Wednesday, November 23, 2005

New time suck

For you, gentle reader, (no doubt) anxious to know what has been keeping me from sharing my poetic insights with you, I can explain in one word: Sudoku!

When the N&R decided to start running the column I had already seen Sudoku in other places and wondered if my brain was up to it. I browsed a table full of Sudoku books at B&N the other week and came within a hair's breath of buying the "Sudoku for Dummies" book. But I figured: how difficult could these things be? Well, let me tell you...

For the first week or so I studiously ignored the puzzle and stuck to my regular morning brain-starters, Jumble and Brain Boggle. Then I mentioned the puzzle to a co-worker (a computer type) and the next thing I knew we were both doing the puzzles and comparing answers. I struggled with the first few "Gentle" puzzles - always coming up with ultimate failures. But then, one Sunday, I solved a "Tough" puzzle and I was hooked. Now I have to reserve a couple hours out of every waking day to do the puzzle and everything else - blogging, work, reading other parts of the newspaper - have all gone to Hell.

It's simple yet insidious: if eight can't go here, or here, it must go HERE - but that would mean the two is wrong so that must be six (erase erase erase). I can't really say I've developed a strategy for doing these things and I've come to realize that regardless of what the developers say, some of the "Gentle" puzzles are as hard or harder than the "Moderate ones." Sudoku does not believe in truth in advertising. But here is the real kicker, after you work through the puzzle in the paper (for better or worse) the Internet has hundreds of sites just waiting to supply the hopelessly addicted with a new fix. (I've had to institute a "NO SuDoKu after noon policy in order to stay employed)

But I've got to say, as far as puzzles go there is a huge sense of accomplishment in filling in those last few numbers and seeing no conflicts - IN YOUR FACE MICHAEL MEPHAM!!

I'll be starting a Sudoku support group soon. Instead of a twelve step plan ours will need only nine.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A curious headline

From today's NY Times Online: "Catholic Bishops Turn to Lay Ministers".

You just have to know that somewhere a headline writer is tittering to him/herself wondering when someone above him/her is going make the inevitable phone call.

I say, good for you! It's high time someone pointed out the abuse ministers are receiving at the hands (and other apendages) of Catholic Bishops - and here we all thought it was only altar boys.

My cars must hate me

For a family of four drivers we seem to have more than our share of car problems. Granted, two of our cars were built in the 1980s and two others (each 8 years old) have well over 100,000 miles. Our "best" car is a 1999 Chrysler courtesy of dear old dad.
With what I spend on car repair in any given year I could be driving a BWM, but everybody else in the family would have to walk. My older son is currently driving the car I normally drive (which was my younger son's car before he took the former family car off to NC State.) Older son's vehicle has been in the shop for the past three weeks. The folks at the shop have tried many different, valiant (and expensive) methods to get it to stop hemorrhaging coolant - to no avail. I am seriously considering trying to resurrect the old van which has become a driveway ornament and storage facility since it was retired from service. (I'm sure glad I didn't donate it to charity as dear old dad has suggested on many an occasion.)
In the meantime, me and the missus are enjoying each other's company and conflicting schedules while we try to car pool. This works out OK as long as neither of us has to go anywhere during the day - well, her actually because I keep the car most days and can go anywhere I like except, if I do go anywhere I might lose my parking place.
None of us are really "car people". We drive them to the places we need to go and pay little attention to them until they decide to break down. Dear old dad on then other hand cherishes his vehicles like he does his children and treats them to every scheduled maintenance and even repairs the little dings every car gets. Everytime he gets the bug to buy a new car (every five years) he declares "this will be my last car." Of course, it never is, which is damn lucky for us.
The reason I'm sharing this with you now is because I'm steeling myself to go (shudder) car shopping. I'd almost rather have a root canal without anesthetic than step onto a car lot but the time comes in each person's life when we need to face our fears (in the person of a smiling car salesman) and boldly ask the stupid questions sure to betray us as sheep ripe for fleecing.
If I could figure out the bus system I might try that instead.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What God really wants

I realize that it is somewhat presumptuous of me to pretend to know what God wants but as of RIGHT THIS SECOND, I am giving my fingers over to God to type whatever He wants. Go ahead, don't be shy.

[really long pause while leaves turn from green to orange, red and off-green. People come to work and go home again. Children learn valuable lessons about life and still not a drop of rain falls]

OK, I guess that's not going to work after all. Darn! With God speaking through so many people these days, I thought: why not me? I bet I know what's wrong, I don't have any credentials. Yeah, that must be it.

Hey, sorry for taking your time like this but even though He didn't speak through me there's no reason to believe He won't speak through you. Go ahead, give it a try. You might even have the credentials.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Who knows? Not me.

Judging by the gaggle (what's smaller than a gaggle?) of people milling about the local polling stations I'm going to guess it's election day again. Is there anything sadder than an election day during an off year? Personally, I'm saving up my energy for next year when...when we get to vote for Howard Coble again because they're aren't any other choices. Yawn, at least it's a nice day to celebrate our democracy.

But, dear friends, it's not voter turnout that's got my goat today; no, it's the CBS News Poll that says 51 % of Americans reject evolution and say they believe God created man in his (or her, I guess) present form. I may have gone blissfully unaware of this statistic if I hadn't been reading about the American Museum of Natural History's Darwin Exhibit in the NY Times.

Polling is an inexact science at best but even considering some percentage of error, this result ought to scare the bejeebers out of every thinking American. Granted evolution is one tough concept to prove, but doesn't it make you at least sort of wonder? Haven't we all seen archaeological specimens that look a little bit like current humans but aren't exactly us? And if He did create us in our present form, which present form? Seems like there are an awful lot of variations on a theme. I hope some of you are bold enough to stand up and say "I don't know whether evolution is true or whether God did what He is supposed to have done, but for the moment and until I am convinced either way (or some other way), I will just say that it beats the heck out of me." The poll didn't allow for this option. It gave you just three choices. A simple 4th choice (I don't know/no opinion) might have changed the result - but I doubt it.

The poll also failed to allow for some of the more arcane explanantions like: modern man is the descendent of aliens who crash landed on Earth a really long time ago (probably on or near Mt. Ararat) OR, modern man has devolved from a superior race of creatures who left the Earth (and their devolved brethren) in search of a better world a really long time ago. (You know, devolution might be way easier to prove than evolution - and I'm not just talking about the Bush administration). There are probably an infinite number of equally plausible/implausible explanations for how we came to be who we are. So even if you can't really get behind the theory of evolution, try to keep an open mind, OK?

If we are indeed God's creations it would seem likely that He would want us to continue to learn new things about ourselves and the world around us and not just go with a quick, easy and maybe wrong explanation. Be patient and read everything with a critical eye.

51%! Wasn't that the same proportion of Americans who voted for President Bush?