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.

Sunday of interests

After going for a 14km run this morning, I figured I would make an effort to get through some open tabs in my main web browser.


I have long been a type afficianado though my skills are ultimately limited. I take care to at least address the basics in terms of serif vs. sans-serif fonts, limited use of font faces in a document, consistent usage, etc. I use things like en-dashes (i.e., –) and em-dashes (i.e., —), ellipses (e.g., … and not 3 periods in a row) and the occasional ligature (e.g., æ or fi or fl) when I can. This is a good summary of basic rules of typography. One day I will get around to reading and paying for this guide on tyopgraphy.

The recent announcement of Open Type Variable Fonts technology by Apple, Adobe, Google and Microsoft was a case of déjà vu for me. I read a good critique of the underlying industry dynamics that may likely sink this effort like they sunk the one I poured my energy in to 20 years ago (and which launched my career in technology and marketing.)

Online hate

This article on the alt-right (aka white supremacists) movement in the USA was a fascinating and depressing read. I also read the linked article at The Daily Stormer; not for the faint of heart but instructive.

Fascinating people

An interesting article about the late Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould. As a child, I would often listen to classical music. I have heard some of Glenn Gould’s music, but more of Vladimir Horowitz, including his famous April 1986 concert when he returned to Moscow after exile.