I am working on a jigsaw puzzle. There are 1000 pieces in this puzzle, and it's titled "Sleigh Ride". It's been largely abandoned by my wife and daughter, because we're now down to the hard parts.
The only pieces to fit are nearly all white pieces, next to nearly all green pieces, next to pieces dense with tree limbs and branches. The puzzle has been on our living room table so long that successive family visitors have taken stabs at it. When my brothers said farewell a few weeks ago, I vowed to them that I'd finish it before the new year. So here I am, Saturday night, pounding away at the most elemental of problems: the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle ("fully interlocking" as the box says).
My biggest breakthrough came tonight. Thanks to winter, there's not a lot of bright outdoor light coming into our living room, so it's been tough seeing all the pieces clearly. Tonight, I brought up a desk lamp from the basement, left over from possibly my college days. I put it down right on the puzzle and it's made a huge difference. Each white piece is now unique: some with snow, some with snow on the river, some with flecks of grey. Same thing with the green pieces. I'm making headway, and it occurred to me that just by adding a single light I am now working much more effectively and efficiently.
When I think about the puzzles in my computer work, I think about all the various "light" sources that I bring to bear. Manuals, Google, editors, Eclipse, and (of course) source code. Those are just at the top of my toolbox. I've broken out protocol monitors, file I/O sniffers, and decompilers. Bright lights indeed.
When I finish the puzzle, I'll be thinking of the night that I brought out a simple lamp that got me through it.