In math, I’m used to making no distinction between saying “A and B” and saying “B and A” — they each assert that both of the component statements are true. In fancy terms, we say that the conjunction “and” is commutative, like addition (a+b=b+a) and multiplication (ab = ba). Many mathematical operations are not commutative in general, … More “A and B” is equivalent to “B and A”, and the order matters
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
To elide the distinction is to think that your only options are resignation and denial. … More Acceptance vs. “Loving what’s true”
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
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!”
In Roy Peter Clark’s book How to Write Short, he suggests keeping an eye out for good short writing, trying to understand what makes it good, and recording your attempts at using those techniques in a “commonplace book.” I’ve tried a few different pocket notebooks in the past, but now that I’ve got one I can … More The Commonplace Book: Entry 1
I like to write a short Goodreads review for each book I read, if only to remind myself what I liked or found interesting later. I was recently reviewing the children’s fantasy novel A Face Like Glass, and I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the way all the small mysteries related to one overarching … More It’s on the tip of my tongue…
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 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."
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"