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Tumble (a small one)

The Calculus of Caffeine Consumption.

Foiling a robber with kindness. We need more false-positive-okay security systems like this.

Horseradish-Onion-Garlic dressing

Sauteé ½ small onion and 5 cloves of garlic until brown.

Blend with ¼ cup mayonaise, ¼ cup buttermilk, a teaspoon or two of prepared horseradish, and a tablespoon of soy sauce.

Let stand at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Exist DB, an open source XML database. I still say that's a sick idea.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 22nd, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)

The caffeine article was swell, but this puzzled me a little:

Clearly, an idea that advances the state of the art is unlikely to occur except when attention level peaks.

I'm not convinced that's obvious or true. Sudden breakthroughs are rarely the result of intentionally "thinking very hard" about something. Maybe this is using a technical definition of "attention" with which I'm unfamiliar.

Apr. 22nd, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)
I think I have some idea of what the author means. Working in mathematics, one often needs to be able to simultaneously hold many abstract or complicated concepts in one's head. Only with a grasp of those can one develop things further. And grasping all the building blocks requires good focus and a clear mind.
Apr. 22nd, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)

Sure, same goes for coding, experimental design, and any other task that involves a lot of careful chunking. But it sounded to me like the author was specifically talking about "eureka" moments. Have you ever walked away from a difficult problem, after a lot of deep concentration, only to spontaneously realize the solution hours later while, say, cooking dinner or taking a shower? Were you aware of holding the problem space in your head while you did the mundane thing? Did you even fully comprehend the solution when it first appeared, or was it more of a "gut feeling" that you had to follow up analytically?

All I'm taking exception with here is the idea that inspiration comes from intense concentration. If you can suddenly generate a new mathematical proof while chopping onions, then apparently you didn't need all your mental resources focused on the discovery. I suspect caffeine is more useful for following up on leads than for generating them.

Apr. 22nd, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
Definitely. For concerted effort, rather than ultimate creativity.
Apr. 23rd, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)
Hmm.. I actually do get most of my eureka moments while under the influence (of caffeine :-), and a few in the shower, but may be you don't. Regardless, if you agree that research/programming/similar tasks involve cognitive bottlenecks, where you require peak concentration, which may or may not be eureka moments, then my argument still stands.

You might concentrate hard on a problem, with the result that you internalize it, and as a consequence see the solution much later while chopping onions. In that scenario, the real cognitive bottleneck was the internalization, not the eureka. Similarly, as you point out, following up on a lead might require more concentration than coming up with one.
Apr. 23rd, 2007 03:35 am (UTC)
Yup, that's pretty close to what I was thinking when I wrote that. I do a lot of theoretical computer science, which involves considerable holding-concepts-in-your-head as well.
Apr. 22nd, 2007 10:21 pm (UTC)
I'm thinking the same way you are — though I find that in creating works, I definitely get a boost of creative output in the right up moments. In finding solutions to things, not so much. Those are more 'eureka' while doing something else.
Apr. 22nd, 2007 09:22 pm (UTC)
I blame your tumble for my currently caffeinated state. Mmm. Espresso.
Apr. 22nd, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
Apr. 23rd, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
when do you add the horseradish?
Apr. 23rd, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
oops! With the other liquids. I'll put that in.
May. 6th, 2007 03:21 am (UTC)
… not only is it an XML database, it's written in Java. Well, I guess that fits.

I so need a job that involves frequent cognitive bottlenecks.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )