Lots of doing different things

The benefits of bilingualism

Apparently being bilingual makes one smarter.

“Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.”

To say that I love language is an understatement. I learned a second language starting in my first year of grade school. In college, I learned some German and Spanish. Later when I was working in the video game industry and dealing with Sony and Nintendo, I started learning Japanese. Since then I have had other experiences with language:

    • I have followed a number of audio courses on language in general, and the evolution of the English
    • On a trip to eastern Spain in 2010, I taught myself to be able to read Catalan (I can also muddle through written Portuguese)
    • On a trip to Italy in 2012, I found myself being able to read both Italian and Latin
    • On a trip to Ukraine and Russia, I taught myself to read Cyrillic characters, enabling me to make out signs and menu items that borrowed from Germanic or Romance languages

This excerpt was instructive:

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

It was not long after moving to Quebec City to pursue my undergraduate studies that I became fully fluent in French and that I began to think in French. I ended up being so assimilated that I would look for my words when speaking in English with my parents. The cognitive load of having 2 languages fully operative in my brain at the same time was at times overwhelming. I would actually stutter when attempting to speak English, something that never happened to me as a child.

During a trip to Germany, I found Japanese and Spanish words coming to mind before German. I had the same phenomenon when travelling in Italy. At times, it becomes a realt rat’s nest.

Lately, as I have begun to better understood my brain, I have noticed that I seem to be identifying and picking up words in other languages much faster than in a number of years.

Buying what you love

While reading thew New York Times, I also learned about the benefits of buying what you love. In my case, that would be my bicycle, which I bought in my early 40s. I have cycled for over 30,000km in all and ridden on some of the toughest climbs in North America, up mountains in Quebec, Vermont, New York State, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Colorado, and as well as the hilly city streets of Pittsburgh.

Artificial intelligence

I read even more about artificial intelligence as I continue to build out an article. I also looked up a bunch of movies that feature A.I. in one or more characters or as part of the plot. They include Blade Runner; I, Robot; 2001: A Space Odyssey; War Games; and Westworld among others.

I have some basic understanding of A.I. software programming concepts such as binary decision trees and finite state machines, but now I am learning about neural networks, deep learning, machine learning, and computer vision, among other things.

I read another article about artificial intelligence and how it relates to being human.

Human intelligence

I read an interesting article concerning a new book that discusses our genes and the genetic component of human intelligence, the impact of IQ testing, etc. This is an interesting excerpt:

A crucial agent in our limiting definition of intelligence, which has a dark heritage in nineteenth-century biometrics and eugenics, was the British psychologist and statistician Charles Spearman, who became interested in the strong correlation between an individual’s high performance on tests assessing very different mental abilities. He surmised that human intelligence is a function not of specific knowledge but of the individual’s ability to manipulate abstract knowledge across a variety of domains. Spearman called this ability “general intelligence,” shorthanded g.

Tuesday is news day

Current affairs

I love current affairs. Always have, always will. My mother was a radio and television journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) so I grew up listening to the local, national, and international news. I remember the CBC logo affectionately known as “the gem” with great fondness.

CBC logo 1974-1986

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation logo (1974-1986)

I supplemented that with extensive reading of the only national daily newspaper at the time, The Globe and Mail. In addition to 2 college degrees (political science and international studies), I continue to be an avid reader of publications and books that deal with current affairs. It is a point of pride for me to be exceptionally well-informed about the events that shape our world. It even made be a better student when I was in the MBA program. I could provide deep context to what we were being asked to discuss or present on.

This morning I read an article describing the very real threats to Western democracy as we know it. The worst threat of all comes not from forces outside of a country but from within. They are : 1) voter apathy and, 2) the willingness to set aside democratic institutions and ways of organising power that go back to the Magna Carta and that underpin the very declaration of American Independence from the British Crown.


Applied for a product management job with a major investment bank this afternoon. I have been interested in finance since I was a teenager. I used to read the business section of The Globe and Mail as well as the stock market pages as my Dad drove me to school. I was admitted to an undergraduate business program but ended up failing out due to my inability to ask questions in a way that allowed them to be answered as well as the unexpected separation and divorce of my parents, which blew up my world. In recent years, I had the opportunity to work for a company that developed regulatory reporting software for financial institutions as well as investment funds.


I learned some more about what it means to be a polymath as well as how they are becoming rarer in a world that pays lip service to generalists while valuing specialists.


Mental health

I also learned about bipolar disorder and the difference between Type 1 and Type 2, and how it relates to depression. I learned as well how depression affects attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s all one big bowl of spaghetti.

Bowl of spaghetti

More Stuff

I took the plunge and bought a copy of iA Writer, a very minimalist—read distraction free—writing application that can be used to publish to Medium and WordPress or export to Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat PDF formats. This is a great overview of the complexity that iA Writer does away with. One of the neatest features is something called transclusion, something that happens all the time on modern dynamic websites but is relatively new in the field of word processors. (I use BBEdit, a very powerful text editor for other activites, such as editing HTML, CSS or Unix configuration files.)