Sunday, December 31, 2006

Top Story of 2006

Map of Iraq, courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Iraq. It dominated the news. Not in a good way.

The news wasn't very informative. Mostly body count kind of news. Stuff that didn't have directly to do with killing didn't make it.

The biggest question for 2007 remains: what will happen if the terrorists win?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

On Politics

Our political climate faces two defining attributes: 1) Prejudice and 2) Dumbing down.

1) People forget that there’s more to prejudice than just racial prejudice. There’s religious and political prejudice as well. When Susan posted a picture of her and President Bush and people wigged out, that was political prejudice. When she posted a caption, “Support our troops” and people wigged out on that, that was prejudice, too.

When people assume that all Republicans are racists or that all Democrats are atheists, that’s prejudice. Finally, when someone posted on Susan’s site about Arabs/Israel and called this a “jewish site” that was prejudice.

The political blogs are even worse. Sadly, when I first looked into the current state of chess politics, my first thought was, “what is Susan Polgar so unhappy about? This is the way the real politics in Washington is done.” Prejudice seems to be the main driving force in politics today.

2) I think of this as “the American Idol Effect”. People go on “American Idol” and think that because they can sing they should be treated equally to everyone else. Some people can sing better than others. Some people try harder than others.

When it comes to politics, the same attitude occurs. Your opinion is equal to mine. No it is not. If you have studied the issues and I haven’t, then your opinion is better than mine. And just like Simon will tell contestants, “you don’t know what you’re doing” so the same could apply to me.

The Constitution gives everybody the right to speak; it does not impose upon you the duty to listen. Some opinions can be and ought to be rejected outright: (a) holocaust denial; (b) Bush is responsible for 9/11; (c) giving brain-enhancing drugs to kids.

Too many people seem to think that because the subject is politics, they can have any opinion they want and are entitled to equal respect from society.

The two of these attitudes together are what makes politics today so bad.
Picture is from clipart collection.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Literary Excercise

Hemingway once wrote, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." This was his entire story and is said to have called it his best work. So, can you write a story using only 6 words total? Recently a number of famous writers tried this for Wired Magazine.

Here are a few I liked:

A science fiction story:
- Harry Harrison

A suspense thriller:
Easy. Just touch the match to
- Ursula K. Le Guin

A political story:
Bush told the truth. Hell froze.
- William Gibson

A romantic tale:
Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

Can you write a very short story? I’ll try a few:

A chess story:
1. e4; c5. Oh, no! What now?

A report on the TV Show “Beauty and the Geek”:
Chuck meets Richard. See Chuch strangle.

A personal journal:
Drove downtown. Car got hit. Whoopee!

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Here's a trap I fell into today.

I'm playing black.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Top Chess Moment

Here is my contribution to Susan Polgar's Chess Blog.

I can’t resist just sharing with you my best PERSONAL chess moment. I discovered Susan’s blog. In order to explain its significance to me, I need to give some background.

Back in the 1970’s chess was all I did. I was President of the Seattle Chess Club. I was Business Manager of “Northwest Chess Magazine”. I played chess in every tournament and studied books all week in between. Because there were never enough tournaments for me, I organized and directed my own. Then I got married and I moved on.

To tell you the truth, it wasn’t my wife’s fault. I was pretty disgusted. The top players had nothing but disdain for the rest of us. Their only relationship to the organizers was to complain.

My most bitter memory was every meeting night of the Seattle Chess Club, Yasser Sierawan would show up with his entourage to draw people away to the basketball court. (It was located in the same building as the club.) Now I tried to explain to them that access to the basketball court was part of the deal that the club had worked with the church wherein the whole operation was located but their attitude was that it was not chess therefore it had nothing to do with the club. As for actually JOINING the club or otherwise supporting it, I will never forget the sneer that Yasser gave me. In those days, chess clubs were for patzers and suckers and were just objects to be squished underfoot. I remember there was actual glee when Robert A. Karch’s Seattle Chess Center folded. (Some of you old timers may remember him – he was Secretary on the USCF Executive Board.) A year later the Burien Chess Center folded. Serves them right! That was the attitude.

I had thought there would be a turn for the better when John Donaldson became Editor of the NWC Magazine (as the mag’s Business Manager, I had had a hand in that) but then he did an issue or two, got tired, and lit out for tournaments in Europe.

So anyway I married, dropped out and the years passed. I was a Life member so I’ve received that monthly Chess Life all these years. I have always liked chess; it was just chess PLAYERS that I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t stand the chess culture. And why did every rated tournament, even the smallest, have to be about winning prize money?

Now I detect just a little of this down-the-organizer syndrome in some of Susan’s rhetoric but there is a difference here. She produces a blog that is quality work. She operates her own chess club and keeps at it. She actually DOES things. And it is more than just the typical write a book, make an appearance, take your bows stuff that has characterized chess master pseudo-promoter that has been what we’ve seen all these years. Most significant, her work does not carry immediate benefits to herself but does benefit the game as a whole. This is such a change from any chess master I have ever heard of before.

About a week after I had made my first entry in this blog (about 3 weeks before right now) an old friend from Seattle wrote me. He had seen my entries on Susan Polgar’s blog. Lo and behold, he lived in Atlanta, too! He was planning on playing in the weekend chess tournament and so I came – my first chess tournament in at least 20 years.

Anyway, thanks Susan! And here’s hoping that things get better from here on.
Artwork from Susan Polgar's Blog. Used with permission.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How do you know when you're an internet junkie?

You Know You're An Internet Addict When:

* You spend more time on your girlfriend's home page than with your girlfriend.
* You didn't know that Firefox was also a movie starring Clint Eastwood.
* Your bookmark takes 15 minutes to scroll from top to bottom.
* There's a permanent hineyrumpus-groove in your computer chair, but you haven't noticed.
* You've said "no" to sex in order to view Internet porn.
* You've rationalized installing a mini-fridge, microwave, and port-a-potty at your workstation.
* You go shopping every week, but you've never been inside a mall.
* You don't believe anything you read in a newspaper unless you verify it on a news site.
* You think that 404 is the number of the beast.
* You refuse to go outside because of the sun: "it burns! IT BURNS!!"
* Your eyeglasses have a web site burned in on them.
* You find yourself typing "com" after every period when using a word
* You refer to going to the bathroom as downloading. And you have an ethernet connection right next to the toilet paper.
* You step out of your room and realize that your parents have moved and you don't have a clue when it happened.
* You crank up your surround-sound whenever leaving the room so you can hear if new e-mail arrives.
* All of your friends have an @ in their names.
* When looking at a pageful of someone else's links, you notice all of them are already highlighted in purple.
* You've already visited all the links at Yahoo and you're halfway through Lycos.
* You can't call your mother...she doesn't have IRC, ICQ, or Instant Messaging.
* You check your mail. It says "no new messages." So you check it again.
* You have commandeered your teenager's phone line for a secondary net connection in case your ADSL goes down, and even his friends know not to call on his line anymore.
* Your phone bill comes to your doorstep in a box.
* You code your homework in HTML and give your instructor the URL.
* You don't know the sex of three of your closest friends, because they have gender-neutral nicknames and you never bothered to ask.
* You name your children Eudora, Mozilla and Dotcom.
* Your husband tells you he's had the beard for 2 months.
* You wake up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom and stop and check your e-mail on the way back to bed.
* You tell the cab driver you live at http://123.elm.street/house/bluetrim.html
* You actually try that 123.elm.street address.
* You tell the kids they can't use the computer because "Daddy's got work to do" and you don't even have a job.
* Your wife makes a new rule: "The computer cannot come to bed.". So you file for a
* You are so familiar with the WWW that you find the search engines useless.
* You get a tattoo that says "This body best viewed with Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher."
* You forget what year it is.
* You start tilting your head sideways to smile.
* You begin to wonder how on earth your service provider is allowed to call 200 hours per month "unlimited."
* You turn on your computer and turn off your wife.
* Your wife says communication is important in a you buy another computer and add her to the network so the two of you can chat.
* You refuse to go on vacation where there's no electricity, phone lines, or hotspots.
* You finally do take that vacation, but only after buying a data-enabled cel-phone, and a wi-fi PDA.
* You spend half of the plane trip with your laptop on your lap...and your child in the overhead compartment.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

A nice quiet day at home with Kathy. We watched movies on TV. I also surfed the net.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

Another old church and a red barn from my clipart collection.

Merry Christmas! Still have to go shopping.

Here's a Christmas quiz. How good are you?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

New Genres in Fiction

Have you read any of the books in The Left Behind series? This series is based upon Biblical end time prophesies. It has been criticized for bad theology and shortcomings in the storytelling. Still, it is hugely popular. I think that critics miss the point.

Left Behind is a groundbreaking novel. It opens up a whole genre of fiction for future writers to explore. Like other groundbreakers, it has shortcomings. Building on the strengths of this kind of fiction and correcting it's shortcomings is the challenge and the opportunities for future writers.

This reminds me of the Perry Mason novels by Earle Stanley Gardener. Those novels opened up the legal procedural for writers to explore. What could have been a dryer scene to base a novel than a courtroom? Perry Mason

demonstated that there was gold in them thar hills.

That's the significance of Left Behind.

P.S. There are a lot of other areas for future writers to explore.

Friday, December 22, 2006

President Carter's Loathsome Book

Alan Dershowitz is a controversialist. When he’s wrong (as when he bashes cops), he’s egregiously wrong; but when he’s right, he’s the best there is. Here is a summary of what is wrong with President Carter’s book about Israel.

Carter was never a great president. But today, let's cut the man a little slack. He is awfully old. That may impair his judgement.

The problem with these kind of screeds isn't Carter; it is the people who support them no matter what. Some people simply don't care about facts; only statements that support their point of view. Here the controversy isn't about whether Carter (or you) support Israel or the Arabs; it's about statements thereon should be factual or not.

Some time ago Carter issued a statement condemning the War in Iraq. So far, okay. But in it he cited as one of his reasons for opposing the war that none of the organized religeons in America supported it. Huh? The nation was left wondering if the religeous right had suddenly vanished. Even it that had been true, since when did Carter and the Democrats expect the USA to follow the directives of the nation's organized religeons? Whatever happenned to the seperation of church and state.

But I go on. The problem was that nobody cared - especially to those on the left. The statement was anti-Bush and that was all that mattered. As with his present book on Israel. There is the problem.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Only a Few Days Left . . .

Old Church in Kentucky from clipart collection.

. . . until Christmas! Isn't this still the most exciting time of the year?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let's Play Chess

If you like chess, Susan Polgar’s Chess Blog is the best there is. Here’s some recent games from her site.

White to move. Does White have any chance in this game? How should White proceed? Click here.

Must Know Endgame. It is White to move. Do you know how to draw this type of position as Black? Click here.

Tactical pattern: White to move. How should White proceed? Click here.

White to move. Is White in trouble due to the King safety problem? How should White proceed? Click here.

White to move. Can White save this game? How should White proceed? See if you can figure it out without computer help. Click here.

White to move. Is White's position hopeless? Click here.

The importance of piece placement. Click here.

Now click on these links and play some chess!
Susan Polgar's picture courtesy of Susan Polgar's Blog. Used with permission.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

John Cleese's Letter to America

To the citizens of the United States of America, in the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy.

Your new Prime Minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair MP, for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a Minister for America without the need for further elections. The House of Representatives and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.
You can read the rest of this here.

This was really funny. Cleese, of course is the ex-Monty Python comedian. The rest of the letter is a list of demands. The missive ends:
15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

16. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation.

The Duke Lacrosse Case

Here is a good summary of this story.

There was a similar phenomenon in Washington State a decade ago. In a town called Wenatchee a family was accused of abusing children. They claimed they were innocent and the evidence mounted that they were. As the case’s notoriety increased and its credibility decreased, the town rallied behind the prosecutor. Basically the case against the family ended up as “this problem is so prevalent in society, so they must be guilty.” I recall a wry comment in the Wall Street Journal that this town’s Chamber of Commerce was the only one in the country that claimed the town was a hotbed of child abusers.

Getting back to Duke, the prosecutor did not interview either the alleged victim or the suspects. Key DNA evidence was suppressed. Most significant of all, one of the suspects can prove that he was elsewhere at the time of the alleged rape. Talk about reasonable doubt!

But then there’s the politics of the thing. The alleged victim is black; the suspects are white. So the black organizations are pushing for prosecution. As for the rest of the town, there is that Wenatchee phenomena at work. The prosecutor based his election on this case – he’s a real friend of the black community and this proves it – that was his pitch.

That is why this case is important. It signifies where our priorities lay. Evidence or politics. This spring a jury will have to choose.

James Bond in "Casino Royale"

Saw the latest James Bond movie “Casino Royale”. It is a serious movie, very different than the David Niven movie of so many years ago. Niven’t movie was a comedy; this one is a gritty, action movie. Too gritty, though. The best Bond is an urbane, cultured fellow with style. That was part of the Bond attraction. Since Brosnan, Bond has taken a turn towards the Mike Hammer kind of character. Good character, wrong movie.
The photo is a studio promotional of the movie.

Disclaimer: The fact that I will be compensated if you click on the link and buy the dvds turns this post into a semi-advertisement. I only will link to for dvds I actually liked.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Middle East Summary

Here is the best summary of America and the Middle East that I have read.

The essay concludes:

"It remains the only plausible answer--changing the culture of that area, no matter how slow and how difficult the process. It starts in Iraq and Lebanon, and must be allowed to proceed and not precipitate an early and premature surrender. That idea remains the only conceivable one for ultimately prevailing over the Arab Islamic radicalism that exploded upon us 9/11. Every other is a policy of retreat and defeat that would ultimately bring ruin not only on the U.S. but on the very idea of freedom. "

Pilgrams Land on Plymouth Rock

On this day in 1632 the Pilgrims landed. I've read the Philbrick book on the Mayflower story and it is wonderful. It starts at the beginning and ends with King Philips' War some 60 years later.

It tells the story from the first hard winter to the subsequent land deals with the Indians. The poor Pilgrims did not have the time to find the best harbor in the area. That meant that subsequent arrivals found Boston harbor. That area soon out-developed poor Plymouth and left them behind. By the time the Indians finally decided to defend their remaining holdings, Plymouth was just a small backwater town in Massachusetts.

It is ironic and dramatic that the book starts with the story of a ship bearing Pilgrims to America and ends with another ship sailing away from America bearing Indians into slavery.

Disclaimer: The fact that I will be compensated if you click on the link and buy the book turns this post into a semi-advertisement. I only will link to for books I actually liked.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Stargate Atlantis

This show is surprisingly pretty good. The big round thing in the picture is a stargate. The people step through the gate and are instantly transported via hyperspace to gates on other planets. The series has a depth that is surprising.

Atlantis is the city on a far away planet that was the capital of the ancient race that build the stargates. I don't understand why Fox schedules this on midnights.

Disclaimer: The fact that I will be compensated if you click on the link and buy the dvds turns this post into a semi-advertisement. I only will link to for dvds I actually liked.

New Accounting Rule Begins

The Financial Standards Board’s Interpretation 48 Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes becomes effective December 15, 2006. This may dramatically affect future USCF financial reporting and decision-making. A lot of the decisions that managers throughout the economy make have uncertain tax consequences even in non-profit operations. It can’t be helped. Government regulators can’t anticipate every conceivable thing that humans can do. So, a whole lot of the decisions that managers make are questionable. That’s life and it’s unavoidable. So what are the new rules?

Here’s how The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants summed them:

“Tax positions can only be recognized if they meet a “more-likely-than-not” threshold of being realized if challenged by a taxing authority with full knowledge of the facts. If this level of certainty is not met, no tax benefit can be booked, and even if it is met, only the amount which has a greater than 50% change of being sustained may be booked. Specific financial statement disclosures are required with respect to uncertain tax positions.”

This link is from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s web site.

The challenge for next year’s managers will be to tread the path between (1) being too fearful of the IRS and other government agencies and thus not making the best decisions for their owners/stockholders and (2) generating problems due to under-booking benefits and footnote disclosures that cause controversy.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board’s summary of their pronouncement is here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Trump to Miss USA: Your're Fired!

Tara Conner, Miss USA has been kicked out of her NYC apartment in the Trump Towers. The Donald who is a part owner of the Miss USA beauty pageant as well as the other partners have not been amused by reports of her wild partying, sex, and drug abuse. Miss California, the runner-up is getting ready to take over the Miss USA title.

I can't help but wonder what is it with these beauties like Paris, Brittany, and Lindsay. They have it all - beauty, wealth, fame - and they squander their lives away in debauchery. I can't help but think of Susan Polgar (her blog is to the right), the chess champion who had to scrape and fight for everything she got and when she got to the top, she used her fame to make a difference for good.

The story of Tara Conner is a story of opportunities squandered.
Update Dec 19: Trump gave her a second chance. Big tearful press conference today

Friday, December 15, 2006


I am reading Herodotus. He was the first great historian. He attempted a history of the world disguised as a history of the Persian-Greek Wars.

He lived in the 5th. century BC. In his day Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and most of the rest of the people of ancient history had yet to be born. Rome itself was just a small village, struggling for survival way out in the boondocks in Italy.

Here is the map of the world as Herodotus and the people of his time understood it. Here is a description of the map.

The copy I am reading is the Penguin Classics version. This is the version pictured to the left.

Disclaimer: This gives you a picture of the book and an idea of what it costs. The fact that I will be compensated if you click on the link and buy the book turns this post into a semi-advertisement. I only will link to for books I actually liked.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Tree Went in Today

Yeah, Kathy and I put up the tree. Some years I waited until Dec 24 - which is terrible. Now to get the presents.


Here's an interesting essay. People need to understand that everybody wants tolerance for their own views. Tolerating the other guy's views - now there's the rub!

UN Legacy

Today's WAPO has an interesting summary of Secretary General Annan's tenure.

If you are a leftwinger, you tend to look at the potential of the UN but ignore the reality of it's institutional problems. If you are a rightwinger, then you tend to look at the reality and ignore the potential.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

ACLU and the War on Christmas

Here's an interesting article by Alan Sears. What do you think?

Mel Gibson's New Movie

Apocolypto is too violent for me. But that's not what got him into hot water. Nor was it his outrageous statements when he was drunk. After all, how many other Hollywood celebrities make outrageous and obscene statements but don't get into any trouble over it? Alec Baldwin once called for the death of Henry Hyde and his entire family on the Tonite Show. It was no biggie. Celine Dion spoke in FAVOR of looting during Hurricane Katrina.

Mel Gibson is in trouble because of The Passion of the Christ. It is reputed to be anti-Jewish. During the McCarthy era there were a lot of films and filmmakers who were reputed to be Communist. If there was something that society should have learned, it is that accusations should be substantiated. The accusations against Gibson's movie were never substantiated. Time to treat him like everybody else.
The picture is from Mel's cameo appearance in the movie.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My New Blog

This is the first entry in my new blog. I'd like for my friends and family to check in from time to time to see how I'm doing. I'd also like to share my interests. For years, I'd like to be a writer. I did not have the discipline to keep it up. Also, writing is lonely work. One writes something and hope that someday somebody will publish it and then somebody will read what is written. In the meantime . . . .

These posts will be short pieces that get published right away.

I had once published a magazine on the internet. I called it "Our Country Magazine". A ton of work had gone into it. Sadly, I dropped the ISP and the computer with my files on it broke. No back-ups. The only thing that is left of that venture is this blurb I had left with a zine listing.
(Link inactive 1 July 2004)

Our goal is to be the premier journal of news and commentary in the region.

This publication started out in a a small town in Washington State. We now originate from Atlanta, Georgia.

We believe that leaders' public principles are more important than their private machinations. Look elsewhere for the 'inside story'; this is the 'outside story' of our times.

Editorial matter is accepted from the general public. The 'media elite' can write in, too, but beware! This is the unconventional commentary e-zine. Welcome to the revolution!

editor: Jack Le Moine

It was writing on sand.

I was encouraged by Shawn Bakken's blog. He was one of the players on the reality TV show "Beauty and the Geek". Season 1. I became so enthusiastic that I'm afraid that I became over-active in commenting to his posts. I noticed that he used WordPress software on a paid ISP server. Then the server dropped him and his blog disappeared. This sucked.

It was writing on sand - again. (Recently I learned that he had been able to save it - sans comments - hence, the link.)

I stumbled accross Susan Polgar's Chess Blog just a few weeks ago. I became a fan. She used blogger to run her blog. I figure that if someone that busy can do this, then so can I. I do wonder what will happen if blogger just quits. I wish that all of the files could be retrieved and downloaded to my computer. Maybe there's some work around.

In the meantime, this is a relatively easy way to put my voice out there.