Fun History: License Plates

Have you ever seen a stenographic license plate? It’s a funny truth that while there are not so many people who can survive a stenographic education, just about anyone can read stenography if they care to, and we can even be called out on some of what we do.

In 1993 a decision was made (reaffirmed) that in California to be deemed an offensive word unsuitable for a license plate, a word need not be understood in that manner by every addressee. This happened when Anita Kahn appealed the decision by the DMV to revoke her stenographic license plate which had the phrase “if you can” on it. For our non-court reporting audience, this can also be translated as the F word. The court determined that some 50,000 to 60,000 people in the state could understand it, that there was therefore a large enough audience to find the word offensive, and that DMV could revoke the plates.

It’s not too often I get to write about fun or interesting things, so it’s my pleasure to get to write about Kahn v Department of Motor Vehicles (1993) (No. B064070. Second Dist., Div. One. May 3, 1993). Originally brought to my attention via a Facebook post. Indeed, it’s a good reminder that wherever we are and whatever we do, there’ll always be someone to rat us out. Kidding!

Fall of Constantinople

Today’s a decent day for a quick discussion about a couple of contributing factors to the fall of Constantinople as it relates to our modern lives. I’m no history expert, but I sat and read the bare basics, and this is what I’ve come up with. The Byzantine Empire had stood for basically a thousand years. The Ottoman Empire was maybe 150 years old at the time. The Byzantine state had been in decline for a while. It had lost lands and support, and its last stand and secure refuge was Constantinople, which later became what we call Istanbul today.

A master founder, Urban (Orban), tried to sell his services as a cannon maker to the Byzantines, but the empire had been in such decline that they could not afford to pay him, nor did they have the materials to build the large cannon he planned to build. Urban was subsequently hired by the Ottoman Empire. The friends and allies that the Byzantines may have had to the west wouldn’t come because they had allowed the relationships to sour. The state of the Byzantine Empire’s decline was so extensive that they likely would’ve fallen even if they had defeated the Ottoman Empire!

So how I see this applicable to modern life: Look at your Constantinople, whether it’s your career; your country, your kids, anything. Maybe in your life there are multiple Constantinoples. Is that “state” in decline? Can it be saved? Are you contributing to its financial strength so that it can afford to hire the “cannon maker”? Are you willing to make changes to reverse the decline?

To really understand, we need some examples. Imagine your Constantinoples are your children or even yourself. There are many ways to protect yourself. Business and financial courses can get you up to speed on how to save, invest, and plan for college, illness, retirement. Negotiating the best possible salary, rates, or wages gives you the extra income you might need to “hire the cannon maker” and participate in those courses. Networking with others and knowing the best rates so that you can ask for them is another valuable part of protecting your Constantinople.

Now imagine Constantinople is your career/profession as a whole. If you are reading this page, presumably, it’s stenography. The largest representations of stenography are undoubtedly the NCRA and the many state associations. Are they in decline in your opinion? Are you contributing? Could your contributions and voice change the course of the decline and save Constantinople? The surest way to not know is to not try.

There is some dispute as to whether Emperor Constantine hanged himself or charged the Ottomans with his men in a final defense of the city, but one thing is clear: Had his predecessors set him up to succeed, he would’ve succeeded. We all come from different walks of life, and started off in this world with different circumstances. We must set ourselves and our successors up to succeed. That takes a deep introspection and a whole lot of strategy that each and every reader here can achieve, but only if they try.

So try today. Try to get out there and identify the issues. Come up with solutions. Share your solutions. Build bridges where possible. Few people are natural leaders, but this is a world that favors those willing to take the reins.