On playing my first games of chess in a year

Lately there has been a lot of attention paid to deliberate practice. I thought I’d give one example of my practice habits.

Over a week ago, at a birthday party, I ended up playing two casual games of chess, my first games of chess in an entire year since I completely quit playing the game (either in tournaments or casually) in order to focus on rebooting my passion for playing music.

The first game was against someone who opened with 1 h4, immediately marking himself as a beginner, and I won quickly.

The second game was much harder, because while my opponent was clearly not a strong player, and as White started off with an inferior opening, I had a hard time coming up with a crushing advantage. In fact, I found myself embarking on a slow, misguided plan that led to an equal middle game. It was only after a terrible blunder on his part that I immediately had a won position.

So overall, these casual games were quite one-sided.

But the next morning, the first thing I did was enter the moves of both games into my computer and briefly analyze the games with Houdini.

Why did I do this?

Read On →

A strange winter hike in Frick Park

Yesterday morning, on a sunny day, with temperatures ranging from around 35-40F, Abby and I went on a Meetup hike at Frick Park. This was actually our first Meetup hike in Frick Park, because normally we just go to our local park alone and go to Meetup hikes that are further away, but we hadn’t been hiking at all for months and so it was convenient to go to this one.

Since we live only two miles away from the meeting place in the parking lot down in Fern Hollow, we hiked straight from home there, meeting up with John, who joined us at the park entrance.

We ended up hiking probably around nine miles (including being on the road from and to home).

It was very strange doing this hike in early February, when Pittsburgh should be suffering from snow and ice and bitter cold. Normally I don’t do any running or hiking in Frick Park again till March, but I’ve been running in Frick for some time now this “winter”!

Read On →

My favorite running workout: the Billat workout

Over a decade ago, when I got very serious about running in races, and decided to get as competitive as I possibly could (knowing that my genetic potential was very limited), I settled on the Jack Daniels “running formula” training program as something that worked quite well for me. It was scientifically based and involves training in different phases of an entire months-long process at different intensities, incorporating easy running, tempo runs, intervals, repeats, hill workouts, etc. Read On →

2 new daily habits of mine in a distracting world

As of a week ago, I have developed two daily habits to reclaim my life from a distracting digital world: meditation in the morning, before breakfast shutting down my computer at home in the evening two hours before going to bed Meditation The meditation habit is one I have wanted to develop for years now, but had not. Before around 2007, I was meditating every day for a year or two, but then I fell off the practice, and eventually stopped for long periods of time, and then just a year ago, thanks to a weekly meditation practice set up at Carnegie Mellon University, I began attending that (and Abby started meditating for the first time then). Read On →

Joining an orchestra: learning in the face of terror

I have not written about my flute activities since a month ago, but that’s not for lack of action: in fact, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the flute, at the expense of other personal projects, including writing.

Two months ago, I mentioned that I was considering joining the Carnegie Mellon All-University Orchestra, which I claimed was “not very good” and that “I don’t have to be super good to be a part of it.” I take back those comments.

I joined the CMU AUO two Sundays ago, attending the first rehearsal then, and it was one of the most frightening experiences in my entire life. I almost left before even entering the rehearsal room. But I went in, stayed for the two and a half hours, and last Sunday, I went to the second rehearsal.

Let me put it this way: at the first rehearsal, there were about ten flutes and one piccolo in the flute section. At the second rehearsal, we are down to four flutes and one piccolo. I hope that we don’t lose any more flutes at the next rehearsal. OK, maybe some students happened to be busy and will be returning. Or maybe some of them had the same reaction that I had: absolute terror.

Let me explain.

Read On →

Liebster Blog Award: 5 blogs you should check out

Liebster Blog Award

Recently, my neighbor gave me a Liebster Blog Award. This is actually my second one, but I had not yet claimed the first one, under the rules of acceptance of the award. I’ve had difficulty finding the origin of this award and the official documentation of the award, but from what I can tell, the rules are that I must give the award to five other bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers:

  • Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  • Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  • Have faith that your followers will spread the love too!

So here goes, starting with identifying the two people who gave me the award:

Read On →

A new friend's very musical birthday party changed my life

Tonight Abby and I went to a birthday party at the home of Henry, someone we both coincidentally know, but not very well, a professional musician who is quite an accomplished accordionist. The interesting thing is that I know him from having played two Pittsburgh Chess Club tournament games of chess with him seven years ago, back in February and March 2005, while Abby knows him from his involvement in the Accordion Pool Party in September of 2009.

Accordion pool party from Dhenuka Ganesh on Vimeo.

Abby was invited to his birthday party as a fellow member of the Accordion Pool Party event (which she played in). She asked me whether I was interested in going. I said, sure! I was intrigued because Henry had created a program for his birthday party including a mini-concert he was going to give after dinner, followed by a “jam session with musician friends”.

So we went. And my life changed, forever.

Read On →

Learning about gardening from Grow Pittsburgh

A Garden Primer

Yesterday, Abby and I finished the third and final session of “A Garden Primer”, a basic course on organic gardening offered by Grow Pittsburgh. We took this course because we would like to start our own little urban garden.

Third meeting of A Garden Primer

As an utter beginner with no experience, I thought the course was a very useful and friendly introduction to organic gardening.

Read On →

Improving my breakfast and other meals: a paleo progress report

In the past couple of months, I’ve made some large changes in my diet. Fundamentally, I’ve moved in a paleo direction. The largest change was breakfast, where I completely gave up my old breakfast and replaced it. After some experimentation, I’ve finally arrived at a breakfast template that seems optimal for me (as gauged by my morning energy level and other criteria I discuss below).

As an example, here is what I ate this morning:

Breakfast with flax seeds and prune

The ingredients, and what has changed, and why:

Read On →

Pittsburgh Java User Group: Developing Languages Using JRuby

Tonight at PittJUG, Chris Umbel gave a version of the talk he did for the Pittsburgh Ruby group a couple of months ago. You can read my report on that here. You might wonder why I attended the PittJUG meeting then, if I already heard the talk. The fact is, I’ve learned that the most value I get from attending these user group meetings is not so much the presentations (although I get considerable value, actually, from learning about good or not so good presentation techniques), but just hanging out to chat before and after a presentation, whether about the topic of the presentation or not. Read On →