Monthly Archives: September 2012

Chess Again

In my previous post I wrote about having a chess dream last night, and how I love chess’s material culture. Then this afternoon I ran across an article on grantland.com by Dave McKenna about a recent chess cheating scandal in Virginia (here is the link: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8362701/the-evolution-cheating-chess). First off, regarding the scandal, in which a player used a computer that was supposedly just for keeping score to access a program that fed him moves, there is no reason that amateur players who do not have some form of physical disability that makes it difficult/impossible for them to write by hand should be allowed to use electronic scorekeeping devices rather than paper scoresheets. Secondly, what an odd coincidence that grantland.com should happen to publish its first ever article about chess on a day that I was already thinking about the game. I’ve written here before about how every once in a while I will encounter a subject or personage several times within a very short period of time, and this feels like the same kind of thing going on. Weird.

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Missing Chess

I had a vivid dream about playing in a chess tournament last night. I haven’t played in a tournament in nearly two years, which was the last time I even played a game. My life is much too busy these days to go back to playing chess because of the all-encompassing nature of my professional life, as being an academic is a 24/7 kind of job. When I am reading for fun I can always put the book down, and when I am watching sports I can always turn the television off, but chess is a hobby that quickly becomes an obsession and also fights for one’s attention all the time.

However,  I do go through phases where I miss the game keenly. Sometimes I’ll find myself playing through a few moves in my head, but what I really miss is the material culture of the game. There is, of course, the rich print culture surrounding the game, which I am especially drawn to as a bibliophile. There is also the game equipment itself. I love being at a tournament and seeing the variety of sets, boards, and clocks in use. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it also serves as an archeological history of the chess community because well-made sets last for decades, and the basic equipment never changes, so it’s not necessary to buy replacements unless one is a collector like me. I still have my first chess clock, a basic BHB analog from the mid-1990s that is still in perfect working order. I have a digital clock now, too, that I use for tournaments, but it is merely functional rather than beautiful. I also love wooden sets, and have three sets of wooden pieces and one wooden board along with two high quality folding cardboard boards, which are much nicer than the more common vinyl roll-up boards. Wooden pieces make the game more regal; one can be losing terribly and be reminded by the wooden pieces that it is still a beautiful game. Likewise, a win with a cheap plastic set, though ultimately satisfying, feels a little tawdry, too.

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Filed under Literature, Miscellaneous, Sports

Books Acquired Recently

Smith, P.D. City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age. London: Bloomsbury, 2012.

I love cities! I am interested in how they are planned, how they function, and how they shape their inhabitants. I have recently begun to integrate this amateur interest into my literary scholarship, focusing on works/writers that are somehow urban. So when I heard about Smith’s book I decided it would provide me with some helpful background knowledge for this new interest.

Bought on amazon.com.

Smith, Zadie. NW. New York: Penguin, 2012.

I love Smith’s fiction, especially White Teeth and The Autograph Man, thus her new novel was a must-buy. My local bookstore, The King’s English, happened to be having a 35%-off sale yesterday, so it was a perfect time to pick NW up even though I won’t have time to read it for at least a month.

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Shaking the Rust Off

I haven’t written anything other than emails and lesson outlines in almost a week. The new semester is kicking my butt! I need to find a way to budget time into my schedule for writing so that I don’t get too out of practice and lose my edge. Luckily, today is the first meeting of a faculty writing group on campus, which should help me keep on task. There’s nothing like potential failure in front of your peers for motivation!

Anyway, the week has been an interesting one even though I haven’t had time to write about it here. I had good discussions with my classes about George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Amiri Baraka’s work (Dutchman and some poems), and read Stephen Beachy’s novel Distortion. It’s not as good as his latest novel Boneyard, but it was still enjoyable and even beautiful at times. Every time I saw the cover, I thought of the South Park episode with The Cure’s Robert Smith where Stan yells at the end that “Distortion is the best album ever!” Then I realized that I was misremembering the album title, which is actually Disintegration. Ah, well. The other significant event this week was that I got a new office computer with a HUGE monitor. It is burning my eyes out as I type. But it’s much faster than the old one, which is exciting.

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An Odd Typewriter: Mystery Solved!

Last month I wrote a post about an old typewriter that I found in a vintage shop which did not have a 1: https://danielshankcruz.com/2012/08/11/an-odd-typewriter/.

It looks like there is room for a 1, but it is not there. The lowercase L does double duty.

Yesterday I was talking with an older friend who learned to type on a similar model that also did not have a 1. She said that she was taught to use the lowercase L (l) in place of the 1. This makes sense in that the 1 and the l in Courier, the most common typewriter font, are virtually identical. Therefore, the basic mystery is solved.

But the omission of the 1 still does not make sense to me. There is room on the keyboard for a 1, and another symbol could be added to the keyboard via the shift function if this extra key was added. Excluding the 1 because the l was already there feels like efficiency for efficiency’s sake, not practicality’s sake. I wonder when this practice of excluding the 1 discontinued–was it with the advent of electric typewriters, or before? Had qwerty keyboards always excluded the 1, or was it some sort of mid-century “innovation”? Questions remain.

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Manchester United: Exciting But Inconsistent

Manchester United’s 3-2 victory over Southampton today was thrilling, but also troubling for United fans. New acquisition Robin van Persie showed his brilliance with a hat trick–including two goals in the last five minutes of the match–to give the Red Devils the three points. But on the whole United looked flat, creating few scoring chances and looking comical in the back at times. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have yet to find their rhythm together this season (a situation that was not helped by the switch of Anders Lindegaard for David De Gea in goal), and the midfield has been different each match of the young campaign. This is often a vexing problem for United: with so many quality players in the squad, it takes time for Sir Alex Ferguson to decide on a consistent first team.

It was clear today that United missed the injured Wayne Rooney. Not only did van Persie miss the penalty that Rooney normally would have taken (this is not to say that van Persie is an inexperienced penalty taker or that Rooney is flawless from the spot, as he has had some high-profile misses in recent seasons, but it was clear that van Persie was suffering from nerves at the prospect of taking his first United penalty in such a crucial spot), but the link between the midfield and the strikers was lacking, as both van Persie and Danny Welbeck prefer to be target men, whereas Rooney does a better job of performing a hybridized midfielder/striker role. Welbeck tried to do this in the first half, but one could tell that he was out of his comfort zone. Kudos to van Persie for rebounding from his penalty miss to lift the side to victory, but the team as a whole must get better, must get more consistent to have a chance at winning the league.

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