I did a lot of PHONE PATCH connections over the years, and it was always exciting to connect families like that. The saddest thing a ham ever does is emergency radio support when you are copying local information (with in a state or two) calling people with relatives who were in an Earthquake - telling them on the phone that the good news is your mother and brother are alive but sister and father died in the quake.
It is because of the emergency operation and miracles of short and long range skip - as well as point to point communications when everything else is down STILL allows hams an important communication buffer. Of course cellphones have made great advantages in communicating, but still in poorer parts of the world, a few hams can save many lives as hubs for emergency support.
and SEAN.... I surely didn't mean any offence about the Dumbing Down of ham radio - but the FCC saw that CW requirements were keeping TOO MANY PEOPLE out of the hobby and had to make changes. It doean't make for dumber hams, just less proficient ones - if you ask old school and new school hams, you get two very different opinions. But today the filty talk (albeit creative) 75 meter phone guys are pushing the limits of what is allowed on ham.
Back in the day of CB radio, getting away into ham radio was a seriously deserved break from the clutter and endless babble - ham has always had a respectable opinion among those who understand what is needed to advance into the ham licensing and it made MORE SENSE to me to slack down on the HIGH-END tech end (few people build or tweak their own equipment and have little use for circuit board determination and trouble shooting, where I see code as one of the many ways that people use to communicate.
You know yourself that they don't call it INTERNATION MORSE CODE for nothing - if a ham license is an earned radio embassator of your country, then having Internation language skills seems more logical that recognizing an amplifier board over a VHF receiver circuit.
I've logged over 30,000 code contacts on all bands, the sheer fact you can hold 10 code conversations in the same space as 1 SSB transmission really shows its power.
I'm happy to see techs on voice in HF frequencies, but (and I don't know this) are they given the entire GENERAL BAND ALLOWENCE to talk in? If so, that doesn't seen so fair to us who worked to get our 13 words a minute and better. I mentioned it came easy to me, but very hard for so many. And I'm afraid most people if given VOICE priviledges, they will NEVER use Code again.
I wish you the best, receiving it during a conversation IS the best way, a sink or swim technique which has always worked. Just remember the first rule of code: when initiating a contact, send slower than you can recieve, cause people ALWAYS come back at you faster tha you'll send: they expect slower code to them, but rush it when sending.
The last point, there are a lot of countries (at least there were) where Code was the only means of communicating - and language barriers in sideband, with three or four conversations bleeding over each other can indeed be a headache to listen to.