Saturday, March 07, 2009

London and talking to Norbert at BSA

I was in London the last two days for business meetings but I also had a few "academic" meetings with intellectually interesting people. I keep to DNA discoverer Watson's maxim of avoiding boring people. Whenever possible I keep contact with my friends and ex-professors from my theoretical physics past life. So I was at my alma mater Imperial College London to hear the latest hype and gossip on searching for a unified theory and hear what has happened to various people. I also met up with two of my ex-professors. We discussed memes and their work on quantitative modelling of invention propagation. (I am currently writing a book on memes with a friend of mine who has a PhD in psychology and who is currently in Siberia. Strange, isn't it?) Then I visited a fellow Luxemburger who is finance/economics professor at London School of Economics. Apart from dissecting the current credit crunch and our usual complaining of Luxembourg culture and politics, we also talked about stuttering. I completely shocked him by switching to completely fluent calm assertive debating from my stuttering usual. It is a amazing how much a few longer pauses, a lower speech rate, and some control can make me fluent. On the first few words and sentences, he still seems confident of a quick collapse of this fluency glitch, but I kept on talking fluently and then I said provocatively: Isn't it amazing how much more assertive, calm and lucid I know come across? Have I shattered your image of me being a nervous and hesitant person? :-)

Of course, the intellectual climax was my visit to the offices of the British Stammering Association located in a slightly less glorious but lively area of London, and my chatting to Norbert Lieckfeldt, director of the BSA. We talked about many things, and about some people who we share common admiration (or not!). Here is a censored summary:

  • He is reading my blog regularly and confirms its popularity and influence. He also said that static websites like the BSA are a bit outdated, and interaction is the spirit of the moment.
  • He also had a blog but stopped it. As BSA director, it is difficult to talk about many things. Also he has accountability whereas I do not; well only to my conscience - so to no-one really! We agreed that a better idea would be for the BSA to have a BSA blog with news and press release type posts and a comment section. So BSA staff get feedback from members and can interact more.
  • He mostly ignores my blog comments section now, because 1-2 people are making too outrageous comments. [I agree to some degree, but I also believe it is important that everyone can make arguments even if wrong. I rather know of someone saying I am an idiot because of X Y rather than not knowing about it. If some hate A, so is it not good for A to know of those people in order to evaluate whether they are right to some degree or not?]
  • He would prefer more on what is true as opposed to my focus on what is wrong for that is not helping him: he wants answers like most people. But I prefer no answer to sloppy answers. In any case, I will try to do focus more on what I believe is valid.
  • We talked a lot about early intervention: Lidcombe, other treatment approaches, and so on...
  • I pointed out to him that claims that kids who have a sudden onset are more likely to recover is an illusion. Their studies are faced with selection bias. They observe the kids that come to their clinic, and the sudden onsetters are there very soon after onset whereas the slow ones come much much later with their parents. So the real variable here is the duration the kid has stuttered; the longer ago the onset the less likely you recover.
  • We also talked about my low-capacity framework . He seemed not to agree but I think he actually agrees but doesn't realise yet that it fits with his experience.

1 comment:

YM said...

I'm fairly certain the finance/econ professor you mention was also my professor when I did an MSc at LSE a couple of years ago. Small world.