Crime and Vocabulary

I was surfing the web on Thursday and a link let me to a post on 27bslash6 that I hadn't yet read. There I came across the word apophenia which I wasn't familiar with. Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns in random data. I'm familiar with the concept as it is discussed in the very excellent book The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives although the word apophenia isn't used. At least it isn't in the index. Our brains are constantly looking for patterns, whether a tree, an amplifier, or a friend's face. But we also see things that aren't there, as anyone who has looked at a Rorschach ink blot or an optical illusion can attest. On Saturday, SlashDot reported that Google had analyzed their data concerning the effectiveness of their interview process and came to the sobering conclusion that there was no relationship between their interview techniques and employee performance. Business practices based on apophenia.

Friday comes between Thursday and Saturday and therein lies a tale...
The Sunday before we travelled to Illinois to see our new granddaughter. Very early Friday morning, before we had planned to get up and head back home, my wife informs me that the toilet in the hotel room is stopped up. I get up to go look at it and, since it's hardware and not software, mange to overflow things just a little bit. However, I got a plunger and some extra towels from the front desk and soon set things right. We try to go back to sleep for a little bit, but I don't think we were very successful.

Then we get stuck in traffic on I-24 in Tennessee. Our GPS shows our arrival time slipping by two hours. Tired and hungry, we stopped at Chili's in Chattanooga. A little voice in the back of my head told me to put my laptop in the trunk.

Moments after our dinner arrived our sever asked if we had a red Toyota. We do. It had been broken into. Some vermin had smashed the passenger side window, opened the glove compartment (which wasn't locked), and took the GPS. They also took a classic iPod, my daughter's knitting bag in which she had placed her brand new iPad, and my iPhone, which I forgot I had left charging. They also took the power adapter and broke the plastic cup holder in the back.

While waiting for the police, I downloaded Apple's "Find My iPhone" onto my wife's phone and set my phone to erase. Daughter set her iPad to track. While her iPad hasn't come online, my phone was erased yesterday at 10:37 am.

On Sunday our pastor swapped pulpits with a local pastor. The guest speaker took Luke 8:22-25, where Jesus calms the storm, as his text. It was all I could do to keep from laughing with utter delight when he started talking about God's apparent lack of concern for His children when what we think are bad things happen: "Don't you know what is going on? Are you mad at us? Did we do something wrong? Don't you love us? Don't you care?"

Thursday: learn a new word about seeing meaning in randomness. Friday, a small voice tells me to put my laptop in the trunk, even though I don't make the connection to pass the warning on to the rest of my family and daughter's car is broken into. Saturday, SlashDot reports that Google says of the relationship between hiring practices and employee performance: "It's a complete random mess". Sunday, the sermon is on God's providence in times of trial.

When does coincidence stop being coincidence?

A quick word of thanks to Chili's. They called the police for us, comp'd us our meal, helped to clean up our car, and were very supportive overall.

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