Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Eight

For all of you chess buffs and history nerds out there, may I recommend to you The Eight, by Katherine Neville. Combining chess, the French Revolution, and dark mystical secrets from the dawn of humanity has never been so much fun.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


A perfect storm of events have converged to bereave of all the amenities enjoyed by western civilization. No TV. No internet. No car. No work. No online chess. No Family Guy. If I lived in a high density urban area with a great downtown no problem, but instead I live in Ruralville. My nearest friends are miles away. I can only lure so many drive out to see me on week nights.

My isolation has forced me to wrestle with some realities in my life. I spend an amazing amount of time watching TV or online apparently, because without those I don't know what to do with myself. I spend the first 15 minutes of each day wandering like a lost puppy until I find something.

What have I done? Read a 600 page book, caught up on old copies Newsweek, Time and Sports Illustrated, studied French and organized my spices atop my oven in descending order by height.

I've biked for food, biked for internet, biked for fun and biked for boredom. I've called friends I hadn't talked to in forever. I scrolled through my phone and people I didn't know. The number I had for "Laure" belonged to some 50 year old mom in Oklahoma. How did it get there? Neither of us knew.

Now I know why I've never done all the things I wanted to do: learn French, write a book, get really ripped, etc. I was watching Family Guy.

Family Guy is not real life. A day without TV or the internet is so real that I don't know how to handle yet, but it seems like a good skill to learn.

Monday, June 16, 2008

On the Road

Life’s More Real is on the road. School wrapped up yesterday. Desks were scrubbed, posters taken down and good-byes said. I won’t see kids or co-workers until next August. Thursday was the school picnic, where I raised an astounding $75 in 15 minutes in the dunk tank. I wasn’t sure to be complimented or insulted at the line of kids lining up to dunk me. In either case, after one year of teaching I am happy to say that IT IS AWESOME. Strange as it sounds, I’m almost as excited for next year as I am for the summer.
For the next week I’m going to be on the road with my old man. We are traveling in ultimate $150 barrel of oil style. My dad has a 2000 Echo that got 42.11 MPG on our last fill-up. Not only does it look cool, we’ve managed to fit two fishing poles, a tackle box, football, tennis rackets, a chess set and full sized cooler inside with our bags. Even better is the feeling of self-righteousness we get making fun of all the tools tooling around in their huge S.U.V.’s. As far as I’m concerned driving an Expedition is like writing “I am stupid” on your forehead.
We spent Sunday in Grants Pass with my grandpa for Father’s Day. We celebrated by going to Tubby’s, my grandpa’s favorite greasy spoon joint. It was full of seniors drawn to it by the free coffee for people 55+. The cuisine seemed designed to make the diners there tubby as well. Greasy bacon, greasy eggs, greasy fruit even. If you are under 55, I do not recommend Tubby's. If 55+ go for the coffee.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

In Case of Nuclear War...

Click here... Good to know that someone out there will be around to carry on the human race.

Hypermililng Revisted

I drive like a maniac. 75 or higher on I-5. When I filled up for gas last Saturday some quick math (gallons/miles) showed me my 97 Toyota Carolla got 31.76 miles per gallon.

I decided to try a little experiment. I would only drive the speed limit, or under. It was difficult, but I persevered and WOW does it make a difference. I noticed something was going on when I reached 360 miles on my 11 gallon tank and the gas light still hadn't come on. I ended up getting to 400 miles for the first time, and ended up with an astonishing 37.9 mpg! That's an increase of 6.13 mpg or nearly 20%

It's not rocket science, just drive the speed limit.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Interesting article today on CNN about hypermiling, or maximizing every drop of gasoline you put in your tank. One guy apparently gets 50 mpg out of his Honda. You can learn more about hypermilers at Try it out and let me know if it works from you.

Inspired by Zachary from Your Red Room, I've been trying to cut my gas consumption to save the environment and my money. I bike the 7 miles to work about twice a week, and have tried my own hypermiling recently by going only the speed limit. It's been difficult, since I enjoy the speed my '97 Carolla provides, but one nice thing is not having to worry about cops anymore. I'm only half-way through the tank, but I'll let you know how it works out.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The World's Best Game

How many great strategists have lost 6 men from Yakutsk attacking the one lowly Alaskan who happens to keep rolling sixes? I know at least one. Won't happen in chess and that's why I love chess. It is pure strategy. Luck plays little or no part; there is no role of the dice, bad beats, or beginner's luck. The better player wins 9 times in 10.

With apologies to soccer, chess is the true Beautiful Game. Not the board or the pieces, but the game itself. The attacks, combinations, surprises, twists, turns and brilliance it produces are sometimes breathtaking. Bruce from Searching for Bobby Fisher put it best:

What is chess...? Those who play for fun or not at all dismiss it as a game. The ones who devote their lives to it... insist that it's a science. It's neither. Bobby Fischer got underneath it like no one before and found at its center, art.

Well said! If chess is art, then Yahoo chess is the street vendor selling cheap knock-offs of the masterpieces. You can play in any number of rooms against all manner of people. I prefer 5 minute, quick hitting games. Either you checkmate, get checkmated, or somebody's time runs out. No long periods watching someone stare at a board.

You can tell a lot about your opponent by their avatar. Mine is a handsome young man in a 3 piece suit with his hands in his pockets. He looks successful and inviting, confident but with nothing to prove because he does need to. The kinda guy I'd like to share a beer with. Some people go other routes. You can break down the people you meet into three types.


Silent and strange. Eschews communication no matter the circumstances. Often they have unusual avatars, like aaaafriger. His/her avatar was an asexual looking young person in a police uniform, waving his/her arms in the air. There appeared to be a yacht in the background. He/she was rated 100 points above me and promptly dispatched me, and just as quickly left the board without even a "good game" (or "gg" in Yahoo chess short hand). Where he she/went I'll never know.
Many have Asian-looking avatars, leading me to suspect that vast legions Chinese are playing chess between cyber-attacks on the Pentagon and NSA.

Taunting in victory and cursing in defeat. Make online chess interesting and often R-rated. Often dressed as a roman legionnaire or a cowboy. Misogynistic. Many blame women for losing, saying they were being distracted in various ways.
Notable is Chessterthemolester40, who after beating me three times proclaimed "you were chesstually molested!"

Kindly. Often dressed in flannel, a t-shirt, or a suit. Quick with a "gg", thank you (ty), or good luck (gl). Sometimes will try to engage you in casual conversation, occasionally will ask where you live (raising concerns). Weaker players will allow you to beat them repeatedly, increasing your rating.