Posted by: patenttranslator | February 10, 2015

My Brain Is Like A Dog, It Obeys Me Only When It Wants To


Every time when I go to my gym, generally three times a week, my brain spits out a four digit number at me as I walk from my car to the gym. It does so although I don’t need to remember this number anymore because the gym switched to scanning of tiny membership cards which most people attached to the car key ring. So all I have to do now is just scan it, it beeps at me, and that’s that.

I don’t know how to tell my brain to stop remembering this number because this information is now useless. My brain is like a dog – it has a mind of its own, and I can’t really talk to it, no matter how hard I try.

This morning I when I woke up, I was thinking about something involving telephones, and to my consternation I realized that I don’t remember the three digits in my home and office phone number, (and the fax too, I keep telling myself that I can finally get rid of that but I still have not done so), just after the area code. What is it, I thought to myself, 310 …. no, that’s the area code for Southern California, 315 …. no, that’s not it either….. In the end I had to look at my business card to recall that it is 312. Of course it is 312! How could it be that I do not remember it? I have been using these phone numbers, (all of which have the same three digits after the area code) for 14 years since I moved here from California where my telephone number was …. (all I remember is the area code 757).

There are people who remember numbers, and there are people who remember names, but I don’t belong to either of these two categories. Some of my brain-dog’s reluctance to remember numbers may have to do with the fact that I never liked math (and never was very good at it), and some of its reluctance to remember names may have to do with the fact that my poor brain had to remember names in different languages, which may be harder than remembering them in just one language. Slavic names first, followed by German names, then American names and Japanese names.

I seem to remember Japanese names better than other names, probably because I can visualize the characters that go with the names. Ohno-san was the daredevil who worked next to me in my office and who was commuting to work on motorcycle, Fukuzawa-san was the guy with a crooked smile who was fascinated by gaijins (foreigners) and who was running a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Setagaya-ku after work in the office.

How is it possible that for a few minutes I forgot my own phone number, and yet, my brain remembers all of these names, ancient information about things that happened 30 years ago, which probably means that there is no good reason why I should still remember these names? This too is now useless information, isn’t it? Or is it because Japanese names are so different from any other names and thus easier to remember? Or is there another reason?

People talk to dogs all the time, although dogs clearly don’t care about human languages and have no use for human language, since all they need to say to us can be generally communicated much more efficiently and very elegantly with their tail. When we talk to them, they try to look knowingly at us, the crazy people who talk to dogs as if dogs could understand us, to makes us feel good about ourselves because then we can tell ourselves that our dogs do understands us, probably better than our wives, husbands, and children.

I do understand the mysterious ways in which human brain works and operates, but only to a very limited extent. For example, I know that when there is no meaningful relationship between the roots of words or characters in a language that I am translating and their meaning in English, my brain refuses to remember the correct term in the translation, especially if it knows that it is a particularly arcane term that I will probably not need for another 10 or 15 years. So I write the translation on a yellow post-it, sometime with and sometime without the equivalent in the original language, stick it on the bottom of the monitor, and quickly glance at it when I need it.

There is no need to fight my brain on this, is there? Just like a dog has its own doggie logic, the brain has its own brainy logic. If it makes sense for it to remember something, it will remember it and sometime even create a permanent or semi-permanent connection to the place on the brain’s hard disk where the word will be stored so that it can then be quickly accessed also from the memory cache. If the brain does not want to do that for me, I just have to write things on post-its.

There is no arguing with your own brain.

The challenge of remembering a dozen or more passwords that we need to remember to do just about anything on the Internet these days is now definitely beyond the capacity of any human brain. It was no problem at first when all we had to remember was a couple of simple passwords for a couple of e-mail accounts.

But how things have changed! Like most people, I had to write down dozens of passwords for everything from Apple ID to Reddit, T-Mobile and something called XING (which I have not used in at least 3 years) on a sheet of paper that I keep under the desk cover in all three locations of my three desktop computers. Whenever I create or change a password, I should remember to make the same change in the other two locations, but since I am generally too impulsive and absorbed in whatever else I happen to be doing at the moment to be bothered by something like that, none of the lists is 100% reliable at this point.

One day I may be locked out of every single account that I have created over the last five years.

My inability to remember three digits of my own damn telephone number for a few minutes this morning is probably some kind of a message that my brain is sending to me.

But I don’t know what this message means. It is much easier to talk to your dog than to your own brain because …. the trouble with your brain is that unlike your dog, it does not let you know how it feels about anything by wagging its tail at you.

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Responses

  1. I keep all my passwords in KeePass. Then all you have to remember is one master password to access all of them.

    Like

    • And all you passwords are safe … until somebody figures out how to hack into your KeePass and acquires all of your passwords in this manner.

      Also, I ran a search on it and since it was “approved as safe by NSA”, it is not safe from NSA.

      The only thing that is safe these days is a piece of paper stored somewhere where nobody can have access to it.

      Like

  2. You know what, Steve? When we pass away, we don´t have to remember anything.

    However, some people write about passing away and maintain that we remember everything we´ve perceived in our lives in a zip, kind of in a flash manner, when we are passing away.

    Well, I don´t know if it´s true, but I know that I would remember vividly things that (or people who) chanced into my life some decades ago while I would forget something that happened just a few seconds ago.

    One of my relatives started to “regress” five years before he died. One day he forgot who his youngest son was and asked his wife who the person was sitting in front of him. It was his youngest son. On the next day he forgot who his youngest daughter was and asked his wife who the person just came in.

    In the progress of the regression, he forgot every person in his family, including his wife. He got then into panic when his wife came into his room to look after him. On the day he died he talked to the nurse about his parents and passed away during the night.

    The regression of his brain or mind was in a similar way to what is depicted in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, only it was his mind and not his body.

    I hope that the regression of mind won´t happen to me, because I´d like to stay conscious to the last second when I pass away to know if I would flash back my whole life in a zip. It would be nice to die that way and maybe I would cry out, “Verweile doch! Du bist so schön!” or “Licht, mehr licht!”

    I mean, it has been a good life. It is a pitty that I would have to give it up to the Devil.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Steve,
    Sorry if this is tracking a side, but:
    A dog trainer of my acquaintance claims that dogs that don’t obey are often simply bored and disconnected from their doggie nature by human-imposed constraints.
    First step to recovery: never put food in bowls. Instead use a kong so that they have to work to get it.
    I’ll leave you to analyze how that might work with the human translator brain (right now am aware from my immediate environment that humans with too much time on their hands can get into some weird stuff).

    Like

    • “I’ll leave you to analyze how that might work with the human translator brain (right now am aware from my immediate environment that humans with too much time on their hands can get into some weird stuff).”

      I am not quite sure what you mean by the second part of the sentence, Christine, but I reject your premise that we have to make dogs work for their food entirely.

      I mean, if we do that, how can we expect them to like us, hm??? And when not even our dog likes us, who will?

      In addition to one dog, my son’s pit bull Lucy who is frequently staying with me and who is always hungry, I also feed a bunch of birds and two squirrels who come to our back porch every day to feast on cereals, peanut butter and nuts. (Peanut butter is especially important in winter month because it packs a lot of calories). My wife is in Japan for a month right now, taking care of her mother (although when I talked to them yesterday, it looked more like her mother was taking care of her), and the awesome responsibility of having to feed the birds and the squirrels lies squarely on my shoulders.

      I would not dream of making the birds and the squirrels work for their food, even if I knew how to do that.

      Like

  4. Hey Patent translator, I’m sorry but I can’t remember your name. I was about to tell you something that occurred to me while reading your article but now I forgot what it was. I know it was a really good clever point, but now it is probably lost. Most likely it will bother me all day and sometime tonight when I’m trying to get some sleep it will come to me.

    Anyway, talking about memory I too forget names and hate math. When I was a teen, I admired my friends that had the ability to hear a song once and remember the lyrics. I would listen carefully to my favorite songs for years trying to remember the words to no avail. Then one day when I was about twenty something I realized that I was singing all the words to songs I listened to five or more years earlier. I have come to realize that my short term memory totally sucks while I can remember the past clearly.

    Like you I prefer to keep my passwords on a piece of paper hidden away. The only problem is that I often forget where I hid the list. I even tried supplements to improve memory only I keep forgetting to take them.

    Have a lovely week!

    Like

  5. “The only problem is that I often forget where I hid the list.”

    The obvious solution to your problem is to make several copies of the list with your most secret passwords and place arrows showing the location of the list in strategically selected locations of your house.

    Like

  6. Not to go off track, but in the subject of fallible memory, how do you feel about computer memory aides or Translation memory?

    Like

  7. I think that CATs and such are hugely advantageous for people who are in the last stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Like

  8. […] This is very convenient, but I find it slightly creepy. If things continue like this, nobody will be able to remember how to spell anything in a few years. Why bother when the machine does it for us? Especially with languages using a very complicated writing system like Japanese or Chinese, young people probably already forgot how to write properly characters since their computer or smart phone remembers all those complicated characters for them. Human brain remembers only what it needs to remember, that is simply how it works. It is almost as if our brain had its own brain that does not really listen to us that much. […]

    Like

  9. […] This is very convenient, but I find it slightly creepy. If things continue like this, nobody will be able to remember how to spell anything in a few years. Why bother when the machine does it for us? Especially with languages using a very complicated writing system like Japanese or Chinese, young people probably already forgot how to write properly characters since their computer or smart phone remembers all those complicated characters for them. Human brain remembers only what it needs to remember, that is simply how it works. It is almost as if our brain had its own brain that does not really listen to us that much. […]

    Like


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