A brief entry to share my good weekend with you.
But first, a news flash from the Philippines.
Dateline: Metro Manila ------ dee-de-dee-dit-dee-de-dit.
My sweetie wrote an email, asking if I missed her.
Then I received a letter in the mail from Elena Marie S. Auclair, the Philippines, written inside was the one word, in carefully drawn letters: "Papa" and a composition in crayon and pencil of some modern abstract artwork.
(pause here to wipe tears away with tissue paper)
Diane informs me that Isabel is now becoming quite the chatterbox, and, oh, joy! she sent some pictures, both of the girls, both being very cute: Elena Marie is hiding under a multicolored umbrella in her pastel dress; frollicking about in front of the flooded street, demanding that she not get wet. You all know how that turns out, don't you? (My little Elena Marie: the only girl I've observed who goes out of her way to splash through puddles.)
In the other picture Isabel is supposed to be lying down to take a nap with her elder sister. But, as she knows that her mother is about to snap off a photo, she is peeking out, gleefully checking to see if Diane has taken the shot yet. She did. I wonder if li'l Iz checked to see how cute-cute she looked in the photo.
----- Back to da USSR -- uh, I meant, U.S. America.
It was a dark and stormy weekend; cold and dreary ... and, being from New England, that meant it was totally perfect weather for me. Unfortunately, it apparently suited only myself and 35 or so others: I went to an Amway meeting/picnic in West Virginia, about 100 miles from home. Usually these gatherings have over 200 people, so Mike (Malovic), the sponsor, told me: "Well, only the hard-core faithful show up when the weather turns bad."
Bad? Bad? It was perfect weather: it honestly felt like the temperature dipped to the high 40s!
Perfect, that is, for playing chess!
insert here the Austin Powers, international man of mystery, montage of him and the Russian supermodel, Ivana Humphalat, doing the square off:
IH: "Do you know what we do in Russia to keep warm?"
AP: "I can make a pretty good guess..."
IH: "We play chess!"
AP: "I would've guessed wrong, then."
It's now a well-established tradition that I bring my chess board, set it up, and crush all comers. And they love it.
The first three games I played "little" Joey, who is now 17 years of age and towers above most of us at 6'4". Apparently he's been studying chess under a tutor.
- Game 1: Doug white; Joey black. He really should have won this game. In a bad exchange, I lost the bishop and knight for a knight and a pawn -- and didn't realize this until, in the midst of backpeddling, I looked up from the board to see the damage. But, he committed a blunder in the mid-to-endgame transition that had him a rook down in the exchange. Perhaps he was a bit too impetuous in his eagerness to close out his win.
- Game 2: Doug black; Joey white. Black is my colour -- it allows me to play the Sicilian (especially, the Dragon variation) defence, know as very fast, very aggressive defence to take with black. So, he also plays aggressive chess. Really the best counter to that attack is a really, really strong defence. So, when I saw him setting up a really strong attack I switched from the Dragon to a variation of the 'hedgehog': yes -- very tight, low, defensive position. The advantage of the hedgehog (pawns basically advance only once, not the faster two-space advance) is that it requires the opponent to play very carefully -- an all-out attack by the opponent creates a huge vacuum around his own defences and leaves his attacking pieces very vunerable.
Sadly for Joey, he marched right into my line at flank speed: all his pawns were pushed forward as far as possible, and, his queen was leading the charge. Well, I "opened" up my king to a check, and his queen did not avoid that temptation. When my bishop covered the king, threatening his queen in the process, his queen had nowhere to go: his pawns were blocking his retreat, and the only other option was to "exchange" his queen for a pawn or the bishop. It dissolved quickly into the endgame; which I was hopeless at before, but I managed to pull off a win anyway.
- Game 3: Doug black; Joey white -- we played one more, but I think he was tired, and unaccustomed to my style of play, for he folded under my attack without much fuss. He remarked a couple of times that I played a defensive game: I guess he was used to playing against other players who played aggressively. Papa, would you have ever thought it possible that someone would call my play "defensive"?
Joey also remarked that he would've liked to play against me with the clock, saying that the really stong players can play fast games well. I agree with him: I played slower because I'm not a very good player. I need that extra time to think through and to see the moves and countermoves that other players, better players, would see right away.
The next three games were played against my usual opponent, Stacy (sp?). I give him my knights in handicap, and it is a continual source of amazement to him that I beat him (and that I review the game move-by-move from memory). Nothing much to report from these games:
- He did win the first game because, playing at such a handicap, one must play very aggressively to overcome the disadvantage: in my haste I left my queen unprotected, which he took with his queen, checking me. I resigned right there.
Stacy: "No, man, make a move!"
Me: "That [the resignation (I tipped my king)] is the only move possible."
- The second game, he set up the "mate in four" trap which I ignored, but playing reasonably, one can work one's way out of that trap. Easy win.
- The third game, the party was winding down, and Pinky watched the final moves.
Stacy: "Only two moves to [my] mate"
Pinky: "Know what they are?"
Pinky: "Then play them."
We all laughed at that. But Stacy did rally, checking me a few times and then wiggling his king out of immediate mate to prolong the game for another 10 moves or so. Good play there for Stacy. He made the win sweet; so, when I put my head into my hands, Pinky thought it was a reversal and started to console me.
During our games, Michael (Edmonson) (yes, there are three people in this email whose given name is 'Michael' ... popular name, that) approached and warned my opponent about me. He thought for a moment and then said: "I should have you play my brother; he thinks he's all that in chess." When I informed Michael that I wasn't very good at chess, he spewed out his beverage in his laughter.
But it's true: chess is such a dynamic, demanding game! One can build up a strong, solid win and blunder it away in an instant. Influence of a move echos all over the board in the strangest of ways. Computers can now assist in analyzing games, but even Deep Blue shouldn't have won most of its games against Kasparov -- chess is still mysterious enough to defy plodding analysis. Mike (Wuerthele) watching that very thing happen in one of my games against Papa, exclaimed: "Well, Doug, you just managed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory!" My game is Go (http://www.usgo.org/index.asp), but this not being Korea, it's not easy to find opponents here.
By that time, only Stacy's family and I were there with Mike and Pinky to clean up, so we all had a little time, some special time, to be together. I'm sorry so many others missed this opportunity; and I'm glad I got some time to be with people I admire.
Sunday, after the round trip to and from West Virginia, I was going to work at the office, but my engine wasn't turning over, so there was nothing for it than to kick start it with Dance-Dance Revolution.
Three solid hours of Dance-Dance Revolution.
Three solid hours of Dance-Dance Revolution on the hard setting.
um ... ouch. My legs are still feeling it, even now, but it was very good, 'cause I finally completed those two songs that I haven't been able to touch (ya know that one, Mike, that sounds like a heart-monitor that you "love" so much. One time, Mike was over, working on the computers as I was dancing that song, "Healing Vision: Angelic Remix" (see http://www.cotilliongroup.com/code/ddr-song-sep.html): he stormed out of the office and demanded, "What the h*ll is that cr*p?" Yeah, he "loves" that song.)
I only have one song, DXY! by TaQ (the song I scornfully dismissed as a "jumping jack" song in my review), that I've only so far managed to work two-thirds of the way through, but, now that I've completed all the other songs, some of which I was very sure I'd never become skillful enough to complete, I now know that it's just a matter of time: I'll become better, and this song shall fall, too.
Then, Mass at St. Anthony's, and then supper at "Cafe Saigon" (surprisingly, a very good /Cantonese/ place). And then I received Diane's email with photos that I mentioned above. Excuse me; I've got to go now and look for my hanky.
But not before one more family Chautauqua (http://www.virtualschool.edu/mon/Quality/PirsigZen/part1.html): when I'm available, meaning, when I'm not at work, or when I'm not in a dead sleep having returned from work, Diane and I talk on the phone 9:30ish in the (Philippine) morning (9:30 pm here).
What I love about Diane (yes, of course I love everything about Diane, that's tautological, now, isn't it) is her absolute joy in the moment: she's having a great time in the Philippines, visiting her friends, taking Elena Marie to Ballet and art class, playing badminton with Papa, and, when I'm talking with her, she's having a great time relating stories to me of the goings-on there, she's enjoying playing with the kids, and she's loving missing me, scolding me for not eating enough (I /AM/ eating enough, thank you very much, it's just that most people eat too much, so I suffer in the comparison), and putting the kids on the phone to talk with "Pahhhhpaaahhh!"
Isabel is supposedly talking more, but on the phone with me, when she hears my voice, she only has one word, whispered reverentially: "Paaahhhhpaaaaaa".
Diane: "Say 'Papu' [an affectionate term for 'grandfather']"
Li'l Iz: "Paaaaaahhhhhpaaaaahhh"
Diane: "Say 'hello' to Papa"
Li'l Iz: "Paaaaaaaappaaaaahhhh"
Diane: "Say 'goodbye' to Papa na, and give me the phone"
Li'l Iz, having nothing of that at all, whining: "Papa?"
When Diane finally pries the phone away from the tyke, the fallout is rather voluminous, and, I don't need to add, rather heartbreaking for someone in the New World.
It appears that Elena Marie is also missing her Papa. The night before I was leaving the Philippines, I was in the communal bedroom, and was going to excuse myself to get some water.
Elena Marie: "Papa, don't leave."
Me: "Sweetie, I'm just going to get some water; I'll be right back."
Diane then explained to me that Elena Marie meant that she didn't want me to leave tomorrow for the States.
So, when I was talking with the kiddo on the phone, the following transpired.
Elena Marie: "Papa, when are you coming back?"
Me: "It's now the end of August, Elena Marie, and I'll be back September 15th. Ask Mama to show you September 15th on the calendar, okay?
EM: "Okay. ... Papa, you come back now, okay?"
Um, yes, well, there is that.
*sigh* How many days, again, until September 15th ... that is, besides an eternity?