Warning

(Black to move.) What would Garry Kasparov do?

I stumbled across another dangerous waste of time: Chessgames.com. Think very carefully before you click.

Like most chess websites, it uses algebraic notation, which I can’t follow as easily as “P-K4.” However, it also has a “viewer” which allows you to step through each game on a virtual board.

A couple of well-known games in the archive there: Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne (1852); Anatoly Karpov vs Garry Kasparov (1985). There are more fireworks in either than during the Fourth of July.

Update: an interesting short story, possible connected with the chess position above1: “Master Jacobsen.”

Update II: Lord Dunsany was a pretty good chess player. Here’s a curiosity, a chess game between Capablanca and Lord Dunsany. Dunsany wrote a chess story of some note, “The Three Sailors’ Gambit.”

There is a fair amount of chess-inspired fiction. My favorite, aside from Through the Looking Glass, is Victor Contoski’s “Von Goom’s Gambit.” First published in Chess Review in 1966, it occasionally turned up in fantasy anthologies years ago, though finding it now would be a challenge. If it’s online, I missed it. It’s worth looking for if you have access to a large fantasy and science fiction library.

Cross your eyes

It will probably be six to eight weeks before colorful botanical subjects are available outdoors again, so here’s another toy soldier in stereo. (Cross your eyes until you see three images, then focus on the middle image.)

Love story

Never found that one special person? Don’t fret; perhaps the right person for you is you. For ten low monthly payments, Dominique will prepare you to marry yourself. It’s a bargain; here’s what you get:

• 10 weeks of guidance, practice, and inquiries to support you in marrying yourself
• A weekly email with a Self-Marriage question, practice, and inspirational writing
• Clear, step-by-step guidance from your Self-Engagement in week 1 to your Self-Marriage in week 9 and a final week of integration
• 6 recordings of Self-Marriage Calls (50-60 min) where you will have the chance to deepen in your practice, reflect on your insights and challenges throughout your Self-Marriage journey.
• Additional support of sisterhood through the Self-Marriage Unveiled Facebook group

Hour-long private sessions with one-on-one support are also available for a special price.

The FAQ doesn’t mention pre-nuptial agreements, but I expect one would be a good idea in case things don’t work out. Are there any lawyers who specialize in self-divorce?

Perhaps of relevance: Terry Allen, “I Just Left Myself.” There’s also a tune by Be Bop Deluxe that I’m not going to name, but it’s probably just about driving a car.

For the record

Playing on a bit further to show as many different tiles as possible:

Missing are Spiderman (512) and the Hulk (1024).

This particular game is here, should you want to try it yourself. The keys to success are to keep the expensive, hard-to-match tiles all on one edge, with the highest scores in the corners where they won’t impede the action, and to pick a game that’s pleasant to look at. I rather like the 32 tile, despite the girl’s odd proportions and posture.

2016 Necrology II

Back in ancient times, when there was occasionally something worth listening to on the radio, I heard this:

That’s Sandy Denny on vocals, Richard Thompson on lead guitar, and Dave Swarbrick on fiddle. Forget “Free Bird;” this is how to do an up-tempo extended epilogue. As soon as I could afford to, I bought Liege and Lief, the album this recording originally appeared on, and then all the rest of Fairport’s available albums. L&L is the most listened-to, most loaned-out and most worn-out record in my vast collection. I eventually replaced it with a new CD because the vinyl was becoming unplayable.

Swarbrick died once, in 1999. From Wikipedia:

For many years Swarbrick suffered steadily worsening health because of emphysema. There was considerable embarrassment for The Daily Telegraph newspaper when in April 1999 it published a premature obituary for Swarbrick after he was admitted to hospital with a chest infection. He is reported to have commented, “It’s not the first time I’ve died in Coventry.”

He died again in June, this time permanently.

I couldn’t find this on YouTube, so here is the “Mason’s Apron” medley by the “Full House” line-up, digitized from ancient vinyl. The musicians are Swarbrick, Thompson, Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks.

Continue reading “2016 Necrology II”

2016 Necrology I

During 2016, many people died, some of whom were famous. This happens every year. 2016 was a really lousy year for many reasons, but not because a lot of celebrities died.

Most of the dead performers were adequately memorialized — the hoopla surrounding David Bowie’s departure was downright ridiculous1 — but a few were overlooked, and I discovered their deaths weeks or months later.

One whom I miss is Bob Elliott, half of Bob and Ray. I wonder if youngsters today can sit still long enough to appreciate B&R’s unhurried delivery. Here are some of their skits, some of which are older than I am.

Continue reading “2016 Necrology I”

Gotta have a Feckle Freezer

Accumulated odds and ends:

Is Obama Catholic? No, and Dennis McDonough is an idiot.

Is the Pope Catholic? That’s a much more interesting question. Edward Feser supplies some useful background, including notes about Popes Honorius, John XXII and Liberius.

Hyperplay will provide hours — well, minutes — of fun for the mathematically inclined and the easily entertained.

Continue reading “Gotta have a Feckle Freezer”

God help us, every one

Robert Benchley on not-so-Dickensian Christmas afternoons:

In the meantime, we must not forget the children. No one else could. Aunt Libbie said that she didn’t think there was anything like children to make a Christmas; to which Uncle Ray, the one with the Masonic fob, said, “No, thank God.” Although Christmas is supposed to be the season of good cheer, you (or I, for that matter) couldn’t have told, from listening to the little ones, but that it was the children’s Armageddon season, when Nature had decreed that only the fittest should survive, in order that the race might be carried on by the strongest, the most predatory and those possessing the best protective coloring.

Max Beerbohm1 wrote an entire book of parodic Christmas pieces in A Christmas Garland. If you have trouble telling Ch*st*rt*n from B*ll*c, this might help. (There’s an interesting dicussion of Beerbohm here, though it suffers from Too Much Information.)

There’s a discussion of Christmas science fiction here.

Odds and ends for a chilly December day

The fundamental trolley problem

Dear [Beautiful but Evil Space Princess],
Every time I capture the hero, I get this overwhelming urge to spill the entire plan, including the way out. How can I stop myself from giving it all away?
Sincerely,
Evil Underlord who can’t quite make the big leagues

Dear Under,
Oh, Sweetie. This is a compulsion written into you by the author. You must use aversion therapy. Have one of your underlings dress up as the hero, and when you start spilling things, force yourself to do something really distasteful. I don’t know, pet a puppy or give sweets to children or something, until you break the compulsion.
It’s all right. If you manage to cure yourself, you can blend the puppies into a nice smoothie afterwards and it will make you feel much better.

Yardsale of the Mind:

I’m not a professional political scientist or sociologist. Then again, neither were Washington, Adams, Jefferson and that crowd ….

The election of Trump is, in many senses, stupid. However, it is far, far wiser and more in keeping with the idea that we, the people, are the defenders of the Republic to elect Trump than to elect someone who is beloved of Harvard. On the scale of errors one can make in a Republic, electing an arrogant and impulsive side-show barker is far to be prefered to electing someone whose fundamental goal is making elections irrelevant.

The Z Man strikes once:

… humans have never had to deal with the problems that come from too much food and too much free time to consume it. We really have no idea what will come from it and how it will hurt or help society. There could very well be a huge upside to having lots of fat people. Perhaps when the zombie apocalypse comes, the zombies will eat the fat people and be satisfied, leaving the rest of us to regroup.

And again:

When I’m ruler of these lands, the people responsible for embedded, autoplay video will be torn to pieces and fed to the dogs.

Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor:

I’ll never forget when John Updike reviewed a book on how FDR’s policies lengthened the Great Depression. Updike basically said that because FDR cared, and was trying, that was worth more than shortening the Depression.

Via Dustbury, who also notes that

That word “bipartisan” should set off an alarm: it almost always means that both sides are in cahoots and Up to Something.

A bit of spirited horticultural history, from a comment at an AoSHQ food thread:

One food arena where the US used to be the best in the world and is now near the bottom of the pack is cider (i.e. alcoholic fermented cider.)
Back in the Revolutionary War era cider was the #1 drink in the nation, far surpassing beer or wine or hard liquor. And people had planted the right kind of apple trees all over the country (as it existed then), so there was always a big supply of the raw material.
In fact, Johnny Appleseed didn’t go around planting edible apple trees — he went around planting cider apple trees! A detail that is now lost to most people’s imaginations of history.
“But wait,” you’re saying, “there’s a difference between edible apples and cider apples?”
Yes indeed. There are three fundamental “types” of apples:
“Sweet apples,” which is what we now think of simply as “apples” — the big crunchy sweet kind that you can eat.
“Sour apples,” now mostly known as “crabapples,” which are mostly useless except for making things with their pectin.
“Bitter apples,” now mostly unknown in the US, but still planted widely in France and England. THESE are the apples you are supposed to make true cider out of. As the name implies, they’re slightly too bitter to eat, but their chemical makeup is absolutely perfect for fermenting a delicious kind of apple cider, a process during which the bitterness goes away.
If you’ve ever tasted true cider made from bitter apples (which is what they serve you in Somerset and Normandy), you’ll know that cider made from sweet apples is atrocious by comparison.
And that’s the tragic part of our story.
Because of the arrival of so many German and Bohemian and Polish immigrants in the second half of the 19th century in the US, beer started to surpass cider in popularity nationwide, and then when Prohibition hit, cider production was stopped entirely. And what happened was that ALL — or almost all — the bitter apple trees in the United States were left to die or were torn out and make room for more useful trees.
So that by the time Prohibition ended, there was no longer any way to make true cider in any quantity, and as a result beer took over the casual drinking market almost 100%. Wine only started to make inroads in the ’60s and ’70s. But cider remain completely forgotten by then.
That is until about 8 years ago, when the “small batch cider” renaissance started in the US, with small startups making cider from apples.
Sweet apples, that is — because that’s all that we have in the US anymore! Yuck!
Cider made from sweet apples is just wrong to a true cider aficionado. So no matter how much effort these America cider microbreweries put into their product, it will never match up to French and British ciders.
In fact, until just a couple years ago, most American cidermakers didn’t even know about the existence of bitter apples and didn’t know they were doing it fundamentally wrong.
Finally a few people have wised up, and they’ve started planting bitter apple trees in the US again, but it will still be several years before they are up and producing in sufficient numbers to create enough true cider for the masses.
Until then, we must suffer with an inferior American product! Frowney face!

Green thoughts

Curiosities discovered while planning next year’s garden:

Got a spot in your yard where the drainage is lousy? Consider growing American pitcher plants (Sarracenia). The dead tree Park Seed catalogue says that they are easy to grow, though the more detailed online listing qualifies that claim.

If you have well-established ivy, you can grow ivy broomrape (Orobanche hederae), “An amazing, non-chlorophyll producing, parasitic plant, attaching itself to the roots of its host plant without actually harming it. Produces bizarely beautiful, orchid-like, purple-veined cream flowers on wax-like stems.”

There are a number of terrestrial orchids that you can grow from seed if you have the right conditions and plenty of patience. The technique for starting the plants is a bit different from what most gardeners are used to:

Do not sow seeds in pots or trays, they will not germinate. Just sprinkle directly onto undisturbed ground, or even a wild grassy area. Please be very patient as they are very slow indeed to come up and you will see no seedlings for at least a year. Do not move them until fully-grown as they grow best where they have chosen to germinate. Please be patient as they are worth the wait.

None of these are quite right for my little garden, though it would be interesting to experiment with orchids native to the prairie if I had more yard to work with.

I am considering growing a South American Loasa or two or three. The flowers are intricate and bizarre, perfect for stacked focus stereo macro photography. However, I need to be careful where I place them, because the plants sting. Chileflora offers many more species.

While looking for Loasa culture information, I discovered that they were well-known in Victorian England and were occasionally planted in gardens. (The illustration above is from an 1822 book describing exotics cultivated in Great Britain.) I gather that the plants can be treated as half-hardy annuals.1

Something I didn’t expect to find: Loasa lateritia socks. I suppose they’re wonderfully soft and warm when made with the right yarn, but I wouldn’t want to wear something with that name next to my skin.

Prairie Moon Nursery specializes in plants from the midwest and prairies. The genera that most interest me are best planted in the fall to germinate after winter, so I’ll probably place an order at the end of next summer.

On a different horticultural note: a discussion of the begonias in the tenth episode of Flip Flappers, a strange show that is getting stranger still and is likely the best show of the past few years.

Update: The eleventh episode of Flip Flappers focuses on white clover, such as you find in your lawn.

Second warning

Tank girls

I couldn’t resist making my own 2048 game, using images from the Girls und Panzer movie. Beware: this can be terribly addictive, and if you have work that must be done, do not click here.

Update: I made another one using images from GATE and a different online game maker.

(If you are unfamiliar with this sort of game, you play it by using the arrow keys on your keyboard to push the tiles around. There are eleven (2,048=2^11) different tiles; revealing the last two is not easy.)

Update II: There are orchids now, too.

Update III: And ballet.

The 1,387,229th Eastern Subordinate Incarnation of a Lohan

I felt like re-reading Cordwainer Smith’s “Western Science Is So Wonderful,” the tale of a local Chinese demon with strong pro-Communist sentiments who wants to study engineering. Rather than climb the stairs to the main library, I found it online here. Smith wrote science fiction on a grand scale, but he could do comedy, too.

The Kelly Freas illustration for the story here.