Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Da Vinci Crock

Lewis Purdue, author of Daughter of God and The Da Vinci Legacy, left a comment regarding my post Plagiarism or Greed? on the recent lawsuits against Dan Brown. He said:

If you examine the facts at, you will find that I am donating proceeds from the suit to charity.

And that Random House sued ME, not the other way around.

And the legal fight is not over. Next hearing in NYC on April 11

Lewis, thank you for visiting my blog and setting me straight about your problems with Random House. The media sure didn't report your story accurately. (How typical!)

As promised I'm putting this in a new post with the link to your Da Vinci Crock so my readers (few though they may be) will get the whole story.

I've also put your books on my list of books to read and recommend we all read them in the interest of fairness.

I'm sure I won't be the only one waiting to see how your case turns out. Good luck, Lewis!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Oh no! Sudoku!

It finally happened. Like so many other people I have become hooked on the latest puzzle craze: Sudoku. It's my sister-in-law's fault for letting me try her handheld electronic Sudoku. It's much easier than playing the paper-and-pencil version, and I can actually finish puzzles (easy ones, anyway).

For those who don't know, Sudoku looks like a crossword puzzle but uses numbers. I didn't think I'd like it because I'm terrible at crosswords and Scrabble. (Yes, I know it's ironic. *sigh*) Unlike crosswords, Sudoku uses logic rather than knowledge of obscure words even English majors have never heard of; maybe that's why I like it. It reminds me of cryptograms, which I love.

I love it so much I bought my own LCD Ultimate Sudoku handheld game at Wal-Mart. It's somewhat clunky compared to the kind that comes with a stylus (which you can buy at Target or Kay Bee Toys) but I like it because you can get hints if you want, make uncertain answers flash until you figure them out, choose from three levels of play, and even input puzzles from other sources. There's a built-in timer, too. All this for $13! The only thing I don't like is that you can't turn the sound off. I kind of like the sound but it would be inconvenient for travel (unless you want to annoy other people).

If you want to try Sudoku I recommend Web Sudoku. It includes instructions and you can play on-line or print the puzzles. This site has millions of puzzles with four difficulty levels (easy, medium, hard, and evil) and shareware to download so you can play Sudoku on your own computer (PC or Mac) anytime. If you play on-line you can get hints, just like the handheld version. (I like hints!)

The Daily Sudoku is also good but the site is undergoing maintenance just now. You can't play on-line but there is a printable archive with puzzles of all levels of difficulty. The site includes instructions, four types of puzzles (Classic, Monster, Kids, and Squiggly), and the option of choosing the size of the printed puzzle. The kids' section has puzzles that are good for kids or adult beginners and you have the option of choosing numbers or letters.

I recommend this game, especially the electronic form, for anyone who enjoys puzzles or wants to improve their logic/critical thinking. Using my LCD Ultimate Sudoku handheld game my time has improved from about 30 minutes to about 10 minutes for an easy puzzle. I'm enjoying it so much I might even try an intermediate puzzle sometime.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Treasures of Ancient Egypt: The Quest for Immortality

If you are looking for something cool to do on the west side of the state, visit the Treasures of Ancient Egypt: The Quest for Immortality exhibit at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids. This is one of the best Egyptian exhibits I've ever seen and "the exhibition contains the largest and most comprehensive selection of antiquities ever loaned by Egypt, many never seen outside the country." Yes, you would have to visit the museum in Cairo to see this stuff.

  • Statue of Osirus rising
  • Statue of Osirus as King of the dead
  • 8-foot head of Ramses II
  • 2 gold mummy masks
  • 1 nearly intact beaded mummy net
  • Recreation of Tuthmose III's burial chamber
  • Exquisite, delicate jewelry of a princess
There's lots more: shabtis, coffins, god statues (of all sizes), even a boat! This exhibit is worth the drive to Grand Rapids and the $17 entry fee. If you are not familiar with Egyptology you might also want to spring $6 for the self-guided audio tour. Hurry! The exhibit ends May 7.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Plagiarism or Greed?

Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, is being sued for plagiarism. According to Lawyer: Dan Brown evidence suspect, published yesterday on CNN:
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are suing Da Vinci Code publisher Random House, claiming Brown's book "appropriated the architecture" of their 1982 nonfiction book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Both books explore theories -- dismissed by theologians -- that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, the couple had a child and the bloodline survives.
Brown indirectly acknowledged Leigh and Baigent by naming a character, Sir Leigh Teabing (an anagram of Baigent) after them, but they want more. Their lawsuit could even delay release of the new film of The Da Vinci Code.

According to 'Da Vinci Code' case nears ending, published Sunday on CNN, this not the first time Brown has been sued over The Da Vinci Code, "Last August he won a court ruling against Lewis Perdue, who alleged The Da Vinci Code copied elements of two of his novels, Daughter of God and The Da Vinci Legacy."

What do these cases have in common? Greed, I'm sure. The Da Vinci Code has been on The New York Times best-seller list for two years and has sold over 40 million copies. 40 million! Just imagine that. Even if Dan Brown makes less than a dollar in royalties per book, he has made millions. I'm sure Leigh and Baigent, like Perdue before them, are motivated by the idea of getting part of that money.

I hope they don't. I'm ticked because of their greed and because their lawyer is now trying to drag Brown's wife, who helped with the research, into the case. If Leigh and Baigent win, does it mean authors can't use non-fiction or history in fictional works? I supposed we can thank James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, for muddying the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, but Brown acknowledged that fact that he's read lots of books on his subject and none of the ideas are really new. He's right. What's new is the creative and compelling story he created that is driving people to learn more about art, history, and religion -- and I hope he's not punished for that.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Would Jesus Use an Apostrophe?

The other day I passed church sign that said:

Are you ready for Jesus return?

I don't think the sign had the intended affect result.* All I could think if was WPWJU (What punctuation would Jesus use)?

I wish people would learn how to use apostrophes!

* This is for you, Mermaldad! Everyone else can read the comments to see why.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Two Irish men were shipwrecked. After some time in the water they manage to crawl up on an iceberg.

"Are we safe now?" asked Patty.

"Of course," said Mike. "Look, here comes Titanic!"

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Eat or Sleep? Now you can do both at the same time!

According to "Study Links Ambien Use To Unconscious Food Forays" by Stephanie Saul published in The New York Times Tuesday Late Edition - Final on March 14, 2006, page 1:
The sleeping pill Ambien seems to unlock a primitive desire to eat in some patients, according to emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug's users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands.

The next morning, the night eaters remember nothing about their foraging. But they wake up to find telltale clues: mouthfuls of peanut butter, Tostitos in their beds, kitchen counters overflowing with flour, missing food, and even lighted ovens and stoves. Some are so embarrassed, they delay telling anyone, even as they gain weight.
One patient "did not link Ambien to her nocturnal eating until after she gained 100 pounds," even after her family told her about her sleep eating. Why on earth not? Where did she think the weight was coming from? Did she just wake up every morning and say, "Wow, honey, I slept really well, but I seem to have gained a bit of weight -- hey! where's all our food? Oh, well, time to hit the grocery store."

If you don't have electronic access to the NY Times, you read a simliar story on Fox News today: Ambien linked to "Sleep Eating."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Curse Continues

I wrote too soon about things being back to normal, technologically. Today my iRiver portable CD player died. It was only two years old and I loved it for several reasons:
  • It was so slim and portable -- with skip protection, too!
  • It had a car adaptor, so I never had to listen to the radio.
  • It played mp3 format. I could convert my audio books to mp3 and fit a book on one disk. That meant listening to a whole book without the inconvenience of switching disks while driving.
  • It had easy-to-use switches (off, on, pause, reverse, etc.) that I could use without taking my eyes from the road.
Now it's dead and the company no longer makes portable CD players; they have been replaced with iPod-type mp3 players.

I love my iPod but I don't want to use it in the car, not even with a car adaptor and dashboard iPod holder. To do so would mean taking my eyes off the road. *Sigh.*

Fortunately, iRiver has a web site and an 800 number for customer service. They helped me find an older version of my beloved CD player in their clearance section. The price was so low they were practically giving it away. UPS tracking says it will arrive Friday, just in time for my trip to Kalamazoo Saturday, so I am saved from the boredom of radio and the danger of using an iPod in the car ... for now.

Oh, the (Technological) Irony

After my post the other day on Amazing Technology two things happened to shake my faith in my current technology.

First, on Friday I couldn't get on the Internet. Everything was hooked up correctly all the modem and router lights were happy, etc. First I called my Internet provider, then I called the company that made my router, both walked me through a bunch of troubleshooting steps, said it wasn't their product, and blamed the other. (Of course!) I spent the morning at the library using the free Wi-Fi only to discover that the problem had mysterious corrected itself by the time I got home. My IT buddy Dan called it a "server hiccup" -- there was nothing technically wrong, just a temporary loss of connection to my service provider. How annoying! I hope that doesn't happen often.

Second, on Sunday my Airport Express (which allows us to use our laptops wirelessly) died. I mean dead, and it's only two months old. Fortunately, Apple has outstanding customer service. They immediately shipped a replacement which arrived the next day! I was less pleased with CompUSA who would not exchange it, even though it was under warranty, because we didn't purchase their CompUSA customer service along with the Airport Express. I believe customer service should come with a purchase, not be something I pay extra for. Needless to say, I will never purchase anything from CompUSA again!

So things are back to normal and, technologically, life is good.

I love technology ... when it works.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

That Explains Everything!

I found this in an ad on WebMD:

"Being active and over 40 can be a pain. Boomeritis."

That explains everything!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Amazing Technology

Technology amazes me. My first computer didn't have a hard drive. It took up the entire desk and weighed a ton (and it was small compared to its contemporaries).

My first hard drive was external and held 20 or 30 MB. I never imagined filling up all that space. Compared to our currently technology this is laughable, especially when you look at the size of the case. Talk about big and clunky!

My laptop PowerBook G4 weighs less than 5 pounds and does everything a desktop computer can, plus it's wireless. It holds 2,000 times as much data as my first hard drive.

My Lexar Jump Drive Pro holds a gigabyte. It's the size of my thumb and holds 50 times more data than my first hard drive!

My 4GB iPod Nano holds over 200 times more data than my first hard drive!

I use my laptop, jump drive, and iPod daily and I am still amazed. If computer technology has advanced this much in the last 20 years, what does the future hold? I can hardly wait to see. Maybe I will live to see Star Trek type computers. Scotty, beam me up!


Math and computer geeks can skip this section; it is for the mathematically impaired (like me). I had to ask two different people to calculate the comparison of my first hard drive to my current technology. LOL.

How the heck are gigs (GB), megs (MB), etc. measured? Here's a quick reference from greatest to least:

Gigabyte = 1 billion bytes, or 1024 MB.
Most hard drives are now measured in GBs.

Megabyte = 1 million bytes, or 1024 KB
According to Wikipedia, a megabyte of data can roughly hold:
* one larger book (excluding images)
* one "typical" sized photograph with reasonably good quality
* a hundred small images
* roughly a minute of compressed music

For comparison: A CD holds 700 MB of data or 80 min. of uncompressed music

Kilobyte = 1024 bytes
This is how much a 3" floppy disk holds.

Byte = 8 bits. Standard unit of measure for computer storage space.

Bit = binary digits

Binary digits (or binary code) are the magic combination ones and zeros that make your computer work.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

History vs. Fiction

Yesterday I stopped at a Speedway for some pop and ran smack into a conflict of academia vs. popular fiction. One the guys who worked there was telling someone about the Knights Templar in great detail. When I got to the counter I asked him if he was interested in the Templars. He said,

(WARNING: Academics of a sensitive nature will probably be horrified by his answer and should stop reading now.)

"Yeah, I've read The Da Vinci Code and seen Kingdom of Heaven."

There was a long pause as I tried to decide how to encourage this young man's interest in the Templars without sound like a condescending jerk by telling his sources are fiction which took great liberties with history in order to tell an entertaining story.

I finally said, "You know, if you are interested in the Templars, there are much better sources you could read."

Instead of being offended he was very interested. "How did you know about the Templars?" he asked.

I fought the urge to say "I read history books" and instead I explained I was college instructor and had long been interested in the Middle Ages.

He wanted to know if I could recommend any books and of course I could only think of one (Dungeon, Fire, and Sword by John J. Robinson) so I suggested he try any library and search on "Templars" or "Knights of the Temple."

(WARNING: U of M profs of a sensitive nature, especially history profs, will probably be horrified his answer and should stop reading now.)

"Cool," he said. "I go to U of M, I'll try the library there."

I restrained myself from asking if he'd had a class in history or research, or asking why he hadn't already done so, and instead encouraged him to visit the library soon.

I was horrified by this encounter. I knew some people have trouble understanding The Da Vinci Code is fiction, but hadn't run into it quite like this. I wish Dan Brown nothing but success (I liked all of his books, including The Da Vinci Code) but I think he needs to print "This is a work of fiction" on the cover instead of putting in the preface/forward/wherever.

If the young man from Speedway is reading this, I'm not picking on you, but please restore my faith in logic and common sense by reading some reliable sources about the Templars.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fat Tuesday Treat

Paczki - (pronunciation: punch key) pl. Paczki. n. Polish for jelly-filled doughnut rolled in powdered sugar. A special treat eaten on Fat Tuesday, even by those who do not intend to give up such treats for Lent.

Fat Tuesday always sparks a debate over who makes the best Paczki. I think it's the Home Bakery in Davison but I have some of friends will only buy them from Jablonski's Baker's Corner (authentic Polish bakery) in Burton.

What's the best filling? Bavarian cream -- it's like pudding inside a doughnut. I don't crave sweets so one Paczki a year is just about right, as long as it's Bavarian cream.