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The US Chess Championships are coming to a close.  Today is Championship Day, however, the possibility exists for a playoff scenario.  

Let me be blunt- I am a crappy chess player. In the chess vernacular, I am a patzer. A patzer is a weak player.  The word 'patzer' comes from the German for blunder- Patzen. In chess, a blunder is a bad move. It's not just a bad move, though.  It's the kind of bad move that is made without sufficient compensation. To win a game of chess, you want to be forcing your opponent into the position where they are obligated to make a bad move.  'Blunder' seems to be somewhat more weighty than a simple 'mistake.' A chess player may make a mistake in her opening moves, but it is the level of the mistake, and the resulting consequences that define whether it is a blunder.

Blundering, however, isn't the same for all players.  The more skillful you are at combining the power of the pieces with the tactical tools, and the long and short range strategies of chess, the fewer mistakes you make, and the more consequential each tiny error becomes.

Examples of blunders-  

Moving out your f pawn one square on move one, followed by moving your g pawn out two squares on move 2. This results in the most consequential result of a blunder, a lost game.  These are are the precursory moves to the fastest way to be checkmated- The Fool's Mate.

Leaving your queen under attack with no compensation while also not playing a move which attacks the king directly- check.   Many of the most exciting chess games that we teach to beginner chess players feature the amazing, queen sacrifice.    As in, "I just sacc'ed my queen for nothing, and then played a two move checkmate with my rook and my bishop!"  Kids love the idea of doing that in a game. When one of my students blunders his queen, they sometimes will say, "I meant to do that.  It's my plan."

As you look at games from more and more skilled players, simple blunders like losing a piece 'en pris,' do occur. Typically, however, the higher you go up the ladder, the finer the distinction becomes.  A blunder can become something as slight as capturing with the incorrect pawn allowing your opponent to advance her pawn just one square, setting in then on a light square where it will then be untouchable by your opponent's defenses in the endgame- promoting a pawn to presumably win the game.

At the outset of a game of chess, the player with the white pieces is ahead. The computer analysis as well as common sense will confirm this. The white player has the initiative and has to make move 1. The most common move at this point is 1. e4, placing white's pawn in the center of the board for black to consider.  The players at very high level when playing the black pieces in a tournament  for the most part, are satisfied to simply hold the game to a draw when playing against equal competition.

A game of chess is won, according to Savielly Tartakower, by "...the player who makes the next to last mistake." Computers will basically play themselves to a draw. Human error in a game of chess is a nuanced thing. It relies on so many different factors, all of which exist in the past, present, and the future of that game. It can also stretch back beyond the game you are playing.  The reputation and trust of your level of play can cause your opponent to misunderstand your error as the onset of a plan to gain more value in return. VIshy Anand did not capture the pawn on e4 in the world championships, even though it was free.  Perhaps this was based on his trust in Magnus's skill level. You can see this when chess players discuss and examine positions and ideas as they play out on the board.  

Chess players will spend hours a day studying and learning  in order to reduce their errors by just the tiniest bit. Yet, if all they do is avoid error, they may never take the initiative to win the game.

The player then stands astride a wobbly board resting on a cylinder. She must take the initiative, yet with initiative comes the increase in the possibility of error.  

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Dr. Chaps, or Gordon Klingenschmidt, or worst of all, Representative Klingenschmidt, has been around for a long time on the youtube interview circuit. David Pakman has been interviewing him since a few years ago.  

The guy goes and gets elected, and now the former Chaplain gets some heat from his own side for spewing nonsense every day on his "show."  

Klingenschmidt was the one who said that a woman was attacked because she was cursed by god for other people having abortions. Apparently, that's a righteous outcome in Dr. Chaps' book.  

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4:11 "Police moved in with batons and tear gas.  The crowd was dispersed. Some television crew members were knocked to the ground."

4:25 "Although they never numbered more than a thousand, there were demonstrators..." (This refers to the number of protesters during the day.  At night, the video says there were up to 5,000.  Still, jostling can be very dangerous if it occurs at a high rate)

4:52 "There were arrests throughout the day.  The police THREATENED to use tear gas at one point.  Several North American television crews were JOSTLED!"

4:59 "An ABC camera crew's car was STONED before they could escape."  

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In the bigger home, the downstairs bedroom is baby blue, still.

The walls are scarred and worn.  The holes and scratches reveal the life that has been taking place in here.  Some of the holes are from anger.  Others are from wear.  Still other marks are from the constant jostling and rubbing.  The baby blue is hidden by dirt or scuff marks from the increasingly larger and larger shoes banging against the walls before they land in the bin.  In some places, the holes are from the poor craftsmanship of an eager parent. The walls really do talk.

Before the bigger home with the bigger rooms, there was another place.  I remember looking at the old place for the last time.  The room was a little darker, brightened only by the incandescent light being diffused through the thin, white glass cover.  

It was in this room that the life was founded.  Inspired by hormones and wishful desire, aided by ignorance and poor planning.  

I see an image of this older home.  In this picture the walls are green.  I know of a paint color called “Robin Hood Green,” but that may not be the color that covers the walls.  I'd like to think that's what it is. “Robin Hood Green” seems like a very aspirational color for young, idealistic parents to choose for a young boy.  The carpet is a very intentional shade of beige.  The fabric is flecked with dark spots, and the curls are tight and close together.  It is stain proof and durable.  This home is not furnished for the adults who live here. We just borrow the furniture from him, and we are allowed to sleep in his living room.  The two exceptions being the gaudy retro turquoise paint in the main room, and the throwback silver wallpaper in the bathroom. There is one room, so we sleep in a wallbed.  The Seattle city skyline springs up in front of us, filling the entire pane of the plate glass windows.  

After we had finished all the final packing, the 600 sq ft seemed cavernous.  The sounds bounced off the walls.  We looked at the bedroom one last time. There were tiny compressed areas of carpet where the legs of the bed once stood.  I burst into tears. I still can see that picture of us laying on either side of him. I can see the shining apple cheeks, and the strawberry blond hair, stolen from my mother and my uncle.  

 We aren't in that room anymore, but it isn't empty.

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The savvier of the anti vaxxers want to make the issue about freedom. It's the principle of the thing, they argue. Your rights are being trampled when the state requires vaccination, they insist.

Rand Paul wants the freedom to have a few weeks or months in between childhood vaccinations.

That's not freedom. It's just a requirement with a different time line. These people accept other arbitrary restraints on the same type of freedom all the time.

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(What will it be like to discuss this time period in the future? How will we view the moral landscape of this time period, historically? otto)

Language 201
Early Twenty first Century Prose

Whenever any of my devices fails to read my body or eye gesture correctly, I start to wonder what it would have been like without the cue activated applications of the modern day.  What would that have been like to operate your own vehicle? What would it have been like to smell the dirty air? How would I be able to contribute anything if I were constantly needing to take time and thought to do the things we have automatically done for us today.  

Mostly, I try to imagine the difference in the way people must have thought.  People wasted so much on so little. When my grandfather was born, the world was a frivolous place full of flashing lights and loud sounds.  It's hard to understand how so much was expended for pursuits that resulted in so little.

During my grandfather's time, we still scarred the earth for food, and we still dug into the earth for fuel.  Imagine doing that. It's as if you would take an electric blade to cut your leg off in order to move from one tramway residence stop to the next. In those days, it seems like we thought that work was the thing that was abundant, not energy.   Imagine living with the fear that there wasn't enough energy to provide.  All that wasted time and effort into such trivial issues. We could have stopped the problems we face today if we had simply learned earlier how to redirect our focus.

 I can almost imagine, however, what it would have been like to believe that we were limited to the resources of the Earth. Or that we should even think that the exploitation of the resources was a good idea. I guess some might have a point that we were really forced to use the earth resources, or that our current society was built on a foundation that relied on those resources.

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I am a teacher.  

Currently, I'm a chess coach. I readily admit to my "supervisor" that I am a horrible player, but I am a great teacher.  I teach 6 separate chess classes to elementary aged children. In addition, I have created a drop in chess program at a library that sits on the edge of what used to be referred to as "The Projects." It is more mixed income than just some huge federal housing project. Middle income families own homes in it, and the entire development is well laid out, and has the feel of the German neighborhood I lived in when I was a "Manny" in Köln.  It is not simply a dumping ground for the poor.  

I created this volunteer position for myself. I simply proposed the idea to the library, and they thought it was great. That was 2 or 3 years ago.  

I began my teaching "career" with 5 and 6 year old kids in a south end suburb in the Seattle Metropolitan area.   After that, I took time off to stay home with my 1 year old son.  He's 17 now, and I haven't returned to the classroom, except for a short stop as a reading intervention specialist that ended when I found out that my son,  a socially ignorant 5th grader was "kicked out" of "friendship club." Personally, if I were that counselor, I would have been disappointed in myself.  

I feel like I can get kids to learn just about anything.  

So, rather than returning to the classroom, I recommitted to being the stay at home parent for an as yet unknown number of years.  

Prior to teaching chess, I taught science in a live, informal setting for ten years.  

This is about one of my favorite subjects to teach when I was in control of the console in the planetarium.  

I could, quite literally, teach about anything that was happening in astronomy. I was not held down by any particular canned programming. We started with an outline for a program, and we took any questions that anyone had.  

That meant that I would need to be able to explain the apparent movement of the planets across the sky to children and adults who had the prerequisite background knowledge, but also to those people who had no knowledge, or even to those who were completely opposed to the idea that what I was teaching was, in fact, fact.  


Have you ever been to a live presentation in a planetarium?

6%2 votes
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| 33 votes | Vote | Results

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I delved into the mind of the person who would reject a possibly orphaned child without so much as a second glance.  The Amazing thing is that this person is claiming to have the morally superior position.

The Even Newer Colossus
By A Wright Winger

Not like those comely sirens of Greek fame
With luring arms beckoning ships to land
Here at our well guarded, impervious gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
is full with reckless power, and perfect aim
Mother of the Select.  From her fearsome-hand
Blazes with warning;her burning eyes land
The fortress harbor that hides the city's name

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” warns she
With purséd lips. “Keep them, your lazy, your poor,
Your infested invaders yearning to take our air,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, send them from me,
I douse the lamp beside my locked door!”

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Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 07:07 AM PDT

A Short Diary about A Phone Poll

by otto

I don't answer the phone anymore.  

In roughly two hours, Sunset Magazine will call again, trying to reach my wife. She also never answers the phone.  So, Sunset Magazine calls twice a day, every day.  

One day, I received four phone calls from the same telemarketer.  Finally, I picked up the phone and answered it.  After a short moment of introduction, I said, "Do you know that you guys called me four times today?"

She hung up.  

 The Microsoft calls are probably the best.  The one where the man or woman calling or pretending to call from India to tell me that they are from the Microsoft IT department and...  

The other day, I cut him off.  He started his schtick.  

"I am calling fro-,"  

"Microsoft!" I finished it for him.

"Did I say I was calling from Microsoft?" He burst out.

"No, but you were going to, right?  I replied.

This is the best.  He says to me, "No, I wasn't going to say that."

In response,  I tell him, "Damn, I was going to ask you what to do to fix my Windows system!  I guess I'll have to call them!"

He gives me one good sentence to remember forever and to repeat as a joke to my friends and family.

In a thick Indian accent, he says, "Well, why don't you call them, you PRICK!" The last word was more like "Plick."

Other times, I will just shame them.  I've gotten three or four of these. The other times, I just outright shamed them.  

"This is immoral, you know.  It's wrong.  You're lying to people in an attempt to take their money.  What kind of person acts that way.  I know it's hard to make money, but is this really what you want to be?  A liar and a thief?"

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Herman Cain, The 4th Godfather, and well known radio host had some harsh words for the administration when it came to the exchange of prisoners this week.  

“It appears the administration did not do its homework,” Herman Cain said Tuesday. “It turns out that this an attempt to make it appear that the administration was doing something wonderful … but it looks again like they didn’t do their homework.”
Strong words from the time traveling pizza patriarch.

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I took my daughter to school, and had a nice walk back.  It's a short walk, but it's pretty in the morning.  When I returned, I spent a little time on the Daily Kos.  I read a little bit about Operation American Spring.  

Operation American Spring, or OAS, as the friendlies referred to it, was intended to be a gathering of 3% of the nation's population.  They imagined that if you could get just 3% of the country to come to DC, they would be able to peacefully, PEACEFULLY DAMMIT! subdue the President, bring him to justice for his treason, and then hit the sack early so they could get up for the morning devotional on CBN.  

I think they thought they had reasonable logic.  Even by the most favorable estimates, Obama is roughly at 50% approval rating.  That means that there are, according to them (probably, I don't know) 150 million Americans who are sick of it.  If only a fraction of them showed up, the tyrant in the W__te House would be coming down!  

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Below the fold is a video link to a debate between Professor Walter Block and Sam Seder on The Majority Report.  

Some of the highlights:  
Argument against minimum wage- Is 6 more than zero? Is it? You admit it?  Well, if a black kid in Harlem could get 6, it would be better than zero, right?  You admit that?

He uses Frederick Douglass' words to support the idea that the main problem with slavery is that it prevented the individual the right to free association.  In this respect, the Civil Rights act is much like slavery...hey, hey, hey, it's just not as bad, but it's pretty much the same thing.  

Yes, I said Frederick Douglass.

In the prof's world, every worker gets exactly their value in productivity.  Seriously.  

In the prof's world, a business should be able to turn away anyone it wants, because gay people and straight people turn away people when it comes to selecting sex partners.  

He argues that punishing businesses that discriminate would be like punishing homosexuals for not having sex with straight people.  Really.  

"Hey, Hey, Hey!" That's what he says.  About a million times. He probably spends roughly 4 minutes of the time chiding the host of the radio show for interrupting.

I think my favorite bit was when the diehard libertarian economics professor complained to the guy who owns his own radio show that he was supposed to "share" the show.  

Eventually, he did share the show.  The professor got more than thirty minutes to Sam's 18.  


I've been listening to Sam Seder for years now.  I remember driving near the University District listening to Dailykos' Armando on the radio with Janeane Garofolo and Sam Seder.  Those wacky kids were trying to do a new kind of radio show back in the early days of political blogging when saying stuff on blogs could get you write ups in newspapers and get you spots on the radio.  

Sam is still operating The Majority Report, and he's doing it live, five days a week.  

One ongoing part of the show is that Sam has a constant invitation out to any libertarian who would like to to call in and debate him.  

A funny thing that happens is that many of the libertarians start to complain that some other libertarian would know much better.  You know, like professors and stuff.  

Yesterday, Sam Seder had about a forty minute long debate with a professor from Loyala Business college.  

I highly recommend watching.

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