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.

Web site performance and more

Before Sunday noon I did the following

1) Enabled Google PageSpeed module on my professional website in order to improve performance.

This required me to use SSH in a terminal to modify some configuration files and installing a new module for Apache. I also modified the placement of CSS content for WPML, a translation plug-in for WordPress.

Below is the test results from Google PageSpeed Insights. I increased from 87 to 93/100 for desktop and had a massive increase for mobile.

Google Page Speed Insights improved

2) Installed Jira, a feature and bug tracking tool, on my laptop

This required learning about Docker, downloading the Docker engine, then a Jira container, installing it and then connecting to it via HTTP. I learned about Docker and installed it yesterday. I also installed a Ubuntu Linux container but am still figuring out how all of these things fit together.

Jira installed

3) I added support for Adobe TypeKit fonts, Disqus comments, and Visual Composer page builder to this site and started publishing on it. 

Adobe TypeKitDisqus commenting


4) Realised that I trashed the backend of my professional site and restored from a 2-day old back-up.

Made a mental note to run a snapshot the next time before mucking around. I then reinstalled just the PageSpeed module for Apache; I didn’t take a snapshot first since I figured it just as easy to restore right away.

5) Crap, I hosed my professional site again. Put things back the way they were and will not touch again today.

6) Going for a walk now with my wife. Rain or shine, I need to get those 10,000 steps.

7) After a nap, I ended the day with some crossword puzzles, some articles on Medium, and a few chapters of Rework. I also cleared 11,000 steps.