Thursday, December 22, 2022

First snow

As predicted, it is bitter cold out outside with a strong wind.

I spread a whole 40-pound bag of ice melt onto the sidewalk and driveway, which could have gotten washed away by the rain earlier.  It might not do much good, but I didn't want the driveway to get blocked by ice which has happened before.


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Chess player

Dale is a Utah chess player I haven't seen in 10 to 12 years who out of the blue sends me a text saying he wants to play me again and claims (presumably jokingly) that he used to crush me on the chess board.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Nice Thanksgiving Meal


The Thanksgiving meal special at Bob Evan’s must be around 2000 calories, not counting the pie dessert we all took home.  

It is almost more than I can eat which is saying something.  I had to run home and take some antacids.

Most ham is too fatty for my taste, but their ham was perfect.  It was excellent. Everything was.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

iPad Pro M2: What Does "Pro" Even Mean?

If you have a good smartphone, a tablet feels unnecessary.

The last thing I need is a tablet that is 2.5 times faster than my desktop computer.  This is the kind of power you want on a laptop or a desktop.

The M1 is only 7% slower than the M2.  

A couple of years ago, I bought the Amazon Fire tablet on Black Friday for $80, which is not a powerful tablet, but it works just fine as a portable Internet and streaming device.

Friday, November 18, 2022


The word "sprite" is interesting. It means elf, fairy, or ghost, although it can also refer to flashes of different color lights in clouds caused by lightning. The word originated in the middle ages from the word "spirit". When I hear the word, I think of the Disney character Tinkerbell.

In computers and video games, a sprite is an image that can move on top of a background. Usually, these are 2D objects moving on top of a 2D background, although a game like the original Doom had 2D objects moving on top of a 3D background. The mouse pointer on a computer screen is technically a sprite.

Back in the days when computers and video games were 8-bit and 16-bit, it was helpful to have hardware support for sprites, which allowed graphical objects to move around independently of the background. The reason this was helpful was that it was more taxing for the old slow computers without hardware sprites to manipulate the graphics on the screen. When I was writing games for the Timex Sinclair 2068 and Atari ST computers, I had to write software to make all the graphics move because there was no hardware support for sprites, which makes the task more technically challenging.

The early arcade video games used hardware sprites and so did all early home video game consoles. The sprites on the Atari 2600 are extremely primitive and very difficult to program, but the programmers knew how to make them work.

Many people have touted the Commodore 64 as the best 8-bit computer because it had hardware support for eight 8x8 sprites, although this is not very many compared to the Nintendo Entertainment System that came out later. I think that the Atari 8-bit computer had better graphical capabilities overall.

Once we had 32-bit processors, there was no longer a need for hardware sprites. These systems were powerful enough that it was not a huge challenge to manipulate graphics on a screen. Also, with 32-bit systems, there was a greater emphasis on 3D graphics instead of 2D graphics.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

My life

A not-so-brief summary of my life:

My father wanted my sister and me to go to medical school.  We moved from Columbus in the summer of 1980, to Scott County, and attended IUS in New Albany.  We were both accepted to IU Medical School in 1984, but I disliked it so much that I dropped out.  I went back to school to study computers while running a bit of software business on the side, mostly writing video games, and got my first major job at a database company in Lafayette, Indiana in 1988.  I got a different database job in Indianapolis in 1991.

I lost my father to suicide in 1986.  He suffered from depression.

I wanted to program video games.  After searching nationwide, I got a job in Salt Lake City in 1993 programming video games.  It was a demanding job and they tended to work us to death, so I switched to a different company in 1999, a small video game startup in Sandy, Utah.  

In the fall of 2000, the second company went out of business, so I went looking for work.  I found a major military contractor in Salt Lake City that did satellite communications for military drone aircraft.  Their business spiked in a really big way after 9-11.  I worked there until September 2014.  Their business had contracted mostly due to cutbacks by the Obama administration, so they had major layoffs.

I loved living in Salt Lake City.

I had saved and invested enough that I retired at age 54.  In 2015, I moved to New Whiteland, Indiana.  In 2018, I moved to Columbus, returning 38 years after I left it.  That was always my plan.

My sister has been practicing medicine for around 34 years.  She lives in Russiaville, Indiana, just outside of Kokomo.

My mother has had cancer for 22.5. years.  At age 82 she has had more difficulty with the cancer but she is for the moment doing okay.  About 14 years ago she married Paul Belding, a nice man who is 85 years old.  They live in his home in North Vernon.  One reason I moved back to Columbus was to be closer to my mother, especially with her illness.

I was always interested in chess.  I barely qualify as an "expert", which is one category below "master."  I am officially 28nth in the state of Indiana.  In Utah I was 9nth.  I served for a while as the vice-president and then president of the Utah Chess Association.  I helped run state chess tournaments right up to the time that I left Utah.  

On moving back to Indiana, I started the Greenwood Chess Club.  I ran a chess club in Salt Lake City for 22 years.


Monday, October 17, 2022

Loss to Novag Super Constellation level 1

Back in 1984, the Novag Super Constellation chess-playing computer was one of my favorite possessions.  I doubt that many of these machines would still be working because the model is almost 40 years old and old capacitors tend to go bad given enough use.   

In 1984 the USCF gave the Novag Super Constellation a rating of 2018 which has been somewhat controversial.   Most online sites today claim that its actual strength is in the 1700s, which I don't believe.  I remember it being much better than me and I was rated in the 1700s at the time.

There was a golden age of chess-playing computers that went from about 1982 to 1995 before most people owned a PC and the only way to play chess against a computer was to buy one of these devices.  Once people bought computers, the market for chess-playing computers almost completely disappeared, although recently there has been a bit of a resurgence of chess-playing computers.  Also, playing chess on mobile devices has become very popular.

Since I am curious about everything, I have wondered for years how I would fair against the Novag Super Constellation today because I am now rated much higher.  I even considered trying to buy an old chess-playing computer on eBay, although not necessarily this model because there are much better ones that came out later.

Recently I found a way to play the Novag Super Constellation using emulation on my computer.  Although I did beat level 1 once, I have lost a few games too.  I'm not quite comfortable playing the simulated chess machine because graphically it is not as nice as playing a modern chess program, plus you have to move the computer pieces as if you were playing the real chess computer which is slightly distracting.

The computer proves that it does not miss tactics on level 1 where it averages 5 seconds per move, which is speed chess.  I think that it would crush most Class A players at speed chess.  This is impressive for an 8-bit 6502 processor running at just 4 MHZ.  It shows that you don't need much computing power to see 3 moves ahead, which is maybe enough to outplay or equal average tournament players even at tournament time controls.

I have set up positions to test the device, and I found that its playing strength only improves marginally as you give it more time.  The Novag Super Constellation seems to be optimized for 5 seconds per move and it plays pretty strong at that level.  One reason is that it has a very good opening book allowing it to reach strong positions out of the opening.

In this game, Stockfish analysis agrees with my opening moves up to move 12.  By move 20 it thinks that I am positionally crushing it, but it is not clear to me at all why it thinks that I am 4 pawns ahead.  I need to do more analysis.  On move 21, I blundered, unfortunately.  If I can avoid making these kinds of obvious tactical mistakes then I likely would beat the machine on level 1.  Once I fell behind, the computer showed no mercy and proceeded to crush me.

[Event "CB-Emu"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2022.10.16"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Coffey, John"]
[Black "Novag Super-Constellation Lv1"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E18"]
[WhiteElo "2016"]
[BlackElo "2018"]
[Annotator "Stockfish 14.1"]
[PlyCount "62"]
[EventDate "2022.10.16"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 e6 3. c4 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8.
Nc3 d5 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Bf4 c5 11. Rc1 Nc6 12. dxc5 {
Stockfish agrees with all my opening moves.} Bxc5 13. Bg5 ({Better is}
13. a3 {and White has a winning advantage.}) 13... d4 14. Ne4 Qe7 15.
Nxf6+ ({Better is} 15. Nh4) 15... gxf6 16. Bh6 ({Better is} 16. Bh4)
16... Rfe8 17. Re1 ({Stockfish 14.1:} 17. Nh4 {Now not} Qxe2 18. b4
Nxb4 (18... Bxb4 19. Bxc6) 19. Bxb7) ({Not} 17. b4 Nxb4) 17... Rac8 ({
Black can do much better with} 17... Rad8) 18. a3 Qd7 19. b4 Bf8 20. Qd2
Ne5 21. Nxd4?? {Here I blunder away a winning game.  The antique
chess computer has no problem seeing shallow tactics even on level 1.  To my
defense, I'm not quite comfortable visually playing on the simulated chess
computer.} ({Stockfish 14.1:} 21. Nxe5 Rxe5 22. Bf4 {And White is winning.})
21... Bxh6 22. Qxh6 Bxg2 23. Red1? ({Stockfish likes} 23. Qxf6 Qxd4 (
23... Bb7 {loses to} 24. Nf5) 24. Kxg2) 23... Ng4 24. Qf4 Rxc1 25. Rxc1 Re4 {
The computer proves how tactically strong it is.  I am sure it would beat most
A players at speed chess.} 26. Qb8+ Kg7 27. Rc8 Nh6 {
Shutting down any hope for White.} 28. e3? ({White can do better with}
28. Rd8 Qh3 29. Qc8 Qxc8 30. Rxc8) 28... Qh3? {
Stockfish thinks this is a blunder and prefers Bh3, but it hardly matters.}
29. Qb7? {A blunder.} ({Stockfish prefers} 29. Nf5+ Qxf5 30. Kxg2) 29... Rxd4
30. Qxg2 Rd1+ 31. Qf1 Rxf1# 0-1

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Fire Tablets

Right now Amazon is selling some of their Fire Tablets at half price. Although they are budget tablets, not nearly as powerful as iPads, I am pretty impressed with the value for the price.
I have argued that if you have a good smartphone then you might not need a tablet, but I have enjoyed my Fire Tablet while traveling. They are more useful if you subscribe to Amazon Prime.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Drain openers

I have heard that bleach can be a better drain opener than regular drain openers. I have used it successfully on slow drains. Bleach is so caustic that it can denature organ matter. In theory, so can chemical drain openers, which are part bleach, part lye, and mostly soap to make the clogs slippery to help clear the drain.

The four bottles of $1 drain openers that I bought at Walmart didn't help my stopped up disposal. They seem worthless. Yesterday I poured a gallon of cheap bleach that I got at Menards into my stopped-up sink. This morning I tried running the disposal. At first, it seemed to be still blocked, but then the drain cleared.

I'm very pleased that this worked. The last time this happened I paid a plumber to clear the drain. All he used was a plunger, although he had to work pretty hard at it.

Maybe the combination of bleach and drain opener is what worked.

My old plunger which is made out of plastic broke. So I ordered a "professional" plunger which just barely arrived.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Sunday, September 18, 2022

New iPhone and screen resolution

Recently, I cracked my iPhone 6s+ screen for the third time. I should be getting a new iPhone in the mail tomorrow.

The 10R is an ultra cheap version of the iPhone 10. I'm going from a 5.5 inch 1080P screen to a 6.1 inch 828P screen. Apple claims that this is a Retina Display, but it is only barely so. I was a bit annoyed when they came out with this phone four years ago, because it was inconceivable to me that Apple would go less than 1080P.

I've been arguing for a while that screen resolution is overrated. This will put my claim to the test.

For example, I tried playing videos and video games at various resolutions from 720P to a whopping 4K and 5K. Anything above 1080P is really hard for me to tell the difference. I like 1080P video the best, although 720P video is not terrible, but for a computer monitor I prefer 1440P. My 2017 iMac has a fantastic 5K display, but for a 27-inch screen this seems like overkill.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Re: Suing Amazon over guaranteeing lowest price

I wanted a Hawaiian shirt.  I found one on the Walmart website for $27, so I assumed at first that at that price it must be pretty good quality.  However, I went to the manufacturer's website and got the same shirt for $12.  As I suspected, the shirt is cheaply made but it still looks good so I wear it occasionally.   I am intending to shop for something of better quality.

On Wed, Sep 14, 2022 at 9:48 PM Larry wrote:

The complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court takes aim at contractual language Amazon (AMZN) uses with third-party sellers that commits them to "price parity."

"Merchants must agree not to offer lower prices elsewhere — including competing sites like Walmart, Target, eBay, and, in some cases, even on their own websites

Wednesday, September 7, 2022


I got zero feedback from the "speech" I sent out last week, so I assume that people must not have liked it.   I made a couple of changes.

Friday, August 19, 2022


I was hungry, so I decided to go to Arbys drive through with some old coupons. My local Arbys will take expired coupons. I was going to get three Turkey bacon wraps, but they were out of Turkey and the only wrap available was buffalo chicken which I did not want. The cashier told me that the delivery truck failed to arrive. It looked like the lobby may have been closed.

So I used an old couple to get two bacon Swiss chicken sandwiches for $5. The newer coupons are $6 and I think that they have a special at that price anyway. I doubled the order and got 4 sandwiches.

I didn't see anyone at the Arbys except the cashier, who disappeared while my sandwiches were being made. I would be very disappointed if she was the only one working there and she had to make my sandwiches. The service was very slow by fast food standards and there was a long line of cars behind me.

I see this as a sign of the economy not doing well and maybe the restaurant or chain having financial difficulties. It is hard to understand since Arbys is usually busy.

However, I have to give the Arbys chain credit, because I ate one sandwich and it was very tasty. They know how to make good sandwiches.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Stop Being Socially Awkward: 11 Behaviors That Make You Look Weird

I imagine that autistic people would have trouble mastering the skills that are perceived as normal.

I don't think that I am autistic, but I have a loner personality.  I value interaction with people, but maybe less than average.  I value time alone.  I think that the reason for this is that I am "internally stimulated."  I have a very active mind.  Some people naturally need more external stimulation.

Monday, August 15, 2022

My Text today to some Greenwood Chess Members

"I'm glad that some of the people who felt sick last week are now feeling better.

Tomorrow I go to the cancer center with my 82 year old immunocompromised mother.

Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-like symptoms among chess club attendees, I've decided to not attend the chess club tonight. I'll be back next week.

Best wishes,

John Coffey"

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Fwd: Possible COVID exposure


---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: John Coffey 

Thank you for supporting the Greenwood Chess Club.

On Monday someone attended the Greenwood Chess Club who was symptomatic and later tested positive for COVID-19.  If you attended the chess club on Monday, I suggest taking an in-home test.  I tested myself and the test came out negative.  However, I quarantined this week just in case.

You can get free tests from the government.  They take several weeks to get delivered.  

Drug stores also sell COVID-19 tests.

I feel like I should not have to say this again, but please do not come to the Greenwood Chess Club if you are feeling sick or if you have symptoms.

There is much misinformation being spread about COVID, so I will address some of these issues here:

1.  The pandemic is over.

It has been my observation that most people are acting as if there is no pandemic.

One out of every 310 Americans has died from the disease.  I lost a cousin to COVID.  David Prowse (Darth Vader), Chloris Leachman, and Herman Cain died from the disease.

It used to be that measles was the most infectious disease on record, but the Omicron variant has surpassed measles.  In early November of last year, we had barely heard of the Omicron variant, but by late January of this year, it had caused a major surge in the United States.

2. Cloth masks don't work.

People who attack mask usage always say that cloth masks don't work, which is true.  However, they ignore that other types of masks are at least partially effective at preventing the spread of COVID.

"Wearing an N95/KN95 respirator (aOR = 0.17; 95% CI = 0.05–0.64) or wearing a surgical mask (aOR = 0.34; 95% CI = 0.13­–0.90) was associated with lower adjusted odds of a positive test result compared with not wearing a mask (Table 3). Wearing a cloth mask (aOR = 0.44; 95% CI = 0.17–1.17) was associated with lower adjusted odds of a positive test compared with never wearing a face covering but was not statistically significant."

3.  Vaccines don't prevent the spread of COVID.

As the virus has evolved, it reportedly has been more likely to have a vaccine breakthrough infection.

"Raw data shows the risk of breakthrough cases is very small for vaccinated people, potentially 1 in 5,000.

Additionally, the risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19 after vaccination is extremely small, at about 5 in 100,000.

A new study found people who were not vaccinated were five times as likely to get COVID-19 compared to people who were fully vaccinated."

"COVID 19 vaccines are effective at protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying."

"Booster Shots of COVID-19 Vaccines Effective Against Omicron Subvariant",and%20its%20most%20common%20subvariant.

I personally have stayed up to date with the booster shots and I have not yet caught the disease.

4.  The vaccines are experimental.

5. The vaccines rewrite your DNA.

The only known case of this was outside the human body in a petri dish with just liver cells. 

However, the actual vaccines work primarily at the injection site.

"Research shows that spike proteins (here) remain stuck to the cell surface around the injection site and do not travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream, they added. The 1% of the vaccine that does reach the bloodstream is destroyed by liver enzymes."

The vast majority of viruses rewrite your DNA in some of your cells.  Your immune system finds these cells and destroys them.  This is a much bigger issue with the disease than it is with the vaccines.

6. The spike protein is toxic.

First of all, you are going to get much more spike proteins with the disease than you are going to get with the vaccines.

Second, the vaccine spike protein was deliberately made different to prevent insertion into cells.

COVID-19 can have serious long-term consequences.  COVID can damage your organs.  COVID can cause 2% brain shrinkage, which is normally 0.1 to 0.2% per year in adults.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Sunday, July 24, 2022

I15 Veterans Memorial Hwy - Google Maps

When I would drive from Vegas back to Salt Lake City, I would cross a point that said "Summit 6600" feet, around 125 miles north of Arizona.  This is the highest point on Interstate 15.,-112.6152588,3a,41.1y,54.8h,83.36t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sc3eYktLu7m4gCh5_m0bMHQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

This would be followed by the longest downhill drive I have ever seen:

The sign says "5-degree grade, next two miles."  Five degrees doesn't sound like much, but it seems significant while you are driving it.  According to my calculation, five degrees over two miles indicates a descent of 940 feet.

About a mile farther you go around a curve and get a fantastic view of a valley stretching before you.  Google Street View doesn't do it justice.  The drive north from southern Utah was mostly boring till this point.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

GE Dishwasher maintenance

My GE dishwasher isn't doing a good job of cleaning dishes.  I checked the manual, and I found out that I am supposed to clean the filters at least every two months.  I have had the dishwasher for 2 years and seven months, and I haven't done it yet.  Going to do it now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Mad bicycle dash to cross a busy street.

In my opinion, bicycle riding has been great for my health.  My tiny neighborhood is too small to make for an effective bike ride, so I do a very large loop involving the neighborhood to the west of me.  Google thinks that the entire bike ride should take 13 minutes, but it initially took me 25 minutes and I have cut that down to 22 minutes.  For parts of the trip, I ride on the sidewalk, but mostly I ride on the streets.  Except on Middle Road, I rarely have to deal with cars.  I try hard to avoid them.

There is a portion of my bicycle ride that is a little more dangerous because I am riding a short distance on Middle Road which is a pretty busy street.

Normally this jaunt over to the other street is a mad dash to avoid cars.  I don't venture out until there are no cars coming, but they come so quickly on Middle road, especially from the south where I can't see as far, that I have had 4 of 5 cars unexpectantly come up behind me, which makes this portion of the bike ride more dangerous.  Sometimes if there were cars coming from the south, and none coming from the north, I would switch over to the left side and ride along the left edge of the road.  The most dangerous situation would be if cars would be coming from both directions, which rarely happens because I have a much better view of the traffic from the north.

I discovered that the sidewalk on my side of the road turns north just for a short distance followed by a metal utility plate on the ground, which allows me to enter Middle Road from the grass. The cuts down the distance on the road.   I then proceed at about a 70-degree angle to the other street.  I am entering Middle Road at the left turn region, which gives me the flexibility to change lanes.

In theory, I could ride the grass all the way up.  Or I could cross Middle Road from Cedar Crest Drive to the sidewalk across the street.  The curb is so high that I can't do this on the bicycle and would have to walk it across.

There is an intersection further south on Middle road that is much easier to cross.  Sometimes I have ridden the sidewalk down there so that I could cross more safely.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Live train accident

I have to wonder about people's common sense?   My entire philosophy of life is to not do stupid stuff.  In other words, don't take unnecessary risks.  People die from accidents all the time.  I would rather not be a statistic.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Chess Puzzle Rating

I reached a milestone on by reaching a 3000 rating for solving chess puzzles. The site's puzzle rating has little to do with real chess ratings because the puzzle ratings are comparatively inflated. I have seen average club players reach puzzle ratings of 2000 or 2100.

Nevertheless, reaching 3000 took a great deal of effort.

The site presents chess problems that have difficulty proportional to your current puzzle rating. I have reached a point where I am almost as likely to fail as I am to succeed. I find that I am not analyzing as well as I should so I am trying to make myself focus deeper. The casual puzzle solver will look for what the "trick" is in the position and make a move without thinking about it too hard. However, I can no longer just make cursory judgments.

A chess master in Salt Lake City that I know has been in the 3070 to 3100 range. I would like to catch up with him.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Space Invaders: Atari Archive Episode 32

For those who have some interest in video games.

I can't emphasize enough how difficult it is to write programs on the Atari 2600, also called the Atari VCS.  Since the machine only had 128 bytes of RAM, there is no video memory at all.  Instead, as the raster draws the picture on the TV screen, the microprocessor has to constantly send information to the display as to which pixels to draw.  It is a miracle that it can display anything at all.  The code necessary to draw the screen is contained in the ROM cartridge.  Most of the microprocessor time is spent drawing the screen, and any game logic had to be done during the television vertical blank period, which is the period of time that the electron gun moves from the bottom of the screen back to the top of the screen to start the next frame.  The vertical blank happens for about 1330 microseconds, sixty times per second.

There were a few rare 2600 cartridges that would have extra chips on them to boost the memory or the capabilities of the machine.  These special cartridges only got made when the chips became cheaper, like in the late 1980s which was near the end of the life of the 2600 game system.

Some early primitive computers with limited memory, like the Sinclair ZX80, ZX81, and Timex-Sinclair 1000, also used the microprocessor to draw the display.  This didn't involve computer code like on the 2600, but a hardware trick to get the microprocessor to copy bytes from the memory to the display.   It is my understanding that the first McIntosh computer lost about 40% of its processor time driving its display.

Memory limitations would drive the graphics on all videogame systems and computers throughout the 1980s.  Instead of every pixel having its own unique memory location, which has been true since the mid-90s, the screen would be made up of tiles, or blocks, which are like the characters on a computer keyboard.  Each tile could be defined to whatever you want, usually with a limited number of colors.  When I was programming on the Super Nintendo, the artists would create the tiles, and the program would tell the tiles where to display on the screen.  Objects that move on the screen are called "Sprites", and the hardware displays these in front of the background tiles and they are made up of their own separate tiles.  Since the mid-1990s these kinds of display methods were no longer necessary because the chips were faster and the systems had more memory.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Special When Lit: A Pinball Documentary

This is a good documentary about Pinball.  It was made in 2009.

I remember seeing a non-electric antique amusement machine that was probably from the 1930s,   It wasn't very big, but it worked by putting in a coin, like a nickel, and turning a handle to get roughly 7 to 10 metal balls.  Then you would pull a lever to shoot the balls at holes.  If the balls landed in the holes then they would accumulate in the "score" window.  Although the game had a football theme, it was more like a pinball version of skeeball.  As primitive as the game was, it was somewhat fun to play.

Growing up in small-city Indiana, there wasn't much amusement in the early 1970s.  I remember seeing some mechanical games, like a baseball-themed game and a shooting game, both of which I found thrilling to play.  I definitely felt addicted at first.  I was young and impressionable.  This started me down a path of enjoying games.  

As a side note, in late 1974 I began to enjoy playing chess immensely which I still do.

Around summer 1975, an arcade opened up in my local mall, which had mechanical games.  My friends and I enjoyed meeting and playing the games.  The cost of pinball was 2 games for a quarter.  These mechanical games eventually would mostly give way to video games.  

There was a perfect storm of events in the second half of the 1970s that would shape my life forever.  I already was very interested in electronics because at the time this was the cutting edge of technology.  I started reading about computers and I first got to use one in 1975.  I learned how to write simple computer programs, taking to programming as a duck takes to water.  In 1976 I made friends with someone who had built an extremely primitive computer from a kit, and I learned how to program it using "machine code" which is the more difficult language of the microprocessor itself.

In 1977 video games were starting to become popular and the movie Star Wars came out.  Both were very influential on my life.  The late 1970s were culturally defined by video games, pinball, Starwars, and disco.  It was a time of cheap thrills when the economy was probably the worst since the Great Depression.  We had an oil crisis, massive inflation, and unemployment.  Most people today are too young to remember how difficult those times were.

I not only became interested in video games but I wanted to write games.  I was fortunate that my high school bought computers and taught simple computer programming in algebra class.  I was already developing programming skills and I spent much time writing programs on the school computers.

In the mid-1980s I was able to get my own computers and I started a business selling programs that I wrote, some of which were relatively primitive video games.  

In 1985 I temporarily had a job at a Showbiz Pizza maintaining and doing minor repairs on the videogames and mechanical games.  In 1993 I got my first job as a video game programmer in Utah.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

Blessings on the hand of women!
Angels guard its strength and grace,
In the palace, cottage, hovel,
Oh, no matter where the place;
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Infancy's the tender fountain,
Power may with beauty flow,
Mother's first to guide the streamlets,
From them souls unresting grow—
Grow on for the good or evil,
Sunshine streamed or evil hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Woman, how divine your mission
Here upon our natal sod!
Keep, oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With the worship in the sky—
Mingles where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
- William Ross Wallace, 1865.

Monday, May 2, 2022

8 Struggles of Being a Highly Intelligent Person

I strongly relate to #6, but also #2 through 5 and #7.

I'm not sure what qualifies as "highly intelligent", but I am highly analytical, maybe too analytical, and tend to understand some topics at a deeper level.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Fascinating Facts About The Amish That Few People Know - Past Chronicles

In the 1980s, I met one Amish young man.  Somewhere between Scottsburg and Salem Indiana, there is a community of them, and I was living in Scottsburg at the time.  I only on rare occasions drove to Salem, and yet I managed to see their buggies on the road along the way.

I think that this young man may have taken a job in Scottsburg.  I think that the Amish sometimes do this to make ends meet.  

A had a casual conversation with the young man and my impression was not favorable.  He didn't seem to know hardly anything.  He was also waiting for someone to drive him home in a vehicle, oddly enough.  Maybe it is okay since he wasn't the driver.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Weed killer

The dandelions were pretty bad in my yard and my oriental neighbors' yard. I ordered the weed killer spray from Amazon because it was considerably cheaper than Walmart. I ordered two bottles. I expected to get the shipment today.

I wanted to do the spraying first but the package hadn't arrived yet. So first I mowed my front and back yards. Then I went for a 25 minute bike ride thinking that I could use the exercise. On my ride I saw an Amazon truck.

The package showed up about 5:45. I put on a long sleeve shirt, rubber gloves and a KN95 mask. The instructions say to do this, and maybe wear eye protection which I didn't do, and then to shower thoroughly afterwards which I did do.

I hooked the hose to the spray bottle and turned the faucet to full blast. This worked, but I ran out of weed killer halfway into my yard. In the past I was able to do the whole front yard with one bottle and still have some left over. Good thing that I ordered a second bottle.

I have no plans to spray the back yard. People only see the front yard which was starting to look bad because it was overrun with dandelions.

The oriental lady next door approached me and asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was applying dandelion killer. This maybe surprised her, but their yard is loaded with dandelions the same as mine. I get the impression that her husband is diligent about doing yard work because I have seen him many times working in the yard.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Saturday, April 23, 2022


I had not seen this puzzle before. I like it. It is obviously a chess spin on Wordle, which I also like.

The goal is to guess the sequence of opening movies.

The puzzle gives you the option to guess 3 or 5 moves.  In today's puzzle, I got the 3 move sequence on the second try.  It is an opening sequence that I like to play.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

IQ test question

I found this question online.  I have always been confused as to whether we should be looking at these types of questions as 3 horizontal problems where we just have to provide an answer for the 3rd line, or 3 vertical problems?  I would assume horizontal, but both directions seem to work here.

I had an unusual flash of insight where I think that I hit upon the answer right away.  Maybe the problem isn't as hard as it first looks.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Mechanical Calculator

The fact that people made mechanical computational devices shows that there is a strong need for computation.

I feel like the birth of the computer started with mechanical devices.  

NCR started in the cash register business, which technically was an adding machine with a mechanical crank to make it work.  From there it is a natural transition to electric, then electronic, and eventually digital.

In order to help with the U.S. census, in the late 1800s, someone invented the mechanical tabulating machine that used punch cards.  Census takers would punch holes into cards depending upon the answers to questions that they asked.  Then the machine could process the cards and add up the answers to specific questions.  This is long before we had computers, although the tabulating machine could be considered a type of computer.  This punch card technology would later be used to store computer programs and data.

Around 1971 my parents had a mechanical adding machine to help with their business.  It was heavy and bulky but it did the job.

Around the same time, a Japanese company contracted with Intel to produce the first electronic calculator.  Up to that point, Intel had made integrated circuits with relatively simple logic circuits.  It was possible to build a big computer by combing a large number of these logic chips.  So to make the first electronic calculator, Intel came up with the 4004 microprocessor, which is the 4-bit grandfather of the 8-bit 8008, 8080, and 16-bit 8086 chips that would follow.  The microprocessor revolution started with a calculator.

The 4004 chip had limited capabilities, but it was still the first whole computer processor on a single chip.  The first real microprocessor operating system, CPM, was designed to run on the 8080 processor long before we had DOS or Windows.  CPM was all the rage in the mid-1970s.   Consequently, a company called Zilog came up with a slightly superior 8080 clone called the Z80 which was compatible with CPM.  The Z80 processor would go on to be used in the TRS-80, Sinclair, and Timex-Sinclair computers, as well as a whole series of MSX computers in Japan.  The chip would also be used in a few videogame systems.

On a more personal note, most early videogame systems did not have any kind of operating system or high-level language that they could be programmed in.  This meant that they had to be programmed in the language of the microprocessor itself, which is called machine code.  This is considered not only archaic but also technically much more difficult.  In the 1970s, one of the first computers I got my hands on was an RCA 1802 Elf computer, which was incredibly primitive, but I learned to write 1802 machine code on it.  In the late 1970s, I learned Z80 machine code on the TRS-80 computer.  In 1985, on the Timex-Sinclair 2068 computer, I wrote a videogame in Z80 machine code, using a tool called an Assembler that I wrote myself.  Along the way, I picked up 6502 machine code, and in 1993 I got my first videogame job in Utah writing 65816 machine code, a more advanced 16-bit version of the 6502, for the Super Nintendo.  In 1999 I change jobs, and I was back to writing Z80 machine code on the Gameboy Color.  By that point, the Z80 was considered mostly obsolete, but it was still being used on Gameboys.  Because of my previous experience with the Z80, I hit the ground running on that job, and my new boss was so impressed with my programming skills that he gave me a raise after my first week.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Friday, March 11, 2022


I have had much fun with the New York Times Wordle puzzle.  You have 6 chances to guess a five letter word.  Yellow means a correct letter, and Green means that it is in the correct position.  There are some interesting phone apps that are clones of this.


Re: The Monty Hall problem and IQ


Conscientiousness is as much a predictor of success as IQ scores.  There are many smart people who are failures for various reasons.

---------- Forwarded message ---------
On Fri, Mar 11, 2022 at 8:26 AM Al wrote:
This video shows the very well known "Monty Hall Problem". Monty Hall was the game show host of Let's Make a Deal. At the end of each show the winning contestant chose door #1, door #2, or door #3. So, if Monty Hall says there are goats behind 2 doors and the grand prize behind one door. So, let's say you pick door #1. Monty now says I'm going to help you by letting you know that door #3 has goats.

So, speaking mathematically, should you keep your original pick of door #1. Or should you change your pick to door #2?

Btw, normal IQ falls between 85 to 115.

From: John Coffey

I've been aware of the Monty Hall Problem and its controversy for some time.

It is the best illustration that intuitive notions aren't always correct.

IQ scores of 85 to 115 represent one standard deviation from the norm.  One standard deviation will include 68% of the people usually regardless of what it is measuring.

Mensa is a social organization that only accepts people with IQ test results two standard deviations above the norm, which is the top 2%.   However, different IQ tests have different ranges producing different numbers.  The Mensa website currently lists different scores on different qualifying tests ranging from 130 to 132.  However, when I took the Mensa test in 1986, they were using different numbers.  They gave me two tests and I only had to pass one of them with either a score of 136 on the standard test or a score of 148 on the California test.  I scored 136 and 147, just barely passing.

I actually thought that I could do better.  Roughly twenty years ago I took an online test that claimed to be scientific and accurate.  I scored 138.  I waited a few years and took the same test again and scored 141.  This test factored in the age of the person, but I haven't seen any other test that does that.

Last year I took a short 20 question IQ test advertised on Facebook, which claimed to be scientific, but I have my doubts.  I took it three times because I kept scoring in mid 120s.  I was not able to improve my score.  I'm not sure how much of this result is due to my age, or just the result of this particular test.

Many people think that IQ is a difficult thing to measure and does not take into account all the ways that people can be intelligent.  If a test only measures analytical and spatial reasoning, which is what these tests usually measure, I suspect that I would do well.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Wednesday, February 16, 2022


A friend introduced me to Wordle, a puzzle game on the New York Times web page. It is a guessing game where you try to guess a five-letter word. Any correct letter will show up in yellow, or green if it is in the correct position. You have six chances to guess the word.

The on-screen keyboard helps you because it shows which letters have succeeded or failed so far.  In my second and third guesses, I tried to use new letters so that I could narrow down the answer.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

John Coffey vs NN (1978) (chess game)

Funny thing about this game.  I played it against a higher-rated player in a tournament in Bloomington around 1978.  (This person is still around, and he has gone out of his way to be rude to me, both then and now.)

The game is very simple.  My opponent made the mistake of letting me push the D pawn.   He resigned after 8 moves.

I was so pleased with myself that I sent the game to the state chess magazine which published it.  It was seen by some chess author who put it in a book of short chess games.  I don't remember the title of the book.  Over a dozen years ago I found the game in the database of games for one of the older versions of Fritz chess.   It is not in Fritz 10.

Quite by accident, I discovered that the game is on  However, I had written them a couple of years ago to ask if they would accept games to publish, and they informed me that they only publish games played by chess masters.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Chess Player at Large: Novag Super Constellation Level 1

Practicing with (emulated) old chess computers that I used to love to play with during the '80s in the early '90s. 

I inadvertently may have found the Achilles Heel of the Super Constellation.  It failed to find the drawing line because this would have involved a perpetual check.  Instead, it makes a move that looks dumb.   

It is not clear if the computer is smart enough to check for repetition of the position in its tree search because on an 8-bit computer this check would be very costly and slow it down  The computer would not normally search deep enough to see a three-fold repetition anyway.  Most chess engines today consider any repetition of the position to be a draw.

The Super Constellation only sees the draw after it reaches an 11 ply search.  Back when I was using programs like Fritz 4 and Fritz 5 to analyze my chess games, I thought that an 11 ply was pretty deep, maybe equal to a low ranked Grandmaster from what I read.   Today Stockfish quickly reaches 30 ply, and I use 35 to 40 ply to analyze my openings.