Chess thoughts

If you know me, you probably know I’m a big chess fan. I’ve been playing it almost all my life, having learned it from my friend Chucky’s grampa and being fascinated by every aspect of it ever since.

I definitely play too much–the internet makes it so easy to grab a quick game on a whim, and I have racked up thousands of 1, 2, and 3 minute games this way.

On the one hand, I could argue that it keeps me sharp; playing chess forces me to exercise my brain power, analytical thoughts, and concentration.

Regarding that last point: concentration, I heard an interesting comment by renowned chessmaster and Twitch.tv streamer Eric Rosen recently. He was asked by someone in the chat box: “Does playing chess help you concentrate?” His answer was something like: “Getting lots of sleep, eating well, and exercise helps you concentrate. Chess depletes your concentration.”

Chess Set v1

Over the past COVID afflicted year, I’ve spent countless hours learning 3D design and printing. I find that the best way to both teach and learn new skills is to take on a project with a tangible outcome––in an area the student is passionate about. For me, this was the perfect chess set.

I wanted a set that could be beautiful but also utilitarian. I wanted one that could be used in a competitive setting, heavy and hard to knock over, with pieces that were distinctive and easily identifiable. I wanted the pieces to stay upright during chaotic, tumultuous speed chess matches.

I’ve also had time to survey my house. There are pennies everywhere. Under any and all pieces of furniture, tucked inside every crevice of laundry rooms and cars, and abandoned in pockets of rarely-worn jackets and jeans are these useless copper disks that cost more to store than they’re worth. I could amass thousands to be used as wights for the pieces.

I’ve pondereed discarded things that could be used as boards. Sidewalked leather couches, old wooden panels, large swathes of fabric. Anything I could silkscreen print checkerboards on would be fair game.

And there you would have everything you need to play chess, especially in these times. A good, weighted, tactile set, that won’t tip over in a lightning game.

So here it is, all 32 pieces printed, polished to an ebony/ivory finish, weighted with pennies, felted with leather, on a hand-silkscreened board.

I’m making more and giving them to friends and family, but also thinking about a kickstarter campaign to help me build a distribution model, where I could sell this and other designs Jeanne and I are working on. Stay tuned for that.

Context Queries in CSS

Media queries are firmly established methods for serving custom experiences based on the media being used to access content.

However, there’s no way to an experience based on the context being used. How crazy would it be would it be if this were possible?

Imagine some code that went like:

@context (currently-traveling:yes AND role:driver) 
{ * {display:none;} } /* hide app from a distracted driver }

That’s some scary stuff, privacy-wise, but you know if it were possible people’d be writing it. But just think of what you could do with

environment:outdoors
or
noise-level:loud

Phone as mobile’s days are numbered

The portrait-oriented, single column design approach that’s become so dominant since the advent of smart phones can only last for so long. The new paradigm of wearables, particularly visors/glasses, will see us return to landscape designs. Augmented reality will enable a screen of any size and format to appear in a multitude of contexts. The physical limitations of the handheld phone will become characteristic of a primitive era in the digital age.

On Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma”

It’s no wonder the machine (however you want to define that, the powers that be, the man, our corporate overlords) is mining our data. It’s always mining something: iron, gold, oil, electricity (although the more elegant term for that is harvesting) – it’s just incredible how much data we produce and how easy it is to mine it.

The Social Dilemna does a good job of exposing that, although I could have done without the cheesy scripted stuff. However, it fails to point out the counterpart to our data, and what is in fact infinitely more valuable: our content.

Every post we make-video, photo, rant, tweet, comment, is like food for the machine. Without content, there is no internet. No one logs into Facebook so they can click on ads or fill out surveys or practice browsing habits. They go for content–to consume others’ and to post their own.

Content self-propagates; the machine doesn’t have to invasively collect it, analyze it, reconfigure it, or present it to its paying advertisers, as it does with data. And there’s mountains of it, and we give it away for free!

One of the interviewees suggests that we tax the machine for its data. That sounds great in theory, but I have a hard time understanding how it could be enforced. Instead, they should be taxed on their content they collect. It’s far easier to monitor.

Better yet, we could demand compensation for the food we’re keeping the machine alive with. Kind of like selling the glut of solar power you’re harvesting with your roof panels back to the utility companies. Let’s figure out how to do this.

Stickball

We used to play this all the time growing up. I don’t see kids playing it anymore.

Other sports are easy to get pickup going. You can play one-on-one hoops. 2-hand-touch only really needs 4 players. Same with street hockey.

Baseball is so fun to play, but you never have enough kids, or equipment, or a field. That’s why stickball was invented. Heck, all you need is two kids, really. Offense and defense. One kid hits. One kid pitches and fields. Pitching, fielding, hitting; that’s baseball in a nutshell.

You don’t even need a field. You need a building, one with a nice flat wall (don’t they all have those?), with a parking lot or grassy area in front (again, don’t they all have those?)

I’ve been on a stickball obsession lately. I decided to act on it a bit today, and did a little shopping. Dick’s: various balls (they didn’t have handballs, which is what I really wanted. When I was a kid, the handball truck came around every day after school), hockey tape, orange cones. Michael’s: decent sidewalk chalk (gotta make sure it washes off). Home Depot: three different options for the bat; a dowel, a railing, and a broomstick.

Lastly, I registered stickballgame.com. Stay tuned on that one.

A theme for artists

WordPress is great place for writers. But what about for artists? Are your needs fulfilled by the built in tools WP provides, or do you rely on plugins to present your images the way you want them to look?

Is there a theme that works best for you, or does it lack certain features? Are you concerned about your images being copied or reused in some way without your consent?

Do you prefer to present your images on your site or on social media? What are the pros and cons of either approach?

These are some of the questions I’m hoping to answer over the next few months as I build a theme optimized for artists, and other folks for whom presenting their images online is the primary purpose for having a site.

Pizza is all about context

People who debate about whether or not this or that pizza is the best in the world are missing the point.

Pizza is all about context. It’s different in different places because it needs to be. It reflects the unique lifestyle of a particular area.

Here’s how I see the two styles I’m most familiar with: NYC and Buffalo

NYC

Thin, wide, flat, lots of surface area. Dry, dusty, charred (in places) crust. Fold it, always fold it, but watch out for that grease trough you just made; it’ll get on your favorite sweats and leave a stain; stuff a napkin back there, or better yet, sop up that grease with a few paper towel pats to begin with.

You eat it on the go; you just arrived for a weekend tryst, hungry and cramped from sitting in a plane, then a car, for hours. You need to get to the hotel, arena, playhouse, friend’s apartment, whatever, or you’ll “be late”; there’s always that delay of game penalty you’re running from.

You’re in between things; just been shopping but have some time to kill before the opening. You’re tired; walking all day will do that. You stumble across a glassy exterior with those levels of steamy goodness calling to you from the interior. People are standing in line. In you go, “a slice of plain please”. Whatever the word for pizza chef wields an enormous wooden paddle, slings a cold slice into gigantic steel multitiered cavern, from which emerges your piping hot slice. You shake on a mountain of flavor from the “free toppings tray” as my friend Kip always called it—garlic salt, parmesan cheese, oregano and crushed red pepper—and off you go, back into the maelstrom.

NYC Pizza is NYC. It’s delicious, hot, messy, and made for the constant onslaught of the masses, hungry and late, needing a full, hot belly to keep up.

Buffalo

Fat. Doughy. Thick. Soggy, but with crispy bits strategically implemented throughout; the edges of the pepperoni, the apex of the crust, which when examined resembles the surface the moon.

You’re at a gathering: a party, an event, a celebration, and expecting to eat something. You’re pretty hungry, hangry is more like it. After all, this is Buffalo. People get hangry a lot, driving to and from these gatherings, usually through layers of ice and wind that coat everything.

Eating is a respite. I don’t know how much I want; I just want to dive in. Show me to the party; let me get my party on.

You don’t buy a slice in Buffalo. You buy a pizza. It’s either a party pizza, or a sheet, or a half sheet. It doesn’t come round; if it does, it’s usually kinda squarish, like they are so used to doing angles and can’t shake off the muscle memory for the rare round order.

The pizza is cut up into little chunks. Nothing, really. So easy to grab another one. So likely a perfect bowl of heaven will reside there: that quarter sphere of pepperoni, the rim brown-almost-black, remnants of a combination of olive oil and liquid lard swirled at the bottom, so small it is likely completely uncut, posted there in glory on a field of mozzarella.

What’s that, over there? Wings! Of course. Let’s grab a few of those; some blue cheese as a rule. Oops; my pizza dropped into my dip (or was it the other way around? Queue the old Reeses PBC commercials). All the better; the tang of blue cheese is an amazing complement to the sweet, spiciness of Margherita pepperoni-laden Buffalo style pizza.

Bottom Line

Pizza is too general a term for that staple of our diets, and can’t be compared from one region to another. It’s all about how we eat it.