Monday, December 03, 2007

Particle at the Cabooze

The snow that fell earlier in the day didn't keep a few hundred people from enjoying Particle's Saturday night show at the Cabooze. I had a great time, and remarkably I wasn't too tired on Sunday, despite getting home late!

Setlist (from The Breeze Board):

12.01.07 Cabooze - Minneapolis, MN (w/ Josh Clark of TLG)

I: Triple Threat, Young Lust*, Six Long Weeks, Hot Dog**,W*** > Launchpad

II: Battle Without Honor or Humanity#, Wet Spot, Truth Don Die***, Silver Lining > Children's Story > 7th Gear > Find a Way, Denmark

encore: Jam > 7 Minutes till Radio Darkness

*w/ Eminence Front tease
** TGL song first time played
***w/ billie jean tease for 25th anniversary of Thriller
#w/ Baby Please Don't Go tease

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pakistan: Cricket star Khan freed

Imram Khan, the Pakistani cricket star who started a hunger strike Monday to protest the state of emergency imposed in Pakistan, was freed with hundreds of other political prisoners!

Monday, November 19, 2007

From the Seattle Post-Intellingencer: Dissent starts with a YouTube clip.

Mark Trahant, editor of the Seattle Post-Intellingencer editorial page, wrote an opinion piece on Pakistan, dissent, and YouTube. Please check out the article here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Holy f'in Meat Puppets!!!!!

Two mornings after the Meat Puppets' Saturday night show at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, I am still on the floor!

First off, the Varsity is a very nice venue. It is carpeted, warm, clean, with tables on both sides and above the main floor. It has the ambiance of a jazz-dinner club, which was inviting and frankly, quite a bit better on the feet than standing on the hardened floor of most other venues. As part of the now 40+ club, it was great walking into the Varsity and not fee like the normally out-of-place, maturing, male rock fan, aka "the creepy old guy," (ala Greg Behrendt). Part of my tribe now includes other aging hipsters, and we weathered and peppered-haired individuals were a majority on Saturday!

Ha Ha Tonka, a band from the Ozarks, opened. They played the typical 30 or so minutes, and they had enough diversity and energy to keep me engaged the entire time. Two songs in particular stick out. They performed an a cappella piece, later followed by Black Betty. They closed their set with a country-flavored morsel that was a good appetizer before the Puppets came on.

It has been 19 years since I saw them in the Cleveland Flats at Peabody's Down Under. My head at the time was filled with both Grateful Dead and many punk songs. I was wondering how they would sound after a long break filled with personal struggles. (The Onion did a good interview with them.)

Curt came out, followed by Ted, followed by Cris. I was fortunate to get a space right in front of Cris. They warmed up with a couple bars, then we were Attacked by Monsters for the opener!

Cris was wiry and on fire as he beat on his bass, while Curt played fluidly. Ted Marcus, although not the original drummer, played well with the Kirkwoods throughout the set, which included Up On the Sun, Plateau, Looking at the Rain, Lost, and The Whistling Song.

As they were nearing the end of the show, they pulled out their ferocious jams, a mixture between very fast punk rhythm and psychedelic jams. Those couple of interludes amazed me, and I felt they played even stronger when I saw them years ago!

They wrapped up an encore of Climbing, Maiden's Milk, and Backwater. The latter was their only hit song, but one that many in the audience were excited to hear.

I was gratified to see them play again and with so much intensity!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Conference on the Grateful Dead

Weirophile Irenie, at Weir Freaking, wrote a post partially about the upcoming conference, Unbroken Chain: The Grateful Dead in Music, Culture and Memory at the University of Massachusetts. As noted in the comments section, Steve Gimbel will be blogging about the conference at his blog, Philosophers' Playground.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Interesting lecture last night by Fred Pearce

Last evening I went to Macalester College for Fred Pearce's lecture based on his book When the Rivers Run Dry. The main premise is that the downside of the Green Revolution, which prevented even more widespread hunger, is that there are now water shortages in different parts of the world. These shortages may be responsible for conflicts in the future.

Many crops that we enjoy, such as cotton, alfalfa, and coffee, require huge amounts of water for their growth. The amount of "virtual water" that gets traded in the forms of goods is enormous; there is no feasible way to move that amount of actual water around the globe.

As dire as some of this talk was, he highlighted the use of different technologies, such as drip irrigation, that made efficient use of water for crops in some countries.

Reasonable and just water usage is something that we as a human family need to examine carefully.

Game One, Joe v Dad

Here's the first game I played with my father. I realized 29. g5 was a mistake, and I held my breath while he looked at a different part of the position.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Much too busy lately...

...although it has all been rather good. I just had my parents in town to celebrate a big birthday with me (a hint: it begins with a 4.) It was great, as I haven't had a birthday with them since I moved to Minnesota. We had a relatively quiet Friday, the day of my birthday, and a busy Saturday, with a party at Buca's in St. Paul.

They got me a special present of a set of wooden chess pieces. I have only used it twice now, and those two games were with my dad. I greatly appreciate that surprise present--it was over and above the gift of their presence in town!

This weekend I co-ran the computer work for Minneapolis Public School's Check It Out tournament. It was great to see so many students, from beginner to well skilled, play.

Yesterday we had a pleasant day working in the yard. It was very nice, as today it is blustery!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Round Two, Twin Cities Chess League

My opponent, Connor, was able to tie the match with his win against me in the second round game in the Twin Cities Chess League. I haven't run the analysis, but I think my biggest mistake was 17...f6, as that allowed the hole for the Knight. In retrospect, playing 17...g5 instead may have worked.

Connor played tough with time down. I was able to gain back some of my Pawns, but he was able to get his King into the fray on the Kingside to promote that Pawn. (We lost track of the remaining 14 moves in the time scramble.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Henry Rollins put on a great three hour performance!

I can say so many wonderful things about last night's performance at First Avenue. Despite that I got there just late enough to not have a chair and had to stand the entire evening, I got to listen to Henry tell some great stories and provide his insight into war, peace, injured soldiers, world travel, getting to sing for one of his favorite and most influential punk bands, and many other fascinating and surprising topics.

Henry knows how to spin a tale. He'll start out at one point, take a ten minute detour to tell a seemingly unrelated anecdote, but then bring us back to the original thread of the story. The anecdote fills in some of the needed texture. I enjoy that journey, because he does well what few people do at all.

I greatly appreciate that he shares his experiences, because I can learn quite a few things about the world through his stories. My travel is very ordinary, and his is incredible. He's been to places I don't think I will have an opportunity to see in the near future. He informs his understanding through travel, and the fact that he talks about the connections he's made with people of other countries helps me to understand the world a bit better.

He is a very considerate person, and he takes the hard path through some difficult discussions and issues. He's not satisfied with easy answers. He talked about one person who has been in the news lately, and he gave me pause to think what it may be like to live in that person's shoes.

Even after speaking three hours, he was gracious to meet with fans afterwards. I will treasure getting to talk to him for two minutes and having my picture taken with him.

Edit: One of the last things that Henry talked about was the hard work that the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is doing to help the soldiers that have returned. Please visit the site and see how you can help!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Henry Rollins tonight at First Avenue!

A month ago I posted that Henry Rollins would be starting his spoken word tour, and tonight he is finally in the Twin Cities! I am very excited to listen to him in person!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Minneapolis residents: Save NRP (Neighborhood Revitalization Program)

If you are an active community member in your neighborhood in Minneapolis, you are more likely than not aware that NRP is currently in danger. Many neighbors in my neighborhood, Longfellow, as well as others have been busy working to keep this great program going.

So, fyi, this Sunday there is a meeting at the Columbia Grounds Coffee Shop, 3301 Central Avenue NE.

From the Longfellow Community Council website, here is more information on the Save NRP Committee.


Save NRP Committee

Committee goal/purpose: Preserve the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP).

The Neighborhood Revitalization Program is an investment program based on empowering residents to participate in building a better community and city. Residents and other neighborhood stakeholders create Neighborhood Action Plans (NAPs) that describe the neighborhood they want in the future and NRP will help accomplish their vision. NRP completes the empowerment process by providing funding to each neighborhood to help implement their plan.

Since 1995, the following benefits have been realized in the Longfellow, Howe, Cooper and Hiawatha neighborhoods through Longfellow’s NRP Action Plan:

  • Volunteer efforts by hundreds of residents who banded together to promote community betterment through projects ranging from playground construction to block clubs to river gorge restoration.

  • More than 15% of the housing stock in the four neighborhoods has been improved as a result of Longfellow NRP housing programs.

  • A total of $9.3 million in NRP funds have leveraged over $15 million in additional investments in Longfellow.

The strides Longfellow has made as a result of NRP are at risk. The current city council and mayor want to cut the program’s funding. In response, LLC formed the Save NRP committee in July of 2007. The committee’s core strategies are:

  • Mobilize the greater Longfellow community

  • Politically engage our elected officials

  • Network with other neighborhoods

  • Create awareness

The committee is made up of neighborhood volunteers. Please consider joining us!

Meeting day and time: Check the calendar at

Links: - Find out who is already involved in saving NRP – Neighborhood maps, city contact information, NRP facts, and more

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Election Guide 2008: The Candidates on Climate Change

On The Intersection science blog written by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, Kirshenbaum wrote a post on global warming that included a link to the New York Times Election Guide. Read it to get the candidates' perspective on climate change.

Twin Cities Chess League, Round Two, this Friday

The second round of TCCL is this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Roseville Skating Oval. The standings, the pairings, and other information is available on the MSCA website in the forum.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Do you know about the Minnesota Energy Challenge?

The Minnesota Energy Challenge is a means for understanding your home's or business' carbon footprint with some suggestions for how to lower it. (It took me a few minutes to answer the questions.)

Also on This Week: New poet laureate, Charles Simic

I found Charles Simic's poem, which had a chess theme, to be interesting. Read the poem and listen to the video on the ABC News site.

George Will on This Week yesterday

I'm not surprised to see some reactions to Will's statement on the blogosphere this morning. When we were watching This Week, Will's comments on social conservations resonated with me. Check out some reactions at Crooks and Liars: George Will tells social conservatives to grow up.

Monday, October 01, 2007

You probably already know that Anand is the 2007 World Chess Champion!

It was killing me just a bit this weekend not knowing how the last two rounds finished. So I was eager and happy to log on and see that Vishy Anand is the chess champion! Congratulations! He had a great score of four wins, no losses, and ten draws for nine points. Nicely done!

Friday, September 28, 2007

My round four game: Thursday Knighter IX

I'm posting this game, certainly not because it included perfect play by either of us--we both had some positional errors--but those positional errors led to some exciting tactical play. Roger and I talked about the game afterwards. Any comments from you the reader?

Round 13 today: World Chess Championship

Today could be the decisive round in the World Chess Championship. With just two rounds remaining, only three players are in contention for first place:

Vishy Anand with 8.0 (4-0-8)
Boris Gelfand with 7.0 (3-1-8)
Vladimir Kramnik with 6.5 (2-1-9)

Gelfand is White against Kramnik, while Anand is Black against Grischuk. The action starts at 2 p.m. CST. Games can be viewed at the ChessMexico site.

Update: As of a little after 4 p.m. today, Gelfand and Kramnik drew after 26 moves.

Gelfand now has 7.5 (3-1-9)
Kramnik has 7.0 (2-1-10)

Grischuk and Anand are in the endgame at their thirty third move.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Two options for casual chess

Some of you may have seen Dan's posting on the Chess Castle site for casual chess on Tuesday's at Redeemer Lutheran Church.

Starting September 18th, there will be a new location in Minneapolis where you can drop in to play chess on Tuesday nights. Whether you want a slow game, some blitz chess, or just finding someone to analysis your games with, stop in. All skill levels welcomed. The pastors of the Redeemer Lutheran Church on 1800 Glenwood Ave, and Jack Mangan, a scholastic chess organizer, have set this up. There is no charge and no memberships are required. It will run from six to nine in the evening. You can park for free behind Milda’s Restaurant at Logan and Glewood, and just cross Logan and enter the church through the front door. The #9 bus goes by every thirty minutes.

I am very happy to see this, as a casual chess night was one of the services offered at our old site in the Nordeast. That always gave me someplace to send beginners, who would contact me looking for places to explore chess, without making the large jump to rated tournament chess immediately. If you yourself know such people, point out this new opportunity. (Also along those lines, the chess league is another excellent starting point.)

I would like to let you also know about another group that I found through, The Twin Cities uber-casual Chess Meetup Group. If you don't know about, it is a website dedicated to creating gatherings of people with similar interests throughout many different cities through the States. The chess group started in the last couple of days, so please visit and join if you are interested in some casual chess!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Holy crap! The Meat Puppets are touring again!!!

Although I got to see but one show of theirs--that was in '87--the Meat Puppets were one of my favorite bands during that time of my life. (The Dead, of course, with Mike Watt's fIREHOSE, The Butthole Surfers, and Rollins Band also had my respect.)

I just found out today that the Meat Puppets will be touring again, including a show in Minneapolis, November 10, at the Varsity Theater!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

World Chess Championship: Anand has a half point lead

After his defeat of Alexander Grischuk today in an exciting game, Vishy Anand holds a half point lead, with 5.0 points, in the World Chess Championship over Boris Gelfand. The official crosstable and pairings are at the Chess Mexico site. All the players have one more game tomorrow, kicking off the second half of the tournament, before a rest day on Saturday.

The live and replayable games are here.


Edit: Susan Polgar reported
that "the energy level here is quite high."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Excellent article on the link between morality and genetics

Yesterday I was reading the paper copy of the New York Times, and I found this excellent article about the research of Dr. Jonathan Haidt.

It starts off:

"Where do moral rules come from? From reason, some philosophers say. From God, say believers. Seldom considered is a source now being advocated by some biologists, that of evolution.

At first glance, natural selection and the survival of the fittest may seem to reward only the most selfish values. But for animals that live in groups, selfishness must be strictly curbed or there will be no advantage to social living. Could the behaviors evolved by social animals to make societies work be the foundation from which human morality evolved?"

Read the entire article here: Is 'Do Unto Others' Written Into Our Genes?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Prison Break

Since nothing happened on Friday night except my choking my first round game at the TCCL...

I think I'll mention the season premier of Prison Break tonight. I don't know how many regular readers of my blog or those who have found it randomly have watched it, but it is one of my favorite shows on television right now.

Just a few hours to go!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

World Chess Championship, Round One, is just kicking off.

The matchups for round one are:

GM Kramnik Vladimir - GM Svidler Peter

GM Morozevich Alexander - GM Aronian Levon
GM Anand Viswanathan - GM Gelfand Boris
GM Grischuk Alexander - GM Leko Peter

A live link to the games is here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Henry Rollins starts his spoken word tour on Friday!

Henry Rollins starts the Provoked spoken word tour in Flagstaff, Arizona this Friday. He'll be on the road for nearly two months, including a stop in the Twin Cities on Monday, October 15.

He is one of my favorite performers. I've seen Rollins Band perform numerous times, as well as see him speak a few times as well. His stories range from the deadly serious to uproariously funny.


Lately I've been appreciating his serious tact on issues and stories affecting America. On his IFC show this season, he had two Iraqi vets. One, Lieutenant Paul Rieckhoff, wrote an amazing book on his experiences fighting in Iraq called Chasing Ghosts, Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier's Perspective.

I picked this book up at the library this summer and read through it slowly. I could have read faster, but Rieckhoff's description of some of the horrors of war churned my stomach. I know his job is one I could not handle.

I was amazed by his leadership in getting his troops through some extremely difficult situations. He kept his humanity intact while deciphering who was good versus who was bad in the streets of Iraq.


Regardless of what Henry discusses during this tour, it will be worth the time to sit and listen!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Countdown to Twin Cities Chess League: T-4 days!

A mere four days remain until the Twin Cities Chess League begins this Friday at the Roseville Skating Oval. I encourage those of you who are interested but do not yet have a team to visit this link on the MSCA website to discuss your needs, or simply show up Friday to join a team.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some post-rain photos

I find it interesting what the rain brings. Here are a couple of recent photos.

It may not be apparent, but the dark area is a colony of ants who have swarmed around something embedded in the crack in the sidewalk.

This mushroom is one of very many that have sprouted in the neighborhood, now that the rain has enabled the spores to flourish.

Finally, grass seed that I planted in May, just before the drought, has finally sprouted and started to cover a bare spot in the ground.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Minnesota State Fair...what do the kids think of the food?

Last year I wrote about the two trips I made to the Minnesota State Fair, including a review of Umphrey's McGee and of the food. We went yesterday, Saturday afternoon, and I asked the kids and Melissa what they thought. So here it goes:

The first item was Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Tenderloin on a Stick.
  • Big sister (before tasting): "Mmmmm!"
  • Little sister: "It's great!"
  • Big sister (after tasting): "Mmmmm!"
  • Joe: "Juicy. Tasty."
  • Melissa: "It's good. It's no turkey drumstick."
  • Little sister made a sad face when it was gone.
Melissa had an opportunity to talk to Al Franken's people. She told the camera person that he was too lefty for her. (She felt bad not getting my feedback, but we rectified that later.)

Little brother wanted a Foot-Long Hot Dog. We adults agreed it was okay, but it is a much better little person food.

Melissa ordered a small Turkey Leg from a different vendor than last year. I thought it was pretty good, but Melissa felt it was too fatty.

Two weekends ago, Melissa missed the chance to try an Irish egg at the Irish Fair. However, we found Scotch Eggs on a Stick, so we had to try this. The little sister said that "It's good. It's so really, really, really good." Big sister gave it two thumbs up and a smile. Melissa liked it, but little brother didn't like the egg part. (He liked the sausage part.)

The "World's Greatest Fries" were not quite that. Mis gave them a B/B+, my daughter gave them an A-, and I'd give them a B+.

We split a couple of Deep Fried Snickers. The experience is best summed up by my daughter, "Absolutely disgusting, and the best thing I ever tasted."

After the long day we were headed towards the exit, but we passed by Franken's booth. Al was there, but he had a long line of people. Melissa found the cameraman she talked with earlier. She reminded him that she was the person who said she'd more likely vote for Coleman, but then she introduced me. After a couple of seconds of camera fright, I said that Al's values more closely reflect mine, and I listed a few of the things that are important to me. Melissa felt much better that both of us spoke our minds.

It was a good visit. The weather was very pleasant, we walked a couple of miles, but we didn't drink near enough water. We were pretty tired by the time we got on the bus to go back to our park and ride lot. We picked up some caterpillars from the butterfly house that are now munching on their milkweed.

Tags: Minnesota State Fair

Friday, August 24, 2007

Great non-profits at 10,000 Lakes Festival

Besides the excellent music that I enjoyed at the 10,000 Lakes Festival last month, one of many other things I was impressed with was the inclusion of some excellent non-profits. I had a chance to talk with the people at HeadCount and at Conscious Alliance.

I am a registered and active voter, and I appreciate that HeadCount has worked diligently to register more people and encourage them to engage more in our democracy. (I'm posting this entry today because of the interesting preview of their documentary on their home page.)

Conscious Alliance has worked to feed many poor individuals. In exchange for a donation of food or money, Conscious Alliance has provided some wonderful posters. I've gotten posters from 10KLF, an STS9 show, and The Dead. I think the exchange of some great art for the donation is quite worth it. It brings me joy to think of that exchange!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More on my uncle's sci-fi book

A month ago I posted an entry on my uncle's newly published science fiction book, The Caverns of Mare Cetus. Today an article on him and his book were published in his community paper.

The interview starts out:

Why did you write this book?

Erjavec: I've always had a love for science fiction books. I even took a science fiction writing course as an elective in college, of all things. With a strong science background one of the things I liked about sci-fi books and movies was a sense of realism grounded in science. I felt I might be good at writing something like that.

Check out the rest of the article.

Tags: science fiction

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A few pictures from the last few weeks

I dumped the last three weeks of pictures from our camera onto the home computer. I thought these few were interesting.

This was taken from our front window in late July during a much needed heavy rain.

I thought the grilled pizza looked good, but it tasted horrible. Next time I try experimenting, I won't cut corners with the dough.

We caught this butterfly for a few minutes in our son's bugcatcher.

This furry, winged friend was flying around the house in an early August evening. I found it sleeping on a screen the following evening. It has gone on its happy mosquito-hunting ways.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Twin Cities Chess League, 2007-08, just a month away!

One of my favorite chess events begins one month from today, on Friday, September 14. The Twin Cities Chess League will begin its 2007-08 season at the Roseville Skating Oval.

No membership in the MSCA nor USCF is necessary. Please show up on that Friday, as a few teams may be short players, or you may want to start a new team on the spot.

Tags: Twin Cities Chess League, chess

Monday, August 13, 2007

Politics: Dennis Kucinich and Sam Brownback on This Week

Yesterday we had our normal Sunday morning routine of breakfast while watching This Week with George Stephanopoulos. He hosted Representative Dennis Kucinich and Senator Sam Brownback in two separate interviews. (The video locations are here: Kucinich; Brownback.)

Although I will not be casting my vote for either candidate, I was still impressed with what they had to say. Kucinich spoke about a way to peace that admitted the insanity of nuclear weapons. I totally agree with him. Future generations should not live with that. Communication and diplomacy between nations and people is necessary to remove this spectre of fear from all of our lives.

Brownback talked about the necessary of political solutions for Iraq. He strongly recommended that Jim Baker be involved in helping guide the Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish people. (It is extremely unfortunate that Iraq is not close to any compromise, but it seems like the only way to having a relatively peaceful country.)

Although the Democratic and Republican parties will each elect one candidate for the general Presidential election, many of the candidates who will not make it to that election have valuable ideas that should be listened to and fostered. I appreciate the time the candidates take, especially those that have the integrity to speak honestly about their positions, regardless of whether I agree with them or not.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Iran arrests 200 music fans

I was watching CNN with my wife this morning, and as I often try to do, I check the little runner of news at the bottom of the screen. I saw there that Iran had arrested 200 music fans.

I am not surprised by this, but I didn't want this item to go unnoticed. Justifiably, the story of the bridge collapse over I-35W in Minneapolis is taking up a lot of bandwidth. However, this story is important to me, and I want to do my small part to make sure it doesn't fall through the cracks.

Tags: Iran

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Zappa Plays Zappa

A couple of weeks ago I went to the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. It was a great festival with many top-notch bands and musicians playing. One of my absolute favorite sets of the four days was that of one of Frank Zappa's son, Dweezil playing the music of his father, in the ensemble, Zappa Plays Zappa.

I never saw FZ live, but I have many albums and CDs of his music. He stands out as one of America's finest musicians, known for his scathing satire and well-orchestrated pieces. Dweezil and his band mates did justice to the memory of Frank and his music. I was completely blown away with how great the show was.

I wanted to let people know of the current tour dates in case they are coming to a town near you.

Tags: Zappa Plays Zappa, Frank Zappa, Dweezil Zappa

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Caverns of Mare Cetus

One of my uncles, Jim Erjavec, has been hard at work writing a science fiction/horror novel over the last few years. The Caverns of Mare Cetus is now in publication.

I had read an original draft of the first chapter last year, and I thought that it was both tense and engaging. Here is the plotline from the website:

Mare Cetus, a lifeless world nearly twelve light years from Earth, is riddled with strange and spectacular caverns. Explorers have long sought knowledge, fame, and fortune on Mare, but lately an increasing number of them have met their demise in mysterious ways.

Earth year 2165:
Hunter Larson leads a team to lay claim on a priceless ore deposit hidden deep within the black maze of Mare's Laramax caverns. His thoughts haunted by the grisly events surrounding the last expedition to probe the Laramax, he's relying on Renata Stone, a brilliant and accomplished cavern explorer, to add stability and vigilance to his volatile team of experts.

Unknown to Hunter, the Corporation has
implemented a plan to ensure the mission's success--but at what price? As Hunter's team penetrates the blackness of the Laramax, they are blind to the terrifying fate that awaits them.

Please check out the excerpts, share with your friends and family who read science fiction, e-mail him, or write a review on the site if you have finished the book. Thanks!

Technorati tag: science fiction

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I've been tagged

David Glickman of the Boylston Chess Club tagged me. Please read. My tag is at the bottom of this page.

1. How long have you been playing chess? Have you played it consistently since you started, or were there lulls in your play? How did these lulls affect your performance?

My dad taught me chess about thirty five years ago, when I was five. I played regularly until high school, but in college I did not play at all. Only after I moved far from home, my dad and I played correspondence chess. I played my first rated games at the Chess Emporium in Phoenix in 2002. Since then, I have been an active player.

I am sure I would have been an expert if not for the lulls (I am rated in the low 1400's currently).

2. Aside from playing games, what is your primary mode of training?

I use my Chessmaster program to examine my games, and I look at tactical puzzles a couple of times per month. What actually seems to help me the most is not think about chess too much before a game. When I'm relaxed, I tend to play much better.

3. What is the single most helpful method of improvement that you have ever used?

I don't have any particular method that I could put my finger on. Sometimes remembering a tactical motif has helped in a game, while other times just remembering the opening well has helped.

4. What is your favorite opening to play as white? As black against e4? As black against d4?

I always play e4. As Black I always play the Caro-Kann. One of my friends chided me for how slow an opening it often is, but as I have had so many great games with it, I keep playing it. I like the Dutch against d4, although I usually play the KID.

5. Who is your favorite chess player and why?

Tal is my favorite for his mad brilliance. His play did not always work, but he played on the edge.

6. What is your favorite chess book?

Jeremy Silman's Reassess Your Chess.

7. What book would you recommend for a friend who knows only the rules of chess?

Silman's Complete Endgame Course.

8. Do you play in in-person tournaments? What is your favorite tournament experience?

Yes, with much more frequency than online chess. (However, I highly recommend for those who like deliberate play.) My favorite game was playing my friend Rich DuRocher at the last Minnesota Open. My favorite tournament was finishing second in the U1600 section at the St. Olaf Open a couple of months ago.

9. Please give us a link to what you consider your best two blog posts (on your own blog).

I blog about other subjects other than chess, but my two favorite chess related posts are my game against Rich and this game from the Twin Cities Chess League.

10. What proportion of total chess time should be spent studying openings for someone at your level?

I think at my level (class C), studying the openings should not usually be more than 15-20% of the time, unless you have difficulty getting a decent game against a particularly difficult and frequently played opening.

Now that I am done, I tag Phorku. (He plays my dad quite often at the Parma Chess Club.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I have been blogging for a year.

My classmate and friend Janet has been interested in blogs and blogging for many years, and my friend, Jeff, started his blog over a year ago. (His first post was a picture of Melissa and me on our wedding day.) Because of those influences, I decided to start this blog a year ago today.

I have enjoyed writing this blog, regardless of whether I'm posting a single picture or writing a description of a book or a concert. However, as I have not been writing as often, I'd like to take some time to review what I have written over the last year to evaluate what are the most gratifying entries.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Benefit for the Cedar Cultural Center this Sunday

The Cedar has featured many great bands from all over the world. Among some of the best shows I've seen there have been local jazz musicians Happy Apple, Tuvan throat singers Hun-Huur-Tu, Italian electronic band Fiamma Fumana, and alt-country Luther Wright and The Wrongs. (The latter did a bluegrass, honky-tonk, and country cover of Floyd's The Wall.)

If you are inclined, please check this event out. Full details are here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Thursday Knighter VI, Round 2

Last night Justin Backes and I played against each other. It turned out to be a Caro-Kann with an unusual, but playable 5. Qf3. There were some moments where I think each of us could have played more accurate moves (he could have retreated his Bishop to d3 to avoid capture by my Knight and I could have played Bxh2+), but overall I was satisfied with our play.

At the end of his 30th move, he asked for a draw. I appreciated the offer, although I took five minutes to consider it. I didn't see a winning plan for either of us, and I agreed.

[Event "Thursday Knighter VI"]
[Site "Chess Castle"]
[Date "2007.6.14"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Justin Backes"]
[Black "Joe Erjavec"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]

1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Qf3 e6 6.Be3 Nd7 7.Bd3 Bxe4 8.Bxe4 Ngf6 9.Bg5 h6 10.Be3 Bd6 11.Ne2 O-O 12.O-O Re8 13.Ng3 Qc7 14.Nh5 Nxe4 15.Qxe4 f5 16.Qh4 Be7 17.Qg3 Qxg3 18.hxg3 g6 19.Nf4 Kf7 20.Nd3 g5 21.Ne5+ Nxe5 22.dxe5 b6 23.Rfd1 Red8 24.Rd3 Rxd3 25.cxd3 Rd8 26.Rd1 c5 27.b3 Rd5 28.f4 gxf4 29.gxf4 h5 30.Kh2 1/2-1/2

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My review of the final episode of The Sopranos

For those of you who have already watched this episode and are interested, please read my review over at Blogcritics. Thank you!

No More Effin' Ziti

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thursday Knighter VI

Last night fifteen of us made our appearances for the June Thursday Knighter. I am the second lowest rated player this month at 1421, and Steve Turmo is still the highest rated player at 2023.

I played the sixth seed, John Loftus, a class B at 1744. I lost this game, but I felt satisfied with my play. It was one of the few games in which I did not leave the table. It was a complicated morass!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Some Particle news

A couple of members of Particle have been in the music news lately. Keyboardist Steve Molitz played a gig with Phil Lesh and Friends at this past weekend's Mountain Jam. He joined Phil, Warren Haynes, John Scofield, and John Molo for an incredible show. (A download is available here. I wasn't at the show, so I was one of many downloaders. It's a very hot show!)

Particle's drummer, Darren Pujalet, is featured in Modern Drummer. Congrats, Darren!

Description of Monday's simul by DeWitt Green

Chess Night

Chess “Expert” Jerome Mitchell stepped out of his comfort zone Monday 4 June. He simultaneously played and defeated eight players at once.

The “Simul” kicked off the newly sanctioned Midtown Global Market (MGM) Chess Club. We meet every Monday 4:30-8 P.M. in one of the open areas of the Market. Because it is a public arena some chess players may have trouble concentrating. This did not seem to bother Jerome at all.

During the battle Jerome seemed to be pursuing three different openings and juggled each to checkmate. A knowledgeable spectator stated that Jerome aggressively played each match until he had a clear advantage then coasted into each mate. As one of the admittedly weaker players it did not appear like he was taking it easy. I was counting on the numbers to cause him to make at least one mistake. Preferably his misstep would be on my board. Jerome had determined not to make mistakes.

As he mated each of us he shook hands and commented on some key point each of us had presented. That is the only reason a person can willingly put his “cred” on the line. He strengthens his game by sharpening his skills on more and or stronger opponents. At the end of his session Jerome exclaimed “more!” Maybe next time he’ll try 12 at once.

The value of having regular contact with stronger competitors and a variety of players is the club members get stronger as a group. It is within the mission of Uplift-Chess, which has teamed with MGM, to bring chess to anyone. We compare chess skills to life skills. In developing chess skills we are developing critical thinking skills. Those skills are preparing us and ours to reach higher.

Uplift-Chess is looking forward to developing a competitive team. If you are interested in being part of that push join us for Chess Night at Midtown Global Market Mondays 4:30-8 P.M.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I played in a simul last night

Thanks to the efforts of DeWitt Green, a chess instructor at Sanford Middle School, I was able to play in a simul against local expert Jerome Mitchell. Jerome played eight of us last night at the Midtown Global Market. I lost, but it was fun playing against him.

DeWitt will be organizing some type of event every Monday from 4:30 - 8:00 p.m. Join us if you have time!

(Good luck again to Dane Mattson, who will be heading to Las Vegas! Dane was checking out the action last evening.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I saw Forest Whitaker this weekend

On Friday we were flying down to Texas to visit Melissa's dad. While we were waiting at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport for our connecting flight, Forest Whitaker comes off a plane. We waved and he waved back to us. That was a neat moment! (I especially liked his performance in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.)

For those who are interested, here is a story about a Hip Hop Chess event. The story mentions the RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, whose music was in Ghost Dog.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chess dream

Last night I dreamed that I was playing in a tournament. Gata Kamsky was sipping cognac and taping up the latest copy of This Week in Chess on the wall. He paused and asked if I wanted it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Round Four

Yesterday's top five boards were all decisive, so we now have a single player, GM Alex Shabalov, with a perfect score. He will have the Black pieces against Nakamura. I'm predicting a hard-fought draw.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

U.S. Chess Championship: Round 3 today.

As reported on Susan Polgar's blog, three players share first place with a perfect score, but they are not the players with the highest rating going into the tournament. The top three boards were all draws yesterday, including Eugene Perelshteyn's game against defending champ Alexander Onishuk. (Game)

I am interested in Perelshteyn's results, partially because he was listed in Chess Life as a "Show" for this tournament (as in Win-Place-Show), but also because he played the Caro-Kann, my favorite opening, in round one. (Game)

Today he plays Black against Jaan Ehlvest.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I was way too young, and my parents in Ithaca that night, which was 30 years ago yesterday.

I listened to just a single song from the Dead's legendary show from Cornell University last night, which was the amazingly powerful Morning Dew.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Chess game that I recently finished

I played the following game on over the last few weeks, and it just ended. A number of positional factors came together which helped me complete the game successfully.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Environmental design

I read this interesting article in The Rake yesterday about the construction of extremely energy efficient housing near Bemidji. It is based on the German standard known as Passivhaus. I was up until yesterday unaware of that standard, so I thought I would share it here with interested readers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Watching The Henry Rollins Show

Melissa and I watched the first episode of Henry Rollins' new season a couple of nights ago. One of his two guests was Marilyn Manson. In light of the horrible events that happened in Virginia this week, I was reminded that he was interviewed in Michael Moore's movie, "Bowling for Columbine," which dealt with the subject of violence and gun violence in the United States.

I am saddened by what happened at Virginia Tech this week, and I wish the family and friends of the victims peace while they sort through their thoughts and emotions.

"The business case for going green" from MSNBC

Businesses are finding that "going green" is helping their bottom line, according to this story. As some business leaders admit in the story, they are not doing it altruistically. Regardless, I am glad that they are finding that changing their business practices help, as companies have great influence on the environment.

Why are honeybees disappearing?

I just found out that this phenomena has been occurring over the last couple of months. I heard a story on Minnesota Public Radio last month, and I just read an item on Yahoo today considering the possible role of cell phones in their disappearance. It is puzzling scientists. As bees are an extremely important part of the ecosystem, I thought this was important to share.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Saturday's chess tournament at St. Olaf

Saturday was a wonderful day. My friend Rich organized a chess event at St. Olaf College. This was the first time I've played in the event and have been at the college. I knew I was close to my destination when I saw the windmill running in the gentle spring breeze.

After I parked and had a chance to walk to the student center, I felt great. The campus reminded me a bit of where I started college. The students I talked with during the day were very engaged and interesting in learning.

I played in the Reserve section (U1600) and I had no expectations. I played a terrific tournament, in which I won my first three games out of the four. I hadn't started like that before, and I was both shocked and thrilled. I felt that I was playing with a combination of solid focus, understanding, and familiarity with the positions I was playing. I didn't play games of fireworks; rather, I just played solid moves and looked for advantageous ones when my opponents played moves that did not seem as strong.

My last round was the toughest, though, as I played the only other person who also had three wins. Lynn played very well and better than I for the entire game, although I did manage to make it to the endgame which was just a simplification of the rest of the game in which he was clearly winning.

I tied for second, won a few bucks, and drove home tired but glad I came down for the day.

John put the results on his website.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Particle setlist from The Cabooze

From The Breeze Board:

04.12.07 Cabooze - Minneapolis, MN

I: Die Rote Kapelle, Sunlight, Simulator, Madam In Eden, other Desert Cities, Get Your Ass To Mars*

II: Memories Can't Wait > The Elevator, Control/Escape > Lie To Me > Your Moment > 7 Minutes till Radio Darkness

E: Launchpad

*w/ Escape tease

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Funny photo from yesterday

My former spouse took this picture of my daughter and I playing our air instruments in the kitchen yesterday while listening to The Dead playing "Hey Pocky Way!" Ah, like father, like daughter!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mike Watt on Kelly Clarkson album

Okay, so I'm four months late hearing about this. I was scanning through magazines today at Barnes and Noble, and I saw Mike Watt on the cover of Bass Player Magazine. I was surprised to learn that he appeared on Kelly Clarkson's album.

Watt is one of my favorite musicians. The first time I saw him was with his band, fIREHOSE. They were incredible. This man lives and breathes music. (I think I've seen him before eight or nine times now, and each time is a joy.)

I think it's cool and unexpected that he took part in this project.


I'm very excited today. It is our son's third birthday! I can't believe how fast the time has gone!

I've been busy running errands in preparation for this evening. I'm hoping to grill some hot dogs and hamburgers for us and our guests, even if we get some rain.

I have a little quiet time right now and I'm listening to the August 3, 2003 Dead show that I took my daughter to.

There are two things that are special about this show for me. The first was that I was my daughter and I got to listen to the music that I grew up with. We ran into one of her best friends there and her parents. We had a great day!

The second is that this show was one week after Melissa and I found out we were going to have a child together. I was processing the fact over that week, and it was an intense week for both of us. It was during Eyes of the World that I felt a sense of peace that everything was going to be okay. :)

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world,

The heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own.
Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings,
But the heart has its seasons, its evenings and songs of its own.

Lyrics by Robert Hunter

I: The Music Never Stopped > Dupree's Diamond Blues > Minglewood Blues, Big River
*, Desolation Row*, Johnny B. Goode*, Aiko Aiko > Althea > Cosmic Charlie

II: Jam > New Speedway Boogie > Brown-Eyed Woman > She Said She Said > Cold Rain and Snow > Smokestack Lightnin > Eyes of the World > Drums > Space > Standing on the Moon > Samson and Delilah
E: And We Bid You Goodnight
*-w/ Bob Dylan (keys and vox)
(Bob Dylan opened)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lots of action, much less thinking...

I have had a great last week, as spring has finally arrived, we have gotten some much needed sunshine and biking, and so forth. Last week we had a large project (insulation) completed, and I had an interview.

I enjoyed blogging when I had plenty of time to think, but as I am getting busier with many things, I am going to blog only occasionally. I think this change is due to moving from winter to spring, and I am thankful for that! Although the winter was neither a brutal nor long one, I was so ready for the sun to return!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Who has read "The World is Flat?"

Yesterday I received a piece of advertising email from MK Press for a book called The World is Flat? Note, this is not by Thomas Friedman. Rather, it is a critique of his book.

Part of the email read:

Thomas Friedman’s recent New York Times bestseller, The World is Flat, asserts that the international economic playing field is now more level than it has ever been. As popular as it may be, some reviewers assert that by what it leaves out, Friedman’s book is dangerous.

“The world isn’t flat as a result of globalization,” say Ronald Aronica and Mtetwa Ramdoo, business analysts and authors of a critical analysis of Friedman’s book. “Globalization is the greatest reorganization of the world since the Industrial Revolution,” says Aronica. But by what Friedman’s book ignores or glosses over, it misinforms people and policy makers.


I am interested in checking this out, as I enjoyed Friedman's book, and I would like to read this critique. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Reflections on The Omnivore's Dilemma

On Monday evening I finished reading the last few pages of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I had had a busy week, so it was good to relax and finally complete it. It was a both an enjoyable and thought-provoking book. I consider it an equal with Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat in terms of its importance.

Dilemma has become a well-talked about book. For example, our weekly alternative newspaper, City Pages, had an article last week, You Are Where You Eat, which discusses some of the Twin City area grocery stores, including Whole Foods. Pollan's experience with shopping and eating food from Whole Foods was one of the four meals discussed in his book.

That experience wasn't highly praised by Pollan, which created some public dialogue between Pollan and Whole Foods' John Mackay. (Some of that discussion is highlighted in the City Pages article.) I think Pollan's critique is important, especially since Whole Foods is a major player in the organic food market.

From a personal standpoint, I appreciate that I had the time to read The Omnivore's Dilemma. I have been made more aware of how my food choices affect the ecosystem. On a practical day-to-day level, it helped me be more appreciative of cooking. Our family's life is often very busy, and I have been taking a more conscious effort in preparing better meals in terms of higher quality ingredients and some presentation to make that family time special.

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma , family life

Monday, March 12, 2007

TCCL 2006-07 is now completed

I would like to thank David Kuhns, the tournament director, for running this excellent event. The Twin Cities Chess League is an enjoyable experience and one of my favorite events of the chess year.

I would also like to thank my teammates, Kelly, John, and Blaine, for giving it your best each week. We had many good games, and although we didn't end up with a great score for the season, I feel like we learned plenty this year, and I look forward to next September to play stronger chess.

Thanks also to Will for subbing in December.

For those Minnesota chess players who have not yet heard of this event or who have not yet played in this, I would highly recommend it.

Tags: ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Final Round: Number Seven of the TCCL is this Friday

We will be playing our last round of the season this Friday against The Defrocked Bishops. I have very much enjoyed this season and look forward to next year.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Spring is only two weeks away!

I am getting enthusiastic about the arrival of Spring. Although there are a couple of feet of snow to melt in my neighborhood, the temperature this weekend will get up above 40 each day. So, there will be slush aplenty, but that will only bring us closer to the 20th! I am getting excited to start bike riding again and getting outdoors regularly with my family!

Reaction to latest FDA decision

Yesterday I saw a little snippet running along the bottom of my TV as I was watching CNN. The Washington Post reported that the FDA will be approving an antibiotic for use in treating a bovine respiratory disease. This antibiotic, Cefquinome, is also used as a last resort against certain human infections.

I am not pleased with this, and this helps to make me willing to only buy beef raised from cattle that are grown free-range. There are plenty of reactions to this story, including this one, which illustrates how antibiotic resistance develops.

It seems that the FDA is not practicing science in the public's interest!

Tags: organic food, FDA, antibiotics

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My round one game in clickable format

Here is my first round game from the Minnesota Open.

Important article on Peak Oil

One of my online friends, Terra Praeta, pointed me towards Dave Pollard's latest blog article, this one on peak oil.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, peak oil is the point in time in which half of the world's oil has been extracted. By estimates from many geologists, we are at that point.

"So, we still have plenty of oil left" is a fair comment. However, as Pollard points out, it takes more energy to produce a gallon of oil now than it did in the past.


"The amount of energy needed to produce each barrel of oil has increased from the equivalent of 0.04 barrels at the start of the oil boom (when we were busy converting our economy to be oil-powered) to over
half a barrel today. If this trend continues (and there is nothing to lead us to believe it won't), by 2030 we will be using more than a barrel of oil equivalent energy to produce every barrel of oil."

This reasoning is the same reasoning I have used to critique ethanol production as it is currently produced. Cellulosic ethanol is another means that is gaining momentum.

If you are interested, please read The Party's Over, which talks about peak oil in more detail.

After reading Pollard's article, I turned down my thermostat and put on a sweater. (Thanks for the reminder!)

Tags: oil, peak oil

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Andrew Sullivan's Quote of the Day

Andrew Sullivan highlighted an article from the New York Times on Stewart Brand. I think Sullivan's comments and the original article are both worth a read. Brand is a lively creative thinker.

Pessimism is a powerful force, but optimism and creativity are important tools for our survival and evolution in our complex world. Even as scary as global warming can appear, most people I have talked with seem to have their heads on straight. They deal with the facts and do not seem to be pulled under by the fear of what could be. Rather, they have the motivation to create workable solutions to aid in our survival.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Checking In: Check It Out

The snow held off long enough this past Saturday to allow coaches, tournament directors, and students to show up at North High School for the bi-annual Check It Out Chess Tournament for Minneapolis Public Schools. It was my first time helping out with this.

It is a K-12 tournament broken up into three sections: K-3, 4-6, 7-12. There were roughly 160 students who played in this one, which is pretty good considering the snow held many people back from driving this weekend.

I was mainly responsible for the computer work for the 7-12 section, but I also helped adjudicate a couple of situations. The students treated each other well, and they played seven rounds of chess.

I thought this was a good tournament. There were some students who were getting their feet wet by playing in this, while others were fairly seasoned and knew their stuff.

I had a good time, despite a somewhat slow drive back home after the match in the falling snow.

Tags: chess, scholastic chess, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part IV: Wrap-up

Saturday was a very exhausting day, and I was disappointed with my results (0-3-1) as well as with Saturday night's game. I knew I'd be sitting at the bottom couple of tables, just as I did for the last two rounds of the HB Tournament last year.

I was on the second to last table, and one of the players on the last table said, "Tough to be here, huh?" I agreed. But, I think it is important to remember that although we are sitting at the highest numbered tables, it does not mean we have lame or uninteresting games. My last round at the HB Tournament last year was a Rook, Knight, and Pawns (mine) against a Queen and Pawns (his) endgame. My opponent did win, but I made that one as difficult as I could. I enjoyed playing it, especially as I was considering withdrawing for the last round and just watching the top boards.

Also, a player should not let a low score interfere with appreciation of well-played games against good opponents. As I checked out the pairing tables, I saw that my first round opponent was sitting on Board One for our section against the eventual winner of our section, Chris Gill, who I played in the Minnesota Class tournament in December. I thought, "Well, if I got a draw against the first board player, I can't be doing all bad."

Back to my own game: I was pleased to be playing Black against Steve Helmueller for the fifth round. We played in the Minnesota Open last year, and he and his wife are very nice people. I spoke with both of them last year.

Steve played 1.d4 this Sunday morning, as he did last year. (No one played 1. e4 against me this time, so I got great experience in Queen Pawn openings this tournament. I needed the practice.) We had a very interesting position after the first five moves:

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d6 3. c4 g6 4. b4! I never saw that before, but I enjoyed the novelty and engaged in a game that certainly did not come from any rote memory. 4...b6. 5. e3 Bb7. This was going to be a memorable game!

(I've already entered it in Chessmaster and will look at the analysis later, but I wanted to enter it and show it to the readers as I thought it was a tricky game.)

We had a middle game that featured my winning an exchange of my Knight for his Rook, but as the endgame developed, I wondered now if having played 21...Nxb2 would have been better by depriving him of one of his Bishops which featured so prominently in the endgame.

We traded down to a Rook and two Bishop vs two Rooks and Bishop endgame, with many Pawns left on the board. Whereas I felt I had the end before the endgame, I saw any real or imagined advantage disappearing. Steve used those two Bishops quite well, and I am sure I could have resigned much earlier. However, I was trying to hang in there and be sure I was evaluating everything the best I could.

When I resigned, I gladly shook my opponent's hand. I spoke to Steve's wife shortly thereafter, and told her about our tough game that he won. She told me that he enjoys playing chess against me. That made me smile, which came through my tired visage.

Rich and I met for lunch, and I told him that I was thinking about withdrawing for the last round. One of the perks was that I would get home early, not making my wife a "chess widow" for any longer this weekend, and have some time with both her and our son.

When I got back to talk to the TD, I found that I got the 1-point bye for the last round. That is a bit humbling, but should not have been unexpected. One other nice thing came out of that, though. Besides making it home early, which was greatly appreciated by all three of us, I got to play an extra rated game against a new member to the USCF. It was her first rated game. I thought she played a very good game.

So, this ends my stories about this weekend's tournament. I will be posting most of the complete games later.

Minnesota, chess

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

In case you missed it: Garry Kasparov on Russia

Yesterday I went to my favorite coffee shop, Fireroast Mountain Cafe, to get some beans. Lisa, one of the owners, asked me if I heard the story with Garry Kasparov on NPR earlier in the day. I did not, but I found it on the NPR site here. Garry explains the state of Russian political life.

Tags: Kasparov, Russia, politics

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part III: Chess and music

My parents are occasional readers of my blog. My mom said "If I didn't know you, I'd say you were obsessed with chess and music." Yeah, that's very accurate.

Besides my chess equipment, the other important item I brought with me this weekend was my iPod. ( Melissa bought it for me for a Father's Day present, and I have shown my appreciation by using it often.) In preparation for the tournament, I added some new music to it. My staples for the Thursday Knighter events are live shows from The Dead, Hydra and STS9. I describe these latter two as "electronic hippy music."

But because this was an entire weekend of chess, and I know how grueling a tournament is, I downloaded some more driving music, including KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Tool, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

After my four hour game with my friend Rich and a short lunch break, I came back to play number three seed, Lonny Arvidson. (I did mention that I was playing up almost every round.) Before we got going, I started the Chili Peppers.

I got Black again, as in the last game, and he played 1. d4. Since I felt like I laid everything on the line with the Dutch in my previous game, I did not want to play that again. Rather, I played a King's Indian Defense against Lonny.

I had a good opening and middle game in which his pieces were not in ideal spots, and mine were putting lots of pressure on his. However, in the late middle game, where I think I have the greatest difficulty, the position became simplified, and Lonny ended up with a passed Pawn. His remaining pieces were able to coordinate an attack while continuing to push that Pawn to Queenhood. I resigned on his 40th move.

Neither of us used that much time, as we each had 50 minutes left on our clock. The upside was being done quickly, and having some time to recover for the final round of the day at 7 p.m. However, I was very exhausted from the 6-1/2 hours of chess I already played that day, so I savored every minute away from the tournament hall.

Just after 7 I walked into the hall, ready to face my next opponent, Kevin Lu. He is an elementary grade student and a quiet one on the outside. However, his game was everything but quiet.

I played White this time, and we got into a Sicilian, specifically 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3. His 5th move was e5. I've only played against this variation one other time, and not knowing that the proper response was Ndb5, I played 6. Nf5. His 6th and 7th moves were d5 and d4. Already my position was a goner, and he kept on coordinating his attack against my very poorly placed pieces.

I tried to keep myself going while listening to KMFDM and Tool, but music was far from my problem in this game. It was my only horrible game in the tournament, but one in which I wish I had known the opening theory.

Minnesota, chess, music

Monday, February 19, 2007

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part II

The highlight for the tournament for me was Saturday morning. I had stayed a long enough time on Friday night to find that Rich had drawn his game, even being a piece down. Incredible! Before I left to go back to the tournament, I told Melissa that it would be a hoot if Rich and I were paired, since we each had a 1/2 point. I wasn't sure how many people drew on Friday night, but there was a chance.

I saw Rich just moments before I walked over to the wall chart for round two. Yep, "Rich Durocher v Joe Erjavec." I got a big smile knowing I was going to play my friend. (And we agreed the day before that we would get lunch and coffee together. The good thing about playing each other was that we would both be done at the same time!)

The first move was 1. d4. I hadn't played the following for a while, but it was time for me to break it out again....f5! I played the Dutch.

Unlike my last post, I'm not going to get into the details of the game right now. Rather, I want to talk about the spirit of the game. I feel such a spirit of fellowship, despite the fact that chess is extremely competitive.

Rich and I played an extremely hard fought game. I thought both our openings were strong, we made the position as complicated as possible for each other, and despite the fact that the game was going long (it ended up finishing after 2:15, a four-hour game), I kept focused on playing my best game, as did Rich.

During the game, I kept thinking about this Zen parable that I found in an old book. I posted it on my website with credit to the author. I don't think it's been reprinted since 1970, which is a shame, because it is a delightful paperback rich with nuggets of wisdom.

He had me in a bind, and I opened the position up with some mild complications by sacking my Knight for two pawns to open up some lines against his King and other pieces. He defended well, including having to face some repeated checks. Once the position was simplified, though, he had a Bishop and Pawns against my Pawns, and he won the game.

We did get to go out for lunch, but it was not too casual, as the next round was supposed to start at 2:30. But it was nice to have a few minutes of downtime to recover and talk about the game that we just finished! It is never enough time, and soon we were back into the throes of battle against new opponents shortly thereafter.

Tags: Minnesota, chess

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part I

My perspective in writing this piece and those to follow in the next couple of days is that of the drama of any player playing under the intense conditions of a chess tournament. The first time I played in the Minnesota Open was in 2003, where I played up two sections in the Reserve section, the same section I played this weekend. At that time, when my rating was over 300 points less than it is today, with a corresponding shortage of knowledge of the game compared to today, I ended up with a mere 1.5 points--I had a draw and a one point bye for one of the rounds. So begins this story...

On Friday night, the Minnesota State Chess Association had its annual board meeting. The first part featured a report by Roger Redmond on the financial state of affairs of the MSCA, while the second part featured leaving President Shu Lee's words on the state of the MSCA. We elected a new board, which is composed of myself, Ed Conway, Kevin AhTou, David Kuhns, Roger Redmond, and two new members, Dan Peplinski and John Flores. (Welcome, again, Dan and John! Thank you for running and joining!)

At the conclusion of the meeting we began the 114th Annual Minnesota Open chess tournament. I was playing in the Reserve section (U1700). As my current published rating is 1391, I was playing in the bottom third of my section. (My seed number was about 40). So, I played up nearly every round.

My first round game was White against 16th seed, Hindson Her, rated 1540. It started out as B14, the Caro-Kann Panov-Botvinnik Attack. As regular readers of my blog who are interested in chess may know, I love playing the Black side of the Caro-Kann. This was possibly the first time I played the White side of the Caro in a rated game.

This game was fairly even for the first 14 moves, with both of us finding natural feeling moves. We each had about 95 minutes on the clock after his move.

At this point, although I was almost certain that he was going to move that Knight to d5, I had a good 15 minute think about my next move. As I tend to be an aggressive player, sometimes committing too early to an attack, I did not want to play too crazy a game. I played the quiet 16. a3, and he did move his Knight to d5.

That a3 was problematic later on, as it provided a target for his pieces after he hunted a pawn with 20...Rxc3. As you can see, three of his pieces are trained on that square, while I had but one defender.

However, this was where I ignored the Pawn and quickly complicated matters with 21. Ng4. I had a little bit of breathing room in terms of the time crunch, but I was still behind. We played a few more moves, and I got some sweet relief with Qd2, threatening the Rook and taking advantage of a mating attack on the weakly-protected King.

Hindson took 20 minutes on this move. I was able to get up, release the tension I was feeling, and looked at some of my friends' games. (My buddy Rich was a piece down in his game a few boards over from mine against a lower-rated player.)

When I saw that he finally hit the plunger, I was just three minutes down, 47 to his 50. He played 23...h5, attacking my Knight. I was impressed, and I figured out what would go first, my Knight or his Rook.

I played 24. Nh6+. The follow through was Kh7, 25. Nf5 Qf8 26. Qxc3 exf5, leaving ugly triple pawns!

We had some interesting endgame play in which he was going for the mating attack with 31...h3, while I was trying to trade down and take advantage of the triple pawns. We each had some errors, and we played to a draw on move 39.

Hindson and I talked after the game. This was his first major event since high school. We complimented each other on our play and wished each other luck for the remaining games.

I was pretty tired after this 3-1/2 hour game, but I was reminding myself and some of my friends that "tomorrow, we have three of these!"

I went home excited and got a good sleep after waking up Melissa with my chatter about the first round and the night in general.

Tags: Minnesota, chess