More things to learn

Dvorak keyboard

As if I didn’t have enough change in my life, I am thinking of learning the Dvorak keyboard, which is apparently much more efficient than the QWERTY keyboard used in English. The QWERTY layout was apparently created to slow typists down because that was necessary at the time; typewriters couldn’t handle such rapid input. Since habits die hard, the use and teaching of the QWERTY continues to this day, even if the technical reason for its existence does not. So I shall tread a well-worn path and give Dvorak a try ! (Update: Nope, looks like a pain in the butt for not much added value.)


Schematic of the Dvorak keyboard. (Source: Wikipedia)


Modern war

I came across when the new website was announced. Lots of interesting articles, and interesting battlefield / theatre pictures. One article talked about the importance of concrete in the war in Iraq. This section was interesting:

The demand for concrete was immense. New contracts had to be developed and concrete factories had to be found, built, and expanded in multiple places across Iraq. Getting concrete became as important a mission as emplacing it.

A major component to the well-known Iraq surge of 2007 in response to rising sectarian violence was the mission to clear and secure the neighborhoods of Baghdad. US forces found concrete to be their most effective weapon to reduce violence and protect the local population. They used concrete to reduce the complexity of the environment.

Concrete enabled coalition forces to flip the narrative regarding enemy operations in Sadr City:

In response to the situation, the US forces basically engaged in siege warfare. But atypical to historic examples, instead of attacking to break through fortified wall, they imposed the siege on the enemy by building walls. Reminiscent of a medieval siege engine, each night US forces drove up to the limits off Sadr City with massive cranes and trucks loaded with twelve-foot-tall T-walls. On a good night, soldiers could emplace over 122 barriers. Enemy forces attacked the soldiers putting in the walls and it was not uncommon to be hanging concrete while attack helicopters, tanks, and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles returned fire.

I read a second article on the site, looking at Clausewitz’ famous On War treatise in the context of Start Trek. I shared the link yesterday but got around to really reading the article today:

This was interesting:

Without passion, war is absent energy. Without reason, war is uncontrolled rage. Without chance, war is mere slaughter. All three are necessary, and necessary to remember.

According to the article, the parallel with Star Trek is as follows:


More WordPress fun

  • Installed a command line interface (CLI) capability so that I can manage my main WordPress site via from a Terminal
  • Installed a cron plug-in so that I can see the kinds of events going on behind the scenes on that same site
  • Ran a batch of plug-in updates
  • Didn’t break anything


Friday funday not yet done day

Paid work

It has been a couple of months but I got a contract so I a, busy filling out an Excel workbook and doing searches for medical conferences in Quebec. I am running RescueTime to better quantify and understand where I am spending my time. (Though just on my laptop for now. The problem is that the information that is being captured and uploaded for reporting could also be hacked.) I am running a separate app, Billings Pro, to record hours worked.


I wonder if dictation might be a good way to capture all of my ideas faster than I can type them. There are a lot of options and commands to master the dictation feature on macOS. I probably need to do some more testing.


I figured out how to import pictures into iA Writer for my brief on artificial intelligence. I was having issues with iCloud file permissions when trying to drag files directly into the folder where my document is located. The right approach is to drag images directly into the document and the images get uploaded on their own.


Screenshot from the movie War Games (1983)

I also broke my document up into separate files and then linked them in using a new feature in version 4 of iA Writer. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.44.53 AM

Screenshot of the contents of the main document. Markdown is the formatting language used here.

Once exported, it formats to look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.49.41 AM

Not satisfied with the spacing in the Table of Contents for now.

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.