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Purple Velvet

We enjoyed having our 16-year-old niece visit us Thursday through Sunday. We went to Brio, an Italian place in Allen.  We ate a purple velvet cake my wife and my niece baked.  My niece watched Youtube personalities on television with whom I was unfamiliar. We rented the movie Cruella, which we enjoyed very well. I am delighted that our niece is a good person.

My on-line blitz rating hit 1500. I decided today to have two chess goals: to get my on-line blitz rating above 1600 and to get my over-the-board rating back over 1800. I played a lot of casual games for several hours on Thursday, while my niece watched a television program I rarely see. I lost more games than I won.

I attended the local Audubon Society meeting tonight via Zoom, where the speaker discussed the Breeding Bird survey. I resolved to learn  more about Peregrine Falcons after hearing the identification part of the meeting.

A huge and disturbing storm is forecast for tonight.

I walked in our park. Two nice neighbors stopped to speak with me. Each asked if I had taken a picture of the sunset. I had not, but I saw the sunset.

My weight at WW has been the exact same weight for 3 straight weeks. I usually fluctuate a good bit.

Jupiter and Venus are bright in the evening sky.

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2.5 and looking forward

Saturday I scored 2.5/5 in an open on-line blitz chess tournament, though my play probably deserved a 1.0 out of 5. My on-line blitz rating prior to this tournament stood at 1481. This latest result promises to push it over 1500, if my calculations prove correct.  I thought about playing in tonight's 3/2 blitz tournament, but decided to read and catch up on other things instead.

Tomorrow our niece comes for her annual visit. We missed her during the pandemic year. We look forward to her arrival. She turns 16 this week. I find that hard to believe.

I still watch petfinder.com as I want us to adopt a new dog soon. But the meaning of "soon" varies and lacks easy definition.

Work keeps me busy now. I walk each day at Noon. Today I walked in Salmon Park. I took pictures of a migrating Monarch butterfly. This year migration anecdotally feels pleasingly heavy.  The local Audubon Society resumes monthly bird walks at Lake Tawakoni on Saturday. But I prefer to spend the time with our niece.

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Play fast

I played too many bullet chess games last night. I walked in Schell Park in Plano after work. Rain fell last night. I overslept today, which rarely happens. I spent time on the phone about a utility bill I did not receive. We are watching the new television series "Ghosts." I easily became accustomed to drive-through window life.
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No Warbler, No Cry

I am on my annual Fall Migration walking pattern--many walks, few warblers.  Saturday night we got together with our friends Greg and Melissa, who live in Tulsa. We ate at Gloria's in Fairview. We had a good prolonged visit after dinner.

Sunday I walked on a cloudy day at Brockdale Park at Lake Lavon. I saw a first-of-season Savannah Sparrow.  I also walked the south end of the Watters Creek Trail.

Tonight I walked in Allen Station Park. I saw a first-of-season Chipping Sparrow. My Winter sparrow friends are coming home.

Lately I browse Petfinder.


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New Hotel, Same Jazz

Saturday I attended a new WW meeting in McKinney in a Sheraton. I had not been to that Sheraton. Its location in a somewhat freeway-adjacent spot near Collin College led me to low expectations for the facility. But it turned out to be a nice hotel. I was down two pounds. The meeting was well-attended, though less socially distanced than I prefer. Mask use was fairly strong but not universal.

After the meeting I drove to Princeton and walked the trails at J.M. Caldwell Park. Then I went to East Fork Park on Lavon Lake. East Fork Park has a lot of little-used concrete picnic tables under shelters and a camping area on the lake. It rarely gets much traffic after the Summer is over.
I walked around the park while listening to the Arkansas versus Georgia football game on headphones on a radio application. The game turned out poorly for Arkansas, though perhaps thankfully so poorly that one was able to avoid "what if" thinking. I saw a Belted Kingfisher, a Double-Crested Cormorant, a Snowy Egret, some Great Blue Herons and several other bird species.

Saturday afternoon I did some work. On the way home, I walked in Bob Woodruff Park. I saw a Differential Grasshopper that I mis-identified via iNaturalist.org.

In the evening my wife brought home a kind of tandoori wrap from a local place that was very good.

Today I am up early to go to the dentist's office. I must also remember to get my car inspected, as I let the time for inspection sneak up and early past me.

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DL suspension and blocking the chain

Tonight I finished my mandatory continuing legal education for this year by watching an interesting video about helping people with suspended licenses get their licenses back. It was a good practical seminar, with some thought-provoking points about a system of fines and license suspensions that arguably can make poverty a penal offense.

Yesterday I listened to a seminar about the intersection of law and blockchains. That seminar and the one tonight helped illustrate the great divide in our culture.

I walked tonight in Bethany Lakes Park. A Green Heron eyed me with misgivings.

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A Trip to Oklahoma City

Saturday we drove to Oklahoma City for a long weekend trip. We set the map app  to the National Cowboy Museum. We got there at about 2 p.m.  It had been about 3 or 4 decades since I had been to that museum. The look and feel of the place was much as I remembered it. The displays point out the myth v. reality aspect of the American West, but time has perhaps sharpened the contrast.  As at almost any museum in our  region, there was a Bierstadt landscape that was simultaneously lovely and completely unlike anything west of the Mississippi.

The special exhibit at the museum was an exhibition of New Mexico artists, with a special focus on the Taos artists of the early to mid 20th Century. I like this exhibit very well. As I walked through the museum, I kept tabs on the Arkansas Razorbacks team, which was defeating Texas A & M in an upset.

After we finished at the museum, we went and checked into our hotel, the Colcord downtown. The Colcord dates back to 1909 and has been restored beautifully. We checked in and went to dinner outdoors in front of the hotel at Flint, a fine restaurant. We sat and watched streetcars go by, as well as cars and motorcycles which utilized custom mufflers to make special vrrooommmm sounds.

Prior to dinner, we saw a couple walking across the street to their wedding reception. The bride was wearing a lovely dress that was like a cross between a fashionable dress and a wedding gown. The groom wore a nice suit with a cool western hat.

Sunday morning I got up fairly early and walked in the Myriad Botanical Garden across the street from the hotel. The garden is about 17 acres in size. The skies were full of Blue Jays and migrating Monarch butterflies. I liked the flowers. I took pictures of butterflies and Blue Dasher dragonflies.

When we waited at the hotel for our car, the just-married couple stood in silence and awaited their car. I would have told them how their wedding garden was full of butterflies the morning after their wedding, but their silence seemed serene so I stayed silent.

We drove to Martin Park Nature Center, and walked in the cross timbers there among Live Oaks and the park pond. I almost stepped on a harmless Rough Green Snake. I would hate it if I hurt it. Huge catfish and carp swam in the creek. American Robins searched for worms in a clearing.

We set our sights on a new museum, the First Americans Museum. This museum honors the 39 native American tribes that constitute Oklahoma. The museum was really great. One of the initial exhibits we saw was a computer-generated animation which told origin myths from different groups. Another display focused on Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act. The exhibits were a kind of antidote to the mythic west in the cowboy museum. We got a chance to eat at Thirty Nine, the museum cafe which featured native American cuisine which was more varied than, say, frybread. I had a great pork and hominy stew that was hearty and yet not heavy. The only mistake I made was buying a baseball cap too small for my head. My wife now has a new museum baseball cap.

Sunday evening we went to Scissortail Park. This new downtown-adjacent park has open spaces, places to stretch a blanket, rental kayaks and pedal boats, an outdoor water park, a huge scissortail statue on a bridge and other things. We liked this park. Another day, we would have rented kayaks. But that evening we enjoyed just walking the park. I had seen that park develop via its Instagram account. I enjoyed getting to see it again in person.

We ate again at Flint, as we were too tired to do much else. I enjoyed our Oklahoma City visit. During my childhood, we visited a few times. I remembered more of it than I expected.

Monday morning we walked in the Myriad garden again.  We saw dozens of huge boxes of pumpkins about to be used to create a pumpkinville exhibit in the children's garden.

Then we drove back home. We stopped midway home at Turner Falls Park in Oklahoma, which my wife had not seen. This city park has a waterfall and is  set in the rocky Arbuckle Mountains, which are small and ancient rough-hewn mountains/hills. A huge turtle swam in the swimming area.

Tuesday and Wednesday I went back to work. Tuesday evening I walked in Crowley Park. Wednesday evening I walked in Glendover Park.

Wednesday night, tonight, I played in a USCF on-line blitz chess tournament. Lately I have been reading Eric Briffoz's "The Hippo System," which lays out a mildly unorthodox chess opening system. I used that system in all 7 of my games tonight. I finished in second place in the tournament, with 4 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss. I enjoyed myself as well, though I wish I had not lost the loss and had won one of the draws.

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and one bye

Last night I took a walk in our neighborhood. The neighborhood next to ours, built by the same builder, bears the name Avondale. Avondale uses a small lot size format. I noticed for the first time a house that was more up than out,  I found it an interesting study in verticality, if verticality is the word.

At 7 p.m. I went to chess.com and signed up for the US Chess Federation rated blitz chess tournament. This tournament used a time control of 3/2, i.e. each player started with 3 minutes on that player's clock, but the player got 2 additional seconds for each move. Though most of the time a player has less time this way than in a 5/0 game, the 2 second "delay" means that a player behind on time can stay in the game, so long as that player can make each move within 2 seconds.

Recently, my on-line blitz rating rose significantly. I won a tournament for players with ratings under 1450 with score of 7 wins and 0 losses. This moved my rating up higher than I expected, to 1590. A subsequent second place in a tournament with a score of 5 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw brought it down 10 points.

Last night I entered the tournament open to all strengths rather than the one limited to players rated under 1450. I had a fairly low score: 2 wins, 4 losses and 1 bye.  My first round game, against a stronger player, encountered a technical difficulty when I had to sign in again and lost nearly half my time before my first move. My play did not compensate for the time issue. In the second round, I won a nice game with black playing a triangle Slav that transposed into a Dutch Stonewall.  In the last 4 games, I won one against a weaker player who dropped a queen, but was handily beaten by two stronger players and one player of about my strength.  I was overall still pleased with the tournament, as sometimes I need to play stronger competition in order to learn.

I listened to an interesting legal education seminar about the inferior courts in Texas, the justice and municipal courts. Yesterday I also attended a matter out-of-state via a service called Courtconnect, based on Microsoft Teams. The new laptop has already gotten heavy use as a video conference device. I ran the updates to keep it current.

We watched Chicago Med and Chicago Fire last night. We recorded Chicago PD but did not watch it yet. The milkweed plants in our backyard have hosted a small bumper crop of Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Those caterpillars are eager eaters.

I am now listening to a podcast discussion of the constitutionality of vaccine laws.

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Mild Chill

A mild cold front brought Autumn-like less-warm temperatures. I walked in Glendover Park this morning. I saw the usual suspects: Blue Jays, a Northern Cardinal, a Carolina Chickadee, a House Finch, several Starlings, a Northern Mockingbird, an Eastern Phoebe, and an American Crow. I also saw an Asian Collared Dove, which I see less often this in this park.

Last night I drew a simple sketch of an aquarium using Tuxpaint. I draw only well enough and just well enough that the viewer can determine what it is I am drawing. A social media friend is posting pictures of Dungeness, which looks wind-swept and lovely. My landscape in north Texas can be windswept, and can be lovely, but it is a different thing.

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refurbs and systems

The HP laptop I got refurbished on eBay for 70 dollars proved its worth. I use it for on-line calls and conferences. I believe this is the first time I have installed mainline Gnome Ubuntu other than in a virtual machine, as I generally prefer lightweight desktops. But it has served well already for me this week.

Our backyard milkweek now has lots of caterpillars. I love Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars.  I got in the mail order two books about unorthodox chess openings, One book, the Howe opening, is a bit more DIY. The other book, about the Hippo System, has a slightly less DIY feel. The Hippopotamus seems like a fairly good fit for me.

I drew a picture of a fish using Tuxpaint. I am watching the television show "New Amsterdam".  This is nearly 7 years I have gotten out of the Lenovo M58 desktop computer I first bought used in 2014.

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