Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Tweet Machine

I graduated from The University of Tulsa in 2005 as a Master of Science in Computer Science.  Tulsa has an excellent computer science school  the Tandy School of Computer Science.  There are many things that make it a great place to learn computer science.

Here's one of them.  Meet John Hale, Ph.D.

Dr. Hale dabbled in "comedy acting" early in his career before fulfilling his destiny to become a Professor of Computer Science.  You may recognize him from his role as Joel Robinson on the popular cult comedy television series Mystery Science Theater 3000.  He departed after the 100th episode because he wasn't very funny anymore.

But his quietly surprising sense of humor, the kind where he feigns shock when you laugh at him instead of take his funny story seriously, was perfect for the classroom environment.  Students won't leave the classroom and they feel compelled to laugh at him all from tacit fear Dr. Hale will strike them where it hurts  the grade point average.

All of this is true.  Ask any of his current and former students.

This sets the stage for last week, when I received an unmarked and unsolicited package from a UPS Store in Oklahoma.

Inside I find this contraption.  My Computer Science Radar kicks into overdrive.

"This is a thing.  I must find out what this thing is."

I recognized the board was a Raspberry Pi, a computer the size of a credit card.  Attached to the top was a small LCD screen.  And in the USB port there appeared to be a Wifi adapter.  Several minutes passed before I noticed a card.  I was too busy to notice it as I analyzed what this thing was and when I must have ordered it.

The card reads:
Please enjoy this Tweet Machine, which students in the Tandy School of Computer Science created for you as a get well card (hopefully the coolest get well card you've received!) 
Using the hash tag #snowboardervstree, family and friends can tweet you their get well wishes.  I have enclosed a brief set of instructions from Dr. Hale, should you need them. 
Please let me know should you have any questions, and best wishes on a speedy rehabilitation! 
Director of Development
The University of Tulsa
Lisa, this is the coolest thing I've ever received, let alone coolest get well card!  How awesome is The University of Tulsa and the scientists they've got down in their labs these days?

Dr. Hale included some instructions for setting up The Tweet Machine to my wireless network.  I sent him a note to let him know the machine was plugged in and ready to go.

Suddenly, The Tweet Machine comes alive and begins to flash that I've received a new tweet from the Internet.  The Internet, via The Tweet Machine, wants to tell me something.

It's Dr. Hale, welcoming me to The Tweet Machine.

I discover two students, burdened by the constant struggle to make their laughter sound real in the Hale classroom, created The Tweet Machine as a course project for Dr. Hale.

Seriously.  Where were these cool projects when I was around?

It wasn't long before I received Tweets from the creators.

Thank you to both of you for your awesome work!  This is an amazing gift.  It worked right out of the box.  That sounds like a passing grade  whether or not you laughed at Dr. Hale's jokes.

In addition to The Tweet Machine, the new leg is also working nicely.  Since my last carbon fiber socket in August, we've continued the process of creating test sockets about once a week until we see my leg shrinkage stabilize.  Today we created my seventh test socket.  On Friday I'll get my eighth test socket (today's test socket did not end up fitting as well as we had hoped).  Because I'm able to manage my normal leg shrinkage throughout the course of a day with one long sock and one cut sock, I'll likely get my second carbon fiber socket next week.

As we've gone through this test socket process I've had the chance to be more active now than I have ever been in my entire life.  Two weeks ago we spent some time at the beach in the Outer Banks.  I wrapped my leg with plastic wrap so sand wouldn't get into the carbon fiber foot.  I didn't get into the water, but me and my pale skin had a great time.

This Sunday is the Super H 5k race.  I won't be running in it, but I'm prepared to walk.  Our team is in second place for overall fundraising, which is great!  I'm looking forward to hanging out with all of our friends in support of a great cause.

The race will be an important milestone.  I signed up for the race before I took my first steps as a new amputee.  It was a goal I set early on, before I even had a new leg, to keep me focused and motivated.

The recovery has gone incredibly well so far as a result.  I am going to dominate these three miles.


  1. The tweet machine. How awesome is that. And the word Tandy alone brings back such memories! Congrats on all of your progress!!!

  2. Love the sweet tweet machine! So happy that TU is as awesome now as it was 10 years ago. :)

    Good luck in the Super H 5k! Imagine trying to do three miles six months ago. Way to go, Tony!

  3. Hi mate,I miss your comments... I hope the lack of posts is because you're feeling great and being active! Keep us updated. Victor

  4. Pretty amazing. Wondered what happened to the guy from MST3K. Looks like he did well for himself.

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