All entries for Sunday 10 July 2005

July 10, 2005

War of the Worlds Review

Writing about web page

We I'll say it's a review but it my writing skills might not warrant that title.

I saw this film with my brother, his friend and his friend's dad. The dad kindly took us out to the local multiplex cinema. This is relatively rural America and there are still 3 multiplex cinemas within 10 miles.

First off, I really did enjoy this movie, I thought it was a good story (I have yet to read the original story by H.G. Wells, but after this, it's worth a look), and it was a fresh look at the apocalyptic genre.

There certainly was plenty of drama leading up to this movie. Tom cruise seems a run away hype and headline machine. This whole 'thing' with Katie Holmes, and various 'less than PC' comments made to the media.

But onto the film itself. Above I did like the fresh style of this movie. The world is under attack and is being systematically wipe out, but our story is not being told from the point of some military command of the US, or NASA, or involving any big heros… in fact it's about an average guy who is a bit of a jerk, and him running for his life with his two kids, trying to stay one step ahead of extermination. This gives a story which is possibly to relate to in a more real way.

I also liked the alien machines. They were a modern twist on a retro style. War of the Worlds has been made into a film before, back in 1953. Maybe some of the visual ideas in this came from that. The tripod alien machines seemed like they could have done.

Speilberg was masterful with the constant and unrelenting stream of action. The aliens themselves had little air time in the film at all, bringing viewers to fear what they had not yet seen. It was certainly an interesting mix of intense drama, action and horror.

Upon reflection, the instillation of family values was quite apparent in the film, with Ray, Tom Cruise's character, regularly shielding his daughter Rachel from the horrors happening all around them. A provoking talking point, that one.

For those who have not seen the film, I hope I have been as vague as possible with the content of the movie here… but for those people who have seen this excellent film, I particularly liked the link from the end to the beginning, and also… any opinions on those red/blood roots?

I hope other people enjoyed the film too, and I do encourage other people to check it out

Note taking in the digital world

My note taking in lectures last year was pretty much non-existent. I don't know how I got away with that. I guess I thought that as we had good notes provided there was no need to do anything other than to listen carefully. Of course with hindsight, I now know this to be very naive.

This year will be different. I have already formed a small study group with friends to collaborate on note taking and forming resources ready for when revision rolls round again. I plan to take good notes in lectures and seminars, and more than that my plan is to do this digitally, right from the start.

From reading and research that should have been done along time ago I have found a lot of self-evident facts about note taking.

  • Keeps you engaged and interested in the lecture. Asking and answering questions is another good way to do this, but not often possible in the context of a lecture. I found last year I would zone out very quickly in lectures if I was uninterested in the topic, or if I knew some/all of the material already, or due to lack of sleep / sleepy after lunch.

  • Writing things in your own words will give better understanding at the time, and make more sense later.

  • Distilling the content as you write, will make your revision more efficient later. Having to wade through more comprehensive notes was another attribute of my revision last year. You can skip or be brief on things you already know, so as to not waste time, and outlining, mind mapping or any other structuring of the content will assist in your ability to find what you are looking for quicker.

Note taking methods from California Polytechnic State University
and from Dartmouth College

So far this all applies to methodology as opposed to the tools which you use to accomplish the note taking.

So here's why I think doing it digitally is the way to go, preferably completely digitally, but if that is not possible the latter stages after capture still have advantages.

The are a number of different digital inputs you could use as opposed to pen and paper. Using a tablet pc to write in digital ink, using a keyboard on laptop (or tablet if it has one), using a graphics tablet for pen input into a laptop, or any appropriate combination of those.
Using a keyboard and graphics tablet is my current plan. Being able to type in quickly the wordy parts and then use the pen to draw in diagrams, graphs, sketches, highlightings… seems to me to be the best. Of course if you capture your notes digitally then you have no need the duplicate work of digitizing paper notes later.

Digital notating allows you to…

  • Produce rich, colourful notes. You can accomplish colour with your paper notebook, but not without carrying around a selection of coloured pens, and wasting time switching between the. Doing it digitally… tap the colour you want, and away you go. Beyond this digital notes allow you to do things which aren't easy or even possible. Paste in graphics from external sources be that images, diagrams, graphs etc., Hyperlink to other documents, add audio and/or video to your notes!

  • Annotate. Following on from the previous point. Pasting in images etc., is great; even better is importing in documents and annotating them. Notes in pdf?... rather than print them out and draw on them, import them into your note taking system and annotate them like that. You can in fact extend that to any sort of document (typically using a virtual printer). No need to worry about marking, library or your own books. Use Google Print to get relevant pages from books, or scan them in… even using a digital camera works great.

  • Other miscellaneous features. No need to carry around a binder, pads of paper and a variety of pens, do it all with a small portable machine, and never have to worry about paper or pens running out. Granted, battery life is also finite, but put on the charger ever night, a modern mobile processor will last you through all the lectures in your day. Digital input also gives you freedom in the form of your notes, if A4 is dull, why not an infinitely sized canvas which expands when you need it to. Some note taking systems allow you to use different paper styles/types and have templates for your digital paper.

Once you have captured your notes the following points become important

  • Storage. If you did your notes on paper, how are you going to effectively store that huge stack of papers. This is where the digital route really starts to excel. Organising your files is easy on computer and no physical storage space other than the computer itself is required. Now you can take everything, everywhere, and work on anything at any time, when before you could only fit a few subjects in your bag. Labelling files is simple on computer, stored into a self explanatory hierarchy of directories, automatically timestamped files, try doing that with ring binders.

  • Search. You have you mountain of material intelligently organised, and tucked away on your hard drive… now imagine if you could search it all. Googling your revision notes? Note taking systems include this ability, or you could do it with desktop search software from vendors like Google, so you really could Google your notes.

  • Management. Management encapsulated the previous two points, there are other management areas which the digital can help. Your note taking spills over into revision and coursework, and it all needs to be time managed. Again there is plenty of good software to schedule your time for lectures, seminars, revision… for tracking the progress of tasks and their approaching deadlines.

This post almost seems like a sales pitch and now it really will do…

So what are these note taking systems. Two ones which seem good are,

OneNote, from Microsoft

Microsoft Journal for the tablet PC is another candidate and there are some other systems available as well, some more specific in use than others.

This summer I've been developing my own digital note capturing software, building on a base on pre-existing code. I will blog more about this later as this post is already huge.

I think this wraps it all up pretty well, maybe this summer you'll think about your strategy for study next year.

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