One problem I solved today reminded me of a puzzle that a friend showed me a couple of years ago, Four Quarters. The video series is called "Scam School" - I've watched several, and it's a really great way to learn some simple magic effects and tricks that are fun to show to friends at parties (and supposedly a way to win drinks at the bar). Anyway, four quarters is just a relatively difficult puzzle - it's not a lateral thinking puzzle. When my friend showed it to me, I was able to solve it after some thought. I know he was impressed because he said that no one he'd showed it to had solved the puzzle, although the answer is straightforward (Well, number one, people are not so great at solving puzzles when they have had a few drinks in them or are in a high pressure social situation; I was sober and we were alone). But today I was struck by the similarity in thinking between this simple quarter puzzle and many of the homework problems I've been working. This assignment had problems involving a certain setup or algorithm like how to shuffle a deck of cards or play a gambling game in which a coin is flipped, although not all the problems are like that, of course. So, it shouldn't be surprising that I was able to solve this quarter puzzle; it's just a style of thinking that's developed by studying computer science, or math, or many subjects.
Today was the first day of my 'tv-free week', and I did have some time in the afternoon when I normally would have surfed, and I had to figure out something else to do. It was nice to feel like I had extra time that I could do something useful with. I actually emailed a friend that I had been meaning to email for a while, so that was good. If it hadn't been tv-free week I'm sure I would have kicked back with some tv to relax after that long math marathon. But now I'm writing instead!