Monday, July 24, 2006

Winning Record

Well, we got back from San Diego pretty late Friday night. On about 4 hours of sleep, I picked up my friend Paul and headed for a go tournament. This one was called the "Congress Tune-Up", as it comes a few weeks before the 2006 US Go Congress. Though I won't be attending, it seemed a good way to build on my 2-2 record from the Virginia Open.

My first game was against a 20-kyu player. Since I'm now at 19 kyu, I gave him a one-stone handicap...that means he went first, but I didn't get any points as compensation (except for half a point to break ties in my favor). The game went very smoothly for me. At one point, I thought I saw a subtle attack that started with putting a large group of his stones in atari. He didn't notice the atari, however, so I was immediately able to take the large group of stones. After I successfully killed off an invasion of his, the outcome was obvious, and he resigned. (Paul later beat the same player for his first win of the tourney...proving that this guy just couldn't handle Arundel High.)

My second game was against a 27-kyu player. I had to give him 8 stones, which seemed like a lot...I'm not used to playing white (being the higher ranked player). My opponent played very slowly and conservatively. We got into a long, drawn-out ko fight. We didn't resolve that fight, but I tried invading a corner he controlled. He blundered, and I successfully took it over, killing about 30 of his stones in the process. He was running out of time, but he finally resigned, conceding there was no way to turn the tide.

My third opponent entered at 21 kyu. She seemed confused about how the handicapping system works...I had to explain that she got two stones, but had to put them in specific locations. She started her play with a couple of unorthodox moves, which made me fear that she had no idea what she was doing and that the game was going to be a pushover. After a while, though, I realized she was in pretty good shape in the game, and when she pulled off a fairly advanced maneuver called the "monkey jump", I knew it would be hard to win the game. I used up more time in that game than any other I've played, and at the end it looked pretty close. When we counted things up, it was 44 to 44 -- a tie, just like my last game in Richmond. But this time, I was playing white and won the tie, so I was off to a 3-0 start!

My final game was against a 15-kyu kid I lost to in May. I ended up losing that one by 4 stones. Close, but after the rest of the day, I couldn't complain too much.

When the tournament director posted the final results, I was in first place in the upper-mid kyu division (consisting of four players), so I got to go home with a trophy and a prize (a vase). Not bad. Undoubtedly this will push me to 18 kyu, so I'll have to get better if I want to keep tasting victory. The next tournament I know of is in late October, so I've got plenty of time!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Courtesy of World 66, here is the updated map of Canadian provinces I've visited.

I'd love to see the other parts of Canada.

Quick trip to Vancouver

I'm in Vancouver for 3 days for the second half of a conference. I hear that it's a lovely city, but I haven't seen much of it. With two exceptions, I've just been at the hotel and the university. Here are some pictures of the two exceptions (for some reason, I didn't take any pictures of the hotel or the university.)

On Wednesday night, there was a public lecture in a room with a nice view of North Vancouver.

Last night was the conference dinner at Sun Sui Wah. It was a very enjoyable Chinese restaurant. I applaud the organizers for not doing another dinner catered by some hotel or university. We had a 10-course meal, which took about two-and-a-half hours to serve and eat.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Greetings from Vancouver, where I have a Mercedes for my rental car, an upgrade to a hotel suite, and one fewer piece of luggage than I did when I departed home. Thumbs up, Avis & Hilton. Thumbs down, United.

I noticed that the new FIFA soccer rankings are out. The US is at 16, down from 5 before the World Cup debacle. 16 seems a little bit high, but then again -- we were the only team Italy couldn't beat.

I really enjoyed watching the World Cup -- so much so I bought the video game. I like international soccer and get excited at World Cup time. But besides that, there aren't too many other opportunities to get excited about international soccer. (Looks like I found one back in 2000.) There's the World Cup qualifying, and what else? There's the Gold Cup, but that's a blip on the radar.

So I've decided to try to follow Euro 2008. Like the World Cup, it has an extended qualifying period. It also contains most of the exciting teams from the World Cup (mainly omitting Brazil, Argentina, the US and Mexico).

Confusingly enough, even though qualifying is supposed to start on September 2nd, there are 3 matches scheduled for August 16th. Based on the FIFA rankings, they shouldn't be too exciting. There's Belgium (57) v. Kazakhstan (140), Faroe Islands (169) v. Georgia (87) and Estonia (82) v. FYR Macedonia (70). OK, the last one might be expected to be close, especially since it's at Macedonia. But I don't know that I'm going to interrupt our trip to California to find those on TV somewhere. September 2nd is more promising, with a full slate of games.

I suppose I should give a shot to our local club team, but I find club soccer (whether MLS or foreign) harder to get excited about. Maybe I'll try going to a game at some point.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Still No Power

Greetings from the College Park Hampton Inn, our home away from home, at least for tonight. It's got all the modern conveniences -- air conditioning, hot water, Internet access...that our house lacks at the moment. According to PEPCO's map, outages in PG County are down to 1,697. Unfortunately, we're one of them. There's a tree on the power line down the street and no sign of PEPCO, so the prospects seemed dim for a restoration tonight.

Here are some pictures I took yesterday.

The first one shows our broken tree after the tree guy had done some initial work. We're hoping it'll survive, but we're not sure.

The second one shows the damage done to our fence, either by the initial treefall or the subsequent tree work.

The next two show that the damage isn't too post has to be put back into position, the top bar has to be popped back in, and we're most of the way there.

The final picture shows our next-door neighbors' front yard. I suspect this tree will cause further problems restoring power after the one a couple door down is taken care of.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


We had quite a storm yesterday afternoon. In terms of sheer tree destruction, it beat Isabel. There, we had to go to the end of the block to see a downed tree. This time, we had only to go into our back yard. That was the second biggest tree on our lot. If I remember correctly, that's a 4-foot fence, which would make that tree around 50 feet tall -- snapped in half by the wind.

We weren't the only ones with tree trouble. Our next-door neighbor had an oak fall across the alley behind our house. Glad we don't park back there! The scene was reported up and down the block. Both of our next-door neighbors had huge branches come down in their front yard. (By huge, I mean tree-sized.)

Fortunately, the destruction seemed to be fairly localized. The green area in the map is the area with the most customers out of power -- our ZIP code and an adjacent one. I'm hoping that means we're at the top of the priority list -- unlike Isabel, where the whole metro area needed help. (You can check PEPCO for an updated map -- in the time since I uploaded the copy here, a third ZIP code has gone green.)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I stuck around St. Petersburg...

My last big excitement of my trip to St. Pete was my visit to the Hermitage museum. It was an organized tour, which had its plusses and minuses. Plus: I wasn't afraid of getting mugged. Minus: I didn't get to choose what we got to see. We spent about an hour on the Winter Palace (cool), an hour on the treasures of the czars (yawn, and they didn't let us take pictures), and an hour on pre-18th century art (cool, although I was more interested in the rooms of Matisses and Picassos that they reportedly have).

The very distinct Russian Baroque style was similar to that of Peterhof.

They had a number of paintings by Rembrandt.

They also have two of the approximately 18 existing Da Vinci paintings.

The room containing them was very popular.

Here's a sculpture by Michaelangelo.

And of course, here's the final entry in my "Big Head Trilogy".

Go Update

It's been a while since I did my last update of my online go ranking. At the time, I was 22 kyu. Since then, I've been enjoying playing face-to-face go more and on-line go less. I had almost entirely stopped playing on-line until I discovered I could now play against a computer program. That works well, because I can play as little or as much as I'd like in a sitting.

After many ups and downs (including hitting 19 kyu a couple of times), I am back at 21 kyu. That's as a result of losing a close loss last night to the computer program. I'm sure I'll bounce back.

In the real world, I finally won my first match at a Richmond go tournament in June. Amusingly enough, it was against the same opponent who delivered my first loss this spring. Since I was now 19 kyu and he was 15, I got a 3-stone handicap, compared to our earlier even game. (According to the way the tournaments I've been in before work, it would have been a 19-15=4 stone handicap, but this used a computer program that was a little different.) With about 5 stones left to play, my opponent resigned. I guess he figured I wasn't going to make any stupid mistakes that would let him back into the game.

My second game was a 3-handicap game against a 14 kyu player. (If you win, the computer keeps making your matches harder until you lose.) I made plenty of stupid mistakes in that one. In the end, I made more than my opponent, and he won by 25.

My third game was a 6-stone handicap against a 12 kyu player. After the pairings were announced, my opponent from the previous match came up to me and said, "I know this guy. You can beat him. Just don't make any stupid mistakes." So I played very conservatively...I noticed the other guy was, too. Whenever I made the slightest
aggressive move, he went to defend. So with both of us playing conservatively, and me with a 6-stone handicap, I won easily. We started counting, but quit when we realized I was ahead by more than 50 points.

My last game was an 8-stone game against a 10 kyu. The game went back and forth. First he killed a bunch of my stones, then I killed some of his (not supposed to happen against a 10 kyu!), then he invaded some of my territory that I had defended poorly. When we counted it up, we were dead even. We counted again to make sure. In a tournament, ties go to the higher ranked player (he had, after all, given me 8 stones handicap), so he won by half a point.

That was particularly harsh, since 3 victories would have won me two books. Still, one of the games I had lost was a particulary hard one, so when the dust settled my ranking went from 19.3 kyu to 19.0. So I can still enter the next tournament as a 19 kyu. I'm hoping to study up and go 3-1 or 4-0. After all, winners there not only get a prize, they also get a trophy!

Updated Map

Well, now that I've been to Russia and India, my map of countries visited looks all the more impressive.

The Europe map looks pretty good, too.

In terms of new countries, I'm hoping to go to China in December, and I may go to Spain and Malaysia for conferences next year. There's always the possiblity of finding a nice spot in the sun for vacation, but Caribbean islands don't show too well on the map. :-)

Maps courtesy of World 66.