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Flowers in Spring

Bethany Road is a suburban street near my home. The road has a large median strip. Every Spring Texas bluebonnets bloom there. North Texas lacks much in the way of mountains, and lacks an ocean altogether. But a small sea of wildflowers provides some consolation. All weekend I saw parents and children and cameras and bluebonnets on the Bethany Road median strip.

One of my favorite Spring flowers is also out--Blue-Eyed Grass. Today I walked under a bridge in Breckinridge Park and saw my first Cliff Swallows of the year. I love those little birds.

Tonight I played in my first "official" United States Chess Federation on-line tournament at chess.com. I play regular blitz chess at chess.com frequently. But I never played a rated on-line game. The tournament turned out to be very nice. I scored 3.5 out of 7 points. My first round game was my best. It was a draw because I ran out of time and my opponent lacked sufficient material for checkmate. My opponent was rated several hundred points higher than my chess.com rating. In my second round game, I blundered in a won position, but it was a fun blunder.

My chess.com rating rose from the high 1400s to 1512, so overall I played a little above my rating level,but only a little. But my USCF rating will be a new discovery, as the chess.com rating is not necessarily the only influence on my opponents--and hence, indirectly my own--rating.

I have a lot to do tomorrow.

I am going to aim for fewer dystopian novels.

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Kite and Raptor

I got a bit of work done this evening. I walked in Story Park in Allen. I took photos of a Blue Jay. Later, I walked in Brockdale Park. I noticed people kayaking on Lavon Lake. My blitz chess rating on chess.com rose to 1495. We watched an episode of Atlantic Crossing, which we enjoyed. Tomorrow I must remember to get gasoline.  While walking on the Cottonwood Creek Trail, we saw a kite flying high and a Swainson's Hawk in flight.
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No Prothonotary

This week someone posted a picture of a Prothonotary Warbler at the Heard Natural Science Center. They nest yearly there near the wetlands section of the Wood Duck Trail.  I drove there to see if I could see one. I had not been there since the pandemic began. I kept my mask on, as did many others.

I did see my first Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers of the year. This brings me up to 75 species in Collin County this year. I also walked a bit in Bethany Lakes Park. Most of the duck species beyond mallards were headed north already.  A man passed me with two dachhunds on leads. One had a little sign on its harness that say"Jack," while the other had a sign that said "Greta." I felt a little let down when next a father pulled a toddler on a plastic American Standard wagon without a name tag.

I shopped for bananas, apples and rice cakes at the Tom Thumb on Hedgecoxe.

I dropped off dry cleaning and picked up dry cleaning. I played some on-line chess, with wins and losses that in the overall sent my chess.com blitz rating to 1459. When I lost a few games in a row, I started using the King's Indian Attack That worked pretty well. I cannot say that the quality of my chess was stellar.

I watched GM Pia Cramling and he daughter Anna play a chess variant called "Hand and Brain."  The game is comprised of one team of two versus another. One team member is the "brain," who determines which piece to move  The other team member is then the "hand", who chooses the place to which the move is to be made.

I made it to the dry cleaners and dropped off and picked up. . We ate tri tip from Tri Tip Grill.  We  watched the documentary film  about David Foster,a complex man who produced a few artists whom I like quite well and a lot of artists whose sound is less to my taste. The part that struck me was his work with the band Chicago, in which he brought them to the top of the charts, but in the process took what was once an interesting experiment in mixing rock and cool jazz and turned it into elevator music. I liked that the documentary was blunt about the complexities of this fellow.

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classical Pirc

I got a lot done today. The predicted storm tonight may go to our southeast. We are watching the documentary about the Laurel Canyon music scene.

My decision to switch from bullet chess to blitz chess at chess.com continues to pay dividends. My rating has gone up to 1480.  I play a lot of the Stonewall Attack when I play white. This opening is easy-to-learn and use, and not that hard to play against. But I score a lot of points in that opening. Tonight my opponent played that opening against me when I had the black pieces. Though the game was nearly even, the other side lost 2 pawns in a stonewall v. stonewall ending, and I won. When I play the black pieces, I play the Dutch Stonewall (usually transposing there from a Semi-Slav). Against 1 e4 I play the Phiilidor or the Pirc. I find most of my opponents at this level do not play the sharp anti-Pirc lines like the Austrian Attack.

I ate a turkey plate from Dickey's BBQ for dinner.

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The Joy of Learning

I worked a busy day today. I spent part of the morning refreshing my memory on an interesting obscure point of law.

I walked in Salmon Park in Sachse at Noon. I saw Eastern Bluebird and Red-Shouldered Hawk.

I think I like skim milk string cheese better because I rarely eat cheese by itself at all.

I would like to find my scrapbook of my trip to London in 1980. I rarely keep a scrapbook of anything.

I like the way that I can win a blitz chess on chess.com, and then learn on the analysis recap function how many better moves I missed.

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Shawnee Park Hummingbird

I walked in Shawnee Park in Plano after a productive day of work. I saw my first hummingbird of the year. Sometimes I find it difficult to tell our two local species apart, as the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird male sometimes fails to have a colorful gorget in dim light. But today I was able to identify this one as a Black-Chinned Hummingbird without too much gray area. I have now counted 74 species in Collin County this year,

Last night I scanned photographs to allow the selection of one.

Ever since I stopped playing so many games of bullet chess, and focused on blitz chess, my rating has gone up. It's still not high--1457, which puts me in the 90th percentile among players at Chess.com. Tonight I won a game when my opponent accidentally got checkmated.

We watched Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Chicago PD. We ate leftover lamb with potato. The principal personal email I got today was a note from a specialist saying it was time to schedule a colonoscopy.

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Joy Bubbles

Sunday I started at Allen Station Park and walked from there to the Cottonwood Creek Trail and back.  I listened to an Easter sermon from a United Methodist Church podcast. The pastor drew the text from the Book of John, and focused on the "I am" statements. Then I listened to a sermon by Christopher Liberati of the United Methodist Church of Willoughby, Ohio called "Joy Bubbles of Serving."  This sermon was recorded closer to Christmas than to Easter, but it featured themes I liked: the glee of a non-neuro-typical child playing a living nativity angel, another living nativity story about a daughter reminding her mother of the importance of their nativity tradition, and a woman whose self-important travels to "save the poor" in Jamaica left her impressed with and humbled by the people she thought she was to save, I saw my first Lark Sparrow for Collin County this Spring.

Since I stopped playing bullet chess, my blitz chess radically improved. I won 9 games in a row, before deservedly losing one to a stronger player.  Today I got into a draw in one, and won another despite being outplayed part of the game. I have two USCF postal chess games going. In one I am about to lose a pawn. The other is early days but going all right. I have one 3-day chess going on chess.com. I thought I was in a drawn endgame, but now it looks like I am winning.

I re-watched part of "Almost Famous" on Sunday. Tonight I saw my first Collin County Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher of the year at Hoblitzelle Park.
Beatrice is more a senior dog than ever, but she likes her life.


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Christmas Chess in April

I watched a chess video from a recent Christmas, in which chess grandmaster Pia Cramling showed her daughter Anna a very nice win against a strong grandmaster at a Christmas tournament in Stockholm, years earlier. The win was an impressive one from a Taimonov Sicilian, in which an oncoming f4/g4 pawn storm was blunted by a timely use of h5 and by a decision by Ms. Cramling not to castle kingside. The combination of the daughter's red holiday attire, the mother calmly explaining a complex game to make it simple, and the vague soundtracking of Christmas hymns improbably had a holiday feeling despite the April time period.

I stuck with blitz (5-minute) chess for my own games, eschewing bullet (one minute a side) chess as I noticed that my computer's lag as well as my own contributed to my results. My blitz rating at chess.com rose back above 1400. My over-the-board rating is in the 1600s, after a decline from 1820. I remember when I was just out of university the Summer before law school with rating of 1797, at the top of the B rating class. My play was progressing very well, and I could see that I had a chance not only to reach the A rating class, but perhaps to reach Expert level.  But I realized how much work that would entail, and decided not to put in that work. I did return to chess and reach my A rating, though I did not stay at that level. During my walk, I wondered if the reason I do not tire of a game at which I am inexpert is because I have relatively little invested in it.

I watched a Twitch stream by super-GM Hikaru Nakamura, whose rating used to be in the top 5 and still is in the top 20.  It was impressive that he could cede material odds  (i.e., play a piece down from the outset of a game) against players and still win. 

I've been intrigued in my on-line chess how much success I have playing the Stonewall Attack with the white pieces. This rather simplistic opening, a reversed Dutch Defense, tends to be under-estimated. But I am very comfortable with the Dutch and Slav pawn formations and kingside attacks. Usually, in over-the-board tournaments, I play the Colle System much more often than the Stonewall Attack. But the Stonewall has served me well this year. Against King's Indian formations, I play something close to the Zukertort Colle System. I also play the Dutch Stonewall as black. Against 1 e4, I alternate widely  between the Pirc, the Philidor and the Scandinavian, though I do enjoy playing the Bird Defense to the Ruy Lopez and the Keene Variation of the King's Gambit Declined.

I went for a walk on the Mustang Trail in Allen, I saw fourteen species. I got good pictures of an Eastern Bluebird. I also walked for a bit on the Cottonwood Creek Trail South. My wife and I walked in Glendover Park. The weather was warm but the wind was present. Last year, April was a low count for the number of discrete species seen, as the pandemic caused me to visit very local buy little-used parks. They had good birds to see, but not the wider variety of the rural places or the Heard Science Center. Today marks two weeks since my first vaccination. In three weeks I get my second, and two weeks after that its effects should kick in. So perhaps I can be a bit more active in May.

I caught much of a Weight Watchers virtual meeting, which talked about mixing chores with pleasurable activity, though the nomenclature for each was more jargon-laced.

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Memories of a Face Re-Seen

I am pleased that the vaccine roll-out has proceeded overall in good shape. I hope that extra effort is made to reach those outside the digital divide, who lack good internet connections. I marvel, sometimes, at how many people rely on just a cell phone among those who are connected. I appreciate personal computers more than I appreciate my cell phone.

I like days like today, when many people will take the day off and wisely have a three day weekend. My phone will ring less at work, and I will get more done.

My brother took a photo of me (actually, an edit of a photo of he and I) at our cousin Dan's funeral, and applied photo effects to make it look a bit comics-ish. Although I look 60 rather than 20, I am struck by how much I look the same, for better and for worse.  I posted it on my Facebook profile; as silly as it seems, I enjoyed that people hit "like." I suffer from a strain of the common forms of vanity, despite trying my best not to do so. At least I know that people hit "like" not because of some quality in me or in the photo, but because I look like someone dozens of people knew,long ago.

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Mousy Delay

I started the novella We Shall Sing a Song Into the Deep by Andrew Kelly Stewart after I bought the ebook from Tor. I rarely fancy dystopian novels, but I do read them sometimes.

This past few weeks I played a lot of bullet chess. Today, though, the lag on my internet connection proved particularly unsatisfactory. It usually is pretty good,but today reminded me why I used to rarely play bullet time limits--I lose too many games based on a factor beyond my control. I probably do not help myself with my generic mouse which has no game for gaming. I am going to stick to slow games, like blitz chess.

A cool front rolled into town.  Work remains busy. I make progress on my to-do list.

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