Learning To Think
Although I’m sleeping fairly well I’m exhausted and my brain is a little soggy and depressed as a result of the lowering dose of my meds and the resulting withdrawal symptoms. I’ve written a short blog post about this today, but suffice it to say it’s a bit of a struggle. The result was that my subconscious was working hard to talk me out of driving to Hull today, circling around in my mind was a desperate desire to ‘just go home’ but I resisted. I’d rather tough it out here, where I’m not disturbing anyone and not being disturbed.
Anyway I took the first step and got in the car and drove to ‘my cafe’ at the country park, from there it was relatively easy to work up the enthusiasm to drive to Hull, and then push myself to assemble my bike and ride the length of the prom and back, before walking it again. All of that exercise, the great views and the fresh air lifted my mood. By mid-day I was in Caffe Nero and using the energy I’d built up to do a bit of writing and I struggled through a post on medication withdrawal and another on my experience of diary writing. They really were a struggle, because my concentration is terrible and I made dozens of mistakes and there are still a few more that I’ve noticed that need fixing later.
There are two Caffe Nero’s in Hull and I visited both with an hours walking in between, I’m in the second now writing this diary entry. I have a list of notes in front of me, detailing the topics that I wanted to cover, the first of which is how clearly Richard Feynman explains how to think, without getting into all philosophical, or describing complex tools for critical thinking and the like. He just uses anecdotes from walks in the woods with his father and it’s truly captivating. It really brings home to me the woefully lacking education that I ‘enjoyed’, chock full of rote learning of facts and techniques that never dug under the surface to reveal true understanding. His example of how children’s science books explain energy is breath taking in it’s simplicity and insight, for more details see his talk What Is Science. No reflections on Feynman would be complete without mention of his famous course on physics, captured in three imposing, red books. These books were my first contact with Feynman over 35 years ago when I was physics lab boy and I used to read them in my breaks. I later went on to devour everything he’s written and recorded, although there’s a lot of it that I didn’t really understand and should go back to.
Listening to Feynman I can’t help but recall how Einstein used thought experiments to great effect to inspire his science and Feynman uses them to brush away the constraints that we wrap around our thinking, examples being his talk There’s Plenty Of Room At The Bottom. What’s perhaps as interesting is to see how great fictional scientists Rodney in Stargate Atlantis and Walter in Fringe both demonstrate how to push beyond the limits of normal thinking, quite inspiring. Many people have told me that I “open up their minds to new ways of thinking” which is really quite surprising when I reflect on how lousy I consider my thinking abilities.
While I was walking along Victoria Dock prom today I met up with a bunch of older guys looking at the building work at the east end of the prom. I asked them what was going on and they explained that the old fish dock and one of the inner docks and timber storage yards are all being converted into a huge manufacturing, assembly and launch facility for the new offshore wind farm that’s being installed by Siemens, there’s a picture below showing what’s happening. I cycled around it and took a good look around, the new cycle path is excellent and there’s great views of the construction project.
In total contrast to all these reflections about physics, last night I wound down before bed watching a PBS documentary A Few Great Bakeries, one of the most enjoyable and uplifting programmes I’ve watched in a long time. Bakeries seem to be one of the happiest working environments I’ve come across, although the work is very long and hard. This was my favourite:
On Martha’s Vineyard, at Orange Peel Bakery, Julie Vanderhoop and her assistants make beautiful biscuits, breads, cookies and such in a wood-fired oven. On Wednesday evenings, that oven also gets heated up for Pizza Night, a community event when everyone is encouraged to bring their own toppings.
What doesn’t come over in the description is that the huge oven is outdoors, that it works by passive heating (after being heated to temperature by a wood fire inside it) and that it’s open 24*7 and operates an honesty payment system. I particularly liked it when the owner described how people arrived there in the dark of night during hurricanes when their power was out, it was a community place of safety and sustenance.
Today’s photo is taken from the bridge that leads of the fishing lake at The Bay where I’m staying, I walk past it every night on my way down to the beach.