Sunday, March 04, 2012

the good from the bad (also: time off)

to borrow from an old joke:
we mathematicians need pen and paper, but we also need wastebaskets.

to quote from the article: "how do we identify good ideas?" (via lifehacker):
"How can we sort our genius from our rubbish? The bookshelves groan with how-to guides for bolstering the powers of the imagination. But how can we become better at self-criticism? How can we get excel at the rejection process?"
jοnah lehrεr has a lot to say about the human brain.  every time i read him, i learn something interesting.  for example, here is something that might be (initially) non-intuitive:
"After writing down as many ideas as they could think of, both groups were asked to choose which of their ideas were the most creative. Although there was no difference in idea generation, giving the unconscious a few minutes now proved to be a big advantage, as those who had been distracted were much better at identifying their best ideas.  (An independent panel of experts scored all of the ideas.)" 
of course, it would help to know what "best" means, here.  (this is discussed a little further in the article.)

it could just be my confirmation bias, but this would explain why i often struggle with an idea .. and after leaving it alone for a while, it suddenly becomes clear(er) why the idea will or won't work.  it only becomes more pronounced if, say, i "sleep on it." [1]

at any rate, it's nice to know --- though i'm being lazy about following something up --- that it could have some good side effects.  reading lehrεr today also affords me a scientific justification of ... well, why i should take a vacation.

i mean, if it's really going to make the mathematics better, then sure ..? (-:
"Taking a break is important. But make sure you do something that makes you happy, as positive moods make us even better at diagnosing the value of our creative work. After a few relaxing days of vacation, you'll suddenly know which new ideas deserve more time and which need to be abandoned."
every time i think i'm very busy, i run into a colleague that is even busier .. so experience tells me that it's not going that badly. [2]

still, i've been feeling tired lately.

i'm also traveling again on friday, with the goal of giving that aforementioned talk #5 for week 5.  though i'll be very happy to see old friends and make new ones, experience also tells me that the jet lag is going to cost me.


there is some lag time between that conference, a research visit, a wedding to attend, and coming back.  for once, i've settled on a plan of taking thursday (next, next week) off, as well as the following monday.

that monday happens to include a 6-hour layover in london, u.k.  as long as my bags are checked anyway, it means that i can wander the city freely for an afternoon ..

.. it's not like it would be easy to work anyway, so i might as well have a spot of fun!

[1] this is probably one of the main reasons why i've changed my mind about mornings.  it took me a while to realise that i really am more productive when i have a fresh start.

[2] i have a similar rule with whether or not i am getting old.  everyone ages, of course, but i know too many people older than me who .. upon hearing my saying that "i'm getting old" .. will not hesitate to give me a thorough tongue-lashing.

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