Thursday, May 06, 2010

Taking Notes

I usually avoid writing about work because I think it can be dangerous (Dooced anyone), and it can just be deadly dull (not that we've shied away from that around here). Ask the wife about having to listen rants about work.

Anyway, I was in the bizarre, nay surreal, position lately where it was suggested to me that I take notes in a different fashion. (For the second time - read on.)

Yes, there I was, and something that I think we all unconsciously view as somewhat of a personal thing was brought up as a "I've noticed this, and here's how I think you can improve" topic - unbidden, btw. Among all the things that are wrong with that, the reality that someone was actually watching how I take notes and was mentally criticizing gives me the creeps.

If I were eight, or maybe even thirteen, and a teacher was giving me tips on note-taking, that'd be OK. Or, if I was taking notes for someone else's consumption, I'd produce what they wanted. But when it's notes for myself, who gives a flying fuck whether they're in Swahili or just a bunch of doodles of animals?

TLD: Way back in high school, one teacher warned us that we better take good notes during the guest lecture about to be given, because he was going to compare his notes to ours. He sat next to me in the back (my favorite place as I am genetically incapable of sitting still), and he drew some pretty decent renderings of pheasants - which were not the topic of the lecture - and nothing else. Back then I was a little more willing take a chance and jab at an absurdity, even if it could have consequences for me, so I drew a pheasant on my notes too (which did have actual content about the lecture), and handed that in. I got a "B", I believe.

For a class in college, we were supposed to keep a journal with the end goal of using it for the fiction we were eventually supposed to produce. The prof. informed us from the start he would also be reviewing these journals, so we were to keep that in mind when recording them and don't include things like "Jill in Econ 201 has a nice butt." The comment he made upon giving mine back was something like: you don't take notes so much as to record reminders of what the original thought was. Which is true - save for some phrases I want to preserve whole.

So maybe my mystery note-taking spy has also gone so far as to read over my shoulder and see that my notes are very concise and not exact reproductions of the information. But again, who should give a damn other than me?

My current form of note-taking when I don't have a laptop (or it's one of those meetings where computers are verboten) is employing notebook-like post-it notes. I came across this idea using Microsoft's wonderful OneNote application and fell in love with the paradigm of being able to rearrange notes taken on the fly into a more cogent form later. With a pad of notebook-like post-its, you can do the almost the same thing. And if a page is meaningless, you can discard it.

Well, that was apparently the offense I gave with my note-taking style: I was observed (again, creepy creepy creepy) throwing away some of the pages from amongst my notes right after a meeting. This (as reported) gave the impression that my notes were "too ephemeral", "too disposable".

The suggestion then made was that I get a sturdy notebook or bound volume and take "better notes" (actual words used) in sequential order, and then just store them when I'm done, in case I ever need to refer to them. I do eventually throw my paper notes away after I capture them on computer, so yes, I do not have the original hardcopy sitting around. But, I implore you yet again, why should anyone but me care?

Oh, and one of the reasons I use paper notes at all is I used to use my blackberry, because I'm a decent miniature keyboard typist (though most teens type circles around me), and I'd use the note feature to take my notes. However, this prompted the first unsolicited commentary on my note-taking, which was: it gave the impression (and that phrase was used both times: "gave the impression") that I was texting and not listening, so bring a pencil and paper next time. Which means I have to spend cycles transcribing paper notes into electronic form.

I could tell as this (second note-taking suggestions for a better future) encounter went on that I wasn't doing a very good job of disguising my incredulous facial expressions. I don't really know, but I had the strong impression that the person telling me these things was not the person who conceived them. So, while I was miffed at actually having to have a conversation like this, and not having the option to burst out laughing and suggest this indivdual find better things to do with their time (in the most obscene way I could think to phrase it), I did have pity for them as they were probably instructed to pass on this information, and thus had to face the absurdity of delivering the same.

Can you believe this shite?

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