Thursday, November 13, 2014

(278) Sceptic Michael Shermer´s Anomalous Events That Can Shake One’s Skepticism to the Core

At circa 18:40 on November 13th 2014 I was adding something to Michael Shermer´s Wikipedia entry.
This was some seven hours after I had posted this at my Facebook wall (somebody else having earlier posted it on Facebook) -

I added a line or two referring to the above article. I then tried to add a link to the article by adding it to those listed at the foot of the page. Mine was link 65. But it was not quite the same as the others and so I tried to alter it.
To my great surprise an announcement came up that somebody else had just then added that very link!

Their link was given as 44. Since there already was a link 44 I do not know if it replaced that link. Number 65 vanished whereas the line or two of text that I had added to the section headed Personal Life remained.
Within half an hour my appended lines vanished to be replaced by a brief sentence saying that on June 25th 2014 he had married a lady called Jennifer Graf. I added words similar to those I had given earlier.
Those too were later removed so I just put them back.
I also found it particularly odd that this link should have been simultaneously provided by two people a full two months after Shermer´s published article in Scientific American.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

(277) One armed bandit

Circa June 18th 2014 I pointed out to my wife a lady with only one arm who was on the beach with us at Cala Cortina. Her right arm came down only a few inches from her shoulder.
I had never seen her before in eight years of frequenting that beach.

Two days later I was resting at some traffic lights two to three miles away when a car hit me from behind. I turned off the engine and got out ... and discovered  very little damage... and also that it was the very same lady, as she confirmed.

She also confirmed that some dents incurred at the front left side of her were from a previous colision.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

(276) The new queen ending stalemate

During a tournament in Roquetas de Mar in January 2013 I spotted an unusual possible stalemate saving resource in an ending for my opponent, Azerbaijani Grandmaster Mirzoev.
I had this position as White -

Play continued 62...c3
A critical alternative was 62...Re8+ when white can reach a won queen ending after 63 Re4 Rxe4+ 64 Kxe4 c3 65 axb4+ Kd6 66 g7 axb2 68 g8=Q b1=Q 69 Qd8+ and the a pawn drops off.
Note in this line white should avoid the smartarse trick of an x-ray check after 65... Kxb4 66 g7?? since after 66...cxb2 67  g8=Q b1=Q 68 Qb8+ black has the dastardly resource of 68...Ka3! 69 Qxb1 and stalemate!

Instead, of course, 66 bxc3+ wins easily.

Well, at a Rapids event in Carboneras in August 2013 I had this position as White vs Jose Comacho Collados, an IM rated 2318 -

Instead of resigning some moves earlier I had been holding out for the trick I had only learned of in January and which now materialised -
1...Qc7?? 2 b8=(Q) Qxb8 


Endgame study enthusiast, Fide Master Paul Lamford said he found the stalemate idea cute. It was new to him, even with his experience and expertise in this specific area of chess.

Incidentally, in November 2014 I was looking at the DVD of Dvoretsky´s Endgame Manual and saw this position from the game

Yates Vs Marshall, Karlsbad 1929

The game ended 1 Kc3? b1=Q 2 Qxb1+ Kxb1 3 Kb4 Kb2! 4 Kxa4 Kc3 and the king caught the pawn.

But Dvoretsky noted that white could have won by 1 Qc2 a3 2 Kc3 Ka1 3 Kb3 b1=Q 4 Qxb1+ Kxb1 5 Kxa3 and the pawn queens.
Neither 1 Qc4+ Ka3 2 Qb5? nor 2 Qc2? worked because of the same stalemate trick of 2...b1=Q! 3 Qxb1
...   ...   ...
(As the faintest of codicils I may add that I received from Byron Jacobs the diagrams included in this example on August 21st 2013. The text I quickly wrote up but, with characteristic energy, did not get around to adding the diagrams until the morning of December 3rd 2013.
That afternoon I saw that a copy of The British Chess Magazine of September 2013 had just arrived. I had requested it of BCM co-editor James Pratt on Facebook who could only have posted it on November 31st at the earliest, specifically because this issue contained my game with Mirzoev with my annotations. Yet it had winged its way over to Spain rapidly enough to arrive on the very day that I added the stalemate coincidence related to it to my blog. I had also drawn the attention of co-editor Shaun Taulbut to the second part of the coincidence - the game with Comacho Collados - but that he had not included.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

(275) Apologising for the offence given forty years ago in childhood

On May 18th 2013 I noted that Pam Ayres and someone else whom I did not follow had retweeted a tweet that I had sent to Pam the previous day.
It was a whimsical observation re horses and Catherine the Great. -
18 May: @PamAyres You sound like Catherine the Great, Pam...

One of the retweeters was Paul Fletcher -
Paul Fletcher ‏@FleTwitcher18 May@JamesPlaskett just saw one of your tweets retweeted. Bit of a surprise because we went to school together #bms #amillionyearsago

That prompted me to confess to having thrown a stone at school that had hit his head -

He responded with -

Paul Fletcher ‏@FleTwitcher18 May@JamesPlaskett OMG it was YOU! I didn't ever know, or even guess. Apology accepted, even if its a little late ;-) #stillscarred

And the chat continued...
Paul Fletcher ‏@FleTwitcher18 MayYou did this to me @JamesPlaskett

View photo

I tweeted that I would be writing up the coincidence here and he responded -

Paul Fletcher ‏@FleTwitcher18 May@JamesPlaskett I'll look out for my small part in your blog (!) fame at last...

Then an erstwhile Primary School friend of 43 years earlier (who became a Policeman!) chipped in re an incident where I had acquired an undeserved reputation as a delinquent in 1970 for having loosed an arrow from a bow which, quite accidentally, hit a passing minibus -

Adrian ‏@Watchoot1518 May@JamesPlaskett @FleTwitcher yet you still deny the noddy bus incident!!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

(274) Sam Harris´ true thoughts on life, the universe and everything

At 11:20 or so on the evening of February 22nd 2013 I was viewing an e mail link that my wife had just sent me.

She had been disputing an earlier statistic that I had advanced where Sam Harris had cited 38% of British Muslims as advocating the death penalty for any apostate. It may be heard here at 3:03 -

I had sent her one link to Harris on Youtube where he gave a high % and was now moved to e mail her across (she was in an adjacent room!) another one where he gave a still higher figure.

She was not enthusiastic about Harris and she sent me across this link -

I began reading it, and did not find it very supportive of her negativity.
Whilst I did so I had a Youtube link continuing to play in the background.
When I reached this point in the loonwatch piece -

There is no vice in having once been religious, for we all of us inherit our mythologies from our parents, but Harris did not inherit his Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. He was bred in a secular home, granted a secular education and lived in a secular state. Instead he chose to abandon his secular upbringing and voluntarily convert to a foreign religious system.
He claims to have shed his former dogmatism, but telling by the loving chapter on mysticism in The End of Faith, it is clear that he sets much stock by some articles of those creeds. It also clarifies why he studiously will not say, as any materialist should have no problem affirming, that there is no afterlife. In numerous occasions when the subject has arisen either in his book or when he’s been asked if he believes that consciousness lives on beyond the death of the brain in interviews like this Salon appearance , he has chosen to either declare his belief in reincarnation or, if the audience is a sceptical lot, preferred the evasive formulation of “I just don’t know” because “If we were living in a universe where consciousness survived death, or transcended the brain so that single neurons were conscious – or subatomic particles had an interior (subjective) dimension –  we would not expect to see it by our present techniques of neuro-imaging or cellular neuroscience.”
When he’s reminded by Salon that, in spite of his claim to be driven by data, that on the contrary “Most evolutionary biologists would say consciousness is rooted in the brain. It will not survive death.” He responds “I just don’t know”.
There was a crystallising display of his Buddhist convictions some years ago at the Salk Institute. He was asked point blank by the physicist Lawrence Krauss if he thinks reincarnation is true and Harris shrugged ”Who knows?” Alluding to the case studies of past-life regressions by Ian Stevenson cited in The End of Faith, he explained “There are these spooky stories.” When the assembled congregation of scientists erupted in astonished laughter at his religious credulity, he grew visibly nervous and, keen to skate past the embarrassing moment, shot back with “Okay, you are on firm ground being sceptical about reincarnation … I have published a few spooky things about telepathy and reincarnation which amount to not an endorsement of these beliefs, but just, you know, I hear there is all this data and someone like Dean Radin writes a book about it, and Brian Josephson, a Nobel Laureate in physics, blurbs it. I don’t have the time to do the meta-analyses and statistical expertise. So, I’m awaiting the evidence. Listen (with rising chagrin) I don’t want to talk about reincarnation. It may be.”
where this link occurs -
- and as I read Krauss´ questioning and Harris´ response on the subject of reincarnation I also got to hear it, because the Youtube link - which was not actually quite the same one as that supplied in the loonwatch link - reached precisely the same point.

Even though I see little in the above piece to affirm Fiona´s statements re Harris´ supposed Islamophobia, it did, to me, lend even more weight to the supposition that he was, quite possibly, not being 100% truthful about his beliefs concerning life, the universe and everything.

Harris is CEO of Project Reason (which I also followed on Twitter) and he and I had exchanged a few tweets a few days earlier, e.g.
  1.  Well, what were you trying to contact during your long meditative exercises with spiritual teachers?
 You´re a remarkable man, Sam: valuing spiritual experience whilst espousing atheism + non-dualism. Highly unusual in that.
He replied that he was now writing a book on that.
I tweeted

 Doesn´t sound like your leveling with us, Sam. Doubt whether your pal Dawkins would have done that just to prove a negative..
When later that very evening I signed up to receive updates from  his website I noticed that the two tweets of his to me were still visible at the right hand side of his site´s home page -


Sam Harris


SamHarrisOrg @JamesPlaskett I am now writing a book on the subject...3 days ago · reply · retweet · favorite
SamHarrisOrg Jonah Lehrer breaks his silence: days ago · reply · retweet · favorite
SamHarrisOrg @JamesPlaskett The soul's absence...