Political Animal

MORE COMPUTER CHESS!….Chess champ Garry

MORE COMPUTER CHESS!….Chess champ Garry Kasparov suffered a humiliating loss to IBM’s Deep Blue chess computer back in 1997, and current champ Vladimir Kramnik melted down a few months ago in his match with Deep Fritz, blowing an early lead and ending up in a 4-4 tie.

Yesterday Kasparov decided to try again, this time in a six-game match against Deep Junior. The Singapore Straits Times headlined the match this way:

Chess master out to prove humans are not hopeless

Well, yeah, but that seems like sort of a glass-half-empty approach to the thing, doesn’t it? Slashdot took a slightly different approach: “Humankind Makes Last Stand Against Machine,” which might sound a bit apocalyptic, but chesswise it’s probably true.

Anyway, Kasparov won the first game in 27 moves, a stunning victory. The second game is on Tuesday, and this time the computer will be playing white. Humankind awaits its destiny.

VIRGINIA HEINLEIN….The Los Angeles Times

VIRGINIA HEINLEIN….The Los Angeles Times had a nice obituary for Virginia Heinlein today, and her hometown newspaper, the Florida Times-Union, has another one here. They include a few additional details that I didn’t know about when I wrote my post last Monday.

As an interesting aside, my genealogy hobby came in handy when I wrote that post. Virginia Heinlein’s birth name was Gerstenfeld, and since the 1930 census is now completely online and fully indexed, I was able to find her 1930 census record immediately. Her father’s name then enabled me to look up her 1920 census record as well, and between them these records provided her birth year, the names of her mother, father, and brother, their residence, and her father’s occupation (dentist). Social Security death records told me that her brother had died in 1984.

As little as a year ago I couldn’t have done this. Census records are released to the public after 72 years, so the 1930 census was released only last June, and it’s only very recently that census records have been fully indexed anyway. Even now, only the 1880 and 1930 censuses are fully indexed (the others are indexed by head of household only).

If you’re interested in looking up relatives in old census records, go to Ancestry.com. For about $40 you can buy a 3-month subscription that gives you online access to all census records from 1790 to 1930, plus loads of other records as well. And for some reason that I can’t quite explain, seeing your relatives’ names in old census records is far more fascinating than you’d imagine. Highly recommended.