Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Hunting of the Snark

ADDED May 18, 2012: Hi Everyone, I'll be on "break" for some time, I am not sure how long...if you'd like to read something about chess you can click on a "label" over on the right (scroll down a bit) for some subjects, or try someone on the blogroll. I'll be at work on some other projects and still playing chess, so I expect that someday I'll have something interesting to post. Meanwhile--

He served out some grog with a liberal hand,
 And bade them sit down on the beach:
And they could not but own that their Captain looked grand,
 As he stood and delivered his speech.
“Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears!”
 (They were all of them fond of quotations:
So they drank to his health, and they gave him three cheers,
 While he served out additional rations).
“We have sailed many months, we have sailed many weeks,
 (Four weeks to the month you may mark),
But never as yet (’tis your Captain who speaks)
 Have we caught the least glimpse of a Snark!
“We have sailed many weeks, we have sailed many days,
 (Seven days to the week I allow),
But a Snark, on the which we might lovingly gaze,
 We have never beheld till now!
“Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
 The five unmistakable marks
By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
 The warranted genuine Snarks.
“Let us take them in order. The first is the taste,
 Which is meagre and hollow, but crisp:
Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
 With a flavour of Will-o’-the-wisp.
“Its habit of getting up late you’ll agree
 That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o’clock tea,
 And dines on the following day.
“The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
 Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
 And it always looks grave at a pun.
“The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
 Which it constantly carries about,
And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes —
 A sentiment open to doubt.
“The fifth is ambition. It next will be right
 To describe each particular batch:
Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,
 And those that have whiskers, and scratch.
“For, although common Snarks do no manner of harm,
 Yet, I feel it my duty to say,
Some are Boojums —” The Bellman broke off in alarm,
 For the Baker had fainted away.❦

Friday, May 04, 2012

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Pawns

Make your own, for free!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Study Hacks, Piano Player Confessions

I ran across a terrific site called Study Hacks. While much of the material may be oriented toward students trying to ace their tests, there is a great deal of valuable and interesting stuff that might be applied to chess improvement. As the author says:

Recently, as I’ve moved beyond my student years, I’ve turned more of my attention toward decoding patterns of success in the working world. I’ve come to believe, for example, that “follow your passion” is bad advice if your goal is to end up loving what you do.

For example, in Flow is the Opiate of the Medicocre: Advice on Getting Better From an Accomplished Piano Player we find this list:

•Strategy #1: Avoid Flow. Do What Does Not Come Easy.

“The mistake most weak pianists make is playing, not practicing. If you walk into a music hall at a local university, you’ll hear people ‘playing’ by running through their pieces. This is a huge mistake. Strong pianists drill the most difficult parts of their music, rarely, if ever playing through their pieces in entirety.”

•Strategy #2: To Master a Skill, Master Something Harder.

“Strong pianists find clever ways to ‘complicate’ the difficult parts of their music. If we have problem playing something with clarity, we complicate by playing the passage with alternating accent patterns. If we have problems with speed, we confound the rhythms.”

•Strategy #3: Systematically Eliminate Weakness.

“Strong pianists know our weaknesses and use them to create strength. I have sharp ears, but I am not as in touch with the physical component of piano playing. So, I practice on a mute keyboard.”

•Strategy #4: Create Beauty, Don’t Avoid Ugliness.

“Weak pianists make music a reactive task, not a creative task. They start, and react to their performance, fixing problems as they go along. Strong pianists, on the other hand, have an image of what a perfect performance should be like that includes all of the relevant senses. Before we sit down, we know what the piece needs to feel, sound, and even look like in excruciating detail. In performance, weak pianists try to reactively move away from mistakes, while strong pianists move towards a perfect mental image.”
I leave it as an exercise for you, Dear Reader, to relate this to chess improvement. I don't want to make it too easy, after all...