Chess Barely Past 1000

I have made it past 1000! Only 1,600 more points to climb before I say I know how to play chess. Just kidding, if I get to 1500 to 1600 I will be thrilled. I now know, there is no magic bullet. It takes time and energy to learn anything, especially chess.

Chess feels to me like a series of interwoven steps. I climb one, and step back two steps to correctly integrate what I think I now know. Some days I feel like a six year old would beat me. Then slowly, my newest learning starts to meld with the little I know. Then, for a few moments, I gloat over my new found skill. Then reality happens, again.

My biggest weakness right now is choosing to move too fast. I can’t seem to stay off the gas peddle of moves. I see a nice move, and I do not see (take time to look for) anything better, so I move. Then I watch one of my pieces I didn’t notice eaten, because I moved too fast. When I slow down, protect my pieces and  not leave them hanging, my chess ability will improve.

As I watch the Masters playing their game via a .pgn file, their play looks so thoughtless and effortless. I am learning, every move made in the late opening is meant to support a later move. I used to think they were wasted moves. For my part, I am busy getting my pieces out so I can castle. For no real reason, I forget what I am supposed to be doing, and poof, another piece bites the dust.

A second learning from the master level games is moves that made no sense to me and looked like errors, are starting to make sense. White moves their pawn to block a two move knight problem before it can be made. Black moves a bishop to tie up a rook, planning to over extend the rook in another move or two, while they plan trap the queen.

They had a plan, and a backup plan. My first plan is to get my pieces active. While doing this, I watch my pieces disappear from the board because I am not thinking and I am moving too fast. That is my current best chess ability.

I am a master at allowing my pieces to be taken. I am starting to appreciate the focus and thinking needed to pay chess well. I need a forced pause between mouse clicks. Counting does not work. I can not count and think at the same time. Perhaps having a clock close by would help, so I know when an acceptable amount of time has passed. Or in my case, an acceptable amount of looking and thinking has not yet passed.

When last spring rolled around, my frustration with chess was high. It was easy to set chess down and pretend chess is something for people with a lot more free time than I have. That is what I did. I told myself, it was not worth the effort. There were better things to do with my time.

This fall however, I started spending more of my spare time with chess. I am finding chess is a lot more fun, as long as I am willing to do some thinking as I play. My frustration level has dropped because the more I think, the more I see good changes in my chess, and in my life.

If you work in a group, I strongly suggest you take up learning chess (again if you stopped). The need to focus and analyze in chess will help you in your work and with the problem of office politics.

It is a good feeling to create a situation where a potential problem is either solved or deflected before can cause you harm. Chess also helps one focus on actually doing work. I’m my case at least, it helps me see ways to be more valuable by using the tools I have to work with in new ways.

Target and My Personal Information

I received an email apology from Target today. This is my reply:

Hello Gregg Steinhafel,

I do not remember ever using a credit or debit card at Target? I certainly did not provide this email address. Since I do not remember doing this, either I have not, or it has been a few months since I did use any plastic as a Target customer. I do not give out this email address.

Why are you hoarding my personal information?

Michael

I am sure Target’s email to me is sincere. What bothers me is why does Target have my information on file in the first place?  Does being a customer give a company the right to collect and hoard my personal information?

Homeless and Invisible, Mexican and successful

In the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan was president, America felt about the same way it feels now. America was looking for a hero, a financial fix, and a sense of self worth.

Earning a living was a hard, pretty much like people are trying to make ends meet today. Feels like Ground Hog Day lately. In an effort to reduce taxes, someone decided that institutionalizing people who were not a threat to themselves or others was a violation of their civil rights.

In a short period of time the walls of sanitariums fell, and tens of thousands of people were free to live a life that was their ‘legal right’, or in other words, literally kicked to the curb to fend for themselves. Nobody really noticed what was happening except their taxes went down. This homeless group of people were pretty much invisible, migrating to inner cities where few saw them on the streets.

During this same period Caesar Chavez prevailed in nothing short of a revolution for Migrant Farm Workers. Migrant Farm Workers were Mexican citizens who did low pay long hour ‘agricultural’ jobs, aka picking fruits, vegetables, citrus and such.

More and more Mexican citizens decided to stay and try to make this country their home. Speaking poor English, no real rights, and no financial support, they thrived.  They too were not noticed at first. There were few of them, and they lived quietly in rural and eventually inner city areas eking out what passed for a living.

It is interesting how some things have changed and other things have not. Mexican Migrant Workers have joined the American workforce with some becoming American citizens. Some small percentage have become wealthy, experiencing first hand the American Dream.

The homeless are still homeless. As natural born citizens many Homeless people lack basic skills which would enable them to hold any kind of job, have a place to call home, and a support network to help them. Many Homeless people who are mentally ill, or otherwise challenged and are brushed under the rug, as they fall through the cracks of life. They are rarely mentioned, barely noticed.

The Homeless population may be indicative of how we choose to treat those less fortunate than ourselves. People who legally may not be a threat to themselves or others, but emotionally or cognitively are not able to manage the basics of a normal life.

Homeless People wander and live in the streets, preyed upon, locked up, and murdered. This happens every day in our streets. We more fortunate Americans are unaware, or pretend not to notice. After all we can’t afford to help them.

I am in awe of the power of marketing. This is mass marketing in its finest hour. Mexican immigrants are the new pioneers, demanding their fair share from their newly conquered lands. The Homeless remain all but invisible. They are not able to get their act together, protest, and be heard.

Yet, the Mexican/American population of these United States shows the American Dream is still alive, and thriving. How is it a people who weren’t born here, may not speak any English, have several roadblocks in their path, become successful Americans, while the Homeless are ignored.

Bidding Site Fraud Happens

I watched a friend logged on to a bidding site, placing bids on a cable to fix a broken shifter on their bicycle. Each time they bid, within a few seconds, their bid was trumped by an auto bid.

Curious by nature, I wanted to see who was doing the auto bidding. Turned out the auto bids were listed only as “Dealers”. There were three different “Dealers” who submitted auto bids over my friend’s bids.

I am thinking, why would several “dealers” auto bidding on a mundane item with a ten dollar shipping charge? There was not a lot of room left between the bid and buying locally. Per my friend it was getting close to the cost of gas and sales tax.

What resale profit is there after over bidding a live human bidder when the price is this high? There is none. Nobody is going to buy a cheap product at more than the price is worth, Dealer or not.

I know little about bidding sites. I have never done any business with one, though I have been to auctions and know how they can be manipulated. Somehow these “Dealers” are managing a fraud scheme without tripping any flags on the bidding site that monitors the bidding for fraudulent behavior.

In real world auctions, though it is rare, there will be a group of four or more people in the crowd to bid up prices. If they ‘win’ the bid, the item is simply set aside for another auction on another day. No one loses, except the unsuspecting bidder who are cheated out of what should have been their purchase.

In the case of the human bidding with auto dealer bidding over them on a bicycle cable it doesn’t need but a few bids to spot what’s going on. In my friends case it was four bids. My friend ran into a Fraud Coop, auto bidding on randomly assigned products sold by other members of the Fraudulent Price Gouging Coop. If the Dealer’s bid is the winning bid, the transaction takes place per bidding site regulations, the money is refunded in another manner, and the product never gets shipped.

The winning “Dealer” now becomes the seller, with the original Dealer the shipper. I thought what I was watching was a carefully thought out scam, involving many people.

The people involved in the fraud could be anywhere around the world, placing auto bids driving up prices for themselves, gouging customers who aren’t aware of what what is happening. If funded well, more than one or two people are all thats needed, only virtual computers, physically located in disparate locations, far apart from each other with no obvious connections.

No matter what someone buys, there is always room for cheating the buyer or seller out of money. No matter how policed any sale is, someone may be willing to cheat innocent buyer. After all who is going to take time to pursue a real claim over a few dollars?

Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware.

In McDonald’s defense.

In McDonald’s defense. McDonald’s has taken literally decades of attacks on their menu offerings. I too have been critical of McDonald’s menu choices. Most of meals McDonald’s offers are overwhelmed with fat, sugar, and salt. As an observation, there is never a lack of people wanting to eat meals from McDonald’s most of the hours of the day and night.

Recently, I read articles from hopefully trusted sources about the nature of McDonalds employee communications. McDonalds in an attempt to help their employees  stretch their dollar as far as possible, is now offering advice on how to live and what to eat. Even going so far as suggesting a paid McDonalds meal is not in their best financial or health interest.

McDonalds has been overly criticized for providing this information to their workers. I say good for McDonalds! McDonalds should be applauded for being realistic about what reasonable expectations are for its employees away from work. What other big business besides the military makes it clear that their bottom of the pay scale employees should not think they hold a job that will meet their financial needs.

McDonalds is glaringly truthful about employment with McDonalds, and the lifestyle McDonalds employment may and may not provide. Every current and prospective McDonalds employee needs to understand McDonalds position. For the most part McDonalds jobs are entry level jobs, and not a career path. McDonalds has always been obvious about this point.

Paycheck based economic reality is essential to any workforce. If any McDonalds employee is offended by the information provided, perhaps it is time to do a reality check on their spending habits? If anyone else is offended by what McDonalds provided to help their employees make ends meet, perhaps they also should be realistic about this sector of the economy.

McDonalds became the fast food giant they are by being realistic. Almost daily I drive by at least one McDonalds with five or more cars in the drive through. Two of these locations have a grocery store within sight of the drive through. When seen in this perspective, who is being more realistic about what McDonalds provides, McDonalds the company, or employees and customers?

Wanting Ice Cream in Your Bowl

We like to help people who smile and are polite  more than they like to help people who are demanding and serious. It is our nature.

I was at a buffet by the scooped ice cream as a boy was trying to get the attention of the server so he could get some ice cream. “Hey Lady….Hey you…Hey, he was saying in a demanding voice.

The woman who naturally, wasn’t about to be ordered around by a twelve year old, pretended to be busy and hard of hearing. I stepped over to where the boy was and suggested to the boy that by saying please, thank you, and smiling, he was more likely to be helped, and more likely to get a little extra ice cream in the process. We all like a little more ice cream.

I politely called to the woman who could not ignore her two customers any longer. The little boy in a condescending tone  asked the server for ice cream. Of course he was rewarded with a bowl containing the absolute minimum amount of ice cream the server could defend as a serving if the need arose.

This kid is a little slow on the uptake I thought to myself. He missed the idea of using good manners gets you farther than not using good manners. The boy walked two steps away, turned to me, smiled, and said, “Thank you”. Go figure! I bet he gets it right next time.

There are always at least two levels of service when you are the public and need someone to help you. The first level of service is when it is the other person’s job to help you. You get the minimum they have to do for you and keep their job. People do not like to be taken for granted and unless tipped or paid excessively, people working with the public do not put up with bad behavior and poor manners. They will do their best to put you in your place, or make your experience less than it could be

The second level of service is the service you receive when you use your manners, and respect the person who’s job it is to help you. When this happens someone who’s job it is to help you, is now happy to help you, because the interaction is taken to a higher level.

I always strive for the second level of service, how about you?

Scary Happenings on Your Internet and Electronics

A snippet from a reply from one of my Senators asking about the NSA…

“As you may know, under one of the programs, the NSA has for seven years collected on a daily basis information related to Americans’ telephone calls.  This information includes the telephone numbers called, along with the date, time, and duration of calls.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) – a special federal court created in 1978 to review the government’s applications for surveillance orders – has allowed the collection of this metadata under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.  Section 215 amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 to allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to apply to the FISC for an order to collect a broad array of business records and other tangible things relevant to an authorized investigation.  Previously, the authority was limited to the collection of only records from certain businesses, such as hotels and car rental agencies, and the FBI had to provide facts tying the records to a specific person.”

A Russian group of programmers are planning to sell commercially a root kit that will capture and forward anyones banking information, if they can get the software on their computer. You can be the first in your neighborhood to have this software for about ~ $2,500.00 US.

Some companies who offered encrypted email are shutting down due to fear of government scrutiny. They don’t want to take the hit for illegal activity being tied to their product. They ‘claim’ a concern for their customers, and perhaps a little fear of government scrutiny around themselves too?

The Tor network bust of a few weeks ago that netted a hundred plus people receiving and transmitting child porn, upset large numbers of people who deal in things less than legal. It also upset people who were led to believe tor was the utlimate internet privacy tool.

The infamous Pirate Bay frustrated because some governments have blocked them, have created their own browser so individuals may bypass government restrictions and get on with what they want to do, rather than what is permissible.

NSA and Internet

NSA and others are logging your electronic life

Some Internet Service Providers have agreed to email you, or flash you a screen a message if they detect you downloading copyrighted information illegally. “In case you are not aware”, is the reason given. To determine if you are downloading copyrighted information all your internet usage will need to be monitored.

Certain Televisions can spy on you per one newsworthy article on a techie website. The software running the television is very vulnerable to being hacked over the net. If there happens to be a camera or microphone attached to the television, well, you may be streaming media (your personal life) to people you do not know. Imagine seeing yourself in a compromising situation that took place in your front room in a youtube video?

An East Coast couple had a visit by several men in suits and badges after some rather innocent web searching by family members after the Boston Bombing. It appears one can look up anything on the web, however they can’t do it in conjunction with other sensitive topics. Sort of like the ‘three strike’ rule in baseball. Too much curiosity wakes the cat.

Besides the obvious, “What’s next, are we going to have cameras and microphones in our living room spying on us?” Do we already? At least the Internet is already taking action. One of the things I love about technology is changes happen fast. No need to be reactive when you can be proactive.

Here is what a little casual browsing turned up today:

Mozilla corporation is working on an ad blocking browser. If I understand correctly is it is blocking advertising streamed with secure web pages, because of the security issue it opens up. The issue stems from insecure content being delivered on a secure connection. Lots of opportunity for bad things to happen.

Advertisers are in an uproar, claiming their web site material will now be ‘stolen’. Hmmm, how do you steal information posted freely on the web? Some websites are threatening to go subscription only.

I say, good luck making a living with that business model. If the ads didn’t dance across the page, or block all access to content, I don’t think we would be at this point.

Since there is legislation either in the works or passed making the sender of copyrighted materials a felony offense, Usenet has gone to encrypted postings. At least by those that have a clue.

Operating systems on a flash drive or CD are gaining even more attention. If you cannot trust your computer has not been compromised – an unprotected Windows XP machine lasts less than 20 minutes on the net before being taken over – systems on a removable cd or flash drive are the way to go. They are read only, and cannot unless you allow it store any information. This means there can be no root kit, virus, or malware cookie sending your bank account information home to Daddy.

Encrypted phone calls will make a splash on the scene soon, if you haven’t heard about it already. Encrypted messaging is already here for those that want it. Each of us will have to decide how badly we want to talk with someone. Enough to match their encryption methods, or not talk at all over electronic medium?

Electronic security has always been a game of catch up. No matter how fast any Government, service provider, or other group is, they will never be ahead of the curve when it comes to halting illegal activities on the internet. No matter how quick they are, the internet as a whole is quicker.

Some people are resorting to triple encryption, just because they can. An email message, text message, or document is processed through three different encryption programs. In other words they are encrypting a document that that was created, encrypted, encrypted again, and finally encrypted a third time using different encryption techniques. Lot of work to say get a carton of milk on the way home from work.

Other people are sending out texts and emails containing trigger words, and I can guess you know what those are. Emails that have no purpose other than to trigger the NSA’s software into action, especially if they are sent with light encryption

Which brings me to my main point. Is the internet in jeopardy of shutting down? Unless you are comfortable with every key stroke being logged, worrying about your bank accounts and your very private information being sent to another computer, having your browsing habits logged and analyzed, your friends and family watched,it may be.

Is the internet going to end up as a nameless, faceless place, where the only web traffic is encrypted, and the only web sites still up, talk about gardening, and cooking and other acceptable topics while the NSA studies each word in an article?

Will all your web travels and searches be logged and monitored? How about the privacy of your own computer, laptop or tablet? Will it keep your private matters private, or will it contain a backdoor where all your actions can and will be monitored?

These are real questions and real concerns. Let your officials know how you feel about all of this. Apathy and nameless fear got us this far. If left unchecked, the world of computers and the internet, may go the way of the home phone, boom box, and so many other things we thought would be around forever.

Where does state security and individual privacy divide? Should everyone be investigated around the clock because they might be something they are not advertising? Where is the line on personal privacy? Will it extend from the search for possible terrorist activity to tax fraud, income tax evasion, searching for any and all illegal activity?

In the mean time, maybe there is no need to worry about backing up your documents, perhaps the NSA already has a copies you can download under the, “Freedom of Information Act”? Write your representatives, and let them know how you feel about his. If you don’t tell them what you think, big business and the government will.

Martin & Zimmerman Who’s Standing Where?

I am still confused about how I feel with the Zimmerman, Martin Stand Your Ground ruling. I did not attend the hearing, and I need to trust the jury did the right thing, and made the right decision. Unfortunately, from what I understand of the events that took place and the bias of the law itself, the ruling does not sit well with me.

In my understanding:

Martin is walking down the street Zimmerman is in a vehicle driving down the street.

Zimmerman gets out of his vehicle and approaches Martin who stands his ground, literally.

Martin is shot by Zimmerman.

It does not seem to be any more clear than this. Everything that happened after Zimmerman got out of his vehicle does not matter to me. If Zimmerman never got out of his vehicle, there would not have been a shooting.

As for the Stand Your Ground defense. It seems to me that it was Martin who used his legal right to stand his ground against an aggressor, not the other way around. Zimmerman could have driven away.

If I was a young man of Martins age, I would not have ran. I would have stayed put as is my right. I feel if Zimmerman didn’t think he had the backup protection of pulling out his gun, and using it, he could have left his gun locked up in his vehicle.

Perhaps Zimmerman felt empowered by the thought of having his gun on his person if he decided he needed it. Martin felt empowered by his martial arts knowledge and previous fights.

Martin depended on his youth and his ability. It wasn’t Martin’s first rodeo, or at least I do not think it was. He was, I read taking, martial arts classes. Usually people who do, have a need to. A young man by himself is a target. Martin was young, he was strong, and I feel, he felt he could take care of himself if he needed to.

Here it is the way I see it. Martin is walking along, Zimmerman stops his vehicle, gets out and approaches Martin. Obviously it isn’t to ask directions or share a joke. Martin being a young man thinks if worse comes to worse, he will get his ass kicked, but he doubts it. At any rate he isn’t going to take any crap from this guy. He has every right to be where he is. Martin is shot, and dies.

Yet Zimmerman is allowed to use the Stand your Ground Defense. It sounds like Martin was expected to use the cower and run away defense because Martin was not in the courtroom to say He was Standing His Ground and reinforcing his right to be there on that street, whether he had family, friends, or business around there. He was free to go and do what he wanted, and walk down that street was what he wanted.

I know if it were me, instead of Martin, I too would have stood there. So would you if you feel that strongly about personal rights, and personal freedom. I would only get beat up once. I would live with myself every day thereafter for the rest of my life.

In my opinion, or it appears to me, Zimmerman, the older Man approached a much younger, stronger man and created a conflict that got out of hand, and Zimmerman panicked.

Instead of halting the provocation at any time before the conflict turned physical, Zimmerman perhaps steeled himself with the idea that he was in charge. Of course the fight was one sided. Here is a young strong man fighting with a older out of shape man, who is spending as much time trying to get his gun out of his pocket, as he is in trying to defend himself.

I didn’t watch the trial daily, and I may be wrong in what I think are the facts. What I think I do know however is, one man left his vehicle and approached another man when he should have stayed in his vehicle or driven away.

Who had the right to claim they were Standing Their Ground?

I’m rude, and I don’t care

The cold call must take a special type of personality on both ends of the conversation for a successful sale. Most of the cold calls I encounter are over my land line telephone. Some cold calls are door to door.

Peter called me two days ago. Caller id: v3957286419 or similar informative caller id string. I was instilled with confidence before I even answered. These numbers are flags saying, get ready, here is another one.

Me, “Hello?”

“Hello this is Peter”

Me, “Yes Peter”

“I am with xyz security systems”. We will be in your area…click.”

Did I need to hear any more?

After years of commercials, commercialism is part of my phone etiquette. Who is Peter really? Peter could be the next door neighbor who never talks to me in person. Peter could be some poor schmuck who needs to pay his rent and this is the best he can do. Peter may in prison, who chooses to cold call rather than sit in his cell.

Who is xyz company for that matter? Do they even exist? Are they running a new scam? Are they casing houses for theft? Do they really exist or are they part of some boiler plate operation trying to get money from the unsuspecting.

unknown number

Having your time wasted by telemarketers

If I was Peter, would I want to call me? If I was xyz company would I want Peter to waste his time calling me? Who created the list I am on where cold callers think the confidence game is a game I play? isn’t there a list somewhere where it says, “This guy doesn’t play the confidence game?”

The xyz company is going to be in my area shortly. That also means the xyz company will be out of my area a short time later. Maybe Peter and his buds, or the company he works for, cased the neighborhood and and decided we are ripe for a fly-by-night security system cold call?

The same rules apply to Jesus Preachers who go door to door. Is there anyone who has not heard of Jesus, the bible, or how to live life in a Christian manner? Why should I place my confidence in some never seen before door to door bible thumper? I have made up my mind on Heaven, hell, and how I choose to live my life.
When I really feel energetic, I invent an imaginary product to sell and pitch it to them. I think my Son in Law has the best system. At the door, he tells the unwelcome visitor to follow him. He starts working in the garden, or other project. He tells the unwelcome visitor to help while he/she talks. He tells me he gets about fifteen minutes work from the younger ones. He also rarely answers his phone.