28 September 2008

Erdos and grapefruits?

From Paul Graham, How to Start a Startup (and no, I'm not looking to):

People who don't want to get dragged into some kind of work often develop a protective incompetence at it. Paul Erdos was particularly good at this. By seeming unable even to cut a grapefruit in half (let alone go to the store and buy one), he forced other people to do such things for him, leaving all his time free for math.

I don't use this strategy. But I do use the strategy of cooking things in ridiculously large batches, which isn't much more work than small batches; then when I want something to eat I just fire up the microwave.

(I'm not sure if I can cut a grapefruit in half; to do that without struggling might require some special knife I don't have. I haven't tried, because I don't like grapefruit.)


Anonymous said...

I'll bet you can cut a grapefruit in half. I'll also bet you know how to tie your own shoes.

And trim your nails when they need trimming. According to "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers", Erdos once tried to get Fan Chung (Ronald Graham's wife, and a first-rate mathematician) to cut his toenails, which had gotten pretty grungy. She refused.

Despite the continued adulation and glorification of Paul Erdos, the man gives me the creeps. Not someone I'd recommend emulating.

Michael Lugo said...

Oh, I'm not saying I want to emulate Erdos. (It would be nice to have his mathematical ability, though.) And you'll notice that I cook my own food and then refrigerate it, which from what I understand is not something he would have done.

Anonymous said...

The "large batch" approach also has the benefit of often being cheaper than making things in small batches, and there's less likelihood the food will go bad before you make it all. We do this all the time at our house for convenience and price -- buy a huge package of chicken breasts, for instance, and grill them all at once, eating 3-4 of them and then cutting up and freezing the other 8-9 for later. It's convenient and cheap -- and not a sort of rationalized laziness like Erdos had.