My Old Kentucky Homesite

Now Isn’t That Spatial?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 07/20/2010

You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging much in the last week or so. That’s because I have no spatial sense.

Some of you may be saying, “What?” So I’ll explain.

First of all, you should know that I come by my lack of spatial sense honestly, through genetics. My father could get lost sliding from one end of the couch to the other. When he wanted to plan a car trip for the family, the only way he could read a map was to spread it out on the kitchen table and use a penny to stand for our Studebaker. Slowly, speaking aloud the exit numbers, he’d move the coin along the route. Every time he had to make a turn, he’d rotate the map, and say, “Let’s see. North is …?” Once we were actually in the car, he wouldn’t remember anything. At every junction, he’d shake his head in disbelief and say, “Do me something, but I could have sworn this was gonna be 87. Where’d 95 come from all of a sudden?”

My mother could never remember the numbers of the roads. She was not bad at reading maps, but whenever she opened one, she immediately got sidetracked by trying to figure out how to refold it. “Let’s see, the crease goes this way, but then it goes that way. Hmm.” She did, however, know landmarks, but only if they had any family history attached to them. “Watch for the Howard Johnson’s, and about two blocks before you get there, make a right.”

My father would say, reasonably enough I always thought, “How can I make a right before the goddamned Howard Johnson’s if I can’t see it yet, f’Chrissake?”

“Oh, you know that Howard Johnson’s. The one where Larry asked for a peach cone and they gave him pistachio by mistake?”

“I don’t remember that. What did I have?”


My father always had chocolate, wherever we went. He was not very adventurous when it came to ice cream. Or adventures either, for that matter. “Don’t give me any landmarks. Just tell me a number. Or a name, at least.”

“The Hutch. We’ll watch for a sign that says the Hutch. I think it might be near that gas station where we once stopped to pee.”

“Oh, f’cryinoutloud. We always stop to pee. Is that where the Hutch is?”

“No, that’s where the sign is.”

In any case, my parents had no spatial sense, and neither do I. Which is why it was probably a dumb move on my part to buy the Chessmaster program.

When the software arrived about two weeks ago, I was automatically ranked at 900, based on my answers to a few simple questions, most of which involved my willingness to let my name be floated around the Internet as a potential sucker for sales pitches. The evil Chessmaster then started throwing virtual opponents at me, and it wasn’t long before I whittled myself down to the high negatives.

In the process, I did manage to learn a few simple precepts. Develop your muscles before bishops. Fight for control of Lincoln Center. Never play with queens too early. That knight on the rim’s named Jim. Watch out for forks and skewers (although other cooking utensils are OK). I’ve even memorized a few common openings: the Wild-Indian Defense, the Sicilian Mafia, the “Illegal Immigrant” Lopez (first round up all your opponent’s suspicious-looking pieces, then ask questions), and of course, the French Chef (hit ’em with a cleaver, and bon appétit).

But I now sit comfortably at around –1000, and I’m playing computeroid children, some of whom don’t know the difference between a rook and a Lego.

Maybe if the kids I battle were labeled by religious affiliation, I’d have an easier time trying to defeat them. I’m sure that if they were classified as representatives of the dark forces, I could probably work myself into a rage — at least at their fictional god-and-pawn-pushing parents. Instead, I feel avuncular. I tell myself: What would it do to Cassie’s poor little simulated ego if I checkmated her? Not that I can, mind you.

So that’s why I haven’t been blogging much lately. To make the world a better place, I’ve been single-handedly battling the cyber-tots. We cannot let the robots win!

Umm … please don’t hide your king in your mouth, sweetheart.


15 Responses to “Now Isn’t That Spatial?”

  1. Ralph said

    I learned the rules of chess fifty years ago. There was no cyber, but I was a tot. I play on where the cyber-tots beat me like a drum.

  2. Ralph:
    … the cyber-tots beat me like a drum.
    I hope they’re playing their paradiddles on a real set of skins, not on one of those electronic rhythm machines. In any case, there’s always this consolation.

  3. srsny said

    I play an online version of Chessmaster and keep losing to Stanley the Chimpanzee. My level is down to 16, from a starting point of 300.

  4. Srsny:
    Obviously, you have to hone your skill at playing the King’s Banana Gambit. Tip: It’s always best to trade your bad banana for a good typewriter ribbon, because if you leave Stanley alone in a room with a typewriter for a long enough time, he’ll notate the entire Fischer-Spassky match.

  5. I used to play on but I haven’t in a long time. I never learned any names for maneuvers, but playing tots online is interesting because a maneuver will become the flavor of the month and EVERYONE will do it. Actually, the unscrupulous way to win on Pogo is to say you’re a 16yo girl in your profile and play a timed game. While your opponent tries to chat you up, their time runs out. :)

  6. Philly:
    I’m not sure I could fuck up my grammar, spelling, and punctuation enough to pass for a teenager.

  7. Ralph said

    Thank you for the link. It made me laugh on a humdrum day.

    A friend’s father owned the local radio station in the early seventies. We sat
    by the teletype machine to get the latest moves during the Fischer-Spassky match.
    Those were good times, but I’m beginning to think today is better. The net is
    much better and will be until theist and governments regulate it.

  8. Ralph:
    The net is much better and will be until theists and governments regulate it.

    Yeah, you can say that aga …

    Hey, wait a minu…

    What the fu…

    Oh, holy sh…

  9. Linwood said

    Who knows how many of those chess wizard children may be Bobby Fischer’s progeny? Wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a long line of money grubbers waiting to stake their claim now that he’s been exhumed.

  10. Linwood:
    Although Fischer was a chess machine, I don’t think he was able to generate virtual children like the ones I’ve been playing against.

    Here’s the story you’re referring to. I guess the question is: When Fischer played in the Phillipines, did he leave his king exposed?

  11. A few months ago, my son was very interested in playing chess. I would read the paper on my kindle while playing, paying little attention otherwise. One time, however, I looked up to see that I was inescapably a couple of moves from checkmate. My son noticed as well, and got so excited, he knocked over the chessboard. Only thus was I saved the utter humiliation of defeat at the hands of a second grader. I am now a little more careful.

  12. Des:
    That business about your Kindle sounds like a cooked-up excuse to me. By the way: If you were a really good dad, you’d play against your kid on a chess set that’s magnetic. The pieces stay where they are even if you fling it across the room.

  13. Ah yes, distracted by the damn Kindle, and the sun was in your eyes too perhaps, and there was that noise from the neighbor’s house, and of course you were sleep deprived, and…

    Just spin it into your child being a super genius.

  14. It’s a good thing I’m not a really good dad.

    As far as the “super genius” theory, I can actually hear his IQ dropping every time his mother lets him watch one of the stupid cartoons he loves.

  15. Des:
    You mean you haven’t bought him “Mighty Mouse Conquers Alekhine” yet?

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