All posts by rashidfarook

Software Developer/Analyst and part-time musician.

Chess: Scholar’s Mate

The scholar’s mate is a game of just 4 moves.
1.e4 , e5 2. Qh5 , Nc6 3. Bc4 , Nf6 4. Qxf7++ , 1-0

Another variation, which happened in a real game that I was witness too (and .. participant as well ..) went like this:

1. e4 – e5

2. Bc4 – a6

3. Qf3 – b5??

4. Qxf7++ 1-0

Of course at any level from Intermediate and above both “Qh5” and “Qf3” are pretty bad move for White as the Queen will be an easy target of attack from minor pieces and will have to return back to base giving up a lot of tempo.

The coolest thing about this little trap is how it befuddles the victim .. that is of course unless you are the one! I had the unfortunate luck of being at the receiving end of this embarrassing checkmate in an actual tournament back in middle school. Trust me .. its not fun when you are the losing side .. LOL!

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Who Plays Tennis This Late in Fall?

[NOTE: This post was a while back when I first started playing tennis.]

The answer to the title question is – newbies like me! Barely in my second season of tennis leagues, I decided to play in 3 tournaments. The mens’ doubles and mixed doubles’ went alright although we were well into mid-November chilling evenings and sometimes rainy mornings for the season to wrap up. But worst was the mens’ singles. By match 6 I was in the middle of moving to a new place and had hurt my feet. My 2-level higher opponent just toyed around with me, placing the ball where I’ll have to run to get it. By game 7 I’ve been out of practice for weeks and well into cold weather of December. The first set was competetive. But by second set I’ve developed a neck pain. I wouldn’t give up, having led 3-0 at one point, until a electrifying pain on my right shoulder made me shout in pain. The score had slided down to 3-4 by then. That was the end of the match and the season for me!

For a while I was feeling like Seymore Hauffman in “The Savages” or the way C3PO moves his neck in Star Wars. Thanks to some useful pain killers and massage therapy by my mixed doubels’ partner (my wife) looks like I’ll be able to get back to the court next season. But I’ve made up my mind to not play singles leagues in Fall anymore.

Tennis: 10 Things to know when you play in clay!

If you have never played Tennis in a clay court and has the misfortune to play it for first time in a big match you may learn the following in a hard way.

10. Those cute looking marks in the court aren’t designs! They are winners hit by your opponent to dispose off previous players. And now you are the target!
9. You didn’t overhit! No you really didn’t!! It’s just a natural reflex for a first timer.
8. It’s not slow motion! It’s called top spin on a clay court by someone who knows how to play here.
7. As for your own so-called “spin”, don’t try to embarrass yourself and your “fans” by pretending it was the racquet’s fault the ball hit the net.
6. The wind feels like standing still, and you feel like in a sauna and you are still in the first set! Well what do you expect playing here in the middle of the summer.
5. There is nothing wrong with the scoreboard looking so one-sided. Just getting to deuce doesn’t mean much. You still have to win the game!
4. Standing that far behind baseline expecting a big serve gives you the same chance of returning the ball as someone sitting in the audience.
3. If your “fan” (6-yr old daughter in this case) runs cheerfully to you at the end of the match asking the score, just pretend the scorecard treats “home” as “away”
2. The ball will not rise no matter how much you want, except when you least expect it to! So at least keep your eyes open while hitting it.
1. On the bright side, at least you will give more respect to this court the next time you face one.

Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

[Note: This was a review from a while back in my Facebook page. Hopefully more reviews will be in my blogsite soon!]

Here is my take on the movie “Sherlock Holmes” (2009) less than an hour after watching it in the movie theater. The movie was pretty exciting. Those who are well-versed in Sherlockian literature will be able to follow most of the events and will notice reference to lot of existing characters from the original series of books. For those new to Holmes this may look like more action than expected but I found it very well crafted in mixing the authenticity of a 19th century series with events made for a 21st century action loving audience. Anyway, enough with the summary stuff. On with the movie.

This is a new Sherlock Holmes story but do have references to some of the original works. It is set after “Sign Of Four” and “A Case in Bohemia” and before Watson gets married to Mary Mortsan. Robert Downey does a great job as Holmes. We get to see some of the boxing and shootout scenes mentioned so many times in the original books but hardly ever seen in the movies or TV-series before. Compared to the BBC series from the ’80s (starring Jeremy Brett) we see less of the deduction/investigating techniques but when they do occur they are shown in great details and with lot of wits. Jude Law is great as Watson and for the first time I feel the movie does justice to the biographer/doctor by not making him a bumbling sidekick. The only “flaw” i felt was the portrayal of Mary Morstan (Watson’s finance at the time). She was a client of Holmes from “The Sign Of Four” I believe, and quiet a remarkable lady as Holmes himself mentioned. But in this new adaption she is shown merely as a love interest of Watson and has a bit of one-dimensional character. Irene Adler’s character also maybe considered a bit over-the-top (she is almost made a super-woman with all sorts of martial arts abilities!). But since she did in-fact outwit Holmes once and was a very intelligent woman, I guess her new persona is bearable.

The story is about one Lord Blackwood and does involve several seemingly super-natural incidents which almost made me cringe thinking they are going to make Holmes a believe in the occult. Thankfully my hero comes through with logic and deduction which wins the day. There is a lot of scope for a sequel. Professor Moriarty has an important part in the story! I sincerely hope they make more of these new adaptations. I would also love to see a re-make of “Hound of the Baskerville” with this new cast.

My Grade: B+

Louisiana Trip Spring, 2012

In the Spring of 2012 we took a short trip to the exciting Cajun Country of Louisiana. I had been a freshman at LSU (Losuisiana State Unviersity) way back in my college days and is familiar with the colorful history of that state. But that has been decades back and my wife, Glenda, has never been to Louisiana.

We decided to drive the 480+ miles from Alpharetta (north of metro-Atlanta) to Louisiana.

Here is a map of the route we took:          

The first stop in our trip was Mobile, Alabama. The city is famous for motor oil; so much so that in many parts ot he world motor-oil is called “Mobil”! We stayed the night there in a hotel Glenda smartly picked near the I-10 and I-65 intersection. This way, next morning we were able to get right on the interstate I-10 heading toward Louisiana without much hassle avoiding Mobile city traffic.

The drive from Mobil, through Mississipi, into Louisiana was relatively short and comfy. At the border of Louisiana, we stopped at the Rest area to get refreshed and take pictures! The weather already felt a bit humid, even for the early Spring and even by Georgia standard! We planned 3 key places to visit:

1) The swamp lands of Slidell

2) The historic city of New Orleans and

3) Baton Rouge – home of the LSU Tigers

Below is a more detail map of these places within Louisiana.

Our first stop in Louisiana was an Eco-Tour of the “Honey Island” swamp in Slidell, Louisiana. We wanted to experience the “Blue Bayou” that Glenda so nicely sings when she does a cover of the famous Linda Ronsdat song 🙂 . The swamp tour took us deep into the Bayou land that has all kinds of birds, crawfish, snakes and alligators roaming around. As you can see from the image below, it looks beautiful and yet a bit intimidating!

After the swamp tour we headed out to New Orleans. It is an exciting drive over the great Lake Pontchartrain and you may see a dead Alligator or two by the side of the highway! We reached New Orleans early in the afternoon and immediately proceeded to explore the City.

New Orleans is famous for its French-Creole architecture. We already knew of it’s famous French influence and the “Mardi-Gras” festival. But we learned a lot more in just days exploring the city! Before we dive into those details let me share below a montage pic (source: wikipedia) about the city. You can see in it the famous streetcars, the city skyline (including the superdome) and some historic architectures.

New_orleans_montage

We quickly learned that the best way to explore the city is to use a combination of driving, streetcars and walking. Using our trusty google map app we located a public parking in the downtown area and parked for the day. The rate was quiet reasonable. We then headed on foot to the famous French Quarters. We had decided to use one of the walking tour guides first and it was very helpful to learn about the history of the city, places to eat/shop and how to use the streetcars to get around!

Despite the blow received during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 (we visited in early 2012) New Orleans has recovered admirably and hardly any sign of the natural disaster is visible until you go outside the main city area. There was NCAA Basketball final-four game scheduled in the city the same weekend we visited so the crowd was quiet big. It wasn’t too much of a trouble until you walk down Bourbon Street in midst of rowdy fans, so we made a mental note to avoid such big events (maybe except Mardi Gras) when we visit again.

To Be Continued ..