Not bad for a day’s work

Not bad for a day’s work

Stovetop: Clean… er. Oven: Cleaner. Kitchen table: Clean-ish, leaf removed, tablecloth on. Passthrough: Clean. Front room: Piano out, ukes in. Shaky piano stand: Moved down to basement. Side table: Moved west, under stereo. Old sewing machine table: Moved from under stereo to front room, under useless phone, next to ukes. TV, VCR/DVD2015-11-22 22.45.46, and Wii: Moved up from basement, onto side table. Drop leaf table: Moved up from basement, to where side table was. CDs: Sorted, some consigned to future disposal, rack with remainder moved east, next to drop leaf table. Dead light bulb: Changed. Silverware: Back into storage. Stainless flatware: Found. Heather’s returned to storage. Mine returned to service, but there are only four dinner forks. Ebay vendor: Sending me four more dinner forks. Clothes I never wear: Bagged up for Rescue Mission. Garage attic: stuff shifted, making more space accessible. Dr Who: Watched. Blog post: Completed.

Playing chess like an idiot

Playing chess like an idiot

Here’s a post that brought back some memories for me.

I haven’t played any chess in several years now, and not against any humans other than my son for a lot more years than that, but back in my high school days I was a member of the chess club. From my sophomore year on the strongest players were classmates of mine: George and Phil at the top, Howard a little behind them, and then, several notches down, Mike who was a little better than me. Maybe more than a little.

We sent a team of three or four players every year to the County Scholastic Chess Championship. In my junior year Howard and Mike couldn’t make it and George and Phil gritted their teeth and brought me along. With them on first and second boards we did pretty well; with me on third board, I didn’t help a great deal. In the third and final round we went up against Christian Brothers Academy, whose third board player was the county Junior Chess Champion. “Third board?” we asked them, and they shrugged and said they’d played a tournament to decide, and he’d come in third.

He destroyed me in the opening. I think I resigned after something like 17 moves. Nevertheless after three rounds, we were tied for first. Against CBA. So there was a playoff round, us versus them, again. I got destroyed in the opening again. I think I resigned something like 12 moves in. He sat there laughing at me. I think Phil won and George lost, so we took second place.

The next year Phil and George and Howard and Mike couldn’t go. So I was drafted again, this time for first board — not with any hope of doing very well, but to bring three underclassmen along to give them the experience of tournament play, so they could carry the torch the next year.

I decided to do better this time; I couldn’t very well commit winning lines in all the major openings to memory in the time available, but I could study one opening. I boned up on the French Defense. In the first round I was Black, and White played 1. e4; I played 1. … e6 and there I was, French Defensing like a boss. Kind of. I ended up losing the game, but not in 12 moves. Afterward White buttonholed me and pointed out all the mistakes I’d made, but also told me he’d played his favorite response to the French and I’d been the first to equalize against it, as a result of which he was giving up playing that line. I felt pretty good about that game even though I lost.

(Some years later the same guy apparently tried to seize the controls of a passenger aircraft and crash it into downtown Syracuse. I don’t think that was my fault, though.)

My second game was against someone who played like an idiot. Well, relatively speaking. Especially for a first board player. I made several blunders of my own due to being flummoxed by his blunders. In fact, at one point he could have checkmated me on that move, and neither of us noticed. In the end I won, and I felt pretty bad about that game.

(In the third round the three younger players played. They did okay. We didn’t come in last.)

Aside from that one game, most of my chess play was distinguished by weak opening play. I just didn’t have the determination to study and memorize opening books. And then I found a book that almost seemed to have been written for me: Baroque chess openings : or, How to play your betters at chess and on occasion win by Richard Wincor. The premise of this book is: If you don’t have all the standard lines of all the standard openings memorized, maybe you should play a non-standard opening your opponent probably doesn’t have memorized. If they do, you’re hosed: it’s a non-standard opening for the simple reason that it doesn’t work against someone who knows it. A grandmaster will know how to play against it and win. Then again, a grandmaster will win against you anyway.

Not that I made a lot of use of the book. After that school year I didn’t play a lot of chess. When I did, though, I liked to play the Dutch Stonewall Reversed or the Queen’s Indian as taught by Wincor. And I often wonder how I would have done against the County Junior Chess Champion had I bought and studied that book a couple years earlier. Probably still would’ve lost, but maybe not with the getting laughed at.

Marks the spot

Marks the spot

I found a survey disk I’d never seen before the other day.2015-10-13 16.54.34-2 It’s right out in the open in a place I’ve been before, so I’m surprised this was the first time I’d noticed it.2015-10-13 16.54.34-1Who knew the City of Syracuse did survey monument disks? I didn’t. Googling for a while didn’t turn up any information.

(I thought I had geolocation turned on but apparently not. I should go take new pictures sometime with it enabled. Anyway the disk is here.)


September is dead and I am not

September is dead and I am not

I managed to get through September with minimal amounts of being dead. It was, I think it’s fair to say, one of maybe the three crappiest months of my life. But not, by any objective standards, really that crappy, and hardly bad at all after the 20th. Monday’s noisy drive home convinced me September was going to go out with one last good ass-kicking but it turned out just to be the month having a little harmless joke.

And interspersed with the bad was the good. Right there at the top of the month was the Toronto Ale, which aside from the lost wallet and the overly long drive home was a lot of fun. More good morris at the end of the month with near perfect weather for the Saugerties Garlic Festival. The rocket launch was not the best I’ve ever had but it was pretty good. The lunar eclipse and such were cool.

Still, the month really needed a rousing goodbye party; fortunately I must have been prescient in August because I set the wheels figuratively in motion then. Literally in motion yesterday, westwards, to Rochester. I parked right in front of Bernunzio Uptown Music; unfortunately I hadn’t been able to leave work as early as I’d hoped and I got there mere minutes before closing, so I didn’t go in, just peeked in the windows. Then headed off to the Old Toad.2015-09-30 18.28.33Fish and chips, mushy peas, Fuller’s London Pride draught, served up by a waiter from England. Needed that. Followed up with Middle Ages Kilt Tilter cask, which is brewed in Syracuse so why go to Rochester for it, but hey, it was there.

Then back past Bernunzio to the Eastman Theatre for more of Great Britain.2015-09-30 21.20.56Specifically the Ukulele Orchestra thereof. I don’t get to many concerts these days but when I heard they were touring I knew I had to go, and they easily were worth the price of the ticket and the drive to Rochester. I had way too much fun.

I’m ready for October. Bring it!


The nut behind the wheel

On my drive home yesterday the Matrix started making noises — soft rubbing noises, later becoming loud screeching noises intermingled with what sounded like metallic clanking… and occasional bursts of relative silence. I looked underneath but couldn’t see anything amiss. My best guess was that it was a brake problem. It sounded pretty horrible but I decided to get the car home and deal with it today.

My usual mechanic is on the other side of the city so rather than try to drive there, or get it towed there, I took it to the nearest repair shop, a Midas about a half mile away.

The mechanic there told me it sounded so awful, he didn’t want to give it a road test. They put the car on the lift, pulled off the wheels, and couldn’t find anything wrong. Then they noticed a nut had come loose and was lying on the floor. Not that kind of nut. This kind of nut:2015-09-29 14.24.47
That was the culprit. It’d been jammed up inside one of the wheels; you can see where it was rubbing.

The guy said in 33 years in the business he’d never seen anything like it. They didn’t charge for the repair and I didn’t charge for the entertainment.

Meanwhile September is continuing to heal.2015-09-29 14.26.51

Two brew

Two brew

A friend mentioned Eastwood Brewing to me last week. I’d never been there. But it turns out my lawyer’s office is basically across the street, and I was there on Friday, so I stopped in and ordered a pint of their brown ale. Liked it, got a 64 oz. growler of it (which turned empty on Saturday when the BMM and Bouwerie Boys danced at the Saugerties Garlic Festival). They seemed pretty friendly there although I was less than comfortable with the pro-gun propaganda on the walls.

Yesterday was the official opening of Local 315 Brewing, a farm brewery on Warners Road. Being, as I said, in Saugerties that day I didn’t go, but today I did — got there in 15 minutes on my bike.

They have goats.2015-09-27 14.35.50 And a donkey.

It’s a small operation but bigger than I was expecting. A 10 barrel system, I think they said, and they had 13 beers on tap. A disconcertingly large number of them seemed to be beers for people who don’t like beer — ones with strawberry, blueberry, and strawberry rhubarb ingredients, and, seriously? a peppermint stout. Also a ginger cream ale, which will also annoy the “beer that tastes like beer” purists, but I’m less bothered by it — I’ve brewed a beer with ginger myself in my time.2015-09-27 14.03.32

I ordered a flight of four beers. The Lucky 13 Red was my least favorite of the lot — not bad, but kind of bland. Could use a stronger malt base. The aforementioned Ginger Cream Ale is something I’d probably like a pint of now and then, but maybe not a growler of it.2015-09-27 13.58.46

The Townie Session IPA was very nice, though. The one that surprised me most was the Breakfast Stout — I’m not generally a big stout drinker, but something about this one really appealed to me. Unfortunately they had only a small batch of it, apparently something they’re just trying out, so they weren’t selling growlers of it. So I put a growler of the Townie on my bike rack and headed home. Told them I’d be back when they’re filling growlers with the Breakfast Stout.2015-09-27 14.59.56

(Still awaiting Griffin Hill with bated breath, of course.)

Could be raining

So let’s see what we have here. On 1 September I found out what’s wrong with the Matrix would cost more to fix than the car’s worth. Later that week a bug bite turned into a huge blister that by early last week was showing signs of infection. In between I lost my wallet. Thursday last week I spent more than 13 hours getting to Newport News (by air), and on Sunday, well, divorce time arrived.

September, I am not impressed.

OK, bright sides. The Matrix is driveable. I don’t know if it’ll pass inspection but that’s not until April. Blister and infection are gone. No funny charges on the lost credit cards. Flight home from NN was fine. Divorce… okay, no real bright sides there, other than we’re trying to keep it civil and we’re getting it over with now and not waiting until Kenny’s in college or something, which is probably for the best.

I still have my job (knock wood), my health (knock knock), a working furnace (checked today), a great son, a fine morris team (Saugerties Garlic Festival and Binghamton Harvest Home Tour coming up pretty soon), a rocket club (met on Monday, launching this Saturday), a ukulele group (resumed meeting tonight after summer performances), friends, extended family, a pretty decent blog, a copy of Christopher Moore’s latest book which I really have to start reading yesterday… I have it a lot better than a lot of people do, which makes me more sad for them but less sad for me. Also the weather’s been pretty nice.

Of course, September’s only half over.



Some blog posts are easy. This one isn’t.

After 20 years, Heather and I are ending our marriage. Without going into details, I’ll just say there is no particular ill will here, no fighting and few tears, but we have changed, our relationship has changed, and it is time to move  on. For the moment we’re still in the same house, but Heather is looking to move out when it becomes feasible. Kenny will split his time between us as long as we live nearby one another. If Heather goes away to attend medical school, decisions will have to be made.

I hope those who are friends of both of us continue to be friends of both of us. Heather’s a good person and she’ll need her friends. As will I.


The International Adventures of the Binghamton Morris Men

The International Adventures of the Binghamton Morris Men

Friday evening by various means, the Binghamton Morris Men arrived at the Tranzac Club, 292 Brunswick Ave, Toronto, Ontario for the start of the 2015 Toronto Morris Ale.

The BMM side was kind of strange. We’d gotten an invitation to the ale but there wasn’t much favorable response when Ken asked about it, so it seemed we wouldn’t go and Ken made other plans. Then during the ATM Alex Naar pushed for going and got something like a side to commit, but drawn heavily on the away members; in the end we had seven BMM men there. And no women! Neither Roberta nor Maggie could go. But we had me, Peter Klosky, Tom Keays, Will Quale, and Devin Pierce all of whom could play music (though normally do not, for BMM); we also had Alex and Jim Moskin. Just before the ale Alex talked Jud MacIntyre into coming. He’s on Foggy Bottom, not BMM, but he borrowed a vest and danced as an eighth BMM for the weekend.

Other teams attending were Green Fiddle, Toronto Morris Men, Cold Barn, Orange Peel, Toronto Women’s Sword, Thames Valley International, Bassett Street Hounds, Rock Creek, and Dame’s Rocket.

Not a lot happens Friday evening at the Toronto Ale but we did get some pickup morris going, primarily BMM and Rock Creek people. We thought the TFMM would be doing that too, but no, they were in the front room singing… as was I once the dancing dissipated. I sang “Yangtze River Chantey” for the first time; they knew the chorus and it went well. Jud and I met up with our billeting host, Lynn Westerhout, and went off to sleep at her very nice house whose walls are covered with books, LPs, photos, and various string instruments — including a couple ukuleles, but she principally plays banjo.

Saturday morning Jud and I walked to the subway station, bought a day pass for two, and rode to Bloor and Spadina and walked from there to the Tranzac. We had some breakfast, and I went to change into my kit. At some point I discovered I couldn’t find my wallet. I thought I’d just mislaid it a few minutes earlier, but on further thought realized I had no conscious recollection of seeing it since buying ice cream the night before. I’m pretty sure I had it later, though, and my best guess is I left it at the subway station counter.

Anyway, I searched the club, Lynn’s house and car, and my bags; I asked at the subway station; it didn’t turn up. Before the tour I called Heather to ask her to call the credit card companies (she did, and all the cards were canceled before any new charges turned up) ,and Sunday morning I reported the wallet missing to the police. I did still have my passport, and my cell phone. Could have been worse.

Before departing the club, the BMM rehearsed a few dances not familiar to all present.

Touring Saturday was with TFMM and TVI and we started at the corner of Yonge and Gould. Did two dances each (I played one) in the sunny hot dancing spot, then tour leader Stefan decided to take us to an unscheduled pub stop at The Imperial Pub Aquarium Bar and Library Lounge. Yay Stefan. Then we danced again, two more, on Gould near Ryerson University; then official pub stop at Hair of the Dog; then massed dancing at Allen Gardens. Yep, five whole dances on that tour. Except we also did some dancing in the pub (where also we sang anthemic songs, and I pulled “Clementine” (to the tune of “God of Grace and God of Glory”) out of deep repertoire). Our show dance was Johnson the Butcher.

Dinner was back at the Tranzac, and it was good. Contradance followed. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to contradance, play in the pickup band, or do something else; some pickup morris on the street had been mentioned, but I don’t think it ever happened. Finally I gathered up instruments and joined the band. In back, away from the microphones, because I’m far from used to correlating chord names with shapes on the baritone ukulele I’d brought mainly for that purpose. When I decided I couldn’t cope with chords I switched to pennywhistle and when the melody was beyond me, hand drum. It was fun, and one of the few chances I’ll ever have to play in a contradance band with someone doubling on bassoon and theremin.

Then there was more singing, then the subway and walking back to Lynn’s.

Sunday after the police report we went to the Tranzac, had breakfast, ran through a few more dances, and went to dance on Bloor Street, closed off for many blocks just for us. Well, maybe not just for us. We pubbed at the Pauper, danced some more, pubbed some more. Got more than 4 dances in this time. Mainly in the shade. Us were BMM, TFMM, and Rock Creek. Which is possibly an even more fun tour than BMM, TFMM, TVI. At the second pub I was surprised to learn one of the Rock Creek women has a PhD in nuclear physics. Man. There could be a nuclear physicist right next to you and you wouldn’t know.

Show dances were, as has been the case for more than a decade and maybe more than two, at the pizza oven in Dufferin Grove Park; we did John Peel. No jokes about pizza peels or Orange Peel were made.

The two massed stands were unfortunately the only places we got to see the dancing of Toronto Women’s Sword — they did killer rapper on Saturday and a beautiful Papa Stour Sunday — and Dame’s Rocket, a women’s Northwest team from Brasstown, NC I’d not seen before, who also turned in great performances both days. Rock Creek did some of the best Cotswold I’ve seen recently. Great to tour with them.

BMM (minus Jud who went following singers) returned to the Pauper after the massed stand, and then went kitty corner across the intersection and danced across from outdoor diners who mostly ignored us, but we did five (six?) dances in four traditions, just the seven of us. Then back for dinner, gin and tonics, singing.

Monday morning Lynn dropped Jud off at the airport and me at John Mayberry’s house (where Peter stayed), and Peter and I headed back. Between a Labor Day parade, border delay, general holiday traffic, and needing to stop repeatedly to deal with a piece of Peter’s car that kept wanting to fall off, the trip home took close to seven hours, but I made it and presume Peter did too.

There’s a few pictures here.