Weekly Head Voices #185: Starship GOU #1.

Welcome back friends!

It’s a lovely, laid-back Sunday morning (the 8th, at 11:16 to be slightly more precise) as I sit down to write this paragraph right here.

Smatterings of this post were already jotted down in this markdown text file two weeks ago, but then I didn’t see enough that was noteworthy, and then everything suddenly Got Really Busy(tm).

In the end, all of that led up to this perfect little moment in space-time right here and right now, and now I am grateful that I can try again to look back at the passage of time from Monday November 18 to Sunday December 8, 2019.

The view from a Friday afternoon arrival run along the Langebaan Lagoon in the West Coast National Park.

Lecturing, old school.

On Thursday, November 21, I gave a two hour lecture titled “IoMT in Healthcare Innovation” at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

IoMT expands to the “Internet of Medical Things”.

My knowledge of IoT is spotty, and before giving this lecture I didn’t even know that the term “IoMT” existed.

Fortunately, it turns out that a lot of what we’re currently doing at Stone Three Healthcare (connecting patients with specialist care through diagnostic-grade streaming of auscultation (and soon other modalities) device data) can in fact be classified as IoMT.


I would like to make the following observations based on this experience:

  1. I still really love getting up in front of a group of people to present something. There are so many things that could go wrong, but when they go right, the experience is great.
  2. A two hour lecture is quite long, for both the students, even when they’re as advanced as this, and for the lecturer, especially when he is as out of practice as this.
    • If there’s a next time, I will either insert my own 15 minute break, or I will get the class to break out into some sort of topic-strengthening activity.
  3. I had somehow forgotten how much time lecture preparation could take up, even when you just had to present your own day-to-day reality.

Productivity system tuneup.

Last Sunday morning, as the family took a last swim at Kraalbaai before we had to return home, I tried to apply some serious thinking (well, I did this by stringing together a series of normal thinking moments) to the problem of increasing my efficiency and focus at work.

At that moment, the scenery outside looked like this:

The view of the Preekstoel from Kraalbaai beach, West Coast National Park.

Regular readers will know that coming up with new ways to increase and maintain focus is a life-long endeavour, which my subconscious self enjoys inventing interesting new ways to subvert.

Conscious me has made peace with the fact that it has no choice but to keep on working at its end of the bargain, until the very end.

With the opposing forces involved, my focus seems to oscillate with varying frequencies between terrible and not too bad.

Anyways, having had a few days of fresh air and majestic scenery to jog the neural circuitry, I applied myself, again, to the problem at hand.

I thought that sketching could help, so I was scribbling using a rather impressive electronic pencil-analogue on a glass screen.

After several focused minutes (SEVERAL MINUTES, I TELL YOU!), I had a mindmap with “increase efficiency” in a little oval at the center, arrows pointing outwards into three terribly familiar habits, each in a rectangle this time, and finally more connecting lines to lists of pretty plausible sounding reasons for the three well-known habits.

The three rectangles were:

  1. Morning planning.
  2. Inbox 0.
  3. Pomodoro always.

Over the years, these three items have made pretty regular appearances, in various different forms, on this blog.

(I laughed when I just looked up this old 2010 post and found a pretty effective focus technique in the comments.)

Anyways, although the little thinking and drawing session documented here seemingly did not result in any new revelations, the act of going through the whole thought process, and documenting the results (again), seemed to have contributed to a pretty great week in terms of focus.

I wrote down a little mantra for myself (definitely not fit for publication), weaving together the three points above and the reasoning behind them, almost like the affirmation in Wreckit Ralph’s bad guy support group:

I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from a book I once read about procrastination (I’ll look up the name later), is that it can make all the difference once you explicitly verbalise, to yourself, that you have chosen to take on difficult task X or Y.

Just saying these words somehow changes one’s perception from being stuck with difficult task X or Y, i.e. passive, to having taken agency, and having decided to commit, i.e. active.

My humble focus mantra is following in this tradition.

(I really hope that my subversive sub-conscious is not paying attention right now…)

Starship GOU #1, taxiing on the runway.

Wednesday, December 4, was officially GOU #1’s last day of primary school.

Although she seemed to navigate this emotional event with her customary even-keeled demeanour, some of the moments were really just too big to let go by without a good cry or two.

I was also happy to observe the level of retrospection and sunny candour she applied to her informal post hoc analyses of above-mentioned crying moments.

I really hope that she strengthens and maintains this important human ability.

From our perspective as parents, it feels like the stakes are being raised quite significantly.

The thing is, our oldest is now quite obviously becoming an adult.

It’s like that scene at the end of the brilliant 2015 movie Inside Out, where the protagonist’s brain console is suddenly upgraded to one with at least 9000 new knobs and dials.

Up to now, we (the parents) were GOU #1’s only control system.

Now it is becoming quite clear that she is increasingly forming her own opinions, and making her own decisions.

In most cases, the physical constraints of a 13 year old living in her parent’s house still afford us some level of control.

However, relying on that would be missing the point entirely.

You see, we find ourselves in the moment of truth, when the past 13 years of mostly gentle programming has to start executing all by itself.

Our little GOU #1, our first co-created human intelligence, is preparing to go out into the world.

She has not taken off yet, so we do our best to apply the final touches to her already promising software.

We exhort her regularly: Be useful. Use your (rational) brain. Be kind. Find the kindness in others.

In the darkness, when we are at our weakest, stripped down to our core, we do what all parents do:

We worry, and we hope with a passion, the intensity of which it is difficult to describe, that our offspring units do manage to generate their own motivation, to manufacture meaning, and to create love.

This could be a runway, but it is the entrance to Vergelegen Wine Estate. At this point, I was in fact running on this way.