01/18/2001

A red-hatted worm. Wow. You sure don’t hear about this often.  There’s a worm that exploits a weakness in Red Hat Linux 6.2 and 7.0. Coined the Ramen worm, it defaces Web pages with a tribute to Ramen noodles. This is the first of these that I’ve heard of, and I’ll say it’s an example of why multiple distributions are a good thing. Other distributions aren’t vulnerable to this, so the spread slows. Hardening Red Hat against this isn’t hard–head to securityfocus.com, which anyone who administers Linux boxes for a living needs to be reading anyway. Exploits and fixes are generally documented and fixed long before anything can take advantage of them.

The number of the day is… 114. That’s my IQ, at least according to the 10-minute test I took yesterday in between phone calls while two of my coworkers were arguing about the validity of IQ tests. I popped up, announced my score, fueled the debate and then left. I was feeling vindictive I guess.

Generally, as I understand it, 100 is average. If you’re in the 130s, you’re gifted. I’ve been around some 170s and I keep up with them with no problems. I knew a 190 once. She gave me some problems, partly because I couldn’t understand her when she started spouting off in Latin. Solo hablo ingles y un poco espanol–un muy poco espanol. And I think another part of the problem was I found her boring, too refined.

What’d my coworkers have to say about my score? One of them used me to dismiss all validity of IQ tests–no way that guy’s a 114! His problem-solving ability is too good, and that memory, and and and… Well, slightly above-average people generally don’t write their first book and publish it before their 25th birthday. The coworker arguing in favor of IQ tests blamed my score on environment and poor preparation. I admit, my preparation was awful–I took it on spur of the moment, didn’t check any answers, took a 20-minute test in 10, took a couple of phone calls while I was doing it… So I was hardly scientific.

But what do we mean when we call someone “smart,” anyway?

Good memory? My dad sure had a great memory. I have a pretty good one too. I can probably tell you the starting lineup of every Kansas City Royals team from 1980 to last season. (I’ll spare you). And obscure computer information… don’t get me started. But nobody has a memory as good as a computer. Some would say the only thing dumber than a computer is a toaster, but I wonder, because my toaster sure works a whole lot better than my computer does most of the time.

Intelligence? Intelligence is the ability to reason and analyze. Some people do this really well. Others don’t. Most people who’ve watched me work say I have good troubleshooting and analysis skills, though I often score poorly on tests that measure that. Yet when I took the ACT, I did everything wrong. I went out with my girlfriend the night before. I stayed up late. I decided to come home and study afterward. Then I went in and scored a 30 or 31 on my first try. For those unfamiliar with the ACT, a score of 30 gives you an automatic scholarship from the state of Missouri at any state university. I think 36 is the highest possible score. A score of 26 gets you automatic admission at most state universities. As I recall, I scored in the 98th percentile in social studies, 99th in English, low 80-something in math and high 80-something in science. (Just call me Mr. Humanities.)

Common sense? I guess this is ability to deal with the real world. I’ve run into people who are seriously deficient here. That girl I knew with a 190… She had virtually none. She was always finding herself in situations she couldn’t think her way out of. Some people call this “street smart,” and I think that’s a good description of it. Common sense isn’t as common as it should be.

Wisdom? I think wisdom’s the most important of the bunch. It’s the ability to use what you’ve got. I scored very poorly on one proficiency test that measured my ability to analyze. My biggest beef was that it was heavily slanted towards the mathematically minded, and I don’t have that inclination–my math numbers were what dragged down my ACT score the most–and the last time I had to juggle numbers a lot was in 1994. One time when someone used that score against me, I retorted, “Yeah, so I don’t have as much as some of those guys. At least I know how to use what little I’ve got, and they certainly don’t!” Is it possible that my intelligence and common sense are only slightly above average, and that I use memory and wisdom to compensate? Maybe.

I know someone who doesn’t think she’s smart. And maybe she lacks in one of those areas. I don’t know. What I do know is she knows how to get things done. And I’ve never felt any need to talk down to her. When we’ve talked, I’ve always had the sense she’s understood what I’m talking about–and we’ve talked some pretty heavy subjects at times. Remember my line of work.

When I think smart, I think of those guys I know who had 170-plus IQs and pontificated a lot. She doesn’t do that. But when I think dumb, she doesn’t come to mind either. My former neighbor who believed every conspiracy theory out there and who believed The X-Files is a documentary does. He also tended to overuse profanity and thought very highly of his own intelligence.

I think it was a Supreme Court justice who once said he couldn’t define the word obscene, but he knew it when he saw it. I think the same goes for intelligence. It’s hard to define and even harder to measure, but we know it when we see it.

%d bloggers like this:
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux