I'm still in Pirque, Chile. My father's recovery is still showing great progress. We're all working overtime to help him along. He's never been a very chatty person but now he's even more silent. A life-long smoker and stubbornly independent, I think giving these habits up has a lot to do with it. My young half-brother, Ryan, at only 4 years of age has had the best luck at getting him to engage. Ryan is witty, energetic, and insistent so it's near imposible to ignore the little guy.
In my case, I've had to take a different approach. My father's right arm mobility is on track to a full recovery, so I've been focusing on helping rehabilitate his cognitive injury. Since he's one of the smartest, most well read people I know, finding conversations to engage him with has been tough. Let me explain. All too often, my father is more informed on stuff than me so just talking to him is like asking for a lesson. The stroke seems to have made these teachings harder than their worth. In several occasions recently he's avoided them entirely with an irritating "never mind" or "just trust me" after he's corrected some bonehead statement I've made. I needed to find a topic that would offer him something more.
My father works as a consultant for the mining industry in Chile. A few months ago he wrote a book on operational productivity meant as a wake up call to the specialized community that delivers over 60% of the country's exports. Consisting of over 150 pages of densely packed technical jargon, I set out to read it, learn it, critique it.
Like my father, I'm an engineer by trade. However unlike him, I was trained in English. I speak Spanish but technical Spanish is a whole other language. Here's the books' abstract to get an idea:
La industria minera nacional enfrenta desafíos de productividad y competitividad, ante escenarios de caída de leyes, normalización de super-ciclos de “commodities”, baja efectividad de factores productivos, altos costos y márgenes de rentabilidad en franca degradación. En los últimos años, las empresas mineras han implantado diversas prácticas de trabajo planificado, análisis de desempeño, gestión operativa, y mejoramiento continuo dirigidas a regularizar el proceso de negocio de faena; aún cuando estas prácticas constituyen claro avance en la gestión, no han logrado revertir las tendencias citadas. Se requiere así un re-enfoque más radical, un repensar los fundamentos de las prácticas aplicadas, que conduzca a plantear nuevas formas de hacer las cosas, un nuevo modelo global que mitigue interferencias, pérdidas productivas, y costos, y oriente las actividades a maximizar el resultado de negocio general. Este texto busca llenar este espacio vía el análisis de causales de pérdidas en la operación y la propuesta derivada de estrategias y tácticas para controlarlas.
It took me a about 40 hours to get through it all. Equations, charts, methods, strategies... you name it, it was there. Even obscure quotes from Einstein and Shakespeare's Hamlet. I took notes, listed typos, and organized my thoughts into effective nuggets of controversial feedback.
Today I unleashed the first wave of my planned mental assault. I think it went well. He was surprised by my effort and engaged in a passionate discussion like many we've had before. He struggled in drafting some of his arguments, often going with a simplistic choice of words to avoid stalling. This is in stark contrast to his debate style in the past and his writings in the book. That being said his points were strong and after close to 2 hours of going at it, I felt he had persuaded me. He was visibly tired and we talked about how he felt. Unlike working at regaining motion in his right arm, he explained how the cognitive effort was much more draining. It's interesting because his knowledge base, understanding, and intuition are all intact. The effort is simply trying to generate the expression of the content, albeit in English or Spanish.
The other piece of news worth sharing is the hospital bill. Roughly 7 days in the hospital, over half a dozen tests, and a bunch of prescriptions came out to about USD$9200. My father's insurance will cover most of it, but we all thought it was reasonable given all the fuss.