Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rainy days, leaking roof and Sudoku

Picture deleted to free up space.

We have the roof repair men in today at long last, having been through the time-consuming business of getting estimates, deciding who's for real and who's not. But it's always an opportunity to meet the locals and practice a bit of my fractured French ! Thank heavens that J (my wife )is fluent

The leak, or on occasions, the flood, occurs only on rare occasions, when there's both torrential rain, and wind from the west. That combination drives the water under the tiles, where it collects as a big puddle. Guess where it then goes from there ? Correct answer. It's especially alarming to be inundated in the middle of the night. No, there's no sheet of waterproof bitumen ("roofing felt") under those tiles. One local builder seemed intrigued when I said it was fitted as standard in Britain. But how do they finish it off at the ridge and eaves, he asked . Which immediately put me in mind of that choice quotation, attributed to a French ambassador I believe, : "That's all very well in practice. But how does it work in theory ?"

With all the to-ing and fro-ing around me at the moment, this will have to be a potboiler.

So what else is ........

I just thought I'd say a few words about one of life's more welcome torments. Sudoku ( or Su Doku as some prefer to spell it). Just when I think I've got it sussed, I start another puzzle, full of confidence, and then hit a brick wall. To begin with, I thought it could always be done by a slow methodical process of elimination. It's a technique that someone called "marking up", ie pencilling into each square what it can't be, and from that gradually whittling down to what it must be. Someone in the Times Games section came dangerously close to suggesting they could all be done that way.

Nonsense. And even if it were true, where's the fun in that ? Over the weeks I've learned some techniques from others, like 'slicing and dicing'. Others I've figured out for myself, like the one I call "Spot the Orphan". Example: if three squares have, say, 3,8...............1,3,8.................3,8 as the only possible solutions, then straightaway you know one of the answers. Recently, I've been working my way through a book of Sudoku puzzles thinking once again I was there. But then I meet one where I get stuck and none of my techniques work. It was then I discovered some websites where you enter your numbers off the grid. On some they just give you the answers, but on others you get an analysis, step-by-step, of how the computer figured it out, using a process of ruthless logic. But here's the downside: the program is spotting something here, somethere there (way, way over there) making one realise that one's been far too focused on one small area, and missing a clue hidden away somewhere in the bigger picture.

Did you read about the amazing Rachel Roth ? She did her first Sudoku just 9 months ago, and has now come top in the Times's championship held at Cheltenham. She's to represent Britain in the World Championship next year. Read her comments on the different male v female approaches to Sudoku .,,2-2406480.html

Fascinating (and a bit unflattering towards us fellas if the truth be told). Whether she's right or not, one thing's for sure. At age 32 she's discovered she's a born genius at something. Like those kids years ago who could solve a Rubik's cube in minutes. Maybe we're all geniuses at something or other, without knowing it. The moral would seem to be: try your hand at lots of different things. Seek, and maybe ye shall find.

So what's your special gift, we ask ourselves ? Stating the bleedin' obvious?

PS This is by way of a geekish footnote. I don't know about you, but I always feel a picture adds a little je sais quoi...

I hate to mention it, but the expression is je ne sais quoi !

Well, got you that time, Mr. know-all. See, I'm fully aware of exactly what a picture adds - impact, life, colour, focus, a square-meal for the visual senses. Je sais quoi was a play on words, see, but it obviously went way above your head. The worm has turned !

Anyway, as I was saying before so rudely interrupted, I wanted to add a picture. The roofers kindly agreed to letting me take one of them at work. , having told them what it was for, and assuring them I would blank out enough of their faces to render them anonymous, if they so desired. They weren't bothered when I said it was for my new English-language blog.

But can I upload that picture ? The answer is NO, despite deleting two earlier pix, including that amazing spot we visited in the Azores. I have even tried fiddling around with the picture in an editing program that came with my scanner - cropping, resizing etc and still it refuses to upload. I suspect there's a lag between deleting a picture, and the server being told there is free capacity. This is all most irritating.

ed: finally succeeded Tuesday am after dozens of attempts, ringing loadsa changes on file size, file type etc. Reckon it's those servers again.

I thought there might be light-hearted relief to be had on Colin Randall's blog, but all I find today is suspicion and paranoia. Sad, I so used to enjoy the cut-and-thrust on that site.........

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