Logic problem

In The Pyramids of Mars, Sarah-Jane Smith is trapped. There are two switches, one of which will release her, one of which will kill her. There are two guardians,  one of which tells the truth, the other always lying. The Doctor can ask one guardian one question. He asks,

“If I asked the other guardian which was the life switch, which would it indicate?”

The liar will lie about the truth-teller, and so indicate the death switch. The truth-teller will tell the truth about the liar, so indicate the death switch. The Doctor presses the other switch and Sarah is released.

John Finnemore did a sketch in which the guardians are fed up because everyone now knows what to ask- so they introduce a third guardian who strictly alternates, lying in one answer then telling the truth in the next. You will not know whether the alternator will lie or tell the truth, because you do not know which it did last time, to the last intrepid explorer. It will only change from lying to telling the truth if asked a question. There are still a life switch and a death switch. The only permitted questions are those which can be answered by a guardian pointing at a switch.

If you ask the first guardian, which is the Life switch, then ask the first the same question again, and the answers are different, you know that the first is the alternator, and you can ask the second guardian the Doctor’s question about the third. If the first’s answers are the same, and you ask the second guardian the same question twice, if the second’s answers are the same the third is the alternator: ask the first the Doctor’s question about the second; but if the second’s answers differ then it is the alternator, and you ask the first the Doctor’s question about the third. So you can always identify the life switch in five questions, and sometimes with three.

However, I can always identify the life switch with three questions.

What questions do you ask so that, whatever the answers, you can always find the life switch with three questions?

Call the guardians 1, 2 and 3 and the switches X and Y. Kudos to anyone who answers this. If anyone asks, I will answer it in a week, in the comments. (Added: The answer is now below, in the comments.)

I have no idea if anyone else has worked on this puzzle. It seems likely someone has. I thought I had answered it, then found a flaw in my argument, and scheduled this post for 1 April; but now, I am clear that I have answered the puzzle.

Bullying succeeds

Bullying works. That is why people do it.

The first letter the employer’s solicitor sends on receiving an employment tribunal claim is to the claimant, saying that the claim is without merit, but the employer will agree not to pursue costs against the claimant if the claimant agrees to drop the claim immediately. This is usual, whatever the merits of the claim. They seek to terrify the opponent into submission.

Bullying is applauded. I heard on the BBC that the gallery staff and security guards at the National Gallery had gone on strike, because their jobs had just been contracted out. The journalist commented that the unpopular outgoing director had been “doing his job”. Contracting out means steeply reducing wages and worsened working conditions. This is seen as normal, rather than doctrinaire extreme right.

Robert Peston’s programme Quelle Catastrophe! was billed as a report on the rise of the extreme right in France, but was the exact opposite. It was not an argument, but mockery of the French employment law code, which was portrayed as preventing French economic growth by preventing small businesses from expanding. The Front National wishes to reopen factories, for the benefit of the workers. That is a left wing policy, critiqued from an extreme-Right position which the BBC characterises as balanced.

In Britain, Nigel Farage appeals to the racists by calling for the repeal of race discrimination provisions in the Equality Act. He says British employers should be able to prefer British workers. The effect of this would be to erode the British workers’ rights, which is Farage’s real purpose.

This is not quite the #1000speak post envisaged: we were supposed to write of recovery from bullying. There may be uplifting tales of personal growth and increasing maturity and power on the link. But I have not recovered. I have not got over the bullying. Sometimes, as now, I am aware of futile, enervating anger and frustration.

More equal societies are healthier and happier. Now economic growth is the only aim, and all its proceeds must go to the wealthiest, and all services for others must be cut or extinguished, and schools must mould pupils in this ideology: and that is centrist, normal, obvious, rather than some insane Ayn Rand fantasy-

Here is the link to the 1000 voices speak for compassion posts on building from bullying.

Fortunately my inner voices are not bullying me as hard as they did.

Essence Process

Menis Yousry, the most empathetic person I have ever met, showed me something at the heart of me which I have been running from all my life, and so gave me self-respect for the first time. That was in November. Another group did the Foundation earlier this month, and fill Facebook with delight and wonder, and write of the emotional rollercoaster thereafter. I want to create this in my every-day life.

Menis gives complete acceptance and is wonderfully perceptive. He helps us untangle the problems which have been besetting us forever. He helps us forgive our shame and guilt. He leads the group so that we are all supporting the person sharing. This brings us together: it feels a wonderful close bond. Yet I do not foresee forming any lasting friendships with this group, and that is OK: they are far away, and of different backgrounds, and there are lively stimulating human beings nearby.

That line “What do you want the others here not to know about you?” is a way into self-absolving, yet that by itself even in a group of Quakers might just be dangerous and ineffective. I have my shames, still. The ones I brought up then are not shameful for me. Possibly that I do not know them, and will not see them again, helps us into this completely supportive way of being together.

Others besides Menis can create this atmosphere. He does it particularly well. Counselling works, an hour a week, though I like the intensity of five days.

Perhaps I cannot create this in ordinary life. I have retreated for my personal growth for years. It always feels that I see further from the mountain-top, but when I return to the valley I never lose all which I had seen. Each time I retreat, I see more clearly.

I maintain my self-acceptance through affirmations, mirror exercises, and meditation including metta. I have not meditated for some time. I fear it and avoid it, yet when I did so this evening it felt good. It does me good when I do it. But the heart of the Essence experience which I value is the acceptance of others: as a social being, it does me good.

I wondered, when with Community Building in Britain, whether the acceptance of each other depended on being with a group one did not know before, and would not know after. When we sought to do things together, suddenly the disagreements we had, and the judgments on how effectual another was, mattered. I don’t think it an absolute barrier, but when we work together in the long term it is a continual effort to create that acceptance.

I have not seen Terry for nine months. I told him “I have self-respect for the first time” and he said I had always seemed to have self-respect.


Thursday. The counsellor and the client sit in silence. The counsellor pays attention to the client, wanting the client’s good. She can sit like this for days, if necessary. The client does not look at her, but is curled up in her large soft winged chair, looking at her hands folded in her lap, comfortable enough, silent.

I have no idea what the surroundings are like, the two are what matter.


That again.



eye, Aye

I- want

I- want

I try to prompt, but can only think of prompts which are wrong. Fame? To hide? A job? Company?

I want-

I want Love-

I want to surrender

When my friend phones later, wondering why I have not gone to his house as arranged, I am dumbstruck. I can apologise but not explain. I have five, or seven, words, and nothing more. I have only just got up, at 2.15pm.

I should, I suppose, have gone into my ritual space, to meditate, to meet the silence where truth is, but- did not. Something in me stopped me. Yet I want to hear this deep unconscious. It might not be good for me: Licia’s was the most accomplished confidence trickster, wasting her life chasing illusion-

As I wanted, I am in that soft sweater and long soft skirt. I have Use of Weapons on my e-reader, something entertaining enough but unimportant. I have five words, and no plan of action, nothing further, only where I am now in the process, no light for the next step until I take it.

evelyn de Morgan, Earthbound

Montaigne on Euthanasia

Following the surgeon’s rule when he cuts off a limb, I declared that life should be amputated at the point where it is alive and healthy; he who repays not his debt to nature in good time usually finds she exacts interest with a vengeance.

Montaigne suffered from colic pain. I sympathise: I have been woken with pain so severe that I thought of getting a taxi to A&E, though knowing what it is and that it goes makes it easier to bear. I suffered occasionally, so have sympathy over his chronic colic without modern painkillers. Yet he found that during his paroxysms he could communicate, and to some extent converse, beyond the sighs, sobs, tremblings and drainings of colour which Nature has placed beyond our control.

He quotes Maecenas: lop off a hand; lop off a foot and a thigh; pull out all my teeth; life itself is Good.

It makes sense to me. The thing I imagine to be unbearable becomes bearable. Slowly losing my mind to dementia or my physical powers (reading an author, I find myself imitating them) seems horrible. Yet, in that state, I am not sure I would long for death.

In those cases where people go to Switzerland to die, when they can still make the journey, they do not know how it would be actually to be reduced, as they know their illness will reduce them. Would they long for death constantly, or find some consolation?

Paradoxically, then, I would permit a doctor to assist a suicide of someone terminally ill or with a severe condition, at home or in hospital: because then the person could wait longer, and might find the unimaginable bearable. My fear of [these pains] exceeded the suffering they now cause me: that fact further increases my belief that most of the faculties of our soul disturb our life’s repose rather than serve it. They might think of death, then listen to the siren song:
You don’t have to-
Not yet…

Montaigne portrait

Elinor’s faults

Elinor does not achieve her Sense through Stolidity. Though I knew the twist, I was again moved to tears by her reunion with Edward. She moderates her feeling with rational consideration of facts, likelihoods, honour and propriety, and seeks to pacify it and not to show it.

Of course the novel is about many things, but in part it is a satire of other novels: that Willoughby was forever inconsolable, that he fled from society, or died of a broken heart, must not be depended on. This only makes sense if her earliest readers’ expectation had been just that. When I first read it, it seemed a scream of loneliness: Elinor has no friend to whom she can open her thoughts, none who has her level of understanding, none who can be trusted. All save Brandon, Edward, Marianne and her mother are ninnies, or monsters, or both, and Marianne and their mother are crippled by giving themselves over to emotional response to immediate stimulus, without further thought.

There is little criticism of a society in which rentiers live on the labour of others- John Dashwood’s enclosure of the commons shows his miserliness but is not disapproved. Women, who can not have education or employment beyond needlework, are dependent on marrying well; I cannot condemn Lucy Steele, who devotes all her energies to this, and Austen rewards her with a good marriage, with more wealth than she had expected, only lacking domestic harmony. Lucy, too, is an intelligent woman marooned among fools.

I find Elinor perfect, and cast around for fault in her. She values reality above appearance unlike most of society; she values Love between a couple, rather than just “a good match”; she is fully conscious of her feelings behind a calm exterior, never affected; she values probity and honour above propriety. She has a generous care for the feelings and rights of all, even Lucy, never responding to Lucy’s barbs in kind.

Possibly she could have opened up to Colonel Brandon earlier. She knows his merit. He is trustworthy, but she does not trust him. Half way through the book he calls on Mrs Jennings in London, and they talk desultorily, calmly, with little interest on either side. Had she opened her heart to him Marianne’s sufferings might have been less.

She could have trusted her mother more. She seeks to manage and care for her, fearing her Sensibility, where the mother could have been brought to understanding. However, either of these sensible courses would have shortened the novel and lessened its drama considerably.

She forgives Willoughby, a little, because of his charm, though recognising charm has no merit. Well, she has a warm heart and a female appreciation of male beauty.

I love the satire, of the foolishness, and the vicious angling for that Good Marriage. And now I hear that other novels of the period exalted Sensibility, I understand it more.

John Masey Wright, portrait of Mrs. Martha Udney

Elinor and Marianne

Elinor good, Marianne bad?

When I read Sense and Sensibility in my twenties, that was clear. Elinor was sensible, Marianne merely ridiculous in her emotional responses. I had not heard of Sensibility, the 18th century concept of human responses to particular stimuli. Now, it seems that Elinor does not lack any of Marianne’s emotional responses, but tempers them with common sense, so that she is not too hurt by circumstance.

It is not just the relative maturity of girls of 19 and 16, but attitude and principle. [Marianne’s] violent oppression of spirits continued the whole evening. She was without any power, because she was without any desire of command over herself. She believes that it is right to express what one feels, so feeds and encourages her violent sorrow as a duty. Also, she is responding to the immediate stimulus of Willoughby leaving;  she does not think, first, of what might the reason be, or what he might do next, which might console her: any consolation would be inauthentic.

Elinor is without affectation of any feelings but her own. They are introduced in the first chapter: Elinor, this eldest daughter, whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart;- her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong’ but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn; and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.

Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.

Perhaps Elinor is unduly negative, as her mother accuses: You would rather take evil upon credit than good. You had rather look out for misery for Marianne, and guilt for poor Willoughby, than an apology for the latter. But to me she has the gift of thinking through and judging circumstance as well as forming an emotional reaction to her immediate perception, which would make her happier as well as wiser. So I thought that the author identified with this character.

I would find Marianne incomprehensible, had I not heard that she followed a fashion for heroines to exhibit such sensibility. She boasts her closed-mindedness: At my time of life opinions are tolerably fixed. It is not likely that I should now see or hear any thing to change them. The mind can close, so young- how horrible! When Edward Ferrars first visits the cottage, then leaves after a week, Elinor has a variety of feelings- tenderness, pity, approbation, censure, and doubt- produced by the varying states of her spirits, but always with consideration.

David, Portrait of Adélaide Pastoret

Convictions and Compassion

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

-Rick Warren

“Lifestyle” is code for LGBT, though could be expanded to other things Warren disapproves of. This is the Rick Warren who inspired the Ugandan anti-homosexuality legislation. He claims to have compassion for gays even while comparing our love to “punching a guy on the nose”. Delight in Truth finds him a backslider but they imagine the World is utterly depraved.

Saying what he thinks about gay people, that our desires are wrong, and campaigning against equal marriage, he still imagines he is compassionate. He knows better than we, after all. He desires our highest good. I would say, “Please! Go and love someone else!”

I know Steph’s alcoholism is bad for her. I saw she had lost her teeth to it. Her mouth is a sorry sight, and she finds her false teeth painful. But I would not stop her drinking. It is her escape from her pain. If I could show her a more healthy or fulfilling escape, I would, and there is my difficulty: Warren believes that leading a gay person to faith in his strange Christ of sterile commandments is liberating rather than enslaving.

I have to acknowledge Warren imagines he is compassionate: his arrogance blinds him to all the contrary evidence.

Another line: if Warren said that he shall not allow his convictions to get in the way of his compassion, a statement of intent, it would be less bad. There would be a chance that he would listen to us. Instead he says he does not, a claim about his conduct, so that however vicious it is he believes himself loving. Confident he is right, he refuses all evidence to the contrary. That is not respectful, even if he intends compassion. Stopping drinking is so difficult that the person must want for themself to change, must see something better is possible. Telling them that it is without persuading them merely antagonises them.

Warren is a homophobe despite his protestations. He has taken into himself generations of hatred and oppression of gay people.

Hogarth Rake's Progress 8- In the madhouse

Affirmation IV

I am as I am because I am traumatised.

I could trot out my stories again, to try to persuade you- that is, persuade myself- that it really was that bad, that anyone in these circumstances would be this hurt. But that does not matter. If any person of more than minimal resilience could bear my burdens, hardly noticing them, they have still overwhelmed me. However strong I was, I have been overwhelmed.

Now, having self-respect for the first time, I no longer deny my trauma. “Get up, get up, Get On With It!” cried the inner critic, and I reply that I would if I could. I had a lovely time this morning: I cycled in the sunshine to Swanston for tea with Richard, who complained that the OED has accepted the “wrong” use of the word “refute” to mean “deny”. I can cope with complex human interaction.

These stories: serious threat of loss of funding and job; bullying and failure; failure; failure and loss of funding and job; failure. Ah, that’s interesting. Thinking of this post, I was planning to talk about various unpleasantnesses, but I am quite happy in certain social situations and even with Quakers. However I am quite literally work-shy, though that term is a pejorative, rarely or never thought to be a mental condition. The thought of going into an office, paid or voluntary, or starting the kind of project I used to undertake puts me into avoidance behaviour. I called this post “Affirmation” and thought of writing about how I was going to self-care by seeking out social situations. This realisation changes things.

I am Abigail.
I have been badly hurt.
I will care for,
and value myself
as best I see how.

And then, something wonderful, and passing strange.

I am- upset. Sad, and likely to weep, without knowing why. And-

part of me-

asks, What is it? Something existential about my whole life, or some small matter just today?

That- part- is not unsympathetic, but still misses the mark. It is like a man seeing his wife crying, and asking “What’s wrong?” However kindly meant, his intention to find the cause of the problem and fix it is not right, in the moment.

I think of Robert Holden’s mirror exercise. “I am willing to make today the best/happiest day of my life.” Perhaps “let be” might be better than “make”. I want to let go of judgment as to what “best” might look like. What

part of me-

is doing the making?
In the shower, again. I permit the feeling of upsetness. Then,

Another part of me!
A wonderful part of me!
Beauty and Delight

in the upsetness
starts saying



I- I- I- I- I- 

I- AM! I- AM!

feeling the upsetness
permitting the upsetness

I am!

I- beauty and delight- repeat

I am

feeling the upsetness, then joy, and finally singing it, to a simple I , , , V , , , IV , , , V , , , … chord progression, bass line and descant, dancing to it….

I Am
is the only affirmation I need

Boldini, profile of a young woman

Feminism and choice

How might I understand the choices people make?

Sometimes people make choices because they are oppressed. Possibly, a Muslim woman in a hijab- head-scarf- or niqab, face covering, is oppressed, by societal or family pressure, and possibly she has decided to wear it as a positive affirmation that she is Muslim, and as a defence against the sexualisation of women in Western culture. Arguably the Koran does not require women to cover so completely, merely requiring their dress to be “modest”, and arguably the predominantly non-Muslim culture cannot do anything to relieve the oppression.

Do what you can to relieve oppression.

I want to turn heads. I want to attract attention and interest. While carriage and mien help, fashion is a good tool. That is difficult: I do not go where I may observe fashionable people, and most of my clothes purchases are in charity shops. Is it “oppressive” that something fashionable two years ago is now past it, that I must buy a new wardrobe twice a year?

Considering the examples of the celibate gay Christian and the housewife, there are many choices which could involve internalised or external oppression but few which do so of necessity.

Why do women stay with violent partners? Because their self-confidence is destroyed by that partner, and they do not see an alternative. People do things which they do not choose to do. I asked a woman if her husband hit her, and she said “Only occasionally”. Some of us have deep-seated psychological scars, and the violence fulfils some sort of strange need.

Why do women become sex workers? Some are trafficked and brutalised, some are privileged and sex-positive.

Choices affect others. Does the prevalence of pornography affect the culture in a harmful way?

Choices can appear irrational. I do not understand my choice to transition. If I say “I am a woman” I might not be explaining it, but explaining it away. There was a desire in me which I could not resist, however hard I tried- I would call the resistance “Internalised transphobia”- which was the most important thing in my life, which eventually I actualised.

I tend to feel that a person’s choice to harm herself is an attempt to make her life better: we drink to avoid consciousness of pain.

I am in favour of the freedom of every human being 
to pursue their own good in their own way, 
so long as they do not harm others.

But the political position that requires me to adopt on any particular issue is not always clear.

Evelyn de Morgan, Angel piping to the souls in Hell