Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blindfold Chess

Playing chess without seeing the chessboard is very difficult, if not outrageous to say the least. It requires extraordinary talent. In "blindfold chess",  the players painfully keep a mental idea of the current situation of the pieces, keep track of the development on the board, while mapping out strategy and tactics to win the game. The moves are conveyed through chess notation.

Those who play or are familiar with how chess is played will be astonished to see these children playing the game without seeing the chessboard. Their ability to do this is clear talent bordering on the magical.

During the game, White allowed her b2 pawn to be taken resulting in a situation where Black is able to promote to a Queen. White's move is a clear blunder. However, what should be appreciated is the fact on how these children were able to keep track of the moves and come up with a clear mental picture of the position of the pieces on the chessboard. Imagine how difficult it is to continue having a clear mental picture of the chessboard after several moves have been made.

To be able to play blindfold chess requires what they call "extraordinary visuo-spatial abilities and memory". Chess players who are good in playing blindfold chess has a clear grasp of the "mental imagery"on the chessboard as explained in this article

"Mental imagery is a cognitive task which helps you perceive something that isn't there. However, mental imagery goes beyond mentally visualizing objects as you can also mentally represent pictures, sounds, smells, or sensations. When it comes to vision, mental imagery is the impression to actually "see" an image in your mind, like an absent person's face. This can help us create existing (faces, human bodies, numbers, words, objects, animals...) or imaginary (monsters, abstract figures) shapes, whether they are familiar or not, standing still or moving, colored or black and white.
When you have to perform a complex task, you first go mentally through the different steps to make sure you haven't left out or underestimated any of the available information. Take a chess player for example: In order to estimate how relevant each of the possible moves is, he/she mentally plays his own but also his opponent's moves as he cannot physically touch the pawns."
Chess is a game that is both entertaining and intellectually challenging. It can be played by anyone no matter what the age or class. It can be played in various ways, What is important is to simply play and enjoy chess.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

What a Dog Can Teach Us (Marley & Me)

I have just finished reading "Marley & Me" by John Grogan. A book about Marley - a Labrador Retriever and how a dog can teach us something about life that no one can actually teach us. According to the author and I underscore and quote:

"What I really wanted to say was how this animal had touched our souls and taught us some of the most important lessons of our lives. 'A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours,' I wrote. 'Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things - a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grow old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.' "

A dog like Marley can also educate us on what really matters in this complicated world of ours -

"It was an amazing concept that I was only now, in the wake of his death, fully absorbing: Marley as mentor. As teacher and role model. Was it possible for a dog - any dog, but especially a nutty, wildly uncontrollable one like ours - to point humans to the things that really mattered in life? I believed it was. Loyalty. Courage. Devotion. Simplicity. Joy. And the things that did not matter, too. A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A water-logged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but who they are inside. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not. As I wrote that farewell column to Marley, I realized it was all right there in front of us, if we only opened our eyes. Sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners, and pure intentions to help us see."

Finally, a dog like Marley can give us a gift only given and received by those with the purest of hearts:

"x x x. Despite everything, all the disappointments and unmet expectations, Marley has given us a gift, at once priceless and free. He taught us the art of unqualified love. How to give it, and how to accept it. Where there is that, most of the other pieces fall into place."

Friday, March 23, 2018

Hot Chocolate and Pine Trees (Paseo Rizal Mayagay)

Paseo Rizal Mayagay, Tanay, Rizal
There are several establishments along the Marilaque Highway that is worth stopping by simply to take a quick look or to stay a little longer for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One place that should not be missed is Paseo Rizal Mayagay - an old house themed restaurant, bar and an art gallery popular among cycling groups and motorcycle riders.

I had several chance of visiting Paseo Rizal. The very first thing that catches my attention is the art gallery on the ground floor. Works of Art are displayed together with items that remind us of the past. I appreciate works of art in any form it may be. I consider chess itself as an art form where two combatants paint on a canvass called a chessboard. I recall reading an article where players who had the opportunity to play chess against Fischer or Tal is akin to painting in the same canvass with Van Gogh. However, chess as a form of art is an idea discussed and debated among players. Others consider chess mainly as a sport devoid of any artistic significance. They say that checkmating your opponent is the only goal in chess and any artistic derivative is nothing but a consequence.  But whether chess is an art or not depends on the view of the players.

The second floor is where the bar and restaurant is located. But since I am able to visit this place mostly in the morning, I never had the chance of seeing what the place is like at night. What I enjoy most however is having a hot tablea (dried cocoa) on the veranda while enjoying the view of the mountains and pine trees. With the undeterred development, finding a quite place to relax and let your thought wander is becoming difficult.

After a very challenging and exhausting week at work, sometimes we just need to find a place where we can sit back and have a nice cup of coffee or tablea. One of the best place to do this is at Paseo Rizal Mayagay.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Scenic Views and Mountains (Antipolo, Rizal)

Boso Boso Highlands Resort and Hotel
I never expected to have a great time when I opted to travel to what is now considered as cycling playground in Antipolo, Rizal. I did not ride a bicycle though I saw groups of cyclists and motorcycle riders enjoying the very scenic and mountainous views of the highway.

With the threat of a rapid, if not uncontrolled development, I have been frequenting this highway known as "Marilaque" (a well paved stretch of road that commences in Marikina all the way to the Sierra Madre, passing through Laguna and finally to Infanta, Quezon), to escape the city stress and its notorious traffic. Lately however I noticed that vehicles are now more numerous compared to just a year before. It will definitely be a bad scenario if this beautiful highway is transformed into another EDSA in the future. I do not have anything against urbanization and development. But, there should always have some form of "urban planning" to ensure that any kind of construction will not be detrimental to nature.

Sometimes after a week of hard work, what I simply need is some form of a "sweet escape" from the stress of life. A place where you can see a lush vegetation and green surroundings. A view of the mountains and preferably with imposing trees is more than enough to invigorate myself for another challenging week at work.

There are several establishments along this highway. Every time I travel here, I am able to enjoy the relaxing views of the mountains that always remind me of Tagaytay. It was the first time I visited Boso Boso Highlands Resort and Hotel. I was surprised that there is a "Cafe Cristina Restaurant" where I dined weeks earlier after enjoying a sauna, jacuzzi and spa. My only regret with this restaurant is that there are no vegan options, Most of what is listed in the menu is a combination or purely derived from a sentient being. What I did is to simply eat rice and vegetables served as a side dish.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Sauna, Jacuzzi and Massage (Antipolo City)

After a very hectic week who does not desire a relaxing massage? With the proliferation of spas in almost every corner in Metro Manila, there is irrefutable evidence that stress and fatigue are becoming more common than before. Perhaps, it is the demands of work or everyday endeavors that make us more stressed. There are a lot of things to do and time is always not enough to accomplish our tasks.

Chess is a game that takes most of my time. Cycling is another that has recently taken space in my already busy schedule. I know there are a lot out there who feels exactly the same as I do. With a number of things occupying our schedule, it is important not to forget to give our body and mind the rest it needs. We should not forget to give some time for our well being and health. There is always a limit to the amount of stress and fatigue our body can take. While everyone knows this as a fact, it is often forgotten. Oftentimes, we take our health for granted. Just imagine despite the “graphic health warnings” on cigarette labels, I can still see a lot of smokers even in public places! It is as if they really do not care at all. It is only during the time when sickness comes in the way that we often think about our health.

With the desire to get some pampering, I tried Callospa in Antipolo City. Beyond social media, it is a good move to simply discover what the place has to offer by yourself. Get to experience it and if you are not happy, then do not come back. Give the place a chance. Sometimes, it is the unexpected that gives color to your visit. Honestly though, I think there are other spas in Antipolo City that can provide a much better pampering. However, Callospa can give them a run for their money. The service nor the facilities is not exceptional. Yet, in my seven hours stay I enjoyed their sauna, jacuzzi and their massage. I liked the room and the swimming pool. But, I never expected that lunch is served at Cafe Cristina that is one ride away. As such, it is a good move to have food with you when you opted to avail of their day or night pampering package.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Street Life (Forever Waiting)

Perhaps, there is forever only in a photo where a moment is frozen for eternity. In life, live the moment for everything is fleeting. Nothing lasts! As it is said, nothing will remain constant except change itself. If life gives you the best, keep your feet on the ground. If life gives you the worse, look up. Everything will pass!

Do not wait for forever! It will find you at the least expected time. However, forever is not like a thief in the night. In fact, it reveals itself at any given moment. Live your life in the present and begin to experience forever. Do not forget yesterday but always be hopeful for the next day!

How many times have we been told that life is short? Yet, we seem to take life for granted. Why waste a tear for someone who is no longer there? Forever has nothing to do about someone. It is not even a quest! Forever is your very own personal choice. Take a moment and live it! Take a photo and leave anyone else who does not want to be there.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Jewel (Black Tan Chihuahua)

When I first held Jewel on my hand as a two month old puppy, I know I have to take her. There is something with this puppy that immediately drew me to her. It is indeed true that there are times that you get attached to a dog and you would not let go. The reason behind such attachment is very difficult to explain. A dog has some kind of allure that makes them endearing to us. Jewel is one such puppy that I just have to give a forever home.

Jewel always want to be the center of attention. She would do everything to get near me to be petted. Every time I get home,  Jewel together with my other dogs would be jumping and barking showing how excited they are to see me. But I can see how Jewel makes every effort to be carried and hugged first! She feels jealous each time I would carry and hug my other Chihuahuas. I think she wants my attention all to herself.

Jewel also has that habit of guarding and not sharing the food meant for all my Chihuahuas. What she would do is guard the two bowls containing food. It is only Gem (my other pet Chihuahua) who can employ the necessary resistance deterring her from doing such act. At this time, I noticed that she only guards the small bowl with the food and allow my other pets to eat in the bigger bowl.

I recall the time when Jewel was trapped on the part of  a makeshift enclosure I made to temporarily hold my pets. Instead of trying to escape, I saw her just wagging her tail waiting to be rescued. She did not make any effort to get out of the enclosure. I think Jewel has been there for several hours. When Jewel wags her tail, it is as if she is smiling waiting to be picked up and hugged. This is what is great about her,  she can convey what she feels on her very own special way. No words needed to do that.

With the joy that dogs bring to our lives it is always relevant to ask - what did we do deserve them? Dogs are the most loyal companion we can ever have. Through thick and thin, they would always be there for us. They will remain loyal and protective of their owners without any form of discrimination. They do not care  whether their owner is rich or poor! They will not leave as long as they are given love and the care they need.

More Than A Million Books (Big Bad Wolf Book Sale)

In this day and age where the existence of the "physical book" is constantly threatened by the eBook, a million new and real books can still drive people into an uncontrollable buying frenzy. The search for that much sought after book or in discovering new ones is hoped to end or commence in the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. Just imagine more than a million new books are up for sale!

Though eBooks have taken a large chunk of the market, the huge number of people who visited this book sale is proof enough that (no matter what) real books are here to stay. Real books where you can actually touch the pages and marvel at the beautifully printed photographs gives that one of a kind experience that cannot be matched by an eBook. Convenience sometimes has to take a back seat in favor of reality. While one small phone can store thousands of books,  the feeling of holding that real book you have been longing for a very long time is awesome enough to momentarily forget your gadget. A real book is tangible property. It can displayed in a bookshelf unlike the eBook.

The moment I entered the building and saw the great number of books on sale, I knew that my effort of going here was a good move. There were lots and lots of books! I was lost which book I should get first. As far as my eyes can see, there were piles of reasonably priced books in almost every subject. I like books on sports (particularly chess and cycling), travel, biography, history, photography, and writing.

Given the great number of people who visited this book sale and many more still looking desperately for more books from their favorite authors, I hope that this Big Bad Wolf Book Sale would again be held here in the very near future.