Offspring

Friday wasn’t a bad day. In weather terms it was simply awful, it just rained and rained and rained here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But I could handle H2O (and a bit of crap that managed to dissolve into it on the way from 25,000 feet back to earth) coming down in little droplets. In school terms it was alright, a couple of classes; a last-minute attendance at a job fair in which I was conspicuously the most-comfortably dressed (read: least well-dressed; I tend to like to see things from the bright side) person in the room; a fascinating reading about the errors of Robert McNamara during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War (a must-read for aficionados—find The Fog of War on Amazon.com). In family terms it was great, a rare opportunity to interact exclusively with the only other adult member of the family for a relatively sustained period of time (read: date night!). And in food terms, a delight in which the antipasto trumped the pasto and the postpasto (apologies Italians, I am so mangling your language)—a delight at Caffe Vittoria—trumped all else.

So it wasn’t a bad day by any measure. Except when Wifey dropped the bombshell over dinner.

“I think Baby is right-handed.”

See, I have three youngins and that makes three of them righties.  Don’t get me wrong they are fantastic kids and I love them so but in this solitary aspect, three times I have been disappointed.  I have done my part though.  For one, I have always ensured I hand them the pencil/pen/crayon/their mom’s lipstick on their left-hand first. Every time, the left hand of the boy would then pass the drawing tool to his right, and the right would then proceed to create the next masterpiece. Without fail.  As someone who looks on the bright side (sometimes to the point of delusion, as you shall see), I tell myself it’s the left hand bossing the right hand around. In moments when I am more grounded in reality I just say not again.

Many well-meaning friends and strangers look at our three boys and suggest to us in half-amusement (and sometimes with a straight face, can you believe it) that we should try for a fourth so that we “will” get a girl.  To this remark I usually have a couple of responses that I mutter under my mind’s breath.  Apart from the one about them needing a class in stats and probability to sort out that aspect of their life so that their own personal decisions in the future will not be as screwed as the past decisions they had previously made with this bad piece of math, I have a more pertinent response (pertinent to this blog anyway).

Forget the girl, I might be tempted to try for a lefty.

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Wikipedia’s Take on the Matter

This blog is all about being left-handed.  I (Deftleft in Wikipedia-land) shall use this post to take a look at what Wikipedia—according to itself (or more accurately its volunteer authors) “the largest and most popular general reference work on the internet”—says about left-handedness.  Disappointingly, there isn’t a Wikipedia page for left-handedness; it turns out that a search for the term “left-handedness” brings up the Wikipedia page for “handedness”.  However, this page has got ample information—probably the most of all—pertaining to the use of the deft hand and therefore it enjoys the privilege of this blog’s review.

By a rather crude estimation, one would have expected this page to cover left-handedness and right-handedness equally.  Yet, this is not the case—this page reads like a page for left-handedness, and I estimate that more than 80% of the page’s content is about being left-handed.  Of course one could argue that, given there are only two aspects to handedness, by discussing one, the page is effectively discussing the other.  Furthermore, there are only so many things one can discuss about being right-handed.  Therefore overall, I was quite prepared to forgive the apparent lop-sidedness of this article.

The page for the term “handedness” is long and appears comprehensive.  Without first looking at the page, I would have expected it to cover the key issues of being left-handed, such as the causes, the science behind handedness, peculiarities of left-handed people, discrimination of lefties, and design of products for lefties.  All of these issues were covered, and more.  However, so much material was covered that I thought some of the minutiae, such as the section about the handedness of US Presidents, could just be separately placed in a trivia section at the end of the article.  But all in all, no problems with the comprehensiveness of the article.

The sourcing was mixed.  A look at the source list at the bottom of the page yields sources that are virtually all serious and credible, with not a few being scholarly articles.  On the other hand, there were some assertions in the article that required citations but came with none.  Wikipedia itself suggests that the number of “weasel words”—assertions that come with vague or weak attribution—in the article is many.  On neutrality, I had previously stated that the article was about 80% (probably more) on left-handedness.  It does appear as though that most of the contributors of this article are left-handed and not right-.  The whole article comes across as having a left-handed bent to it.  I am inclined to think that not many who are right-handed would be too enthusiastic about this topic.  This article would therefore benefit from a right-hander’s (or two) perspective on this issue.  Apart from this, even certain critical issues, like the causes of left- or right-handedness, are seeing debate on its talk page.  Wikipedia states up front that the neutrality of the article is disputed.

The formatting of the article appears haphazard and not very readable.  Given the volume of information included in the page, this article would benefit from better organisation and a culling of less important aspects of handedness.  There lacks a systematic order to the way the topics and sub-topics are arranged.  This could be rectified by closer adherence to Wikipedia’s manual of style.  Illustrations are present but are rather sporadic throughout eh article.  A couple of graphics accompanying the more important issues of handedness might help—for example, one to illustrate the genetics of handedness.

Overall, this page is good on content but has room for improvement on the aspects of neutrality, organization and readability.  It could definitely do with a structural reorganization, to begin with.  Editors could then comb through the article to resolve the issues of sourcing and neutrality in general.  It is a slight downer to see your pet topic addressed in a less than ideal manner as it is on this page.  Nevertheless, reading this page was a fairly educational experience that would raise good awareness behind the notion of (left-)handedness. Let’s see what we can do to help this page along.

How It All Started

It’s one of those things. No one ever remembers the day one decided that one was going to be left- or right-handed.  Presumably, a toddler picked up her pencil/pen/crayon/mother’s favorite lipstick and started to doodle on the paper/table/floor/original Mona Lisa way before she could retain memories in her head.  (If you happen to read this and do remember, do leave a comment and share your amazing experience, or the reason why your parents gave you something to write with so late in life).  Almost like being circumcised.

One of the earliest indications of my minority status came up at the dining table. During dinners with the extended family, when we would take turns to sit at the round dining table (because there were more people than seats at that table), some family members would suggest that the lefties sit together so they would cause minimum disruption to the table procedures of the rest.  However my most vivid memory was when, I musta been about 6, Mom decided one day that it was not good for a child to write with the left. I was, and still am, not quite sure what caused her to suddenly think that there was a need for such radical reforms.  At 6, I thought I was doing pretty ok.  Did a mean uncle tell her about how my left arm impeded his quest to be first to the chicken drumstick? Or did she come across dodgy research about how lefties have 10 years less on this wonderful planet?  A clue I hadn’t.

But one day she decided that it wasn’t good. She sat me down on my home dining table (square, so the person who snitched musta been someone from the extended family), and told me that I needed to practice writing with my right.  My memory fails me ‘cos it was so long ago (sometimes I wish I journal’d), but there was some yelling, some corporal punishment, some tears (on my part), and strong resistance.  Now I am no longer able to recall why the strong resistance.  Maybe the right-handwriting was so atrocious even a 6-year-old like me could tell it was fugly. Bottom line was, Mom failed utterly at that instance (I don’t blame her at all, she did what she did out of love, and she is a fantastic mother). And that thing that was and is so intrinsic to the person that I am, survived. It survived to join me to face the rest of this strange world for the rest of my life.

The Impulse Post

It’s 2:33 in the morning. I really should be asleep (though at this time I normally am not, but I digress). All I had wanted to do was to update the “About” page, hopefully type something funny/witty, then go to bed.

But it didn’t turn out that way.  While updating the page, I thought I’d check out the Thesaurus at http://www.merriam-webster.com to see what they had to say about being left-handed…you know, pick up a few words to describe my freak-feature…like “southpaw” and err “left-handed” and…I guess that was it.  And then this caught my eye:

left–handed adjective

1 lacking or showing a lack of nimbleness in using one’s hands <I’d rather have no help at all than have his left-handed “assistance”>

Now whassup with that.  Lefties deserve a lot more respect than that.

I read on…

Synonyms awkward, butterfingered, cack-handed [British], graceless, ham-fisted, ham-handed, handless, heavy-handed, left-handed, maladroit, unhandy

Related Words uncoordinated; bunglesome, bungling, gauche, inept, inexpert, unskilled, unskillful

Near Antonyms expert, masterly, skilled, skillful; coordinated

Antonyms deft, dexterous (also dextrous), handy, sure-handed

That was a lot more insult than I could have taken for one evening. What is “cack-handed” anyway?  Who knows what that means but it’s the words you don’t know that sound the most insulting (M-W: You mean you don’t even understand the meaning of that insult? Me: At least that is less moronic than saying the synonym of left-handed is left-handed, moron.)

So, the origins of this post laid out.  Yes it took a bit of egging on, but this was precisely the reason why this blog was born.  Since the days of King David (the Bible doesn’t say, but he seems like a lefty sort to me…he’s a songwriter for goodness’ sakes), lefties have suffered the tyranny of the majority in a world designed for people who work with the wrong hand.  We have suffered inconvenience, been unappreciated, taken for granted, patronized, discriminated and some of us lefties don’t even have the slightest idea because it has been like this since the day we were born. Well, this is the place where you will come and feel the love, my sister/brother.  This is the place where you will feel right at home.

End of impulse.