And how do you compare with the average American? Here’s your chance to find out.
The new U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that although 86% of us believe in God or a higher power, we don’t know our own traditions or those of neighbors across the street or across the globe.
I’m an addict — a creature of habit — and I don’t like change. Little things are bad enough, but when it comes to something that’s such a big part of my life as the keyboard on my computer, I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the midst of the new experience. So I’m writing this to get used to a different one.
I took a good look at those “netbooks” one time, and it only took a few seconds of typing on that 90% full-sized workspace to convince me that it wasn’t going to be a go. For a man my size I don’t have especially big hands, but given the problems I had, I find it difficult to understand how anyone but a child or a small woman could possibly navigate around one of those things. I stopped hunting-and-pecking more than 50 years ago, and I’m too old to relearn the process. Having to do it on my Droid is bad enough — that’s why I love the voice recognition feature. I’m willing to put up with the downside: improper punctuation and capitalization, and the occasional unrecognizable word that has to be entered from scratch, in order not to have to put up with either the onscreen or physical keyboard.
I learned to type on a 1938 model Remington Noiseless typewriter. You know. The kind where you had to push the keys down and actually make those things fly forward to strike the ribbon and imprint the letters onto the paper. No spell checker, no copy/paste/delete. No instant corrections. What you got was pretty much what got sent out. If you needed a copy, you used carbon paper — nasty, flimsy sheets with black stuff on one side that went between two sheets and transferred the key-strikes onto the second sheet for a (none-too-satisfactory) copy of the original.
At that, it beat writing by hand, especially the way I wrote back then. When I got to college I discovered that many times I couldn’t read my own handwritten notes, so I finally taught myself to write neatly. Took a lot of work, but it was worth the trouble. So did learning to type, but my god! When I think of the millions of words I’ve put on paper and screens since those days when I was made to sit and practice typing the way other kids practiced the piano, I thank my lucky stars that I was made to learn it. I’ve since become mushy in the same sort of way about the people who forced me to learn good English, spelling, grammar and punctuation. I know those skills have pretty-much fallen into disrepute with the younger crowd, and that’s not OK. As you move up the ladder of life, kiddies, folks will judge you more and more on your ability to communicate according to the rules. That’s what separates the men and women of business from the adolescents.
Well, so much for that. I got a blog entry out of this, when all I intended to do was type “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” a few times. You just never know.
Letters of note is a remarkable collection of — well — notes and letters, from famous people to a variety of recipients, from Elvis’ form letter to his fans when he was in the Army, to Marlon Brando’s affectionate letter to Tennessee Williams. Originals are shown, but also transcriptions (which in some cases is a very good thing).
Be prepared to waste a lot of time. But maybe it’s not such a waste, after all.
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What sets Costa Rica apart is its remarkable decision in 1949 to dissolve its armed forces and invest instead in education. Increased schooling created a more stable society, less prone to the conflicts that have raged elsewhere in Central America. Education also boosted the economy, enabling the country to become a major exporter of computer chips and improving English-language skills so as to attract American eco-tourists.
Mr. Safire, who for many years wrote the “On Language” column for The New York Times, died on Sunday, 09/27/09. I learned a lot from reading his work over the years. These 18 rules may be his greatest legacy. Along with Strunk and White, they comprise most of the rules needed by a careful writer.
- Remember to never split an infinitive.
- The passive voice should never be used.
- Do not put statements in the negative form.
- Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
- Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
- If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
- A writer must not shift your point of view.
- And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
- Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
- Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences of ten or more words, to their antecedents.
- Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
- If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
- Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.
- Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
- Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
- Always pick on the correct idiom.
- The adverb always follows the verb.
- Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.
From How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar, Safire, William, 2005.
While the Islamic world was enjoying astronomy, philosophy and medicine, those in Europe could not tell the hours of the day, thought the Earth was flat, and saw disease as punishment from God, says Jonathan Lyons in The House of Wisdom. That changed after the Crusades, set in motion by Pope Urban II at the end of the 11th century, which resulted in a spectacular growth in trade and communication between east and west. Knowledge that had taken centuries to build was unleashed on an unsuspecting Europe.