As Friends Leave

Friendships have been formed and later torn apart throughout my life. The first time it happened, I thought what was happening was tearing my world apart. Then friendship disaster hit a second time and I did not know which friend leaving was the worst. My mind spun in circles trying to decide if one is any different than the other.

When I was young, I knew less of the world and how life works. I had a friend, that had been a friend ever since I could remember. We shared a lot of our days together. We had our childhood victories, and fights. We got mad at each other sometimes for a few days, and then made up.

I had a second close friend too. We were also very close. My second friend and I got along famously, never fought, and our joint interests kept us close. We would play ball, explore the woods, and do all things young boys do when they are together.

My second friend’s Dad was in the military. I did not know what that meant other than a new boy showed up in school one spring day the year before. Because we were in the same class, we played together at recess and found out we lived close enough we could play together away from school. We became fast friends over the next year.

I found out a little about life in the military when I went to play with my friend one day. He was pretty quiet, and after a few minutes he told me they were moving (again). I asked him where he was moving too. My family had moved too, but it was always around the town we lived in. He said his Mom said it was a long ways away and we would not see each other again, probably.

My oldest and longest friend became ill. I never knew it, and I do not know if he did either at that time. he started to have trouble running and doing some other things boys do. Eventually he could not come outside any longer and play. His Mom would not let me in the house to play with him. I did not know it at the time, but he had been sick for a while. His illness progressed to the point he could no longer walk, and some time later he could no longer talk.

I would knock on the door and ask about him, and his Mom always had the same answer. He was in the house, he couldn’t come out, and I could not come in. Later that year, his Mom quit answering the door. I did not know why and I couldn’t think of anything we did that had him in that much trouble. I did not understand what I did that I could not even see him in his house.

I learned from a neighbor later that year my friend had died. Both of my friends leaving me in the same year was devastating to me. I could not distinguish between one friend moving away and one friend dying. They were both out of my life forever, and it hurt.

Now, so many lifetimes from those days, when two of my best friends left me, the memories of them grow dim. I can remember vaguely what they looked like, but not of what we talked about, and how we spent our time, or what made us best friends. I still miss them.

Life is one big circle if you pay attention. We just move during our life to a different part of the circle. This friendship loss of the circle has repeated itself on occasion since my childhood days. One friend goes this way and one friend goes that way. A few friends have left by dying. The feeling loss is always the same, only my perspective changes.

When I think of those friends now long gone from my life, I hope they each found something better. The friends that moved away, I always hope they found new close friends, and went on to accomplish great things with their lives. My friends that never had the chance to move away and make new friends, I always hope they closed one door and opened another that is an improvement on what they had.

Once more, one friend is leaving one way, and a second friend may be leaving by another way. How I feel about my friends and their leaving has not changed over the years. What changes in the perspective of my friends is my feelings about my friendships, and the cycle of our lives.

I also have learned over the years, something about the friends that have moved on in their various ways friends come into and out of our life. Even if there is no other door to open, or a new chapter starting in their book of life, unless I lose myself and my memories, I will never forget them.

All my old friends live on in me and with me in the warmth, happiness, and steadfastness that good friends give to one another. They still teach me the lessons they had to show me. I am always very grateful they came into my life when they did. I am also occasionally sad their stay in my life was so short.

Can We End Afro American Affairs in America?

I listened to a morning radio talk show about current events this morning. The topic of discussion was an event happening this week. The Event was, “The Current State of Afro-American Affairs in New Mexico”. I hope I have the title right. If I do not it is close to what I typed. I also read there is a nationwide event(s) of the same type.

When the Civil Rights movement of the sixties came along, it was overdue. Like the oppressed state of Women and Children in America before 1900. It was well past time for White America to be forced to integrate. Integration was what some of White America did not want to do. I thought optimistically by the seventies, certainly by the eighties, Whites and Blacks were about as integrated as we were going to get.

We were mostly going to the same schools, mixing together in churches, parks, and other activities. Intermarriage between Whites and Blacks though not welcomed with open arms, was happening; increasing in numbers each year. I thought we had at long last accomplished what should have happened one-hundred years earlier.

Now it is 2012 and the world is going to end in a few months – if you believe some accounts. The global economy, and by default the U.S. economy is circling around the toilet bowl, ready to disappear down the drain, never to recover. Some people think the world, if it does not end, is about to fall apart. Feudalism and/or anarchy will return to replace current political systems.

It is the end of times as we know it, and here we are still discussing the state of Black America and what yet needs to be done. This is almost mind boggling to me. Here we are connecting the world through computers, shrinking the world, and tying our country economies to one big global economy. One people on a small blue marble we call Earth. We have not yet allowed Black America to be responsible for itself, or join mainstream America. Something still keeps us apart.

If I were part of Black America, I think I would renew the words, “Let My People Go”. Let my people join fully into the American way of life and remain a part of American life. Let my people rise and fall under the same rules White America lives under. Let my people find their own way through their lives on the same terms as the rest of America does. Let my people become masters of our destiny. Let the rest of America be relieved of the burden of caring for and coddling Black America.

We needed the civil rights act. We needed other bills and laws that were passed so Black America could become part of America, and not remain a separate but equal people. Each day, we have people from all over the world coming to America, and becoming part of the American Dream. Isn’t it about time we allow and encourage Black America the do the same?

Maybe it is too simplistic to think that all Americans are equal. Driving from one side of the city to the other side of the city supports this thought. We are not all equal in every respect. If we substitute the world for the city, it is even more obvious there is a huge disparity in the quality of life around the world.

This disparity may never be erased around the world, but it can be here in America. Isn’t it time for America to insist all her citizens have the same opportunity to be one people instead of a group of people sharing a lopsided ownership with their brothers and sisters of a different skin color?

When we have children and our children grow up, we cut the apron strings so to speak. We do this to help our children to join and take their place in adult society. Don’t we have the same obligation to another group of Americans?

Most of us live up or down to the expectations others have of us. These conferences on the state of Afro-American affairs makes me wonder why Black Americans are not able to compete on equal footing with the rest of America, and need to be taken care of. This is not a thought that feels natural, nor is it formed easily.

It is time to let this thought go, and get on with being American in America. Being American should be special enough. It is for all the people who risk their life to get here illegally. It is for all the people who immigrate here legally. Why isn’t it enough for those of us that already live here?

Excuse Me, I’m Sorry

Excuse me, and I’m sorry have to be two of the most overworked phrases I hear when out and about around town. For example, I was walking towards a door yesterday and a Mother and her Teen Daughter where also approaching the door.

Of course the Mom, being a responsible Mom had taught her daughter manners. We arrived at the door an door almost together and the Teen Girl started to open the door and enter ahead of me. She remember her manners and stepped back saying, “I’m sorry”.

As I went to open the door the Teen stepped in front of it again as if to walk through. When the door opened she remembered her manners again and said, “Excuse me”. She then stepped back and we both allowed her Mother to go through the door first.

As we both meandered the aisles, I ran into the mom and daughter three more times. Three more times I heard the phrases, “I’m sorry, Excuse me”. After the third time, I thought that was a lot of sorry excuses jammed into ten or so minutes.

I know the young woman was trying to be polite, but it seems to me the words, Excuse me, and I’m Sorry are  a little more import an than words to be uttered in awkward social situations. Over use of these phrases to me is like the little boy who cried wolf. If your sorry and asking to be excused too many times in one day, when do those phrases carry any weight or meaning?

There seemed to be an excessive amount of I’m sorry, and excuse me’s this week as I found myself thinking about it as I brushed my teeth last night. Whatever happened to, Pardon me, after you, please go first, or some other kindly comment as it applies to the situation. Pardon me, is a lot more empowering and meaningful than excuse me.

Today I watched ‘Real Sports’, which is the only sports show I ever watch. They did a story about fan violence. A comment was made that 7,000 fans were removed form their seats and expelled from the stadium last year. Millions of fans attended the games however. All 350 NFL games, which works out to about 20 fans per game.

Twenty fans per game sounds like a real small number which it when the seating capacity of a stadium is tens of thousands of fans. What caught my ear was this was the number of fans asked to leave the stadium for bad behavior.

The segment on fan behavior added balance to my thinking about the over sorry, excused young woman. At her age, there is so much going on in her life as she is going through the transformation of child to adult. She has a lot of outside pressure on her, her Mom is probably not even aware of, let alone a complete stranger at a doorway, or being passed in the aisle.

After watching the clip on fan behavior and realizing how rude and inappropriate we have become as a society, I am happy the young woman is overly concerned with good manners even is she overuses the wrong phrases. One action producing an opposite reaction? Maybe.


Illegal Immigrants are We

Read on the back of a T-Shirt worn by a  Native American last week: “Confused about immigration? Ask an Indian how they feel about it.”  All of us ‘real’ Americans, meaning not illegal Mexicans, Chinese, or other nationalities living in the U.S. come from an immigrant family.

Perhaps if we knew enough about our family history we would see our families have immigrated from one place to another for literal eons and eons. And we are not through immigrating yet. We have our eyes on the stars, the biggest pie in the sky we can imagine.

We want to go to the stars presumably to start human life on a new planet or moon to ensure when the Earth is destroyed, Humanity is alive and propagating somewhere. If will be life forms who oppose our being there, well that will be too bad for them if we possess superior technology. We as people have never been overly concerned about those who were living somewhere before we arrived.

Is this our human way of ensuring survival of our species? Unlike the other animals, plants, and insects, we pretend we are more civilized. We can think and reason after all. We are the top dog in the survival game. Some animals are known to kill the young when they acquire a new mate.

Some plants, especially in a desert environment spread poison around themselves to ensure they thrive and survive.  Some insects devour their mates. We humans, if forced due to survival needs, kill off the weakest, usually children, and others who are not currently useful and cannot protect themselves.

Will we ever stop running over other peoples in the name of expansion, growth, or survival? Is emigrating and taking over one a different peoples land the correct choice for humanity and it survival? Do those people who can not or will not defend themselves, their country, and their race have the right to exist as they always did?

What of the possibility we do find another place to live on another Earth? What will the rules be for settling a new planet or moon? We are for the most part aggressive as a race. The farther we live from the equator, the more aggression we are display towards each other. How will we, or can we manage our aggressiveness when we are far from our Earth? Especially if wherever we end up, we are not welcome or wanted?

We need to start taking steps to resolve our aggressiveness these issues. If we have not learned to get along with each other by the time we send a pod of people into and through space to another earth, will they even survive long enough to arrive? Will they be able to build a culture together as one people?

Will our future hope for Humanity have become so splintered through years of space travel, they land preformed as separate tribes? Separating to the far habitable ends of their new home? How will they deal with life forms already present? Peaceful Coexistence, Command and Conquer, or socialize and integrate? Will we on Earth survive long enough to see the possibility happen?

Chess and Aggression?

I read an interesting blog post from another chess player today who wants to pass a 1400 rating. Is was a short to the point post. The blogger questions their aggressiveness on the chess board to reach 1400.

The basis for this question is the blogger finds it easy to win games against players at or below their current level, but finds very difficult to play people at a high enough level above theirs to actually change their own rating.

This question is a good question and worth pondering, I am not sure the question is a correct one though. However, beauty of course, is in the eye of the beholder. While I think aggression is the wrong tool, it may be a case of semantics, or I may be confused about chess and aggression.

In poker, where I am more comfortable talking about aggression, aggression is a major part of winning. If a player is not aggressive, their win rate drops. In chess, because there is nothing at stake except perhaps how we see ourselves in relation to chess, I do not see aggression being a major factor in chess. The other person will usually only resign from the game when it appears they won’t win, not when the other player is playing aggressively.

If aggression where a major part of becoming a highly rated chess player, there would be no need to learn the other areas of chess. The biggest requirement would be get your pieces down the board and destroy the enemy by decimating his army. Winning chess it seems, takes a lot more than ram and jam with your army.

Many Master Level Chess Players both past and present are positional players first and attacking players second. Positional players are generally players who are more focused on the deployment of their chess army than they are on initially creating an attacking position.

I do not think aggression can be a real factor in improving ones chess rating. Most better players agree that tactics rule the chess world for the lower ratings. The more tactical problems and the higher level of difficulty of those  tactical problems one can solve and put into action, generally determines who will be the winner of a chess game.

Setting aggression aside for a moment, there are other reasons why people play chess. Not everyone plays chess to become a master chess player. If we only played chess to become master level players, there would be few active chess players in the world, and a large number of ex chess players.

Determining why you play chess is important. We can all say we want to be a 2xxx level player, but what does that really mean? For myself, I want to be a worth while opponent to whoever is on the other side of the board. I want to enjoy chess while I play. I may want to comment on my own, or my opponents play as the game progresses. I do want to win my share of games.

These are reasons why most of the chess playing world plays Chess. Fun, challenge, victory, feeling chess is a worthwhile game to play. Paintball, Poker, and most sports have varying degrees of aggression built into them if they are seriously played.

I am not so sure about chess being aggressive. We all want to win against tough players, but we also have a family, a life, and other obligations. Most of us have a limited amount of time to give to Chess. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, most of us lack the raw talent to be truly great on the chess board.

Beginning Chess Books you can use

I wanted to talk about chess books. Over the past years I have collected about a dozen books on various aspects of chess. A few of the books I own are for a beginner. Content wise – this is a chess board type of book. Other chess books I own are about finding and preventing mistakes in your play, playing a complete chess game, chess openings, and other topics.

There is a problem with my book collection though. All my books except the beginner level books, have a lot in common foreign language. I know generally what they about, but most of the concepts are lost on me. I am not comprehending what I read.

These more advanced books have had little impact on me because I barely have the basics down. I have a large stack of paper with foreign language typed on the pages in the form of chess notation and higher level concepts. I look at some of my books and my eyes glaze over after the first three or four sentences.

After a few months of really trying to learn how to play better chess, I now understand most of the gibberish my books contain. I can not follow all of them without breaking out a chessboard though. What these books try and do is teach some intermediate chess skill(s). For a beginning player like myself what these books become  are paper weights.

I did not know there was such a thing as a beginner level chess book. I was under the impression there were beginner chess books that teach you how the all the pieces move, and the rest of the chess books teach you how to play better chess.

I have a strong collection of chess books however. An added plus is three of the chess books are worth many times what I paid for them. Perhaps not because they are great books that will take me to the heights of chess-land, but because they are rare chess books. Kind of funny because I bought them because they were cheap – as in less than eight dollars each. They may be worth the real asking price, but I am not there yet.

The rest of my chess books, (I thought) I picked using a brilliant method. I checked and cross checked ratings on popular chess books. Now a few years later, I have some of the most popular chess books, and my few rare chess books. I know now most of the books I have are not intended for readers at my level of play. I have learned chess annotation I can follow the thought process for a short time before I am lost in following the annotation.

So what is in this post for you? If you intend to buy chess books, ensure the books you think you want are written for your level of chess ability. It is rather frustrating to buy a highly reviewed and recommended chess book only to find it is way above your level.

If you buy more challenging chess books as I have, they will only sit on your book shelf until you are ready to think while you read. Reading a chess book past the intro is work. I know once I want to move past beginner level chess and still want to progress, I will need to read, and think about what I am reading.

I recommend when you search for books, you look for the words, beginning, intermediate, or advanced. I have found certain authors tend to write for a certain level audience. If you find an author you like, and you understand what they are writing, chances are their other books will be books you can use right now. The highly skilled master level players are brilliant, but generally their books are far removed from basic chess concepts unless they state they were written for new(er) players.

One final thought about Chess books. In mathematics the words: elementary topics,  reads   like a math topic any child can read. In truth elementary topics is a level of math most of us never get to. Some chess books are the same way. Titles that contain words such as simple, basic, or the like may not be what they seem. Ensure you know what is between the covers.

Learning Tactics now to survive to the Endgame

When I started chess tactics training last month, I shot way up into the 1400’s! I thought I was doing well. The next day of tactics training, reality arrived and I was at 897. The day after my 897 day was nothing to get excited about either score wise. I was missing the most obvious simple moves and attacks.

Now a little over a month later and almost daily Chess Tactical Puzzle solving, I am showing improvement. I now manage a score between 925 to 1050. The higher end if I do not have any pawn end game tactical problems that session. With too many pawn endgame problems and I am scraping 900 for tactical ability.

I find chess tactics to be a lot of fun. The puzzles are getting more interesting now. The newest twist in Tactics is the process of making the best move, not just a good move. That is good for me because I know one of  my major faults is completing the first move I see without looking for what that move does or does not do, and what my opponent will do thanks to ,y poor choice of moves.

I have read some complaining by people who’s Tactics score was dropped after missing problems of a certain type. I think it is fine if my Chess Tactics score drops. It shows a major weakness in my already weak chess game. I suppose I have the advantage as I really have no score to worry about.

I believe it is a lot better to discover what we need to know from Tactical Puzzles and press on than it would be to stop Tactics Training due to frustration. All stopping practicing Chess Tactics would accomplish is one opponent after another discovering this gaping hole in our learning and beating us soundly from the other side of the chessboard.

I know now I am going to have to learn the endgame better. Give me a Tactical Puzzle with a few pawns and a King, and I am in serious trouble.  At first the endgame did not seem important because I was barely surviving the opening. As I mentioned my chess games seemed to go from the opening moves straight to the endgame with little or no middle game. Such is the result of  having the skill level of a beginner while playing more experienced players.

Minimalism, no Remodeling, & Eating In for Economic Growth

One lifestyle that carries a lot of momentum these days is going minimalist. This means living well below your means for a variety of reasons, or pretending it is the sixties or seventies all over again and doing with the electronic toys of the 2000’s.

This is all well and good for the chosen few and it does allow one to have extra cash. The downside is all the people who do not receive any benefit from these families and individuals who live below their means.

In general they do not have cell phones, cable television, high powered computers, or other electronics. I know this is a sweeping statement and there are many exceptions, but you get the idea. The electronics, entertainment, gaming and other companies employ less people because not everyone is on the cable and electronics bandwagon.

Remodeling is a popular pastime of home owners. Unfortunately many home owners do their own remodeling. Doing the work yourself provides an outlet for using ones free time for something useful. Homeowners also help the economy by buying power tools, and keeping the housing industry employed. They could all use licensed contractors to do the work, but they cost so much, and would over run the home remodeling budget.

Having a home garden saves money but puts field workers out of work. Not remodeling your home every few years hurts the housing industry, and Borg stores. Going minimalist hurts a lot of industries, as does living as if it were the sixties again.

I heard there is one home area where we do more than our part to keep people employed. It has been recently estimated from surveys we throw away 47% of the food we bring into our home. That has to be a boon for farmers, ranchers, and field hands.

Of course if we consumed that 47% of food we throw away we would not be doing our part to keep the fast food industry going. There would be a sharp rise in unemployment in this sector leading to a larger pool of unskilled labor who cannot or will not find other employment.

Putting America to work?

I thought maybe tutoring would be a good way to jump start the economy until I arrived at the bottom line. Few people spend any money on education if they can help it.Other than the taxes collected by various governments, most people do not spend much time thinking about education. Unless they are unemployed of course.

Those who are doing well and care about the financial success of their children, already have paid tutors working with their children. The rest of the people hope for the best outcome for their children’s future. Everyone who can afford a tutor for their children already have one.

As we have no excess brain pool in America, it may be time to turn focus to creating jobs the average unskilled person can actually do. The average unemployed American is essentially unskilled because when they lose their job, they have little in the way of needed skill sets to propel them into a new line of work.

Some fortunate people jobs they can support themselves and their family on. The rest end up settling for jobs that pay less than they used to make, or end up not working at all, because there is no need to work for almost nothing.

We have a pool of generally unskilled labor which needs to be put to work, both for their own well being and for the country’s well being. What can unskilled labor do for a living? Or perhaps a better question is what is unskilled labor willing to do for a living?

In some developing countries (by choice or politics) people take the place of heavy machinery. A few hundred people can replace heavy road building equipment if they have to. Hmmm, removing several hundred thousands of dollars in machinery and putting people to work could work?

Except for the people who build, maintain, and operate that heavy machinery would not be part of the manual labor pool. Americans in general are not too excited about doing manual or menial labor. If they were we would not have the illegal alien numbers in our country we have today. I think manual labor involving actual work and/or low pay is not acceptable to the average American worker.

Oregon has had people at the gas stations that pump your gas. The ‘official’ reason as I understand the situation is environmental protection. A good secondary reason is having someone pump your gas puts people to work. Perhaps we could adopt this policy in every state. Of course the price of gas would go up to cover the costs of the people manning the pumps. Most of us are price conscious and we would not support this idea either.

When I was in the Air Force, the on base grocery stores had Baggers that worked for tips. If we carried this over into the general population all we would be doing is putting people out of work as the Baggers are now employees of the store where they work.

Maid work and gardening are possibilities, but that falls into the line of paying a tutor to tutor your children. How many people can or would be willing to help someone stay financially solvent by parting with their own hard earned income.

There does not seem to be many unskilled workers needed in America other than the labor force which is already in place. No one is happy with the situation except the immigrants, some of whom are illegal, but we accept it as the way it is. Who else wants to do the type of work they are willing to do for those low wages? Not many hard working Americans, that’s for sure!

Where’s my job?

We have the ability to produce and sell the most technologically advanced products in the world. The problem is not many countries in the world have the buying power of the average American, reduced as it is. So we have a lot of ability and not enough market. At least not enough market for products we want to share with the rest of the world. So what should do we do for job creation?

The only real solution I can think of right now is to grow sustainable jobs for Americans. Americans making products that we can use right here in America. This way we put more people to work, and the money stays in country helping to make our economy stronger.

One or two small problems with this idea already, and I have not even started roughing it out yet. We have surpassed the limits of our brain power here in America. We currently buy brain power from other countries. Try as we might we can’t produce enough American born and raised rocket scientists to fill the jobs we have waiting for anyone with enough on top of their shoulders to take one of the jobs.

Maybe we should spend more money on education? Not on schools or teachers though. I think we are spending more than enough money there already. That money we are spending on teachers and education does not seem to make down to the Teachers. I feel this is a different problem yet similar to what some third world dictatorships suffer from. Drop 50 tons of free rice on the dock to help with the starvation problem, and about a pound makes it past the shipyard gates to the people who need it. The other 49.9999 tons of rice show up for sale in the local markets. Spending more money on schools and teachers is not a viable solution.

Throwing money at schools and teachers appears to disproportionately inflate the office staff, both in quantity and pocket depth (personal income). How about instead we spend our hard money on Tutors for our children?

Most adults are smart enough they could tutor school children and perhaps have a positive effect on those children. Children being tutored get better grades and have a better shot at being rocket scientists which is something we desperately need because rocket scientist’s children are more likely to be only a little above average than rocket scientists themselves, at least when considering those Grandkids of rocket scientists.

The problem with this idea is the cost burden for each family with children who could be tutored. How many families can afford to pay someone a living wage to tutor their children? About the same amount of parents that can afford a sitter for their children more often than those few and far between special occasions when they get out for a night, alone.

I guess that idea will never take off. We are stuck with a failing school system, unrealistic college education costs for those who score well enough in school to consider entering college, and unemployed adults who could tutor children and perhaps other adults successfully.