Sunday, October 25, 2009

Random and highly inconsequential bullets of this week

  • It's true that some people can read conference papers at close to the speed of sound--good papers, too, though if you're taking notes, you'd better give up before you start.
  • Speaking of taking notes, why is using laptops to take notes still tacitly verboten in conference sessions in the humanities? I first tried it 10 years ago and was too cowed to try it again until now, when I sat at the very back of a large session and typed my notes instead of writing them down. Since typing is my natural medium, as I suspect it is for most academics, and the notes are clearer and more organized, why don't more people type them? Or would you be suspected of doing what a person a few rows in front of me did--pulling out a laptop to check email and look up the subject of the presentation on Wikipedia?
  • What stopped me from typing notes in any other session was that ridiculous Windows music that plays when you start up--Bill Gates, are you listening? How about letting us turn that off? We know we're in Windows; we're not so self-esteem-impaired that we need a "Ta-da!" to celebrate turning on the computer.
  • When I went to check in on the return flight, the person behind the check-in desk asked if I would be checking any luggage. "No." "How would you like to check that bag if I don't charge you for it?" "Sure!" He put the tags on it, saying something about "faster to get everyone on board" if people checked luggage.

    No duh. Did the airlines just figure out that we're all carrying suitcases to put overhead instead of checking them? Or that with trying to find overhead space, gate-checking bags, helping the elderly folks to put their bags overhead, and the rest it takes twice as long to load a planeful of people as it used to, even with the flight attendants haranguing you to get out of the aisle? I'm grateful to the renegade check-in desk person for his action and hope that the higher-ups in the airlines, who have probably never flown coach in their lives, will start to rethink their position about charging for luggage.
  • As we were waiting at the gate, a little kid, probably about two, was laughing and running around in the area with his mother in pursuit. I smiled, but the guy next to me grumbled, "Hard to tell who's in charge of who!" I said, "She's probably just letting him run around to get him tired out for the flight," to which he said, "Hm! Does he have to run around here?" I didn't want to be part of that conversation, so I moved away, but honestly, Cranky Guy: get a grip. Nobody likes it when babies cry on planes, including the parents, but babies can't help it: they're babies. They don't cry as much when they sleep, and they sleep better when they're tired, and if they're toddlers or little kids, they're more apt to be tired if they run around before they board. What part of that equation don't you understand?

  • [Edited to add: And I'd rather listen to a dozen babies cry than hear the loud-voiced blowhards who for some reason feel compelled to talk about various air disasters as we're taking off.]
    [Apparently you can disable the startup sound: I wish I'd known that sooner.]


    Anonymous said...

    I realise that it is The Way of the Future, and it's not as if I'm averse to typing, but I don't like people taking notes in my papers or classes by laptop at all. I find the clicking of keys quite distracting. One student in my current classes has mastered the art of typing silently, I don't know how, and that's fine, it is just the noise that bothers me not the tech. If they want to waste their time on Wikipedia while I talk, well, they'll find out why that was a bad idea come the exams. But actually, the exams. When they'll have to actually write for three hours straight. I honestly think that the people who've been taking longhand notes will be better prepared for the physical work of doing that than the typists.

    Ink said...

    Snorted a little coffee through my nose at "Ta-Da!" :D

    Cranky Guy sounds like an asshat.

    Glad you had a good conference!

    Anonymous said...

    Having just spent 2 days this week travelling by air, I do so love your airline comments (absolutely NO room in the overhead compartments on any flights except those tiny planes with "a la carte" service, and definitely prefer the crying kids over the drunk partiers--clearly, the flight attendants don't have a "cut em off" policy).

    Thanks for the Windows link! "ta da!" indeed (heard that lots at my meeting).

    Z said...

    I am so excited to turn off that Windows music! Thank you!

    undine said...

    tenthmedieval, that's my real hesitation: the noise. My old laptop had really loud keys, and I think this one is quieter, but I don't want to distract the speaker; that's why I sat at the back. But if I were speaking and noticed someone typing away--and then that person stopped--I'm afraid it would be really distracting, as if the person were saying, "I'm waiting for you to say something interesting." About the students: I do think that those who practice writing by hand will be better off than the typists, unless you let them type the exams, too.

    Thanks, Ink! I'd agree with you about Cranky Guy, for sure.

    Annieem, it sounds as though there were lots of laptop users at your meeting. Did the speakers seem bothered by it?

    profacero, it never occurred to me that you COULD turn it off until I started looking around. I'm glad it's a useful link.

    The Bittersweet Girl said...

    I think it's the combo of annoying typing sounds (distraction) and the way that the laptop screen sets up a barrier between speaker & audience that makes the practice unappealing. I know I hate to look out over my audience and only see the tops of faces, eyes all fixed on glowing screens.

    Then again, there is that colleague of mine who I was sitting behind today who checked/updated her Facebook status during a public lecture. Classy.

    undine said...

    Bittersweet girl, the lids of the laptops do form a barrier. When I was taking notes by typing, I tried to look at the speaker and only look down while actually clicking on the keys, but it's still more of a barrier than writing in a notebook.