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September 01, 2018


Wait a minute. Isn't ObWi our favorite TWA?

I mean, chess is all right. And I have happily wasted tons of time recently, learning to program an Arduino. But the time I truly enjoy wasting is ... well, this very moment.

Human beings spend their time trying to either:
1) Save time, or
2) Waste time.
My considered opinion is that both are rewarding pursuits.


Wait a minute. Isn't ObWi our favorite TWA?


Wait a minute. Isn't ObWi our favorite TWA?

Yup. Not even close . . . although curling up with a book is a pretty good second.

It's certainly mine - although actually, I'm not so sure I agree it's time-wasting. I mean, apart from anything else, it's astonishing the number of acronyms I've learnt (lbdg is my favourite so far, although I now can't remember: that might be dglb).

Using acronyms: a way to save time.
Collecting acronyms: a way to waste time.


My immediate reaction was like the above: I was "wasting time" in the Internet, with Obwi as one of my stops!

As for other "wasters"---reading, I suppose. Sailing. My husband bought a sail boat so I am agood sport and go sailing now.

FreeCell. I'll write a piece.

Why sure I'm a billiard player
Certainly mighty proud I say
I'm always mighty proud to say it
I consider that the hours I spend
With a cue in my hand are golden
Help you cultivate horse sense
And a cool head and a keen eye
J'ever take and try to find
An iron-clad leave for yourself
From a three-rail billiard shot?
But just as I say
It takes judgment, brains, and maturity to score
In a balkline game
I say that any boob can take
And shove a ball in a pocket
And I call that sloth
The first big step on the road
To the depths of deg-ra-day--
I say, first, medicinal wine from a teaspoon
Then beer from a bottle!
An' the next thing ya know
Your son is playin' for money
In a pinch-back suit
And list'nin to some big out-a-town jasper
Hearin' him tell about horse-race gamblin'
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no!
But a race where they set down right on the horse!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey boy
Settin' on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil?
Well, I should say
Now, friends, lemme tell you what I mean
Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table
Pockets that mark the diff'rence
Between a gentlemen and a bum
With a capital "B,"
And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!
And all week long your River City
Youth'll be fritterin' away
I say your young men'll be fritterin'!
Fritterin' away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
Get the ball in the pocket
Never mind gettin' dandelions pulled
Or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded
Never mind pumpin' any water
'Til your parents are caught with the cistern empty
On a Saturday night and that's trouble
Yes you got lots and lots of trouble
I'm thinkin' of the kids in the knickerbockers
Shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool
Hall window after school, ya got trouble, folks!
Right here in River City
Trouble with a capital "T"
And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!

The Music Man, Meredith Wilson

Thanks dr ngo, I was singing it in my head from the first line.

Thanks Michael, looking forward to seeing it!

Test cricket.
The games last up to five days; nothing comes close.

A friend of mine has a suffleboard table in his basement. I don’t spend a lot of time in general playing it, but when I do, hours can go by unnoticed. You might even find yourself leaving the house as the sun is coming up. I think there’s a wormhole involved somehow.

Thanks dr ngo, I was singing it in my head from the first line.

Me too.

Good luck, dr. ngo.

1. Echoing Marty and byomtov about the song and the good luck to dr. ngo.

Just the other day in the grocery store, the person who was checking me out got sidetracked by a request from another direction, and she looked at me and she said, "We got trouble with a capital T!"

I sang it all the way home.

2. Whist is my TWA, but only sporadically because it's a family activity, and we're not all together that often. When we are....hours at a time.

Reading, otherwise.

ObWi, of course.

3. Nigel: how about a guest post about cricket, esp. cricket for the clueless, in easy lessons. :-)

Plus, Michael Cain, I think I need a trigger warning if you're going to write about Freecell. Along with a couple of other internet addictions (sudoku above all, but also jigsaw puzzles, to which IIRC I was originally turned on by Doctor Science, right here, many years ago), once I start I can't stop.

It's got to be total and cold turkey with me. My BIL does one Freecell puzzle a day. I can't seem to manage that. So I try to make sure I don't start, or I then spend months trying to climb back out of the muck.

With some notice, I'll try to be somewhere with no internet while a Freecell thread is going on. Ha ha, but I'm only half kidding.

I have had a WWF game going with my son since 2012.

I once tried to calculate the time spent.

Years ago, actually more like a couple of decades ago, my mother-in-law gave me a game called Age of Empires. So long ago that it's running on an HP computer that doesn't even connect to the Internet. It can still suck me in for an hour or two. Frequently.

I still have Age of Empires,well my son does.

Nigel: how about a guest post about cricket, esp. cricket for the clueless, in easy lessons. :-)

Going to have to work up to it, as I’m still suffering from shock at England winning today, but yes, I’ll try to make time next weekend.

....So long ago that it's running on an HP computer that doesn't even connect to the Internet.

My father in law had one of the first Macintoshes back in the 80s. I remember staying up until dawn plying Strategic Conquest several nights running (as the game progressed, it took the computer several seconds to make a move). My first experience of virtual worlds.

And I can’t begin to count the amount of time I wasted playing all night bridge at university. Often with a bottle of malt, and getting a taxi to obtain a fresh packet of Marlboro in the early hours...

Now that really was wasting time.

Civ III used to keep me up all night.

just one more turn!

and a turn somehow takes 45 minutes.

Mention of the early Macs triggered a memory, but when I thought about it, it turned out to be a memory of an Apple II game called Snakebite.

It was barebones in those days. You moved the head of a snake around eating dots, and as you ate the dots, the snake got longer. If the snake's head crashed into the "wall" or its own tail, kaboom, back down the levels you'd go. (Or maybe you had three tries on each level? It was a long time ago.)

There were 28 levels. On the last level, chance trumped skill, in that if you didn't guess the correct direction for the snake the instant play started, you were dead.

Having played obsessively for weeks, I quit cold turkey and never found out what grand prize would have come my way if I had persisted. Beating the game by guessing was not a satisfying conclusion.


My ex, father of my children, bought an original Nintendo for Christmas when our son was 3. The box was supposedly for the adult, but my son was allowed a very rationed amount of time on it. His favorite game was Castlevania -- ever so much fancier by 1988 than the Snakebite on my Apple II. It involved several kinds of motion -- jumping, moving forward, cracking a whip at moving objects, etc. -- and the 3-year-old used to play it while jumping on the couch.

A couple of years later an optometrist tried to get us to spend $500 on glasses for the then 5-year-old on the grounds that his eyes weren't "tracking properly." The pediatrician said the optometrist was pushing what was essentially a scam, and the ophthalmologist said the kid didn't need glasses.

Which tracked (pun noted) with my feeling that a kid who could beat the Castlevania game while jumping on the couch was having no trouble tracking things with his eyes.

This was the game (the original version running off the floppy disc):

It dawn's on me that there are three games I spent hours playing. Of course the original Zelda was amazing at the time.

There was a game called Baseball Stars that you could win points to make your players better that we would spend whole weekends playing.

But by far the most mindless TWA for a while was Snood.

If the Music Man lyrics were texted, emailed, or tweeted by a teenager or a 20-something or other, we'd have trouble, alright, but it wouldn't be capitalized.

My 28-year old son and I have had a Stratomatic Baseball League ... 20 teams, 162 games each ... going since 2008.

This time-wasting you speak of, I no comprehend.

IMHO, Frederick Winslow Taylor and his acolytes have wasted more human time than anyone since Sisyphus.

They interrupted daydreaming at work.

Vladimir: Ça a fait passer le temps.
Estragon: il serait passé sans ça.

I spent the weekend at a bridge tournament. I feel that somehow that shouldn't count as a TWA, but I don't see why not.

I spent the weekend at a bridge tournament.

Definitely not a TWA.

How did you do?

Between mentions of sudoku, to which I went through a period of addiction, and older computer games, I was reminded of my Minesweeper addiction from years back. Sudoku and Minesweeper require very similar forms of logic and may have satisfied the same craving in whatever region of the brain.

I played Minesweeper without using flags, just to make it harder. I like to live on the edge.

We won!

Old computer games, you say?

I'm still keeping alive an old HP mini-tower PC purchased in 1999 with Windows 98 on it. I loaded Windows 2003 on it in 2004. The original monitor died in 2006 and I replaced it with a used Sony CRT monitor that is now on its last legs. The external speakers still work great, though.

And why do I keep this relic alive? Because it plays a more satisfying game of Windows PINBALL than any other computer I have ever owned.

I became something of a pinball-holic as a student, when there was a pinball room next to the 24-hour coffeehouse in the old MIT Student Center. Late-night study breaks for my roommates and me consisted of a coffee, a bagel, and 50 cents worth of pinball -- which got to be longer and longer because we could generally score high enough to rack up several free games.

That was back in the 70s. By the turn of the millennium, virtual pinball on Windows was my only pinball fix. Once I established that I could keep a single game going forever (300M+ points) by steadily accumulating extra balls, wasting time THAT way stopped being fun.

So I switched to playing it like golf -- seeing how FEW points it would take me to go up through all 9 levels. My best result was around 14M points, which must correspond to about 10 under par in 9 holes of golf.

I have found more efficient ways to waste time in recent years, but I do still occasionally fire up that old PC for a game of pinball-golf.


The external speakers still work great, though.

My wife bought my MiL a Gateway desktop back in the mid to late 90s. It came with a pair of Harman Kardon speakers. I now/still have them. I keep them in my bedroom to listen to my 2nd generation iPod Nano.

Old stuff is funny.

my current TWA is a game called SpellTower. it's a combination of Boggle and Tetris. games can last weeks, if i'm patient and lucky.

Pokemon Go.
It’s a good excuse to go for a long walk.

(And I am emotionally attached to Pokemon, the game having more or less taught my youngest to read back in the day.)

Perhaps time wastes us.

At least the time we waste is not like the plastic and other garbage floating in ghastly ocean-going islands of pelican-strangling glop.

Time is biodegradable. There is residue ..... regret .....yes, that causes longing at the cellular level.

If only and a little hole in the heart gives way.

‘I wasted time, and now doth time waste me’...

Living's mostly wasting time

And I'll waste my share of mine

But it never feels too good

So let's don't take too long

Townes can Zandt

Damn phone. Van Zandt of course

Sitting on the dock of the bay is a great way to waste time.

If it's the right bay....

I think sitting there turned out not to be such a waste.

I sometimes fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way, often while kicking around on a piece of ground in my home town.

It's just an any old kind of day
the kind that comes and slips away
filling up easy my lifestyle time

Oh for an editor

Filling up easy my lifes time

We won!


But what did you win? Pair game? Swiss? Both?

Thanks byomtov. Multiple teams, English championship.

Sudoku and Minesweeper require very similar forms of logic and may have satisfied the same craving in whatever region of the brain.

The problem with Minesweeper is that it constantly requires the equivalent of coin tosses without the possibility of backtracking, i.e. it's not pure logic.
Btw, I hate it that solitaire has no internal solvability check. About 1 in 5 don't solve and one can prove it.

Hartmut, you may be over-thinking the TWA concept.

I’m not convinced, russell.
Surely one of the notable characteristics of a large subset of TWA is the excessive fascination with incidental detail ?

The problem with Minesweeper is that it constantly requires the equivalent of coin tosses without the possibility of backtracking, i.e. it's not pure logic.

No, it's not pure logic (though you can't win without it), but I'd say "constantly" is an overstatement. The coin tosses are concentrated at the beginning and the end. In between, you can avoid taking chances fairly well.

I love Richard II. One of the best of his middling plays:


"filling up easy my lifestyle time"

Poetry for the Kardashians.

Faux pearls before swine.


I never heard of Arduino before, but it looks interesting as hell. I'd love to learn more.

Are you still at world. etc?


Richard II is a fabulous play. It seems much underappreciated to me. I also love Henry IV, part 1.

Can honour set to a leg? no: or
an arm? no: or take away the grief of a wound? no.
Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? no.


If you get the chance and haven't already, Orson Welles' film "Chimes at Midnight", featuring Falstaff, is worth a look.


Also, this was effective, I thought:


Arduino is big fun if you're into hobby coding and/or device control and/or robotics.

I hacked up some simple controller stuff for a buddy of mine who is developing a remote-control music stand. Speaking of TWA....

Arduino is a really nice, lightweight development environment for getting code to talk to gizmos and make them go. If you have any exposure to C or C++ you no doubt have all the programming language chops you need. If you have any familiarity with the basic lingo of motors etc., you are probably good to go. Lots and lots of freeware libraries to grab and use.

I highly suspect that Michael Cain has poked around in Arduino-land as well.

This should be good, too ... it'll get the base out:


Comforting, this:


As a politically correct liberal, when the vermin right wing in pathological America gang rapes me and kills me, I hope it's a rainbow coalition daisy chain.

Are we fucked up .. or what?

In a remarkable display of efficiency and time saving, Senate Republicans reviewed 42,000 pages of Kavanaugh documents, literally overnight:


russell: Lots and lots of freeware libraries to grab and use.

Ah, but to waste time properly, writing code from scratch to run a stepper motor with accel/decel ramping is the only way to go.

BTW, russell: I was thinking of you when I wrote an Arduino program to click a pair of solenoids at different rhythms -- 3 against 2, 5 against 3, whatever. Never having been able to drum such patterns myself, I just wanted to hear what they sound like.


I also love Henry IV, part 1.

The two Henry IV plays are perhaps Shakespeare's greatest - the most dramatically satisfying, at least.

The finest production I saw was at the Santa Cruz Shakespeare back in 2011, outside among the redwoods... sadly only Part 1
Richard Ziman was a vastly superior Falstaff to the very disappointing Anthony Sher version I saw more recently.

And then Henry V. The St Crispins Day speech
can still send a shudder down my spine.

I highly suspect that Michael Cain has poked around in Arduino-land as well.

I have an Uno here somewhere, but have largely jumped back and forth over the capabilities that the Arduino provides. I used the same ATMega chip in one project, but (for various reasons) designed my own circuit board for that one. Of late, I've been doing things where the real-time parts are "soft" but I need a lot more memory and processor cycles. That jumped me up to where a Raspberry Pi was more suitable. The Pis are really quite remarkable little devices if you don't have hard real-time requirements or need built-in analog inputs.

Some years back, read a piece in The Economist about the newly reconstructed and opened Globe Theater.

Of particular interest was that the original format was "theater in the round", with the groundlings standing, surrounding the stage.

And how that setting completely energized a performance of Henry V 'Crispin's Day' speech: the groundlings were in the part of Henry's army.

Even just reading about it? Chills.

Lifetimes of topics here....for now I'll settle for saying that TP's rhythm-clicking program sounds great! I never got beyond a passable 3 against 2 on the piano. IIRC in "Genius" it said that Feynman could do 12 against 13...Gack! This is like wanting to be able to dunk a basketball in my next lifetime, or dance like Colin Dunne.

TP - There will probably never be an opportunity, but if there ever is, I'd love to hear your gizmo do those rhythms.


With a few notable exceptions, I am not a hands-on person or a tinkerer...but I thought about exploring Arduino a few years ago because someone close to me has a great deal of difficulty with ordinary keyboards, and I wanted to experiment with other ways of doing it.

I had pretty quickly to face the fact that I wasn't going to pick up even the basics without a guide, and even then I probably wouldn't enjoy it. The programming part -- yes. The tinkering part -- not so much. I don't know an ohm from an ampere or a capacitor from a resistor and I don't really care, so....... ;-)

But one of my work pals still sends me news of inventions in the world of assistive technology. "Tap" was his latest offering -- it's almost exactly what I wanted to invent, a way to tap the fingers anywhere (thigh, lap, table, whatever) to send signals to the computer.

In fact, I was interested in this for myself, and not just for my friend who has difficulties with chronic pain, computer-exacerbated. It would be nice to be able to sit on the bus, or in a cafe, or just about anywhere, tapping away unobtrusively.

Reading the Amazon reviews, I decided that Tap is a great idea but not ready for prime time (esp. at $179). One reviewer said it got up to maybe 12 words a minute typing straight text....that's almost an order of magnitude too slow. But it's a great idea that I'm going to keep an eye on.


Great speech, but I'm not as fond of the play as I am of Richard II and the Henry IV plays.

Probably that's partly because I'm one of those who dislikes Hal. Dumping his friend, as he always intended ("I shall, I will"); invading France on a pretext, killing prisoners, and so on.

Henry V. is my favorite Shakespeare play. But I admit that is the one I know best and so this preference may be born of simple ignorance.
I clearly prefer the Olivier film adaptation and find the Brannagh one lacking in comparision.
But as far as adaptations go, Kurosawa's version of Macbeth is difficult to beat.
And then there are of course The Beatles doing a scene (Pyramus and Thisbe) from A Midsummer Night's Dream ;-)

Since it's art, I try not to worry that much about the real-life individuals on which it is based. Just like I can enjoy Hamilton without worrying about whether any of the Founding Fathers could carry a tune.

I’m with byomtov: Henry V is kind of a dick in the play, irrespective of what he might have been in real life.
Some stirring rhetoric, though.

Richard II, that’s true poetry.

Apart from Bolingbroke.

Ah, but to waste time properly, writing code from scratch to run a stepper motor with accel/decel ramping is the only way to go.

I use to write code for indoor radar test ranges. I would waste time finding the stepper motor speed that would match the natural harmonic of the rig to see how hard it would shake.


I was in fact referring to the character.

Fair enough.

I would waste time finding the stepper motor speed that would match the natural harmonic of the rig to see how hard it would shake.

Yet more evidence supporting my thesis that engineers are inherently dangerous people. I include myself in that category.

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