Possessions meant little to Erdős; most of his belongings would fit in a suitcase, as dictated by his itinerant lifestyle.
Awards and other earnings were generally donated to people in need and various worthy causes.
He spent most of his life traveling between scientific conferences, universities, and the homes of colleagues all over the world.
He earned enough in stipends from universities as a guest lecturer, and from various mathematical awards, to fund his travels and basic needs; money left over he used to fund cash prizes for proofs of “Erdős problems”.
He would typically show up at a colleague’s doorstep and announce “my brain is open”, staying long enough to collaborate on a few papers before moving on a few days later. In many cases, he would ask the current collaborator about whom to visit next.
His colleague Alfréd Rényi said, “a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems“, and Erdős drank copious quantities (this quotation is often attributed incorrectly to Erdős, but Erdős himself ascribed it to Rényi).
Erdős signed his name “Paul Erdos P.G.O.M.” When he became 60, he added “L.D.”, at 65 “A.D.”, at 70 “L.D.” (again), and at 75 “C.D.”
I’d like to be a nest if you were a little bird. I’d like to be a scarf if you were a neck and were cold. If you were music, I’d be an ear. If you were water, I’d be a glass. If you were light, I’d be an eye. If you were a foot, I’d be a sock. If you were the sea, I’d be a beach. And if you were still the sea, I’d be a fish, and I’d swim in you. And if you were the sea, I’d be salt. And if I were salt, you’d be lettuce, an avocado or at least a fried egg. And if you were a fried egg, I’d be a piece of bread. And if I were a piece of bread, you’d be butter or jam. If you were jam, I’d be the peach in the jam. If I were a peach, you’d be a tree. And if you were a tree, I’d be your sap… and I’d course through your arms like blood. And if I were blood, I’d live in your heart.
And this is Sonnet XXX is by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink And rise and sink and rise and sink again; Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone; Yet many a man is making friends with death Even as I speak, for lack of love alone. It well may be that in a difficult hour, Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, Or nagged by want past resolution’s power, I might be driven to sell your love for peace, Or trade the memory of this night for food. It well may be. I do not think I would.
Now, Jeffrey McDaniel’s The Quiet World
In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.
When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.
Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.
When she doesn’t respond, I know she’s used up all her words, so I slowly whisper I love you thirty-two and a third times. After that, we just sit on the line and listen to each other breathe.
Lastly, Carla Bruni:
Je suis ton pile Tu es mon face Toi mon nombril Et moi ta glace Tu es l’envie et moi le geste Toi le citron et moi le zeste Je suis le thé, tu es la tasse Toi la guitare et moi la basse
Chapter one is titled “Too Many Information, Too Many Decisions: The Inside History of Cognitive Overload“.
“A tornado flew around my room before you came. Excuse the mess it made, it usually doesn’t rain in Southern California, much like Arizona.”
Opening lyrics of the song “Thinking ‘Bout You” by Frank Ocean
Award-winning cognitive psychologist Daniel J. Levitin tells mein his book, The Organized Mind, that I’m about to drown in an ocean of data.
He would insist in our imaginary conversation that I can’t keep all that information in your head or else I”ll suffer from information overload.
Try me, I say in defiance. I don’t want to do the hard work of organizing. I keep 5 languages in this cranium plus — most impressive — the names of dozens of different tea varieties such as Borjuli, Assam, Darjeeling…
You’re already categorizing, he retorts, and by doing so you prove one of my points that we are driven, even wired, to categorize (13).
Notably, “all languages and cultures – independently – came up with naming principles so similar that they strongly suggest an innate predisposition toward classification” (32).
We categorize to cope with immense quantities of information or — and this is an opposing view from anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss — “because the human brain has a strong cognitive propensity toward order” (31).
Then the clincher: “what if I told you that unproductivity and loss of drive can result from decision overload” (7)?
And that “fundamentally, categorization reduces mental effort and streamlines the flow of information” which can reduce the amount of mistake you’re making or important details you’re forgetting (13).
He has captured my attention and I learn from Levitin the following:
that “in order for something to become encoded as part of your experience you need to have paid conscious attention to it” (7),
that “attention is created by networks of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (just behind your forehead) that are sensitive only to dopamine” (16); and
that “brains evolved to receive a pleasant shot of dopamine when we learn something new and again when we can classify it systematically into an ordered structure” (32).
What you pay attention to matters because we don’t have the capacity, or bandwidth, to pay attention to all the stimuli that comes our way. Attention is a limited-capacity resource (11).
Our brains created an attentional filter which keeps us from being distracted by irrelevancies and “two of the most crucial principles used by the attentional filter are change and importance” (10).
The attentional filter is a brain’s change detector. Neural circuits monitor and notice if somebody moved the papers on your desk, especially if these papers are personally important to you. It’s the attentional filter that lets through what it thinks you will want to know about.
Unfortunately, this means that sometimes we experience a cognitive blind sport because we don’t know what our brain is honing in on and what it is we’re missing.
“Due to the attentional filter, we end up experiencing a great deal of the world on autopilot, not registering the complexities, nuances, and often the beauty of what is right in front of us” (11).
This is where the act of categorization comes in to save the day. Categorization helps us focus on what we can pay attention to and remember.
Physical organization and mental organization
Levitin notes that beyond appearances we often categorize “based on conceptual similarities rather than perceptualones” (23).
An ordered structure is made up of physical organization (books go on a bookshelf, the fruit is placed in a fruit bowl), but also mental organization (that person is my cousin, that person is a stranger). Kinship terms, in particular, “allow us to reduce an enormous set of possible relations into a more management smaller set, a usable category” (25).
For example, strawberries and grapes are categorized as “fruit” and you may place them together in a fruit bowl even though they look very different. When you’re picking ingredients to add to your sandwich you may think of an avocado as a vegetable, although it is technically a fruit.
UPDATE: I’ve since learned that a banana is technically a fruit, but a strawberry is not a fruit.
Beyond making distinctions between various different types of fruit, knowing how to organize information helps us organize our time better so that we can “be more efficient, but also so we can find more time for fun, for play, for meaningful relationships, and forcreativity” (xxi).
“The most fundamental principle of the organized mind, the one most critical to keeping us from forgetting or losing things, is to shift the burden of organizing from our brains to the external world”
Levitan on page 35.
One of the ways we can organize information is by active sorting or “Triage”.
You do this by separating those things you need to deal with right now from those things you don’t need to deal with right now.
But how to determine what you do and don’t need to deal with?
That’s the next chapter in the series:
The First Things to Get Straight:How Attention and Memory Work
Source: Levitin, D. J. The organized mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload. New York, NY, US: Plume/Penguin Books. 2014.
“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.”
It would be many years before I began to understand that all of life is practice: writing, driving, hiking, brushing teeth, packing lunch boxes, making beds, cooking dinner, making love, walking dogs, even sleeping. We are always practicing.
USA might block an undersea cable, going directly from L.A. to Hong Kong, from being built.
Passive word construction so let’s break down the details…
Whose undersea cable?
Dr. Peng Telecom and Media Group Co., which is the fourth biggest telecom operator in China, and also those key players we hear about all the time… Google and Facebook, Inc.
Together this is called the Pacific Light Network or the Pacific Light Data Communication Co.
Why would Pacific Light build this?
Demands for great data capacity.
This group wants more more more
-bandwidth in Asia
-& links to markets
in the Philippines
and, of course, more links to markets in Mainland China.
What do we call the opposition?
Team Telecom, made up of a panel of USA Representatives from the US Department of Homeland Security, approves or rejects applications for cable projects such as this international undersea cable project.
Why would Team Telecom reject Pacific Light’s undersea cable license application?
On the grounds of national security.
To signal a tougher stance on USA-China projects.
Growing distrust of Chinese ambitions (phrased as such by WSJ).
And what if rejection happens?
Well, data will move outside USA jurisdiction and still find its own way through other cables..