Round 1 of the Pittsburgh Chess Club tournament: the Greek gift sacrifice

Start of first round Tonight was the first round of the latest six-round Tuesday night tournament at the Pittsburgh Chess Club, my first tournament in almost two years, the 14th Fred Sorensen Memorial. The tournament There was quite a large turnout for this tournament. Apparently a good number of people who had not played for a while (like me), chose to come back also! There were also new faces. Read On →

Why I do not play chess online: chess as a human activity

I found out, while reading the magazine “Chess Life”, to which I am subscribed to as a member of the United States Chess Federation (USCF), that there are apparently plans to offer online chess play.

I have to confess that I have never been interested in playing chess online. I also do not like to play chess against computers, and not just because my first experience playing chess against a computer was bizarrely negative. I understand that many people take great pleasure in both of these activities, but I still restrict myself to playing chess only against humans, and face to face. Here’s why.

Read On →

Returning to chess, part 2: rejoining the Pittsburgh Chess Club and signing up for my sixth Fred Sorensen Memorial tournament

Federico Garcia vs. Franklin Chen in 2006

(A chess tournament in 2006.)

So tonight I stopped by the Pittsburgh Chess Club to renew my expired membership and pre-register for the next 6-round Tuesday night tournament, the Fred Sorensen Memorial, which starts on Tuesday after Labor Day. This will be the sixth time I’m playing in this annual tournament.

It’s been almost two years since I played tournament chess.

Here’s a look back at previous years of the tournament and reflections on why I’ve played off and on, and what makes this “comeback” different from all the rest.

Read On →

Five reasons we just stocked up on Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek shoes

"Run Around the Square", Regent Square

Abby and I just stocked up on Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek shoes: we got two brand new pairs for me and two for her as well. Why the extravagant purchases? Here are five reasons.

Read On →

My second French music jam: playing my Irish flute in public for the first time

Tonight I participated for the second time in a new little French traditional dance music jam session that started up in July! This time, I played not only my Baroque flute (which happens to be the instrument I’ve mostly been playing for the past two months), but also my new Irish flute I got a month ago. I did not bring my modern flute at all. As we did the last time, after we played around for an hour or so, we then played for dancers for another hour. Read On →

Latin jazz in Pittsburgh: Puro Queso

One great thing about Pittsburgh is the free cultural programs at the Carnegie Library. Abby and I checked out a local Latin jazz quartet, Puro Queso, performing at the main branch of the library in Oakland, as part of their regular Sunday afternoon World Kaleidoscope series. This event was also posted on the “Free and Almost Free in Pittsburgh” meetup group. I was amused to notice that when we arrived, I recognized the saxophonist! Read On →

My eighth time doing Run Around the Square 5K

Today Abby and I ran in the annual Run Around The Square 5K race. As usual at this time in late August, it was a warm day.

This race is special because Run Around The Square was the first race I ever ran in my life, back in 2000, and because it is also the first race Abby ever ran (just last year, 2011): so today was my 128th lifetime race (according to my race log I keep) and Abby’s 5th lifetime race.

My goal this year

My goal for the race for this year was to run it faster than I did last year (which also would automatically mean running it faster than any year since six years ago, 2006).

My time from last year was 24:36, and I believed from my last timed interval workout, on Tuesday, that I could run 24:30 today at fastest, so there was little room for error. I had hoped months ago that I would be in shape to run considerably faster in Run Around The Square this year, but travel and other interruptions caused me to train only haphazardly for races this year.

Did I achieve my goal? The story turns out to be more complicated than I expected.

Read On →

Pittsburgh Python meetup: I gave my first lightning talk ever; the topic was SCons

Yesterday I gave my first lightning talk in my life, as far as I can remember. I spoke for probably around five minutes at the monthly meeting of the Pittsburgh Python User Group, which had a module show-and-tell night. I originally had not planned to attend the meeting, since although I have been to meetings of the Python group since January 2011, I stopped going over a year ago. But I suddenly decided on short notice to volunteer before the meeting to give a little talk on the Python-based tool SCons. Read On →

Steel City Ruby Conf review: Part 1: It's About People

The inaugural Steel City Ruby Conf was over two weeks ago. I was so excited by it that I vowed to change my life in several ways. Although I was way too busy with work, and a wedding to fly to (that Abby and I expanded into a full-blown vacation), I knew that the excitement would fade if I did not do at least one thing in order to remember and revisit the experience, so I wrote up a very short blog post immediately after the conference in order to publicly commit to both writing more and also doing something new.

Here’s part 1 of my actual review of the conference.

Read On →

Returning to chess, a lifetime sport: playing in the Pittsburgh Chess League

Franklin's United States Chess Federation Life Member certificate So far, I’ve only written a few times here about chess, because over a year ago, I deliberately decided (for the nth time) to quit my involvement in chess. But because this summer, I finally finished paying for and receiving my United States Chess Federation (USCF) life membership, I decided to put some chess back into my life. Read On →