The Chess Improver: Is it OK to play a losing move in order to win?

For The Chess Improver, I wrote “Is it OK to play a losing move in order to win?”.

My progress so far on my cookie quota system

Abby and I went to an annual (secular) Easter party hosted by Lynette and Jim. In the past, I’ve often ended up all sleepy and sluggish at these parties. My experience this time was a bit different different. OK, we were all still quite well-fed, and I got tired, but far less so this time. I definitely believe it is because of my cookie quota system. I limited myself to just three “cookies” (Jim repeatedly teased me for my explanation that cake counts as cookie). Read On →

The perfect music for Good Friday: some favorite interpretations of Bach's "Erbarme dich" from the St. Matthew Passion

You might assume, since I’m talking about Good Friday, that I’m Christian, and that I’m here to talk about my faith. Actually, I’m not Christian, but I also believe that Easter is not irrelevant. Here’s another non-Christian writing about why Easter matters.

I’ve found it impossible to escape the fact that one of my favorite music composers, Johann Sebastian Bach, was not only Christian, but clearly imbued his music in some way or other with his deep faith. Two years ago, while listening to the opening chorus of his St. Matthew Passion, which was first performed on Good Friday in 1727, I also saw a thoughtful article by a Muslim, “Can non-Christians appreciate Bach’s St. Matthew Passion”. I’m not here to add to that debate, but to share one of the most moving pieces in the entire history of Western music, the aria “Erbarme dich” from the St. Matthew Passion. I hope you will check it out, whether you are Christian or not.

Read On →

Thoughts on never having read anything written by Gabriel García Márquez

So I heard that Gabriel García Márquez just died.

My immediate reaction was one of personal embarrassment.

Because I knew almost nothing about this famous writer. Now, that in itself is insignificant, since there is no shortage of famous writers or musicians or athletes or scientists whom I know nothing about.

But there’s a twist.

Read On →

RIP Cheo Feliciano: wonderful singer of salsa and bolero

Cheo Feliciano

I learned that Cheo Feliciano just died in a car accident at age 78.

Why I have been a fan of Cheo Feliciano

Born in Puerto Rico, he was one of my favorite singers of salsa and bolero when I was regularly doing Latin dancing and seeking out the best music out there. As a particular fan of bolero, I was drawn to his magnetic voice and style: rich, smooth, flexible. His singing always seemed so resonant and never harsh; in particular, as a learner of Spanish, I appreciated how easy it was to hear his words, because of his clear, conversational articulation even as he sang.

Check him out:

Read On →

The Chess Improver: Ten reasons my winning game turned into a loss

For The Chess Improver, I wrote “Ten reasons my winning game turned into a loss”.

Charlie Chaplin, a daughter, a granddaughter: changing my perception of "Smile"

So today is the 125th birthday of Charlie Chaplin. I could assume that he needs no introduction, being one of the famous pioneers of film, but I have to confess that I have never myself actually watched the entirety of any of his films. I went through much of my life not knowing much about him at all, in fact, other than caricatures of his famous character “the little tramp”, which to me just seemed dated and weird, and therefore not of interest. So I never looked further into his films or his life: it was all just ancient history to me.

But two years ago, by chance, I learned more about him.

Read On →

A note on running in warm weather

I haven’t been running much at all in recent months; actually, I barely ran all winter, in contrast to last winter. Since it’s warmer now, I no longer have an excuse. I went out for a short run in Frick Park late in the afternoon, when it was warm and sunny, probably around 80 degrees F. I had a really tough time out there, going less than three miles before I turned around and started walking home. Read On →

Hiking again in Boyce-Mayview Park three months later

For the New Year in January, Abby and I went on a brisk winter hike through the Pittsburgh hiking meetup group in Boyce-Mayview Park, which was new to us at the time. We enjoyed the experience so much that we knew that we were going to return in the spring.

So on a warm and sunny afternoon (temperature rising beyond 70 degrees F), we went (by ourselves) to Boyce-Mayview Park to do some hiking. We ended up doing maybe eight miles. Obviously, things just looked different without the snow and ice, and with some vegetation and more active life forms.

Read On →

The Chess Improver: Development: doing it and disrupting it are sides of the same coin

For The Chess Improver, I wrote “Development: doing it and disrupting it are sides of the same coin”.