Sunday, July 25, 2010

Obsessed With All Things Giant?

Giant Chess manufactures some of the largest sets in the world.

Elaine Howie Fund for Chess Juniors

As mentioned in a previous post, I will be distributing some funds each year for select juniors in chess.

In recognition of my aunt's anniversary (passed away a few years ago), I have named the fund after her. She spent every moment of her life trying to make others happy. The Elaine Howie Fund for Chess Juniors gives me the opportunity to spread her support.

You can see the current amount on the side bar.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top Ten!

Top 10 things that were great to see at the Canadian Open:
1. Large, bright facility (see earlier post for photos)
2. Cool ceilings!
3. Grandmasters :)
4. Monroi displays
5. Lots and lots of chess pieces & books
6. Fancy glasses of water and white tea tablets
7. CN Tower at night/Harbourfront
8. Tim Hortons x 2 :) :) :)
9. Old copies of chess articles on the walls...perfect for doing a 360 degree spin and still being entertained - ceilings, chess pieces, walls, more chess pieces...dizzy...dizzy...
10. You! (well...if you were there...)

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Best Gift of All

Hello Readers!

After seeing all the bright young kids at the Canadian Open, I am starting a new initiative for juniors in chess. Instead of Xmas gifts, birthday gifts, etc., I will be asking friends to donate funds (ie $5, $10), which I will then send out to at least one junior each year. Selection will be based not only on achievement, but participation, consistency, amongst other criteria. The junior must be Canadian, either gender.

I will keep everyone updated throughout the process. I am hoping to receive some funds by the end of this year (since my birthday passed months ago).

Suggestions/nominations will be considered as well.

If you would like to know more, feel free to send me an email anytime.

Go Canadian Juniors!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Canadian Open Results!

GM Luke McShane (England) wins the 2010 Canadian Open!

Was nice viewing the last round on site (especially after all the monroi device miscommunications - the kids, and some adults, got a good laugh seeing the king "jump" across the board, ending up next to the other king in the Noritsyn-Rozentalis game). McShane won a relatively quiet endgame, never really allowing his opponent a chance to come back. Many other interesting matches - all points (and prizes) were well-deserved! Congrats to participants, volunteers, organizers, and sponsors for a successful event.

'Til next year!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hazel's Jokes!

Why did the chess player choose cookies over frozen dessert?
Answer: He wanted a "sweet" game, but didn't want to get "creamed".

Note: These cookies, "Chessmen" by Pepperidge Farms (the same company that makes Goldfish crackers), can be found all over the U.S. - I just gave a bag to one of my students :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hazel's Jokes!

A chess player decides to work at a bowling alley. What job is he given?
Answer: Setting up pins!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Trip to Buffalo/Darien Lake

Finally uploaded some pictures from the Buffalo area. Only problem - most of my photos are on my phone, and I need an adapter before I can transfer them. So for now, you get a glimpse (mostly from Darien Lake) of the photos I took on my regular camera.

A brief overview of Buffalo:

We left on Thursday July 1 (Canada Day), and returned on Sunday July 4 (Independence Day). My sister looked at these dates, and remarked how we left Canada on the Canadian national day, and left the States on the American national day. Guess we're not very patriotic.

As with Pittsburgh, the first day was completely travel time. Crossing the border was insane! We didn't even have lunch because it took over three hours to go 2 or 3 km (we did stop at a Tim Hortons along the way, but it was overflowing). Buffalo is barely within America, but we didn't get there until dinnertime. My stomach was so empty, I felt sick after eating the buffet food. It was REALLY good, just not the best idea after living off a handful of nuts all day.

Buffalo really surprised me. I have passed by many times in the past, but never stopped to see what was there. It's a mix of a couple nice hotels, and many run-down buildings. As a result, we spent most of our time outside the area, only to come back to our beautiful Hyatt hotel to sleep.

The Hyatt was another first for me. I'm used to the occasional Best Western or Comfort Inn. Fortunate for us, my mom got an amazing corporate discount on the more upscale hotel. The beds were so soft, and the food was delicious. Only downside - almost everything had an additional charge (certain TV channels & movies, extra breakfast items, breakfast server gratuity, delivery, parking, etc.).

The next morning, we had to decide whether we were going to travel to Darien Lake or not. I'm glad we did, though an important pointer for all readers - buy your tickets online while IN CANADA. The prices go up once you're in the U.S., meaning we had to make a detour to a nearby Wegman's grocery store to pick up "discount" tickets (for nearly the same Canadian price, but in U.S. dollars). Oh, and another pointer - if you see scratchcard machines in the U.S., they DO NOT give change. We put in $10 to get a $2 card, and ended up having to get extra cards. Luckily for us, we won our money back.

Darien Lake is like any amusement park - fun, cheerful, sunny. We didn't go into the waterpark (we got there pretty late). In any case, there were enough rides and roller coasters to keep us busy. The lines were very reasonable, and again, the food & prices were great. We saw a couple shows in the evening, as well as the laser show upon closing. Trying to find a place to eat after exiting the park was a hassle, so back to Wegman's! I ate a danish I had saved from breakfast (once again, the portions are huge! --> for me: yogurt parfait, juice, and "pastry basket" with english muffin (along with huge ball of butter) and two danishes).

Then, the most eventful part of the day - trying to get back into Buffalo. You see, it was a couple hours past midnight, and huge mobs of people were attending parties near the hotel. Some were on the street, coming up to cars, and others looked completely out of it. Police were everywhere. I was kind of frightened, and tired...

By the next day, I was exhausted. I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before (since someone was kicking and screaming all night...) and as a result, my eyes were bloodshot. I didn't even go down for buffet breakfast. The hotel waiters were so nice to prepare something for me anyway. Once healed, I felt so much better. Next, our family was deciding how to spend the day. Yes, we can be pretty unpredictable...I like it that way :) The main issue was distance, since almost none of the attractions were actually in Buffalo. We could go to the mall, to go-karts, another amusement park, a comedy show...

In the end, we decided to go to the nearby Walden Galleria - a large mall full of stores. Only problem - everyone had the habit of "disappearing" from time to time. Therefore, we spent just as much time looking for each other than shopping. Guess we were all (well, not all) excited by the independence weekend savings. I don't know when else you can get (some) jeans for $5 or less. As for movies, well, there didn't seem to be anything interesting, and again, we were exhausted.

Following the mall, we had a nice dinner at IHOP :) All I can say will definitely be full of pancakes when you leave...

Last day on our short trip - another long drive back. We stopped at the fashion outlets near Niagara, and had a bit of a debate over whether there was anything worth doing on the U.S. side of the Falls. My sister found this one walkway which she claimed went under the Falls, but my mom argued it was a ledge for Americans to see the Canadian side, and since we're Canadians, we get a better view anyway. No matter who was right, it was clear that there was A LOT more to do on the Canadian side. So we crossed the border, paid our border fee (seems like the easiest $3.25 that was ever taken from us), and continued past traffic to a small go-kart/mini golf course. We played two rounds of mini golf (it was unlimited for $5.50 per person) - I got one hole in one, and had improved a bit since last time. Still come last or next to last :( Golf is not my sport. We thought about trying the go-karts after being offered a special deal, 9 laps for $22 instead of the usual 6 laps, but it was getting dark, the mosquitoes were coming out, the go-kart track was getting empty, and I had this faint headache in the back of my head.

Slept on the way home...yes, my trip always ends in sleep. Means I made the most of it :)

Some pictures:

I have more pics of Buffalo on my phone, but as I said, I need to get an adapter for my microSD. This is the only decent one I got on my regular camera. No, it's not the Statue of Liberty. It's one of the many older buildings/cathedrals in the city. I love how they lighted it up at night. Don't know where the green streak came from.

I've seen this ride I don't know how many times, but it still gives me the chills.

Hello up there?

One of this ride's signature moves - suspending riders while they are lowered into the metal rails and dusty floors. Real thriller.

Beaver Brother's Cafe had amazing wraps, sandwiches, and chili nachos - many meals served with mixed fruit!

Inside the cafe!

The cafe lives up to its name.

Hey, what are you doing stealing my lantern?

Another view from inside. My mom took this one.

Ummm...where's my tail?

See the roller coaster right outside the cafe. Unfortunately, they were testing it, so we didn't actually see people riding.

A hidden passage.

More cute signs.

I'm not sure I would want a beaver testing my meal.

Signs are everywhere in the U.S.

Nice view...

...but not without roller coasters!

They finally fixed the "boomerang". I caught it right as it went through the loop.

I'm not a big fan of ferris wheels, but this one sparkled in the sunlight.

You would have to be Superman to ride this thing.

Doesn't look high up, but trust me, it is.

Ride of Steel again.

Look at that drop! I heard the track is so thin, you can't really see the bottom when you get to the top. *shivers*

Waiting in line for the Rocknation: Don't Stop Believin' show.

Inside view. I couldn't take pictures during the show, but I'll give you a brief overview.

Six dancers/singers (three guys, three gals) rocked out to modern songs including "Tick Tock" (Ke$sha), "Bad Romance" (Lady Gaga), "I Got a Feeling" (Black Eyed Peas), "Crush" (David Archuleta), "Hot N Cold" (Katy Perry), "You Belong With Me" (Taylor Swift), "Party in the USA" (Miley Cyrus), "Man in the Mirror" (Michael Jackson), and "Rock and Roll All Night" (KISS). Overall, they were pretty good, though they seemed to struggle a bit with the more popular songs. I think they were hoping for more energy. I felt kind of bad because a large part of the audience were young children and older adults.

After Rocknation, we rushed over to the other side of the park for the sea lion show, which had already started. Just look at them! All the sea lions are trained to wave hello, balance on their fins, dance/moonwalk, roll over, pretend to be sharks, and more (for treats, of course). I didn't get as many photos as I wanted, because I was running out of memory and I wasn't quite sure if I was allowed to take photos inside.

Important to note: the trainers emphasized that sea lions are NOT seals!

The big one.

That must hurt.

No need for horses anymore.

The sea lions quickly swam to the balls, and brought them back on their noses!


Dance party?

The light show was spectacular! A mix of colourful images, music, and fireworks never disappoints. While it was difficult to get many photos (as mentioned, my camera was running out of memory & battery life), at least I got the chance to sit back and enjoy. Featured artists/works:

Black Eyed Peas ("I Got a Feeling")
Stevie Wonder ("Past Time Paradise")
Miley Cyrus ("Party in the USA")
Iron Man Tribute
Kevin Rudolf and Lil' Wayne ("Let it Rock")
Owl City ("Fireflies")
Cascada ("Evacuate the Dancefloor")
Cupid ("Cupid Shuffle")
Tribute to Michael Jackson ("Billie Jean")
The Beatles ("I Wanna Hold Your Hand")
Taylor Swift ("You Belong With Me")
Queen ("We Will (Robot) Rock You")
Bruce Springsteen ("Born to Run")
Tribute to Canada
Tribute to America ("God Bless the USA")

You can see the laser show on Youtube:
Followed the music perfectly.

Miley Cyrus song.

USA, right before the fireworks. I took a pic of the fireworks, but my camera malfunctioned and started beeping at me like crazy. So I lost the photo.

Still managed to get some fireworks (just not the big ones).

Again, thanks for reading!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pittsburgh Day 5

Okay, last day of our trip. My morning consisted of packing up our bags and finishing the leftovers in the fridge. Then off we went for one last drive downtown. After returning the laptop cable, we stopped for lunch at Au Bon Pain (my favourite bakery!), took a few more pictures, and headed towards the Grove City Prime Outlets an hour away (on the way home).

Nearing the end of the day, both my mom and I could agree - we had had more than enough shopping. Continuing down the road, we stopped at Ponderosa for dinner, then drove (well...I slept) the rest of the way home. We got back SOOOO late, and I had to teach soon after. Yet astonishingly, my energy was restored when I visited the Canadian Open as a spectator later that night. Usually I get drained from playing games, but watching them is another story. I felt kind of guilty because everyone around was under so much pressure! Good work and good luck to all participants.

View near the hotel pool.

Another exterior view of the hotel.

Picture before leaving.

Note: I'm wearing a bag, which is actually dark blue, but somehow blended in with my black shirt colour to make it look like all the U.S. food built up in my stomach area :(

Downtown PPG building (Au Bon Pain inside).

Fountain in the middle of Market Square, with surrounding PPG buildings.

Dinosaur in Market Square.

Another dino in Market Square.

Downtown trolley.

As I said before, Pittsburgh loves sports. This is the Heinz stadium.

PNC Park Stadium

Yet another bridge. Hard to see, but if you look at the sign down the road, it says Hazlett Street (Exit 3).

Not sure if I would want to go to "Slippery Rock University". Also notice the rain. We were fortunate to miss the rain/storms in Pittsburgh.

The outlets looked like paradise around every turn.

Lots of vending machines in the U.S.

Banana Republic is awesome!

Cakes look like hamburgers.

Candy galore! This is within Giant Eagle, a grocery store, but giant bags of candy could be found in Staples, OfficeMax, and many many other stores. Too bad for them, because I'm not really much of a sweet tooth anymore.

Note: Back to school sales are starting up. If anyone is visiting the U.S., they have ridiculously low prices for school supplies later in July and August.

A whole row of freezers was devoted to ice cream and novelties.

Leaving the grocery store, we passed by a wall which was painted with fun graphics. I quickly grabbed my camera, turned it on, and without realizing it was still on flash, took a picture. The flash illuminated the wall! Surprised, I tried again, but ended up with an ugly white picture, and deleted it.

That's all for my Pittsburgh trip. Thanks for reading - hope you enjoyed these posts! If you have time, I would recommend visiting Pennsylvania. In my opinion, it's much lovelier and more spacious than many other areas. Despite that, there's always a place in my heart for Toronto :)