Stops and Starts

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's been a frustrating time here in Rachel-land. I had my cast finally removed, only to have another one put on a few days later. Apparently my wrist was not ready to come out yet. Everyday actions are either difficult or slightly painful, and typing with one hand is wearing on what little patience I have. I did finish reading a couple books since all this happened, but I have several uncompleted books, which is unusual for me. Here's the run-down:

Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present
Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present by Peter Hessler
Beautifully written observations by a WSJ reporter, but it wasn't compelling enough for me to finish it despite renewing the book twice from the library. The author wrote somewhat distant observations about various people representing the diversity of modern China. I would have liked to finish it--maybe if the author made it more personal, or much shorter, the story would have moved faster.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
I got this audiobook for my ill-fated drive. I've tried to read this book before but gave up. I like getting audiobooks of more difficult literature, because having it narrated usually adds enough that I not only finish it, but enjoy it (my strategy for Anna Karenina). At disc 4 of 8, the author stopped his contrarian platitudes long enough for the plot to finally kick into gear. Then I fell and broke my wrist and haven't done much driving since then. Just when it got interesting, too. Someday, I will finish this book.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency)
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) by Alexander Mccall Smith
This was also an audiobook for the above-mentioned drive. I put this one in when I couldn't reach the CD case for Dorian Gray and I didn't want to pull over. This series is reliably good. I love the characters. Coincidentally, I only got to disc 4 of 8 in this series, too.

The Conde Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys: Great Writers on Great Places
I saw this book advertised and put it on my 'must read' list right away. It turned out to be surprisingly boring. I read about Bath, England; Prague; and Ethiopia before completely losing interest. These beautiful locations surely deserve better writing than these essays. Meh.

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes
While I was visiting family (and while I was not reading "The Oracle Bones") I reread several titles in this series: The Magician's Nephew, Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Silver Chair. What can I say? They are rightly classics. I have sweet memories of my dad reading these to us kids at bedtime, and I enjoyed reading them with the perspective of an adult this time. I think some Christians tend to canonize Narnia, but CS Lewis didn't intend for them to be the only allowable fiction for the Sunday school set (I'm looking at you, Harry Potter haters). They are primarily very good stories, and intended to be enjoyed as such. But what is a good story? These books echo the Greatest Story, the narrative of the gospel, and reflects a comprehensive worldview of the same which are marks of any good story (good versus evil, the lone hero, fall and redemption, and persevering to the end of the battle). So of course they're good!

In this rereading, I was struck by how thoroughly English this series is. (After all, CS Lewis was an English professor at Oxford. Doesn't get much more English than that.) I read the boxed set with the original illustrations and it added even more. Her artwork seemed to pay homage to old tapestries and woodcuts, but with the 1930's reinterpretation. Her illustrations seemed to honor the English roots of the story just as much as the author did. I really enjoyed seeing most of the illustrations for the first time. I was saving my favorite book for last (The Horse and His Boy). Next time I visit, it's the first thing I'm doing!

Non-bookish fun

Saturday, March 8, 2008

My honey brought a Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine for me to read, brought back from his latest trip. I got hooked with a puzzle called "Shinro," which reminds me of Sudoku, but more obscure and confusing. You can see the original puzzle here. Tricky, isn't it? I became obsessed with solving it. (Sadly, "obsessed" is not too strong of a word.)

At first I googled the puzzle, trying to find the methodology for solving it, but there was nothing out there. We were beginning to think it was another prank by Southwest, until I found posts like this, asking where to find more puzzles. So once I solved it, I decided to post how I got there, to help other obsessive puzzlers like myself. Enjoy! (And if you used this and found it helpful, please leave a comment.)

First, I redrew the grid larger, using a pencil with a eraser.

Then, add tick marks to show every square an arrow is pointing to. Some squares have more than one tick mark.

Here's where the fun begins. Remember, holes don't necessarily have an arrow pointing to them. So looking at the last column on the right, there are two tick marks in that column, and there are two holes in that column, but that doesn't mean that those squares are where the holes are.

Here is an example of the logic I used to solve this one. Looking at the row the pencil is pointing to, the row has only 1 hole, and it must be to the right of the arrow. Therefore the circled tick marks aren't for that hole, so I erased them.

Looking to the arrow above, that particular arrow is only pointing to one square. Therefore there that's where the hole is.

After an arrow can point to no other holes, X through it. When a column or row is complete, I check it. I erase the tic marks when they no longer indicate a hole.

Continue until the arrows can point to no other squares (Eight holes so far.) You still have unmarked holes somewhere in the puzzle. At this point, I decided to put a line through finished columns and rows to make it easier to see where the holes are.

From here, you can see there is only one spot in the top row where the third hole can be.

Keep going, and you solved the puzzle! Isn't that fun?

PS: Thanks for the math and logic classes, Mom and Dad! Education is never wasted, even if (or maybe especially if) it's used just for fun.