Saturday, August 28, 2010

fun with photo reflections

Jonathan and I had a fun day taking silly reflection photos:

sun(dress) + sunbeams!


a mirror at the exit of a car park.

a glass shelf containing tapas. I´m on the street outside.

objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear

wash me

random naked* guy in the park. hahaha: Spain.

*read about ¨the oppression to which nudism is subjected by a society which is for the most part textile.¨

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

photos, elephant, water

Jonathan does a hand stand in front of an elephant standing on its trunk.

I sit on a giant cat. I feel strongly that all public scuptures should be climbable-on. (right after I got up on the cat-- which was not so simple and required a leg up from Jonathan-- this 6 year old kid insisted to his parents that if I could do it, he could definitely do it too.)
For example, this nice giant crawfish in downtown Barcelona-- wouldn´t it be so much better if you could sit on it???

They sell wine here by the liter. Bring your own container.

what´s this?

A very interesting article in The Economist that shows drinking a pint of water before each meal leads to weight loss, apparently even if you don´t reduce your overall caloric intake.

Jon Stewart crushes Fox, minutes 2:10-11:00. Don´t stop early, the end is funny beyond belief.

Monday, August 23, 2010

sleeping in the park

more photos here

North American Youth Championship

Three cheers for Justus Williams (isn´t that a great photo?), who finished third in the U 12 section of the North American Open (5.5/7) and to Darrian Robinson, who finished second in the Girls Under 16 (also 5.5/7). Some excellent games are here.

Both pictures from the Monroi website.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Justus Williams and James Black join the US Chess League

Justus Williams will play for the New York Knights and James Black for the Manhattan Applesauce. The USCL website calls both players exciting additions: 

To supplement all these GMs, the Knights have once again utilized the strategy of adding a few young up and comers who have had fair rating gains over the past year.  Having Alexander Katz, now being nearly three hundred points above his league rating, will enable the Knights, like St. Louis, to use a triple GM lineup for the first time in League history.  In addition, both NM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy and Justus Williams, having also had sizable rating gains in the past year will enable some other very strong lineups which should make the Knights a fearsome team every week.

While their roster is nearly identical to 2009, Manhattan at the same time has still managed to incorporate the strategy that has become so commonplace to the league in finding a rapid up and comer to man the lowest board in James Black.  While their team has really four players who will share the role of the fourth board, somewhat strangely, the one newcomer, Black, may well be a real key to the Applesauce's success as using him on the lowest board enables them to use a frightening three players above 2500 on the top three.  With 2009 All Stars, GM Alex Stripunsky and FM Andrei Zaremba, returning, given the the top heavy nature of their teams' lineups, if he, along with their other bottom boards, can turn around the Applesauce's results there from 2009, Manhattan is likely to be one of the most dangerous teams in the USCL in 2010.

fun with distorted photos at Gaudi´s Palau Güell

Win an aPad!

Sevan Muradian, organizer extraordinaire, is raffling off four 7" Android O/S tablets (aka aPads) to his North American Chess Association followers on Facebook and Twitter. To win, you must be following him by September 18, 2010. See his blog for more info.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

lost pants

Have You Seen This Man’s Pants?
A Tale of Loss and Hope

One morning in Brooklyn, Adam Grossetti lost his pants.
read more

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I´m now in Barcelona; what a fun city! Unfortunately, I have a cold, so I´m not enjoying it today, but here are some photos from yesterday:

La Rambla, Barcelona´s main street, has lots of people posing for tourists in funny costumes.

A shoe shop has the same flat shoe in hundreds of colors. Amusingly, the prices vary: the brighter ones are 10 euros more expensive.

From a flower stall on La Rambla. These flowers are tiny--the whole bouquet (top) is slightly larger than a quarter.

They have a market that sells fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, and fish. These were on sale at the butchers.

I´ve read a few fantastic books: Between the Assasinations (Aravind Adiga), Slapboxing with Jesus (Victor LaValle), and Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart). Also a lot from BigThink, especially the blogs. I am also addicted to a Tetris-like iphone app, KaGlom!

¡I am happy to have discovered Cheapism, a great website for buying good quality cheap things!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

chess politics

Before we delve into the main subject of this post, chess politics, let´s go for a quick walk down memory lane. When I was little, I had two beautiful children´s etiquette books, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), called What Do You Do, Dear? and What Do You Say, Dear?

They had questions like ¨You are in the library reading a book, when suddenly you are lassoed by Bad-Nose Bill. ¨I got you,¨ he says ¨and I´m taking you to my ranch, pronto. Now get moving.¨ What do you do, dear?¨ (answer: walk quietly through the library)

¨ You are picking dandelions and columbines outside the castle. Suddenly a fierce dragon appears and blows red smoke at you, but just then a brave knight gallops up and cuts off the dragon´s head. What do you say, dear?¨ (answer: ¨Thank you very much¨)

With that in our minds, I would like to discuss two current issues in chess politics. The first is the FIDE elections. It seems to me that Ilyumzhinov is a psychopath. As evidence, I offer this article in the respectable English newspaper, the Guardian, his Wiki page, which is obviously written by a flunkie (¨He now owns a private jet and six Rolls Royces; he has a black limousine in Moscow, but prefers his white one at home¨), the Wiki leaks page on the murder of journalist Larisa Yudina, (update: Arne Moll of Chessvibes writes more about this here) his absolutely hilarious autobiography The President´s Crown of Thorns, downloadable from FIDE (my favorite chapter title: ¨It Only Takes Two Weeks to Have a Man Killed¨) and th e fact that he insists he was abducted by aliens. Because he is so obviously insane and evil, it boggles my mind that news websites, like Chessbase, seem to care about impartiality (take a ****ing stand, cmon).

That aside, I am super confused as to why anyone in their right mind, Karpov in particular, can support the ¨One Country, One Vote¨ idea. Why exactly should Russia, with 203 GMs, 467 IMs, and 1959 titled players, have the same political influence as, say, Sao Tome and Principle, the Soloman Islands or Palau, which have no titled players of any kind. (For an amusing list of FIDE federations that have a vote, click here.) Many/most of these countries don´t even have functional real government, forget chess federations. It´s complete insanity. The only possible rationale that I can see for giving tiny countries this kind of political power is that it´s easy to buy their votes. (Niels Lauritsen makes the a similar point here. )

I dearly hope he is saying this only to get elected, but Karpov insists he is all for One Nation, One Vote too:

¨Our policy will be one of enhanced regional empowerment, based on the philosophy that those closest to the situation are best aware of the challenges and opportunities they face. Regional leaders should be provided with greater autonomy and resources. Resources must be provided consistently rather than once every four years on the eve of FIDE elections. Past practices contaminate the electoral process. For this reason we support ‘one federation, one vote’ as an important ingredient in the democratic practices of FIDE and as a guarantee that small and developing federations have a voice.¨

What am I missing?

The second chess politics issue I wish to discuss with you is the Washington State elementary ratings controversy. For the last couple years at Elementary Nationals, almost all of the K-5 and K-3 Under sections have been won by Stevenson Elementary from Washington State. (to see for yourself, click here*, and then click on team standings and K-5 Under 900, K-3 Under 800, and K-3 unrated. Then do the same for last year´s supernationals standings). This school is setting some serious records, winning sections by incredible margins of 5, 5.5 points. (To their credit, they also won the K-3 open section this year.)

They aren´t quite cheating, but it´s really close. The NY Times tells the story well. Basically, they just don´t use USCF ratings, so their kids are massively under-rated and they clean up the trophies.

Of course, you could argue that under sections are absurd in the first place, and even more so when they involve children, whose ratings tend to change more rapidly than adults. But they´re nice for the majority of children (and people in general) and with that in mind, I do think something should be done. Other teams will either stop coming to nationals (a real economic problem for the USCF) or (even worse) they will also start cheating/playing the system.

The question is, what to do? The obvious solution is something like what Goichburg does with FIDE ratings, to either come up with a formula, or to simply assign the Washington State kids minimum ratings, but that leaves a lot to the discretion of TDs, and it´s nice to have clarity/tranparency/rule of law. It´s strangely hard to concieve of an idea that is both systematic and easy to administer, harder than with adults, because the kids are different each year, and they aren´t themselves intentionally doing anything wrong.

What would you do, dear?

*I accidentally had this linked to 2008 for the first 5 days, so if you clicked on it and thought ¨huh?¨ then try again. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bravo, Representative Anthony Weiner (D- Brooklyn, Queens)!

Watch him get pissed off here and then explain why here. I think Republican behavior lately is disgraceful, immoral, and stupid, and
it´s nice to see someone calling them out on it.
update: see Jon Stewart´s take in a new segment ¨I Give Up¨

Happy Birthday Super President!

Happy Birthday Barack Obama!

trick people by looking happy!

An interesting study that finds poker players are not influenced when their opponents make threatening faces, but are influenced by displayed of positive emotion. Smiles and confidence are likely to cause opponents to make mistakes.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

new favorite things

game: Rummikub. I learned it recently in England and it´s addictive, plus, you can play it with two sets of playing cards.
building: the Strata in London. Why hasn´t anyone else thought of putting wind turbines on the tops of buildings? There´s so much wind up there! Europeans take climate change seriously.