Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friday is Last Day for Chess Submittals

The first ever carnival of chess blogs will go up Saturday, September 1. Response so far has been great. About 25 chess blogs have submitted samples of their work for the carnival.

If you have anything to submit, now is the deadline.

For further information, see the Chess Blog Carnival links on the right.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

World's Largest Cargo Ship

This is from my friend Kurt Paasch.

Get a load of this ship! 15,000 containers and a 207' beam Notice that 207' beam means it was NOT designed for the Panama or Suez canal.

It is strictly transpacific. Check out the "cruise speed". 31 mph means the goods arrive 4 days before the typical container ship (18-20 mph) on a China-to-California run. So this behemoth is hugely competitive carrying perishable goods.

This ship was built in five sections. The sections floated together and then welded.

The ship is named Emma Maersk.

The command bridge is higher than a 10 store building and has 11 crane rigs that can operate simultaneously.

Country of origin - Denmark

Length - 1,302 ft

Width - 207 ft

Net cargo - 123,200 tons

Engine - 14 in-line cylinders diesel engine (110,000 BHP) Cruise Speed - 31 mph

Cargo capacity - 15,000 TEU (1 TEU = 20 ft3 container)

Crew - 13 people First Trip - Sept. 08, 2006 Construction cost - US $145,000,000+

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

BIG, BIG Hole in the Universe

Last week, scientists discovered a huge hole in the universe. It is billions of light years across. It is not a black hole; it is not a space filled with "dark matter", "anti-matter", "dark energy", or anything else. It is just nothing. No stars, no nothing.

It was discovered by the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope. This region is 6 to 10 billion light years from us.

Why this is important. The science of cosmology (the study of the origin of the universe) has been undergoing a process similar to the process Aristotle's model of the universe underwent over the roughly 1700 years from his day to the time of the Rennaissance. Aristotle based astronomy on the premise that the sun and all of the other objects in the sky orbited the Earth. As the years went by, more and more observations conflicted with this premise. Scientists developed complex mathematical models ("spheres within spheres") to account for these problems. The Aristotlean Universe went from a relatively simple modal in his day to a vastly complicated modal by the end of the Middle Ages. Then Copernicus advanced an entirely new modal of the planets orbiting the Sun. This simplified things greatly and has been accepted down to our day.

The Big Bang theory is the commonly accepted modal nowadays for the origins of the universe. However, it has grown immensely complicated by subsequent observations. This vast void is the latest one.

The Illustration: The effect of matter on the cosmic microwave background (CMB). On the right, the CMB is released shortly after the Big Bang, with tiny ripples in temperature due to fluctuations in the early universe. As the radiation traverses the universe, it experiences slight perturbations. In the direction of the giant newly-discovered void, the WMAP satellite (top left) sees a cold spot, while the VLA (bottom left) sees fewer radio-emitting galaxies. CREDIT: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF, NASA.

Monday, August 27, 2007

End What Iraq War?

Map of Iraq, courtesy of CIA World Factbook
So you want to end the Iraq War, do you? Well, which one? An interesting essay by Christopher Hitchens appeared today.
Suppose the USA just pulled out tomorrow. What would happen then? Would the fighting in Iraq just stop? Or would it get worse?
One of the fundamentals of the story that struck me was the priority the opponents in Iraq placed on bombing schools and killing teachers, especially schools and teachers that educated women. But then killing civilians has been a big priority from the first.
What would happen if all forces restraining them would withdraw and they were given free reign to massacre all the people they wanted? Would they exercize self restraint?
This is a very big question for those who say they want to end the war? Just the war the USA is fighting or do they also want to end the larger war against the peoples of Iraq?
And if they wish to end war, then what should be done?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Book of Joshua

At church today, I decided that I will use Sunday, the Lord's Day, to blog the Bible. My first book for the blog is Joshua, because it is my favorite. It is my fav because first, the character, Joshua, himself. Chapter 1, verse 1 introduces him thus:

[1] Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass,that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,[2] "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel."

At this point in the Bible, we've just sloughed through 4 different books about Moses and the 40 years in the desert. Moses is forever having his ups and downs. He doesn't want to confront Pharoah at all because he "is slow of speech". He certainly has his moments (Charleton Heston) but for a great prophet, he certainly gripes a lot. At one point, he even has his Bill Clinton moment (i.e. Monica Lewensky). There are lots of reasons why God does not permit him to enter the promised land.

With Joshua, there is a change of pace right at the beginning. After a speech from God lasting 8 more verses, the ball is handed to Joshua. Verse 10:

[10] Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,[11] "Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it."
No squawking, no complaining, no big wrestling with his inadequacies; God has commanded, so he just does it. I like that.

This book is about the conquest of the promised land. We're talking of the land presently known as the country of Israel. In modern times, this land was pretty arid and generally undesirable but in those days it was prosperous, "the land flowing with milk and honey." To the south and southeast was the deserts that continued down to Arabia but in those days it formed part of "The Fertile Crescent" that stretched from Egypt in the west to Bablylon (modern Iraq) in the east. With the Mediterranean directly west, giving it access to the sea, international commerce as well as domestic agriculture gave this land a high level of prosperity.

The next 5 chapters (Chapters 2 through 6) tell the marvelous story of the siege of Jericho. This city is one of the oldest in the history of the world. Archeologists are dating it back to 7,000 b.c. Even in Joshua's day, it must have been one of the world's greatest metropolises. He was only able to take it through divine intervention. The picture shows the Jews in procession. With one final blare of the trumpets, the walls came tumbling down.

The next five chapters (7 through 12) tell of the conquest of the rest of the land. The book emphasizes obedience to God rather than military superiority.

Another reason why I like this book is because it contains some of the most troubling passages in the Bible, too. The enemies of the Jews are all bad - each and every one of them. They are slaughtered, even to the children, even to the animals. From chapter 6:
[21] And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the word.
The book is unabashadly racist. There is just no getting around this. I also note how this is a very ancient book. Homer, and the rest of classical literature were centuries in the future at the time these events occured (14th. century b.c.) and standards of civilization were so much lower. I get impatient when people judge distant civilizations by the standards of the present, so I make allowances for different standards then and now. Still, all this slaughter! Despite the repeated assurances that the peoples were especially wicked, the modern reader must wonder how many Rahabs dwelt among them.

(Rahab was the good Jericho lady who helped the Jewish spies and hence was saved.)

What would have happened if the spies had entered someone else's home instead of Rahab's? What would have happened to Rahab it she had not lived next to the city wall? Was she especially virtuous or just especially lucky?

In Chapter 9, we find that virtue takes second place to geography. The people of Gibeon send a peace embassy to Joshua. The negotiations center on the issue of whether the Gibeon's land is near or far. Joshua accepts their word that they live far away and grants them peace. When he learns that they live close, he is enraged. Since he has given them his word, he spairs their lives but enslaves them, instead. The narrative treats this as another example of the local's wickedness, yet it is hard not to sympathize with them.

The best and the worst of the Bible are found in this one book.

There is another aspect here. This is also a very honest book. The Bible chronicles the Jews bad things as well as their good things. Even to the most ancient of writers, these stories must have shown that things were not right. Even the most ancient of partisans would have glossed over these stories.

The next 10 chapters tell us how the Jews divided the land among themselves and settled in.

Chapters 23 and 24 gives us Joshua's farewell address to the people. I especially like Chapter 24, verse 15
[15] And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
The theme of the book is obedience to God. While it is God's place to judge us, not our place to judge Him, I wish He had behaved more Godly in this book.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Important Chess Players

Spent the day building a database of games of my favorite chessplayers, supplemented by important matches and chess tournaments. The players who I believe are most important in the history of chess are:

Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, Zukertort, Steinitz, Chigorin, Tarrasch, Lasker, Capablanca, Rubenstein, Alekhine, Keres, Botvinnik, Fischer, and Kasparov.

No, I did not include Korchnoi or Karpov. Korchnoi was too wierd for my tastes; Karpov was just too boring.

I'm not sure of current players. Surely not Krammik; maybe Topolov.

What is your opinion?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Herodotos - The Persian's Side

5. The Persians for their part say that things happened thus; and they conclude that the beginning of their quarrel with the Hellenes was on account of the taking of Ilion: but as regards Io the Phoenicians do not agree with the Persians in telling the tale thus; for they deny that they carried her off to Egypt by violent means, and they say on the other hand that when they were in Argos she was intimate with the master of their ship, and perceiving that she was with child, she was ashamed to confess it to her parents, and therefore sailed away with the Phoenicians of her own will, for fear of being found out. These are the tales told by the Persians and the Phoenicians severally: and concerning these things I am not going to say that they happened thus or thus, but when I have pointed to the man who first within my own knowledge began to commit wrong against the Hellenes, I shall go forward further with the story, giving an account of the cities of men, small as well as great: for those which in old times were great have for the most part become small, while those that were in my own time great used in former times to be small: so then, since I know that human prosperity never continues steadfast, I shall make mention of both indifferently.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Herodotos on the Trojan War

From Book 1.

This is the Showing forth of the Inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassos, to the end that neither the deeds of men may be forgotten by lapse of time, nor the works great and marvelous, which have been produced some by Hellenes and some by Barbarians, may
lose their renown; and especially that the causes may be remembered for which these waged war with one another.

1. Those of the Persians who have knowledge of history declare that the Phoenicians first began the quarrel. These, they say, came from that which is called the Erythraian Sea to this of ours; and having settled in the land where they continue even now to dwell, set themselves forthwith to make long voyages by sea. And conveying merchandise of Egypt and of Assyria they arrived at other places and also at Argos; now Argos was at that time in all points the first of the States within that land which is now called Hellas; --the Phoenicians arrived then at this land of Argos, and began to dispose of their ship's cargo: and on the fifth or sixth day after they had arrived, when their goods had been almost all sold, there came down to the sea a great company of women, and among them the daughter of the king; and her name, as the Hellenes also agree, was Io the daughter of Inachos. These standing near to the stern of the ship were buying of the wares such as pleased them most, when of a sudden the Phoenicians, passing the word from one to another, made a rush upon them; and the greater part of the women escaped by flight, but Io and certain others were carried off. So they put them on board their ship, and forthwith departed, sailing away to Egypt.

2. In this manner the Persians report that Io came to Egypt, not agreeing therein with the Hellenes, and this they say was the first beginning of wrongs. Then after this, they say, certain Hellenes (but the name of the people they are not able to report) put in to the city of Tyre in Phoenicia and carried off the king's daughter Europa;--these would doubtless be Cretans; --and so they were quits for the former injury. After this however the Hellenes, they say, were the authors of the second wrong; for they sailed in to Aia of Colchis and to the river Phasis with a ship of war, and from thence, after they had done the other business for which they came, they carried off the king's daughter Medea: and the king of Colchis sent a herald to the land of Hellas and demanded satisfaction for the rape and to have his daughter back; but they answered that, as the Barbarians had given them no satisfaction for the rape of Io the Argive, so neither would they give satisfaction to the Barbarians for this.

3. In the next generation after this, they say, Alexander the son of Priam, having heard of these things, desired to get a wife for himself by violence from Hellas, being fully assured that he would not be compelled to give any satisfaction for this wrong, inasmuch as the Hellenes gave none for theirs. So he carried off Helen, and the Hellenes resolved to send messengers first and to demand her back with satisfaction for the rape; and when they put forth this demand, the others alleged to them the rape of Medea, saying that the Hellenes were now desiring satisfaction to be given to them by others, though they had given none themselves nor had surrendered the person when demand was made.

4. Up to this point, they say, nothing more happened than the carrying away of women on both sides; but after this the Hellenes were very greatly to blame; for they set the first example of war, making an expedition into Asia before the Barbarians made any into Europe. Now they say that in their judgment, though it is an act of wrong to carry away women by force, it is a folly to set one's heart on taking vengeance for their rape, and the wise course is to pay no regard when they have been carried away; for it is evident that they would never be carried away if they were not themselves willing to go. And the Persians say that they, namely the people of Asia, when their women were carried away by force, had made it a matter of no account, but the Hellenes on account of a woman of Lacedemon gathered together a great armament, and then came to Asia and destroyed the dominion of Priam; and that from this time forward they had always considered the Hellenic race to be their enemy: for Asia and the Barbarian races which dwell there the Persians claim as belonging to them; but Europe and the Hellenic race they consider to be parted off from them.

Next installment: The Persian's side of the story.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fischer-Spassky Documentary

There is a lot of junk on YouTube about chess. This documentary is a must-see for all chess fans.

This match for the world championship in 1973 was arguably one of the most privotal in chess history. For me, it was important because I had read a book on the history of the World Champions by Fred Reinfeld a few months earlier. This had reignited my interest in chess. Then this match hit the news. I had always been interested in chess since I was six. After these events, I was hooked.

In this documentary, look especially for the interviews of Spassky himself, as well as Robert Byrne and Larry Evans.

Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4

After watching this, we can all appreciate Susan Polgar all the more. Would that Fischer had behaved with just half the professionalism she does! She operates a blog, organizes events for children, and actively participates in USCF affairs. Sad to see what Fischer could have accomplished.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Coaching and Me

This links to two upcoming workshops on Chess in Education. They are calling for papers in advance. I have something to say but I doubt that this would be the kind of thing they have in mind.

You see, I do part time chess coaching for a local company. This company provides after-school chess clubs for local elementary schools. You’d think that I’d be happy doing what I love and getting paid to do it. Mostly it’s good but there are some real problems. I wonder how the rest of the scholastic chess community escapes them.

First, not every chessplayer can take time off work to go coach a school chess club. That limits the population of potential chess coaches right there.

Second, not every chessplayer is good at handling kids, let alone having an education degree.

Third, not every chessplayer is independently rich. The job pays $20 per hour for 2 ½ hours. Include the gas in the IRS rate of $.48 per mile for total wear-and-tear on your car, factor in drive times of half an hour or more going and coming, and the effective compensation for this job goes way down. Basically, I figure that chess clubs shoot down the entire afternoon.

So . . .

The company has to scrounge for chess coaches. What they get are people with chess backgrounds (like me) but little education background and people with vice-versa. Understandably, the company prefers the latter kind of people than the former. People can learn chess principles for the job easier than chessplayers can learn education and people skills. At least, that’s what the company thinks.

So, you end up with employees who fall into two groups. Chessplayers and educators. The company staffs chess clubs with teams of coaches. They try to match chessplayers with educators.

(The company does do a lot of things right.)

I see that there is more of a problem with some of the educators than with the chessplayers among the coaches. Both groups understand the importance of knowing about kids and having good people skills with them. As for chess, some (not all) of the educators view it as having to know just the minimum about it as necessary.

From my memories as a student, a number of teachers viewed subjects that way. For educators who just want to slide by, chess can be viewed as even lower than academic subjects like history or math. To cover for their inadequacies, they just KNOW that:

  • Kids aren’t interested in famous chessplayers. When I mention that kids are interested in ballplayers, they retort that those players do physical sports, not mental like chess.
  • Kids aren’t interested in outside chess clubs. When I mention that the company operates a chess club on Thursday nights and it’s free, they just KNOW that only home-schoolers go to that.
  • Kids aren’t interested in participating in USCF tournaments – or any other outside scholastic tournament for that matter. Even the ones that the company sponsors itself.
  • Finally, kids should stick to the basic instructional materials and not wander off experimenting on their own. To these coaches, company-approved openings like the Colle are allowed; Alekhine’s Defense is not.
There’s a false dichotomy that these folks promote and (sadly) the company has bought into, that a chess coach can be either about being competitive or having fun. Why is one the enemy of the other? Why can’t kids have both?

I agree that we ought not push kids who don’t want to be pushed; BUT we ought to inform kids about upcoming events and allow them to decide for themselves if they wish to go further or not.

The basic problem with too many of these chess coaches is that since they don’t care about chess and don’t want to know more about it, they assume the kids don’t, either.

It irks me that these types of coaches are promoted to team leaders and even managers. They do seem to have good people skills – at self-promotion, at least. And the company does seem to prosper with this kind of people in charge. So, I don’t know. It just seems wrong.

It also reminds me of why I had difficulties with some teachers when I was young.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Blogging Fisk - 1st. Impressions

Title: The Great War for Civilization
Subtitle: The Conquest of the Middle East

A reader had recommended this. So I finally got to it. Thanks, Niall!

This is a thick book. 1,000 pages long. I just started this. I read his Preface and most of Chapter 1. I also flipped through it, reading passages at random. So this is my first impression of it. It is not good.

This is a book that has strong points and weak ones. First, the strengths.

The author has lived most of his professional life in the Middle East. He has an eye for detail. Early on, he writes of his trip to Jalamabad, one of the biggest towns in east Afghanistan. He checks into the Spinghar Hotel, settles in his room when he gets this visitor.

Then a rustle, a kind of faint, rasping sound, comes from the silent air conditioner. I sit up and, five feet from my face, I see the dragon’s head of a giant lizard looking at me from the cooled bars of the machine. When I raise my hand, the head disappears for a moment. Then it is back, a miniature armoured brontosaurus face that is followed now by a long, rubbery torso, grey-green in the dim afternoon sunlight and a big sucking feet that grip the plastic air-conditioning vents. Like an old silent film, it moves in jerks. One moment, I see its head. Then at shutter’s speed, half its length of heavily-breathing rubberiness is out of the machine. A moment later, the whole half foot of creature is suspended on the curtain above my bed, swaying on the material, alien and disturbing, looking back at me over its fortress-like shoulder. What is it doing here? I ask myself. Then it scuttles out of sight into the drapery.

Fisk has a fine eye for detail. He puts you right in the hotel room with him and makes you feel the situation right alongside him. This quote is typical. I expect that after reading this book, I shall have a better feel for life in the Middle East because of it.

Fisk seems to have seen simply everything and everybody there. In the paragraph quoted above, he is in Jalabad waiting to see Osama bin Laden himself.

When he does meet him, he details the effort to see him, as well as the meeting itself with the same storytelling craftsmanship as the quote. One has a real sense of being there with him, witnessing the talk with the dreaded villain.

That’s where we get to the bad part.

Fisk does not seem to have the grasp of the higher levels of the story of the Middle East. His analysis of grand strategy and geopolitics is spotty and one-sided. He’s like a lieutenant trying to be a general. He sees the trees just fine. He describes each one beautifully. It’s just the forest he can’t see.

Start with the title: “The Conquest of the Middle East”. This is just a first impression, but I gather he thinks the USA wants to conquer it. Huh? Come again??

Then there’s that Preface. He starts with his father and World War I, and the Battle of the Somme. Skipping ahead, he ends the book with that too. He labels the war “pointless” and infers that the Middle East conflicts are the same. Again, huh?

First, if Germany had won either of the World Wars, the world would have been very different and MUCH worse! How can any educated person look at the nature of the regimes of the Kaiser or of the Nazis and not know this?

So we go to his analysis of Middle East conflicts. Yes, there are flaws with Israel and the United States. But and here’s the big BUT . . . can’t he see the differences between us and mad dictators like Saddam Hussein? I shall read further to find out. It’s just the first impression is not good.

There’s problems with military analysis. For example, in his first interview with Osama bid Laden, Osama states that he did not see any evidence of the USA helping the Arab cause in the Afgan war with the Soviets. (He had fought in that war and was reminiscing as well as analyzing it for Fisk.) He bragged about bulldozing roads to his strongpoints.

The obvious question would regard the role of airpower. Most analysts of that war had regarded the neutralizing of Soviet airpower as the decisive factor in the Arab victory of that war. That was due to the introduction of the American Stinger anti-air missile. Surely, this would have been worth at least one question by any reasonable reporter.

And that’s the problem so far. Here Fisk had, through great hardship and courage on his part, obtained great opportunities to interview key figures but because of his lack of analytical skills, he blows it. (To be fair to him, he operates in a professional mileau where it has become too common to judge success by scoring the interview rather than by scoring the story.)

As I said above, this is only a first impression. I shall continue reading. Maybe things might get better.

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.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Carnival Categories

    Here is the revised list of categories for the Chess Blog Carnival:

  1. Annotated Games

  2. Book Reviews

  3. Chess Culture and Politics

  4. Endgame Play

  5. Humor

  6. Improvement Programs

  7. Opening Theory

  8. Position Analysis

  9. Strategic Concepts

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blog Housekeeping

My responses to comments and questions from the past week. Also, general housekeeping items. Sorry, that I got busy. I truly appreciate all the comments, suggestions, and private e-mails that I've received.

1) Busted Links. I tracked down the problems and fixed them. I've checked all the links for the past month or so. Thanks Blue Devil Knight for pointing this out to me!

2) E-mail addresses on the public Chess Blog Database. There were NO private e-mail addresses on the DB. All e-mail addresses were obtained from the blogs themselves. Those who are concerned about their e-mail addresses being publicly revealed should check their blogs. Blogspot people should check their public profiles, as I got a bunch of the e-mail addresses there.

In any case, I went ahead and deleted ALL the e-mail addresses on the DB. That should fix that. Note that this is a public DB. Anybody can fix it. That's why I had set it up that way. Those who want to add/change their information can go ahead and do it themselves. Please check the information. If it is incorrect, change it. I would appreciate a notification, though so that I can make sure it gets to the permanant DB on my hard drive. Otherwise, e-mail me and I shall change it myself.

3) Unable to hear the audio spot. It ought to work from within the blog. I tried it out on 2 different outside computers (computers at business clients of mine) and it worked fine. If you can't hear it from within the blog, try this link:
This takes you straight to the host website.

4) I removed Haloscan from the permanent links column. It wasn't working and I got tired of fighting with them over it.

5) Killer Chess Tips. Thanks to whoever posted that comment. (Annonymous poster.) Here's where to find it.

6) Links to other sites. People have asked me to link back to their website/blog. Happy to do so. My problem right now is that I've got to prioritize my time. Will get to it real soon now (but keep bugging me)!

Also, my permanent links column has gotten way too busy. I think that what I shall do is to add a links page to the permanent file and add a notice to the right column.

7) Steve Owens wrote about SF books. See his comment here. Steve, I didn't read much of Jack Williamson's books but since you suggested them, I shall. Sorry for not getting back to you before now.

8) Chess Blog Carnival questions. I was asked a number of questions regarding this. Most of the answers were contained in the main documents. Go here and/or here. As for what kind of posts: best ones vs. recent ones - send both! Better yet, how about trying to make your most recent post your best?

9) Carnival Categories. While they are on the Carnival Homepage under Content, I shall post a revised list of them tomorrow. Thanks for your suggestions. Please go over the revised list and comment back. I shall then update the homepage.

10) New category for Carnival on my blog. I don't want to have too many categories as this makes a blog too unwieldy. I had thought long and hard about adding a category for my Churchill Book. However, the Carnival now needs a catagory of it's own.


Thanks for all your comments and suggestions!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Better Writing

Thanks to Writer's Digest for These Links
Here is their web page.
101 sites is still a lot to go through. Here are two that I think are most important.
Guide to Grammar and Writing by the Capital Community College Foundation has advice, narratives to study, and quizzes to take online. One thing I noticed, is that people always need to brush up on their grammar.
Common Errors in English by Professor Paul Brians of Washington State University approaches the same topic of grammar and punctuation but from the opposite angle. The first site emphasizes what's right and this one emphasizes what's wrong.
I will be surfing these sites myself more and more, I'm sure!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

News You Might Have Missed

Here’s some interesting stories that appeared in various magazines and newspapers around the world. I think that they’re all important in some way.

About Terrorism

Both Congress and Europe have dropped “The War on Terrorism” as a label. Important sectors of public opinion no longer believe that such a thing is even occurring. The label has become politically incorrect. However,

The International Herald Tribune has this story about the push for nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Is terrorism a crime like the other crimes that our law is designed to address? Here’s three different stories on the new face of terrorism. From Newsweek; from The National Review; and from The Washington Post.

Hollywood and Terrorism

Anybody who is too ideological (either left or right) is going to have trouble dealing with the issues of the day. Hollywood is notoriously left – way left. I think that’s the source of their trouble. Like left-wingers everywhere else (see above) they are in denial.

This is from USA Today.
This is from The Boston Herald.

There is a real problem with the attitude that everything George Bush is for, I’ve got to be against. Just because George Bush is concerned about terrorism does not mean that the issue does not exist.
The Arab Media

The same problem with denial is in how people want to ignore what’s in the Arab media. The sheer vitriol against Jews is just one of the very disturbing things one sees. We want to believe that only a few of the Muslims are fanatics. But our desires should not war with realities. In America, we complain about left-wing or right-wing bias. This is nothing to compare with the venom one sees in the Arab outlets on the net.

Sadly, Conservatives seem willing to notice this; while liberals seem to deny it. Like the “War on Terror”, stories like the below ought not to be ignored.

Hamas Tortures Cats on TV. This is entertainment?
The Western Media

That doesn’t mean that the bias in the Western Media isn’t a problem, too.. Here’s a comment on The BBC from The London Times. Other media malefactors: The New Republic; and Newsweek.

"The narrative was right but the facts were wrong" – Evan Thomas, Newsweek.
(Translation: the guilty defendants were actually innocent.)

Global Warming

This may very well be real. One can’t help but notice that there’s a bandwagon effect going on about this issue. And in the rush to judgment, facts are being presented that aren’t true – and at the highest levels of government and society. For example:

Are recent years really the hottest on record? Here’s the corrected stories: From The Calgary Sun and from The National Post. Notice that it was the Canadian media that highlighted this screw-up by NASA?

Scientists with sincere, credible dissent on the newest fad are getting hammered. See this story about “Green McCarthyism” from The New York Post.
Prejudice of the Political Kind

This is highlighted by George Will in a column in The Washington Post about Barack Obama.

Backwards and Forwards

Finally, here’s some positive news – at least I think it’s positive.

The Pope brings back the Latin Mass. Never could figure why folks in the Catholic Church was so against this. Liturgy is something where even conservatives can be pro-choice. And what’s so wrong with seeing how Christians worshipped in those years gone by?

A new Space Hotel is going up. Grand Opening is scheduled for 2012.

Ready for the latest scientific find? Smart people aren’t necessarily the most successful. Success seems to depend more on hard work and commitment than smarts. I think they mean financially, but I suspect that if they measured success in terms of love and romance, they would find the same thing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chess Blog Carnival - Audio Spot

I think that this website is defunct. The links don't work any longer. 7/9/08.

I created a new audio spot for the chess blog carnival. This is my first audio ever!

If that doesn't work, try this link.

OR, type the below link into your browser:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Home-Based Accounting Businesses Thrive

50% of Accounting Businesses show a profit. Other Home-Based Businesses don't do too bad, either. 46% is the overall average. The most profitable business to run out of your home is computer design services. 76% of those show a profit.

The really good news for accountants is that the profit margin runs 46% while the home-based average is 36%. The bad news is that the bulk of the firms surveyed were non-CPA's. That means that they have MUCH lower overhead. I would guess that home-based CPA firms have lower margins because of higher professional requirements.

My source for this is today's CPA Insider, an e-mail publication I get. This got my attention because I am a CPA who works out of my home. Their source is a report from the Small Business Administration, titled, “The Impact of Location on Net Income: A Comparison of Homebased and Non-Homebased Businesses.”

Monday, August 13, 2007

Will Big Business Pacify the Clash of Cultures?

Here's an interesting article from the London Times about the world situation.

One theory about the clash of cultures such as Islam and The West is that religeous and ethnic ties are so strong that they drive groups of people apart. This articles factors in economic issues.

This kind of reminds me of the border states in the US Civil War. In the pre-war years, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were strongly pro-south and pro-slavery. Yet, when the war came and the chips were down, they sided with the Union.

Kentucky was especially interesting. A Confederate invasion in 1862 gave it every opportunity to side with the South. But for them, with the Ohio River to the north and the Mississippi River to the west, the economic ties to the northern states neutralized the pro-southern leanings. Other states further south didn't have that geographical proximity.

Now days, geographical proximity isn't as important to economic inter-dependence. So that's the direction policy should go: create more economic inter-dependence. The article doesn't mention that this was Kissinger's general strategy in the 1970's.

One byproduct of this thesis, is that free trade policies would be more desirable than protectionism.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Another Nutty Lawsuit

And this one's even worse than the last one. (The Cheeseburger Guy.)

This time a guy is suing his florist. He bought some flowers and the florist sent a thank you note to his home thanking him for his business. The wife called and asked the florist to fax over the receipt and the details of the transaction. The florist's employee did. Big deal?

The note accompanying the flowers said, "Just wanted to say that I love you and you mean the world to me! Leroy." Well, it turns out that the flowers went to old Leroy's girlfriend instead of his wife. Big deal now!

Leroy is suing for $1 million dollars for mental anguish and for the additional amount he expects he will have to pay his wife in the divorce* - because she found out he was cheating on her. He believes that this is the florist's fault, not his.

The florist's spoksman offered this lame defense: "We are not responsible for our customer's conduct." Clearly, the poor spokesman it totally out of touch with the world of modern litigation.

More details about the case here.

* Did I mention that his wife is divorcing him? His wife is divorcing him.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Must See TV!

Screenshot courtesy of Susan Polgar's Chess Blog.

These videos feature Susan Polgar from the TV Show My Brilliant Brain. This is a real story of psychology and courage.

Part 1 . . . Part 2 . . . Part 3 . . . Part 4 . . . Part 5 . . . Part 6

These are all links to You Tube. Susan Polgar is the first woman grandmaster in history, former Woman's World Champion, and current Chairman of the United States Chess Federation.

Chess Blog DB Is Now Available

Access it here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Human Civilization Begins

New evidence of the start of human civilization has been unearthed in Iran. Up to now, it had been thought that civilization had begun in the river region of Iraq. It now appears that at that time, a large network of cities existed throughout the area from Persia (modern Iran) on the east to the Arabian Peninsula on the west. More info here.

Diver investigating the drowned city. Credit: Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archeology (HWTMA)

In a related story, a stone-age city has been discovered under the English Channel. The lost city is just off the Isle of Wight. More info here.

Both stories relate to the period 4,000 b.c.

This reminds me of the discovery this year of a huge crater in the Indian Ocean. Analysis showed that the meteor or comet (whatever it was) impacted about 2,500 b.c. or about the time of the celebrated "Great Flood". The impact would have caused a tsunami that would have swept over the whole region, including up Mesopotamia. This flood would also account for the silt that archeologists observed for that time period. This tsunami would have been a major disaster during any period.

Here's a related article.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Yet ANOTHER Big Bucks Lawsuit

In this litigation happy society, these kind of lawsuits come up all the time. Lawsuits where someone does something stupid and gets hurt. Rather than just chalking it up to one of life’s lessons, they find someone else to blame. Someone who has deep pockets, for choice.

Remember the lady who spilled some hot coffee on herself? Even though the cup plainly was marked “Extra Hot”? She sued McDonalds and got millions.

Yesterday, another guy sued McDonalds for giving him a cheeseburger. Turns out he is allergic to cheese. He wants $10 million.

According to the lawsuit he ordered his quarter-pounder without cheese and then, “From this point forward, Mr. Jackson repeatedly asked as to the status of his food and whether it had no cheese, and took multiple preventive steps to assure his food did not contain cheese." When he got the burger, he bit into it, tasted cheese, and had to make an emergency run to the hospital where he almost died.

Too bad that the “multiple preventive steps” he took did not include LIFTING THE BUN OFF THE HAMBURGER TO CHECK IT BEFORE BITING INTO IT!!

While we all sympathize with people with severe food allergies, we wonder why the whole rest of the world is responsible except for the actual person himself?

Anyway, McDonalds probably doesn’t have to worry about this one because anybody who behaves the way this plaintiff claims he behaved in this affair and faced the consequences he claimed he faced, probably won’t live long enough to get to trial.

More details here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Chess Carnival

This is a organization page for the first ever chess carnival in the history of the world!
Note that this is not the chess carnival itself. The actual carnivals will be posted on the first of every month. Details below.

Opening Move:

Each month a different chess site hosts a carnival. The host selects the best of recently-published blog posts. The different hosts bring diversity of selection and presentation. Then they publish listings of these posts with extracts, comments, and summaries, as appropriate. Sources include blogs and other websites with frequently posted new content about chess.

Our Goal:

to provide a showcase of the best posts being produced by the chess world. These range is from the biggest sites to the smallest; from the most famous to the most obscure. Writers range from the champion grandmasters to children just beginning to learn the moves.


Position Analysis, Opening Theory, Endgame Play, Strategic Concepts, Annotated Games, Chess Culture and Politics, Humor, and more. We look for the widest range of content to be submitted with the widest range of the blogs of the chess world.

How to Submit:

Bloggers can submit posts from their blogs for inclusion in the next Carnival here.

Submission Criteria:

1) Original material. Entries should go beyond posts that consist only of web links or of quotes from other sources with little or no discussion.

2) We do welcome controversial views, but please don't submit posts that are simply polemics on current issues. Writing about chess politics will be considered, but should involve significant factual content and analysis.

3) Articles may touch on non-chess subjects, but these subjects must directly relate to some matter that is specific to the game of chess.

All submissions are vetted by the host whose decisions are final.

Hosting a Carnival

The Chess Carnival is on the look out for hosts! If you're an established blogger or webmaster who knows your way around the chess blogs, maybe you could host a Carnival. Hosting does require a little work, primarily sifting through nominations and a few hours' solid work compiling the carnival. (Imaginative themes are always welcomed but not compulsory.)

Please note that the Carnival co-ordinator (email address below) has absolute discretion in approving, assigning and scheduling Carnival hosts.

Contacting the Co-ordinator

You can email the Carnival co-ordinator, Jack Le Moine, at
jack [underscore] pc [at] bellsouth [dot] net.
(Sorry about the annoying disguise of the e-mail address but in these days of webbots and spam and taking over other's e-mails, sadly this kind of stuff has become too necessary.)
or fax to 770-319-0054.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Carnival 1: Chess First!

Announcing the first edition of the first chess carnival in the history of the world. This will be posted right here, on this very blog on September 1, 2007.

I am inviting all the chess bloggers and chess sites in the universe to submit a sample of their work here for inclusion in this inagural edition.

There are now thousands of carnivals on the web. Almost every area of interest has it’s own carnival. Except for chess blogs.

The advantages of having a chess carnival: (1) For bloggers – to showcase a sample of their work to the chess community; (2) For readers – to sample content from a wide variety of chess blogs in one place. A Chess Carnival will also encourage quality work. If a blogger knows that his piece is being showcased right alongside pieces from the other blogs, then that serves as a motivator right there.

I don’t mean to be presumptuous in doing this. I just know that instead of complaining about nobody doing something, pointing fingers, and endless discussing, sometimes it’s best that someone just steps up and gets the ball rolling. That’s what I’m doing. If someone else wants to take over, then that would be fine with me. In fact, I need all the help on this that I can get.

First, hosting. The successful carnivals rotate blog hosts from month to month.

Second, publicity. The successful carnivals have a number of blogs who post an announcement on the upcoming carnival on their blogs and keep doing so each month.

Third, participation. Successful carnivals have a large sample of work from their blogging communities. Note here, bloggers don’t do any additional work. A carnival is not for original pieces written just for the carnival. A carnival is for work that has already been posted onto the blog.

For more information on the chess carnival, see the discussion in the USCF Forum. For more information on blogging carnivals in general, see the FAQ page from Blog Carnival, a site specially devoted to this subject.

Here’s an example of one of the classier blog carnivals. The History Carnival is now in it’s 55th. edition. Note that a civil war site is hosting it this month. Each month, a different blog hosts the carnival. Also, 55 straight months is a pretty good track record. Why can’t chess bloggers produce as quality a carnival as the history bloggers do?

In the interest of getting the ball rolling, here’s the summary of the Chess Carnival. Bloggers please submit your sample post for the next carnival here.

I’ll still to contact as many blogs this weekend as possible. I’d like the initial roll-out of this venture to be as high quality as possible. Once people see what a chess carnival can look like, then they can have a better idea of what this is all about. Please help!

New USCF Officers Installed

Contact: Joan DuBois
August 6, 2007
931-787-1234 #123
Press Release #21 of 2007

(Crossville, TN) The USCF has new officers for the next two years. Former Women’s World Champion Susan Polgar has just been elected as the first ever Chairman of the USCF. Grandmaster Susan Polgar is the winner of four Women’s World Championships and ten Olympiad medals (5 Gold, 4 Silver and 1 Bronze). She was the first woman to break the gender barrier to earn the Grandmaster title with the same qualifications as her male counterpart. She was also the first woman to qualify for the Men’s World Championship cycle. Susan became the #1 woman player in the world at the age of 15 and has remained in the top 3 for 23 straight years. She is currently the Executive Director of the Texas Tech SPICE (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence) program. She is also the Head Coach of the Texas Tech Knight Raiders chess team.

Current USCF President Bill Goichberg has just been reaffirmed of his position. He was elected to the USCF Executive Board in August 2005. He received his Bachelor of Arts from NY University in 1963. He played in his first chess tournament in 1961 and he holds the title of National Master and FIDE Master. Between 1964 and 1967, Bill worked in the USCF office located then in Manhattan, as Ratings Statistician. He worked again in the USCF in 2004 as a volunteer in the position of Executive Director. Bill has and continues to dedicate his life to promoting chess. He is also a premier tournament organizer in the United States.

Mr. Jim Berry has been elected as Vice President of the USCF. He is a retired stockbroker and presently serves on the Board of Directors of the billion dollar Stillwater National Bank. He played his first USCF game in 1962. Since 1991, he has played in over 230 tournaments including last four U.S. Open Championships. He has also directed over 75 chess tournaments. He twice rescued OK state chapter affiliate from bankruptcy. Since 2002, he found sponsors for over $125,000 prize funds for chess, including the recent US and US Women’s Championships.

Mr. Randy Bauer has been elected as Vice President of Finance. He has over 20 years of professional experience in budget and finance, including nearly 7 years as budget director for the State of Iowa. During that time, the State received multiple national awards for innovation and excellence in its budget processes and financial reporting. He has been actively involved as a chess player, coach, director, writer, editor, and elected state and national representative for over 30 years. He is a life member of the USCF, a national master, former Iowa state champion and Minnesota junior, junior high and senior high champion. As a competitor, he has won over 30 Grand Prix tournaments.

Mr. Paul Truong has been elected as Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has 20 years of experience in senior management, marketing and PR, specializing in branding, customer retention, advertising and innovative promotion. He is a National Master and FIDE Master with numerous national championship titles. His chess experiences include co-authoring best-selling chess books, coaching national scholastic and Olympiad champions, organizing many high profile chess events, being an award-winning chess journalist and photographer. Paul was the captain and business manager of the historic 2004 Silver Medalist U.S. Women’s Olympiad Team. Paul currently is the Director of Marketing and PR for Texas Tech SPICE program. He is also the Assistant Coach for the Texas Tech Knight Raiders chess team.

Mr. Joel Channing has been elected as Vice President of Business Development. He has an impressive resume which includes, Channing and Channing, Architects and Engineers between 1963-1971; Channing Corporation, President 1971-1991, Chairman of the Board 1991 to present. Also on the Board of Director for US Chess Trust, Mensa, Miami Beach Planning Commission (1970-1973), State of Florida Condominium Advisory Board (1979-1983), Community Associations Institute, National Speakers Bureau (1980-1984), Florida Home Builders Association Legislative Committee (1979-1982), North Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce 1988-1990. Up until 2000 Channing also served on the City of Palm Beach Gardens Planning and Zoning Committee as well as in 1999 was on the Florida Advisory Council to the Commission on Human Relations.

Randy Hough has been elected Vice President and Secretary of the USCF. Elected in 2006, Randy is an active player and former master. He's been a National Tournament Director since 1985, having directed several national championships (including the US Open, US Championship, and National High School), and an International Arbiter since 1989. He served as technical director in the USCF office, 1983-86, on the Executive Board previously (1990-93), and has chaired several USCF committees. He is also an organizer, Southern California Federation board member, president of his local club, has taught chess in the public schools, has published dozens of articles in Chess Life, and serves as secretary/treasurer of the Chess Journalists of America. Randy is a Vietnam veteran. With a BA from UC Berkeley and an MA from UC Riverside, he was a government affairs representative for the City of Los Angeles before retiring in 2005.

This is one of the most qualified and diversified USCF Executive Board. Some of the immediate goals of this board are to increase revenues, expand memberships, build a strong, sensible and cost sensitive marketing plan to promote chess and the USCF, aggressively seek sponsors, create strong support systems for scholastic, college, adult, tournament, correspondence, Internet and professional players as well as erect an open and transparent channel of timely communications with its members. This board is also resolutely open to collaboration and cooperation with states affiliates, USCF committees, volunteers and supporters.

The United States Chess Federation (USCF), founded in 1939, serves as the governing body for chess in the United States and is now headquartered in Crossville, Tennessee. USCF is devoted to extending the role of chess in American society. It promotes the study and knowledge of the game of chess, for its own sake as an art and enjoyment, and as a means for the improvement of society. The USCF is a not-for-profit membership organization with over 80,000 members. For additional information on the USCF see:

Monday, August 6, 2007

Important USCF Meetings

The annual USCF Delegates Meeting was held over the weekend. The new Executive Board was installed yesterday. They met in secret last night and today.

What do you think of this? Please do not post annonymously.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Executive Board Meeting

Did we even have an election?? What was all the fuss all about? New directions? Big changes?

Well, we do have one. The USCF now has a Chairman who, alone among all the officers, will not post on the USCF Forum until the USCF makes needed changes. What changes are needed so that she can reactivate her account? Unknown as she did not make any motions at the meeting.

Goichberg and the old guard spoke as expected. Polgar and Truong were curiously disengaged. It was especially frustrating for me. Especially during the discussion on forum policing. We had to listen to folks brag on how they had posted 8 times on the forum and thus considered themselves veterans and others who bragged on how rich and famous they were. Still, those of us who knew these forums’ issues and problems had to just sit quietly before our computers and watch.

Apart from the Forum talk, other interesting things came out. There was talk of participating remotely in national events via the internet. Some innocuous motions were passed regarding college and school chess.

Still, that whole part of the meeting left me wondering how the voting would have been different if the old Board had voted on them. My expectations had been raised high. Many of us would have supported virtually any motions that Polgar or Truong cared to make. They just needed to make some.

Again, thanks to Terry Vibbert for making it possible to view the meeting.

The USCF Delegates' Meeting

After watching to most of the Delegates’ Meeting (thanks to Terry Vibbert), here are my impressions.

The Delegate’s meeting was even less than I had expected. They do not meet two days as I had been led to believe; they meet for only a day and a half. On Saturday, they met from 9 to a little past 5 with a 2 hour (!) lunch. Much of the first morning was taken up with just signing the delegates in.

Then there were the committee reports. Lord, does the USCF have a lot of committees! Apparently, they had only met just a few days before because most of the reports dealt with a meeting they had just completed. Some reports just served as platforms for Chairs to campaign for or against motions on the list. (Myron Lieberman.)

Then it was on to the motions themselves. Most of them were referred to committee! The committees that meet in secret if at all.

Previously, I had posted about what committees do and how we can learn about them. People in charge responded that we ought to look at their reports at the Delegates’ Meeting. So, what do they do? They refer motions to the Delegates. What do the Delegates do? They refer motions to the committee. The whole process struck me as dysfunctional.

The other thing that got me, was watching the lame-duck Executive Board at the head table. Officers who whose terms (as officers) were due to end that very day, were hardly in a position to give the Delegates much sense of purpose or direction. So, the Delegates’ Meeting’s highlights were mainly informational rather than decision making.

I missed Donna’s promised fireworks. It was just as well. It seemed to me that many of the comments on various issues showed that Delegates knew little or nothing about the matters before them. Many people were quite active/experienced in Tournaments and so on; they had little interest in USCF political issues and it showed.

The whole system clearly needs changing.

The meeting ended on an interesting note. The old Executive Board had to get up off the table and leave. Sam Sloan managed to get up and exit with some dignity. Then the new Board sat down. Paul Truong sat down on one side of Bill Goichberg; Susan Polgar sat on his other side. Interesting tableau.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

August History Carnival

This edition of the History Carnival was hosted by Civil War Memory. Check it out here.