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Sudoku: The Slippery Slope

November 10, 2009

Choosing how to spend your time. A cautionary tale.

091109SuDoku Left: Recently completed Sudoku puzzle. Click on the image to view an enlargement if you must.

"Hello, Linda?"

"Hi Roz."

"You Suck. I hate you. I really, really hate you."

An actual opening of a recent conversation with my good friend Linda, who, either because she knows from past experience that even when I'm annoyed with her I can't hate her, and because she knows she doesn't suck, and perhaps because my stern tone, with a hint of repressed giggle gave it away, was not at all anxious, and in fact was laughing.

This is a cautionary tale. Think about it.

About a month ago my friend Linda taught me how to play Sudoku while we waited for our dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant (Ruam Mit in St. Paul; yes they had curry puffs).

I was having trouble focusing at the dinner table and it didn't seem all that fun or interesting at the time. But at last I knew what it was "everyone" else was trying to accomplish when working one of these puzzles, and she did go on and on about how it would help retain brain power—so maybe that means she thought I was losing my brain power? At any rate, I picked up a book of easy puzzles by Will Shortz (because I hear him on NPR, love his voice, and trust him). It was a good choice and I started doing a couple puzzles a day. (Initially it would take me about 20 minutes and I had to overcome my propensity for flipping things.) Then I had a sleepless bit and did more puzzles. After about 10 days I realized something shocking: I hadn't worked in my journal in 4 days!

That's where the cautionary tale comes in. I realized that I was using all those little bits of time I always talk about "finding" in your day, to do Sudoku. I panicked and called Linda to let her know she sucked.

Of course we had a good laugh, and back in touch with the reality of how I want to spend my time, I'm only doing a Sudoku puzzle every few days if that. And it is limited to an early morning or late night adventure only.

Thing is, I believe that it does use your brain in interesting ways. But I also believe that the way I use my journal, ponder things, work things out, rethink things, experiment, challenge myself, challenge my comfortable working methods with new methods—I think all that uses my brain in interesting ways too. Both take time. I've got to give the majority of those found moments to my journal, because it's a slippery slope. I choose my journal.

(Oh, OK, since my copier broke recently and I'm still deciding on replacements I'm using Dick's printer-copier-scanner. It's very slow—so when I copy handouts for my classes I do sudoku. It's a choice.)

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  1. Reply

    I have the propensity to love video games and have not bought one because I know I would play-all-day-long!

    • Carolyn
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    hmm, I’ve never done Sudoku…
    You could add your finished Sudoku’s to your journal pages…puzzle, cut, paste, paint, transform, (voila!) … and repeat…
    Brain synapses firing galore and new pathways forming all over the place.

    • Roz
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Melanie, I used to play solitaire on Dick’s computer when I would be up in his study. (I don’t have it on my computer for obvious reasons.) Events happened to “cure” me of it and I won’t go near a computer game because of that! I’m glad you’re avoiding the video games. (I once had a computer tech who played one of those Sim City [sp? name?] type games over 30 hours a week and wondered why his wife was upset with him!)

    • Roz
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Naw Carolyn, that’s too much time that I could be painting! I can see putting in one…check back later and make sure I have stopped playing while generating some for the journal!

  2. Reply

    You are so right Roz. And there are so many ways to spend time unproductively – or at least not the way we think we want to spend our time. My downfall is the internet. I enjoy the Sudoku puzzles too, but usually limit myself to the one published in our newspaper once a week.

    • karen
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Hi Roz, you suck. You gave me Su DoKu for Dummies and now I’m hooked. It’s as bad as my previous scrabble addiction, and since I don’t need to find someone to play with me, it’s calling me all the time! While I write this, the pull is even stronger. I hate you.

    • Christina Trevino.
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Sudoku…TV…housework…I don’t like to waste my time, haha.
    I’d rather read.

  3. Reply

    I’m all for activities that release stress, but they can also easily creep into the “wasted time category. Also, being creatives, sometimes the sky’s the limit on our creativity..interests from drawing/painting to playing the Irish tin whistle. When I found out I was going to be a grandma, I dropped everything and learned how to knit…a year later….not much done in my journal or art, but boy, did I knit up a storm! I guess the key is balance, and sometimes it’s hard to achieve!

    • Carol C.
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Hi, Roz—You reminded me of how I got started in Sudoku….I did the very same thing, found a version of Will Shortz’s intro books….I celebrated your reminder to me of Sudoku by doing it online, but as I played the game I thought about how much I’d miss your blog if you spent more time on games. I celebrate your making the better choice!

    • Roz
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Cheryl, I have to watch my internet usage! I don’t surf or search a lot. I have friend who do and keep me posted on things. I could sit down in the a.m. and never get up until bedtime if I didn’t limit the computer time!

    • Roz
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    I love you Karen!

    • Roz
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Hey Christina, you could listen to books on tape while you cleaned!

    • Roz
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Nancy, you have hit the nail on the head. It is about BALANCE!!! I got the idea one day to make a stuffed creature for my niece who was about 4 or 5 at the time. Anyway, 9 creatures later I finally stopped. (Each was named and had a special tag with its name, a different face, and there were 30 some thumbnail sketches for others that were never made, except for the name tags, ready and waiting.) So all I did was sew all weekend one weekend.

    I kept one for myself (Newton, the original one) and gave one to Phyllis when she had her second knee operation and was in the nursing home) but the other 7 went to the niece and I guess she enjoyed them (according to her mom), but I really enjoyed making them.

    But I didn’t get anything else done all weekend and had to say STOP IT ROZ.

    So yeah, it’s about balance.

    • Roz
    • November 10, 2009
    Reply

    Carol, never fear, I would rather blog than play Sudoku.

  4. Reply

    Hi Roz-Just discovered your blog through Rice’s. Good stuff here 🙂

    I play Suduko on my handheld Nintendo DS-talk about addicting. I end up staying up way too late, many times only stopping when the battery dies!

    Keep bloggong and I will keep reading!

    • Roz
    • November 11, 2009
    Reply

    Sharyn, I’m glad you found my blog, but we’ve got to get you to bed earlier—that journaling, exercising, reading, [whatever] time. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that your batteries die early every night!

  5. Reply

    Roz, my husband thinks crossword puzzles are good for our aging brains so we get to do THREE online puzzles a day. Way too many for me and they make me fall asleep. I actually have to get up and go do something different for 5 minutes between numbers 2 and 3. When I work in my journal I perk up no matter how tired when I start. So, which is using my brain the most? I’d say journaling.

    • Roz
    • November 12, 2009
    Reply

    Timaree, that sounds like a scientific study to me. I’m in your camp.

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