Wednesday, April 03, 2013

so today i wrote out something by hand.

i must said this before, but ..

always stick to a plan whenever you use a computer!

.. .. regardless of whether the task is for work or for play.
it's taken me long enough to realise .. but i'm a lot happier (or satisfied) in the mornings if i spend 1-2 hours working on paper first and then tend to the computer (read: internet).

i guess i dislike my email inbox that much. 7-:
also: as that "easy" proof that i wrote about yesterday bothered me enough that i wrote it out longhand on a sheet of A4 or two.

looking at it now, maybe it's worth adding to the revision .. or at least, some abridged version of it ..

added: 07:24EST

there's something very soothing about paper .. especially as an adult who was raised before the age of touchscreens, the prevalence of home internet, or even GUIs. sure, i struggled learning cursive script for years at school, as well as a few summers of practicing hanzi (but the latter ultimately, to no avail). back then, it was often a personal flaw to have bad handwriting.

despite fewer options in the past, i still prefer working things out longhand and on paper. (if smartboards and tablets improve their functionality, then i'd be happy to switch, of course.) maybe i'm imagining things, but i find it harder to remember what i type [1] than what i write by hand.
as long as i'm speculating, i think it has to do with visual or body-spatial awareness. the redundancy of information, though encoded through different sensory inputs, might actually strengthen the memory.

yes, this may be a spurious claim. on the other hand, memory techniques such as the method of loci have been around since the time of ancient rome .. which reminds me: i've been meaning to train in that.
all that memory technique stuff aside, there are other strengths of paper over typing. for example, when writing on a page, i have the whole page and i can be nonlinear in my thinking, switch modes at will.
  • i can draw a diagram in one corner,
  • start a chain of inequalities in the middle,
  • pass back and forth quickly between them,
  • circle one term in line 2 of those inequalities,
  • jot down a note next to it (say, that i need to check if this variant of yοung's inequality in the literature) ..
.. and so on. so far there aren't too many computer interfaces that can easily do the same [2]. in regards to typing, the problem is that every thought you have has to be "discretised" into words or symbols.

in fact, there are some mornings when i've set a rule: no words: just diagrams and computations, just to vary my thinking a little and push what i can do. conversely, when the pile of pages of notes starts containing more and subtler items than i can easily keep track, then the LaTeX comes:

remembering: to type is to force a linear order on your thoughts.

[1] there are exceptions, and they are the rare times when i say aloud what i'm typing in order to see if the words and phrases sound right. (this is often the case, as you may imagine, when i'm writing some sort of introduction.) in these cases, i suspect that the memory is recorded through audial cues as well.

on a related note, i was always the kind of student who, during lectures, would write down what was on the blackboard as well as what the instructor said. it took me a long time to realise that people didn't do the same thing .. and why everyone kept wanting to borrow my class notes (even before my handwriting improved as an adult).

[2] i mean something different from being able to add handwritten comments to an extant PDF or Word document. so far i've not seen anything sufficiently robust so that one can build a document on a tablet purely from digital handwriting.

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