Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Live coverage of PST debate at Free Press News Cafe

Coming to you at 6:00 on Wednesday, May 29.  A debate with 4 participants on the PST increase.  These were Jim Carr, CEO Business Council of  Manitoba, Steve Ashton, Minister of Infrastructure, Earl Porter, Mayor of Portage la Prairie, Shannon Martin, PC Candidate for Morris.  Hosted by Free Press journalist Dan Lett. The whole event was planned as part of the Community News Commons training.  So I am trying to get coverage sort of like taking notes.   The topic is the recently proposed 1% increase to Manitoba's Provincial Sales Tax.

Cloudy evening, threatening rain.  Nice temperature, around 20c.  About 20 people in attendance.

DL: Introduced the group and started by asking SA when the idea for the PST was created.

SA:  Talked about the last 10 years of balanced budgets and sustained growth.  Need to invest more into infrastructure, in particular, flood protection.

DL: Critics say that the money is not going just to flood protection, also into a pool for unspecified infrastructure.

SA:  Today announced 250 million for Lake St. Martin.  Need to work on highways but it would also include hospitals and schools.

DL:  Yes. The premier indicated that he was not interested in a tax increase earlier in the year, the recent  election the NDP campaigned on it.  What changed, and when?

SA:  Tough decision but the pressures of the 2013 budget made it necessary.  They have a ten year plan that will address infrastructures needs.  Rejected an austerity approach.  Looking to 2016 to bring the budget back into balance.  Need the revenue.

DL:  Jim Carr the Business Council came out quite early recommending the increase along with a referendum. What is your perspective, you seem to have been surprised on budget day.

JC:  There is no unified plan about spending responsibility for infrastructure, what level of government. The province needs to work in a coordinated way to address infrastructure concerns. They presented a plan earlier on a consumption tax.

DL:  Other provinces increased taxes for debt reduction whereas Manitoba has been spending money.  Were you surprised by the budget.

JC:  Hundreds of millions of federal dollars available but province had no way of matching it, this was a concern.

DL:  Never enough money for infrastructure.  The mayors recently made an united effort to get money for municipal infrastructure.  Is raising the PST an acceptable method of addressing municipal infrastructure.

EP:  Wants the money spread out with a ten year plan.  Problem is that it is difficult to plan.  Small municipalities get left out.

DL: Municipalities consistently reject tax increases, but now seem to be supporting it.

EP:  If the tax increase was per capita we would be all for it, but as it stands they may be left out.

DL:  The conservatives are not in favor of a tax increase, where would they get the money.  Austerity?

SM: Austerity is realistic, current government has problems in their budgets.  Issue is twofold, raising the PST and also how.  They are breaking the balanced budget law.

DL:  The NDP are gutting the law. They are changing it legally.

SM:  There is a process and the government is not following it.

DL:  Conservatives came up with a 1% across the board spending cut.  That would be very significant.  How do resolve that type of austerity.

SM:  The government is making those cuts now, they are paying 90 million more in financing costs than five years ago.

DL:  What services will be cut.

SM:  Growth in upper levels of government.  Not all departments would be hit the same way, hard to know until you look at the books.

DL:  Jim you have experience in government do you think the opposition has come back with a workable plan.

JC:  In favor of 1% but the government should continuously review programs for savings.  Those savings will not address the infrastructure issue.  Our position is exactly the same as the mayors, the increase is ok as long it is just for infrastructure.

DL:  So many groups have come out against the increase.  Why not have the referendum.

SA:  There is no way to cut across the board without affecting services.  Have gone from 85 to 465 million on highway infrastructure.  Need to spend 4 billion over 10 years.

DL:   At least half a dozen groups are not supporting the increase.

SA:  Addressing the need of the average Manitoban.  Manitobans will see this increase all being re-invested in infrastructure.

DL:  Lots of people agree but they are not supporting it.

SA:  We have spent a lot of money on flood protection.   We have had a lot of growth in the province.  Lots of partnerships.  Challenge is to connect with average Manitobans.

DL:  In general elections NDP has had popular support and yet did not want to go to a referendum.

DL:  Did you contemplate a referendum.

SA:  We have made changes and the act allows to proceed without going to referendum.

DL:  Did the government contemplate a referendum.

SA:  The decision speaks for itself, decided to go with a ten year plan.

DL:  Mayor Porter would you have preferred a referendum.

EP:  Can be done with a dialogue with the community.

DL:  Support the referendum.

EP:  The government should follow the law, but could sell it if it was exclusively for infrastructure.

DL:  The conservative felt that there shold have been more consultation, debate and referendum.

JC:  The BB legislation indicates that no referendum is required if the total tax is not included.  The government could reduce the business tax and then increase the PST.

SM:  The government promised a BB by 2014 and they have changed their promises and are not following the law.

SA:  The Conservative plan did not work

EP:  While you guys argue our infrastructure is falling apart

DL;  The municipalities want the money but are not supporting the increase.

DL:  The majority of federal money will be spent on infrastructure.

EP:  The municipalities have to pay PST on their projects.

SA:  Province has to have funding in place to get federal money.

DL:  Next referendum will be the election.  Can the Bus. Council support the government.

JC:  The government has the authority to change the law.  Not in favor of Bill 20 which guts the BB bill.  That will allow the government to spend PST on hospitals and schools instead of infrastructure.  Will support the government with or without a referendum if the money is used for infrastructure.

DL: No one seems to believe that the conservatives can find this money.  What is the most salient arguement that the conservatives have for not holding a referendum.

SA:  We have had growth.  Second highest growth in the country.

SL:  When does money have to be on the table for Build Canada.

DL:  Is a PST referendum winable.

JC:  When should a government go to a referendum.

SA:  We elect governments to make decisions.  It was a tough decision and we made it.

DL:  How much of the 280 million will not go into infrastructure.

DL:  If the government could show where it is going they would have support.  How much will go into hard infrastructure.

SA:  Its all going to go to infrastructure but not all to municipalities.

SA:  Want to be able to point to specific infrastructure tasks.

DL:  Is the Bus Council satisfied with the way the government is implementing.

JC:  Not our role.  We are indicating our position and that's all.

EP:  Seems that they have lost communication with the community.  Rural Manitoba is being left out.

DL:  Are you saying the Conservatives would never consider a tax increase.

SM:  Too hypothetical.  The government is talking accountability and yet going against the spirit of the law.

DL:  Are you confident that the government has enough time to show people the value of this legislation.

SA:  Quite happy with the government's record.  Infrastructure from 85 to 468 million, etc.


MOOC addict

Well I have been busy for the last few months with the various MOOCs that I have been taking.  In the last three months I have been involved in the following:

Calculus of a Single Variable:  Excellent graphics and presentation, the assignments were unrealistic.
Bioelectricity:  Disappointing and frustrating.
Irrationality:  I had read the books so I thought I would take the course.  Very advanced production but somehow I did not get into it.  Probably it was because I felt like I was being manipulated by the instructor.
Digital Signal Processing:  Interesting course and the presentation was not too bad given that the instructors are European.  Once again, the assignments were unrealistic and frustrating.
Control of Mobile Robots:  I have dabbled in robotics myself so I found this to be interesting.  The math was a little too involved for my level of interest.
Data Analysis:  Useful course, heavy reliance on examples with R.
Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering:  Once again, fairly heavy depth mathimatically, but useful nonetheless.
Introductory Human Physiology:  Very informative.  The tests were too nit-picky so I didn't bother with them  but I found the lectures quite interesting.
"Pay Attention" ADHD through the Lifespan:  Good but stretched out, should probably be a six week course instead of 12.
Web Intelligence and Big Data:  I was disappointed in this one.  It was too ambitious in its scope and left too many gaps for the student to fill.
Synapses, Neurons and Brains:  Quite enjoyable and very informative.  The unit quizzes were quite fair, I haven't seen the final yet.
Medical Neuroscience:  This is a great course.  A tremendous amount of information and very well presented with lots of excellent diagrams.  The workload level is very high and the quizzes are very difficult.  I haven't had an exam yet but I'm not looking forward to it.  Unfortunately the tests seem to be more of the type that cause un-learning as opposed to learning.  There is also a draconian participation requirement for the course forums.  I refuse to post simply for the sake of posting.
Mathematical Biostatistics Bootcamp:  A strange survey of topics, probably not in-depth enough coverage of material.
Computational Neuroscience:  So far it is has been highly mathematical and it is has been one of those courses were you seem to be expected to know the material before they teach it.
Introduction to Data Science:  This was disappointing.  The organization of this course left much to be desired.  Lots of problems getting software to work to do the assigments, not enough guidance.
Statistical Molecular Thermodynamics:  I took this to review some of my Chemistry background.  I am not going to do the assignments and tests.  So far it is very good with lots of demonstrations.

The above courses are all offered by Coursera, which seems to be my preferred source of MOOCS.  The Computer courses offered by Udacity tend to have a more consistent user interface and less issues with the programs needed for the coursework.  During this time I was also taking a course offered by the Santa Fe Institute called Introduction to Complexity.  There were technical issues with this course and the delivery was uneven but overall it was quite good.  I haven't seen the final exam yet, so I can't comment on how fair the assessment is.

On top of these I was attending a course locally on Citizen Journalism that was about 7 hours a week for six weeks.  So I have been busy.  There are still some courses on-going and always some new ones coming up but it will be a little more reasonable from here on. One good thing is that I decided to buy a new laptop because the old netbook just couldn't cut it anymore.  It was starting to give me random hard  drive errors.  So I got a new Lenovo ThinkPad Twist.  It has Windows 8, which is just kind of an unnecessary complication.  What is really good is the keyboard, it is well designed for serious typing.

So, yes, I should have been writing more but I think it is fair to say that I was just too busy.  I want to try and write more and hopefully contribute to the Community News Commons as well.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Hockey Life - So far

Hockey has been a big part of my life in many ways, so I should spend some time going over my memories. The first thing that I can remember is my Dad making an outdoor rink in our back yard. It wasn't terribly big, probably only about 10 feet by 20 feet, and there were no boards. It was just an ice surface to start learning how to skate. I was into right away, pushing around a kitchen chair on the ice until I got enough strength and balance to move around on my own. Then a little hockey stick was added along with a puck and I was on my way. This started when I was five.

We only had that rink for one year because it killed the grass, but my neighbor put a rink in his garden and it was all fenced off so it was a great place for us to play little hockey games. They had a light on their garage that shone onto the rink so we could play after dark. This is where I really got started playing hockey on the ice. Of course, we also played street hockey both on the front street and in the back lanes. In the beginning we only had two pieces of snow for goal posts but in a few years there were small road hockey nets available. I played this for many years, mostly in the spring and fall when there was no ice available. We also played some floor hockey in school, which I really enjoyed.

By the time I was seven or eight I was already wandering down to the corner rink to go skating, although I was too small to play any pick up hockey or shinny. I lived about a block and a half from a small park with a wading pool called Pascoe Park. In the summer we would go there to play on the structures and in the wading pool. In the winter the wading pool side was closed and a temporary hockey rink and pleasure skating surface were erected on the other side of the building. We simply referred to the building as "the shack".

Those were the days of the Baby Boomers and there were always lots of kids around. Before I started playing organized hockey I recall skating at the rink only to be kicked off while the organized teams had games. There were three teams playing out of Pascoe Park, they were 11, 12 and 13 years olds. Keep in mind that this wasn't even a community centre, just a little satellite park for Weston Memorial Community Centre, which had all of its own teams. So there were lots and lots of kids. Anyway, after watching these guys play I was certainly gung-ho to try it also.

I should describe The Shack: There were two sets of doors, one facing north and one facing south. The south facing doors opened to a fenced-off area that had the play structures and wading pool. The north facing doors opened to a field that had a baseball diamond and soccer field and an area where the hockey rinks were installed for the winter. One the west side there were sliding doors that opened to a storage area that housed hoses and equipment. On the inside there were two bathrooms, two small changing rooms and a small office for the "Park Man". The rest of the area was an open rectangle with a row of double sided benches that had uprights between them for hanging coats and so on. The floor was concrete but in the winter it was covered by mats made out of leather and rubber. These mats had seams with metal stitching them together so I think that they were originally some kind of large belt, probably used in a power plant. The place had a particular odor, like a swimming pool, sorting of musty with a vague hint of chlorine.

So I skated a little bit at Pascoe Park but the next winter, when I turned 8, there was an opportunity to go to the Community Centre and play for the 8 year old house league team. I think I went to two practices and played one game but then I lost interest, it wasn't very well organized. I do recall having a wind-up at the community centre where we watched a film of highlights from the previous years Stanley Cup - the winners were the Toronto Maple Leafs, they haven't won since.

The next year I did not bother with organized hockey, just playing at Pascoe Park instead. One time during a quiet afternoon there was just one other skater and myself and the Park Man. Inside his office was a trunk that contained some equipment, in this case, goaltender equipment. He let me put it on, there was a mask, chest protector, shin pads and gloves and also a stick. I went out into the net and let the other kid take some shots at me. That was my first experience goaltending.

The following year I signed up to play organized hockey at Pascoe Park, I was only ten but they placed me on the eleven year old team. I wasn't getting much ice time, in those days the favored few would get all the ice time. After a few games I volunteered to play goal and they let me. So I must have played about ten or twelve games, mostly outdoors. The thing was that I didn't have all of the equipment.  All I had was my skates.  So I strapped on the big goalies shin pads, a chest pad, a helmet and cage and the blocker and catcher.  No armpads, no pants, no elbow pads and no jock!  I was a little bit prone to dodging shots, and I would get mad at myself for being such a coward.  Anyway, we had a decent season and we lost in overtime  in the playoffs.

The next year I played at Weston Memorial.  Except I was playing forward and did not get much ice time.  Our team was ok and we actually made it to the finals of the "Christmas Knockout" tournament, which meant we got to play in the old Winnipeg Arena.  That was a big thrill, although we lost the game.  The next year I had the option of going to play for West-End (instead of Weston) and since I hadn't enjoyed sitting on the bench in Weston, that's what I did.  There was a good coach there and I really enjoyed playing on that team.  I had a really good season and we made it to the city championships before losing in the final.  On the way we beat my old Weston team.

The next year most of the players from the West-end team joined a AA team in the area and I did not make the cut.  This meant going back to play for Weston.  I tried but it was a disaster there.  At 14 I knew my hockey career was over.  I spent the next two years doing what I loved the most about playing hockey and that was playing shinny at Pascoe Park.  Once I turned 16 we moved away from Weston and I really just hung up my skates, although I did go skating maybe 10 times or so until I was in University.  I played a little bit with some friends when I was 19 or 20 but I didn't really get serious again until I was in my late twenties.

I started playing some old timers hockey and in some recreational leagues.  I even played for a couple of seasons in the Police League and spared in the Charleswood Men's League.  I also participated in the number of RCMP hockey tournaments. However I found these leagues to be difficult to play in.  So many different skill levels and different attitudes towards the game.  Some people were out for fun and some people were out for blood.  Eventually I just settled on playing pick up hockey on Friday afternoons at the River Heights Arena.  After a year or so I was running the ice time there and was organizing pick up hockey year round in various locations.  From about 1992 to 2007 I probably played 100-120 games a year.  About 1997 I also took up refereeing for minor hockey.  I really enjoyed that.  It was great to be involved with the kids, and if you love the game it is the best seat in the house.  I reffed up to 2007 but by that time my hips were so bad that I was having trouble skating.  I figure that I reffed over a thousand games in that time frame, probably close to fifteen hundred.

So I had to retire from hockey in 2007, although I had one more chance to be involved in 2010 when I coached the Tuxedo Lightning Midget A2 team.  That was a great bunch of kids.  We had a terrible season but started coming on in the playoffs and won a few games before bowing out.  My only regret was that I was no longer able to get on the ice and skate with the players.

My surgeon did not encourage me to play hockey after my hips were replaced.  I felt as though I could have but eventually I just would have injured myself.  It was definitely time to hang them up.  Overall I had many years of enjoyment and camaraderie, and, other than the progressive degeneration of my hips, no major injuries to contend with.  I really have so many happy and positive memories about my years playing hockey, that I am extremely grateful.  I never got to be in the "show" or be a star, but I sure had a lot of fun.


Weston Stories I

I grew up in Winnipeg in a neighborhood called Weston.  The reason that it was called Weston is that it was located adjacent to the Canadian Pacific Railway's Weston Shops, which was a huge maintenance facility.  Most of the people who lived in Weston either worked for the railway or had family members that did.  My mother's grandfather, father, brother, uncle, as well as my father all worked there at some point in time.  It was a booming place in the post World War II days.

Weston was kind of an interesting little enclave because it was bordered by the Weston Shops to the North. To the south and east it was bordered by Notre Dame Ave. and McPhillips Street, both of which featured a great deal of industrial buildings.  On the west side it was bordered by Keewatin Street, on the other side of which was another neighborhood called Brooklands.  The overall effect was to create distinct borders around the neighborhood so that it seemed to me to be a little self-contained town inside the city.  Sometimes people would refer to it as "CPR Town".

When I was born my parents lived in an Apartment complex called Blake Gardens that was situated right beside The Weston Shops.  These apartments had been built to accommodate the large influx of workers and families into the area after World War II.  This was the height of the baby boom and my earliest recollection of that time was going out into the open area between the apartment complexes with my mother and seeing the place just full of kids playing and parents talking.  That was one thing about growing up in the baby boomer era, there were always lots of kids around.

Weston had three schools, two elementary and one Junior High School.  One elementary school was called Weston school and it was on Logan at Quelch.  Logan was the main thoroughfare through Weston.  The other two schools were paired together and were called Cecil Rhodes I and II.  Cecil Rhodes I was the junior high (grades 7 to 9), and was also called the "old school" or the "big school" because it had been the first and only school in the neighborhood for many years.  Located across the school ground from it was the elementary school, which was called the "little school", although it was probably larger.  The Big School was on Cecil Street bordered by Elgin and William Avenue.  The elementary school faced Elgin Avenue and was bordered by William and Worth Avenue.

Weston had a community centre, there were numerous shops and Mom and Pop grocery stores.  One thing that it did not have was a library.  This gave rise to one of my favorite memories of Weston and that was the Book Mobile.  Every Tuesday, like magic, this large mobile home converted into a mobile library would appear at a gas station at Logan Ave. and Blake St.  You entered in the door at one end and returned your books.  Bookshelves lined the length of the trailer on each side from floor to ceiling.  You picked your books and then checked them out at the door at the opposite end of the trailer.  There were always two librarians and they operated this nifty microfilm camera that took pictures of your library card and the card from the book that you were checking out.  I took many, many books out of that book mobile over the years.  It brought me great enjoyment and it is something that I don't think exists any longer.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I recently lost 70 pounds...how I did it.

First of all, I have never been a thin person, although I am fairly tall (6' 2' - 6' - 3" range).  I didn't mind too much because I felt good and I was very physically active.  Usually I would experience a stretch of weight gain and then lose 20 or 25 pounds.  I basically stabilized around the 265 mark.  Then, in my mid-forties, my  hips started to go really bad.  My primary activity was hockey and I just couldn't continue playing.  I tried to keep up with alternate activities such as going to  the gym, swimming, cycling, etc., but it's not the same.  As my hips became worse I could hardly ride a bike and walking was out of the question.

One thing that I did which paid dividends in the long run was cut back on my coffee intake.  Then I switched to decaf coffee and finally I eliminated the cream and sugar.  I went from about 8 to 10 cups a day of double cream double sugar to 6 cups of black decaf.  I think this is hugely important because caffeine plays hell with your blood sugar levels and makes it difficult to maintain a diet.  This coffee transition took me months to do and while I was doing it I did not worry about my weight.

Also during this time I was recovering from my hip surgeries, so I tried to be active but I ate pretty much as much as I wanted.  I also think this was important because I certainly felt weak after the surgeries.  My activity was primarily cycling with some weights thrown in.

In the summer of 2012 I maxed out with my weight, probably around 305 and that's when I started dieting seriously.  I bought digital scales for measuring weight and food portions and I signed up for a web-based diet and exercise utility called "Lose-It" which allowed me to track weight, calories from food and exercise in a very convenient manner.  I weighed myself every day and maintained the entries for food and exercise diligently.  Lose-It allows you to set goals to make it easier to monitor how much you can eat and it automatically adjusts the calories allowed based on your current weight.

I set my weight loss goal so that I would lose a pound a week from calorie reduction, so that is about 500 calories a day.  Then I worked out like crazy.  Not super-intense, lots of moderate cardio and weights.  I was typically losing about 3 pounds a week this way and I almost never lacked energy or experienced hunger pangs.  In fact, I lost over 75 pounds, but my goal was 70 so I have allowed myself to come up a bit.  I am just under 235, which was my goal weight and I am currently tweaking my activity and caloric intake to see what a maintenance lifestyle will look like.  The weight came off over a period of 6 months.

While doing this I was 52 years old and had both hips replaced two years prior.  I think that if I could do it, then anyone can.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Distractions from writing: MOOCs

I have become addicted to MOOCs (Massively Open On-line Courses).  In the last year and a half I have probably taken close to twenty of them.  Usually they are about 6 to 12 weeks long.  I sometimes take as many as 7 or 8 at the same time.  Of course I mostly just watch the lectures and don't bother too much with the exams or assignments, although I do them if I think they will bolster my learning - as opposed to simply providing a grading mechanism.  I do find it strange how much people obsess over marks in a non-credit course.  To me it is all about the learning and, at my age, I'm not going to cram for a test when I know that I won't retain that detail and don't need it anyway.

It is interesting to see the evolution of these courses.  I started with an Introduction to AI course offered by Stanford.  That program immediately morphed into Udacity and Coursera.  I have taken many courses in both of those programs.  I have also registered for a few other MOOC providers, such as Ed X but I haven't taken any of their courses yet.  I recently started a Complexity course offered by the Santa Fe Institute.  All of these are quite good and the level of sophistication is improving.  There have been a couple of courses that  I did not think were that good, but they were still ok.

These courses are here to stay and they will improve learning overall.  The only thing that I am worried about is what will happen when there is the inevitable move to monetize the courses.  I have noticed that some courses are now offering some type of recognized certificate based on a fee payment in addition to the course requirements.  I think that will detract from the spirit of the MOOC.

I guess the one down side for me is that I spend so much time with these courses that I am not writing and I need to strike a balance in that regard.  Hey, I'm actually taking a MOOC on ADHD, which for me, seeing as I am taking about seven or eight courses at the same time right now, is totally ironic.

Sleep time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On Chess

Well, I started playing Chess when I was about 8 or 9 when I found an old Chess set at my Granny's place and my Uncle Bill showed me the moves. I think that I played one game and then fooled around with the pieces for a bit and then that was it. Somehow I became interested in the game again when I was about ten or eleven, I found a book in the school library which was, I believe, by Irving Chernev that had numerous games of chess in descriptive notation. I figured out the notation and started playing through the games. So I started playing more with Uncle Bill and with other kids. Most of the time I could beat the kids, but I didn't beat Bill for a few years, probably not until I was fourteen or so.

Of course what really got me hooked was the Spassky-Fischer match in 1972. I seem to recall that I initially hoped that Fischer would get a dose of humility in this match, but, as it progressed, I became a supporter of Fischer. After that match I was playing fairly regularly against Bill and  I even played in a simultaneous exhibition against a local Grand Master, Abe Yanofsky, which I lost.

Then there was an international Tournament at the University of Winnipeg in 1974, I think it was called the Pan-Am Championships. I attended this event and helped out by monitoring the demonstration boards. I also played in my first organized tournament. I'm not sure if I even won any games, perhaps one. That tournament took place in the summer so when I returned to school that year I played a lot more at school and I would usually win.

The next year I went to high school and joined the Chess club there and I was fairly successful in the weekly games. I also participated in the High School Chess Championship for a couple of rounds, but dropped out because I was having headaches. After that I lost interest in Chess for a few years, playing only sporadically and not very well.

I got the bug again in my third year of University, and I don't remember how it happened. I probably saw some people playing in a cafeteria and it got me interested again and I played fairly intensely for another couple of years. During this time I would play at the University and also went in a couple of open tournaments, both of which I won prizes for in my rating group...which wasn't very high. I often would even play at parties, winning almost all the games, until I got too relaxed from sipping wine. Sometimes I would go down to the Winnipeg Public Library and play some games there as well. The hi-light at this point was winning a game against an International Master, Fletcher Barager, in a simultaneous exhibition at the University of Winnipeg. There were only about six people participating so it was actually a pretty good win.

After that I drifted away again and didn't return to chess until the late 1980s, when I, once again, got the bug and started playing. This lasted for about another two years and I don't recall playing in any tournaments in this time, but I did go down and play at the Winnipeg Chess Club once in a while. I participated in another simultaneous exhibition with GM Abe Yanofsky and lost yet again. It resulted from a simple blunder when I had a fairly good position, something that happens all too often.

Then there was another hiatus that ended around 2002 when I started playing with some people at work. I brought a chess set and clock and enjoyed many games of blitz chess at work during coffee breaks. More significantly at this time I picked up a Chess Program - Fritz and joined an on-line Chess Club - Chessbase which has enabled me to play many thousands of blitz games over the last 8 or 9 years. I realize that what has caused my lost of interest over the years was simply a lack of people to play in a convenient setting. The Internet has truly revolutionized Chess from that standpoint. I don't think that I am a better player because of it, all I do is play Blitz most of the time and that isn't the best way to improve. However the Internet has also made a vast quantity of games available for review and also allows you to watch major tournament games in real time. It is really quite remarkable.

I have always enjoyed reading about Chess and its history, so I have a fair number of Chess Books. I did go into another tournament about a year ago, it was a rapid Chess Tournament (each player has a 15 minute time limit). I did ok, I won a small prize, but I certainly could have done better. Although I have been playing for some time, I am not particularly good, but I am better than average. Many Chess players continue to play at a strong level late in age, so perhaps I can look forward to improving some more. I see myself continuing to play for the foreseeable future.