DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Jun 15 2014

Puzzle Me This…or That

by Dea Anne M

A couple of years ago I was visiting my family in south Georgia, visits that I wish were more frequent, and my nephew–then eight years old and as social a creature as has ever been born–was, as usual, directing our activities. He was mad at me because I had just beaten him at Scrabble. I reminded him that:

1. “You’re eight.”

2. “I only beat you by three points.”

He was having none of it. Revenge was the only viable option. Smiling an evil eight-year-old smile, he pulled out the Harry Potter board game.  Announcing that he would be playing the role of the Sorting Hat, he put us into our houses. He, of course, went to Gryffindor. His mother and his aunt were put into Ravenclaw.  I’ll leave you to guess which house I went to.

Here’s a hint–there were four of us playing and no one was sorted into Hufflepuff.

I hope I’m not making my beloved nephew out to be a brat. He’s a wonderful kid and he’s one of the people in the world I most enjoy hanging out with.

But he is a sore loser.

Come to think of it, I’m kind of a sore loser too–at least when it comes to Scrabble. Because I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and because I have what I think of as a decent vocabulary, I always feel as though I should be a better Scrabble player than I am. I’ve only recently come to realize that most of the really good Scrabble players that I’ve known are people who can easily visualize words “hidden” inside a random collection of letters. These are the same people who can whip through the “jumble” puzzle in the daily paper. I am not one of those people.

Still, I think I am pretty good at recognizing patterns in terms of colors and shapes, which is what makes working jigsaw puzzles so much fun for me. Along with board games of all sorts, we were always a puzzle family–my mom especially, and she and I would often stay up into the wee hours to finish a particularly difficult or intriguing puzzle.

So what’s your pleasure–Scrabble or jigsaw puzzles? While you ponder that question let me suggest a couple of titles from DCPL that you might find interesting.

Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of freakCompetitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis concerns itself with the world of hard core tournament players. These are not your Scrabble-on-a-lazy-afternoon type of folks. These are people who know all sorts of words that use the letter “x” (worth 8 points) or “q” (10 points!). These are people who not only know the word “qepiq” but will be prepared to defend it against all challengers. (It is an Azerbaijani unit of currency.) Fascinating, and well worth reading even if you don’t have a particular passion for Scrabble.

carpetIf you’re a jigsaw puzzle buff or if you are a fan of intelligent, literate memoir, then check out The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws by the British author Margaret Drabble. Drabble combines interesting facts about the history of jigsaws with her own history to make a beautifully written whole piece. Wonderfully entertaining, I recommend this book for a rainy day when you can curl up in a comfortable corner and really take your time–which on certain days might describe my perfect afternoon.

Are there other types of puzzles or board games that you enjoy?



Regular readers of this blog know that I am a passionate cook and an enthusiastic gardener. Another interest of mine is games and puzzles of all sorts but especially crossword puzzles. I used to subscribe to the Sunday New York Times but I stopped the subscription when I realized (and I’m embarrassed by this) that I was only reading the magazine and doing the crossword. Then,  I subscribed to the Atlanta Journal Constitution when I realized that it also runs the Times crossword on Sunday (the week after it runs in the Times). I stopped that subscription when I realized (and I’m embarrassed by this) that I was only reading the advice columns and doing the crossword. Now,  I buy the omnibus collections of the NYT’s Sunday puzzles. There are loads of crossword puzzles available online but I like the heft of the books and the sense of satisfaction that I gain from solving the puzzles one by one. I also enjoy contemplating the ego boost I will receive should anyone ever ask about my preferred puzzle and method. I will reply that not only do I consider the New York Times to be the gold standard of crosswords but that I always solve the puzzle in ink. Surprisingly, no one has ever asked me the question!

Of course, the NYT publishes American style crosswords which contain fewer shaded squares than British, Japanese, or Swedish style puzzles. American puzzles also (though not always) have a theme and these are the puzzles that I like best. Show me a puzzle with a title such as “When In Rome?” or “Proverbial Conflicts” and I can’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea and a writing implement (pen, please!).

Are you interested in crosswords? If so,  DCPL has plenty of material to keep you informed and entertained.

cruciverbalismCruciverbalism: a crossword fanatic’s guide to life in the grid by Stanley Newman with Mark Lasswell is an interesting look into the world of those who make the puzzles we enjoy (Newman is the crossword editor for Newsday) and also provides tips for solving puzzles and bits of history—such as the reasons that modern newspaper puzzles increase in difficulty as the week goes on.  Thanks to this book, I have also discovered (much to my shock) that the Sunday NYT puzzle is not the most difficult of the week (that honor goes to Saturday’s puzzle), it’s just the biggest. A cruciverbalist, by the way, is someone who (according to Merriam-Webster) “is skillful in creating or solving crossword puzzles.”

[read the rest of this post…]


Apr 26 2013

No Thumbs Fun

by Veronica W

I’m going shopping today for hula hoops for an upcoming library program. I confess I’m excited because it takes me back to the days of my childhood, when I could actually play games that required running and jumping and large muscles movement. As I remember it, the only game that required my thumbs was “I Declare War.”

Looking at me today, you would not believe once upon a time I jumped double dutch,  played hopscotch and was a terror on the handball court (Try playing it with a  hard, pink Spalding ball, if you dare) . When sitting down, my friends, sisters and I played hand clapping games.  (Anyone out there know “Old Mary Mack Mack Mack” or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” as hand games?)  As much as  hot, cloudless days, road trips and dripping ice cream cones, the games of my childhood summon forth memories of summer.

If you have young folk in your life or just want to reminisce, look through a sampling of  game books such as Step It Down,  The Way to PlayLike It Was or Sidewalk Games, then head for the streets to try them out. Teens may drag their feet at first but I guarantee you they will end up enjoying themselves, if for no other reason than the fun of laughing at you.  The delightful, happy ladies below don’t care and neither will you. Go for it!



Sep 12 2011

A Google a day

by Jesse M

When I was in third grade, I recall my teacher asking the class a question pertaining to a subject that we hadn’t really explored yet (I believe it was geography related).  No one, including myself, knew the answer off the top of their heads.  But after a long period of silence, one of my classmates raised his hand and provided the correct answer.  While the rest of the class had been sitting dumbfounded, my classmate had flipped through his textbook to an as yet unread section and found the answer.  My teacher smiled approvingly and favored us with an aphorism that has stuck with me ever since, “The most intelligent person isn’t one who knows all the answers, but rather the one who knows how to find the answers”.

For today’s post, I’m going to share a website which provides daily opportunities to practice the art of finding the answer using one of the most powerful, and ubiquitous, informational tools available, the search engine (in this case, Google). The concept is simple. Just head to the site, A Google a day, where you will be asked a different question each day (some recent examples: “This Greek goddess of love, displayed at the Louvre, was originally from Milos. What would she have held in her missing left hand?” and “If you picked up Plymouth Rock and held it over your head, how many stones would you be holding?“). Finding the correct answer will often require multiple searches, creative ways of thinking, and use of other Google tools such as Google Maps. If you get stuck, you can ask for a hint, which is generally a suggestion of what search term(s) to use. Once you get the hang of how it works, you can try playing the timed mode to see how quickly you’re able to find the solution.

Have fun!


May 11 2011

Chess, Game Of Kings

by Joseph M

For centuries, the game of chess has provided entertainment for people all over the world. The game is widely thought to have originated in India and from there traveled first to Persia and then through the Arab world to Europe, evolving into its present form during the 15th century.

On this date in 1997, chess history was made when a chess-playing computer designed by IBM called Deep Blue won a six-game match by two wins to one (with three draws) against world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Kasparov had defeated a previous version of Deep Blue in 1996.

If you’re into chess, or just curious to learn more, the Library has a variety of books on the subject, both fiction and nonfiction.

A few of our fiction titles involving chess include: The Lüneburg variation, Chess Rumble, Zugzwang

As for nonfiction, we have books relating to how the game is played (rules etc), as well as nonfiction devoted to other aspects of the game.

Nonfiction—how to play: Learn Chess in 40 Hours!, Chess for Juniors A Complete Guide to the Beginner, U.S. Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess

Nonfiction—miscellaneous: Birth of the Chess Queen, Bobby Fischer Goes To War,
How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves From the Board to the Boardroom, Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion

Want to get in on the fun? A number of DCPL branches have chess clubs that will be meeting over the summer, including Decatur, Tucker-Reid H. Cofer, and Lithonia-Davidson. Contact participating branches for more information. Stone Mountain-Sue Kellogg also has a chess club, but it is on hiatus until September. Other branches will be hosting “Game Days” over the summer, so check our events calendar for more opportunities to get your game on!


Dec 4 2009

Afraid of mice?

by Lesley B

Scary Mouse2A lot of seniors aren’t comfortable with their computers. They’d love to get email and photos from their families but struggle with the mouse and keyboard. They see the grandkids whizzing around on the screen and think it’s too late for them to learn the trick. Well, it’s never too late to learn something new. I often tell seniors in our computer classes to think back to when they were learning to write and had to figure out how to grip a pencil. Were they writing in cursive right off the bat? They just need to practice. A DeKalb County Public Library card gets you 2 hours of time on a library computer and our page for New Computer Users is a good place to start. From there I usually recommend the Palm Beach County Library System’s Mousercise. This website guides a beginning mouser all around the screen, then through the dreaded double-click, scroll bars, radio buttons and drop-down menus. The exercises aren’t timed and there are no ads or confusing links.

When Mousercise gets dull, what to do next? Any familiar game like Solitaire is a good choice. There are lots of places to play online and many computers have a version already installed. Knowing how to play the game makes it easier for seniors to understand where to move the cursor. WebSudoku offers several skill levels and a timer if you want to increase the challenge. A woman in one of our computer classes enjoyed playing Wheel of Fortune online. Other good choices for a beginning mouser: Bookworm, an addictive word search game with no timer so you don’t have to rush and Thisissand, an unusual website that lets you make sand art (click the gray box to get started). Once a senior gets used to the mouse, there’s no stopping them online. Next click, email or maybe – Facebook?

{ 1 comment }

Aug 21 2009

Free Rice

by Jesse M

It’s Friday once again and today I thought we’d start off the weekend by introducing a simple game that generates charitable food aid while building your vocabulary! The game is called Free Rice, and it is a non-profit website run by the United Nations Food Program. Free Rice has two goals, to provide education to everyone for free, and to help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free. It works towards these goals by presenting visitors to the site with one word followed by a set of four possible definitions. Picking the correct definition allows you to move onto the next (more difficult) word and generates a donation of ten grains of rice. As the website notes, ten grains isn’t a particularly large amount, but when enough people play enough times, an enormous difference can be made in the lives of millions of those less fortunate all over the world. Since its inception in 2007 Free Rice has donated a total of 66,985,896,480 grains of rice! So the next time you have access to the internet and a few minutes to spare, consider spending them building up your vocabulary and helping to feed someone in need.

If you are interested in learning about the causes and possible solutions to the problem of world hunger, the library has several books in the catalog that can further inform you. A good book to start your exploration with is the well researched and argued Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel. Check it out.

psst – yes, we know this has been written about on this blog before, but we thought it was time for a reminder!

{ 1 comment }

Apr 29 2009

Get Outside!

by Nancy M

hopscotchSpring is here, and despite the rain and ridiculous amount of pollen in the air, this is the time to get outside and enjoy the warm days before the onset of the sweltering Georgia summer–unless, of course, you’re allergic to pollen. If you don’t suffer from allergies, then grab the kids, head outside, and play some fun outdoor games. What to play, you ask? I recently came across this website and found it loaded with games that I played as a child. Games like Ghost in the Graveyard, Four Square, TV Tag, Capture the Flag and more are all listed with instructions. If you do suffer from allergies, it’s a fun website to look over and reminisce about those school yard days of yore.

The Library also has books that can help motivate you to get outside:

sidewalkgamesSidewalk Games by Glen Vecchione
runjumphideslidesplashRun, Jump, Hide, Slide, Splash: The 200 Best Outdoor Games Ever by Joe Rhatigan

What were your favorite games as a child?


Nov 3 2008

Are You Wii Bowling?

by Amanda L

Did you know that DCPL has joined other libraries in offering gaming programs? You might have noticed over the summer that there were some gaming programs specifically geared towards teens. The Library recently purchased a couple of Wiis for programing through a Healthy Living grant  given by the Humana Foundation.

The older adults in DeKalb County were the first to be offered a program using these Wiis. The program was called “Are Wii Bowling yet?” It was an opportunity for older adults to check out the Wii and have an opportunity to bowl. Fifteen seniors took us up on that opportunity. The two hour program was filled with laughter, frustration and yells of success by everyone in the room. Many of the seniors are looking forward to the next session of Wii bowling. There was talk in the room about having tournaments between branches. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Continue to check out our Healthy Living Programs under our calendar of events for more Wii programs in the future. Unfortunately, the pictures I took at the event did not turn out very well. Here is a video fromYou Tube that shows a Senior Tournament of Wii Bowling.


Jan 31 2008

Relax with a … game!

by Jimmy L

Most computer games give me a headache, but there is one website that I love for its soothing, relaxing Flash games: orisinal.com!  Even though these webgames are exciting and challenging, they are also visually appealing and comforting.  Make sure you turn your speakers on.   I haven’t played all of these yet, but it seems like they are all kid-friendly and may be a nice break from the other violent games they may be playing.  And one last warning: some of these can be very addictive!

Orisinal1 Orisinal3