The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Game

I faced a catastrophe last night. Out of this most dire and woesome situation, I learned a valuable lesson. We'll get to that lesson eventually but we must first provide some background.

My primary use of my computer involves playing solitaire. Specifically, the game of solitaire called Freecell. It is just about the most productive task I accomplish on it anyway. I take great pride in my ability to solve each game I play. I should not even call it play. It is so much more than that. Each game is a puzzle consisting of 52 different objects which are randomly assembled and which I must manipulate and move onto 4 piles of 13 objects each in a particular order. There are rules I must follow in order to do this. The computer is one that enforces those rules and determines whether I have won or lost.

Or so it would seem. If I used a physical deck of cards, rather than a virtual one, then I would be the enforcer of the rules and cheating would be easy... and tempting. (Oh, like none of you ever cheated at solitaire) The computer keeps me honest, for the most part. I rationalize a little. After all, I do engage in backing up the cards.

Backing up entails reversing the moves I have made and trying a different tactic. One which, hopefully, allows me to solve the puzzle. At one time, the computer version by Microsoft did not allow you to back up more than one move. So you might be doomed to lose if you made one mistake and did not catch it immediately. Fortunately, cooler heads finally prevailed and the game was modified to allow you to back up to the very beginning.

There are 32,000 variations of how these cards can be initially dealt out. That means there are 32,000 different puzzles. Some of them, it is said, are impossible to solve. Since the deals of each game are random, I could be facing one of these at any time. It is also possible to select a specific game by number and walk through all 32,000. I choose the random approach.

Last night, I faced what appears to be an unsolvable puzzle, an unwinnable game. A catastrophe. A crushing of my overblown and exceedingly fragile ego.
I faced losing the second game since starting to play them on this computer. And the first in 1590 straight games.

Some of you may have noticed, and wondered about, the numbers that appear at the bottom of many of my posts. The code to them is simple:

[wins/games played/length of current winning streak]

But last night I faced a horror, a disaster of great magnitude. I could not find a way to solve game # 13751. I tried one way, then another, then yet another. I spent twenty minutes trying different approaches, different strategies, all to no avail.

I was desolated. I was sinking into a morass of misery and depression the likes of which I had not seen since learning I was not an alien from outer space but was, indeed, human. I was crushed.

Trapped in a corner, my mind squirmed and wriggled, trying to figure a way out of this trap.

And then it came to me, purely by accident, at the moment of my darkest hour. I backed up to the beginning of the game and hit the little "x" in the upper right-hand corner, defeated and resigned to face the sad dirge of my utter failure. At that point, it just went away. Instead of the usual prompt that asks you to admit defeat with a dialog box that asks if you wish to save or abandon the game (or cancel so you can return to pulling your hair out), nothing happened. The window just closed.

And the best part? The lesson learned? The record of wins and losses remained as it was before I had started.

I am saved.


[1722/1723/1591]

4 comments:

The Jules said...

I was wondering about those numbers at the bottom.

You know those Sudoku games, where you figure out which numbers go in which little boxes?

Well, apparently, nobody checks!

You can put any number in any box, and no one knows!

I'm a winner!

Butler and Bagman said...

Boy, I wish it was that easy in real life...that I could go back and close out from before the beginning. Although then I'd probably be stuck at 13 years old, starting the same life over and over and over. But at least I'd have never actually lost.

Douglas said...

Jules, is it cheating if no one catches you? Or is it just clever reading of the rules?

B&B, I had not considered solitaire as a metaphor for life. Until you mentioned it.

The Jules said...

I was wondering about those numbers at the bottom.

You know those Sudoku games, where you figure out which numbers go in which little boxes?

Well, apparently, nobody checks!

You can put any number in any box, and no one knows!

I'm a winner!