My first contra dance workshop: unexpected fun!

Dancers in motion

Today Abby and I attended the first CMU contra dance workshop put on by the Carnegie Alliance of Traditional and Social Dance, as I mentioned we might when I wrote about the formation of CATS Dance.

You have to understand that for years I resisted the idea of ever doing contra dancing. I had some bad memories of being forced to do a bit of square dancing in elementary school, I have a tendency to resist choreographed patterns, and frankly, I associated contra dancing with old, maybe clumsy people. In the past year, having met plenty of people who mentioned doing contra dancing, and who clearly are not old and clumsy (some are old but far from clumsy), I’d gotten interested in giving it a try.

The seed was first planted just from happening to get pulled into playing music for contra dancing ten months ago. But I didn’t act on it, other than participating a little bit impromptu at a birthday party.

Today I finally went for a full four-hour workshop, held at CMU.

I had a great time, way beyond my expectations!!

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The Fineview Stepathon 2012: Pittsburgh's grueling urban trail race

Stepathon steps

Today I ran in the annual Fineview Stepathon, a truly unique and grueling 5-mile race held in Fineview, a neighborhood in the North Side of Pittsburgh.

This was not the first time I’d run the Stepathon: I’d actually done a shorter version of it (supposedly a 5K, but clearly much shorter given how quickly I finished it) in 2006. Originally, I wasn’t sure I was going to run another race this year after the Great Race, but after telling my buddy Chris about the Stepathon, and his getting excited about the concept, I decided to commit to doing it with him, rain or shine.

(Note that there was a short 2.5 mile option available, but only six people took it this year.)

The Web site’s description only gives a hint of what this event is like:

Are you a runner, about to run the Great Race? An urban explorer? A fitness nut? Or just a masochist? How fast should you pace yourself, going up a stairway that rises out of view? How fast can you go? One thing for sure, the harder you fight the steps, the harder they fight back! We saved the best for last... the legendary Rising Main stairway. High as a 17-story building, disorienting as it leans this way and that, your legs feeling like jelly as you near the top... The Stepathon, ready to chew you up and spit you out!

Also, the registration form says:

Challenging course includes 12 public staircases over 1600 steps. Vertical climb 400 feet.

Here’s my report on this fantastic event!

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First anniversary of Steve Jobs' death: let the dead bury the dead

A year ago I dashed off an emotional blog post upon learning of the death of Steve Jobs. Three weeks later, I wrote my last note on Steve Jobs. Today, having ignored basically all media coverage of Steve Jobs since last October, and still ignoring the biography, all I have to say is: Let the dead bury the dead. Source.

Chatham Baroque: thoughts on playing new non-Baroque music on Baroque instruments

Chatham Baroque press photo

Today I went to the weekly CMU music convocation, which featured the Chatham Baroque. They provided some interesting discussions and performances of musical excerpts of newly commissioned works as a preview before their official premiere tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

You might be thinking, “Wait a second, newly commissioned works for a Baroque ensemble playing Baroque instruments?” Does this mean some derivative, neo-Baroque stuff?

The answer is no.

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Round 5 of Pittsburgh Chess Club Tournament: On Benoni "Emasculation" and Learning

White in reverse Benoni being crushed

Tonight was the fifth (and penultimate) round of the current six-round Tuesday night tournament at the Pittsburgh Chess Club, the 14th Fred Sorensen Memorial. I last reported on the third round, rather than the fourth round, because as I mentioned in August upon signing up for the tournament, I took a bye for the fourth round because of a schedule conflict with a Pittsburgh Java User Group meeting that I wanted to attend.

Thankfully, I came back for the fifth round finding that I was still tied for first, despite taking a half point bye in the fourth round, because nobody else had a perfect score after four rounds either.

The game tonight ended up one-sided; right after he resigned, he called it an “emasculation” (I won fairly quickly, in less than two hours). However:

  • the unfolding of the game provides what I think is a nice illustration of how to win thematically against a Benoni opening structure
  • my opponent and I had a good discussion, after the game, about learning and improvement

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Running my 10th Great Race 10K: "obscene but in a good way"

Great Race quilt

Today I ran in Pittsburgh’s Great Race 10K for the tenth time in my life. For various reasons, I performed a number of experiments for this tenth running of the race, doing things I’ve never done before.

During the race, I heard someone say, as I passed him:

...obscene... but in a good way!

It made my day.

I’ll explain what might have triggered this reaction.

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Another French music jam; also, announcing CATS Dance

CATS Dance photo

On Monday I participated for my third time in Lisa’s French traditional dance music jam.

Last time, I started playing my Irish flute at the jam, continued playing my Baroque flute, and left my modern flute at home.

This time, I changed things up. Also, we got a new musician playing a new instrument!

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Why I missed the CMU intramural XC race this year

One thing interesting about having been writing in my blog for just over a year now is the opportunity to look back one year and compare where I was then with where I am now when it comes to seasonal activities and goals. For example, today I was originally planning to run in the CMU intramural men’s XC race this year, as I had enjoyed doing it last year. Read On →

The worst chess move I ever played: why did I do that?

Gelfand-Wang As happens periodically, in the chess world recently there was mention of how Wang Hao, one of the top players in the world, in a drawn position slipped into a lost position: his opponent Boris Gelfand made an easy move that forced checkmate the next move. How could such a strong player make such a terrible blunder? This was hardly the worst move a top chess player has ever made. Read On →

Thank you, Glenn Gould, for introducing me to Schönberg!

Glenn Gould at piano Today would have been the 80th birthday of the eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who actually died at age 50 in 1982, before I ever knew about him. It was nice to see an article about Gould playing music other than the Bach he is mostly known for. Not surprisingly, my own first exposure to Glenn Gould was through his recordings of the music of Bach. Read On →