Saturday, December 24, 2011

Scattermusing While Wondering Whatever Happened to Billy Kilmer

Ah yes, the Washington Redskins during the 1970s.  George Allen and the "Over the Hill Gang".  As a Cowboy fan, I got to see the Redskins at least twice per season.  Ah yes, the hated Redskins.  With the possible exception of coach George Allen, no Redskin was more hated than Billy Kilmer, the worst quarterback to ever beat the Cowboys on a consistent basis.  And the worst passer the league as ever known.  Until Tim Tebow.  Oh, the memories.


After watching Tim Tebow the last couple of weeks, I have to state that he is NOT overrated.  He hands off the ball as good as any quarterback in the league.


If you don't believe there are a lot of lonely people out there, just go in a chat room on Christmas eve or Christmas day.


Speaking of Christmas, thank goodness THAT's over.  I don't think I could stand another moment of peace, joy, and goodwill toward men.


If you ever consider becoming a vegetarian and can't seem to find the motivation, try watching the movie "Fast Food Nation."  It will make you want to stop eating beef.  Or at least, never eat a fast food burger again.


And then there was the woman who came home from her doctor's appointment and flitted about from room to room with an energy level her husband had never witnessed before.  So he asked her, "What are you so happy about?"
She replied, "The doctor said I have the breasts of an 18 year old."
The husband quipped, "What did he say about your 45 year old ass?"
The wife said, "Your name never came up."

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Patzer Chronicles, Vol. II

This was a sobering week in my quest for 2000.  I played 3 live games online while also continuing with my correspondence games.  Here's how things panned out:

First, correspondence.  One of the four games I am involved in got aborted by my opponent.  A player can abort a game within the first 10 moves without affecting the ratings of either player.  The other 3 games are still in progress, all in the opening phase.  I think I have an advantage in one of them.  My opponent appears to have blundered with a bishop move.  He now has had to move the bishop back to avoid losing it.  That has given me, as black, a tempo and a lead in development.  I also have a stronger pawn center.  I haven't found any tactical combinations that he could use to hurt me, so I think I may be alright.  Still, I can't help thinking it's a trap.  Yes, I'm paranoid, but is it paranoia if they really are out to get you?

In the other two games, things are looking very dicey.  I am black in both the games and I think my position is solid, but any inaccurate play could doom me.

Which brings me to the next aspect of correspondence play.  I seem to be spending a considerable amount of time evaluating my next move.  Is that normal?  How much time does the average player spend?  I'm not talking about how quickly I make my move.  I mean the amount of time spent looking at the position and calculating variations.  Should I be spending that much time on it?

I am not really concerned (much) about spending too much time on it.  This is simply my curiosity about how I compare to other players in this aspect.  I am enjoying the time that I spend analyzing.  It stimulates my brain and, hopefully, increases my education in chess theory.  But I am still curious about the amount of time.  So any correspondence chess players out there, please comment on how long you spend (just guess if you have to) on calculating your next move, especially in the opening phase of the game.

Now for live chess.  I played one 10 minute game, with black, on FICS and was unceremoniously crushed.  This dropped my blitz rating to 1011.  The other two games were played on  The first game I played, a win with white, was against a computer opponent rated 1188.  It was a 5 minute game, which I won in 29 moves and achieved a rating of 1361.  However, that was short lived.  My next game was with black against a human player in a 10 minute time control.  I lost in 27 moves and my rating plummeted to 1180.  So now I have a record of 1 win and 1 loss on

The losses have really started to hurt my confidence.  And the one win this week really doesn't help much because it was against a low rated computer opponent.  At this rate, the quest for 2000 could run into my retirement years.  Oh well, if it was easy everyone would do it.

I have the entire week between Christmas and New Year's day off from work.  So I am going to try to play more chess, especially at longer time controls.  I would like to play a minimum of 15 minutes/game and see what I can do with my standard rating.  I may also get in on some tournaments.  They have several every day at  The time controls vary from 1 minute up to 15 minutes per game.  The tournaments run from 3 to 7 rounds.  Most likely, they are Swiss system or round robin type of tournaments.  I think it will be a good way to test my skills and get some seasoning in the online chess world.  Plus, it will be fun!

So until next time, happy mating!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Patzer Chronicles: Vol I

If you didn't already know by reading my previous post, Quest for 2000, I am on a quest to improve my chess game and, hopefully, reach a rating online of 2000 ELO.  Now that is a lofty goal, and will take a great deal of study and focus.  2000 is expert status as chess goes.  Not easy to attain.  But, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

So anyway, this is the first of a series of posts that will chronicle my journey.  Enjoy!

Well, this week I only managed to play one live game online, a 5 minute game, with the black pieces, against a 1174 rated opponent.  I lost.  I tend not to play games with time controls less than 10 minutes (though I prefer 15) because it doesn't seem to give me enough time to think and I end up losing on time, which I did in this game.  Although, chances are I would have lost anyway.

I blundered away a knight early in the game.  Although I did manage to get some counterplay on the king side and eventually won the piece back.  But my queen side was a shambles and my opponent managed a passed pawn that, due to time pressure, I couldn't figure out a way to stop from promoting.

However, this wasn't the only chess I played this week.  I reaquainted myself with two websites that I had registered at a couple of years ago, but had forgotten about. and  Here, you can not only play live, but correspondence chess as well.  Correspondence chess, also known as Postal chess, was once played through the mail service.  Players would mail moves back and forth to each other.  Today, with the internet, play is done online or through e-mail.  It is a very interesting way to play.  There is no real time pressure to speak of.  Time controls run anywhere from 1 to 5 days per move, or more.  Also, depending on the rules of the web host, you can use reference materials, such as opening books to plan your strategy and help analyze the position.  You can also set up the position on a board and move the pieces around to try different combinations.  In this sense, correspondence chess is more of a learning experience than a competition.

Some web sites allow the use of computer chess engines to analyze positions.  But I don't think I will use one even if it is allowed.  I want to learn to analyze and calculate on my own.  I don't want to depend on an engine to find my moves, even if I lose without it.  The idea, for me, is to improve my chess skills.  Using a machine to evaluate a move or position won't help me much with that.

So, I am now a correspondence player.  This is my first foray into this style of chess.  I currently have 4 games in progress, 2 at each of the sites above.  That is another advantage of correspondence chess.  With the long time between moves, you can manage to play several games at one time.  It is very early in my games, but so far I am enjoying correspondence.  I wasn't sure that I would.  I didn't think I had the patience to wait several days for my opponent to move or spend extra time evaluating the position.  But it has been rather pleasant.

By the way, I highly recommend both and  They both have great features and massive resources for chess lovers to enjoy, both novice and master. is run by Tryfon Gavriel, better known as Kingscrusher to chess enthusiasts.  Tryfon is a FIDE Candidate master and a British regional master who produces youtube videos analyzing chess games and teaching chess principles.  He even does commentary on his own live games while he's playing them!  I highly recommend subscribing to his channel.

One more shameless plug.  If you are looking for a chess forum and game database, look no further than  Chessgames has a database of over 600,000 games, each with it's own "kibitzing" page.  It is free to register and post on the many forums, but I would recommend becoming a premium member.  It opens up a world of wonderful features, all for the very reasonable price of $29US per year.  The members and visitors of this site are very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.  Many professional chess players, including grandmasters comment on the forum.  As a premium member, you can even have your own personal forum!  The amount of  features available is too long to list here.  Check it out!

That's all for now.  I am going to try to post once a week to update my progress and define my goals and plans.  This week, I will try to play more live games online.  If anyone is interested in playing against me, I usually play at FICS, or you can try or

Until next time, happy mating!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Quest for 2000 (but I'll settle for 1500)

I am a chess player.  It is a game that I find both enjoyable and perplexing.  The vast amount of opening theory alone is enough to fill a bank of super computers.  But I suppose that is what I love about it.  It is a game of unlimited challenge.  It is practically unsolvable (though the computer engines are hard at work trying to prove otherwise).

I don't get much of a chance to play chess.  When I do, it is usually against one of the personalities in Chessmaster 9000, the computer game.  Practically no one I know in real life plays chess.  So when I grow weary of silicon-based opponents, I turn to the internet.

My favorite place to play (read: the only place I play) is the Free Internet Chess Server, or FICS.  As the name implies, it is free to play here and it is always easy to find a game, no matter what your skill level or time control preference.  And, if you don't want to use the web interface on FICS, they offer several graphical interfaces that are powerful and easy to use.  I use Babaschess which is the most popular of the interfaces, but there are lots of choices.  There are even ones for mobile phones.

To play chess on FICS, you don't even have to register, you can play as a guest.  However, if you want to play rated games, and thereby earn a rating, and play tournaments, then registration is required.  I play under the handle of DissidentAggresor.  Although I have been a member at FICS since 2007, I have only managed to play 8 games (7 rated).  That's not exactly an accelerated pace.  As I said, I rarely manage to find time for chess, especially against living, breathing opponents.  I think that's why I play so much against my computer.  Time is not as much of a factor.  I can pause the game or start and stop whenever I want.

Anyway, my rating on FICS is presently 1282 for blitz (5 games) and 1583 for standard (2 games).  My record for blitz (any game less than 15 minutes per player) is 3 wins, 1 loss, 1 draw.  The 3 wins came in two 10-minute games and one 12-minute game.  In standard time controls, I managed 1 win and 1 loss (both 15 minute games).  I prefer standard time controls to blitz because I'm a slow thinker.  But it is easier to find opponents at the shorter time controls.  Still I try to play a mix of game lengths.

So, why am I telling you all this?  Because I have decided to play more chess online.  I want to improve my chess.  I want to achieve a rating of 2000 in either blitz or standard or both.  Now a rating of 2000 is a lofty goal in chess, even on an online chess server.  So I threw in the caveat that I will settle for 1500.  Now, my current standard rating is 1583, but because I have played so few games, it most likely isn't very accurate.  My ratings would be what FIDE, the World Chess Federation, calls provisional.  FIDE requires that you play at least 20 rated games before your rating becomes standard.  So I have a ways to go.

So let the quest begin!  I will continue to post updates as I go along.  My goal is to play at least one game every week, hopefully more.  I guess you could say it's my move.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Scattermusing While Wondering What Ever Happened to Rod Hull (and his Emu)

OK, new rule:  you must be at least 25 years old in order to publish your biography/autobiography.  Make it 30 years old.  I mean, really.  It was bad enough when what's-his-name, the football player, published "Give Me the Damn Ball" at the tender age of 22.  But now, what do I see on the bookstore shelves?  A biography of Bristol Palin.  Who's only claim to fame is being the pregnant teen daughter of the governor of Alaska, and former Vice-Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.  She's 20.  I mean, other than listening to her justify having sex with her boyfriend at the age of 17, without using protection, mind you, what else do we really need to read about her?

Then, there is Justin Bieber who, despite the fact that he looks 12 (my darling wife assures me he's 18), has his own biography on the shelves, "My Story So Far."  His story so far?  Couldn't that fit into a pamphlet?  Granted, he's a big celebrity, but could you really stretch the first 18 years of someone's life into several hundred pages?

And here's the other thing, you know that this won't be the last time these two, and others like them, grace the book shelves.  I guarantee Bieber's not done writing his memoirs.  And Palin assuredly isn't either.  So why should I waste perfectly good money on the first few chapters of a serial?  Wouldn't I be better off waiting for the whole story in the second, third or fourth publication of "their story so far?"  I think so.


Just because you don't care what others think about you, that does not make it acceptable to be an asshole.


Homosexual marriage should be banned.  Heterosexual marriage should be banned.  Let's just ban all forms of marriage, shall we?  That way, we could all live with and love whomever we please without the church, the government, and the "moral majority" sticking their noses in it.  For those who wish to hate, don't worry.  You will still have that privilege.  You just won't  have any political leverage to force your opinions on the rest of us.


Notepad ++ is like Notepad on steroids.  Outstanding!


And then there was the Aggie who thought a football coach had 4 wheels. (I wonder how many wheels it does have)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In the Name of Jesus, Where the Fuck are They?

Last night there was a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs outside my apartment.  The blood belonged to a young man, no more than half my age, who, due either to a fatal misstep or a glass too much, plunged from the third floor landing to the concrete below.

He was attending a birthday party at the apartment of a young couple that live directly above me.  The party was loud and boisterous.  And, of course, the drink flowed freely, or so the smell of alcohol on some of the other party-goers would indicate.  When he fell and hit the ground it seemed to shake the entire apartment building.  There were screams and the sound of hurried footsteps on the staircase.

I was not home at the time.  Mrs. B related the story to me later.  She went out to see what the commotion was and was staggered by the scene.  My glorious wife is made of pretty stern stuff.  It takes a lot to rattle her.  Believe me, I know.  I've tried.  But the sight of copious amounts of blood gushing from a young man's skull will shock anyone.  As the man's friends ran to his aid, bringing towels and rags to help stop the bleeding, Mrs. B called 911.  The operator said they had already received several calls for the incident.

My wife went back out to see if she could help.  Of course, there's not much one can do in a situation like that, except pray.  And pray she did.  She raised her hands to God and asked for help for that poor young man in Jesus' name.  Many of the man's friends did the same.  Our downstairs neighbor came out and laid hands on the victim, praying to Jesus.

It seemed to take forever for the paramedics to arrive.  At one point, one of the young man's friends cried out, "In the name of Jesus, where the fuck are they?"  Many people would be shocked and disgusted to here the Lord's name used in such a way.  But to me, somehow, considering the dire nature of the situation, it seems appropriate.

I'm not really sure why I felt the need to write about this.  Perhaps to show how fine the thread is that holds us in this life.  And how, especially at a young age, we tend to take immortality for granted.  Let's face it, no one goes to a party thinking, hey, I may not get through this night alive.  He was probably just thinking about getting drunk and having a good time.  Maybe about the possibility of getting laid later.  Or maybe, if he was married or had a girlfriend, ruing the fact that he had to go home with, or to, her later.

Neither my wife nor I know whether this young man lived through the night or went to meet his Creator.  He regained conciousness at some point before being taken away in the ambulance but with a traumatic head injury one can never predict the outcome.  He left behind nothing to show he was ever there, except for a thick, dark, red pool of blood congealing on the concrete breezeway and a few bloody hand prints made by his friends as they ran up and down the staircase retrieving items to help save him.  Mrs. B cleaned the hand prints from the railing after I got home from work that night.  Today, when I went to work, the concrete had been washed clean of any indication of how precariously a young life had hung in the balance just a few hours before.

I remember when my wife told me that the gathering upstairs was a birthday party, I thought, I hope it wasn't his birthday.  Then I realized that it didn't really matter.  Now I keep thinking, I sure hope it wasn't his last.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where Are All The Robots?

The purpose of this post is two-pronged.  First, here I am with a blog titled, "Robot Rhetoric" and yet, outside of my profile mentioning that I am a wannabe roboticist, you won't find one mention of robots or robotics anywhere in the entire blog.  I plan to remedy that (I can hear the yawns already).

But really, robotics is one of my life long passions.  Which is why I chose the name for this blog.  However, I have not been very passionate about this particular interest lately.  Like a lot of things it had been pushed to the back of a cluttered drawer and gathered dust.  After starting this blog, I found that I had nothing to write about robots.  I had not been keeping up with any of the innovations or advances in probably the last 15 years.  The dust had grown thick.  That has begun to change.  I have now scoured the internet and found sites that have articles, videos, news and all the fun stuff I had been missing.  I have a lot of catching up to do and I plan to share it here with all the fans of this blog (both of you -- thanks Mom and Dad).

The second prong has to do with the lack of robots in general society.  I mean, by now, at least according to those "The Future is Bright"-type films and TV shows (in glorious black-and-white) that I saw as a kid, we should have robots to do everything for us -- cook, clean, do the shopping, make repairs, babysit the kids.  But, like the flying cars and interplanetary travel, it just never materialized.  Sure, you can get a small robot to vacuum your floors (iRobot Roomba) or a larger one to mow the lawn (Lawnbotts, or Robomow).  You can buy your kid a RoboRaptor from Lego or a robot puppy dog (Aibo) from Sony (oops, if you want an Aibo, you'll have to buy it used.  Sony pulled the plug on it.  See what I mean?  Out of touch).  But that's about it as far as consumer robots go.  What about the robot chauffeur?  Or Rosie, the robot maid from the Jetson's?  Where are all the robots?  What happened to the robot revolution?

Well, it's happening.  Slowly.  Very slowly here in The States.  Japan, Korea, and Germany all have a national robotics agenda.  America does not.  This could put us way behind in the field of technology, a category in which we have always been a leader.  What does not having a national agenda really mean?  It means a lack of capital investment in robotics research and development, at the government, academic, and industrial level. There are a few signs that this will change.  Let's hope it does.

Why hasn't the robot revolution happened already, as all the sci-fi (and SyFy) prophets predicted?  Well, people always tend to think that things will happen faster than they do; that technology will jump ahead like a lightning bolt.  And that does tend to happen, but, like lightning, it's only in short bursts followed by longer periods of apparent inactivity.  Think of it as the occasional lightning bolt without the rolling thunder.  Instead of repeatedly asking "Are we there yet?" like a child on a long road trip, we should try considering how far we've  already come from where we began.  The robots will come.  Eventually.

Meanwhile, there are tons of resources for the hobbyist interested in building and experimenting with robots.  I will be entering this realm in depth as soon as I can scrape together the time to research and figure out what I want to buy first and the money to be able to buy it.

So, where are all the robots?  Well, they are around.  Mostly in other countries.  But soon they will be coming to my house.  And possibly yours.  In the meantime, I will continue to explore, and hopefully post about, the underground robot revolution.

Power to the Promethians!