Friday, 31 December 2010

Chess and the Brain

I've been playing in the Hastings Christmas Morning and Christmas Afternoon chess tournaments over the last four days, and managed to score 1.5 in each (i.e. one win, one draw and two losses). No prizes for that, but I'm in it just for the practice, since I haven't played orthodox chess for many years.

I'm also entered in the Weekend Congress, and the New Year tournament next week. This is probably too much really. I'm already quite tired. The draws which both went to over 60 moves were particularly wearing. At the end of my last game this afternoon, which I was fortunate to win, I think we were both punch drunk; I'm sure a lot of the moves will make little sense when seen in the light of day.

There was an interesting item on the Today programme yesterday (I think) where it was claimed that Liberals have a developed "Anterior Cingulate(?) Cortex" in the brain, while Conservatives have a stronger "Amigdala(?)" (a primitive, reptilian, part of the brain). It was questioned whether this was from birth or whether the brain differences developed due to experience. I'm hoping my chess exercise will help stop my brain from subsiding into Alzheimers, as it seems to me to show signs of doing.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

John Wyndham recalled

There was a programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning about John Wyndham, the science fiction writer. I meant to listen to it but as usual got engrossed in something else and forgot. But fortunately it is now possible of course to use Listen Again.

He was a writer I grew up with in the 1950s, and I read all his books, probably from the Public Library, and have returned to them from time to time, and picked up second-hand paperback copies a few years ago, when I joined the Leicester Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror group, and compiled my Guide to Fantasy Authors and Tales (which I must update some time).

I've always been fascinated by his full name which was John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris, as if he was named after a team of some kind! He used various different combinations of these names for his fiction. His "John Wyndham" style matured after his experiences during the second world war.

In the programme it was mentioned that he called his novels and short stories "Logical fantasies". It seems he was an atheist, since he intended to leave the rights in his royalties to two daughters of a friend or relative, but changed his will when one of them went into a convent as a nun. He also lived in London at something called the Quaker Pen Club, which I'd not heard of before.

I must read The Chrysalids. I seem to have missed that one.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

My Chequered Career

I've been considerably expanding the pages of My Chequered Career in the Chess Problem section of my website. This is intended to provide a record of my chess problem compositions and the ideas they illustrate. Besides well known pieces like Grasshopper, Nightrider, Leo and Mao, the additional pages also include the other bifurcating hoppers Eagle and Sparrow, and the Clockwork Mouse, as well as variants like Antipodean Chess and Arrow Chess. There are still a lot of compositions to be added. I was hoping this exercise might stimulate me to do some more composing eventually.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Trading Standards

I bought a bag of assorted biscuits on Saturday, which had an illustration of chocolate chip cookies and bourbon creams on the cover as well as plainer types. When I opened it however the only chocolate biscuits in it were a few fingers. Almost all the contents was shortcake. There is a disclaimer on the back that says "the assortment may vary ... due to product availability", which must be of dubious legality. The trader was unwilling to give me my £1.49 back and advised me to contact the manufacturers, a company in Rochdale. So I have sent an email to the Tradings Standards office in Eastbourne. The money of course is not important, but there must be a lot of people buying biscuit assortments at this time of year, so there must be quite a bit of profit to be made from such a cheap scam.

Also on the shopping front I've been looking for a waterproof or showerproof jacket, but why are they all so dull? There used to be a road-safety slogan: "Wear something light at night" and white jackets were readily obtainable. Now there is nothing. Maybe depression is the fashionable image, to match the weather and the financial climate.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Winter Gardens

This is a photo I took yesterday of Warrior Square Gardens looking out towards the sea and the statue of Queen Victoria. A contrast of tropical plants and arctic weather. The sky was very dull and overcast, but we only got a small further dusting of snow.

I put on my Polish snow boots and ventured out to the nearest Spar store to get some milk for the weekend. They only had a small supply and were out of bread, apart from some "petit pain" apparently baked in the store; no delivery lorries making it down the A21, and I don't think there were any papers, though I wasn't looking for any.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Archiving Websites

I've received requests from the British Library to allow my Knight's Tour Notes and Mayhematics websites to be "archived". I think this is a result of requests sent to them by John Beasley with regard to the archiving of the Chess Variants material and the BCVS site.

The address of the archive is: I've received emails acknowledging receipt of the online forms that I filled in, but I expect it will be some time before the sites actually appear in the archive. I took the precaution of removing some of the illustrations from the Biographies section of the Mayhematics site, in case they do not meet the copyright requirements.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Five-Directional Knight's Tour Problem

It's over a month since I posted a message on this Diary, but since I seem to be the only person to whom it is of any interest that probably won't have been noticed.

The most interesting occurrence of the past month was that one of my correspondents. Harold Cataquet, sent me details of a new knight's tour discovery by Jonathan Welton from Crowthorne, Berks. This can be presented in the form of a puzzle:

To construct a closed knight's tour of the standard chessboard that uses moves in exactly five of the eight possible knight-move directions.

There is just one solution, apart from rotations and reflections. I was able to confirm this by trying to construct a tour. It required only one page of workings on a sheet of squared paper, and involved 21 diagrams though this is far more than is really necessary. I won't publish the answer here, since Mr Welton will probably want it to appear somewhere in print first.

However here is an open-tour solution that I found, starting and finishing on adjacent cells.

17 32 21 28 47 52 45 50
20 29 18 15 22 49 26 53
33 16 31 48 27 46 51 44
30 19 34 23 14 43 54 25
09 38 13 42 55 24 59 04
12 35 10 07 60 03 64 01
39 08 37 56 41 62 05 58
36 11 40 61 06 57 02 63

This was my first attempt at finding a solution on 25 October.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Website Improvement and Expansion

This week I've been making some major additions and revisions to my mayhematics website. In the first place I have reverted to an older style for the home page, using the rainbow colours to classify the subjects into six sections, and doing away with the three intermediate index pages. I'd really like the six sections, and the centre one, to be circular but square is the best I can do at present.

The next big change is to the Variant Chess section, due to the closure of the BCVS. All 64 back issues of Variant Chess magazine are now available for download from the Variant Chess page. Most of the labour of scanning the magazines, apart from the first eight issues, was done by Peter Fayers to whom thanks are due. At the bottom there is also a link to the list of books and journals which I collected over the years and were part of the BCVS Library, but which I'm now calling the Variant Chess Library. It occupies a bookcase and some boxes in the entrance passage to my flat.

The other change is the addition of a series of pages of short biographies, mainly of radical reformers in the humanist movement, but also including notable scientists and others (there will be many more to add). Some of these were written for the Leicester Secular Society website, and others I had prepared as notes for a series of talks on the History of Humanism. Many have now appeared in shorter form on the Humanist Heritage site maintained by Hamish Macpherson for the BHA.

All in all a very productive week.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Variant Chess: End of an Era

This Saturday we held the last AMG of the British Chess Variants Society. John Beasley and Peter Fayers came to my flat to settle the final details. So Variant Chess magazine, which I started in 1990, has now also come to an end. The final issue, appropriately number 64, came out in August. Thanks to everyone who has been involved over the 20 years.

Afterwards a small variants tourney was held at Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club. There were five players, so there were five rounds, with the non-playing person in each round choosing the variant for the others to play. The variants chosen were: 1. A game using the back-row sequence BRNKQNRB, 2. Progressive chess, 3. Avalanche chess, 4. Balanced Marseilles chess, 5. Cylinder chess.

The players and their scores were: George Jelliss 0, Bill Penfold 1, Rasa Norinkeviciute 2, John Beasley 3, Patrick Donovan 4. So Patrick won the prize which was a bound set of Chessics magazine. My best game was in the Progressive chess where Rasa had to find a difficult eight-move series to give checkmate. Thanks are particularly due to Mr Penfold for making the effort to master the unfamiliar rules, particularly of the cylinder variant, and to the Club for permitting our use of the venue.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Weekend in Leicester

On Saturday 11 September I took the train to Charing Cross, walked to Victoria and bought a single National Express coach ticket to Leicester, where I had booked to stay two nights at self-catering apartments by the Grand Union Canal, as illustrated here, although my apartment in fact proved to be on the other side, overlooking the road. The attraction was to revisit my old haunts in Leicester where I lived for nine years, meet some old friends, and to attend the Secular Hall Open Day on the Sunday. (See Hastings Humanists for a brief report).

The idea of buying a single ticket was that I might decide to stay a little longer, but in the event I returned on the Monday. The 11:45 am coach I booked on was about half an hour late, but I wasn't really in any hurry. I sat next to a lady who said nothing, and busied myself mostly with doing the puzzles in the Times. At Victoria Coach Station the lady seemed rather agitated to find her connection on to Portsmouth, and I did my best to direct her, but now feel somewhat guilty that I didn't actually see her to the right bay, or converse with her on the trip.

There didn't seem to be any trains scheduled from Victoria to Hastings so I walked again to Charing Cross. This is quite a pleasant walk, via Buckingham Palace, St James' Park, Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square, though I was carrying too much in the form of provisions I had bought, but over-estimated, for self-catering purposes in Leicester. The next day I felt quite tired. I don't suppose I will be going back to Leicester again for some time; there is the AGM of the Society in November, but I don't think I want to get involved in their politics again.

Friday, 3 September 2010

A Day Out in Brighton

Yesterday, 1st September, I took the train to Brighton with the aim of attending the meeting in the evening of the Brighton and Hove Humanist Society. The speaker was Denis Cobell, a former President of the NSS, on "Why I am Not a Christian", though in fact it was mostly about his upbringing, in the Brighton area, within an Evangelical family.

Since the talk only began at 8 pm I spent most of the three hours preceding in the Odeon cinema, watching a very noisy film, "Inception" starring Leonardo DiCaprio which was about people who could set up realistic dream worlds, and dreams within dreams. Coming out at the end I wondered if I was back in the real world or not, especially as the way out of the cinema was something of a maze.

Another reason for going to Brighton was to visit the Apple store with a view to perhaps changing my computer for an iMac or MacBook. However the only address I had was Churchill Square which proved to be a large shopping mall, and despite walking round most of it, never found the Apple store, or any map of the place! I did get some fish and chips at the BHS restaurant, and a couple of cotton Oxford shirts at the M&S store opposite (since they don't seem to be available in Hastings).

I also found time to sun myself on the beach for a while, though Brighton Beach was indeed very crowded, as it is traditionally supposed to be.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Chess Talk and other Odd Events

I've spent most of this week preparing a booklet on "Simple Chess Variants" for a talk at Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club. Although I only received one email from a member who said he would come, in the end the meeting went off reasonably well, since five others turned up at least for part of the time. I was only able to complete two bound copies of the booklet since my printer ran out of ink. I'll do some more later. It came to 14 A4 pages.

After the talk we tried out some variants. Progressive chess seems to be the most familiar and popular. I had some success with Cylinder chess. One player was familiar with Rifle chess, but considered that normal captures should also be allowed. A try-out with Double King chess was unexciting; the rules for checkmate of the two kings need to be clarified.

The previous week, having watched the first of the new Sherlock series on a flat-screen TV at the hotel in Lincoln, I decided to spend some money on a new television set, since the one I have is just a 14" portable. The local shop, Adams and Jarrett, supplied me with a 22" screen for under £200, made in India. I watched the first two parts of the "Matrix" series on successive nights, but missed the final part since the Richard Dawkins programme about Faith Schools was on at the same time. No doubt I'll get another opportunity to see the Matrix in future. The crazy scene where Neo fights ever-increasing clones of Agent Smith made me laugh. It reminded me of the old elaborate Busby Berkeley dance sequences.

As part of the rearrangements to put in the TV screen I put an old floor-standing pot plant, which came with the flat, outside the front of the building, where I thought it might do better. Within a couple of days it had vanished! Why would anyone steal an old browning pot plant, did they just want the pot? How did they take it? It was about four feet tall, awkward to carry any distance. It hasn't been dumped nearby. Are there gangs of professional plant stealers about? I didn't report the theft to the Police since I don't particularly want the plant back, and don't want to waste police time.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Travelling to and in London

On Monday I went up to London for a Humanist Heritage meeting (as reported on the Hastings Humanists blog). Just going to London for a meeting is not really a good use of time and money, so I always try to fit in other activities.

I travelled up to London, and back, via Ashford and St Pancras, using the high speed train service that runs on that line. This was a bit more expensive than my usual route to Charing Cross, and the ride was not particularly smooth, especially in the tunnel between the Stratford and Rainham area where it vibrated rather noticeably from side to side. So I don't think I will use that route again.

I took a bus to Queensway to check out if the old Ethical Church was still there.
(see the HH blog for photo). Afterwards I spent some the time walking through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, seeing the Diana fountain for the first time, though it seems to be more of a paddling pool than a fountain, and on this hot day was crowded with children.

I also walked down Exhibition Road and visited the Victoria and Albert museum for the first time. I must certainly go back there again for a longer exploration. Previously I've only visited the Science and Natural History Museums.

The whole of Exhibition Road and half of Oxford Street were being dug up, which didn't assist the bus traffic, so I ended up a bit late for the meeting, but don't think I missed much.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Archiving the Ether

I've been trying to sort out all the files in the "My Documents" section of the computer. These included several lists of "Old Favourites" from previous computers. Naturally a lot of these coincided with those on my current list, but a surprisingly large number of old links have just vanished into the ether. There were quite a number on the "geocities" site which it seems Yahoo took over and closed down. There are now a number of archiving sites where old web pages are kept, for instance the British Library now has a webarchive, and there is an American internet archive based in San Francisco.

This week I received another letter from Professor Donald Knuth, enclosing four chapters on knight's tours from his forthcoming "Fun and Games" book. They cover non-intersecting knight paths, celtic tours (which include no minimal triangles), tours on three-rank boards, and longer leaper tours. As might be expected his idea of "fun and games" extends to some quite complicated mathematics. I'm naturally pleased to see that quite a number of my own results are quoted.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Circular Chess in Lincoln

I went to Lincoln 24-26 July for the Circular Chess again as has become an annual custom with me. The B&B where I usually stay was booked up, so this year I stayed at the Hillcrest Hotel, which is in a very pleasant area overlooking the Arboretum. There were twelve entrants this year and an all-play-all tournament was arranged with each player getting fifteen minutes on the clock. This rapid-play I thought would not suit me, but I did win the first two games, but lost the rest on the time limit, despite often having a superior position. The heat also did not help. John Beasley was there, but only as an observer. The winner once again was Francis Bowers, who had the difficult task of meeting me in the last round. On the Saturday before the tournament I managed to get in a swim at the Yarborough leisure centre, but may have overdone it a bit, since I had a stiff back the next day, but perhaps that was due to the soft bed at the hotel.

Friday, 23 July 2010

My Photograph Collection

Today and yesterday I have been catching up with updating my flickr photostream which I had neglected for a long while. The idea is to put in it what are the best of my photos, although looking back some of those chosen seem questionable. Since they are available for anyone to copy (though please include an acknowledgment) they also tend to be images others may find useful. For instance some are shared with the Humanist Heritage Group on flickr. Nearly all are town and country landscapes, mostly devoid of people, which may say something about my solitary nature. I like to make pictures with the main subject clearly framed, with no bits cut off. I also like to try to see things from an unusual angle if possible. Some of the photos are classified into sets for the geographic areas in which they were taken, namely London (including Greenwich), Leicester, Lincoln and Hastings (including St Leonards).

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Exact Echoes

After a 25 year lapse of time I have at last completed this 50-page A4 PDF booklet which derives from the successful ‘Exact Echoes Tourney’ which was announced in Chessics issue 15 in 1983, entries being published in issues 17 to 21 and the award in issue 23 in 1985. Composers were asked to send in not only their original compositions but also outstanding examples of their previous work, or the work of others that they considered should not be missed, with a view to publishing a booklet on the subject. I have not so far attempted to bring the collection up to date to cover work done in the intervening years, but may yet make a few minor improvements. It is available on my publications page.

I've just noticed that in Safari, the browser I am now using, the box of text runs off the righthand side of the screen. This must be due to a different interpretation of the CSS instructions as compared with Internet Explorer. I must try to correct it.

I went to the Hastings Chess Club AGM on Sunday, but didn't find it a very encouraging experience. Perhaps I've had a glut of AGMs this past week. I was at the BHA AGM in London on Saturday, as reported on the Hastings Humanists blog, and the Arts Forum AGM on Tuesday. Fortunately I postponed the Hastings Humanists AGM to November. In July it is too hot to think.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A Chequerboard of Afternoons and Evenings

On Tuesday afternoon I went the unveiling of some new sculptures at the "Chess Square" at the end George Street in Hastings Old Town. They depict a sea-horse, an octopus wrestling with a chess rook, and a sea serpent, I think. I didn't notice anyone from the chess club there, but there were several Councillors, including Dom Sebatian who sometimes comes to our Humanist meetings. The chess pieces for use on the board painted on the ground are kept in a cupboard against the wall of Butler's Emporium, and the key can apparently be obtained from the West Hill Lift Office, further along George Street, for a returnable deposit. It might be an idea for the chess club to put on a demonstration now and again.

In the evening I went to the AGM of the Hastings Arts Forum. It's a surprisingly large organisation, since the quorum required was nearly 50. They met in one of the sections of the Azur restaurant on the lower promenade. I was there just to see the venue and to get a better idea of the people behind the venture, and its recent history of recovery from financial problems.

On Wednesday afternoon I managed to arrange for a man from Sussex Bin Cleaning to come and clean our bins which were in a disgusting state. I found the company on the web, at the suggestion of my landlord, Mr Griffiths, since the Hastings Council do not provide a bin-cleaning service and indeed could not suggest anyone to do the work. He will be coming monthly to keep the bins clean from now on.

On Thursday afternoon Mr Griffiths arrived and took away most of the rubbish that had accumulated on the old sofa that had been dumped in front of the flats. I'm wondering what to do to stop more stuff being dumped there. Some plants in pots perhaps? The Council will remove fly-tipping but only of it is on public land, so perhaps that means redumping it on the pavement, although if you are seen doing that presumably there is a fine, so you can't win either way.

Friday, 9 July 2010

It's A Humanist Life

I've not posted anything here for a while, since I've been mostly occupied with Humanism, which is dealt with on my other blog for the Hastings Humanists.

On 15 June My Humanist Hero essay on Robert Owen was published on HumanistLife. It was the second in what is now a long series.

I've also been contributing a number of biographical and descriptive pieces to the new Humanist Heritage site. For example, the entries for Down House, Leicester Secular Society, Alan Turing, Paul Dirac, and Richard Carlile are mostly mine, though of course the information in these articles is not new.

On 26 June I went to the BHA Conference on Humanism, Philosophy and Arts at Conway Hall.

On 3-4 July I went to Lewes to join in celebrations of Tom Paine.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Wider View

This is the wider photo that I took before the telescopic image posted last time. It has been enhanced slightly so the houses are not completely black.

This week I've been getting more minor nose-bleeds. I did think of making an appointment to see the doctor, but their system seems likely to raise my blood pressure more than anything else. Speaking to the receptionist at the counter she was reluctant to arrange anything except a month ahead, and to book on the actual day you have to phone between 8:30 and 9:15 in the morning. Obviously they are completely overworked. So I decided to leave it for now, and nothing has recurred.

I've been getting a series of emails from an chap in St Albans who has very vague plans to set up a chess variants organisation to replace BCVS, but he keeps using my name and that of Variant Chess as if I've already given approval to his efforts. This has not done my blood pressure any good either.

I've also entered the Hastings Chess Club Summer tournaments, those that are not rapid-play at any rate. The first opponent I contacted failed to turn up at the appointed time, but I did get a friendly game, which I won. I've agreed to rearrange the appointment for next week, though apparently I could have claimed the win by default, but really I just need the practice.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Sky View

Fantastic sky this evening, about 8 pm. The seagull seems to think so too. Photo taken through a window of my living room, using a telescopic setting.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Mathematical Art: A Chessboard Mosaic

Over the bank holiday weekend I spent some time drawing and colouring the pattern shown here. It is a "Chessboard Mosaic" of the type I described in The Games and Puzzles Journal (Vol.1 No.4, March-April 1988, p.64) but on a larger scale. Varied patterns of this type can be formed by first numbering the cells of a chessboard 1 to 64 in some fashion. This example is derived from the numbering of the first Magic Knight's Tour, discovered by William Beverley in 1848. It is a 64 by 64 matrix; when numbered 1 to 64 along the top and left edges, a mark in the square where the r row meets the s column indicates that a piece can move from cell r to cell s. In this example the dark cells indicate rook moves, the yellow cells bishop moves and the red cells knight moves. The pattern is symmetric about the principal diagonal since these moves are all reversible. The rook move pattern is symmetric about the secondary diagonal, but the knight and bishop patterns deviate slightly from this symmetry, due to the nature of the Beverley numbering. The red railway-line pattern down the main diagonal is the result of using a knight's tour numbering, since r is always connected to r+1 by a knight move. The apparent figure "8"s on the main diagonal derive from several zigzag pattern of knight moves in the tour wheren the first and third and second and fourth cells are in the same rank or file and thus connected by a rook move. I'm wondering whether I should exhibit this at the Art Forum; apparently any member can exhibit one item free; but is it really Art?

Edit: I've replaced the original image by an enhanced version, since it came out too gray. The background I used was in fact a sheet of white card.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

An Afternoon Walk

This afternoon I took a walk along to the Arts Forum to have another look at the exhibition of paintings by Katherine Reekie "Artists on the Beach" which feature images based on well known works by famous painters like Matisse and Picasso, and sculptors like Moore and Gormley, against a background of Hastings images. It's quite a fun idea.

I went on to walk to the Garden Centre along the Bexhill Road to see if they have anything in the way of a compost bin. They only had two old ones with bits missing. I'm thinking of installing a bin by the front garden so that I can dig up all the weeds and compost them. It's getting rather overgrown.

I carried on walking to the Glyne Gap and then back to Hastings along the beach path. At the old bathing pool site I noticed that the seagulls seemed to have some small shellfish that they were dropping from a height to crack open, or else they were practising with pebbles. Further along the promenade a black-headed gull was flying along the surf line and repeatedly landing on the sea only to immediately rise again. Presumably it was catching something to eat.

Finally I went into a supermarket to top up a few things for my own larder. I ought to be getting out more regularly for exercise, but seem to be leaving it for days and then taking it all in one go.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Computer Modifications

This week I've been trying out some alternative browsers on my computer. A while back there was a "Browser Choice" message that came from the European Union, which listed a range of different browsers, with the idea I think of creating a more level playing field for them to compete with Internet Explorer provided by Microsoft with Windows. Since IE has increasingly been incapable of showing some video connections, and there are threats to update it to a form that will not work with XP, I decided to try a change.

A few years ago I tried 'Firefox' but wasn't keen on it, though perhaps I didn't find the right settings to suit me. This time I tried 'Opera', but found I could only reconstitute my list of favourites from IE by transferring them one at a time. Also the 'circle dial' thing on it was a bit puzzling, and included advertising. The second one I have tried is 'Safari'. This turned out to have a button in the Bookmarks section which allowed all the favourites to be transferred automatically. It also seems to be nice and simple, which is what appeals to me.

Earlier to day I also got an instruction from Virgin Media to install their new Security 9 system to replace PC Guard. This I was glad to do since I have the impression that it is PC Guard that has been slowing everything down. The installation went reasonably straightforwardly. However I did get a message that something called "rpcapd" was trying to get through the firewall. Not having any indication of what this is I blocked it.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Wolfe, Water and Wine

This is a closer up photo of the statue of General Wolfe in Greenwich Park. He stands on the brink of the hill looking down towards the Queen's House and the National Maritime Museum, with the Royal Naval College buildings beyond them, and the Millennium Dome to the right, and across the river to the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf. That is the view all the sightseers around the plinth of the statue are looking towards.

On Tuesday this week I woke about six and went for an early morning swim again at the baths, as well as disposing of my accumulated glass waste, and some left by other tenants, at the bottle bank. Immediately after I returned at 8:30 the "parcelforce" man came with a box which contained six bottles of wine that I'd won for writing a letter that was featured in the New Humanist magazine. Since I'm not much of a drinker of alcohol I will have to find someone else to drink most of it, or else it will last me six years or so.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Greenwich Park

This is another photo from my trip down the river on Thursday 6th May. It is a view from the Queen's House in Greenwich Park, looking up towards the statue of General Wolfe on the left and Flamsteed's old Royal Observatory on the right. This is one of my favourite places in London. There happens to be the very faint image of a monoplane coming out of the cloud at the top right. (Click on the photo and use the magnifier!) I wasn't able to take a tour round the observatory since it was already packed out with visitors.

I did look in the National Maritime Museum and the Queen's House for a while, but the art exhibitions are in such dim lighting now, and I couldn't find the famous portrait of Stoker Martin that I remember seeing there. EDIT: I've added in a link to an article in Life magazine from 1948 which includes a copy of the portrait.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Canary Wharf

There really is a Canary Wharf where the river buses dock as this photo I took on my trip last Thursday shows. The buildings above are of course the place where the power of the money markets now resides. Are they now our real masters? It's not my pun but it nicely sums up the results of the election and I can't resist quoting it: We are all Con-Dem'd!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

On the River

This is a photo I took on Thursday as the Thames river-bus was about to pass under Tower Bridge on the way down to Greenwich. I was surprised to find that I had taken 50 photos in all when I came to transfer them to the computer. Of course, most of them were not very good. I must get round to putting the best of them onto my Flickr page, which I've been neglecting for some time. I also got quite a good one when the boat stopped at Canary Wharf en route.

Perhaps I should add the results of the election. The sitting Labour MP, Michael Foster was defeated by the Conservative candidate Amber Rudd. On the other hand the Labour Councillor Jeremy Birch won, and in fact Labour took control of the Council.
Here is a report from the Hastings Observer website.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Visiting My Old School

I'm rather stiff and tired after a long and busy day in London yesterday. It began at 7:30 when I went to the polling station to vote. In the end I decided to stick to voting for the people I know, which happen to be the Labour candidates, Michael Foster for MP and Jeremy Birch for Councillor. The trouble with a PR system it seems to me would be getting to know all the other candidates so that one could make a considered choice, rather than making a vote purely on the party line, not knowing what the individual candidates were like, never having met them.

The main reason for going to London was for the chance to look round the bulding that used to be St Olaves Grammar School which I attended from 1951 to 58. It proved to be somewhat dispiriting to see it in it's current condition. It is now owned by a property company, Berkley Homes, and there are plans to convert it into a hotel. The playground at the back has been dug up, the exit to that area having been bricked up, and a wing where the art classes were held has been demolished. All the rooms were empty of furniture and decorations, so it was really rather sad to see. The photo is of the assembly hall. The white spots are probably reflections of the flash from specks of dust in the air.

Some parties of boys from the new school in Orpington also came to see the building, but they seem to have had very little time to see anything, and I doubt if they learnt much from the experience. Some of the Old Olavians who were taking them round seemed to me to be spinning them tall tales, and reliving their childhood conflicts with the headmaster, Dr Carrington, rather than explaining anything of genuine historical interest.

There was to be a Commemoration Service in Southwark Cathedral from 2pm, but since it was such a lovely sunny day I couldn't face the dark interior of another building and instead took a trip on the river-bus down to Greenwich, which like to visit at least once a year. More on that perhaps in a separate diary entry.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Waste Disposal Woes

All this morning I spent tidying up the mess left by the bin-men. The photo shows bits of rubbish lying all over the place, and the bins left open. (This was before the second collection where they take the pink recycling bags.) This is not entirely their fault as the black bag left on the ground contained empty glass bottles, which are not supposed to be put in the bins, but they could have taken the rest.

We had a circular a few days ago, resulting from my enquiries, which makes clear that the Council now requires all rubbish placed in bins to be in black bags, not loose. Instead of emptying the bins they now take out the black bags, put them in another bin, and empty that bin into the dust-cart!

I emptied out the bins and put the uncollected rubbish from several weeks into new black bags for collection next week. There was also a number of items that should not have been in the bins, such as two heavy bags of builders rubble! Some of the rubbish included cat-litter - should this be disposed of in this way? One of the bags at the bottom was full of maggots. These I swept onto the garden in the expectation that nature will deal with them.

The white object on the right is a sofa which has been left there for several weeks. No-one in the flats claims responsibility for it. I suppose it will be up to me to arrange for it, and the other unbinnable waste to be disposed of.

It was nice to see a new winner of the World Snooker Championship last night, and an overseas player, Neil Robertson from Australia. My viewing was interrupted by the fire alarm going off just before midnight, a result of the tenant in Flat 3 trying to cook himself a late snack. This afternoon his overflow was running, and still is, though I pointed it out to him.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


I had another nosebleed on Friday, this time it occurred at an awkward moment as I was checking out at a small supermarket. Holding my nose and putting things in my bags at the same time was a bit awkward. A few drops fell onto my newly washed nylon bag, so it's going to need another wash! When I saw the doctor last year they concluded it was due to a weak vessel in my nose, but why it should recur at this time I don't know.

This morning I took another longish walk, this time up to the West Hill where the Castle is, and back through the Old Town via Croft Road. This will be the new route for the Jack-in-the-Green ceremony on Monday, so I thought I'd check it out since I missed it last year. There was a group of male-voice folk-singers outside the Jenny Lind pub, and a group of Morris Dancers at the entrance to Rock-a-Nore Road, but I couldn't see much since they were surrounded by a crowd. I ended with a walk along the beach. There was quite a strong wind coming off the sea.

During the week I've spent a lot of time typing up a collection of Exact Echo chess problems that I made about 25 years ago, with the help of various correspondents. It was intended to publish a booklet of them as a follow-up to the Exact Echoes tourney that I held in my little magazine Chessics. It was abandoned at the time because of competition from Eugene Albert's Encyclopedia of Ideal Mate Chess Problems, that would have contained many problems of this type. I presume that appeared, though I never followed it up, my interests having moved elsewhere.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Little Incidents

Today I went out for the first time this year without a coat. I'm always a bit slow to get round to losing my winter wear, until I start sweating. In fact I'm not really very good dealing with summer weather. By the time I get round to short sleeves winter is about to set in again, and I've never worn shorts since I was about six, even when cycling.

A few days ago I went into the temple-like public convenience in Hastings town centre and happened to somehow drop the empty bag that I was carrying under my arm into the gutter of the urinal. It's a bag I've had for years and grown attached to. At first I thought this was maybe the end of it, but I've never been able to find a replacement for it although it had got dirty over the years, so I decided to risk putting it in the washing machine. It survived and came up looking almost as good as new! It has the label "Guardsman" in red on the side, and inside is a small label with the legend: "Cat No. N5159, MADE IN CHINA, Z804, 100% NYLON." Perhaps this may be sufficient to trace whether they are still made.

Someone from the five other flats in the building where I live has put out an old sofa in the front patio (if that's the word). It has been there for over a week. I don't know whether they think the council's waste disposal men will take it away. They won't. I've put a little notice on the inside of the front door asking for whoever put it there to make arrangements to have it removed. Whether this will have any effect remains to be seen.

This morning I had a small nose-bleed. This is the first time it's happened since I had a long bout of nosebleeds last year and had to see the doctor about them. I hope it's just a once-off and not the start of a series again.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Spring in my Steps

I went for a walk along to the Arts Forum this afternoon to check that it was all in order for the Hastings Humanists meeting tomorrow evening. Although it was dull when I set out the sun soon came out and I carried on along the front as far as the railway bridge, then turned up St Saviours Road and Filsham Road as far as Silverhill. The Silverhill Computers shop is now empty, the business having moved down to the bottom of London Road.

From there I continued walking through Alexandra Park. On Shornden Reservoir, among the many seagulls, there was a lone black-plumed bird with a long beak which I think must be a cormorant. It was repeatedly diving below the surface, emerging several feet away, usually with a small fish in its beak. It's a pity I didn't take my camera, but I hadn't planned the walk beforehand.

In the park the birds were singing and the grey squirrels were busy. I saw very few people until I reached the section nearer the town centre. I ended up at the town hall and remembered to pick up some pink bags for the recycling. I've given up putting any rubbish in the two bins outside my flat, since the refuse collectors are no longer emptying them properly.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

My Website Reorganised

This Sunday I've spent most of my time at the computer rearranging the material on my website. Most of the content is unchanged, it is just the way the pages are classified that has changed. The Index page now leads to three sitemaps, one covering Chessics and the others Reality and Fantasy. It took much more work than I expected, and several FTP sessions, to get all the links, forward and backward, to work correctly.

I've more or less given up on CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) methods, finding them more trouble than they are worth, particularly if you want to change anything. I've reverted to simple HTML. All necessary styling, which I keep to the minimum, is all on the page itself.

There is one new item, namely a version of the missing Issue 45 of the Games and Puzzles Journal, which was lost but now is partially found. It comprises only three articles, the others needing further work.

The website got confused when NTL closed down my old Home pages and I was forced to squeeze them into the mayhematics site. The different sets of material are now much more spaciously arranged, which should allow for ease of development.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Art Appreciation

Since the Hastings Humanists have been meeting at the Arts Forum where paintings and other art works are on show, I have been taking more interest in art. The exhibitions there are changed every couple of weeks. There is quite a range of different types of artwork on show.

Last week's exhibition was mainly of oil and acrylic paintings by a Canadian artist, showing colourful landscape scenes. However only one of them appealed to me to the extent of thinking it might be good to have on the walls of my flat. While clearly being a representation of sea and cliffs, it was also clearly an abstract pattern. I've come to the conclusion that this it what appeals to me more than either fully representational art or completely abstract.

The exhibition this week, in both Arts Forum galleries, is of very abstract work that I'm afraid has no appeal for me at all. It seems to me that the artists have spent more time on thinking up fanciful titles for their work than actually producing them.

On Thursday, when I went to look at the History House in Hastings Old Town, as a possible future venue for Hastings Humanists, I also chanced to see that there was an exhibition on at the Bourne Hall nearby. Most of the pictures there were merely representational. There was one of the head of a panther peering out of darkness that combined real and abstract in the way described above.

I'm tempted to start buying some paintings for my flat, though I'm not supposed to make any holes in the walls, so there might be a problem in displaying them. Also the prices can be quite high, but on the other hand good art should remain quite saleable, so perhaps it is not too great an extravagance.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

More Chess Practice

On Saturday (27th) I joined in a rapid-play chess tournament (Swiss style 7 rounds) at the Hastings chess club, but only managed to score 1.5 (a win and a draw). I've not really got the idea of how to play so fast.

On Monday evening I got soaked on my way to the club to join the club secretary and another player to be taken by car to Cranbrook for a return match with the Kent team we met previously. A fourth team member travelled separately. I had the same opponent, but this time lost, though the game was very similar and just as long by time. This was not rapid play but 75 minutes plus another 15 minutes at the end, much more to my taste. Again I found myself a knight down but with a passed pawn. The team score was 2 points each.

When I arrived back I was concerned not to be able to find the pair of glasses that I use for looking at computer screens, and for chess play, but fortunately it turned out the spectacle case had just slid out of my jacket pocket onto the car seat, and hadn't been left behind in Cranbrook.

I'm looking on all these games as practice at getting back into the routine of orthodox chess, but I don't seem to be making very fast progress.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Spring: Time for New Developments

Now that, it seems, Spring is at last here, I've started waking up earlier, or at least not going back to sleep. So there is something to the idea that one tends to go into hibernation in the winter. I was up at six this morning and went for a swim at the baths between seven and eight. Whether I will be able to keep this up regularly remains to be seen.

One of the sounds that now greets me on waking is that of the blackbird, who seems to start singing before the noisy gulls get going. I've always liked the song of the blackbirds. They seem to be speaking to me personally, they often sound as if they are saying "What'ya doin' Georgie". Not that I like any one else being that familiar. My father was also named George, so I got the diminutive version.

It looks as though the British Chess Variants Society will close down this year, since John Beasley is retiring and no replacement has come forward to act as secretary and editor. Also Peter Fayers will not be able to carry on as treasurer and publishing manager. I will probably try to keep the magazine Variant Chess going in some form on the web, but not produce a printed version.

I've been looking into the costs of registering suitable internet addresses, to reorganise my web content, including the magazine. Because my "ntlworld" site was closed I've had to cram all my stuff onto the "mayhematics" site, which was not my original plan. There are also moves afoot to form some sort of International Variant Chess Society. This would be a welcome development, but needs a new generation of internet-savvy enthusdiasts to develop it.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Chess and Mathematics

Last Monday I took part in a chess match, playing on behalf of the Hastings club against a team of four from Kent. I was on the third board. The time allowance was quite generous, which suits my slow play, and I managed a draw. Most of the time I was a knight down, but with the advantage of a passed pawn, so it was a matter of trying to get the pawn promoted. There were a lot of interesting tactical situations that arose the game. The opposing team won overall by 2.5 to 1.5.

On Wednesday I received a letter from Professor Donald E. Knuth of Stanford University. We have previously corresponded on knight's tours, but I hadn't had a letter from him for several years. He is putting together a book of his Selected Papers on Fun and Games which will include several chapters on tours, among much else. I had to look up what "potrzebie" was all about. It seems it's a Polish word adopted by MAD Magazine as a running joke back in the 1960s.

The topic Prof Knuth was asking about concerned the results obtained by Robin H. Merson on non-intersecting knight's paths. As a result I have now placed PDF versions of Robin Merson's two main letters to me, dealing with open and closed paths, on the knight's tours page of my mayhematics website. They haven't scanned very clearly; for instance the background graph lines have not come out, but that's the best I can do at present.

Prof Knuth also likes to collect the middle names of everyone whose work he cites, but I was unable to locate what Robin Merson's "H" stood for. He worked for the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough on the use of satellites for mapping the Earth, among other activities.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Puzzle Addiction

Every week, though not every day, I buy a few newspapers, mainly for the puzzles rather than the news. On Friday for instance the Guardian has a sudoku and kakuro that are usually a bit harder than during the week. The Guardian on Saturday always has a good prize crossword, often by Araucaria, but I don't always buy it because it has far too many sections, on subjects such as sport, travel, finance, fashion and so on, that I'm not really interested in.

I also tend to get the Times once or twice a week, mainly for the crossword and the killer sudoku. However this week the Times has started to include a four-page puzzle section every day! This will mean that I have to avoid buying the Times in future, because once I start on the puzzles I have the compulsion to solve them all, and waste most of the day when I should be doing something productive. Why they have changed to this new scheme I don't know, I thought their previous policy was just the right balance.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

More Random Thoughts

I spent most of Thursday journeying to and from Uckfield to attend the East Sussex SACRE meeting on behalf of Hastings Humanists. Since I have a Senior Railcard and a Buspass this was not expensive, just time-consuming. When I returned, and all next day, I had a headache. Whether this was due to bumping about on the bus, or waiting for it in the cold and wet, or some other cause I'm not sure, but at least it seems to have cleared up today. At any rate it stopped me going to the chess club on Friday evening.

While in Uckfield I chanced to go into a Health Food shop and bought a jar of Barley Cup as a possible substitute for drinkng too much Coffee. It doesn't have any distinctive taste that I can detect, just a smooth texture. I did try flavouring it with some Malt Extract, bought at the same shop, but Honey would probably be better. Since I arrived in plenty of time for the meeting I looked around to see what cafes were available and ended up in a Poppins restaurant, which provided a nice lesagna with baked potato and salad.

I'm still working on the knight's tours book. I had hoped to get it finished for my 70 th birthday, but there is still a lot to be done. At present I'm on the chapter dealing with tours on oblong boards. I completely rechecked the tours on the 3x9 board, finding 146 as reported on the KTN website back in year 2000, although there is a minor misprint there, the number of {1,1} tours, with ends a diagonal step apart, is 28 not 29. The next section to check is on the 4xn boards, where I did some work trying to generate recursion relations for the numbers of half-tours, which has never yet been reported on the KTN site.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Random Thoughts

I played another couple of chess games on Friday evening, at a slow rate without clocks, and won both of them against a player who seemed quite strong, so perhaps I'm getting back into the right frame of mind. One ended in a knight checkmate, the other in a queen against rook superiority. The more rapid play games which we played on previous weeks require one to react much more instinctively, rather than contemplate each move carefully.

Why are there no longer any malt-flavoured cereals being produced? I used to like malted shreddies when they were produced by Rowntrees, but as soon as Nescafe took them over they changed the recipe so that the malt taste was far less. I complained at the time, but got no helpful response. Now they have removed the malt altogether! This seems to be part of their policy of claiming that everything is "whole grain".

My article on "Howard Jacobson and the Temple of Darwin" appeared on the new HumanistLife website on my 70th birthday, 8th February, but has not attracted any comments. Perhaps this means that it is perfect as it is and doesn't need any further comments? Probably not! I'm glad to see that more articles are appearing with a greater frequency now. There are strong disagreements between Humanists on a number of issues, for instance the assisted dying question, and whether the burka should be banned. These have attracted the most comments.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Religion of Infinity

I happened to notice that the Horizon programme on BBC2 TV this evening was about "Infinity and Beyond". Hoping to learn of some new research I tuned in but was sorely disappointed. The programme was aimed at about the intellectual level of a five-year-old. The commentary was given by an Aleister Crowley lookalike who was filmed in murky black and white endlessly walking up stairs and reappearing again, Escher-like, on the bottom landing, and making pompous and portentous-sounding statements and poses. Half-way through he even renamed Georg Cantor "Gregor".

All the usual elementary illustrations of infinity were included, such as Hilbert's Hotel, Cantor's diagonal argument and monkeys typing Shakespeare, followed by speculation about whether the universe might be infinite. There was one chap who didn't believe in infinity, but all he could say was that there was a largest number, but no-one knows what it is, and it is followed by zero.

My argument for finitism runs as follows: It is true that we can generate symbols for numbers in a systematic manner using the ten digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and the positional convention, but this does not mean that the set of all such symbols 'exists' already until we actually construct it. Nor does the mere construction of a symbol, such as n+1 for a number imply that the number 'exists' in this sense.

The mathematical term 'finite' applies to sets of things and the numbers of things in those sets: a set is said to be finite if it has the sensible property that it cannot be placed in one-to-one correspondence with a part of itself; a number is finite if it describes the size of a finite set. The Finitist maintains that all sets, and therefore all numbers, are in fact finite.

In order to introduce infinity into mathematics it is necessary to postulate that it exists, or to assume some other axiom that implies this, for instance Peano's axiom that every number has an immediate successor. Further the properties of infinities depend on the axioms that are chosen. For example Paul Cohen proved that, under the usual axioms for arithmetic, it is impossible to say whether there is an infinity between that of the integers and the real numbers.

On the other hand the properties of finite sets and numbers are a matter of physical fact, at least within the 'realisable' realm, where they can be applied to material objects. Statements about 'all' numbers, such as Goldbach's conjecture, may not be realisable.

What do we mean by saying that something 'really exists'? The simplest definition is that something exists if it is material, that is if it has measurable mass. On this basis it might be argued that 'ideas' like numbers do not exist since they are immaterial. But are they? Ideas exist in the minds of people, and presumably therefore they exist materially in the form of electrical or chemical energy in the brains of those who think about them. By Einstein's equation, E = mc², anything that has energy has corresponding mass. So if mathematician's brains really contained the infinite set of all whole numbers they would have infinite mass and implode into a black hole!

By a similar argument, the universe is finite in mass, since if it were infinite there would be infinite gravitational force at every point in the universe (a version of Olbers' paradox).

Even if we discount the argument by weight, so long as we accept that ideas exist in the form of electrical or chemical configurations in the brains of thinkers, there can still only be a finite number of ideas in existence, certainly of human ideas, held by human beings, because there is only a very finite number of human beings extant, and their brains contain only finite numbers of neurons.

EDIT: In contrast to the puerile "Horizon", Melvyn Bragg's "In Our Time" on Radio 4 this morning was an adult-level programme about "unintended consequences" in mathematics, on how ideas developed purely out of mathematical interest later prove to have practical consequences: such as prime number theory in cryptography, complex numbers in alternating electrics, and non-euclidean geometry in relativity. Why does TV have to dumb-down, while Radio does ideas so well?

Friday, 5 February 2010

More Chess

More chess this Friday evening, a six-player all-play-all with twenty minutes on the clock. I was given a low grading of 80 and had 13 minutes to 7, or 15 minutes to 5, depending on opponents' gradings. This time I won two, though my opponents in those games were either distracted by the time handicap, or thought I needed a win. Both ended in a straightforward queen checkmate. I did deliberately try to play in a more attacking style compared with last time.

I've been feeling rather tired in the afternoons lately, and unable to rouse myself to get much done. Perhaps I need to keep more regular hours, or perhaps I will come out of hibernation when the weather warms up a bit.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Busy Week in London

On Thursday evening I returned from a two-day visit to London, but I haven't been able to report on it until now since my internet connection has been down, due to a fault at Virgin Media.

On the Wednesday afternoon I had booked a visit to the Cocoon at the Natural History Museum, and in the evening went to the 'Evict the Bishops' debate at the Houses of Parliament. These were both something of a disappointment. I've submitted an article to HumanistLife relating to the first topic, and have reported on the second on the Hastings Humanists blog. The cheap hotel room I stayed in overnight was also not to be recommended.

On Thursday afternoon however I had the much more pleasant experience of going to the Albert Hall to see the Cirque du Soleil production called "Varekai". Their show is a sort of mixture of circus, theatre and ballet. To appreciate it best I think you need to book a seat facing the stage and probably on the flat, though these seats are the more expensive for that reason. I was in a box high up on one side. From there you can see all the workings of the stage. They make extensive use of trap doors through which characters regularly appear and disappear. There are all the usual circus attractions, but no animals of course, though many of their costumes resemble strange creatures.

On Friday evening at the chess club I was inveigled into an all-play-all rapid chess tournament, and despite being allowed a handicap of 15 minutes against 5 minutes playing time against strong opponents managed to lose all my eight games, though they all went close to the wire.

So it was a busy week. More on it later perhaps.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Chess, Music and Euthanasia

This is a photo I took on Monday of the Hastings Chess Club premises in Cornwallis Terrace. As you can see, like many places in Hastings, they hardly conform to the requirements of disabled access. The steps up to the front door could hardly be more precipitous!

Besides chess I've started to take an interest once more in music, with a view to playing or composing, probably with an electronic keyboard. Besides loking at various keyboards in a local music shop, and searching for details online, I borrowed a book "Play it Again" from the public library. This gave some useful website links and they are now listed on a page of my website devoted to Music.

Last week I also received a bowel cancer test kit through the post from the NHS. Taking smears for the test was not a very pleasant occupation, it must be very embarrassing for people who are unable to do them without assistance. According to the news this morning everyone who attends hospital is now to be tested for liability to thrombosis. Is this determination to keep more people living longer really a good thing? I see Martin Amis is advocating the provision of euthanasia booths on street corners where the decrepit are to be encouraged to end it all!

Friday, 22 January 2010

More Chess

I've continued with trying to get back into playing chess, with visits to the Hastings Chess Club on Tuesday afternoon and again on Friday evening. My results have not been great, especially one game against a really strong player who just walked all over me, metaphorically speaking. I'm still walking into pins and forks and batteries and leaving pieces en prise, but given time I am managing to defend reasonably soundly against players of club strength, and finding a few combinations. There's an interesting article by Gary Kasparov on "The Chess Master and The Computer", which was linked to on the new HumanistLife forum.

Earlier in the day I had an appointment with the bank to discuss putting some money into an ISA, and also took out some Contents Insurance. There was also the possibility of adding my pedal cycle to this, but I judged it too expensive to do this. If it were stolen it would be just as cheap to buy a new one.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Joining the Chess Club

On Friday Evening I at last got round to joining the Hastings Chess Club. I went along at 6:30 and left at about 8:30 after playing three games. Not having played orthodox chess, and very little variant chess, for ten years or more I lacked confidence that I could do any good without getting in some practice. The first two games however I drew, and the other I resigned. I did practice with a couple of games on the computer against the Zillions of Games version of chess. However it's going to take me quite a while to get up the confidence to play in tournaments again, as I did many years ago.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A Patchy Thaw

I took advantage of the thaw on Monday afternoon to replenish some provisions. There were still some icy patches to watch out for, but the pavements along Norman Road were completely clear. Presumably the shopkeepers there had cleared the snow away.

This morning, Tuesday, the thaw was more complete, so I ventured out to Hastings town centre, but the pavements in Robertson Street and Wellington Place were still icy, though partially gritted. Oddly I found the pedestrian crossings in the town, for instance near Hastings station, were less safe to use than the road itself, since the ice doesn't seem to melt as fast on the special tiles that are used, in place of the old kerbs, to allow disabled access.

Later on I went to the area of Warrior Square station and Southwater, and there the snow was still uncleared and quite hazardous. I'd have thought clearance of the entrances and exits from stations would have had some priority.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

More Snow

We had a bit more snow yesterday but no more today so far, although more is forecast. I ventured out on Friday when there was a light covering, but only went as far as the Best One shop on the front near Warrior Square to ensure I had enough bread for the weekend, and to pick up the local paper to see if my press release about the Hastings Humanists meeting was included, which it was. I don't usually buy papers at a supermarket, since I object to the way many newsagents have been forced out of business, but it is no longer so easy to distinguish between them, they are all now mini-supermarkets.

The TV reports and papers are full of reminiscences abnout past years when there was heavy snow or long cold spells. I have reason to remember 1947 because I broke my right arm when I fell in the snow, coming down the steep hill from Purrett Road school in Plumstead. I remember it as quite a pleasant time, playing with my meccano set and learning to write with my left hand. I'm still somewhat ambidextrous.

When I moved into the flat here last December there were just lace curtains at the high windows. There were curtain runners above the windows, but no runners to slide on them, and I found they were obsolete. Curtains of the requisite length seemed not to be available off the shelf, and having them made would have been very expensive. In any case I wasn't convinced that they would give sufficient privacy, or be easy to open and close without having to get up on a chair or ladder.

My solution was to make a set of blinds. I bought some lengths of 1 by 1/2 inch wood from Winchester's at Ore to make the frames, and some good quality coloured sheets from the warehouse shop in Cambridge Road, and fixed them together using an upholsterer's staple gun. They are only flimsy, but have stood up well. I've just had to replace a few of the staples that were coming loose.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A Flurry of Snow

This morning I tried putting on the gas central heating for the first time. I had been nervous about trying it, not having used a system like this before, but it worked fine. There are just four radiators of various sizes, in the living room, bedroom, bathroom and hallway. The pipes connecting them to the boiler must all run under the floorboards. I've got no instructions about how to adjust the radiators, but fortunately they worked OK as they are. I turned the system off when I went out. I'm wondering how much gas it will use if I leave it on for any length of time. There is just £20 on the card that I have to put in the meter in the basement. Now I hear on the News that the UK has only 8-days supply of gas, and we are heading into a cold spell!

In the morning I took the bus to the Ravenside Retail Park at Glyne Gap on the way to Bexhill. This was to take a portable DVD player into Curry's. I'd bought it in Leicester in April 2008 but it has developed a minor fault. It keeps going back to the start, or comes up with the message that the cover is open when it is not. After an exchange of a chain of emails with Curry's Customer Services department it was finally established that it is "a code 5 product", which means they are unable to service it. Why this might be they haven't said, it probably just needs a stronger spring to keep the cover shut. All they offered was a gift card, of unspecified value, as a contribution towards a replacement. To get this I had to take it to the nearest store and demonstrate the flaw to the staff there. Of course it worked perfectly there, so it was a wasted journey, though it was a nice bright morning.

Later I went out again to get in some food and a paper. On the way back it bagan to snow very lightly, and this was soon followed by a heavier flurry. This is what the photo shows. It didn't last long here but it has been very heavy in other parts of the country and more is forecast for the next few days.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Variant Chess Tournament

I got an email from Mike Gunn about 6pm on New Years Eve that let me know there was a Variant chess tournament on at the White Rock Hotel. So I went along and took part. There were 14 players, and we played 7 rounds, a different variant in each round, the clocks were set at 7 miniutes per player. The variants were 1) Three-check chess, 2) Progressive chess, 3) Avalanche chess, 4) Triplet chess, 5) Pocket knights chess, 6) Static chess, 7) Losing chess. I scored 3 and 1/2. The winner with 6 points was a junior, who received the Encyclopedia of Chess Variants as his prize. This was an enjoyable way to end the year. I shall have to join the chess club and get in more practice. I've not played orthodox chess for at least ten years, and haven't felt confident enough to enter tournaments.

This morning I woke to find a layer of snow over everything, and a little still coming down. A pleasant start to the new year.