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Logic games are more than a brain teaser, they keep the mind active

I had a jolt recently.

Now that I’m “sort of” retired — more so than before last February anyway (though my waking hours are nearly as busy as ever with work-related duties), I do have a bit more time. I can work in my yard, do an occasional crossword puzzle and even try a Sudoku once in a while.

One morning found me plugging numbers into a newspaper Sudoku. “Use your logic to find the correct numbers for each square,” the instructions said. The challenge is to use every number from one through nine in each box and line of the puzzle without repeating any number in any box or line.

If you haven’t tried it, take my word for it, it’s not easy. And for me, trying to do that in a reasonable amount of time so it doesn’t seem a waste of my time is another challenge.

Weeks go by without my looking at one of those nasty little puzzles that can make me feel like I have no sense at all (though refusing the temptation can make me see I do have some sense, after all).

Part of the reason I give in and try another, though, is that I’m all about keeping an aging brain as healthy as possible — and it seems like there must be something about the challenge of a Sudoku that helps with that. And I don’t even have to count calories or fat grams.

So, I figure it’s not a total waste of time tackling one. As in nearly all other matters in life, the key, of course, is moderation. That way I don’t spend entire days on a Sudoku. Besides wasting time, the frustration of trying for hours on end to solve one could well put this aging brain over the edge, and I’d really be “off my rocker.”

Having explained all that — to justify why I ever try to do such a silly thing as arrange numbers in a specific way as decreed by a (very likely) secret sadist, I’ll tell you about my jolt: For the second time only, I did it perfectly.

The first time could have been mostly chance (is that illogical?). But, this time, as I proceeded at a steady and methodical pace, I could literally feel my logic kicking in. (No, I will not tell how long it took me, and yes, I’m aware Sudokus have various levels of difficulty.)

When I’d finished … without even feeling mentally winded, I checked the answers. That’s when the jolt hit. I’d done it letter — I mean, number — perfect! I was so proud that I saved both the Sudoku and the answers … sort of proof that I do have some sense, even when it comes to being logical.

A few days later, I was rewarded for my new appreciation for logical thinking. I’ve always been a reader and, though it might seem another waste of time to some folks, I really like a good mystery. I recall, as a young mother on a long summer vacation on Vashon Island, reading an anthology that included pretty much every word Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had ever written about Sherlock Holmes.

The famous, though fictional, detective is a champion of logic, as the first of the “New Tales of Sherlock Holmes” illustrated. These short stories, by the way, were written in the last several decades, long after Doyle died in 1930. I eagerly started the first one.

Stuart M. Kaminsky, author of “The Man from Capetown,” did, in my opinion, a very commendable job of writing a new Sherlock Holmes story in Doyle’s style. But the best part was when Holmes explains to his loyal friend, Dr. Watson, why there’s no need to offer to help solve a seemingly mysterious death Watson had read about in a newspaper.

Holmes had already figured out it wasn’t murder but an accident.

“I fail to see …,” the good doctor begins.

“It is not a matter of seeing, Watson,” Holmes cuts in. “It is a matter of putting together what has been seen with simple logic.”

Now, I’m the first to admit that, though everything that had “been seen” in the death Watson and Holmes were discussing was in the preceding paragraphs, that’s not always the case in fictional mysteries. Authors often withhold information, adding it only when the genius detective arrogantly explains the solution. That’s not fair! And it doesn’t make a case for logic, which by definition involves all the information necessary to use it.

I hope you’re still with me, because all that leads up to what I’m planning for my July column. And I’d like some help.

Not quite a year ago, I began seriously considering when to retire. That was scary because I knew very little about … well, what I needed to know. It worked out, though, because there’s lots of information available. And as a reporter, I had some experience in digging for information. I’ve also learned more since retiring.

But since I was still working full time, I had little time then for my own digging. (No, I wasn’t doing Sudokus in my supposedly “spare time.”)

Maybe you, or a friend or loved one, needs information before retiring. In July, I plan to address what we need to know before we actually retire and where to get that information. I don’t mean 401ks and other financial planning that needs to be done decades earlier, more when and where and how to apply for Social Security, supplemental medical insurance, etc. Or get more information on the subject.

If you want to know — or want to know more about — some things to consider in the year or months immediately preceding retirement, please send me an e-mail. I can’t promise to address everything in one column or to have all the answers. But as I’ve said before, “Off My Rocker” is a joint adventure.

Won’t you help? Logically, we can do better together.

Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin is a retired reporter, who still contributes to The Vidette. Email her suggestions at rhoda1946@yahoo.com or care of the editor at editor@thevidette.com.