February 12, 2008

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You have received a painting from Sacha

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Sketch: My first writing group

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Taking quick notes for books

I love my book notes system. I almost always ask fellow bookworms how they keep track of what they’ve learned from the books they’ve read, and their suggestions have helped me put together a pretty darn good system. Here’s how I work:

Capture: I usually read books in front of my computer so that I can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to take notes while I read. I speak the page number and the quote I want to remember. Using speech recognition to write book notes means that I don’t have to take my hands off the book, and I don’t have to perch it precariously on my lap as I try to type in quotes. Speech recognition is reasonably accurate, and I love breezing through a passage at some 300 words a minute. This is awesome. This is so much better than my old way of doing things. I suspect this also does good things for my ability to recall important points. When I finish a page, I correct the text that’s already there.

If I’m not at my computer, I record notes into a portable voice recorder. If I’m feeling lucky, I get DNS to auto-transcribe the recordings. This doesn’t usually work. Background noise messes up the recognition. But it’s usually good enough to let me find the pages again. Or–shhh–sometimes I dogear pages. ;)

Organize: I copy the book notes into a plain text file that uses the Org outline mode. I organize my booknotes with the titles as second-level headings, and I sometimes tag the books with keywords.

Store: I copy my book notes onto my Nintendo DS, where I can use
the ReadMore homebrew application to quickly review my book notes on
the subway.

Review: Every so often, I whiz through the books in my book notes system so that I can keep the key points fresh in my mind. This review is also a good opportunity to pass a book’s idea on to someone else.

What would make this even better? A Nintendo or Palm text editor that understood Org files would be just amazing.  Integration with LibraryThing would be nice, too, so that people could easily find out which books to discuss with me. Even without those pieces, though, my system works really really well for me.

What’s your system?

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Making arrangements for my cat

Trying to arrange my cat’s transit isn’t easy. Today I called the Japanese Quarantine Service. Not trusting my command of the Japanese language (it’s been two years of no practice!), I decided to just try to make it in English. I’d rather repeat myself using creative analogies than have my cat turned back at the airport!

The woman at the Yokohama head office assured me that I didn’t need the microchip and quarantine system they have for pets brought into Japan. A health certificate would do. She advised me to call the Narita Terminal 2 branch for more details.

So I called up the Narita Terminal 2 branch and explained that I wanted to bring my cat from the Philippines to Toronto through Narita, and that I wanted to know what papers I needed. The man on the other end of the line apologized, saying he spoke little English.

After trying to explain it in different ways, I gave in and said, “Ummm… neko no koto desu.”

“Oh, cat! Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?”

I explained in the fragments of Japanese that I remembered that no, not really, I’m really bad at Japanese (heta desu), but we could try. In broken Japanese, I explained what I wanted to do. Relieved, he launched into a confident (and fast!) explanation, which I had to interrupt with “Gomen nasai, zenzen wakarimasen deshita! (Sorry, I didn’t understand a word of that!)” He slowed down and made an effort to intersperse English words whenever he could–and that’s how I found out that I just need to check with the airline.

See, if Neko were here, my Japanese would probably be better. I had been studying Japanese when we tore open the bathroom wall to save this tiny ant-covered kitten, so naturally I named the cat “Cat” in Japanese. (My sister calls her Catastrophix, based on the characters in the wonderful series Asterix and Obelix.) I practiced my Japanese on her, and that’s probably why she won’t listen to anyone else in the household. Anyway…

So I need a health certificate no earlier than 10 days of departure and a document from a vet showing rabies vaccination no later than 30 days prior to departure. As I won’t be there a full month, I’ll need to ask my family to take care of getting the rabies vaccination certificate.

I’ve missed my cat so much. I’m looking forward to bringing her over. Don’t know what she’ll do about snow, though. Looks like she’ll be an indoor cat with a heated bed and all! ;)

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