Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sunday Music: 21st Century Christmas

The Christian pop singer Cliff Richard (also known as the "Elvis of Great Britain") came out with a new Christmas song last year. I hope you like it.

I am back home in Oklahoma for the Christmas weekend and I stayed in my home that I am selling for the last time last night (with no heat except for the fireplace as the pilot light went out on the central heating and air while I was gone -- brrr!).



Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

American Gata Kamsky Wins FIDE World Cup Chess Championship


Shirov and Kamsky discuss the final game post-mortem.

From ChessBase.com: American GM Gata Kamsky has won the FIDE World Cup.

Normally, the winner of the FIDE World Cup would be crowned the FIDE World Champion, but ChessBase.com reports that last year FIDE changed the rules so that the winner of the World Cup would have to play the previous winner -- Bulgaria's Veselin Topalov -- to become FIDE's World Champion. The match may end becoming something of a spectacle if Gata brings his dad, Rustam, along. Rustam was well-known during Gata's early years. From ChessBase.com:

A number of readers have suggested that the Kamsky-Topalov match could become really exciting if the American reactivates his famously belligerent father Rustam, to counter the activities of Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov. "That would be a wonderfully thrilling matchup," wrote one wag, "with explosive off-the-board play. We look forward to daily blow-by-blow reports on your news page."

I remember seeing Rustam at the 1993 FIDE candidates in Biel/Bienne Switzerland during a weekend that I took off while I was at Oxford University. I still have a picture of Gata playing against a long-haired Vladimir Kramnik. Maybe I will scan it in and post it sometime. I don't remember Rustam causing any trouble at the tournament; but there was always the fear that he would. I had a lot of great memories of that tournament. Every morning I would have breakfast with many of the Grandmasters all sitting at the same table. During one breakfast, German GM Eric Lobron animatedly explained his preparation in his win over GM Judit Polgar. I also had dinner with Former many-time U.S. Champion Yasser Seirawan and French GM Joel Lautier and Lautier's father. But I digress.

In any case, it is exciting to have an American at the top of Chess World again. Maybe this will spur some interest chess in the United States unlike we have seen in quite a while.

If I get a chance to talk to Gata between now and the match with Topalov, I will try to post that, too.

Sunday Music: Christmas Wrapping

How about some Christmas Wrapping from The Waitresses to with those Amazon.com Gift Certificates?

Don't Know What To Buy? Try Amazon.com Gift Certificates

Amazon.com has sent me an e-mail with a special announcement: I get a whopping 6% return if you buy a Gift Certificate through my site (this month only). So, if you are one of those people who have trouble thinking of what to buy for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other special occasion, would you consider a Amazon.com Gift Certificate?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chess World Cup Update: Kamsky Wins Game 2


American Gata Kamsky won the second game of the finals match over Spain's Alexei Shirov for the FIDE World Cup Chess Championship. The first game was drawn. With two regular games yet to be played, Kamsky is in a very strong position as Shirov will have to win one of them to send it to a playoff. Kamsky started out with the black pieces and won his game today while playing the white pieces.



You can see the full report with an analysis of the game by Grandmaster Dorian Rogozenko at ChessBase.com.

Nice New Ad By John Edwards

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eating the Seed Corn

After reading this short article today, Employees Raiding 401(k)s, CFOs Say (hat tip Calculated Risk), all I could do was shake my head. From the short article:


The survey finds that nearly 20 percent of companies have seen increased hardship withdrawals from 401(k) accounts, often to cover mortgage payments or to avoid personal bankruptcy.

"In the last four or five months we have seen an absolute onslaught of people trying to do hardship withdrawals and loans out of 401(k)s," Mark Anderson, CFO of Granite City Electric, told CFO magazine in October. "What has happened with housing and the economy has really blown up for people at the lower end of the spectrum."

Considering that 401(k) accounts are almost always exempt in bankruptcy proceedings, my first thought is that people are eating their seed corn. There are rare situations where this is to the debtor's benefit. But something tells me most of these cases don't fall into those rare exceptions.

Lately, I have been thinking of the song Santa Monica by Everclear. In my own way I can identify with some of the lyrics of the song. The song is actually about a bad relationship breakup; but for me the selected lyrics sound somewhat like my new life by the Gulf Coast.

With my big black boots and an old suitcase
I do believe I'll find myself a new place
I don't want to be the bad guy
I don't want to do your sleepwalk dance anymore
I just want to see some palm trees
(I will) Go and try to shake away this disease

We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die

...

I'll walk right out into a brand new day
Insane and rising in my own weird way
I don't want to be the bad guy
I don't want to do your sleepwalk dance anymore
I just want to feel some sunshine
I just want to find some place to be alone

We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die

Monday, December 10, 2007

An American Reaches the Finals of the FIDE World Cup Chess Championship


ChessBase.com reports that Gata Kamsky, who took a long sabbatical from competitive chess to obtain a law degree, has knocked out Norwegian wunderkind Magnus Carlsen to reach the finals of the FIDE World Chess Championship.


I have little doubt that the talented Norwegian will become World Champion himself someday. Having just turned 17 years old, he still has plenty of time to hone his skills.






Gata will face either another child prodigy, Ukrainian Sergey Karjakin, or Spanish GM Alexei Shirov.

Karjakin is already saying it is his generation's turn.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday Music: My Grown Up Christmas List

My Grown Up Christmas List

Stuck In the Middle

Being a logical, rational person comes naturally for me. From my expertise as a chess player to my legal training, my mind is geared toward acceptance of scientific truths. I am probably unique in that I see no conflict between evolutionary theories of science and a faith that accepts the likelihood of a supernatural creation. Science can answer the question of how we got here; but it is up to philosophy and faith to attempt to explain the why.

Here is how Mark Heard explained his journey and conflict between faith and reason (from the liner notes to Stop the Dominoes):


You referred earlier to your days as a skeptic. Is skepticism a sin, or does it seem to you a plague of sorts to those so minded?

Skepticism doesn't have to be viewed as a liability . Unfortunately, most of the time Christians see it that way. I have had hard times in the past because of that -- my questions were equated with sin by most of the believers around me, and that caused still more questions, like, ''well, shouldn't God's people be concerned enough about me to help me instead of crossing their arms and waiting for me to see things their way?" It bothered me for a long time. When a person has no rational basis for his faith, or feels that he has lost that rational basis, it is quite painful . It's hard to believe with your heart if there is conflicting information in your mind. To ignore the mind and brush off the questions is wrong, and is more an Eastern idea than a Christian one. So finally I figured, "well, if Christianity can't stand up to questioning, it's not the truth, and if it's not worth scrutiny, it's not worth believing." So my skepticism continued and led me to look deeply into the matters in question. Most of my answers came from quiet study. Skepticism was an asset to me in that it forced the roots of my faith to grow deeper.

Like Mark Heard, I have decided to forge my own path. And like Mark, I'm Stuck In the Middle.

Stuck In the Middle


It's a funny world we live in
It's funny every day
Half the world prays like the preacher
The other half don't even pray
So no one understands you
If you pray in your own way

Now I'm stuck here in the middle
Everything is in a jam
Stuck right in the middle
Doors on both sides seem to slam
No one seems to want me
Only God will take me like I am

Well my brothers criticize me
Say I'm just too strange to believe
And the others just avoid me
They say my faith is so naive
I'm too sacred for the sinners
And the saints wish I would leave

Now I'm stuck here in the middle
Everything is in a jam
Stuck right in the middle
Doors on both sides seem to slam
No one seems to want me
Only God will take me like I am

Written by Mark Heard
© 1981 Bug and Bear Music (ASCAP)

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Cost of War

This video will just make you shake your head in disgust or make you angry at the stupidity of unnecessary armed conflict.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Birthday Bash

Today at work, my co-workers threw me a "surprise" birthday party. (I kind of halfway expected it.)

Going to Answers.com today, I found out that I share a birthday with:

* Martin Van Buren (1782-1862): 8th President of the U.S.

* Walt Disney (1901-1966): of Mickey Mouse fame

* Frankie Muniz (22): actor, Malcolm in the Middle

And at ChessBase.com, I discovered I share the birthday with former FIDE World Chess Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

***Update***

I forgot that I share a birthday with blogger Charles Smith of Of Two Minds. He also pointed out that the King of Thailand has the same birthday.