instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Totally awwsome

Ah wuzza wuzza wuzza. Ah wuzza wuzza wuzza.

(And for the proud parents, a little something to consider while they're on a roll.)


Quod est spes?

To a large extent, I'm still in the sophomoric stage where I can talk about matters of the Faith using grown-up language, but I don't really understand the words I use. And I don't mean fancy words like "theanthropic" or "soteriology." I mean simple words like "forgive" and "hope."

In discussing the irascible passions (i.e., those passions by which a person resists hindering or harmful attacks), St. Thomas identifies four conditions of hope. Properly speaking, he says, we only hope for things we regard as good, and these things must not only be not yet possessed, but also difficult to obtain, yet obtainable.

Hope for a certain good thing also implies desire for that thing, but hope is not a kind of desire. Desire for a thing is what draws us toward it (making it a "concupiscible passion," in Scholastic terms); as an irascible power, hope is what prevents us from being drawn away from it. In other words, hope is the thing in us that sustains our approach to a good thing in the face of the difficulties of obtaining it.

I think it's also important to distinguish between hope and expectation. Hope relates to the difficulty of obtaining some good, expectation to the likelihood of obtaining it. Obviously, difficulty and likelihood are related -- when there is no difficulty there is all likelihood, and vice versa -- but they are not simple inverses. Passing a test may be extremely difficult, but a well-prepared student might regard the likelihood of his passing as fairly high. He might, that is, have both great hope and great expectation of passing.

Of course, having made this distinction, I'm using "great hope" in a somewhat idiosyncratic way. Saying, "I am very hopeful that this will happen," usually means, "I expect this will happen." If, though, hope relates directly to difficulty rather than expectation, then you can only be "very hopeful" about something that is very difficult to obtain.

I can't honestly say that I have much hope of making it home alive today. Making it home alive is not a difficult thing to do for me today. It's not a good to which much hope can be related, like a teaspoon is not a vessel in which much coffee can be placed.

At the same time, I do (or ought to) have some hope of making it home alive today. I hope I don't die before I get home, or get sent to a hospital, or have to rush somewhere else, or fail to get home from whatever other reason. Since none of these strike me as particularly difficult goods, however, the amount of hope I have for them (as opposed to my expectations) is slight.

Still, that slight amount of hope is important. Presumption is the state of taking a future good as necessarily obtained. (Formally speaking, it's taking one's own salvation as necessarily obtained, but the idea can be applied more generally.) Presumption and hope are opposed to each other; presumption effectively treats a future good as a possession, and as St. Paul asks, "Who hopes for what he already has?"

Presumption is a bad habit for a number of reasons. First, it is incompatible with humility and self-knowledge; I can't guarantee a single future good by my own power. Second, it attempts to bind God's will to one's own; if I presume I will be alive tomorrow, then if I am not God will have failed to do what was obviously necessary.

But in referring to presumption as a "bad habit" -- and, for that matter, in bringing God into it -- I've moved from considering hope as a passion to considering it as a virtue.


Monday, August 25, 2003

Reeves in the Summertime, cont.

With the tea coursing through my veins, I was beginning to feel more like a human and less like Rocky Marciano’s least favorite punching bag. “I opened by mentioning that the gathering brought to mind the miracle of the loaves and fishes.”

“Indeed, your excellency?” Despite the hour, Reeves looked as refreshed and capable as always. “I would have thought the circumstances would have suggested the parable of the sower.”

“Parable of the sower, eh? Well, I can see why, of course, but as bishop one occasionally likes to go beyond the obvious. Teaching office and all that.” I took another sip of the Lapsang S. “Of course, you know sermonizing has never been one of my strengths.”

“A correctable weakness, your excellency. I have just finished an excellent book on hermeneutics by the Dominican –“

“You know my policy on hermeneutics, Reeves,” I said with charitable reproof. “And as it is neither the early afternoon nor have I recently finished a satisfying but not overfilling meal, we shall table all mention of hermeneutics and excellent books on same until such conditions obtain.”

“Certainly, your excellency.”

“Now, as I was saying, although I am not an excellent sermonizer, I thought I got off to a fairly good start. Setting the scene, you know. But then I happened to glance down at Berggo, who was sitting in the front row next to Cardinal Fratricidelli. The cardinal whispered something in his ear, and Berggo’s face registered such abject horror that I completely lost track of what I was saying.”

“If I may, your excellency, I have found that is it generally unhelpful to make eye contact with Bishop Berger when one is making any sort of public presentation.”

“Sound advice, Reeves. Afterwards, I asked Berggo what he meant to signify by that look of gaping dread. He told me the cardinal had merely whispered, ‘So far, so good,’ and he was giving me a smile of confident reassurance.”

“A most regrettable failure of communication, your excellency.”

“My thought exactly, but the damage had been done. I couldn’t quite manage to pick up the thread of discourse, and after a minute or two of hemming I sensed I was starting to lose my audience.”

I fell into a brief reverie.

“Would you think it an act of vainglory, Reeves, if I said I am not completely without singing talent?”

“Certainly not, your excellency. Your voice is a pleasant tenor, with surprising robustness in the lower registers.”

“Thank you, Reeves. I would have said much the same, in all humility.” I wasn’t sure what was so surprising about my robustness in the lower registers, but now was not the time to quibble.



Show-off tunes

Steven Riddle offers a complaint regarding show tunes at Mass. That is, tunes that show off a cantor's voice.

While trying to sing along with what, properly sung, is no doubt a very pleasant melody used for the offertory hymn yesterday, I began to compose (ha!) some rough rules for writing congregational hymns:
  1. Make sure your lyrics scan. If they don't scan, at least make sure ev'ry stanza has the same meter. It's not that hard. English is a big language.
  2. 3/4 or 4/4, straight down the line. And don't get cute in the bridge to the refrain.
  3. Build the tune on quarter and half notes, please. Eighth notes in pairs only. We're not a jazz band. (Besides, if history is any guide, the congregation will add its own fascinating rhythms where and when it wants.)
  4. Save the whole notes for the end of the stanza or refrain. You don't want the congregation getting light-headed while standing during the processional.
  5. Keep the range under one and a half octaves. Keep the jumps between notes under half an octave. Because I will try to sing all of the notes, regardless.
I've heard professional recordings of some of the new standards, and some of them sound halfway decent, but they aren't necessarily suited for the typical American Catholic congregation unsure of itself when faced with anything more exotic than "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."


Celestial masterpieces

The idea of making a masterpiece of your life makes it sound as though Heaven might be like a museum, where the blessed are put in lovely frames and hung on the wall for an eternity of statis in icon-like impassibility.

A better image is of a fancy party, where all the guests are dressed to the cloud nines in the finery they acquired during their earthly lives. Of course, the heavenly wedding banquet is a Gospel image, and there's even a parable of what happens to him who fails to dress himself for it with sufficient artistry:
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son....
But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"
Sort of makes it seem like making a masterpiece of your life isn't optional.

But then, every act you take adds, as it were, another brush stroke to your canvas, or another paragraph to your manuscript, or another pinch of sugar to your dough. By the mercy of God, we are able (usually through the sacraments) to erase our errant strokes and to unsalt our stew, but it is simply not possible to live a human life without making something of yourself. The question is, what, or rather, who are you making?


Beautiful questions

Barbara Nicolosi has a brilliant riff on a comment from Pope John Paul II's Letter to Artists:
"All men and women are entrusted first with the task of crafting their own lives; in a certain sense they are to make of their life, a work of art, a masterpiece."(Letter to Artists 1999, JPII)

... If you had to describe your life up till now, would it be a masterpiece?

Would it be a reproduction or an original?

Would it be the kind of thing you would feel safe to expose children to? Is it mostly tragedy or comedy? Is it an ascent (a story of growth?) or a descent (a story of squandering?) or is it without any climax at all?
A reproduction or an original -- that's an excellent question.

Another question is which art form your life most closely resembles. Novel, or play, or poem, or painting, or sculpture, or garden, or dance, or pastry?


Leaving no analogy behind

Ephesians 5:21-32 does give plenty of room for thought. I can think of three takes on this reading I've come across. One is to dismiss it as an example of St. Paul's social conditioning, essentially meaningless today. Another is to take it as something of a joke, with husbands poking their wives with their elbows at v. 22 and wives poking back at v. 25.

A third way is to take it seriously as the word of God describing how Christian marriage images the great mystery of Christ and His Church.

I see the lectionary is considerate enough of those spiritual infants who might stumble over vv. 21-24, permitting these challenging words to be omitted from the reading. This is understandable -- we are in an age of infantilism, and the children of this age are children indeed -- but it expurgates St. Paul's first presentation of the relation husband : wife :: Christ : Church. This is important for two reasons.

First, the remaining presentation in v. 25 -- "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church" -- describes a relationship of love; the first describes one of headship. But if there is confusion today over the concept of headship, "love" has so many meanings as to be almost meaningless. If the love a husband has for his wife is a love that involves headship, he ought to know about it. And if the purpose of being the head of his wife is to lead her to salvation, it's all the more important that he recognize this.

The other advantage to Christian men for hearing twice that they are to their wives as Christ is to the Church is that the repetition emphasizes the importance of the point. If I am to my wife as Christ is to the Church, then I am to Christ as my wife is to the Church. But Christ did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at; rather, He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, offering Himself as a sacrifice to the Father on behalf of the Church. If I am head over my wife, Christ is head over all things, and the Church is His body. But St. Paul writes that it was only after Christ died that He was raised to head over all things.

For me to exercise headship over my wife, in the sense intended by Scripture, I must first (logically, if not temporally) sacrifice myself on her behalf. It's this sacrificial dimension of the love Christ has for His Church, which is to be imaged in the love a man has for his wife, that comes hardest to me, and I can use all the pounding I can get to drive it into my head and my heart.


Getting a head of myself

Sometimes, I expect my body to do things it can't do, like metabolize starches and refined sugars the way it did twenty years ago. Sometimes, I demand my body do things it shouldn't, like operate on too little sleep or lift with the lower back. When I do these things, my body does its best to comply, but in ways subtle and not so it tells me I'm wrong.

This suggests St. Paul's notion that "the husband is head of his wife" does not describe as one-sided a relationship as it may sound to contemporary ears. If the head directs the body, the body corrects the head, and they both get where they're going together.

There's also, I think, a clear message of anti-Manichaeism in this passage. St. Paul obviously wrote, "For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it," to a readership that didn't hate their own flesh and didn't think any other healthy-thinking person did, either. The soul and the body are a single, united entity; a man and a woman "shall become one flesh." If you understand the one idea, you can understand the other. If you misunderstand one, can you understand either?


Saturday, August 09, 2003

She's going to make it!

I've received word that Katy Zeitler will be entering the Nashville Dominicans on August 14 as she'd hoped. She found out on the Vigil of St. Dominic that a priest she knows will be taking care of the balance of her loan, so she's free and clear to become a postulant.

Prayers for Katy, for all postulants, and for all those facing obstacles to a religious vocation, continue to be appropriate.


Friday, August 08, 2003

O lumen Ecclesiae

I found this in an on-line collection of Domincan clip art.

The books St. Dominic is holding would include the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Conferences of St. John Cassian, the two books he is said to have always carried with him.

And don't forget to check out Kevin Miller's series of posts on St. Dominic at Heart, Mind, and Strength. Duncan Maxwell also has a series of posts there on praying the Rosary with children.


Thursday, August 07, 2003

Happy Feast of St. Dominic!

Reginald the Tiger Quoll says:

And from the archive, last year's post on St. Dominic. Also the "Top Ten Reasons to Join the Dominican Order."


Reeves in the Summertime, cont.

“Who invited the Vatican apparatchik?”

The speaker, a tall, thin specimen named Figg from one of those Northeastern colleges, looked at Cardinal Fratricidelli like a cobra appraising a particularly ill-kempt mongoose.

“Bishop Booster did,” Berggo injected before I had a chance to clear my throat.

“Ah, Professor Figg,” the cardinal said with a grimace that would have made an abbess think she had food on her chin. “Teach any good heresies lately?”

“Only that old one about God loving everyone equally,” the professor replied. “How about you, Cardinal? Betrayed anyone to the tender mercies of the Inquisition this week?”

“Oh, yes, one a day without fail. That’s why this room is filled with fear.” Cardinal Fratricidelli waved his hand to indicate the groups of people chatting amicably before the afternoon session came to order.

I was standing a bit too close and flinched when he gestured, which seemed to irritate him. “Bishop Booster,” he said, “weren’t you going to say a few words?”

“Oh, ah, yes. Seeing that you two already know each other, no introductions needed and all that, reminds me of the story of the fat nun who went into a casino –“

“Not a few words to us! To the entire group!”

Figg’s glasses flashed in my direction. “Is this true, Bishop Booster? I thought you were here in strictly a learning capacity.”

I leaned in toward Figg, the better to avoid seeing the expression on the cardinal’s face. “That’s right. That is to say, no, although I was. To speak.”

Figg was taken aback, or at least took a step backward, and said, “I, ah, see.”

I turned to murmur in Cardinal Fratricidelli’s ear. “I’d better just go remind Mr. O’Brien that I was planning on speaking after lunch. He, erm, may have forgotten.”

The cardinal’s face did not register unadulterated credulity, but he said nothing. He happened to know Milton O’Brien, and therefore knew it was entirely possible for O’Brien to forget almost anything that wasn’t related to the amusement business. The morning’s exposure had taught me O’Brien was a decent enough sort, but a bit of an ass. You know the type.

Berggo joined me as I strolled, as casually as possible, over to where O’Brien was staring glassy-eyed at the laicized priest sociologist, who was gesturing freely toward him with a glass of ice water.

“What are you going to say?” Berggo asked me sotto voce.

“I haven’t decided,” I answered. Cardinal Fratricidelli hadn’t been more than two feet from my elbow since I made up my nipping-dissent-in-the-bud story (passing it off as one of Reeve's plans was a rare stroke of genius from Berggo), and although strictly speaking the elbow is not directly involved in rational thought, the proximity was enough to keep me from doing any advanced planning.

Still, a Booster is never wholly unprepared, and no bishop is unfamiliar with speaking extempore. I possessed a few stalwarts that could be trusted to see me through anything. My a capella rendition of “Come Holy Ghost” was a sure crowd pleaser, for example, and I had a sermon on the parable of the sower that was adaptable to any occasion.

“Well, whatever you do,” Berggo said, “for pity’s sake spare us the parable of the sower.”




A couple of comments from T.S. O'Rama -- including this one:
I can't picture Thomas Aquinas' journal as anything but clear-headed and calm and full of peace.
-- makes me wonder what St. Thomas's to-do list might have looked like. In addition to illegible, that is.

    Facere list for Feast of St. Remigius
  • Say Mass.
  • Assist at Mass.
  • Breakfast.
  • Check w/ Gabr. on # & order of angelic choirs.
  • Confess. [Don't forget grave sins against charity in facere list.]
  • Refute Correct Averroist error re: single intelligence.
  • Lunch.
  • Pray.
  • Teach class. [Ask fr. Reg where classroom is.]
  • SquishNote weaknesses in St.-Amour's latest broadside published arguments like a bug.
  • Dinner w/ king. [Ask fr. Reg king of France's name again.]
  • Pray.


Burning down the House

After a spirited debate, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA, voted yesterday to change the name of their church to the Trinitarian Universalist Church (TUC).

Opposition to the measure was led by a group of centrist bishops who feared that the change would lead to an exaggerated sense of the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, alienating both progressive church members and prospective converts. Supporters affirmed and acknowledged that concern, but still maintained the new name should be adopted because, in the words of one bishop who spoke in favor of the change, "Whatever."

After the voice vote, the bishops issued a statement that read in part, "We know that many fearful, small-minded, and backward-looking people will wake up tomorrow surprised to find that they are no longer Episcopalians. But so what?"

"The word 'episcopalian' comes from a Greek word meaning 'overseer,'" one bishop who supported the name change explained. "And as a church, we really aren't into that anymore."

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

A real logic problem

Here's a puzzle I don't think can be solved:

Start with a three-legged stool. While sitting on the stool, saw off two legs. How long can you sit on the stool before you fall over?

Update: In the four years since I posted this, not a month has passed when someone didn't visit this page due to a web search for "clip art" and "Three legged stool." So here you go:


Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Reeves in the Summertime, cont.

I staggered into the hotel bar, feeling like a three pound trout hooked on a ten pound line. I was trying to gather my wits enough to speak to the bartender, but before I had a chance he waved his hands and a drink materialized on the counter before me. I clutched at it and tasted. A perfect bourbon and s.

I gazed in awe at this wonder-worker standing before me, but the barman simply shrugged. “We’re three blocks from the USCCB, bish,” he explained. “I’ve seen that look before.”

He frowned suddenly at something behind me, and another revitalizer hit the bar just as Berggo hit the stool next to mine.

“This is ghastly,” Berggo sputtered before taking a long draught of bourbon.

I nodded. “If the Knights of St. Celestine ever hear about this meeting, I’ll be in for years of decidedly frosty luncheons.”

“I should have suspected something was wrong when Sister Agatha encouraged me to come here. But I assumed the meeting was sound, since Reeves let you come.”

“Er, yes, quite. Look, why don’t we move to a booth?” I dropped some money on the bar, knowing from experience that to wait for the Most Rev. Patrick Berger to offer to pay was a near occasion of the sin of despair.

Once tucked into a booth, Berggo fortified himself with another healthy sip of restorative before unburdening himself. “I was cornered by this … this …”

“Hearty female academic?” I suggested, drawing from my own experience.

“The mot juste. Or mots justes, I suppose, although it doesn’t make much difference while speaking, does it? Anyway, this hearty female academic collared me during the first break and launched into some prepared remarks on deontology and Greco-Semitic socioculturalism, the upshot of which was to thank me for breaking with the Vatican in my support for women priests.”

“What did you do?”

“I gave her a look of stern disapproval.”

“And she …?”

“Offered me an antacid.”

I nodded. Berggo’s looks of stern disapproval are often mistaken for looks of mild stomach discomfort. “A laicized priest sociologist followed me into the men’s room to press me for statistics on reception of Communion at weddings in my diocese,” I said. “Apparently, there is a conjecture in something called game theory he believes proves Canon Law permits Methodists to receive Communion.”


“He says he needs further data on Presbyterians.”

Berggo suddenly let out a sort of squawk, like a slumbering parrot grabbed from behind by a four-year-old.

“You spoke?” I said.

“I was just laughing at how much that ex-Marine-type fellow who just came into the bar looks like the papal nuncio.”

“Gark,” I said, or words to that effect.

“But of course it can’t be Cardinal Fratricidelli,” Berggo went on, “because he’s in Washington, and we … we’re ….” His voice trailed off.

Had someone detonated a lightweight but powerful landmine under the table in the next booth just then, I would not have heard it over the sound of Cardinal Fratricidelli’s voice. “Booster! Berger! What are you doing here?”



Monday, August 04, 2003

Which switch?

Here's a fiendish little puzzle:

There is a set of three light switches (each with the on and off switches properly marked) in the ground floor entryway of an old house. Each controls one of three outlets in a windowless workroom in the basement. The only light in the workroom is provided by a hundred watt lamp plugged into one of the outlets. The geometry of the house is such that there is no way to tell, while standing in the entryway, whether the light in the workroom is turned on.

If you turn on the light switches one at a time, checking to see whether the workroom lamp was turned on each time, you can determine which switch controls the outlet the lamp is plugged into in at most three trips to the workroom.

Is there a way guaranteed to determine which light switch controls the outlet the lamp is plugged into with exactly one trip outside the entryway? If so, what is it?

[Having someone else check doesn't count; no special apparatuses or explosives are allowed; the bulb in the lamp is not blown; you're not allowed in the workroom before the attempt.]


Saturday, August 02, 2003

A game to avoid meditating on your spiritual progress

I was meditating on my spiritual progress when I composed this
Nighttime Examen for the Phenomenally Tired
Naturally, I tried to think of a corresponding Morning Prayer for the Unreasonably Busy, but none of them were any good.

On the up-side, they make decent ink-dinks, as ink-dinks go.

An ink-dink, for the puzzled, is a riddle whose answer consists of two words that rhyme. (Formally, an ink-dink's answer is two one-syllable words; an inky-dinky is two two-syllable words; an inkity-dinkity is two three-syllable words.) The riddle is supposed to be two words, too. (For example, "Irish wolfhound" is "bog dog" and "proposal deflection" is "marry parry.")

Try these:
  1. Praise YHWH.
  2. Loving equality.
  3. Helps' arrangement.


Friday, August 01, 2003

Reeves in the Summertime

"Oh, Reeves," I said as my secretary glided into my office. "Fancy a trip to our nation's capital?"

"For what purpose, your excellency?"

"I've just got off the phone with Milton O'Brien. You recognize the name?"

"Yes, your excellency. Mr. O'Brien is the CEO of Gunthorp Amusement Corporation, which operates amusement parks in sixteen states."

"The very fellow!"

"Company profits have increased at an annual rate of fourteen percent since Mr. O'Brien assumed control of Gunthorp in 1998."

"Have they?"

"Mr. O'Brien first entered the amusement business in 1974, having patented a device –"


"Yes, your excellency?"

"I was merely asking whether you knew who Milton O'Brien was."

"Yes, your excellency."

"The point has been sufficiently established for our purposes."

"Yes, your excellency."

"The time may come to share the whole fascinating story of his climb to prominence in the world of amusements, but that time is not now."

"Yes, your excellency."

I gave him a reassuring smile. Things had been somewhat strained between us, due to some dated ideas Monsignor Reeves harbored regarding the proper facial expression for a bishop in his official press photograph, and I didn't want the situation to deteriorate.

"As I was saying," I went on, "Milton O'Brien has just called to invite me to an informal meeting he is arranging in Washington to discuss certain matters pertaining to the Church and society away from the public eye."

"It sounds somewhat irregular, your excellency. How many other bishops have been invited?"

"Just a few, I gather. O'Brien said I was just the sort of bishop the meeting needed, and there aren't too many of us out there, you know."

"No, your excellency."

"Broad minded, I mean, with a listening ear."

"Quite so, your excellency."

"In any case, the meeting is next Wednesday."

"I should advise against it, your excellency. While Mr. O'Brien may have the best of motives, there's a question of appearances –"

"Excuse me, Reeves." Reeves is an invaluable asset to me as a bishop, but he requires the occasional glimpse of the iron fist beneath the velvet glove to keep him from overstepping his bounds. "I was not informing you of this to ask your advice, but to tell you of my decision to attend."

"Very good, your excellency."

The semiquaver beat before he spoke belied his words. I put it down to his ongoing discontent with the smile I had used when photographed.



Thursday, July 31, 2003

Pledge break

Katy Zeitler is the 2003 college graduate who will be entering the Nashville Dominicans as a postulant in fifteen days if she can pay off the money she owes from college.

In true Dominican fashion, she's relying on prayer and begging.

At this point, she's whittled the debt down to under $6,000. If every regular reader of Disputations sends, oh, $300 to the Laboure Foundation ("for Katherine Zeitler"), then I think we could confidently let God worry about getting the balance paid off.

At the very least, prayer for Katy and all the other would-be religious in her situation (I gather August is a popular time to begin postulancy) is a loving spiritual work of mercy.


Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Calliopean musings

I've written in the neighborhood of 400 clerihews, the majority on saints and most of the rest on fictional detectives and their creators. I started writing clerihews when I found out that they paid the same as limericks ($2 each), but were one line shorter. (Plus the clerihew meter is easier.)

But now I'm thinking I've been a bit of a mug to waste all that creativity coming up with two pairs of rhymes, and I wonder whether the ideal two dollar poem isn't a three-liner, rhyme scheme ABA, of irregular meter. Something like this:
St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers.
A penchant for arguing all night
Remains one of its features.
Or maybe ABB:
St. Catherine of Siena
Is remembered for bossing around popes.
But not only for that, one hopes!
Or perhaps in dubiis libertas.

The next step, of course, would be a 2-liner, but I'm not sure there's enough flexibility for sustained, non-Ogden Nash-ripoff output. Besides, I once read a couplet called something like "The Maid's Schedule" that sets the bar higher than I could ever hope to reach:


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I don't know Jack the Giant Killer

I love folk tales. I just never realized how little I know about them before.


Monday, July 28, 2003

How to avoid intellectual stagnation

Learn something new every year.


Sunday, July 27, 2003

For what remains of the summer

Here's a fun little problem to keep the mind agile and young during the dog days of summer. (So if you're reading this from the Southern Hemisphere, save it for six months.)

Find the smallest integer greater than 1 such that:
  • dividing it by 9 leaves a remainder of 8;
  • dividing it by 8 leaves a remainder of 7;
  • dividing it by 7 leaves a remainder of 6;
  • dividing it by 6 leaves a remainder of 5;
  • dividing it by 5 leaves a remainder of 4;
  • dividing it by 4 leaves a remainder of 3;
  • dividing it by 3 leaves a remainder of 2;
  • dividing it by 2 leaves a remainder of 1.