Story last updated at 2/11/2009 - 11:38 am
There's no cure for linguistic overload like Sudoku.
When I head home after eight hours of working with words, my eyes sometimes have a hard time focusing on more letters. So on those cold, wet nights when a walk is not very relaxing, I calm my mind with numbers.
I know I'm not alone. I worked at a bookstore when the Sudoku craze was just taking off and I chatted with dozens of Sudoku addicts who felt the same way. After a while, I started noticing that most of the customers who purchased and raved about Sudoku books were women.
Are men just better at keeping their addictions a secret or getting their fix through, say, the Capital City Weekly puzzle? Anecdotally, I've heard again and again that Sudoku appeals more to women than men. Within my own family, my mother and I are hooked and my father and brother just don't quite get what's so fun about putting numbers in the correct little boxes.
This certainly goes against the stereotypical contention that men are more attracted to logical modes of thinking than women. Or, women might be more likely to be overwhelmed by communication over the course of the day and, like me, appreciate the chance to relax mentally by using another area of the brain. (Or, maybe my very unscientific study of Sudoku-doers is just not very reliable.)
In any case, I think all of us, whether we realize or not, appreciate opportunities to stretch different neural pathways at times.
One thing that frustrated me during college was the pressure to choose a side: humanities or sciences? Right brain or left brain? I wanted both, and again, I don't think I was alone.
Kids are lucky in this respect. They have plenty of opportunities to do both art and science, work with words and numbers - and not just in school.
This past weekend, hundreds of children had the opportunity to engage in a variety of art projects during the Arts for Kids event at Thunder Mountain High School. On Feb. 13, some Juneau students will attend a Supercharged Science event. Then on Feb. 21, kids of all ages will be able to build model bridges and try other engineering projects at the Engineering Challenge offered as part of the Engineer's Week festivities. (See the enclosed Engineer's Week special section for more on this and other "E-week" activities).
Creativity is often associated only with art. I think both the arts and sciences miss out by this one-sided view. True creativity involves making something new or seeing something old in a new way. Creativity often means making connections that other people don't see. Creative people might become artists, but they could also become engineers or restaurant managers or accountants. Being well-versed in different ways for thinking can only increase creativity.
This weekend, we will celebrate some of the most creative artists in our town at the annual Wearable Arts gala Feb. 14-15. (For more, see p. 24-25).
But Engineer's Week, which kicks off Feb. 15, might be a good reason to think of the other creative folks you might know - maybe instead of a wooden dress they are designing bridges, but perhaps the skills they are using aren't so different.
For my next unscientific study, I'd be interested to see if more Alaskans use both sides of their brains than those in the lower 48. I think it would be connected with self-sufficiency, a trait that I think most people would agree is found in large supply in northern latitudes. If you're not relying on other people to change your oil or do your taxes or write your life story, you're probably using more of your brain than those who would hire people to do those things.
And if you're not depending on others for things you don't know quite how to do, you're likely to find some very creative ways of doing them.