A short note on the fallibility of crowdsourcing: reCAPTCHA and long s

Periodically I encounter a reCAPTCHA whose answer is obvious to anyone who has read old texts in English, but is easily misread by anyone who has not. When I enter the correct, intended word, my answer is always rejected as incorrect. This suggests that most people believe the wrong answer. So this is just one example of how crowdsourcing can easily fail. reCAPTCHA with long s The letter in the word that looks like an “f” in “Composition” is in fact an “s”. Read On →

A short note on the use of chess opening books

I just reported on a chess game I played that featured the Veresov Opening. Nigel Davies: The Veresov Back when I was playing the Veresov as White, I studied it using GM Nigel Davies’ book from 2003, “The Veresov”. On page 48 of the book, Davies claimed that f5 “is quite weakening” and recommended against it. The computer engines disagree. I will continue, as Black, to happily play f5 against anyone who wants to play White in the Veresov Gambit against me. Read On →

Round 3 of Pittsburgh Chess Club tournament: the difficult opponent, and revenge of the Bishop

Last week, I discussed the fact that my round 2 opponent faced me having lost eleven straight games against me.

Fear and trembling

This week in round 3, I was somewhat in his position, against my opponent. Although I am higher rated than my opponent, who is also an Expert, I had a terrible record against him when we played twice almost two years ago:

  • In our first game, with White, I had a totally won position but repeatedly failed to finish him off, and even went into an end game two Pawns up that was completely winning, but ended up dropping one and drawing. It was one of the most traumatic games in my entire life.
  • In our second game, with White again, I was so mentally unsettled that on my fourth move in the opening, I inexplicably played a move I had never played before (instead of my usual continuation), then after my poor fifth move had a terrible position that I never recovered from, and I lost.

Furthermore, some months before playing him, I had played his son as Black, and lost a game in which I had a totally won position.

So there was a lot of emotional baggage for me going into tonight’s game.

Today’s lessons

White resigned

  • In a very long and tough game (almost four hours), I managed to avoid psychologically falling apart, and came through.
  • As opposed to my game from round 1, this game saw the revenge of the Bishop versus the Knight.

Read On →

Dan Possumato and friends playing Irish, Scottish, French music

World Kaleidoscope Flyer Abby and I checked out a musical performance at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, main branch. They have a regular Sunday afternoon “World Kaleidoscope” series featuring world sounds from local musicians: two months ago I reported on some delightful local Appalachian music. Today’s performance was by Dan Possumato and friends, featuring mostly Irish music, with Dan on button accordion. We had a good time. Read On →

Preparing to play Irish flute in the Holiday Ball

Pittsburgh Contras and Squares

A very important event for me last year was joining Abby in playing music at the annual Pittsburgh Contras and Squares Holiday Ball at the Swisshelm Park Community Center as part of the “Holiday Ball Orchestra”.

Today I started to prepare to play music for the Holiday Ball (Friday, December 14) again: I have three weeks to practice.

What progress have I made in the past year on the goals I listed after last year’s event?

Read On →

Thanking the best of all possible worlds

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Oppenheimer quote

Today, on a sunny Thanksgiving, I surprised myself by spontaneously deciding to thank this world, and go as far as to call it the best of all possible worlds. I’m still not entirely sure what I mean by that, but somehow, I “believe” it; more precisely, it’s an attitude I now have that I have never really had in my life up till now. Even a year ago, I would have thought it silly to adopt such an attitude.

A friend of mine asked, “Dr. Pangloss?”

In other words, am I being a fool?

Read On →

Round 2 of Pittsburgh Chess Club Tournament: Very short game with a note on psychology

Round 2 in progress

After the complex game in round 1, I was hoping for another interesting fight in round 2, in which I played White.

Unfortunately, the game ended up being very short, with my having a won position after ten minutes of play. My opponent kept going for a while, but resigned before an hour was up.

Today’s lesson

Since the game was so short, I will be writing about the psychology of what happened, what has happened in the past with this opponent (whom I have now played twelve times in my life in tournaments), and what might have happened.

Read On →

Preparing for December 9 recorder performance in Phipps Conservatory

It’s that time of year.

Phipps Conservatory candlelight evening

I just came back from another two-hour rehearsal (we’ve been having one every week) for an upcoming music gig.

I’ll be performing with five other recorder players in one of the Phipps Conservatory “candlelight evenings”, Sunday, December 9, from 6 PM to 8 PM.

Candlelight Evenings Nov. 25, 2012 - Jan. 6, 2013 Extended Hours: Open until 10 p.m. Winter Flower Show is even more enchanting at night - a time when glowing candles light the walkways and live music fills the air. Experience the magic for yourself as we remain open until 10 p.m. daily from Nov. 23 - Jan. 6.

Why this event is special to me

Today I reflect on having performed at Phipps last year as part of this recorder group, as the first time I ever performed music in public since I was a kid.

Read On →

Report on CMU Baroque Ensemble concert, with Stephen Schultz on Baroque flute

I attended a free concert of the CMU Baroque Ensemble concert for the second time. My first time, several months ago, I enjoyed as my main attraction Bach’s Brandenburg concerto no. 2; this time, although the Brandenburg concerto no. 3 was performed, it was not the main draw for me. What I really looked forward to was simply seeing Stephen Schultz playing Baroque flute (amplified), premiering a new piece by Nancy Galbraith, “Effervescent Air”. Read On →

A childhood dream come true: I am now finally singing for real!

Abby and I went to a pre-Thanksgiving party hosted by Henry and yet again, I changed my life.

At the last party at Henry’s, two months ago, I had begun singing there for the first time, and afterwards vowed that I would take up singing for real.

I’d followed up very slowly, taking a month before actually singing in public, and then the day after that, continuing to sing in public at J-Jam.

It was the last event, J-Jam, that got me to decide to really prepare some songs to sing for the next J-Jam. What happened was that I had started off by trying to find some suitable flute/guitar music to work on with Cantor Ben Rosner for J-Jam, but I noticed that I was picking some material that was actually originally sung and then transcribed for flute. After being unsatisfied with playing these songs on flute, because I couldn’t get quite the expression I wanted, I bit the bullet: I decided that the voice is the original and best instrument we have, and that I should use the best instrument to achieve what I wanted to do, which was to maximize expressiveness in lyrical music. So I started looking for transpositions of songs to a suitable range for me in order for me to sing them.

Then when Henry’s party invitation came up, I jumped at the opportunity to try out some of the music I was preparing for J-Jam, to perform with Henry on piano.

What did I do?

Read On →