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Subject: New system (experimental): nabocards
From: Reinhard Engels
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2004 12:40:23 -0700 (PDT)
This one is still very much in the experimental phase,
and may wind up being aborted, but I figured it's
about time I post something here.

My brother recently took a Russian lit class and,
eager to share some random facts, he told me that the
novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote most of his novels on
index cards. Why? Because in those pre-word processor
days it let him shuffle around and rewrite passages
with a minimum of fuss.

A couple weeks ago the micro cassette recorder I used
for taking notes during my urban ranger walks broke
again (I've been through about 8 in the last 3 years).
Frustrated at the prospect of having to shell out
another 25 bucks, and a solid month behind in my
transcription anyway due to baby stress, I remembered
nabokovs index cards and thought: maybe I could
replace my tape recorder with index cards instead. I'd
considered carrying around a pocket notebook at times,
but index cards go one better. Here's why:

- you only have to carry around 1 days worth of cards,
minimizing the danger of losing a whole lot of
personal information and having it fall into the hands
of your worst enemy.

- like Nabokov, you can shuffle around the cards
easily and use them to actually make something. A
linear note taking system (cassette or notebook
journal) is more difficult to rearrange like this. If
you put a date and a keyword on each card it further
expedites this.

- it's less antisocial and weird than walking around
mumbling to yourself (though with all the cellphones I
guess no one bats an eye anymore). You can do it
during meetings.

- it's a great way to manage to-do lists, especially
if you follow this rule: 1 day's tasks shall fit on
one card. Whatever you don't finish, copy over to the
next days card. Keeps you from overextending yourself.

- you can draw

What are the cons?

- It's hard to write while you're walking. 

- speech is more natural than writing. It's more
satisfying to speak. You really feel like you are
unburdening yourself.

- there are certain kinds of thoughts you're just
going to lose this way. It's great for project
centered thoughts. It's not so hot for random diary
stuff. Keyword pressure can be a good tool for
organizing your thoughts but it can also be stifling.

I think it clearly beats the pants off of plain old
notebook, but I'm not so sure I'm ready to retire my
microrecorders just yet.

Oh, and the name. "Nabocards," of course. Nabokov
loved puns and silly combo words ("pin," pineapple
juice and gin, was Humbert Humbert's favorite drink in
Lolita). I'm sure he'd think this was vulger and awful
and his estate would sue me if I ever tried to include
it in a book of systems, but literary pedophiles and
their estates be damned, this is the world wild web,
and I like it.

Picture of one of his cards:


(what a snotty bastard, right?)

Pictures of some of my cards pending.


 © 2002-2005 Reinhard Engels, All Rights Reserved.