Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Marks on paper

It started with that guy in ancient Sumer - the one who ticked off the shipments of wine and oil with marks pressed into clay.
Great idea!
The marks turned into letters, language, and eventually Gilgamesh.
And scribes are still in demand.
I spent most of my career as a journalist, making marks on paper and then turning those notes, often as cryptic as cuneiform, into news articles. Now I'm a professor, helping students at A&T learn a variety of writing skills - my Newswriting class yesterday was on strategies for notetaking.
Seems I can't get away from that role. As a rookie race committee member working Carolina Sailing Club and Lake Townsend Yacht Club events, I've been most often cast as recorder.
I try to get away but they keep pulling me back in ...
Actually, I enjoy that role, keeping track of times and winds and finishes, as well as the other business of sailboat racing, from protests and penalty turns to changes in the position of the marks.
Joleen Rasmussen has taught me the tricks of this particular trade, pushing me on to learn the intricacies of scoring and the Portsmouth Handicapping system.
Pens and paper are giving way to PDAs even among reporters, notoriously poor and cheap, but I think I'll stick with tradition. There's something human in the erasures and strike-throughs, like the particular manner in which a Sumerian scribe pressed his stylus into a tablet we can still read today.

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