Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Great DOS Game Updated for Today

Back in the DOS and Windows 3.0 days I found a PC game that gave me hundreds of hours of fun. It was actually rather addictive.

Sherlock is a tile-based game that harkens back to the word puzzles we've seen in magazines for years. You may recall the one - you have a couple that throws a party and invites guests. Based on the clues given -  this person is not with that person, this couple brought a pie, another couple brought a main dish, etc., you figure out who each couple is, what color car each drove, what dish each brought, and so on.

I was never good at the word puzzles in magazines. I'd get everything mixed up. Then I discovered Sherlock, which had something like 6,999 iterations. I was somewhere in the 4,000s when I got too busy to play and it didn't work in Windows anyway. I moved on.

The important thing was that I got rather good at it. Because I'm a visual learner, the tiles that showed which items were already a given (known), which people or items could not be next to each other, and which ones were next to each other or only two tiles away from each other, all made sense to my brain. The game has a timer, too, so I worked on solving the puzzles in under 10 minutes to increase the challenge.

An important thing happened to me as a result of playing this game so much. It trained my brain. When I took the GREs (Graduate Record Exam) in the 80s, which I had not been required to take for my master's degree, many of the math questions were word puzzles.

For example, you own a tree farm and one type of tree must be planted next to another while a third tree type cannot be planted next to the first type - and so on. But your plot area must contain 6 types of trees. You have to carefully arrange the plantings so the answer works for all the tree types.

I quickly drew grids on the question sheet for each of these math questions and worked through the clues as if it were Sherlock! And I did well on the math questions; better than I have ever done before - a large increase in my scores.

Imagine my delight when I recently searched for Sherlock and discovered a Windows version! Everett Kaser owns the copyright to Sherlock and other logic and puzzle games "intended to stretch your mind." There's a free download that lets you play 5 iterations of each variation. You can start out with a fairly easy variation, 3 sets of tiles, move up to 4, then 5, and so on, up to 8.

I spent the $20 to get the full version, after trying the free download to make sure it really was the same game I remembered. I don't have a lot of time to play computer games, but this is one game that helps me keep my mind sharp. It even lets me know when I 'm too tired to think clearly because I will overlook simple clues and make dumb mistakes. That's when it's time to take a break.

Appropriate for every age, Sherlock can be a great way to introduce word math puzzles to yourself or your children.

Image of the tile game Sherlock

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year - 2013 is Here

Good morning to all. I'm sure many people won't be up for a few hours yet while others have already begun their day and their new year with vigor. I've been up for a few hours and felt it was time to say hello to the world - and I'm finished with my morning's email.

What was 2012 like for you? Was it a good year? A lousy year? A so-so year? ...the year you got engaged, or married?. ...the year you found your soul mate even if he or she doesn't know they are that yet?

For me, 2012 was filled with mixed blessings and messages. Too many people are still out of work - which is why part of my job has shifted to Job Readiness activities. I have a great volunteer/intern who, unfortunately, has just gotten a job and will be with me fewer hours per week. But I'm glad he got a job. I figured he would - he's got a good skill set and is very intuitive. Give him a project and he can take it to the first and second draft level with few questions and lots of good ideas.

Human Pyramid - teamwork
I have a number of volunteers who each have various talents; together, they cobble together the skills necessary to keep our community technology center, Cyber Cafe @ Malden Square, open and functioning. That's no easy task, as most of them are senior citizens with moderate computer skills and we have a growing population of people coming in who require help at the computer.

My database volunteer, a young man who wrote a user guide for it and trains all the new volunteers in its use, has given his two-week notice. His family is moving to Texas due to his dad's job promotion. See: mixed blessing - their good news is my bad news.

Our lead computer instructor, also a volunteer, has helped us transform our courses to a model that supports job seekers who must be able to complete online forms, fill out applications on kiosks, and manage their job search while dealing with the frustration of rejection after rejection - or no response at all.

The fact that many of them are no longer eligible for unemployment insurance, as of today, makes their situation all the more dire. Rent and other bills to pay but no more money coming in - more than 1,000 residents in my tri-city area - means more frayed nerves and clients who feel they have no one who will listen to them; certainly, they don't believe the federal legislature has listened to them.
[Update: 1/3/13 - Unemployment Insurance was extended by Congress at the last minute - a welcome relief to millions of unemployment Americans.]

My own situation is as mixed as work. I worry that my 12-year-old van won't pass its inspection this month. I stick to a pretty tight budget - more by need than by choice; there just isn't any 'play' money available and certainly not a lot to spend on the van.

2 smilies turning toward each other and back to front
On the upside, in December I completed my novel, a murder mystery set in New Hampshire 30 years ago, in five-and-a-half months - on time for my own deadline - on time for submission to a first crime novel competition. I feel pretty darned good about that!

Now I wait; can't do anything with it until the end of March when the judging is completed. I'm not anticipating a win, but I'm a big believer that you can't win if you don't play. So I'll wait patiently and work on the next novel in the series.

I've re-edited a short story I wrote many years ago. I'm trying to find a way to make it available for download on this blog or somewhere else - a freebie as a salute for getting my first novel done. Even though they're in totally different genres (the short story is in the sword-and-sorceress genre), it's the writing that's important, not what genre it is.

I've invited folks from my online mystery writer's group to guest blog in this space. We'll see how many decide to do that. It will be fun to have another voice - even many voices - appearing here. And you'll get to discover writers you may never have known about before.

Use the comments section to share how you plan to spend 2013. I don't think resolutions are worth much because so many of us never follow through on them. But what plans do you have? What are you just dying to do that you have begun or are beginning - even if you began it in 2012, what is it? Speak up. Share.

...and Happy New Year!