Sunday, February 22, 2004

I spent part of yesterday handling routine paperwork that accumulated over the past two or three weeks. Part of my task was sorting through commercial mail: discarding the dross that I kept only because I'd not looked at it, retaining the book catalogs and newsletters which I'd like to read, paying the bills, and sometimes puzzling over what to do with the odd bits left over. One such odd bit is a DVD that I received from Genetic Programming, Inc. which contains a FREE 4-hour DVD inside! along with an advertisement for a book (Genetic Programming IV: Routine Human-Competitive Machine Intelligence). The packaging looks so like one of the gaudy AOL CD's that I quickly tossed it toward the discard pile with my left hand, only to catch it with my right before it landed among the car insurance ads. After a moment's thought, I put it in the pile of things that I may look at soon or may discard next time.

I know several ways I could reasonably appear on a mailing list of people interested in books on evolutionary computation. As I thought about mailing lists, I turned up the radio, just in time to hear an interview segment from Weekend Edition about the new essay section on the SAT. The interviewee recently wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly entitled Would Shakespeare get into Swarthmore? After analyzing essays by Shakespeare, Hemingway, Orwell, and the Unabomber -- only the Unabomber's essay would have scored well in the new exam -- the author of the article observed that the SAT is a perfect predictor of who will get into top rate colleges, and of very little else. And I thought, I wonder whether many marketers buy mailing lists from the Educational Testing Service?

Later yesterday, I read about a study of server break-ins. The company who ran the study looked at some thousands of break-ins, not including those due to Windows worms and viruses, and counted how many of the compromised systems ran one operating system or the other. Many of the compromised systems ran Linux, and relatively few ran Mac OS X; therefore, concluded the company, Linux must be insecure while Macs are secure, with Windows somewhere between. This conclusion seems eminently logical, as much as if the company surveyors walked into a local high-end jewelry establishment, counted heads, and decided that the most Americans make salaries of at least $100K and will marry within the year.

I spent much of the remainder of yesterday afternoon reading about the migrations of cranes and about fluid mechanics. I also took an hour to walk to Barnes and Noble, browse, buy a toffee bar, and return home. Such little things make pleasant days.