How to hope

Pessimism comes naturally to me. Choosing between optimism and pessimism is like asking whether I would rather be disappointed or pleasantly surprised; it just sounds safer to choose the latter. But over time, pessimism takes its toll on my mood and health, and I’ve been advised many times to be more hopeful. Until recently, I’ve had … More How to hope

Cognitive Overfitting

It can be kind of fun, in a self-flagellating way, to read about cognitive biases like the availability heuristic or the Dunning-Kruger effect, or just to browse through big lists like this one. If only our brains could take into account all the information they have, process it instantly, and store it forever! But machine learning engineers know that … More Cognitive Overfitting

TCPB #2: “Don’t man the phone—phone the man!”

The second installment in my commonplace book analyzes a line from the hilarious children’s television show Phineas and Ferb. When Stacy becomes exasperated with Candace waiting for her boyfriend to call, she says: “Don’t man the phone—phone the man!” I love this clever inversion: the same words are used in reverse order and with different meanings. In … More TCPB #2: “Don’t man the phone—phone the man!”

Dual Adverbs

Recently I discussed my new project for trying to benefit the people I talk to and make them feel more comfortable. One of the ways I’ve been trying to do this is to find two ways of saying the same thing (like “Have you taken out the trash yet?” and “Have you taken out the … More Dual Adverbs

"I feel stupid."

“I should hang onto this piece of paper, but I don’t want to get out the filing stuff…” “I should get out the packing list and double-check, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got everything…” “If I leave now, I’ll be early, so I’ll get back on the computer and try to just check one thing … More "I feel stupid."

"Already" and "yet"

It’s funny how a small shade of meaning can color a whole sentence. Compare these two questions: Have you taken out the trash yet? Have you taken out the trash already? These two questions mean exactly the same thing, in that the answer to one will be Yes or No exactly if the answer to … More "Already" and "yet"