Spoofing Minesweep

Back in the mid-90’s I played way too much Minesweep. So I wrote a program to play it, without cheating, for me. (If you can’t beat Minesweeper in “expert” mode in under 7 seconds, you ain’t nuttin’!) That solved the problem of playing too much Minesweep. Made the game boring.

The good part was that I thought of adding a twist:

There was a guy at work who was really good at the game. Really good. Faster than I’d ever be (speaking as one who had to literally pry his fingers from their aching mouse grip).

The twisted idea was to hide the player program and trigger each move with *any* mouse click. So, then, I’d tell the guy (henceforth called “the mark”) that I had gotten real good at the game. Wanna watch, Mark?

Up comes Minesweeper. I start. And whiz the mouse around the minefield, madly clicking while the program steals the clicks and substitutes the nearest correct click. Viola! Minesweep played as fast as you can click.

Looking good enough to win a bet.

The Gold Honda Leaves Us

It had to happen sometime.

363k miles and a new timing belt, rubber and radio didn’t help.

At a corner a few blocks from volleyball in Redmond, the engine wheezed its last.

It was a box to get from here to there.

Quick calculation: $4000 to buy. Let’s say a max of $8k in repairs and maintenance. Another 6 grand for insurance. And 10 thou for gas. 10 years. 15 cents a mile – $233 a month for the whole shooting match excepting parking and garage.

Not bad for a car that I only liked in its last couple months.

And three kids learned to drive in it. So farewell old Honda.

Gold Honda up the Middle Fork

Tennis, anyone

Someone at Synapse drummed up a tennis tournament. Enough people volunteered that we’re playing doubles. I’m paired with a likely-best player, a new college grad named Kate, who played on her high school team. I’m paired that way, maybe, so that she can compensate for me. I told the guy organizing the thing that I hadn’t played in 30 years.

Oh, so true.

Yesterday, Saturday, I scrounged around trying to find the newer racquet we got to ping with the kids when they were under 10. But it’s gone somewhere. So, it was the old Wilson T2000 for me. Stacked against new racquets, it looks like a badminton racquet. A really heavy badminton racquet. Heck, this thing was called the “steelie”!

GI Joe’s. 3 balls for $2.50. Should I get 4 cans for $8.50? Nah. I’ll never use these things again. And, anyway, I’ve never had more than 3 balls. Heck, the only people with a bucket of balls back in the day were rich, old, serious tennis guys and schools and clubs! What enormous changes there have been with prices of small manufactured goods over the last 30 or 40 years! I suspect that three balls wasn’t much cheaper than $2.50 in 1970. If so, minimum-wage-equivalent pricing would be 10 bucks. Sounds about right.

Anyway, I find out where there are some courts and go there.

4 of ’em at Tibbet’s Park in Issaquah.

The end court has a big, green plywood wall with a white, net-stripe. The wall is stuck up on the high fence that’s around all the courts. A woman and her daughter are using the court with the wall. They take a look at me and say,

“You can use this one if you want.”

“Thanks,” I say.

Well, since the wall is on the far side of the court, I figure I’ll just whack 3 serves to get there.

Toss the ball. Nice toss. Swing. Nice swing. Feeling good.



Toss the ball. Nice toss. Swing. Nice swing. Feeling good.



Toss the ball. Nice toss. Swing. Nice swing. Feeling good.


Oh, oh. This is not going precisely according to plan.




Oh gosh.

Time for plan B.

The two are looking at me, probably wondering whether I’ll ever hit the ball. I’m wondering that, too.

I explain that it’s been rather a while since I’ve played. Like it’s not obvious, with my whiffed serves and antique racquet.

Up against the wall, Rob.

Whack, whack. The balls going every which way. I’m hitting about half the time on the shaft. Wheee. A ball sails over the fence. Sheesh.

Whack, chase, whack. Whack-chase-whack-chase-whack, weeee. Another homer.

Whack, chase, whack, chase backward, trip. Over on my tail. It’s so pathetic that it’s funny. Hilarious. The only reaction possible. This is slapstick comedy at its broadest.

Whack, whack. Weeee. All balls are outa here, sports fans.

… And, that was the first 3 minutes of my return to the tennis world.

Time and a lot of Gatorade helped. By the end of the afternoon, I was actually getting a few serves in and keeping the ball under control against the wall.

The serves were slow-mo, as expected. No arm strength. No wrist strength. Oh well. Nothing much can be done about that.

So, today, Sunday, I went back for more punishment. Oooo. My arm felt like lead. Oh, to have one of those new, ultra-light racquets. Of course, I can’t borrow one without using a glove. There is no reason to suspect that my weird hand sweat chemistry has changed from the days when a few minutes of grip would deposit a permanent layer of sticky glue. Pity the poor person who tries out the T2000. (It lays in devious wait. Heh, heh.)

But, hey. I did try “playing” an imaginary player who could not return any serve. I lost the second game against him, but creamed him otherwise. So, with a little warm-up, it appears that I can get the serve over, if not accurately to some particular point on the court, and if not particularly fast. That’s good. I’m pleased.

The kicker: Some people were leaving the courts today. “Hey,” says I, “You have some balls here.” (Four balls on the bench.) “Keep ’em,” they say. Apparently, they weren’t worth walking across two courts to get.

I wonder why few people seem to notice this fantastic thing that’s happened. People are worth, now, so much more than things. But, if you “consume” American (European?) media, you’ll learn over and over and over that this is a bad thing. Odd, that.