Saturday, July 01, 2006

I stuck around St. Petersburg...

My last big excitement of my trip to St. Pete was my visit to the Hermitage museum. It was an organized tour, which had its plusses and minuses. Plus: I wasn't afraid of getting mugged. Minus: I didn't get to choose what we got to see. We spent about an hour on the Winter Palace (cool), an hour on the treasures of the czars (yawn, and they didn't let us take pictures), and an hour on pre-18th century art (cool, although I was more interested in the rooms of Matisses and Picassos that they reportedly have).

The very distinct Russian Baroque style was similar to that of Peterhof.

They had a number of paintings by Rembrandt.

They also have two of the approximately 18 existing Da Vinci paintings.

The room containing them was very popular.

Here's a sculpture by Michaelangelo.

And of course, here's the final entry in my "Big Head Trilogy".

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Go Update

It's been a while since I did my last update of my online go ranking. At the time, I was 22 kyu. Since then, I've been enjoying playing face-to-face go more and on-line go less. I had almost entirely stopped playing on-line until I discovered I could now play against a computer program. That works well, because I can play as little or as much as I'd like in a sitting.

After many ups and downs (including hitting 19 kyu a couple of times), I am back at 21 kyu. That's as a result of losing a close loss last night to the computer program. I'm sure I'll bounce back.

In the real world, I finally won my first match at a Richmond go tournament in June. Amusingly enough, it was against the same opponent who delivered my first loss this spring. Since I was now 19 kyu and he was 15, I got a 3-stone handicap, compared to our earlier even game. (According to the way the tournaments I've been in before work, it would have been a 19-15=4 stone handicap, but this used a computer program that was a little different.) With about 5 stones left to play, my opponent resigned. I guess he figured I wasn't going to make any stupid mistakes that would let him back into the game.

My second game was a 3-handicap game against a 14 kyu player. (If you win, the computer keeps making your matches harder until you lose.) I made plenty of stupid mistakes in that one. In the end, I made more than my opponent, and he won by 25.

My third game was a 6-stone handicap against a 12 kyu player. After the pairings were announced, my opponent from the previous match came up to me and said, "I know this guy. You can beat him. Just don't make any stupid mistakes." So I played very conservatively...I noticed the other guy was, too. Whenever I made the slightest
aggressive move, he went to defend. So with both of us playing conservatively, and me with a 6-stone handicap, I won easily. We started counting, but quit when we realized I was ahead by more than 50 points.

My last game was an 8-stone game against a 10 kyu. The game went back and forth. First he killed a bunch of my stones, then I killed some of his (not supposed to happen against a 10 kyu!), then he invaded some of my territory that I had defended poorly. When we counted it up, we were dead even. We counted again to make sure. In a tournament, ties go to the higher ranked player (he had, after all, given me 8 stones handicap), so he won by half a point.

That was particularly harsh, since 3 victories would have won me two books. Still, one of the games I had lost was a particulary hard one, so when the dust settled my ranking went from 19.3 kyu to 19.0. So I can still enter the next tournament as a 19 kyu. I'm hoping to study up and go 3-1 or 4-0. After all, winners there not only get a prize, they also get a trophy!


Updated Map

Well, now that I've been to Russia and India, my map of countries visited looks all the more impressive.

The Europe map looks pretty good, too.

In terms of new countries, I'm hoping to go to China in December, and I may go to Spain and Malaysia for conferences next year. There's always the possiblity of finding a nice spot in the sun for vacation, but Caribbean islands don't show too well on the map. :-)

Maps courtesy of World 66.