Sunday, November 15, 2015

Using Livescribe for a Year

The Livescribe 3 has its annoyances but overall I'm still happier to use it than not. But if I were buying a new smartpen now, I'd probably buy a Neo N2.

A year ago, I bought a Livescribe 3. It costs $150 and requires special paper (which you can print yourself, if you don't want to buy a pretty Moleskine or other notebook), so it's not just a simple impulse buy sort of gadget.

Several folks have asked me what I think of it. It's a little complicated, so I've decided to write up my thoughts in one place, here on my blog.


First off, you should be warned that there are several MAJOR caveats in my Livescribe recommendation:

  • The older, non-smartphone-only pens, have a little LCD screen that dies every 2 years, according to user reports on their support site. (Despite this, some of those users say they just buy a new one every 2 years. Crazy.)
  • Speaking of their support site, no one has replied to posts their in 7 months (as of today).
  • Two things the OCR does not handle well: separating paragraphs, respecting indents, and crossing out mistakes. (Three things. I'll come in again.)
  • Their software looks like it was designed by Big Corp. Meaning, it works, mostly, but its usability is not that slick. Some tasks have more steps than they really need to have. Sometimes you have to "turn it off and back on again" before it actually works.
  • Every once in a blue moon (ie, months will go by just fine), the software just flat out refuses to do its OCR magic on a paragraph or two. Tech support is stumped as to why this is, so I just had to manually transcribe those couple paragraphs.
  • It's a tad bit bulky, although just this side of doesn't-get-in-my-way.
  • Its ink cartridges, while not totally proprietary, are a little hard to find. I've ended up ordering mine (including red, green, and blue inks!) off Amazon and it shipped from Japan in a couple days. :P


Now, why do I like it so much if it's got these significant drawbacks?

  • It's a fun tech toy. ;)
  • The OCR works amazingly well, maybe 90-95% accurate. (It even understood most of my husband's messy handwriting!) I always proofread what it generates, but usually I only have to clean up the equivalent of a typo here, a typo there.
  • Because its output is "just text", I can email that output to a computer script that then does all sorts of magic to it. (Eg, I wrote a program that guesses where paragraph breaks are, turns *asterisks* into italics, looks for custom syntax like "#Flickr: foo" and inserts HTML that displays & links to my Flickr photos, etc. Or, if the text starts with #NaNoWriMo, it processes it slightly differently, then hands it off to a different program that sticks the text in my Google Docs while updating a Google Spreadsheet & the official NaNoWriMo word counts.)
  • I really, really hate transcribing. I don't mind proofing, but I hate transcribing.
  • I love, love, love how it enables writing in the dark. When I'm working on a piece of fiction, it seems that my brain always comes up with an extra scene or two while I'm trying to fall asleep. I used to lose these scenes, or scribble notes that I'd then dread to transcribe the next morning. With the Livescribe's OCR, it's just as easy to transcribe neat daytime writing as messy nighttime scribbling. For example, the last short story that I wrote, 80% of it was done in the dark when I should have been sleeping. Because of my aforementioned scripts, I was even able to know what my updated word count was while still lying in bed. :)
  • When I do have problems every so often, their email-based support staff has always gotten back to me within a couple business days.


Livescribe isn't the only "smartpen" on the market. It's the only one I've used, but I did do a little bit of searching around to see what the competition was like:

  • The Neo Smartpen, which sounds like a direct competitor to Livescribe. It's $170, so right around the same price point. It looks slimmer, thus less crampy to write with. It also lets you print your own paper. And several Amazon reviews by previous Livescribe 3 owners unanimously prefer the Neo N2. If I'd known about it (and/or if it had been out when I was looking), I would have strongly considered it instead.
  • There is an entirely different design of smartpen, which lets you write on any paper you want, but requires you to clip a sensor to the top of the paper. But my research turned up lots of users complaining that if anything got in between the sensor and the pen, it could get distorted and confused. So I wouldn't recommend that other design, although feel free to do your own research. ;)

If you're still interested in getting a Livescribe after all that, here's my referral link: ;)


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wandering around Querétaro


He estado quedándome con una familia de Couchsurfing por mis primeros días aquí en Querétaro. Hoy la otra huésped, una alemana, se fue, y la familia me llevó al centro mientras la llevaban a ella al terminal de autobuses. Por eso, no empecé el día en el centro del centro, sino cerca de los arcos del acueducto, a una distancia corta del centro.

Me reí a mí misma por llamarse en mi mente "el acueducto romano" en la mente, como si fuera construido por los romanos. :P

Caminaba por las calles hasta el centro, tomando fotos de iglesias, árboles, estatuas, y otras cosas de la ciudad de Querétaro. Hacía mucho calor (para mí, al menos: 28°C o 82°F), así que compré un raspado de limón de un vendedor que estaba al mirador de los arcos. Fue tan dulce! No pude terminarlo por la dulzura demasiado fuerte porque estaba demasiado dulce, sólo comí el hielo raspado de arriba, que contó con lo mínimo del jarabe donde el jarabe era menos fuerte.

Encontré el Palacio de Gobierno en un lado de la Plaza de Armas. Miré los murales de la independencia y la revolución. Entonces un tipo (con una etiqueta de nombre) me invitó a escuchar su plática sobre la historia local con los otros visitantes. El tenía un humor un poco extraño, y usó muchas frases coloquiales que no entendí bien, pero me gustó a pesar de esto.

Después, regresé a un restaurante inglés/indio/thailandés que había visto más temprano en el día. Mientras caminaba, vi a un cura bendiciendo un coche de una familia. Muy extraño.

En el restaurante comí curry amarillo thai y pollo a la mantequilla. El curry fue más como un caldo (pero todavía con un buen sabor). Y el pollo a la mantequilla no tenía nada que ver con el plato del mismo nombre de los restaurantes estado­unidenses, porque sus especias fueron completamente distintas (pero todavía con un buen sabor :)).

Por el resto del día, andaba por las calles del centro hasta que llegué a un café, donde me senté para leer y escribir.

Corrected by Ines and Juanfry.


I've been staying with a Couchsurfing family for my first few days here in Querétaro. Today the other guest, a German woman, left, and the family dropped me off downtown while they took her to the bus station. Because of that, I didn't start my day in the *middle* of downtown, but near the aquaduct arches instead, a little ways from downtown.

I laughed at myself for calling it "the Roman aquaduct" in my head, as if it were built by the Romans. :P

I walked through the streets toward downtown, taking photos of churches, trees, statues, and other things in the city of Querétaro. It was really hot (for me, at least: 28°C o 82°F), so I bought a lime-flavored shaved ice from a vendor who was at the vista point for the aquaduct. It was so sweet! I couldn't finish it because it was too sweet, I only ate the shaved ice at the top, where the syrup was least strong.

I stumbled upon the Palacio de Gobierno along one side of the Plaza de Armas. I looked at the murals about the Independence and the Revolution. Then a guy (with a nametag) invited me to listen to his talk about the local history with the other visitors. He had a strange sense of humor, and used a lot of colloquial phrases that I didn't understand well, but I enjoyed it despite that.

Afterward, I returned to a British/Indian/Thai restaurant that I'd seen earlier in the day. While I walked, I saw a priest blessing a family's car. Very weird.

At the restaurant, I ate yellow curry and butter chicken. The curry was more like a broth (but still with a good flavor). And the butter chicken was nothing like the dish by the same name in American restaurants, because it had completely different spices (but still with a good flavor ;)).

For the rest of the day, I wandered through the streets downtown until I arrived at a cafe, where I sat to read and write.


Saturday, February 21, 2015



Durante las seis semanas que estaba en Guanajuato, nunca tenía ganas de escribir. No sé por qué era así, pero mi teoría es que estaba allí por suficiente tiempo que desarrollar una rutina, y ésa no incluía escribir.

Y ahora que me he traslado a Querétaro, de repente quiero escribir otra vez.

Es un poco triste. Quiero tener una rutina que sí incluye la escritura. Y por eso, me he inscrito en otro reto de HTLAL: escribir 100 páginas y grabarme 100 horas de hablar. Para forzarme a escribir y hablar más, lo que es sorprendentemente fácil de evitar.

Quizás puedo encontrar a un compañero de estudio, como un compañero de ejercicio pero para la mente. ;)

Corrected by Moiradora y Diego.


During the six weeks that I was in Guanajuato, I never felt like writing. I don't know why that was so, but my theory's that I was there for a long enough time that I developed a routine, and it didn't include writing.

And now that I've moved on to Querétaro, suddenly I want to write again.

It's a little sad. I want to have a routine that does include writing. And so I've signed up for another HTLAL challenge: write 100 pages and record 100 hours of talking. To force myself to write and talk more, which is surprisingly easy to avoid.

Maybe I can find a study buddy, like a workout buddy but for your mind. ;)


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Couchsurfing with Luz's Family in León


La línea de inmigración y la aduana fue muy larga y lentísima. Pero al final, no había ningún problema con mi visa de residencia temporal ni con las cosas de mi mochila. (Pero todavía tengo que ir a la oficina de inmigración para finalizar mi visa — el sello del aeropuerto solo me autorizar a estar en México por 30 días.)

Después de obtener mi sello oficial, encontré a mi anfitriona de Couchsurfing, una mujer de casi mi edad que se llama Luz. Ella viva en León con su familia (pues, no con sus hermanos ya casados) y es posible que me quede en su casa hasta ¡viernes!

Todos los miembros de su familia son amables — encontré a sus padres y a un hermano. (También a uno de sus primos, él que nos manejamos desde el aeropuerto, pero él no hablaba mucho y no se quedó después de llegar a la casa. Pero sí le gusta la música metal, al menos de Rammstein... :))

Cuando llegamos a la casa, admití que tenía un poco de hambre. Afortunadamente había una tienda al otro lado de la calle. Salimos, ella compró pan dulce y jugo de naranja para mí — le dije que le pagaré por algo para ella mañana — y regresamos en menos que cinco minutos. Los dueños de la tienda eran una pareja amable, pero el hombre estaba tan cansado que se equivocó del cambio dos veces. (Con sonrisas y risas, no fue nada malicioso.)

En la casa otra vez, comí mi pan y bebí mi jugo. También pregunté sobre estos pedazos de cosas que resultaron ser tamales de azúcar. Lo calentó y lo probé. No fue muy dulce, solo un poquito; el sabor de masa nada mucho más. No fue mi nueva comida favorita, pero me gustó y lo comería otra vez.

Después de comer, Luz me mostró la habitación mía. Era un espacio sencillo pero cómodo, y era obviamente donde ella practica su música, porque hay un piano y también otros instrumentos.

En la mañana, quizás vamos a ir juntos al museo de arte e historia. Luz me dijo que ha necesitado una excusa para ir, y soy yo esa excusa. :)

Corrected by Maria.


The immigration and customs lines were very long and extremely slow. But in the end, there were no problems with my temporary resident visa nor with the things in my backpack. (But I still have to go to an immigration office to finalize my visa — the airport stamp only authorizes me to stay in Mexico for 30 days.)

After getting my official stamp, I found my Couchsurfing host, a woman almost my age who's named Luz. She lives in León with her family (well, not with her married brothers) and it's possible that I can stay with them through Friday(!).

Everyone in her family is friendly — I met her parents and a brother. (I also met one of her cousins, who drove us from the airport, but he didn't talk much and he didn't stay after dropping us off at the house. But he did like listening to metal music, at least Rammstein... :))

When we arrived at the house, I admitted that I was a little hungry. Luckily, there's a shop across the street. We went out, she bought sweet bread and orange juice for me — I told her that I'd buy something for her tomorrow — and we returned in less than five minutes. The owners of the shop were a friendly couple, but the man was so tired that he gave the wrong change twice. (Which smiles and laughs, nothing malicious at all.)

At the house again, I ate my bread and drank my juice. I also asked about these little pieces of something that turned out to be sugar tamales. She heated it up and I tried it. It wasn't very sweet, just a little bit; not much more than masa flavor. It wasn't my new favorite food, but I liked it and would eat it again.

After eating, Luz showed me my room. It's a simple but comfortable room, and it's obviously where she practices her music, because there's a piano and maybe some other instruments too.

In the morning, we might go together to the museum of art and history. Luz told me that she's needed an excuse to go, and I'm that excuse. :)


Flying to Mexico


En mi puerta del aeropuerto LAX, casi todos los otros pasajeros eran hispanohablantes. Me parece que los americanos angloparlantes no visitan la ciudad de León con frecuencia... La agente de la aerolínea cambió mi asiento porque se requieren pasajeros que hablan inglés sentados en las filas de emergencia.

Hablé con dos mexicanas, ningunas las que hablan ni una palabra de inglés. Incluso les ayudé con los anuncios de los agentes.

Para pasar el vuelo (que duró 3 horas) vi "Frozen: Una Aventura Congelada" por la enésima vez (pero solo la tercera vez en español). Me resulta aún más fácil entender cada tiempo que la veo, y queda entretenida.

Corrected by DavidLz.


At my gate at the LAX airport, almost all the passengers are Spanish-speakers. It seems like English-speaking Americans don't visit the city of Léon often... The gate agent changed my site because they require English-speaking passengers in the emergency exit rows.

I spoke with two Mexican women, neither of whom spoke a single word of English. I even helped them with the agents' announcements.

To pass the time on the flight (which lasts 3 hours) I watched "Frozen" for the umpteenth time (but only the third time in Spanish). It's becoming easier to understanding every time I watch it, and it's still entertaining.


Leaving California


¡Omgomgomg estoy en el avión, ya saliendo del aeropuerto de Oakland, California! Estoy tan emociante, y también una poca ansiosa. Voy a extrañar me de mi familia, mis amigos, mi ciudad, mis gatos, y sumamente mi marido. Pero, como me dijo mi amiga LisaD, esto es una aventura de "la única vez de la vida", así que me enfoco en "emociante." :)

Corrected by BennyDelon.


Omgomgomg I'm on the plane, leaving the airport in Oakland, California! I'm so excited, and also a little scared. I'm going to miss my family, my friends, my city, my cats, and especially my husband. But, as my friend LisaD said to me, this is a "once in a lifetime" adventure, so I'm going to focus on "excited." :)


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Visiting Forrest's family in Santa Cruz


Nos quedamos una noche en Santa Cruz en un "pop-up tráiler" que encontré por AirBnb, que por casual­idad estaba muy cerca a la casa de uno> de los amigos de la niñez de mi marido. Nunca he dormido en este estilo de tráiler, así que fue como una diversión quedarnos allí.

Ha hecho bien frío por esta semana en California. Y el trailer sólo tenía un calefactor de propano, el que no es buena idea encender mientras duermas. En vez de tener un calefactor durante la noche fría, dormimos debajo de cuatro o cinco cubrecamas. Me desperté varias veces por la noche por el frío, pero cerca de las cuatro de la mañana, finalmente dormí sin despertarme. No querría quedarme más noches allí sin calefactor cuando sea tan frío, pero me gustaba el tráiler en general.

Después del tráiler, fuimos al puerto para pasar tiempo con los padres de mi marido. Charlamos un rato, y luego él y yo caminamos por "Arana Gulch," que suena dema­siado como "araña", más de lo que preferiría. ;) El sendero va por un campo pequeño de hierbas salvajes y por robles viejos y torcidos. Sólo vimos robles venenosos dos veces, pero sabemos que hay mucho más sin hojas obvias en la región.

Forrest me dijo sobre el campo, que era un espacio libre en su tiempo, pero ahora se están con­struyendo vallas para limitar el acceso público a parte del campo. Él y sus amigos solían recoger zarza­moras por tirar sus bicis en los arbustos y entonces ponerse encima de las bicis para evitar las espinas.

Al final del sendero está nuestro hotel, donde nos quedaremos hasta el 4 de enero. Dormí una siestecita (porque estuve cansada y son vacaciones, pues ¿por qué no?) y regresamos por otra ruta. Dis­cutimos los planes de renovación de la casa, especialmente sobre automatización de los electrónicos y las luces. ¡Estoy emocionante para ver qué cumplirá Forrest en un año!

Cuando llegamos al barco, su hermano menor, Ari, ya había llegado también y todos nosotros platicamos más.

Comimos en un restaurante chino (con servicio muuuy lento pero con comida rica). Nos trasladamos a un café, donde yo escribí y mi marido leyó mientras sus padres y hermano jugaron juegos. Finalmente, regresamos al barco para tomar unos tragos de crema de tequila y ver Rick y Morty, una serie de televisión que Forrest quería mostrar a su hermano.

Corrected by Judai.


We stayed one night in Santa Cruz in a pop-up trailer that I found on AirBnb, that happened to be very near the house of one of my husband's childhood friends. I'd never slept in this type of trailer, so it was kinda fun to stay there.

It was quite cold this week in California. And the trailer only had a propane heater, which it's not a good idea to run while you sleep. Instead of running the heater during the cold night, we slept under four or five blankets. I woke up several times during the night because of the cold, but around 4 AM, I finally fell asleep. I wouldn't want to stay any more nights there without a heater when it's so cold, but I liked the trailer in general.

After the trailer, we went to the harbor to spend time with my husband's parents. We chatted for a while, then he and I walked up "Arana Gulch," which sounds too much like "spider gulch" for my tastes. ;) The path goes through a small field with weeds and old, twisted oaks. We only saw poison oak twice, but we know that there's a lot more without obvious leaves around there.

Forrest told me about the field, that it was an open space when he was a kid but now they're building fences to limit public access to parts of the field. He and his friends would pick blackberries by throwing their bikes down on the bushes and then climbing on top of the bikes to avoid the spines.

At the end of the trail was our hotel where we were going to stay until January 4th. I took a short nap (because I was tired and it's vacation, so why not?) and then we returned by another route. We talked about our remodeling plans for the house, especially about home automation of the electronics and lights. I'm excited to see what Forrest accomplishes in a year!

His younger brother, Ari, arrived and we all chatted some more. We ate at a Chinese restaurant (with verrrry slow service but good food). We then went over to a cafe, where I wrote and my husband read while his parents and brother played games. Finally, we went back to the boat for some crema de tequila shots and a few episodes of "Rick and Morty," a TV show that Forrest wanted to show his brother.