I go through about 4 pairs of sneakers a year. I used to throw them in the trash, where they’d end up not rotting in landfills somewhere in upstate New York. Or wending their way into the North Atlantic Garbage Patch – for, indeed, there is one.

Once the Pacific Patch work is underway, they’re going after our local one.

Much happier to think of my old sneakers preventing potholes than choking cod to death.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hail, Columbia, the “gem” of the natural gas providers

There is natural gas in this building – it powers the communal dryer and water heater – but I don’t have any in my unit. I considered getting the gasline extended into my kitchen when I reno’d a few years back, but decided against. Gas is certainly easier to cook on than electric, but I opted for the Euro-modern induction cooktop. I like it just fine. And I don’t have to worry about whether the guys who extended the gasline into my unit knew what they were doing.

Growing up, our home’s heating and cooking was gas-fueled, as was an apparatus (I believe it was called a calcinator) in the basement that burned paper trash (installed after Worcester outlawed burning trash in a barrel in your backyard).

Anyway, other than a vague worry about whether the line from Point A to Point B was put in right – which I really never had to worry about, since I chose not to us gas – I’m all for natural gas.

Oh, I see periodic signs around town that a gas leak has been detected. And the Dig Safe ads on TV.

But I don’t tend to sit around thinking that natural gas, while clear and present, is a clear and present danger.

Then, last week, there was a series of explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts and a couple of its suburbs. Dozens of houses burnt down, thousands of people were evacuated, and one teenage boy lost his life while sitting in a car. (The chimney of an exploding house fell on the car.)

I had never heard of the company that was responsible for the gas pipes that went boom. I thought Eversource and National Grid were pretty much “it” for energy providers around here. But here they are, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, now a household word.

They’re no secret, however, to state regulators. The company:

…has been fined tens of thousands of dollars by the state’s utilities regulator in recent years, and its corporate parent linked to serious blasts in at least two other states.

Since 2010, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has fined Columbia Gas for safety violations that included faulty pressure testing and response procedures, insufficiently covering new service lines, improperly classifying leaks, and breaking rules around the use of leak repair kits.

The state agency found Columbia Gas was slow to respond to a 2012 Seekonk fire fueled by a broken gas pipe, and ordered the company to update its emergency response plans and develop new training programs.(Source: Boston Globe)

They were also responsible for a major explosion in Springfield a few years back in which 18 people were injured.

In that incident, a company worker investigating a gas odor at a downtown nightclub accidentally punctured a high-pressure gas line, triggering an explosion that leveled the building and damaged dozens of others, authorities said.

“It felt like a bomb fell in front of the building,” a neighbor told the Globe at the time.

The Massachusetts state fire marshal determined the Columbia Gas worker relied on incorrect sidewalk markings for the gas line’s location. The company reached an $850,000 settlement with the city and paid millions of dollars to settle other claims and lawsuits.

Indiana-based NiSource is Columbia Gas’ parent company. The day after the Lawrence explosions, their stock tumbled 12 percent in anticipation that the company would be on the hook for major settlements.

Columbia doesn’t sound like a gem, to say the least, but they have apparently been trying to upgrade aging gas infrastructure for the last few years, complying with federal and state regulations (which, contrary to some thinking, really are necessary and vital to our existence).

Trouble is, they and other gas companies may have been in too much of a rush, hiring people to fast-track fixes but not adequately training them.

Our governor isn’t placing much trust in Columbia. He put Eversource in charge of the recovery in Lawrence.

Conspiracy theorists have been speculating that hackers may have caused the explosions by jiggering around with gas pressure monitors and gauges which, thanks to the Internet of Things, are all connected to the outside, hacking world. But I’m guessing the problem is plain old aging infrastructure combined with human error.

We’ll see what the investigation into this one turns up. But it won’t be pretty. And it’s going to cost Columbia plenty. Wouldn’t want to be on their management team, that’s for sure.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Location, location, location

My dry cleaners has an autographed picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on the wall near the register. The dry cleaners – re-facaded as a French restaurant – played a supporting role in The Departed.

Fast forward, and some scenes fro Black Mass – what is it with Boston and films about Irish-American thugs? – were filmed at the Hampshire House, better known as The Cheers Bar. Some neighbors spotted Benedict Cumberbatch walking down the street. I didn’t.

Way, way, earlier, I did see Jeff Bridges when Blown Away was shooting, up near the State House, just up the Hill from where I live.

Given this isn’t Hollywood, nor is it Toronto, or even Georgia, there seem to be plenty of movies filmed in these parts – mostly, I guess, because Massachusetts offers tax incentives. But, then, so do a lot of states. The truth is, we have a ton of photogenic scenery and sites around here. I stumble across film crews with fair regularity. Seeing the stars is another thing. Mostly I see the trailers and the lunch spreads set out.

I haven’t, however, given much thought to how locations get picked. But finding and managing locations is actually a way to make a living.

At least it is for “location scout” Tim Gorman, a local guy who “is always on the lookout for suitable movie sites.”

Recently, he was hugely bummed to find out that German restaurant Jacob Wirth was closed. He was hunting for a period beer hall from the 1800s, and the downtown Boston restaurant fit the bill. But it was shut down after a fire, and after realizing it wouldn’t be immediately available, Gorman went to Plan B: the Castle at Park Plaza in Boston, a former armory. (Source: Boston Globe)

Too bad about Jake Wirth’s, which sure would have “fit the bill”, given that opened in 1868 and I don’t believe changed a lick over the 150 years it served up beer and wurst. I’m pretty sure that the tables were the originals and, while the chairs were too flimsy to have been around a century and a half, I’m betting that they used the same type of chairs all that time.

cair

One reason the Boston area and New England overall are popular is because we have a lot of ye olde stuff, which lends itself to ye olde period productions.

(By the way, they’re filming yet another version of Little Women. Guess every generation gets its own Jo…)

There is more to finding locations than just nosing around looking at interesting places.

If they require street closures, are off-limits, or need special permitting, Gorman is accustomed to wrangling over legalities and filmmaking logistics.

Then there’s the fact that the location scout is sales person, trying to convince someone to let Martin Scorsese or Greta Gerwig plunk down in their property.

Make that reverse sales person, as the location manager is offering you money: $2-3K for a house, and up to $5K to $10K for a restaurant or bar. Hmmmm. Maybe I should leave my blinds open, just in case Tim Gorman, or some other location consultant, comes exploring and decides my living room looks interesting.

“I’m both detective and mind-reader, trying to find the right location. Where does the main character live? What kind of car would they drive? What bar do they go to after work? I need to find all the physical spaces for the film. It’s a lot of research and investigation, as well as shoe-leather — pounding the pavement and trying to get behind closed doors.”

Location finders can also end up running the day-to-day operations between the film crew and the property owner, making sure – I’m guessing – that, if Nanny’s cookie jar gets busted, the owners are compensated and that; if the film crew comes in and trashes your lawn it gets resodded.

Now, driving around looking at stuff kind of sounds like fun. Sort of like being a perpetually, however offbeat, tourist. But all the mundane wrangling? Thanks, but no thanks.

Still, I wouldn’t mind finding more out for myself. Maybe Tim Gorman really does need a really cool old-timey living room. (I will lock Nanny’s cookie jar away for safe-keeping. No lawn to worry about trashing…)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cursive on the comeback?

One of the young assistants at my gym/PT place – I float in and out of fitness and physical therapy – is applying to grad school, and he asked me to take a look at his essays. He gave me a printed copy and I read through and made my edits in the margin. He took a quick look at it and told me, “Your handwriting is fine. I’m just not sure that I can read cursive.”

Huh?

I knew that they weren’t spending much time worrying about whether kids learn Palmer penmanship – got to spend that precious classroom time prepping for the all-important standardized state tests to make sure that kids learn the Common Core. But I hadn’t thought through that this would actually translate into young adults who could neither read nor write cursive.

My writing is okay. Mostly legible, occasionally “nice.” But when I’ve been writing a lot, or I’m tired, it does tend to deteriorate. Generally, though, my signature is clear, and I can – if I concentrate – write with a fairly respectable hand.

My sister Kath has handwriting that is my beau ideal. My sister Trish has pretty good handwriting, too. I like my cousin Barbara’s quirky print/cursive writing, too. (Which I chalk up to her being a lefty.)

We all learned the Palmer Method which was, from second grade on (when it was introduced to students), practiced everyPush pull day in exercise books. With our hands curved as if we were holding a tennis ball, and our forearms flat against the desk, we wrote out lower case alphabets, upper case alphabets, ovals, and push pulls.

Those are push/pulls and ovals on that pic of a yellow PostIt note. And that looks like my writing. Pure Palmer penmanship.

Here’s what the Palmer alphabet looks like:

Palmer

Signs illustrating the Palmer Method – similar to the one above – were posted in every class room I ever spent childhood time in.

After 7 years of exposure and daily practice, even after all these decades I pretty much stick to Palmer. In high school, I stopped using the capital Q that looks like a 2, and substituted a Q of my own invention, which pretty much looks like a typescript Q, only slanted. At one point, one of the more officious nuns called me out on it. Who did I think I was? In her class, I was to use the Palmer 2-like Q.

I’m not very familiar with methods other than Palmer. My father, I know, didn’t use it. He may have learned the Spencer Method:

Spencer

In any case, I always thought his writing was ultra-classy, and preferred that he sign my report card rather than my mother. (Her penmanship was some sort of bastardized version of Palmer. I’ll have to ask my Aunt Mary how, exactly, they learned cursive.)

In any case, I do believe there’s a value to learning cursive.

How are you going to sign something?

Sure, I just signed a document via DocuSign that imposed some fake script on my name and that counted as a signature. But in real life, there will still be non-digital forms to sign. What do you do if you don’t know cursive? Print your name in block letters, like a kindergartner? Mark it with an X?

And what if you actually have to take down some information? What if, for whatever unimaginable and far-fetched reason, you don’t have an electronic device on which to do so? Cursive is a lot faster than printing, that’s for sure.

Fortunately, even if it’s no longer quite the “thing” in grammar school that it once was, cursive may not be a completely lost art.

At least if you’re in Connecticut, where there’s a summer cursive camp.

Brigid Guertin, executive director of the Danbury Museum & Historical Society, has struggled to find interns capable of deciphering the sepia-tinted documents of their city’s handwritten past. “The majority of our assets are in cursive and not transcribed,” she said.

So three years ago she launched cursive camp, in hopes of training tomorrow’s interns today. Surprisingly, children and parents flocked to it.

The campers, ages 6 to 14, spent their waning days of vacation under the guidance of third-grade teacher Kathleen Johnson creating their own ink (a mashing of berries, vinegar and salt), scratching their names on paper with Day-Glo quills, or with cotton swabs on paint-filled bags, or with their fingers in generous shmears of shaving cream. (Source: Washington Post)

Well it sure would have been a lot more fun if we’d had Day-Glo Quills and shaving cream, rather than Sheaffer cartridge fountain pens. But whatever the tools deployed learning to write can help kids with more than just taking notes when our iPad is dead:

Now that technology has routed children to communicate via typing or (shudder!) emoji, experts are finding more to recommend about pencil and ink. Handwriting — print or cursive — increases development in three areas of the brain, according to a 2012 study, and “may facilitate reading acquisition in young children.”

Any kind of writing “is going to have massive benefits for the brain,” said Indiana University professor and co-author Karin James. Other studies demonstrate that students retain more information if they write their notes, instead of typing them.

Cursive making a comeback? Love it!