Thursday, November 5, 2009

Zen Student Journal -

The following is the latest journal entry from one of our online Zen tutoring clients.

As I mentioned before, one thing I learned from my experience with Zen’s tutoring service is that I cannot and should not try to become a problem-solving automaton. Being machine-like in some aspects, e.g., employing formal logic, may be essential, but in many cases, I feel it’s far more important to maintain a sharp, efficient mind that can always adjust to novel situations, of which I’ve discovered there are plenty on each LSAT.

Part of that “humanizing” endeavor is to take some time off from studying but not become completely idle for long that I would lose the mental edge that I’ve been trying to develop. So during breaks, I’ve been tinkering with some ways to use my LSAT-trained mind on fun tasks without any mental pressure.
One such diversion I’ve adopted is “critical pleasure reading.” I would go on quality journalism sites like Slate or Salon like I’ve always done, except when I read new articles or re-read favorite ones, I tend to find the conclusion and accompanying premise(s), if any. Not that I need to force myself in any conscious way; the urge to look at the source material with a critical eye seems to come automatically now. But the materials are more diversely entertaining (since I get to pick what I want to read) and, in a way, more challenging since they are “wild” with their syntax unrefined for test questions, as opposed to the tamed arguments on the LSAT.

Nonogram is another fun way by which I’ve been keeping my brain engaged. It’s a numerical puzzle not unlike Sudoku, but I feel the former is more similar to sequencing games than the latter. Like Sudoku, it’s simple and easy to get started on. Perfect explanations on how to play can be found on Google and/or Wikipedia, but simply put, you are given numbers that tell you how many consecutive filled squares there are in a given row or column. I found myself intuitively finding strategies to know where certain squares must and cannot go, just like on logic games.

Of course, I’m not really in a position to give advice; on the contrary, I’m seeking input from everyone for more good ideas. Anyone with some other mind-jogging secrets? Some good figurative Pennzoil to apply to my cranial motor?