B. F.'s birthday – It's Al Capone's b-day , too, and tomorrow? the 18th of January? that of Cary Grant  and A. A. Milne  – gives me a chance to remember writing about him and trying to envision him, watercolor-wise, as a boy, as a broad-shouldered teenager, and as a young businessman and father. What knocks me out about him these days is the fearless, systematic manner in which he took on wordsmithery. Just as he'd plunged into Boston's Mill Pond and taught himself to swim, this teenager set about reading. He inhaled what was being written, dissecting the grammar, the usage and flow of the words and reasoning that lay behind them. It was all part of his larger scheme, his plan - now here's where he really challenges me - to fully utilize the technology at hand: "A printer could publish his own ideas." [So I wrote, a few years ago in The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin] "If they were good and well-written, people would read them, then reader and writer would have better lives."
There we have it. Thank you, Birthday Dude, for reminding me of the unchanging truth: Ideas have power. Sure, the technology has changed and is changing, blast it. And the printed page appears to be dying the death, but it's as true now as it was 304 years ago that ideas conveyed in words well-written have the power to better the lives of those who read them as well as those who write them.