Creative Writing, Essays

Sudoku

The other day one hairdresser was dyeing my hair while another and I talked about Facebook and games.  She told me that she dislikes intensely Scrabble but loves to play Words with Friends on Facebook.  Yes, she knows that it’s the same game, but to her it’s different.  She still was astounded when a friend told her that she can’t wait to get the new board game, Words with Friends, played on real-life cardboard or tin, purchased in Wal-Mart or K-Mart or Target.   This hairdresser said, “Don’t they know it’s just Scrabble!?!”

I know the feeling.  I’m in love with Sudoku, not the ones found in a paper magazine bought at the last minute before checkout or the errant ones in daily or weekly newspapers, but the app I’ve downloaded on my IPad and IPhone.  I play it in the middle of the night on my IPad while the blue lPad light further intensifies my sleepless night.  I play it on my IPhone in the car while I’m waiting to pick up someone or going through a drive-in.  I play it before I un-pause a tv show after pouring myself a cuppa of tea–yes, I’m also in love with British mysteries, not the blood and guts stuff, but the ones with intrigue and any murder committed is only incidental. It’s the solving of the murder that’s important, the logic of the chase.

I play Sudoku when I’m also reading a novel on the IPad–Catching Fire, the second in the Hunger Games Trilogy, can’t compete with the logic of Sudoku.  I read for a while, then I play one game, then two, then read, and then back to the IPad to play a game or two.  I also play Chess on my IPad, Spider Solitaire with four decks, and I have a Bridge App.  The Bridge App frightens me, for I find I like playing the bridge app more than going online and playing with real-life virtual people on the other end of their computers in France, Turkey, Holland, Columbia, Saudi–so many I can’t count.  At least the computer is predictable while those bridge fanatics can be so nasty at times, especially when a partner calls me an idiot right before he or she leaves the game; or, if she or he is the table leader, removes me without so much as a by-your-leave.  The only way that I know my bridge is improving is that online I seldom get called names or have to read ????????? or WHAT!! in the chatroom when I make a stupid mistake.  If I’m lucky to be the table leader, I can boot him or her before I read any more.  When I have to decipher if I’m being cussed out in Chinese or French or Arabic,  I quickly cut and paste the words into Google Translator.

I’ve decided that Sudoku is a lot like life, that it would be even more like life if it were three-dimensional.  It’s logical, it has to do with numbers, it might even prevent me from losing my mind and having to buy Luminosity.  Nine numbers in nine little bitty squares and those nine little bitty squares in nine bigger squares.

On my Sudoku app, I’m considered an Expert.  When I click on the Sudoku app and press Play and then Expert, some numbers are already put in the little bitty squares.  Those givens as in geometry are what I’m talking about.  We all have at birth something akin to logic.  The blank slate is not there anymore, long gone in the philosophy of yesteryear. Our brains have the capacity to put things together, well most of the time.  Like language and math skills, some experts consider these skills hardwired into the brain.  According to NPR (2011), Psychologist Véronique Izard studied Amazonian villagers who had no math schooling and determined that even with no formal math training, these villagers solved basic geometry problems as if they were math-trained adults. She also posits after studying children age five and younger here in the United States and older children in the United States and France that geometry skills seem to emerge after five, perhaps as early as age six or seven.  I know that there is a difference between geometry and numbers; but in a way Sudoku is a lot like geometry.  It’s two-dimensional on a plane, a floating square similar to the one in the Superman movies who took up those criminals from another planet and sentenced them to eternity, floating endlessly in space, screaming all the while, if I remember correctly. To be imprisoned in a geometric plane–mercy!

But back to the game. I’ve consented to play and have been given some numbers.  One number is highlighted, suggesting that I begin with that number–let’s say five–finding the other little bitty squares in which the number five should be in is the task.  They can’t be in the same line as another five, and since there are nine bigger squares, every little bitty square affects two lines.  Well the problem is with the app that I so enjoy is that my score depends upon how fast I can fill in all the little bitty squares.  And it also depends upon the complexity of the puzzle and the number of mistakes I make.  The computer puts all those variables together.  On paper Sudoku, you can take as much time as you like, unless a spouse haggles you about going somewhere or getting something done, or the person in the car behind you  lays on the horn.  I never played Sudoku when I was married, although a previous boyfriend introduced me to the game years ago.  I wasn’t hooked at that moment; but, yes, over the years, every once in a while, I bought little mags of Sudoku puzzles, all in various levels of expertise. It’s the app on my IPad that I’m addicted to.

I’ll give you a hypothetical, human situation similar to the frustrating world of computer Sudoku.  Let’s say you’re trying to figure out what is going on around you, say in your job or in your personal life , and no one has thought to tell you straight away because you always have your head in a Sudoku puzzle, so you figure it out.  You put a number in a little bitty square and if the app doesn’t reject the number, you know it fits.  Every reject is an X accompanied by an irritating sound.  The same is true in life.  You test out one part of your theory as to what’s going on, what you should do, what move to make in your job, etc.; and if the number holds, you’re good to go with the next number, the next piece in the puzzle.  So you proceed, and I do.  I work at it, seeing patterns, learning more patterns, trying out those patterns until all my numbers are in the little bitty boxes–or all my ducks are quacking in a row.  And I only have had say the minimum 2 boots, or two mistakes. And let’s say my placing all the pieces together in this life puzzle is done in such a short amount of time that I have time for another Sudoku puzzle before meeting someone for lunch, then life feels good, really good.  I’ve got the world on a string, and I’m the one pulling.

But there’s a catch, always a catch.  Sudoku, like life, is addictive.  The minute one problem is solved or one mystery is figured out, there is always another puzzle and another, some more complex, some simpler.  Sudoku the app has that covered too.  It gives you your score–your personal best.  As a result the app creates this immense desire in you to beat your own personal best, to get a higher and higher score, and thus never to find peace.

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