Sunday, March 6, 2011

Changing majors.

After some serious soul searching, I've decided to end my journey to become a court reporter and change my major. I've thought long and hard about this decision and the reasons are varied. Almost every reason has something to do with my age or finances. As I mentioned to my instructor, if I knew then what I know now, I would have started court reporting in my early 20s, not my late 40s.

It's been said that the average length of time to become a certified court reporter is 33 months. From what I understand, this length of time is based on being enrolled in a full time court reporting school. I'm enrolled in night courses, and working full time simultaneously. Therefore, I don't have the ability to practice 8 hours a day, and this situation will no doubt add years to the time it will take me to become certified. Obviously, this additional time will also increase the total cost of getting my degree. This begs the question: "How far into debt do I want to go to get my 2-year degree?" Do you see where I'm going with this?

For those of you unfamiliar with the court reporting field. Court reporters also own their own equipment. Once you graduate from court reporting school, you are expected to purchase a professional-level stenograph and a computer program used to convert your steno into English so that it can be read by individuals in real time -- like closed captioning. You may even have to purchase a new laptop computer for this venture. This set up is quite costly. $7,000 - $10,000. Cha-ching! That's quite a bit to add on top of my student loans. Should I really be racking up this kind of debt at my age?

So I have decided to pursue an A.S. degree in Paralegal Studies. A lot of my credits will transfer to this program so I already have a running start. Besides, I worked for a law firm for many years and I'm fascinated by the law. It seems like a good fit for me!

I wish everyone luck in their journey. You've picked a great career. It just didn't work out for me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Steno comics from the early 20th century.

I never liked history when I was a kid. But, I was lucky enough to have one of those teachers in high school who knew how to light the fire of interest in one subject or another. For me, that teacher was Mr. Wise. My love for history can be traced directly to his American History class.

So it will come as no surprise that I enjoy browsing websites such as the Library of Congress: Chronicling America - Historic American Newspapers. Yeah, I'm a history geek.

I was searching for old articles about stenography and came upon these comics. Unlike the comics we see today, these aren't funny. They're dated, they're sexist; and, frankly, they are kinda weird.

We've come a long way, baby! (Click comic to enlarge)

Eddie's Friends published in the El Paso Herald, May 29, 1920.

Sally Snooks from the Los Angeles Sunday Herald, Sept 8, 1907.

Sally Snooks from the Los Angeles Herald, Sept 15, 1907.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The metronome and speedbuilding

Tonight's speed test was a total disaster. The instructor started dictating; and, on about the fourth word, I started plunking down mistake after mistake after mistake. I tried to get back on track. Nothing worked. I'm sure that I stopped breathing. I paused briefly and tried to gain my composure. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to pass this speed test. OK, that's nothing new. This happens more often than I'd like to admit.

So, here I sit with about four minutes of dictation left in the test. What shall I do? I'm relaxed because I am no longer stressed and have no expectation of passing. I can pretty much do what I want. So I started stroking out the outlines as if a metronome was beating in my head. After about ten seconds of rhythmically pressing the keys, I was keeping up with the speaker ~and I was typing the correct outlines!

I had a true "ah-ha" moment. I have practiced to a metronome before, but I haven't done it in a long time. Perhaps this is my key to speedbuilding. I know it gave me a confidence boost tonight. I was rather proud that I was able to easily keep up with the speaker.

Yeah, I didn't pass tonight's test, but that's OK. I learned a little something about building confidence by using a metronome. I'm going to practice this technique; and, hopefully, my speed will increase along with my confidence.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Speedbuilding tip - Know your shorthand system.

It's been a while since I've posted a tip from the book 61+ Ways to Write Faster. This tip is about how important it is to know your shorthand theory.

Your shorthand system is very important. It is to shorthand writing what a foundation is to a building. Shorter shorthand systems (less strokes and more
abbreviations) tend to be faster systems. While this principle is disputed by
some, so was the principle that the world was round. Both postulates have proven
themselves with time and advanced knowledge.

Whatever your system, don't even think about changing it during a test. While there are some "pros" who have great facility at this skill, for most it will result in hesitation, mental confusion and more errors. "Briefs" on the run usually result in "drops", "mangled outlines" and "chaos" during transcription.

Boy, do I know that feeling! It seems like I'm always "briefing" words during a test. And I don't think there's ever been a time when I've been able to decipher those briefs when I'm transcribing my tape.