The 9 headed dragon, her 38 friends, and a free ride to Satori 24

Mea Culpa:  This is a long winded review of Simon Tatham's puzzle collection.

I first encountered the nine headed dragon in the Alpine villiage of Lauterbrennen.  It must have been 2004 or thereabouts, and I was traveling with two lovely girls I had met the day before at a hostel in Bern.  The place was a backpackers hotel of sorts, popular amongst base jumpers.  The conversation was lively and I was interested to get to know my new friends better as well.  However my eye strayed to a local newspaper on the table in the corner of the room,  probably a Zwenzig Minuten.  It was open to the puzzle page, and there she was staring at me.  Numbers?  In a grid?  What could this be?  I don't remember if the German instructions were of much use to me then, but I was eager to figure it out.  I've always been a sucker for a good puzzle, and here was something interesting.  The apparent flow of the puzzle is immediately obvious and the mind starts doing what it must.  There was nobody to welcome me to the new world, or to warn me of the dangers therein.  Sudoku, she reared her ugly heads and I ran gladly towards her smoking maws.

During the next decade I was often victim to the temptations of the nine headed dragon.  I competed in speed sudoku, played on devices, tasted her wherever she found a way to reach me, in variant forms, and I read about her intricacies and learned her theory.  However it was not until the present day, and I came across Simon Tatham's puzzle collection, that I learned she had 38 friends.  All of them equally deadly, compelling, and beautiful.  Tie yourself to the mast now dear reader!  Surely some you have seen before, but - beware the majesty of this collection.

John Lilly called LSD a free ride to satori 12.  Perhaps his terminology describing mental states didn't take off into common parlance, but there is some utility to it.  I personally found his lecture on the topic much more compelling than "Center of the Cyclone" which didn't really catch my attention.  A brilliant guy though, well worth reading and listening including his work with dolphins and his "programming and metaprogramming for the human biocomputer".  At any rate, another state he names is called satori 24 - a brain state which is really far more compelling to most people, as it feels, well, normal - but good.  It is that button which is pushed when we are "making progress".  It is that feeling that we are doing what we were born to do, what we know how to do, and doing it right.  It is satori 24, and every damn one of Simon Tatham's puzzles is a free ride to that state.  If one of the modes or difficulty levels or games starts to produce a tolerance and your mind moves free of this path?  There are more modes, more games, and more difficulties.  Hats off to you Mr. Tatham, well done 🙂



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