Category Archives: Personal

Long is the Way, and Hard…

Despite not having a Beatrice to guide me on my way, I have made it through the seven circles of hell.  Not Dante’s, de la Maza’s.  (Click here for details.)  On March 5th I completed my first run through de la Maza’s Seven Circles of Hell program.  I noted the variations I would make in the program in the previous blog post on this topic (found by clicking here).  The big question is, did it work?  I have to let the numbers do the talking.  While I don’t have chess.com (blitz rating) data points that I can use to find what kind of linear regression is at work, the charts the site offers can make for a good estimate of what happened.  Here are the charts of the progress.

 Circles 1

 

Circles 2

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22nd Annual (2015) Kent State Philosophy Graduate Student Conference In Remembrance of May 4th (Part I)

Among all of the conferences that I have attended or presented at, Kent State’s Graduate Philosophy Conference was the most professionally done of the bunch.  I think the reputation of this conference is growing, based on the quality of the papers presented (and from the number I heard that were submitted) and representatives present from top school; this year there were two Harvard students and one Oxford student presenting, along with some of the most creative philosophers-in-training from the American West to East Coast, California to New York, as it were.  For anyone looking a good and productive venue to make intellectual progress, I strongly suggest submitting to this conference in the future.  Continue reading

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Seven Circles of Chess Hell

Seven Circle

 

My humanity is one of incessant self-overcoming.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche

 

The Seven Circles of Chess Hell is a chess training regimen developed by Michael de la Maza, an MIT alumnus, laid out in his book Rapid Chess Improvement.  I’ll briefly describe the program and then talk about my experience with it and future intentions.

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A Reflection on the Introduction of Josh Waitzkin’s “The Art of Learning” and the State of Academic Philosophy

the-art-of-learning-Josh-WaitzkinI was rereading Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning[1] the other day, and it resonated with me much more so than when I read it in 2007.  I suspect part of this has to do with the fact that I was studying physics at the time, and, by now, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in philosophy departments and at workshops/conferences/get-togethers with graduate students in philosophy.  In the introduction, in addition to recounting some of his experiences as a young chess sensation —perpetually the highest rated chess player in his age group from the very beginning—, he talks about his experiences in Columbia University’s philosophy department from his days as an undergraduate student.  His discussion includes the frustration of having to deal with philosophers (i.e., philosophy professors) who constantly deride certain ideas, take on a smug countenance when presented with difficult to verbalize ideas, and switch to a mode of think that is anything like serious whenever faced with an idea that is not easily resolvable in focus, especially vague terms, terms that are moderately or extremely mystical, Eastern in philosophical disposition, and so on.  Waitzkin says, ‘Whenever I had an idea, I would test it against some brilliant professor who usually disagreed with my conclusions.  Academic minds tend to be impatient with abstract language— when I spoke of intuition, one philosophy professor rolled her eyes and told me the term had no meaning’ (p. xvi).  This is the thing that bothers me about the circles I have roamed in, to this point, and maybe things are different in different departments, but I my experience corresponds to this.  The student of philosophy very quickly learns what cannot be said around the tenured professors.  Admirably, and no doubt partly due to his undergraduate naivety and partly due to his willfull nature, Waitzkin didn’t seem to go down without a fight when such instances arose.

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Road to the 2015 World Chess Open

chess two knights mate

I have not competed in a USCF chess tournament in over four years.  In fact, I have not studied chess in over four years.  Grad school has a way of stymying such pursuits.  Nonetheless, despite not having studied or played much more than an occasional blitz game (five minutes on each player’s clock), I am finding through chess tests, assessments, and online ratings that I might be as much as 400 points stronger than my last official USCF rating, which is 1567 with a 1608 peak.  To give the casual reader some sense of how absurd that 400-point jump in strength is for an adult player —especially for one who has not studied in that period—, most adult players struggle to gain 50 points a year with significant study (e.g., two 3-hr. trips to the chess club and 5 hours of study per week of tactics, openings, master-annotated games, and endgames).  I’ve had friends struggle to gain a total of 100 points over a few years.  Intrigued by this increase in strength, and stimulated by my love of the game, I have decided to compete at the 2015 World Chess Open chess tournament in Arlington, Virginia.

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Reflection on a First-Year Professorship: An Experiment in Allowing Students to Choose Texts

This is the first of a number of reflections I hope to do on my first year as a professor of philosophy.  As of right now, I am through the first semester.  It’s been an interesting experience, to say the absolute least.  I don’t mean that simply in terms of outcomes of pedagogical experiments or common experiences of student discontent with grades, but also political and administrative stuff in addition. Continue reading

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Moving into a Professorship in Philosophy and Some Thoughts on Class Structure

A little bit unusual for my blog, I am posting a personal update, which may interest various people for various reasons.  This next year should be a rather interesting year in my intellectual development: I have taken a post as adjunct professor of philosophy at one of the United States’ largest community college, the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, PA —a seven-campus college.  I will be at the main campus, the Allegheny Campus.  Since Indiana University’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science doesn’t grant undergraduate degrees, teaching assignments for graduate students are scarce with so few in-department undergraduate courses, especially for grads in their first two years, I felt it important that I find and take on, at the very least, a one-year appointment as a lecturer, hence the desire to take on an adjunct professorship.  Teaching is an important part of the academician’s craft as a whole.  Continue reading

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