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Subject: nabocards round 2
From: Reinhard Engels
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 2004 13:54:29 -0700 (PDT)
Thanks, Deb and Jen, for really tossing this one

I managed to get my microcassette recorder running
again by putting one of those head cleaner tapes
through it. For the curious, of the 8 that I've been
through in 3 years, the first 6 were cheapo radio
shacks that laster a couple months, the last 2 were
more vastly superior, only slightly more expensive
sonys. I don't think the last one is really broken
either, just in need of a head cleaning. The only
downside of the sony is a slight delay between when
you hit record and its actually recording. I get
around this by saying "pause" before each entry.

I can't tell you how happy I am to be talking to
myself again. I'm really surprised. Nabocards was an
interesting experiment, and might prove a useful
supplement (I'll keep it for the todos, at least),
but, for me, the microcassette recorder is hugely
superior. Here's why:

I never realized how auto-therapeutic speaking into
the microrecorder was. All that mushy complaining,
diaryesque stuff that is such a bear to transcribe and
would never make it to an index card is an immense
relief to speak out. It's cathartic, cheaper than
therapy, and without the side effects of telling it
like it is to those who are to blame. 

Complaining is a funny thing. You're damned if you do
and damned if you don't. Right or wrong, if you do,
you can hurt people, or hurt yourself by picking a
fight. Right or wrong, if you don't, it festers, you
resent it. Speaking it into a recorder does an
astonishingly good job of getting it out of your
system. That doesn't need to be the end of it, of
course. If, when you're transcribing or listening to
it, you realize "I have a valid point here, I really
should take it up with him," you're still free to do
that, and will be in a better position to do so, more
rational, having thought it through once, and calmer,
presumably, since speaking it out the first time took
off some of the hurtful edge. It's a throttle and a
filter and a refiner. 

I do more than complain, of course, and for most of
these things, talking is also better than writing.
Why? Because it's easier to experiment, to knock
things around, to react to yourself. The activation
energy of writing is just too high. You think "oh,
that's not worth writing." Maybe most of the time your
right, but some of the time, enough of the time, you
lose gold.

Even for the sake of writing, I prefer speaking. 
You've heard the writing advice "write like you
speak." Well no better way to practice that than to
speak before you write. The corollary of "write like
you speak" is that you learn to speak well, which this
also practices. There's nothing mystical about
writing. People act like it's this miraculous thing.
It's just frozen speech. It's a lossy compression
format. Fix it while it's still liquid instead of
chiseling away at it when it's ice.

As for using a pda instead of a microcassette
recorder/index cards, I'd love to experiment if I
could get a loaner for free, but I'm way too skeptical
to plunk down the cash to buy one. I can't imagine the
interface will be anywhere near as intuitive as my old
fashioned, single purpose, analog device. Interface is
the most important issue for me. I don't want to be
distracted from my thoughts by having to stare at a
series of menu prompts. Even the digital recorders
I've looked at seem too complicated. I have an ipod,
for instance (first generation), which is an
attractive, elegant device, but I have to stare at the
darn thing to make it do anything, which I think is
silly for an audio device. With an analog recorder, I
just feel my way to the one button I have to press and
get tactile feedback so I know it's recording. It
mystifies me that no one has made a digital audio
device with the simple, intuitive interface of the
1985 walkman. Digiterati say "well that's not how it
actually works, when you put the button it sends a
digital signal..." and my answer is "I don't care,
deceive me. That's the way I want it to work. That's
the intuitive way for it to work."

I'm not anti-tech. I'm a computer programmer, after
all. What I'd really like from technology is good
enough OCR/speech recognition so that I could go home
and suck these into the computer at night for
digitization and convenient searching. My poking
around it these areas hasn't yielded much. I've just
become a very fast typist, which isn't so bad either,
because hey it's a useful skill, and it forces me to
give all my notes at least a once over. So I like to
think of myself as being super advanced,
technologically. I'm using an interface so advanced
and intuitive that modern computers can't keep up. But
give them a cycle or two of moore's law and my
cassettes and hand written index cards will become
legitimate, supported input devices.

"A computer language is not just a way of getting a
computer to perform operations but rather that it is a
novel formal medium for expressing ideas about
methodology. Thus, programs must be written for people
to read, and only incidentally for machines to



 © 2002-2005 Reinhard Engels, All Rights Reserved.