Geeky Time Waster of the Morning

After seeing 16×16 and even 25×25 sudoku grids, Dave and I have joked about the next logical step being three-dimensional sudoku puzzles — a series of nine 9×9 grids that would represent the layers of a 9×9×9 cube, creating 27 intersecting arrays. It would be difficult just to visualize clearly what was going on, of course, which is what made the idea so silly.

It didn’t occur to me, though, that on a computer you could make the intersecting arrays easier to visualize. Someone has gone and created a very attractive three-dimensional sudoku game called 3Doku, and the interface does make it relatively effortless to see what’s going on. You can look at three mutually intersecting cross-sectional views at a time. Double-clicking on a cell instantly brings up the three cross sections that contain that cell, and highlights all the other cells that are in the same line or 3×3 box with that cell (that is, all the cells that cannot contain the same digit). A fourth view shows the entire cube from an angle, and indicates the location of the cross sections you’re looking at in the other three views.

I played it for a while on my commute this morning. It’s kind of pleasant to wander through the grid looking for places where you can make a deduction, but even at the medium difficulty level I think I was averaging maybe one deduction per three to five minutes of searching. With 729 cells to fill instead of the usual 27, and two more difficulty levels above that one, I have the feeling this is the sort of problem you shouldn’t get too wrapped up in without a government grant.

It’s a lovely thing to contemplate, though.

Later: I’ve played more with this, and it turns out it’s not nearly as impossibly time-consuming as I thought it would be. After you get to a certain tipping point, there are enough numbers filled in that there are easy deductions to be made all over the place.

Even after you get to that point, though, there are hundreds of cells yet to be filled in, which is an awful lot of tedious mopping up to do.

Yet Another One of Life’s Mysteries

Last night I could not get my desktop computer to talk to our new printer over the wireless network, even though my old laptop was talking to it just fine. After some poking around in the settings and finding nothing obviously wrong, Dave suggested that I use the setup disc to uninstall the printer driver and then reinstall the very same driver. (Note: The. Very. Same. Driver.)

I was skeptical but complied, and immediately thereafter was able to print from my desktop computer.

I have to wonder how people who deal with this sort of thing all the time can turn around and say that astrology is far-fetched.

These Things Happen

Rush Limbaugh on global warming:

Now, I’m just telling you that this picture is a total misrepresentation of the current state of circumstances for polar bears. It’s as though they wandered out on this ice floe, and it broke off, and it’s fading off now toward the equator and the polar bears cannot do anything about it and they’re going to melt and they’re going to die.

Or, if they do jump off they may have to swim hundreds of miles and expend lots of energy because ice is all melting around them. Of course, this picture has all the ingredients of the fraud and the deception. We just went through what we went through with Barbaro. Now we’ve got polar bears, stranded polar bears, animals, essence of innocence, so cute, so lonely, so frightened, so panicked, bellowing out for hope from the nearest human. Meanwhile, the Canadian film crew is just content to let them float off to their deaths for the sake of grabbing the photo to mislead you and your kids, who will no doubt be shown this by a bunch of worthless teachers who are promoting a political agenda.

This whole thing is totally misleading. They’re not even stranded on an ice floe that’s broken apart. They’re just out there just playing around. They’re just out there. You know, just like your cat goes to its litter box. When’s the last time your cat got stranded in its litter box? Just like your pit bull attacks and kills the neighbor’s baby horse, whatever, I mean these things happen. It’s called nature.

Um, yeah. Pit bull kills baby horse. Whatever.

Faith Healing

The Rev. Ted Haggard has gone through three weeks of “intensive counseling” and as a result he has come to the realization that he is “completely heterosexual”.

Haggard said in an e-mail Sunday, his first communication in three months to church members, that he and his wife, Gayle, plan to pursue master’s degrees in psychology. The e-mail said the family hasn’t decided where to move but that they were considering Missouri and Iowa.

Another oversight board member, the Rev. Mike Ware of Westminster, said the group recommended the move out of town and the Haggards agreed.

“This is a good place for Ted,” Ware said. “It’s hard to heal in Colorado Springs right now. It’s like an open wound. He needs to get somewhere he can get the wound healed.”

It was also the oversight board that strongly urged Haggard to go into secular work.

An Emboldenable Bunch

From the 1/31/07 installment of The Daily Show, after a montage of clips of Bush and other Republican officials reciting what is evidently a new Talking Point, that any disagreement with how Bush is handling the war only serves to “embolden” the terrorists:

JON STEWART: It seems that critics of the war have no recourse that does not embolden al-Qaida or our enemies.

JOHN OLIVER: Yes, they are an emboldenable bunch.

JON: But the word “embolden” — such an odd word, such an unconventional word.

JOHN: Well, this is an odd, unconventional war. This isn’t like World War Two where there were winners and losers. It’s a new kind of war, where enemies can either be emboldened or beweakened. So we have to enscare them to the point where they rebecave themselves. We must disimagine the very thinkment of misunsuccessiveness. That is what we have to bedo.

Stalin Would Have Been Proud

This is horrifying. According to BBC News:

Germany has ordered the arrest of 13 suspected CIA agents over the alleged kidnapping of one of its citizens.

Munich prosecutors confirmed that the warrants were linked to the case of Khaled [e]l-Masri, a German national of Lebanese descent.

Mr Masri says he was seized in Macedonia, flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan and mistreated there.

He says he was released in Albania five months later when the Americans realised they had the wrong man.

Mr. Masri was a victim of “extraordinary rendition”, whereby the United States flies prisoners to other countries to be “interrogated” there — countries where torture is allowed.

Mr. Masri was tortured for five months, for fuck’s sake, including being forceably sodomized in order to get him to ‘fess up to being a terrorist, before the CIA noticed that they had kidnapped the wrong fucking guy. They were looking for a suspected terrorist named Khaled al-Masri, and the guy who they’d kidnapped and shipped off to Afghanistan to be beaten to a pulp and have broom handles shoved up his ass was an innocent German citizen named Khaled el-Masri. (Even some of the media are getting the names mixed up in their coverage, as above.)

Oopsie!

This has got to be the understatement of the day:

The US government is not assisting the German authorities with the case.

Another step closer to bringing back the good old Soviet Union, only this time on our side of the planet.

Another Round of The Circle

Dave and I went back to see The Circle at ACT a second time before it closes again this weekend. I don’t know whether it’s because we had better seats this time, or if the cast really has sharpened their characterizations that much since previews, and most likely it’s some of both, but the play seemed much more nuanced and detailed and livelier to us both than it had first time around. And we had enjoyed it tremendously that time. But last night’s performance was really terrific. Maybe not My Top Ten Theater Experiences of All Time terrific, but a real joy all the way through.

This time I actually read some of the program essay about Somerset Maugham during one of the intermissions. It quotes a passage from his autobiography, The Summing Up, that really got to me:

I think what has chiefly struck me in human beings is their lack of consistency. I have never seen people all of a piece. It has amazed me that the most incongruous traits should exist in the same person and for all that yield a plausible harmony. … The censure that has from time to time been passed on me is due perhaps to the fact that I have not expressly condemned what is bad in the characters of my invention and praised what is good. It must be a fault in me that I am not gravely shocked at the sins of others unless they personally affect me, and even when they do I have learnt at last generally to excuse them. It is meet not to expect too much of others.

I think this gets at one of the reasons I’ve been so fond of this play since I first encountered it a couple of decades ago, though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it back then. There isn’t one really admirable character in this play, nor any really despicable character either. When you get down to it, everyone in the play is pretty shallow (possibly excepting Anna Shenstone and the butler, I suppose, as they’re such small roles we never learn anything about them), and at some point or other every one of them behaves like a pigheaded idiot or worse. All the younger people — Arnold, Elizabeth, Teddie — are very naive and, in their various ways, foolishly idealistic. And yet, although the older people — Clive, Kitty, Porteous — know much more of life, they haven’t become so very much wiser for it either. Yet the play takes a fond, affectionate, and forgiving attitude toward them all, and invites us to like these people and enjoy their company and laugh at their foibles, even as they’re making terrible mistakes and causing each other grief.

Something I’ve felt right from the start, back in my first playwriting courses in college, is that genuine comedy — not just a silly farce based on conventions and stereotypes, but something that deals with real truths about the human condition and invites us to laugh at them — is, at its best, a profounder thing than tragedy. The subject matter of comedy and tragedy is not all that far apart, both modes of theater look at the sorrows and injustices of the human condition, but tragedy invites us to be angry about them, to judge them harshly, while comedy is the mode of forgiveness and invites us to be compassionate and tolerant.

Something else I’ve been noticing since college: Unlike the theater, in real life there are no serious roles, just comic parts. In our heads, we are all the long-suffering heroes of our own romantic melodramas, but in fact we’re all characters in a vast Chekhov comedy, creating our own and each other’s despair, unable to break out of our self-destructive routines even though we know they make us miserable and the train to Moscow is ready to go and right there. None of us is really the star of anything; we’re all somebody’s wacky next-door neighbor.

Back to The Circle. I’ve known this play for 20 years now at least, and at this performance I noticed a symmetry between Clive and Porteous that I’d never noticed before (or don’t remember noticing). In act one, Clive seems by far the more likeable, good-humored and cheerful and debonair, while Porteous is an insufferable monster, constantly carping and fault-finding and pitying himself. But as the play progresses, they sort of trade places in our estimation: We observe that Clive’s good humor comes from a profound misanthropy and cynicism and ill-willed delight in the heartaches of others; while Porteous, for all his bitterness and pride, is capable of bursts of compassion when something shakes him up. Disappointment and disillusionment have deeply shaped both men, but where this has made Porteous exaggerate his own woes, it’s made Clive take pleasure in the woes of others. Neither is particularly admirable, but Porteous, I think, is the one whose faults we ultimately find easier to forgive.

Or at least so it seemed to me in this production.

The story must have been Maugham’s way of dealing, in a form that would be accepted by general audiences, with the issue of being a closeted homosexual in a straight marriage. Here’s the situation in The Circle: After three years of marriage to Arnold, Elizabeth met Teddie, and on meeting him she knew that she loved him and that she was never going to be able to truly love her husband. She also knows that if she leaves her husband to live with Teddie, she will endure the lifelong scorn of society and be shunned forever by all her friends — the sad example of Kitty and Porteous shows her what she can look forward to. Yet she still yearns for real love. Not hard at all to see this as a parallel to the dilemma of a man who has tried unsuccessfully to make a straight marriage work, who has come to realize he is gay, who knows he can never really love his wife as she should be loved, and yet who knows that to leave his marriage and live with someone he truly loves will make him an outcast to most of society. Not hard to imagine Maugham brooding on this sort of situation and finding in it a lot of things he would like to write about, and finding a way to tell such a story in which the lovers are a man and a woman, but the sacrifice and social disapproval are similar.

Oh, Sorry, That’s Only Justice When It Happens to Other People

Someone on the WELL was lamenting just now how unjust it was that Molly Ivins is dead and George W. Bush lives on.

It seems to me that Bush’s continuing good health is no less that what we as a nation have coming to us. I can’t see how justice would be furthered if God were to smite down GWB and allow us, the people of the United States, to avoid the consequences of our greed and arrogance and short-sightedness in electing him not just once but twice. This is the nation that was seduced with tricks straight out of Stalin’s and Mussolini’s playbooks, the nation that responded to 9/11 by putting its hands over its ears and declaring war on the wrong country, the nation that learned about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and Fallujah and in response just shrugged as it dropped its ballots into the box voting for more of the same. There’s a saying: Be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it. We are getting exactly what we asked for.

Looks to me like God is making us Americans write “We will stop choosing cruel and unjust people to lead us” 10,000 times on the blackboard, and I figure we’re only up to about seven thousand so far.