Robot World Chess Match

As a child, I had a variety of chess programs on hardware ranging from Atari, Amiga, and Windows PC. I played them against each other regularly – in tournaments and in “championship” matches. I recorded everything and even tried to approximate their Elo ratings.  Yes, I was a little geeky…back then.

All the moves had to be entered by hand on my part from one program to the other.  Of course if I had a setup like this, it would have been a lot more fun.

Saturn up close

Years ago, when I was just dabbling around trying to find my blog voice, I wrote a small entry about my excitement for the Cassini mission to Saturn.  I’ve come across this short film a couple of times over the last month, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you (and posting my first video to the blog at the same time).

I hope you enjoy it!

CASSINI MISSION from Chris Abbas on Vimeo.

 

Home-blogging

If you know me, you know that during the winter months, I dive in and invest the lion’s share of my time and energy in teaching.  My wife and I have discovered that you simply can’t achieve optimal student outcomes unless you approach their education with a sense of urgency.

That means time has been pinched for performing projects on our new home.  I haven’t done as much as I wanted to do in my first year here, but there are a few months left.  Here are a few odd tasks already checked off the list.

When we first moved into our new space, we prioritized a few areas of furniture needs.  As economically as possible, we chose a few quality pieces.  Economically may be translated as “assembly required.”  After many hours of slow, deliberate work, we have a couple of nice desks and a highboy.

One thing that I hate to do is put holes in the walls, and one thing that girls want is lots of stuff on the walls.  So, after finding out where she wanted things (actually that was not difficult, I just listened to her showing the house to visitors and telling them where everything will go), I surprised her by hanging some stuff, including her picture calendar, a kitchen towel holder, her ship’s wheel clock (one of the first presents I got for her when we were dating), and the lighthouse key holder.

What a winter to be initiated into the Society of Driveway Shovelers!  Three major snows are one thing, but when the sky dumps over 22 inches that I have to remove in strata like an archeological site, that’s what I call a “baptism by fire.”  I got everything off in plenty of time to go back to school after the snow days.

Flash forward to Spring, and I’m mounting a “Topsy Turvy” tomato growing contraption on my deck, along with a rain gauge.  Getting a working mower was a different problem, as I invested many days working on two candidates with no luck.  For my first mowing of the lawn, I had to borrow a mower from a friend.

Most psychologists agree that mowing your lawn is excellent therapy for the troubled mind.  Okay, I’m not sure if that’s a universally true statement, but it sure fits for me (my apologies to Linus VanPelt).  It’s hot now, 90 degree days, so I don’t mow the whole yard, front, back, and sides in one sitting, but I still find a certain catharsis in the activity.

Star Hustler

Jack Horkheimer, director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium.

Some people hustle pool,
Some people hustle cars,
But have you ever heard about
The man who hustles stars?

I don’t stay up as late as I used to, but when I was a teenager, I watched Jack Horkheimer regularly and planned my week’s nightly sky observations accordingly. Always presented with his trademark panache, his passion for astronomy was infectious. He will be missed.

Facebook groups redux

I couldn’t resist posting a few more Facebook groups people have brought to my attention since my previous post. Perhaps you will find this final installment amusing.

  • I have ADOS ” Attention Deficit … Oooh, Shiny!
  • I asked “What?” twenty times, so now I’m just gonna pretend I heard what you said.
  • Third grade lied. I never use cursive.
  • I hate when you’re about to drive into the driveway and your favorite song starts.
  • Trying to finish a dream by going back to sleep.
  • The word “epic” is overused!
  • I hate when someone waves and I wave back when they were actually waving at someone behind me.
  • Talking to someone and then realizing they are no longer walking beside you.
  • Laughing so hard you don’t even make any noise.
  • They’re not “suggested friends,” they’re people I’m intentionally avoiding.
  • No Microsoft Word, I DIDN’T spell my last name wrong.
  • I accidentally typed “;)” instead of “:)” and now it’s awkward.
  • We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.
  • Today I caught myself smiling for no reason… then I realized I was thinking about you.
  • I may be laughing while you tickle me, but I WILL kill you once you stop.
  • For young, first-time voters, it’s similar to clicking the “Like” button, but with limited choices you don’t actually like.

Facebook groups

Facebook is many things all at the same time: fun, controversial, insecure, synergistic, social, and risky. Friends I haven’t seen in years are now my Facebook friends, and it’s the quickest way to get in touch with some people, replacing email and phone calls.

There are all sorts of little groups you can join in Facebook. For example, I’m a big fan of Fun House Pizza on Noland Road in Independence. Whenever I’m there, I have to get one of their house combos. They have a Facebook group, and you can hit the “like” button. Instantly on your wall, it announces that Todd like’s Fun House Pizza.

There also happen to be other groups to “like” in Facebook. Many of them are humorous. I don’t join groups like that because I like to keep my Facebook relatively lean and mean, but here are a few of those groups I’ve granted a chuckle of recognition to.

  • I stay up late every night, and realize it’s a bad idea every morning.
  • I redo high fives if they weren’t good enough the first time.
  • I daydream while I’m reading so I have to read parts over again.
  • I don’t need anger management. You just need to stop pissing me off.
  • I only check my voicemail to get rid of the little icon on the screen.
  • Accomplishing something before the microwave reaches :00
  • Hates the cold feeling you get when you step out of the shower.
  • 63 notifications later, I regret liking your status
  • I type “lol” and I have a blank expression on my face.
  • Driving in the summer with the windows down and the music turned up.
  • I never go to bed angry. I stay up and plot my revenge.
  • Officer, I did see the speed limit sign. I just didn’t see you.
  • I don’t feel like folding my laundry so I just restart the dryer.
  • Hey, Cupid. Can you shoot both of us next time? Thanks.
  • I hate when you put something in a safe spot so you don’t lose it, and then you can’t find it.
  • I will carry 20 grocery bags into the house at a time to avoid making a second trip.

All of these are real Facebook groups you can join. Which strike a chord with you? Found any others worth a comment here?

Why would I be mad?

I’ve made a startling discovery, but what I’ve learned might help some of you newer husbands or boyfriends out there.

Men’s Dictionary

why-would-I-be-mad : interrogative, 1. attempt to elicit a reason another party thinks you’re mad; 2. expression of surprise at a perceived dissatisfaction; declarative, 3. attempt of reassurance that you are not mad; 4. dismissal of the idea that you are mad; syn. don’t worry, we’re cool.

Women’s Dictionary

why-would-I-be-mad : declarative, 1. confirmation the woman is, in fact, mad; interrogative, 2. a pop quiz for the other party to identify what they did to make you mad, usually involving a penalty for supplying the wrong answer; 3. a signal to prepare an apology; syn you’ve really done it this time, the doghouse is that way.

Radio weblog

Less than a month ago, I posted about my first webhome closing.  Now that it’s gone, I have quite a few more broken bookmarks that I thought I would now – old “virtual friends” whose early webhomes had been enshrined and, for the most part, untouched since the 1990’s.  I’ll miss those “colorful” (in more ways than one) sites.
History seems to continue closing up behind me as I just discovered that my second webhome, and first “bloghome”, is now shutting its doors.
Radio UserLand service closing
UserLand has decided to close the Radio UserLand and Salon Radio services as of December 31, 2009.
You can continue to use your Radio weblog hosted with UserLand until the end of the year.
Radio UserLand was as much a program as it was a host.  Nowadays, most blogging platforms use server-side magic to generate pages on the fly from your database of content and style templates.  Radio UserLand operated on your local computer, pre-generating all your pages and saving them to your own computer, uploading them to the server as static HTML pages.
I have long since imported the content of that site to this blog.
I’m feeling kind of old now, and I guess I am, in web-years.

radioLess than a month ago, I posted about my first webhome closing.  Now that it’s gone, I have quite a few more broken bookmarks that I thought I would now – old “virtual friends” whose early webhomes had been enshrined and, for the most part, untouched since the 1990’s.  I’ll miss those “colorful” (in more ways than one) sites.

History seems to continue closing up behind me as I just discovered that my second webhome, and first “bloghome”, is now shutting its doors.

Radio UserLand service closing

UserLand has decided to close the Radio UserLand and Salon Radio services as of December 31, 2009.

You can continue to use your Radio weblog hosted with UserLand until the end of the year.

Radio UserLand was as much a program as it was a host.  Nowadays, most blogging platforms use server-side magic to generate pages on the fly from your database of content and style templates.  Radio UserLand operated on your local computer, pre-generating all your pages and saving them to your own computer, uploading them to the server as static HTML pages.

I have long since imported the content of that site to this blog.

I’m feeling kind of old now, and I guess I am, in web-years.

Goodbye, my first webhome

geocitiesTomorrow, Geocities is closing.  If you were around the web in the mid to late ’90’s, you are familiar with the bold, multiform, free-for-all that was the Geocities community.  It was the “free web hosting” site to be on, and you could find practically anything you could imagine there.  That included my very first pages.

Let’s see, there was a home “link-page” that was my very first effort, written on Netscape Composer, as most of my first pages were.  Follow that with my online resume, a page devoted to the Amiga computer, a page that showcased my artwork, a page for the University of Missouri’s Special Education class of ’98, a kid’s homework help link page, a site I wrote for students who wanted to participate in (or even run) their own IEP meetings (that one was featured in the newsletter for the Center for Innovation in Special Education, or CISE), and probably my most popular splash at the time, a website written in honor of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, as depicted by Alexandra Tydings on the TV shows Hercules:  The Legendary Adventures and Xena:  Warrior Princess.  That last one was an experiment in writing something with popular appeal, and it succeeded for its time; it was visited several hundreds of times daily at the height of its popularity.

It was a different era, I guess, when regular people felt free to put up a simple page featuring their eclectic interests.  Now, it’s all done through MySpace or Facebook.  Though I have archives of my old sites (and they will soon be linked to my main page at Todd’s Webspace), I will miss that colorful community.  Goodbye, Geocities!