My first blues music jam happened after the regular French music jam

It’s been over two months since the last French music jam, which was in November. I didn’t write about it because there was nothing particularly remarkable about it compared to the whole past year of French music jams: there was Lisa, John, Allison, a new fiddler Liz, and Leslie joining us on banjo again.

Tonight, an addition was made to the program. For some time I had suggested to Lisa that for French/blues dance night, maybe there should be a blues jam in addition to the French jam. She liked that idea, got hold of people she knew who were interested, and so tonight was the first blues jam!

It was actually my first full participation in a blues jam.

I was very anxious, but I’ve grown somewhat used to feeling anxious at least once a month in the past two years pushing myself into unfamiliar territory repeatedly.

In addition, there were some changes for the French jam. Here’s how the evening went.

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How to gut out the tough workout

Today I had a really tough workout. It was unexpectedly tough, not expectedly tough.

I went for a run in the trails of Frick Park. The route was my usual 5-mile rather hilly out and back (down to Fern Hollow and back up) that is a staple for me, and which I last did almost a month ago. As I mentioned then, in winter I have not usually run in the trails of Frick Park, because of snow or ice, but this winter, I’m trying to do more trail running when feasible, because road running and “treadmilling” (because of some friends using the term recently, I’ve recently decided to use it myself and no longer call it “running” at all, since the biomechanics are so different) are not as fun for me.

The run quickly turned out to be very challenging. I thought of bailing out. Here’s how I gutted it out.

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Music I just played for the first time: recorder sonata, tangos

Abby and I went to Henry’s birthday party, marking an important anniversary: we attended his birthday party for the first time a year ago, and that began one of the most important developments in my entire life, my decision to make music playing an integral part of my life.

A lot of music happened, as usual, and this time, unlike a year ago, I played. What a year it’s been!

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My father always said "Think of it as exercise"

Shoveled sidewalk

Maybe you have a father like mine.

When I was growing up, I noticed that every time there was some menial chore to do, he would tell me, “Think of it as exercise”. For example:

  • hanging up clothing to dry (he doesn’t believe in dryers)
  • washing dishes (he doesn’t believe in dishwashers)
  • mowing the lawn
  • picking up and bagging the grass cuttings after mowing the lawn (since he didn’t believe in “high tech” lawn mowers with bag attachments)
  • packing and carrying boxes when moving
  • hauling and assembling furniture
  • shoveling snow

I didn’t enjoy physical activity at all (being rather sickly and weak when young), so I treated his remark as a taunt and a way to get me to do chores.

OK, it was partially a taunt. But underneath, given that he actually practices what he preaches, even today, there is something else.

I now find myself saying “Think of it as exercise” too, both to Abby and to myself.

What happened? (No, I have not yet “become my father”!)

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Notes on exercising while sick or tired

I was a bit sick this past week, a result of overexerting myself on various projects the previous week, and also Abby herself getting sick. We have been basically fine since Thursday, but I was feeling pretty bad Sunday through Tuesday in particular.

The question always comes up, when I am sick or just plain tired, “What should I do to recover as efficiently as possible?” After trial and error over the years, I’ve come to realize I have to do a couple of things:

  • Get more sleep, whatever it takes.
  • Eat only nutritious food, no junk.
  • Take some supplements such as vitamin C, B, zinc, fish oil (I don’t know if this is just a placebo effect, but it doesn’t matter because it seems to work, I end up believing, and therefore by the placebo effect it does work).
  • Start canceling lower-priority near-term engagements in order to free up rest time. (In retrospect, I should have bailed out of going to the first OpenHack Pittsburgh meeting.)
  • Get some kind of exercise.

It’s the exercise that gets tricky sometimes. When one is low on energy and weakened, what should one do, if anything at all? Here are some thoughts.

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Pittsburgh Chess Club Championship 2013, Round 2: surviving time trouble

PCC Championship 2013 round 2

Round 2 of the annual Pittsburgh Chess Club Championship had me playing a tough and very long game, the second to last game to finish (which it did after four hours). There was time trouble for both me and my opponent near the end of the game, but I managed to win.

So I thought I would touch on the issue of time trouble in chess.

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Attending the first OpenHack Pittsburgh meeting

OpenHack logo I was excited to attend the very first meeting of OpenHack Pittsburgh, out of curiosity and as a way to force myself to make progress on a personal programming project of mine using Scala (ironically, after spending the day at work on Scala; apparently I couldn’t get enough of it). The point of OpenHack is to provide a space for programmers to meet up and work on something. Read On →

Thoughts on an unexpected winter barefoot run

Barefoot running in winter

Yesterday, I went on my first ever winter barefoot run.

It’s not what you think; or maybe, it is what you think.

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Why I've chosen to perform only two repetitions of the Cathedral of Learning stair climb

Four times now in the past two weeks, I have done exactly two repetitions, no less and no more, of the 36-floor Cathedral of Learning stair climb.

A friend of mine who also started the stair climbing, inspired by my one-repetition initial climb before New Year, was very excited about immediately going to two, and then after that, going to three reps. I, on the other hand, have chosen to stay at exactly two. So yesterday I did two, as planned.

Here’s why I’ve chosen to stay at exactly two.

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Modern chess: computers shutting down opening theory, part 2

Last September, I described how a shocking chess opening novelty illustrates the subtlety of human chess preparation and the psychology of practical play. I had no idea that an even bigger shock was to come, in the very same chess opening variation. Critical position This is a critical position of the Meran Variation of the Semi-Slav, White to play: Meran Last September, Topalov as White played the natural 12 b4, but that led to the stunning sacrifice 12. Read On →