A fact of modern chess: computers shutting down opening theory

I saw the report of a stunning chess game between Veselin Topalov and Rustam Kasimzhanov that resulted in a draw. I think this game illustrates some important points about modern chess at the highest levels. The game featured a temporary piece sacrifice in the Meran Variation of the Semi-Slav that is exciting to see, but also made me feel rather sad. Black to move: Black to move For decades, this kind of position has been standard opening theory, and usually it has been considered that Black’s setup is not so good because it allows White to gain a lock on Black’s Queen side by setting up a3 and b4 preventing Black from ever playing the freeing . Read On →

A short example of why I prefer static typing: learning Gradle

I make no secret of the fact the I prefer to program in statically-typed languages. That is not to say that I don’t write programs in dynamically typed languages. In fact, I have written and will continue to write programs in Perl, Python, Ruby, JavaScript, and other dynamically typed programs, because pragmatically speaking, there is a whole lot more to programming to get something done than questions of type systems.

Nevertheless, it is always painful to me when I hit a wall when learning and using an unfamiliar API from a dynamically typed language. I always think, “if only this API were statically typed, so that when I encounter an error, I can immediately look up what went wrong”.

Here’s an example as I’ve been learning Gradle while evaluating it along with learning SBT, as two candidate build tools for me to switch to out of Maven as my build tool for a primarily Java-based project. Note that Gradle is basically an embedded domain-specific language using the dynamically typed language Groovy, while SBT is an embedded domain-specific language using the statically typed language Scala.

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Living Appalachian music of Southwestern Pennsylvania: Mark Tamsula and Richard Withers with Ellen Gozion

As I periodically do, I went to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on a Sunday afternoon to check out a musical event, part of the regular World Kaleidoscope series. Mark Tamsula and Richard Withers and Ellen Gozion were there to perform some Appalachian music with very local southwestern Pennsylvanian roots. Mark talked a good bit about going through the materials collected by the historian Samuel Bayard. It was interesting to me that his research in reviving the music that Bayard documented forced Mark to get more involved in reading music, since as a traditional musician he was used to learning everything by ear, but nobody is alive any more who originally played some of this music, and all that is left to document it is scores! Read On →

Celebrating the birthday of John Coltrane, the Beethoven of jazz

John Coltrane

So today is the birthday of John Coltrane (1926-1967), a towering figure in the history of jazz like no other. Several years ago, in a moment of inspiration, I quipped to a friend that while it was clear to me that Charlie Parker the Mozart of jazz, it was even more clear that Coltrane was the Beethoven of jazz.

What did I mean by that remark? I meant it on philosophical, historical, and musical levels.

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Celebrating this blog's one-year anniversary

One year ago, I started this blog, inspired by my attending PodCamp Pittsburgh. I’m not going to write up a lengthy retrospective today, because I have to go soon to a concert Abby will be in tonight, as part of the Pittsburgh Mandolin Society orchestra in Synod Hall. It was interesting rereading my own one-month retrospective from last year: I’ve learned so much about myself, and other people, and changed so much, during the past year of writing here. Read On →

My first time singing bossa nova; also, a temporary farewell to Baroque flute

Two weeks ago, I reported on finally performing some sonatas for Baroque flute, at a party at my friend Henry’s.

Ironically, tonight, at another party of Henry’s, this time a birthday party for his father (his parents have been visiting), I ended up deciding to temporarily stop playing the Baroque flute.

Also, more significantly: this was the first time in my life singing a song at all as a solo vocalist with accompaniment.

Why and how?!

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Four generations of Apple laptops

Transferring MacBook to MacBook Pro I just bought a new Apple MacBook Pro to replace my old black plastic 2008 MacBook, in order to get more memory and hard drive space, plus be able to run Mountain Lion. Abby and I also used this upgrade of mine as an opportunity to give her the old MacBook and switch her from running Windows computers. We have various reasons to switch her to Mac, one of them simply being that it’s easier for me to administer Macs (which I primarily use, at work and at home) than for me to have to deal with Windows computers also. Read On →

My first bobblehead doll: guess who?

Johann Sebastian Bach bobblehead

I now own my first bobblehead doll! Abby was reluctant to let me take him home, but I argued that he would inspire me in the playing of his music.

So who, and why?

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Round 3 of Pittsburgh Chess Club tournament: another approach against the Sicilian: squeezing with the Bind

Third round

Yesterday was the third round of the current six-round Tuesday night tournament at the Pittsburgh Chess Club, the 14th Fred Sorensen Memorial.

Every round has gotten tougher and tougher, as it should because winners get paired against each other. This week I was White against a youthful opponent who was, like me, an Expert in rating (his current rating is 2034, while mine is 2110). I expected an intense struggle, and there was one. Our game was the second to last to finish, taking just over four hours to complete, going all the way to the endgame.

In this post, I discuss

  • White fighting against the Sicilian in a different way from how I have discussed earlier
  • the reasons for certain inaccuracies in the game that made it longer than it could have been

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Is Constitution Day Constitutional?

Bill of Rights at CMU

Yesterday was Constitution Day, which I’ve “observed” in some fashion since 2005, which was when I saw the first annual announcement of its observance at Carnegie Mellon University. My memory is fuzzy about what I actually did on Constitution Day on most years, but I remember that in 2005 I stopped by the Posner Center to look at one of the four existing copies of the US Bill of Rights.

Last year, I watched Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto speak at CMU; I remember him focusing a lot on the Bill of Rights and our need to be vigilant in protecting our rights, and telling of his concerns resulting from incidents that happened during the G-20. This year, Magisterial District Judge Hugh F. McGough was the featured speaker at CMU; he spoke about the history of the Pennsylvania judicial system and of constitutions in general.

I never actually knew or thought about the origin and nature of Constitution Day until yesterday. I was surprised.

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