Thoughts on learning that I have eaten English muffins wrong all my life

Today, I found out I had been eating English muffins wrong my whole life.

Read On →

The importance of stalemate in chess: how chess is completely different from life

I just saw a cute end to a top-level chess game that ended in a forced draw because the would-be losing side managed a swindle by giving away all his pieces by force in order to create a stalemate. If you don’t play chess, a stalemate is what happens when it’s your turn to move and you have no legal moves. You can claim a draw when you are totally trapped in this way. So one way of saving an otherwise losing game, when you are outnumbered and about to be checkmated (losing when your King comes under attack and it’s your move and you cannot stop the check), is to find a brilliant way to be unable to move.

Black forced a draw through being stalemated!

Is this a totally bizarre concept or what? Why was this rule of chess invented anyway? Wouldn’t it make more sense if being trapped meant losing, like it does in real life conflicts?

Read On →

How learning about the Magna Carta in high school changed my life

I couldn’t help noticing the headlines in the news lately about the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, that historical document from 1215 in England. As I write, apparently there is a celebration being held on the River Thames, even. And I just found a Web site devoted entirely to this 800th anniversary.

The Magna Carta has not been on my mind for over thirty years since I first learned about it in a social studies class in the ninth grade high school in the early 1980s. But when I think about it, the surprising truth is that learning about the Magna Carta was a turning point in my life as a new teenager (age twelve or thirteen), and the lessons I learned have informed me throughout my life.

Read On →

How Ornette Coleman changed my life

The legendary jazz musician Ornette Coleman recently died at age 85. He had not been on my radar for a long time. In fact, I never actually listened to much of his music at all.

Yet, my immediate first thought on hearing this news was, Ornette Coleman permanently changed the course of my life. How can this be?

Read On →

What unexpected life lessons have you learned from your father?

I came across a great story by a guy who wrote an article, “How my father gave me a terrifying lesson at 10”.

Please read the whole thing before reading further below, where I’ll share some stories about my own father.

Read On →

Revisiting Bach's Air on G String, from a singing and dancing viewpoint

Three years ago, I wrote a post comparing three very different performance styles for Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous music, Air on G String and indicating which I preferred.

I have received an unexpected number comments over the years, and thought it was time to write an update of my thoughts in response.

Primarily, I am responding to those who (correctly) criticized the unfortunately chosen exemplar of the style that I preferred. I tried to find better versions that might illustrate my perceptions. I also integrated some thoughts based on how I perceive music as a singer and as a dancer.

Read On →

Why I have never considered using a treadmill desk

Ten years ago, in 2005, a friend of mine sent me an article about a trend among some people to use a treadmill desk in order to squeeze in some exercise while working. He seemed to think it sounded like a cool idea that wouldn’t interfere much with work.

I have never considered using a treadmill desk. Because of a recent article that seems to confirm my thoughts from a decade ago, I’m posting my reaction here, along with a link to the article.

Read On →

Yes, I want my writing to be dated!

I just finished migrating both this blog and my programming blog from Octopress 2 to Hugo. During this process, I made sure to preserve my old URLs as well as Disqus, because nothing is as distressing to me, as a reader, as moved or broken links when I’m looking for old blog posts.

That said, there’s always the possibility of changing the “real” URLs and just using an alias with a URL redirect for the sake of old URL schemes. One possibility was to remove dates from my URLs, e.g., change something like http://conscientiousprogrammer.com/blog/2015/05/31/why-i-switched-from-octopress-2-to-hugo/ to http://conscientiousprogrammer.com/blog/why-i-switched-from-octopress-2-to-hugo/. Matt Gemmell, among many others, has argued for permalinks that do not include the clutter of embedded dates.

However, I made the decision years ago, when I had the choice, to keep the embedded dates, and I still stand by my decision today. Here’s why.

Read On →

Discovering the Eolina, a beautiful musical instrument

I just discovered a musical instrument that was new to me, the Eolina, which has a surprisingly beautiful sound, given that it is a form of melodica, which although a perfectly fine instrument I enjoy playing, does not have the loveliest, most refined sound.

I encountered the Eolina through my following the YouTube channel of Gerard van Reenen, who is just some random musician I found on YouTube at some point in the past couple of years through some music search that I have now completely forgotten.

His specialty is playing duets with himself, by playing a wind instrument with one hand while accompanying himself on a keyboard instrument. Remarkably, he often makes this work quite well.

So what exactly is an Eolina, and what does it sound like?

Read On →

How I forgot to meditate after sixty days in a row of remembering and what that means

I woke up this morning feeling very tired. I also suddenly realized that yesterday, I forgot to set aside time for the daily meditation practice (just ten minutes a day) that I had successfully done for sixty days in a row, having deliberately started it shortly before Thanksgiving. I was pretty angry at myself. But I also thought about how it was possible that I slipped after sixty days, and what that means.

Read On →