MIT dream

Last night I dreamed about MIT. Texas Instruments had finally decided to build an RPN-based calculator, and for obvious reasons had chosen MIT for a major promotional event. I had been browsing the MIT bookstore and had seen a promo kit, so I snuck in to the labs to see the hardware in action. It was “landscape” format, like the classic HPs (12c, 15c, 16c), but had a wide bitmapped display that could show 20 digits easily.

Smarter people get less sex

From a neat blog posting summarizing some research on sex and intelligence: By the age of 19, 80% of US males and 75% of women have lost their virginity, and 87% of college students have had sex. But this number appears to be much lower at elite (i.e. more intelligent) colleges. According to the article, only 56% of Princeton undergraduates have had intercourse. At Harvard 59% of the undergraduates are non-virgins, and at MIT, only a slight majority, 51%, have had intercourse.

Am I in Texas yet?

Two nights in a row now I’ve dreamed about Austin. Finances permitting, I think we’ve worked out where our house is going to come from. Today we got a Zipcar and went out to Acton, MA to visit Deck House. The woman on duty at the sample house turned out to be an architect, a recent graduate of MIT who had worked for Autodesk and was now designing houses for Deck House customers.

Busy with optical media

Spent Friday morning clearing up a random disaster… some legacy application that suddenly needed to go out on CD, that had never been designed to run on read-only media. Then I went to the MIT lunch trucks. I spent the afternoon continuing to learn J2EE and SQL. I now have a simple user registration / login application written, which uses request dispatch and HTML files for look and feel. The book I’m learning from is OK on the Java stuff, but does a really poor job of teaching good systems design; they have all their HTML shoved into the servlets.

Genius

I have great admiration for the guys at MIT who have come up with a way to make duplication-proof physical authentication tokens that are robust and cost pennies each. On a related note, MIT is starting to make all its course materials available free online. Which reminds me, it’s too long since I last browsed the MIT bookstore on the way home…

If the postal service owned e-mail (PRESTEL)

MIT Technology review has an interesting article on “How the Postman Almost Owned E-Mail“. I find it interesting—but not for the historical reasons. Rather, it illustrates the kind of delusional state people enter when they work too long in law or politics. The author of the piece seems to believe that if the US government had allowed the US Postal Service to operate an e-mail system, we’d all have ended up with USPS e-mail accounts.

The Windows XP launch

Microsoft released Windows XP on Oct. 25, 2001. That same day, in what may be a record, the company posted 18 megabytes of patches on its Web site: bug fixes, compatibility updates, and enhancements. Two patches fixed important security holes. Or rather, one of them did; the other patch didn’t work. Microsoft advised (and still advises) users to back up critical files before installing the patches. Buyers of the home version of Windows XP, however, discovered that the system provided no way to restore these backup files if things went awry.

Insomnia

Yes, it really is 04:30, and I’m annoyingly awake. Rather than lie sleeplessly in bed, I’m going to sit here for a while and play with the new, faster Internet and see if I can get sleepy again. Spent Thanksgiving with Elaine and Jarkko and a bunch of other Perl people. Generally speaking, Elaine doesn’t cook—but when she does (about once a year), she really goes for it. I took along some fake (vegetarian) chicken to substitute for turkey.

Harlan Ellison

I hear that Harlan Ellison will be making an appearance at MIT. I’m very tempted to go, given that I’d probably class him as the greatest living American author—but as I think I’ve mentioned before, my general rule is to avoid meeting artists whose work I admire. And Harlan Ellison is known for being particularly prickly.

An insane day

I got in to work, and my boss passed me in the hallway and said something about terrorist activity and a plane hitting the World Trade Center. I thought he was talking about a little Cessna or something, so I got in and sat and started on my coffee, glanced over my e-mail, and then hit the BBC News web site to see what was going on. I soon had the live BBC News video stream going, and sat watching it in disbelief.