Saturday, September 04, 2004

The Pile

The Pile on my shelf is coming of age. It used yo be a cute little pile -- you should see its baby pictures! -- but now it is sullen and wayward. If I do nothing, I fear it might spawn new baby piles, and then where would I be? Buried beneath a host of paper piles, that's where I'd be, or my name isn't Preserved Killick.

It doesn't do to anthropomorphize piles of paper, though, at least not within their hearing. The biological analogy is purely an accident of the s-shaped behavior of a paper pile's growth, so much like the shape of a logistic model. The pile starts modestly enough, then grows at an accelerating rate, until an external concern (like stability of the pile) imposes some restraint. The pile then grows slowly or stagnates until some catastrophe, like a collapse or a spring cleaning, spells doom for the pile as a single entity.