Vienna

I spent almost 2 weeks in Vienna, Austria in November, visiting the Schroedinger Institute. The work environment was excellent (maybe the blackboards on the toilet walls were overkill) and the city is really impressive – no wonder it ranks so highly in the standard international quality of life surveys. In addition to the ease of getting around by foot, tram or U-bahn, and the high quality music (I went to 3 operas, a highlight being a 3 euro Stehplatz L’Elisir d’Amore experience at the Staatsoper), both of which I expected, the well priced and varied restaurants and cafes, and the cosmopolitan feeling were a nice surprise and different from what I remember from 25 years ago. I highly recommend a visit to Vienna!

Otello

I saw a concert version of this tonight with Simon O’Neill in the title role. While the plot is quite weird and distasteful in places, the orchestra and singing were excellent. I saw Simon O’Neill in 1997 (I think) in a small role in the play Master Class in Auckland. He has certainly gone up in the world!

Rare events

Yesterday was an unusually busy day, but different from most unusually busy days of the last 15 years, because it was mostly fun. I took my younger son to the opening game of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup (NZ vs Ukraine). Despite obvious inadequacies in the logistical planning at the venue, it was a great occasion. Soon after making it home by bus, I went with my wife to NZ Opera’s production of La Cenerentola. Having not been together to such an event for 15 years, we enjoyed it thoroughly.

A vain attempt to recapture lost youth

At short notice I decided to enter the 2015 NZ Rapid Chess Championship, lured by the location and presence of foreign grandmasters. My first competitive games for over 27 years were a very mixed bag, as might be expected. I had problems playing at that speed (approximately 30 minutes per game per player). I ran out of energy on the second day, and the last game was one of the worst I have ever played. But there were enough positives to allow me not to rule out a repeat. It was strange to be playing sub-teenagers and realizing that I look really, really, old to them.

Results can be found here.

The lecturer

This may not be the final form, but I will post it now so as not to forget.

To the tune of “Killing me softly”

I heard he gave a good talk
I heard he had some style
And so I went to see him
To listen for a while

And there he was this (youngish) man
No stranger to my eyes

Numbing my brain with his figures
Straining my eyes with his slides
Driving me crazy with errors
Killing me slowly, with his talk, …

I couldn’t reach the aisle
Surrounded by the crowd
Seemed like he’d brought his paper
And read each word out loud

I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on

[chorus]

I tried to get attention
I tried an icy stare
But he just looked right through me
As if I wasn’t there

And he just kept on talking
Barely audibly

[chorus]

East Coast humour

Late last year I had a trip to Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey. A few humorous things I saw there:

Newspaper headline: State police forces shrink ( to do what? )

Congratulations Albert Greenfield school for making adequate yearly progress

Welcome to Philadelphia – Mayor Mike Nutter

Chess and Computers

Garry Kasparov’s book review is a lot more interesting than the book probably is. A lot of really interesting anecdotes from one of the greatest chessplayers ever (perhaps the greatest). I remember following his first match with Karpov via the newspapers while at high school. Now my¬† local paper doesn’t cover any sort of chess news, and doesn’t even have a recreational column. I must try to do something about that sometime.