Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Chaos of Notes?

Bringing Order to the Chaos of Notes, a recent article in the New York Times, sounds interesting, but is essentially nothing but a list of references to some note-taking programs: OneNote (on the Windows Platform), NoteBook, Yojimbo, and Together (on the Mac), and EverNote as a program that "has many of the functions of the other apps I tried, but that stores your data on the Internet cloud, making it available to you everywhere." One of its strength is that it accepts many different input devices. EverNote gets the most praise: "Your electronic data, meanwhile, is replicated on the Web and on all your machines, and will probably be safe for years. This can make all the difference: With computerized notes, your daily musings are permanent. In time, they could add up to something grand."

I am not sure whether "will probably be safe for years" isn't damning with faint praise. Your notes will be just as permanent as the Website on which they are stored, and that may not be very permanent at all.

I do like a local version of my data with local backups because that way I have more control over them.

I should perhaps also mention that CintaNotes, mentioned in a comment by Anatolica, has a new Beta (M 9.0) out. See CintaNotes. It does much of what EverNote does, but it is a very light weight application that can serve well as an Inbox for your main note-taking application.

I like it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nietzsche's Thoughtwriter

At a very young age, Nietzsche wrote: "There is a deathly silence in my room—only the nib of my pen scratches the paper, for I love to think on paper [schreibend zu denken], and a machine that could imprint our unsaid or unwritten thoughts on some kind of material has not yet been invented."

It still has not been invented (even though some careless readers of this passage believe that the typewriter was the fulfillment of Nietzsche's wish, if the passage does indeed express a wish).

Such a machine may never be invented because there may be no thought that is not expressed in some language. "Unsaid thought" may ultimately be impossible. But be that as it may, Nietzsche himself later wrote that he had written all of his writings always with his "whole body and life," and that he did not understand what are "purely mental problems" or " rein geistige Probleme."

Moi non plus.

See also Adorno and Nietzsche on Thinking with a typewriter.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Collingwood on the Gestation of Thoughts

Collingwood made the following observation in his Autobiography: "I know that I have always been a slow and painful thinker, in whom thought in its formative stages will not be hurried by effort, nor clarified by argument, that most dangerous enemy to immature thoughts, but grows obscurely through a long and oppressive period of gestation, and only after birth can be licked by its parent into presentable shape."

I have a similar problem, if it is a problem. The trick is, of course, to know when "the" thought has actually been delivered or when the period of gestation is over.

In any case, there was a time when I believed that electronic methods or programs that make the processing of information faster and more efficient were what was most important, and that this simply was what it meant to "augment the human intellect." I have come to realize that this is only a small part of their usefulness. It is perhaps also the least important part. For a slow and painful thinker, it is the enhancement of the "formative stage," not "hurried by effort," that is more important.

The German thinker Hans Blumenberg, who also had an enormous Zettelkasten, observed quite correctly—I think—that "thinking is not the shortest distance between two points." It may take a rather circuitous route, and is thus enhanced by hypertextual applications just as much as by hierarchical outliners, since both allow different perspectives on the same two points and their relations to other points.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


One of the more interesting Zettelkasten-applications that I referred to in one of my first entries (A Faithful Electronic Version of Luhmann's Zettelkasten) seems to be dead. In any case, the link no longer works (or perhaps better: points to a domain that is for sale).

Too bad!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


This is a minimalist solution for quick notes: Scrapbook.

It's tiny (526K), it's freeware, and it does what it does very well. The Beta version ScrapBook 2.30 was updated 5/21/09. At the very least, it will complement whatever software you use for serious note-taking.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Descartes on How to Read a Book

Here is Descartes advice on reading his Principles of Philosophy, which is not bad advice for how to read any non-fiction book worth reading: "I should like the reader first of all to go quickly through the whole book like a novel, without straining attention too much or stopping at the difficulties which may be encountered. the aim should be merely to ascertain in a general way which matters I have dealt with. after this, if he finds that these matters deserve to be examined and he has the curiosity to ascertain their causes, he may read the book a second time in order to observe how the arguments follow. But if he is not always able to see this fully, or if he does not understand all the arguments, he should not give up at once. He should merely mark with a pen the places where he finds the difficulties and continue to read on to the end without a break. If he then takes up the book for the third time, I venture to think he will now find the solutions to most of the difficulties he marked before; and if any still remain, he will discover their solution on a final reading."

So, any book that is worth reading once, is worth reading three more times—with pen in hand.

There is one possibility Descartes does not entertain here, namely that he, the author, may be wrong. It's a possibility that we should not exclude, but it's also one that we should entertain only upon the third reading.

This is not to say that there are books that don't deserve a second reading. As a matter of fact, the large majority of books falls into this category.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Paper Research Wiki

I guess "wiki for a research paper" would have been a better name, In any case, I first thought it referred to a paper wiki, which would have been a truly new idea, sort of in the tradition of "Hipster PDA."

The claim is that jumping "blindly into a wiki, and ... creating pages left and right ... building a page for every idea or piece of information, with few internal links," will not bring much benefit." Structure is supposed to be the answer.

I am not sure the proposed structure (and especially the limits on which level may link to which other level) ultimately makes sense. Creating pages without worrying about how they ultimately fit in and breaking down information into simpler parts seems to me to make for the strength of wikis. Of course, you then have to think about it, re-factor, establish links, etc. The index card method also required re-ordering and thinking before, or, perhaps better: while writing. Indeed breaking down the information according to the method "one fact, one card" made for part of its strength. Same thing with wikis.

But judge for yourself. It's an interesting idea, which would (or wouldn't) work with a personal desktop wiki just as much (or little) as with a hosted wiki.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How I use AutoHotKey: III

There are also a few section with keys specific to certain application, like.

;The Journal |
#IfWinActive ahk_class TJ3MainForm

Note the "#IfWinActive ahk_class" that makes what follows specific to this application. "#IfWinActive" stops this section.

The most extensive section concerns ConnectedText. If you go to the ConnectedText Forum, you can see some of these in various posts.

The ConnecteText section is followed by a section of substitutions that autocorrects typos in any application:

; Substitutions |
::mfg::Mit freundlichen Grüßen`nIhr`nManfred Kühn
::teh ::the

And finally, there is a part with abbreviations, like

;Short Hand
::. but::. But
::aar::At any rate,
::aisb::As I said before,
::fmpov::From my point of view,
::pov::point of view
::imo::In my opinion,
::iow::In other words,
::istm::It seems to me
::btw::by the way,
::/MK::Manfred Kuehn
::U.P.::University Press

I also use AHK for passwords and other things, but it would not be a good idea to share this.

How I use AutoHotKey: II

The next section has to do with running programs; notice that all these keys are preceded by "WINDOWS-ALT":

; Run Programs |

Run C:\Program Files\Brainstorm\Brain.exe, ,
SendInput {Esc}

!#e::Run C:\Program Files\ECCO\ecco32.exe

Run C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe, Max,,
SendInput {Esc}

!#j::Run C:\Program Files\DavidRM Software\The Journal 4\Journal4.exe, ,

SetWorkingDir, c:\Users\Manfred\Documents\Aktuell\Data\TKOutline
Run C:\Users\Manfred\Documents\Aktuell\Data\TKOutline\tkoutline.exe *.tko

!#m::Run C:\Program Files\Mindjet\MindManager 2002\MindMan.exe

Run C:\Program Files\NoteTab Pro 5\NotePro.exe, Max
SendInput {Esc}

!#o::Run C:\Program Files\Mozilla Thunderbird\thunderbird.exe, Max
SendInput {Esc}

Run C:\Program Files\Quicken\qw.exe
SendInput {Esc}

SendInput {Esc}
Run C:\Program Files\2BrightSparks\SyncBack\SyncBack.exe

SendInput {Esc}
Run C:\Program Files\TreePadBIZ_7\treepadBIZ.exe

;!#z::Run C:\Program Files\WhizFolders Organizer Deluxe\whizfoldersdlx.exe

SendInput {Esc}
Run C:\Program Files\ConnectedText\ConnText.exe ct://Notes/MY`%20TOOLS

!#v::Run C:\Program Files\Visual Thesaurus 3\Visual Thesaurus 3.exe

!#w::Run C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE10\WINWORD.EXE

The next section opens directories. Notice that all these shortcuts are preceded by "CTRL-WINDOWS"

; Open directories |

^#a::Run C:\Users\Manfred\Documents\Aktuell
^#C::Run C:\Users\Manfred\Documents\ConnectedText\Projects\
^#d::Run C:\Users\Manfred\Documents\
^#j::Run C:\Program Files\Jarte\Jarte.exe /N:Manfred
^#g::Run G:\
^#k::Run K:\
^#p::Run C:\Program Files
^#u::Run C:\Users\Manfred\Documents\Aktuell\Utilities

There is an inconsistency here (as "WINDOWS-ALT-J" was already in use).
This is followed by remapped keys, which I use on a daily basis:

; Key Remappings |
^Numpad1::SendInput è
^Numpad4::SendInput é
^Numpad7::SendInput ê
^Numpad2::SendInput ç

How I Use AutoHotKey: I

I use AutoHotkey extensively. In fact, AutoHotKey and ConnectedText are—apart from Firefox, perhaps—the applications I use most. Perhaps some people will find interesting how I use it.

First, I prefer to have one large script file, called "Mine.ahk," in which I collect all the scripts I use. It's in the Startup folder. Here is the Header of this file:

; This part of the script automatically loads the file, in which this script, whenever it is loaded.
; ATTENTION! The script must be at the very top of the file
; I copied this from a script in the German AutoHotkey Form, but forgot who is the author.
SplashTextOn,,,Updated script,

#Persistent ; Keep the script running until the user exits it.
#SingleInstance force

;General |


#UseHook ; This is need to change the keys on a keyboard sot that A becomes B, for instance




;edit authotkey script |
^/:: ; this part makes the short cut "CTRL-/" open the script for editing
IfWinNotActive ahk_class Notepad
SendInput ^s
Sleep 100

What follows ";" are comments.

This part of the script has remained constant over the years.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Floating-Arms Keyboard

The Floating Arms Keyboard:

The Floating Arms Keyboard, from Workplace Designs ((612) 439-4474), addresses postural problems associated with the traditional desk, keyboard, and chair. A BYTE editor found that switching to this keyboard greatly reduced work-related pain.

Just what I need.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Computational Thinking

There is—it seems to me—only one kind of thinking, but there are many ways of thinking. Computational thinking would seem to be one of them, and perhaps not the least important one: "Computational thinking is using abstraction and decomposition when attacking a large complex task or designing a large complex system. It is separation of concerns. It is choosing an appropriate representation for a problem or modeling the relevant aspects of a problem to make it tractable."

Whether you agree or disagree with Professor Jeannette M. Wing on this—Adorno clearly wouldn't have agreed—it is an interesting "read."[1]

1. Thanks to Smart Disorganized Individuals for reminding me of this article again. See also this old post.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Intellectual Ownership

On acknowledging one's sources: Those who disseminate ideas must acknowledge the routes they travel.[1]

Without further comment!

1. This is a sore point with me. See Feeds.

Facsimiles of Nabokov's Final Riddle

Nabokov wrote his later novels on index cards. The same is true of his unfinished last attempt: The Original of Laura. The manuscript is supposed to be published in November (and not burned, as Nabokov requested, and his son apparently contemplated doing for many years). According to Mark Horowitz: "The finished book will include facsimiles of every card, on perforated paper, so that readers can reshuffle them. It's a perfectly Nabokovian concoction, a tantalizing puzzler from the beyond."

I am looking forward to it!