It's never to late...

It's never too late to be who you might have been.
George Eliot

The Mother of all Puzzles

From a reader submitted puzzler on Car Talk (Aug. 23, 2008) which I first read about in William Poundstone's book "Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google". Hilarious reactions by readers on Peter Norvig's post on G+!

So, either you can laugh about it, or start solving this mother of all puzzles!!
A hundred prisoners are each locked in a room with three pirates, one of whom will walk the plank in the morning. Each prisoner has 10 bottles of wine, one of which has been poisoned; and each pirate has 12 coins, one of which is counterfeit and weighs either more or less than a genuine coin. In the room is a single switch, which the prisoner may either leave as it is, or flip. Before being led into the rooms, the prisoners are all made to wear either a red hat or a blue hat; they can see all the other prisoners' hats, but not their own. Meanwhile, a six-digit prime number of monkeys multiply until their digits reverse, then all have to get across a river using a canoe that can hold at most two monkeys at a time. But half the monkeys always lie and the other half always tell the truth. Given that the Nth prisoner knows that one of the monkeys doesn't know that a pirate doesn't know the product of two numbers between 1 and 100 without knowing that the N+1th prisoner has flipped the switch in his room or not after having determined which bottle of wine was poisoned and what colour his hat is, what is the solution to this puzzle?

 On second thought this should be called "The deranged offspring of all puzzles" instead of the title above. 

Andre Kertesz - On Reading

Robert Gurbo in the introduction to Andre Kertesz's book On Reading writes that the famous series is reissued at a time when digital media, ebooks and computers are threatening to eliminate the reader of the printed word.  The timeless image of a person head-down poring over a book is now being replaced with people transfixed in similar ways to their cell phones, laptops, e-readers.

The New York Times ran a photo spread on the impossibility of capturing street images of people without anyone head down checking their devices (Misha Erwitt's: Cellphone pre-occupation). The series of pictures shows people in states of preoccupation talking, texting, checking email. (My favorite is the the woman talking next to the Giacommeti statue). In comparison, as Gurbo notes in the preface, "... Kertesz's timeless images of people transported to another world by the intimate process of opening a book or newspaper ... "

Is there an essential difference? Is there a difference between a person texting on a bench versus a person reading a book? Is it more of a disconnection from reality and your surroundings to be staring into a computer screen into the vastness of the internet versus fingers curled around a folded newspaper?

I went back and forth between the collections and I tried to reach a conclusion - is one better than the other? or is is just a symptom of conditioning?

Sounds like a beaten down trope - "digital bad, analog good"

To me, there is an appropriate choice of words for  Erwitt's series versus Kertesz's.

Preoccupied vs. absorbed
Distracted vs. transported
Disconnected vs. immersed

It's hard for me to believe that anyone can actually read anything on the internet with it's easy-to-navigate HTML links. Add to that the numerous distractions of messages, tweets, and emails. You don't really travel anywhere on the internet, you simply bounce around.

This is one my favorite images from Andre Kertesz's collection of photographs - On Reading.  A boy eating an ice-cream reading the comics section from a scattered bunch of newspapers. Andre Kertesz captures the essence of reading: the solitary, self-absorbed pleasure that transports you to a different place. The only thing that would mar that image would the silhouette of a person talking on the cellphone. Of course, the boy would not notice.


A student once asked his Zen master,  "Why did you not ever marry?"

The Zen master replied, "Well, I was looking for the perfect woman".

The student eagerly asked, " Did you not find the perfect woman?"

"Oh, I did", replied the Zen master with a smile.

"Then...what happened.. why did you not marry her?"

The Zen master paused and with a twinkle in his eye said, "Well, she was looking for the perfect man."

(paraphrased from  John Gottman)