Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I begin my CLEP odyssey!

Today I took the first three of 8 or 10 CLEP (College Level Examination Program) tests. It's like being on a moderately difficult game show where you only have to get 50% to win and you choose the categories. When I have passed thirty hours worth (most tests are 3 credits, some are 6), I move up a "salary step" and make $7,000/year more. (isn't that fantastic!!??) These are the tests:

Composition and Literature

* American Literature
* Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
* College Composition and College Composition Modular
* English Composition
* English Literature
* Freshman College Composition
* Humanities

Foreign Languages

* French Language (Levels 1 and 2)
* German Language (Levels 1 and 2)
* Spanish Language (Levels 1 and 2)

History and Social Sciences

* American Government
* Human Growth and Development
* Introduction to Educational Psychology
* Introductory Psychology
* Introductory Sociology
* Principles of Macroeconomics
* Principles of Microeconomics
* Social Sciences and History
* History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877
* History of the United States II: 1865 to the Present
* Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648
* Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present

Science and Mathematics

* Biology
* Calculus
* Chemistry
* College Algebra
* College Mathematics
* Natural Sciences
* Precalculus


* Financial Accounting
* Introductory Business Law
* Information Systems and Computer Applications
* Principles of Management
* Principles of Marketing

They are scored 20 to 80 and you need 50 to pass. You can't get credit for the exact same class you took in college. I took American Government (score = 63), History of the United States 1865-present (score=63) and College Algebra (score=77, even though I forgot how to do logs).

CLEP American Government Practice Questions

US Government

1. What is the name of the type of federal grant that gives wide discretion to local officials?

A: fund grant
B: block grant
C: mandated grant
D: revenue-sharing grant
E: categorical grants

2. Whose power is the Bill of Rights intended to restrict?

A: the citizens
B: the President
C: the federal government
D: the Senate
E: the House of Representatives

3. Which amendment to the Constitution specifically outlines the powers delegated to the states?

A: Seventh
B: Eighth
C: Ninth
D: Tenth
E: Eleventh

4. How did political parties nominate presidential candidates until the early nineteenth century?

A: direct election
B: series of state primaries
C: selection by party chairman
D: lottery
E: congressional caucuses

5. Who is responsible for issuing a writ of certiorari?

A: Congress
B: Supreme Court
C: Attorney General
D: President
E: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

6. According to the Constitution, the members of which body must be chosen by popular election?

A: Senate
B: House of Representatives
C: Supreme Court
D: Cabinet
E: Department of Defense

1. D. Revenue-sharing grants are basically dispersals of federal funds to local officials.
2. C. In the wake of the American Revolution, citizens were unwilling to allow a strong central authority.
3. D. A caucus is a closed meeting in which the members of a political party select a representative.
4. E. A caucus is a closed meeting in which the members of a political party select a representative.
5. B. A writ of certiorari is a higher court's request of a trial transcript.
6. B. The districts represented by the House of Representatives are meant to be equal in population.

US History 1865-present

1. What did the Sixteenth Amendment establish?

A: women's suffrage
B: the Department of Education
C: income tax
D: prohibition
E: direct election of senators

2. Which of the following words characterizes American foreign policy between 1901 and 1920?

A: schizophrenic
B: isolationist
C: apathetic
D: nationalistic
E: disjointed

3. What was the intention of the grandfather clause issued in the 1890s?

A: To prevent non-whites from voting
B: To reduce the voting age to 18
C: To provide health care to senior citizens
D: To avoid conflict between blacks and whites
E: To restrict Native Americans to the reservations.

4. Why were the radio broadcasts of Father Coughlin controversial?

A: They called Franklin Roosevelt a socialist.
B: They were broadcast from Nazi Germany.
C: They used obscene language.
D: They advocated socialism.
E: They were often anti-Semitic.

5. Which of the following statements best expresses the philosophy of Booker T. Washington?

A: African-Americans should acquire their rights by force if necessary.
B: African-Americans should wait and allow rights to be granted them over time.
C: African-Americans do not deserve equal rights.
D: African-Americans should form their own nation in the western United States.
E: African-Americans should help themselves rather than looking for help from others.

6. What was the Democratic response to the oil shortages of the 1970s?

A: an invasion of Iran
B: an emphasis on energy conservation and price controls
C: an embargo against Saudi Arabia
D: a massive shutdown of industry
E: a filibuster on the floor of the Senate

1. C. In Pollock v. Farmer's Loan (1895), the Supreme Court had ruled the federal income tax unconstitutional.
2. D. During this period, the agenda of the United States was to protect its economic interests and expand its influence.
3. A. After establishing extremely strict voting requirements, states declared that individuals whose relatives had voted before 1867 could automatically vote.
4. E. Father (Charles) Coughlin was one of the more popular right-wing speakers during the 1930s.
5. E. In contrast to W.E.B. DuBois, Washington advocated working for equal rights within the preexisting system.
6. B. The 1973 oil crisis began when the OPEC nations declared they would no longer trade with nations that had supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

College Algebra

1. A. Isolate the values for y and y2, and determine the values that make the equation true for these variables.
2. C. This problem can be solved in reverse by mentally applying FOIL to the answer choices.
3. B. Distribute the 8 across the parentheses before moving on.
4. D. Determine the value for P and factor in the given subscripts.
5. E. This problem can be simplified to 11 x 4 = 44.
6. D. X-intercepts are the places where the parabola passes through the x-axis.
7. A. This problem can be solved in reverse by mentally applying FOIL to the answer choices.

I take three more on Friday. I'm thinking Macroeconomics, College Mathematics, and maybe Social Sciences and History (it's 6 credits, I'm just not sure what it is). :) Incidentally, I have no idea what question four in the math above is talking about.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

my luck continues

In the above position (round 3 of the Marshall G/60) my opponent, Glenn Leotaud (1833) played 17...h6. How do I win?

18. Rxd7! Qxd7
19. Rxd7 Nxd7
20. Be3 f6
21. Bxc5 Nxc5
22. Qc4+ Rf7
23. b4 Nd7
24. Bh3 Rc8
25. Qd3 Kf8
26. Nh4

I make a lot of horrible mistakes, but get lucky in the end

Karl Escherbach - Elizabeth Vicary
marshall g/60, rd 2
1. e4 c6
2. Nc3 d5
3. d4 dxe4
4. Nxe4 Bf5
5. Ng3 Bg6
6. N1e2 Nd7
7. Nf4

I liked this move.
Nxg6 hxg6
9. Bc4

how does black win a pawn here?

picture of a pretty tree to cover the answer!

with 9...Nb6! 10. Bb3 Qxd4. of course I don't even look at it and instead play

9... exd4 This is stupid and just develops white's queen for him. I'm happy if white takes on e5-- it centralizes my knight, so I should just develop something. or play Nb6.
10. Qxd4 Rh4
11. Qe3+ Be7
12. Bb3 Ngf6
13. O-O
what should black not do?

me at elementary nationals, covering the answer

Black should not play 13...Rxh2
. What happened was this: I thought about it for a while, and I became scared of the line 13...Rxh2 14. Re1 (threatening 15. Qxe7 Qxe7 16. Rxe7 Kxe7 17. Kxh2) 14...Rh4/8, and then Bd2, Rad1, Bc3 maybe, and it's not so easy for black to find a safe place for the king, even defending e7 can get tricky, and so I thought maybe I can't spend the tempi to take this pawn, then my mind wandered for a bit, just kind of idly touching on a few alternatives, but not finding anything concrete, and then felt annoyed with myself and told myself to stop wasting time and make a decision. I decided to just play Rxh2, then Rh4, then Kf8: how bad can it be?

14. Re1?? (amazingly, he also overlooked 14. Bxf7+! Kxf7 15.Qb3+ Nd5 16. Kxh2)
14... Rh4
15. Bd2 Kf8
16. Rad1 Bc5
17. Qf3 Qc7
18. Bg5

I completely miss how strong his next move is.
19. Ne4! Ne5
And also his next move. I wasn't so much analyzing here, as looking at candidate moves and randomly picking one.
20. Qh3 20...Bxf2+ I realized I was lost here, so I was trying to play the most complicated moves.
21. Kxf2 Nxe4+
22. Rxe4 Rxg5
23. Qh8+ Ke7
24. Qxa8 Qb6+
White has six ways to get out of check. three of them lose. pretty much 50-50 who wins I guess.
25. Kf1 Rf5+
hahahahaa. poor dude. guess what he said to me afterwards?
"I just thought you were going to resign."

I win a chess tournament!

some kids in my neighborhood

On Saturday I played in the G/60 at the Marshall and (SURPRISE!!) I won it! Not very many people showed up: a lot of strong kids were at the NY State Junior Open (Justus Williams tied for first!) and some people are probably in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Open. I don't know where Asa Hoffman was, usually he lurks around, waiting for moments like these.

There were 10-14 players, depending on how/when you count(ed). I was second seed, number one was Michael Thaler, who just graduated from Hunter and is going to Brown next year. Michael's first round game was an e6 Sicilian against David Siudzinski, who, uncoincidentally, was also my fourth round opponent. David played a Keres attack, and the position quickly became one of those sharp but super-positional ones, where there are tons of weak squares, knight outposts on e5, pawn breaks, etc., and you have to figure out which one's the most important. It's fun to watch strong players beat weak players in those positions, because the losers end up looking like hopeless bumblers. David seemed like he was playing reasonably, I wasn't watching that closely for obvious reasons, but I thought Michael was clearly winning when my game finished. I had 40 minutes until round two, so I went to Zara and bought a cardigan (board two was directly under the air conditioner). I came back to hear Thaler drew and withdrew in disgust.

Another expert joined, but he had taken a half point bye in round one, drew round two, and lost to my esteemed fourth round opponent in round three. Other than this very talented 1600, it was just A players to beat, and I managed.

Vicary, Elizabeth --Seldon, Alex Evan

1. d4 d5
2. c4 c6
3. Qc2

I've been teaching this to a few kids, and I got interested enough to start playing it myself. This is my first game in the line. I learned it from Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito's excellent book "Wojo's Weapons." It's fun to play because no one has any idea what to do against it. The two big ideas are to take on c4 and play Bf5 (against which white plays Qxc4, Nf3, g3, Bg2, 0-0, e3, Qe2, Nc3 and e4) and or to play g6 and Bf5 (against which white plays Qb3, Qb6; c5 Qxb3; axb3 and b4-b5).

4. Nf3 g6
5. Bf4 Bg7
6. e3 O-O

7. Bd3
I don't know why I didn't play Nc3 here. I wasn't really sure if my bishop belonged on d3 or e2, and usually that would prompt me to delay deciding and develop the knight instead, but somehow it didn't. I think I was just used to Catalan-y play where you take care of the kingside first.
Also, I was really confused why he wasn't playing Bf5.

8. h3 Nb6
9. c5 Nbd7
10. O-O Re8
11. Nc3

So I was expecting 11... Nh5 12. Bh2 e5 here, when I have to take: 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Bxe5 15. Bxe5 Rxe5 and it's dangerous for me after 16. Ne2 Qh4, when black is threatening 17.. Bxh3 right away.

12. b4
This is the normal response to b6, defending my c pawn, but it happens in this position that I can take: 12. cxb6! Now if they recapture with the queen or knight, I'm happy because the c pawn is backwards and play Rfc1 or Na4 or Ne5 or moves like that. Black wants to recapture with the a pawn, then later to play ...c5, but 12... axb6 runs into the brilliant 13. Nb5!, which threatens both Nc7 and Bc7.

12... Bb7

He can't really play 12... a5 because I have 13. b5! and 13... cxb5 14. c6! or 13...bxc5 14. bxc6 Nf8 15. c7 Qd7 16. Bb5

Interestingly, 12... Nh5 13. Bh2 e5 is not quite as good as before, because after 14. dxe5 Nxe5 15. Nxe5 Bxe5 16. Bxe5 Rxe5 17. Ne2 Qh4, black's queenside is loose(r) after 18. cxb6:

(analysis diagram. Bxh3: still frightening)

13. Bh2
Maybe kinda pointless as I can't really stop e5 if he wants to play it?!
13... a5
14. a3 Qc8
Here I figured it must be time to take on b6 and attack c6.
15. cxb6 Nxb6
Ne2 Nfd7
17. Rfc1 e5
He gets his break in, but he's done too much damage to his pawn structure.
18. dxe5 Nxe5
19. Nxe5 Bxe5
20. Bxe5 Rxe5
21. Nd4

axb4 Rxa1
23. Rxa1 Nd7
24. Rc1 Nb8

25. b5! Re7
26. bxc6 Ba8
27. Qa4 Nd7
28. cxd7
(28. Qa3 is even better)
28... Qxc1+
29. Bf1 Rxe3
30. Qxa8+ Kg7
31. d8=Q Re1
Qf8+ 1-0

here's a nice story on two chess shops in NY.

also, my sister dyed my hair bright red. think it's summery looking?

how many times does she shoot her gun in the 43 second commercial?


thanks to Ray Cheng for the link. original is here if you can't see the whole screen. also from Ray and also great: "Get Away From That"

Justus in the Wall Street Journal

Portrait of a Bronx Chess Champion, Age 12

When Bronx student Justus Williams started third grade at P.S. 70, his mother, Latisha, urged him to take on chess. The hobby was “less common” than basketball, she said.

But Justus wasn’t enthusiastic at first. “I thought I was going to be embarrassed,” he said.

As it turned out, mom knew best.

Justus, now 12 and completing sixth grade, is the highest-rated chess player in the U.S. in his age and gender group, and fourth overall in World Chess Federation international rankings for his age group.

full article here

Saturday, June 12, 2010


a different but also great interview with Keith Olbermann

I think that South Carolina should be disenfranchised for one national election for this. It's like they all voted for the person whose name was nicer-sounding and first, alphabetically. I know that every group of people has a bottom 10% and it's crazy to judge people by geographical place, but if this is really how most of the state votes, their opinions shouldn't count.

do you know what happens if you call 311 because your neighbor's carbon monoxide alarm annoys you?

they transfer you to 911 and then within 4 minutes (so fast!) six burly firemen are there. Then a few more pour out from both down and up the stairs, like in a cartoon. They knock once on Neighbor's door, then take out a huge steel wedge and hammer the lock off. Then they broke open another internal door. The cause of the alarm turned out to be a dead battery. whole thing took 15 minutes, start to finish. crazy, huh?

I love South Carolina

Who's Alvin Greene? State Asks After Vote

WASHINGTON — For a few hours this week, it looked as if South Carolina might ditch its never-fail reputation for political scandal in favor of a genuine history-making event.

There was Nikki Haley, a lawmaker of Indian descent, beaming on election night with her husband and children after taking a major step toward becoming the first female governor of the state. It was a feel-good image to obscure the stain of a campaign marked by ethnic slurs, accusations of marital infidelity and yet more national marveling over how a single state can produce a string of political embarrassments as long as the Appalachian Trail.

But then, the television cameras started rolling on Alvin Greene’s overgrown lawn.

“Yeah, it’s been pretty nonstop for a few days,” said Mr. Greene, 32, in a phone interview Friday.

Because everyone wants to know how Mr. Greene, an unemployed Army veteran who had been completely unknown until Tuesday, inexplicably defeated a heavily favored former legislator and judge to become the state’s Democratic nominee for the Senate — and the state’s latest political circus act.

Mr. Greene had just a few peaceful hours to savor his victory in the tiny, ramshackle home he shares with his elderly father along a quiet highway in Manning, where he has been bunkered since election night. Then, The Associated Press reported that Mr. Greene was arrested in November and is facing a felony obscenity charge; he is accused of showing pornography to a University of South Carolina student. He had been discharged “involuntarily” from the Army and showed no signs of having waged an actual campaign in recent months — no advertising, no staff, no money.

Mr. Greene, who declined to comment on the obscenity charge, would not say how he came up with the $10,440 to register his candidacy. Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the House majority whip, suggested that Mr. Greene was a “Republican plant” and that the circumstance reeked of the “shenanigans” that have become the state’s trademark.

“We have embarrassment fatigue here,” said Dick Harpootlian, the former Democratic chairman of the state. “If there is an embarrassment equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder, South Carolina has it.”

Even casual observers across the country can recite the recent litany of Palmetto State political antics. The Republican donnybrook between John McCain and George W. Bush in 2000 left more scars than any presidential primary campaign in recent memory. Gov. Mark Sanford’s public swoon over an Argentinean mistress — an affair he carried on while claiming to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail — remains a spigot of late-night punch lines (while Mr. Sanford remains the state’s governor).

The Republican primary campaign to succeed Mr. Sanford featured two operatives claiming to have had extramarital affairs with Ms. Haley (who strenuously denied the accusations) as well as a Republican state senator dismissing her with an ethnic slur.

Now comes Mr. Greene, adding Democratic balance to the state’s Republican-dominated scandal sheets of recent vintage. Mr. Clyburn immediately called for someone to investigate Mr. Greene’s candidacy — who paid for the campaign, who was behind it, how did he ever win?

Mr. Harpootlian, a former district attorney, wants to know why Mr. Greene had not filed any papers with the Federal Election Commission, and Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman from South Carolina, said he suspected that someone tampered with the voting machines.

“There is something genuinely mysterious about this whole thing,” said Mr. Fowler, whose wife, Carol, the current chairwoman of the state’s Democratic Party, has called for Mr. Greene to step aside.

Mr. Greene said he had no intention of doing so. He said the whole gambit has been his idea, that he paid the entry fee and that his was — and remains — “a self-managed campaign.” He said he would challenge his Republican opponent, Senator Jim DeMint, to a debate in September. “It will be one hour. Live. On a major network,” he proposed.

Mr. Greene said he was determined to go through with this, which would seem to belie the somewhat shell-shocked demeanor he has projected in several interviews over the last 72 hours. “Can I end this?” Mr. Greene asked in the middle of a brief interview with a local television station in front of his house Wednesday. It might as well be his campaign’s official motto, or wish, at least as far as leading Democrats are concerned.

“Sad,” Mr. Clyburn said, referring to the spectacle that Mr. Greene has become on the cable and YouTube circuits.

Even in Manning, a town of 4,000 where everybody knows everybody, nobody seems to know Alvin Greene. “He just all of a sudden shows up and — boom!” said L. G. Mathis, 61, the owner of L. G.’s Cut and Style, a barber shop downtown.

It is another embarrassment for South Carolina, said Carl F. Jackson Jr, a graphic designer at a local newspaper, The Clarendon Citizen. “Anybody who got beyond eighth grade is a little astounded by this,” Mr. Jackson said, adding his own theory of how Mr. Greene had won. “Maybe voters thought it was the singer, Al Green.”

When asked in a phone interview Friday whether he was having “fun,” Mr. Greene quickly answered yes, before asking for clarification.

“What do you mean by fun?”

Without waiting for an answer, Mr. Greene said he was not interested in “fun,” or signing autographs (which he has yet to do) or indulging any of the trappings of his unlikely celebrity. He is interested in sticking to the issues that are important — jobs, education, justice — and to conveying why he is “the best candidate for the United States Senate in South Carolina.”

Before elaborating on why he was, Mr. Greene excused himself, saying that he had to finish another interview.

original article here. also, wasn't this a movie?

update: another great article: (an excerpt, with some amusing use of adjective clauses):

McCoy, who is from Charleston, said she was stunned to learn that the same man she later identified from a photo lineup was running for office, much less had won a party's nomination.

"You're kidding?" said McCoy, who is a Republican. "Oh my gosh, that's ridiculous!"

Friday, June 11, 2010

BP spills coffee

thanks to Jason Luchan for the link (watch it here and you can see the right side of the screen)

Monday, June 7, 2010

I would just submerge all the bankers and BP execs in a tank of oil and let them die.

Try our cap operation at home! Hold a funnel over a firehose, sell what you catch and proclaim victory! #bpwins

Just hired an oil whisperer to teach us how to be dominant over the oil. Tsssssssst! #bptames

Words can not express how sorry we are. So we are going to stop apologizing and just give our investors 10 billion dollars.

We don't forbid our workers from wearing respirators because it looks bad in photos. We just want to see their smiling faces! #bpsmiles

follow BPGlobalPR on twitter!

more awful photos

Saturday, June 5, 2010

oooooh, I have a certain charm

hello blog readers!
I am thrilled to report I was mentioned in Rowson's column in New in Chess. I haven't seen it yet, but I hear it says

"There are many more worthy sites and blogs, and I apologize to those I haven't mentioned here (for instance, Elizabeth Vicary's Blog has a certain charm and has plenty of good stuff), but I have to sign off..."

Lots of other good things have been happening to me. I cut my hair again:

I got my broken laptop back, all fixed by HP. thanks!
I read that I will not be laid off. (hurray!)
I biked all the way to Brighton Beach (and back) with Jonathan last Monday. There are bike paths almost the entire way!

I made a rhubarb crumble:

I played in a tournament at the Marshall last weekend. It was nice to play again, but hard to be focused and sit still. I scored 2/4 but thought the quality of my games was maybe a C-.

I'm learning the Catalan and it's fun: it makes me want to play blitz with the kids all the time.

I've made a resolution to not get visibly annoyed at any kid for all of June. (I slipped up once already, but the kid was intentionally knocking over other people's sets, so I'm giving myself a second chance.)

what else? I went to yoga this morning. I made a big salad when I got back. I'm going to take 10-12 CLEP tests to move to the next salary step as a teacher. I'm awesome at taking standardized tests, so I figure it will be cake. (is this boring?)

basically, everything's going really well and I'm very happy, so I have nothing to tell you. sorry.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bxd4 is like a Guatemalan SINKHOLE

A massive sinkhole covers a street intersection in downtown Guatemala City. Officials blamed the heavy rains for the crater, which swallowed a three-story building. Last April 2007, another giant sinkhole in the same area killed 3 people. read more

The rest of my game with Nigel (see last post)
16. Rxc8 Rxc8
17. Bxd4 Nf4
18. Nf6+! (dammit) Kf8 I just couldn't help myself. I was sure I deserved to win, and so I rejected 18...gxf6 19. Qg4+ Ng6 20. Bxf6 Qf4 as not good enough.
19. Nxh7 Ke7
20. Qe4 Qxd4
21. Qxb7+ Kd8
22. Qxf7 and I played on of course and tried some nice tricks, but Nigel fell for nothing. clever children.