digital jigsaw puzzles, this quiet blog, and the current state of my brain

The writing part of my brain appears to be on vacation. It didn't request time off; it doesn't have to. It's the boss. I have a pile of topics I'd like to write about, but Writing Brain is off in the woods somewhere, recovering from academia.

So what is the rest of me doing, besides working two jobs?

There's baseball, of course. I've already dived into my spring and summer reading. I have the usual humongous spring list of chores and errands, all the things that pile up while I'm in school. I'm also spending far too much time on my latest obsession, digital jigsaw puzzles.

I plan to return to the War Resisters Support Campaign, at least for the summer. I've been marginally active in the Campaign via email, but I haven't been able to attend meetings for a long time, and I really miss it.

None of that explains why I'm not writing. But I've noticed that every year after school ends, I'm eager to get back to blogging, but I can't. Not right away.

* * * *

I always have more topics to blog about than I have time or space to blog. Some items wither and die on the list without ever seeing pixels, but none has lingered longer and more annoyingly than Marxism.

Last year, Allan and I attended the annual Marxism conference put on by the International Socialists. I intended to write about the talks we attended, or at least post our notes. Then I got my summer research job, and then school started again... and every time I look at my notes, I'm overwhelmed with the size (and the possible futility) of the task. But I never forget that I said I would do it, so the not-done-ness continues to bother me. This persistent, nagging feeling can be a powerful motivator, and also a pain in the ass.

Now Marxism 2012 is coming around, and we are again taking the weekend off to attend. So I either get my 2011 notes up before that happens, or I remove the task from my list permanently.

* * * *

My half-semester workshop in children's digital games turned out to be very interesting. We played a lot of games and discussed the many issues that they raised. Working in groups, we designed a game using some basic DIY game-creation applications, to evaluate the process and the choices involved. We also chose ten digital games for a library playlist, and presented them in a digital format. Through that assignment, I discovered digital jigsaw puzzles.

I'm playing Ravensburger Puzzle Selection in "campaign mode". This means every time I complete a puzzle, I get another, more difficult puzzle challenge. It's a game designed for an addictive personality like mine.

My family used to do jigsaw puzzles, often having one going on the dining room table in the winter. (Many people in my age group have a similar memory.) I was great at jigsaw puzzles and loved them, but haven't seen one in years - decades. Last summer, after a conversation about puzzles on a JoS game thread, a baseball friend gave me two Red Sox-related puzzles. This revived my interest in puzzles, but our home is badly positioned for it: there's only one table. (Long-time to-do: buy foldable card table.)

Enter digital puzzles. They are every bit as addictive as physical jigsaw puzzles, but less convenient - and less social. Working on physical puzzles is time spent with other people, but a digital puzzle keeps me at my computer. It's not like I need more screen time. But it's too late now. I'm addicted.

* * * *

I've noticed that blogging about the inconsequential details of my life sometimes kick-starts my writing. So if you're still reading this, thanks for bothering, and thanks for contributing to the process.


laura k said...

Here's a thought about jigsaw puzzles I was unable to fit into this post.

When we took standardized tests in grade school, I always did very badly on anything involving spatial relations. Not just bad relative to my high verbal scores, but really badly. A teacher once told my parents I might have been answering the wrong questions (putting the answer to q5 in the q6 slot, eg).

I don't think that happened. I was just unable to make any sense of the test.

But I was always really good at picture puzzles.

This seems contradictory to me.

Amy said...

OMG, that is so funny! I did so poorly on my spatial relations portion of that test (40%---I even remember the score) that my father accused me of trying to do badly because I thought girls weren't supposed to be good at that stuff. (I never in my life tried to do badly on a test.) I was so mad at him that I remember the whole thing very clearly to this day.

And I tried that program when you sent it to me, but had trouble turning the pieces on my laptop for some reason. Probably for the best. I am way too inclined to waste time on games. (Did you see the NYTimes magazine article last week about digital games?)

impstrump said...

Maybe picture puzzles are easier because you have colours to work with?

laura k said...

did so poorly on my spatial relations portion of that test (40%---I even remember the score)

And are you good at jigsaw puzzles? Do you think maybe those tests don't measure what they're supposed to?

Re digital puzzle game, it works best with a mouse, might not be great on a laptop. Right-click rotates a piece one way, left-click the other.

I didn't see the NYT Mag article, I don't read the Magazine anymore. Should I look for it, was it good?

laura k said...

Maybe picture puzzles are easier because you have colours to work with?

Well, you do use colour a lot when doing puzzles. But I definitely use shapes, too. I recognize what shape piece is needed in a spot and look for that kind of piece, and I can spot it no matter how it is turned. Whereas in those $%*$#!? tests, I could not visualize which shape could be rotated to be the same as another shape.

Amy said...

I really haven't done a jigsaw puzzle since I was a kid, except when I did some easy ones with my kids when THEY were kids. I think I just found that spatial relations portion confusing and boring. No words, no numbers? Maybe my father WAS right---maybe I just thought it was stupid.

I have no mouse at home, so I guess I will be able to resist getting hooked on the program!

impstrump said...

That's the difference then. With puzzles, you can just pick up the shape and rotate it. You don't have to visualize at all.

laura k said...

Hmm, I don't know. I can spot the piece without rotating it. And I was really good at jigsaw puzzles as a young child, too.

I don't know, maybe there's no connection. Maybe I did get the Qs and As out of sync!