Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Voyager I Joins Voyager II

The following owes much to Varifrank's article/essay Where were you on August 20, 1977 posted 23 May 2006.

Varifrank wrote, "Since August 20, 1977, the fastest craft ever launched from earth, The Voyager II Spacecraft has been flying outward away from earth and into the great unknown. Every single day since then, that little piece of metal and machinery has been rocketing towards the edge of the Solar System. Voyager II will finally reach the edge of our solar system this year."

Almost 29 years had elapsed since the launch of Voyager II from Cape Canaveral and it was preparing to leave our little solar system. Twenty-nine (!) years!

I was able to answer the question in Varifarnk's title, "Where were you on August 20, 1977?" You see I knew exactly where I was.

I was inside ARIA, tail number 329 at about 31,000' and feeling great relief when we heard Voyager II finally launched. Soon afterward as the antenna operator I got to track Voyager II from AOS (acquisition of signal) horizon to horizon until I handed off to a sister ARIA. And then we were part of history.

Prior to the launch, we had to sit and wait in Perth when the launch of Voyager I was canceled and Voyager II went through an accelerated preparation for launch.
Every other day we flew about 5 hours boring holes in the sky and confirming our equipment was up and ready for the launch.

So, yes, I knew where I was then.

Today Voyager I leaves our little solar system as well, joining Voyager II on its extra solar system explorations. Way to go II!

In my original reply to Varifarnk's post I added comments about how large and empty space is using our solar system as an example. It went something like this.

Space is empty. Really, really empty...

Almost everyone is unaware of just how empty space is. They are used to the elementary through high school displays of our solar system that makes it seem almost crowded.

There are a number of websites that help illustrate how empty the solar system is by building a solar system when starting with something of size most of us are familiar with to replace the sun. Then the surprises come.

I chose, at Build A Solar System, to make our sun 10 inches in diameter (roughly the size of a basketball), that then makes the earth is approximately 9/100ths of an inch in diameter and 89 feet away.

In between the earth and the sun (our basketball) are Mercury (3.5/100ths inch diameter and 34 feet away) and Venus - my favorite morning star - (8.7/100ths inch diameter and 64 feet away).

So picture it this way: Set a basketball on the goal line of a football field then 11 yards out place the roller-ball from a medium ink pen (0.7mm) followed by an 8.5 shot size pellet 21 yards out followed by an 8.0 shot size pellet (our very own earth) at just under 30 yards out!

Of course you would have the largest planet, Jupiter, 1 inch in diameter 155 yards out - 1.5 football fields. Then you have Pluto on the outer edge of our solar system (almost the size of a BB here) 1,280 (!) football fields out from the original goal line.

So what inhabits our hypothetical solar system that is 2,380 football fields in diameter?

SUN - Basketball - size/10" - center
Mercury - med ballpoint - size/0.035" - 34' to center/sun
Venus - 8.5 pellet shot - size/0.87" - 64' to center/sun
Earth - 8.0 pellet shot - size/0.92" - 89' to center/sun
Mars - med ballpoint - size/0.049" - 136' to center/sun
Jupiter - spinning quarter - size/1.00" - 465' to center/sun
Saturn - spinning U.S. nickel - size/0.84" - 854' to center/sun
Uranus - cooked green pea - size/0.034" - 1,718' to center/sun
Neptune - cooked green pea - size/0.033" - 2,694' to center/sun
Pluto - BB pellet - size/0.016" - 3,540' to center/sun

So if we think of our solar system not as the disc we usually consider, but a sphere we have a sphere 1.33 miles across with a basketball at the center, two medium ballpoint pen balls, two peas, 3 pellets of varying size, a spinning quarter, and a spinning nickel.

Two words describe the sphere of our solar system: Almost empty.

RileyD, nwJ
"Only the humble are sane."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Review of ‘Voter Intent’ In Alaska’s Supreme Court 2006 Ruling

Why A Review
Alaska’s Lt Governor Campbell and the Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich continue to ask Senatorial candidate Joe Miller to withdraw his challenge to the use of ‘voter intent’ to determine the validity of thousands of the votes cast for Lisa Murkowski.

They argue Alaska’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of ‘voter intent’ in the past so it clearly should have been used in the current write-in effort of Lisa Murkowski. If that is true, and it was, Campbell and Ruedrich should be asking for an expedited ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court, but they are not. Instead, they continue to ask Joe Miller to throw in the towel.

Why? Why are they so adamant about this case not going to the Alaska Supreme Court? To find out, I took a look at a case where the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in favor of ‘voter intent’ and in the process discovered why they do not want this case to go forward.

The Election of 2006

In this case a candidate won by one (1) vote, whereupon the loser (the incumbent) requested a recount and won by one (1) vote. The challenger then appealed the recount results, alleging that the Division had improperly failed to count six ballots. Complete details may be found here.

The Six Ballots
A Division Director of the Department of Elections had determined six (6) ballots could not be counted. Both the challenger and the incumbent challenged the ruling of “overvotes” on three (3) ballots. Both also challenged the decision not to count two (2) special needs votes because the address of the voter was provided in on area of the ballot, but not in another.

The “Overvotes”
The “overvotes” were to be counted because voter intent could clearly be determined. This is where is gets really interesting.

The Alaska Supreme Court stated, “Proper disposition of the ballots requires that we carefully examine AS 15.15.360, which governs the counting of ballots.8  Subsection .360(a)(4) directs the Division not to count a ballot if the voter marks more names than there are open seats for that office.   Whether the Division appropriately categorized the ballots as containing overvotes depends on whether the markings next to the second name constituted “marks” to designate a vote.9”

And further, “Subsection .360(a)(1) limits the ways a voter may “mark” a ballot to “ ‘X’ marks, diagonal, horizontal, or vertical marks, solid marks, stars, circles, asterisks, checks, or plus signs that are clearly spaced in the oval opposite the name of the candidate.”   Subsection .360(a)(5) further clarifies which marks meeting the requirements of (a)(1) should be counted as votes, providing that “[t]he mark specified in (1) of this subsection shall be counted only if it is substantially inside the oval provided, or touching the oval so as to indicate clearly that the voter intended the particular oval to be designated.” 10”

The Smoking Gun
Continuing on, the second paragraph below contains the smoking gun the both Campbell and Ruedrich do not want out in the open.

“Reading these provisions together, an overvote occurs if the voter has voted for two candidates with “marks” as defined by subsection. 360(a)(1) that clearly indicate the voter's intent to vote for more than one candidate.11  Because a mark meeting the requirements of subsection. 360(a)(1) cannot be counted unless the voter's intent is clear, we begin by analyzing whether the second mark on each overvoted ballot clearly indicated the voter's intent to vote for a second candidate.”

“Moses argues in favor of a bright line rule that would consider the ballots overvoted without examining voters' intent.   But the terms of the statute itself make voter intent paramount.   The statute requires that before a mark is counted as a vote, it must comply with the requirements under subsection .360(a)(1) and clearly indicate voter intent as required by subsection .360(a)(5).   These terms are mandatory and require strict compliance.12  Contrary to Moses's argument that judicial review of ballots would open a “Pandora's Box,” AS 15.20.510 specifically envisions such a review in a recount appeal, providing that “[t]he inquiry in the appeal shall extend to the questions whether or not the director has properly determined what ballots, parts of ballots, or marks for candidates on ballots are valid.” (boldface italics added for emphasis)

The Statute
In case you missed it, the only reason voter intent may be considered is because the statute’s terms as quoted “make voter intent paramount.” This is the smoking gun Campbell and Ruedrich want to keep out of the public eye.

The statute as written, is itself is responsible for considering voter intent. The write-in statutes have no corresponding language for the Alaska Supreme Court to consider for “voter intent.” None. Zero. In fact, the write-in statutes (Sec. 15.15.360. Rules for counting ballots.) very clearly go the other direction stating there are no exceptions for the requirement for the name to be written in as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy and the statute later says (12)(b) “The rules set out in this section are mandatory and there are no exceptions to them. A ballot may not be counted unless marked in compliance with these rules.”

That is dramatically different from the statutes considered where “voter intent” was considered in 2006. Lt. Governor Campbell and the DOE stand a very real chance of losing this case at the Alaska Supreme Court. It will only get worse when Murkowski’s advertising campaign, including TV commercials, is introduced into evidence where the correct spelling of her last name was emphasized over and over again.

The statutes and the Alaska Supreme Court’s past reliance upon them favor Joe Miller’s legal position. Now he and everyone else waits to see if the Alaska Supreme Court will once again apply the statutes as written.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Questions & Answers on God & Christianity

Not too long ago I was required to write a paper in a Question and Answer format via an imaginary dialogue between two friends for an online class. It was to begin with the first question found below and then to be followed by questions and answers I believed could naturally occur.

The setting
Two friends are sitting in their favorite coffee shop early on Saturday morning. Roger is sipping a medium cup of Sumatra with two shots of espresso floating on top – his favorite ‘wake me up’ coffee. Dean, meanwhile, is enjoying his favorite, a mocha latte. They have come together this rainy morning to discuss Roger’s questions about God and religion.

First Question
“I am going to start with one of my most difficult questions concerning God and religion”, Roger said. “How can you and other believers say God is loving and all-powerful, yet there is such evil and suffering in the world he made?”

Dean hesitated to answer. He wanted to get it right. “Well let me start at the beginning and then go past that. I’m sure you are aware of the story of creation and the sin of Adam and Eve leading man to a fallen state. Before you ask, a fallen state means that we are all born with a nature that will lead us to sin without God in our lives,” Dean said. Holding up his hand Dean continued, “Now no one really talks about it, but we don’t know how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden before they violated the one command God had given Adam. I think we can assume it was a long time.”

Roger interrupted, “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well,” Dean replied, “it shows they lived in harmony with their creator for some time with God as a normal part of their lives. Knowledge of that was part of their being and their memories. Are we okay so far?”

“Yes, but I really don’t know where this is going” Roger said.

“I know. It takes a bit. You see in the Garden, Adam and Eve directly experienced the love of their creator. It was not until after their fall, that people began to forget about God and went about doing more than eating forbidden fruit,” Roger explained. “You can see it when Cain killed Abel decades later. God was not involved. In fact God was excluded by Cain. Earlier, God had rejected Cain’s offering to Him, but accepted Abel’s. Cain became incredibly angry and when God saw Cain’s anger he lovingly intervened, explaining how Cain could make a proper offering and warning him about the great danger of letting his anger control him. It’s obvious Cain rejected God’s personal intervention and committed the first murder known to man,” Dean finished quietly.

Roger then asked, “Are you trying to tell me the evil and suffering in our world today result from us, humanity, rejecting God’s advice and love?”

Dean, looking directly into Roger’s eyes said, “That’s exactly what I am telling you.”

Second Question
After a long pause, Roger said, “Okay, I’m not fully convinced, but let me ask another question. Can you show one example in today’s world where the reverse is true? Where people accept God’s intervention and his love and He changes their lives?”

“Roger, that’s almost too easy. Almost, because it is so sad,” Dean replied and then turned quiet.

“What do you mean, “too easy” and “so sad”,” Roger asked?

“It’s because it is so common and because it happens even when folks don’t necessarily accept Christ, but accept God,” Dean began. “You see Alcoholics Anonymous has a twelve step program where their number one step is to accept they have no power to overcome their addiction, their alcoholism, their sin without help. The number two step, they accept a belief in God or some higher power other than themselves is necessary to restore them to a life without alcohol running their lives. In fact, I have often heard number two said this way, “There is a God and he ain’t me and I need him”,” Dean said quietly.

“Is that it,” Roger asked? “Or is there more to it?”

“Of course there is more to it. I only gave the first two steps of the twelve, but those two steps are the foundation for all that follow. I personally know individuals who have found God through AA and with His help have made a life of sobriety for themselves,” Dean said. He then added, “Some of them are relatives of mine. I would be glad to introduce you if you like.”

“Maybe later and I will give you credit for this answer, but it’s not what I expected,” Roger said.

Both Roger and Dean had finished their coffee. The rain had stopped some time ago and the sun was shining.

Roger asked if they could go outside and walk while they talked. When Dean said okay they headed outside and Roger asked, “Ready for the next question?”

“As ready as God permits me to be,” Dean smiled in reply.

Third Question
“This one is not going to be so easy,” Dean said and continued with, “Our fathers and uncles fought in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. How can God permit such suffering and war on a scale never seen before? And why does man need God to set the rules so to speak instead of determining the rules himself for the best of mankind?” And then he stopped.

Dean rubbed his chin as they walked and he thought for a minute before answering. “Okay, I will grant you, your double question, if I can use the answer to the second to help answer the first one. Agreed,” he asked?

“Answer them in any order you wish,” Roger replied.

“Okay, here goes. Man can determine his own rules to live by, but they will never be absolute simply because man made them. Look around you. We see it in politics all the time. Rules made for one purpose used for another or twisted to mean something else. Man will always find some way, some excuse to do something he thinks is more important than the rules he is living by, unless they are God’s rules and they are absolute,” Dean argued.

With raised eyebrows Roger said, “Is that it? Is that all you have?”

“Nope, just getting to the point,” Dean replied. He continued, “Even with God’s rules man will twist them from time to time to try to make them mean what he wants in his fallen nature instead of what God wants. This twisting happened a number of times in the Old Testament and continued in the New Testament. In the Old Testament it led to the fall of Jerusalem because God was so disgusted with how His people treated widows, orphans, and the poor. God, in effect, divorced His people as a nation for a time.”

They walked a little further before Dean said, “It was worse for our fathers and uncles and the rest of the world during and after World War II. Nazi Germany had no God except man. Communist Russia had no God other than the state and a leader after the war. It was the same for Communist China after the war. God was the state and Mao. Then after the Korean War, North Korea shut down entirely. After Vietnam, well we know what happened to the people of the South and the people of Cambodia.”

Waiting for a light before crossing the street, Dean went on as they crossed over, “There was no brake on the evil committed. God was not there. It was Cain writ large across the world, acting on a scale unknown to man before. Nazi Germany’s killing of those thought not perfect enough to contribute to the ‘master race’ along with the gypsies, homosexuals, and millions of Jews is well known. Russia and China killed tens of millions in their death camps after the war. The camps were known as re-education camps or labor camps. Vietnam’s re-education camps killed or tortured anyone with an education. Cambodia killed millions, over half of their own countrymen.” Dean added for emphasis, “Over half! Do you get that? That is evil without God, without His love!”

Spying a bench just a bit further up the sidewalk, Roger asked, “Hey can we slow down, sit down, and relax for a moment? You got pretty worked up back there.”

After sitting down and taking a few deep breaths, Dean said, “Sorry, but I get pretty intense about this. The twentieth century is an incredible testament of the evil man is capable of if he is not restrained or constrained by God. Now, did I answer your double question?”

“Yeah you did. But again not as I expected. Ready for the next question” Roger asked? Dean nodded his agreement.

Fourth Question
“Okay, then I will go for a double again. Homosexuality? Why does God make men and women that way and why is wrong for them to love one another,” Roger asked?

“I guess this is the question of the day, but my answers may surprise you even more than my earlier ones. You see, I don’t know why God makes men and women that way or if he actually does,” Dean replied.

Dean held up his hand again to stave off Roger’s objection. “I know, I know. Many say homosexuals are born that way. I don’t really know. I personally don’t accept that they are from the evidence I have looked at. However, for the sake of argument and your question, I will accept your premise that they are ‘born that way’,” Dean said. “With that as a given, they do not have to practice or perform the acts associated with homosexuality. Feelings and acts are two different things. I know the argument, if you are born that way why is it not okay to act out how you are born? That’s a fair question right,” he asked?

Roger nodded in affirmation. Dean continued, “Well, I know you and I know myself. Neither of us was born monogamous were we? I mean I KNOW the kind of life we lived before we got married. If we wanted, we could live a lie, a life without monogamy and practice our non-monogamous nature couldn’t we?”

After a long pause Dean went on, “Sorry about getting personal, but this is reality. I don’t know about you but I have been tempted many times. A few times I almost fell to the temptation. Only prayer and God kept me monogamous on those occasions. It can be the same for a homosexual as well. He or she does not have to do what we are told is only natural. I have had a homosexual man tell me that I just didn’t want to let them love each other. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I love lots of men, but I don’t have sex with any of them.” He turned and walked off. We never talked again.”

Looking off into the distance, Dean asked, “Can I add a bit more before I let you ask your last question for the day?”

“Sure,” Roger replied.

“Imagine a world where any behavior was approved if it could only be shown to be how one was born. Ever been so angry you wanted to kill someone? I have. But again, I am glad I did not act on what I thought were my natural feelings,” said Dean. “Are we okay with my answer?”

Roger nodded yes, and then said, “Here is my last one for the day.”

Fifth Question
Roger added, “Sorry, but it’s another double one. Why does God care? And how do we know he cares, that he loves us?”

Dean had been staring down at the sidewalk between his shoes, now slowly looked up and smiled, really smiled for the first time that morning. “I’m glad to answer your double again. Once again the answers are related. Remember my answers started back in creation, right,” he asked?

“Yeah, yeah, I remember,” Roger answered.

“Good because the answer begins there. You see the biblical account in Genesis tells us God made us in His image. We were not made as His image, but in His image. He made us different from everything else he created. He made us with love. He breathed His breathe into us to make us alive. He did that for no other creature. In fact Adam got a wife, because he did not want Adam to be alone, he loved Adam just as he loves us. Why he did this I am not so sure. But he did do it and it’s true he loves us,” Dean said.

“Now about today, how do we know He cares? That answer goes back about 2,000 years. God’s only son, Jesus Christ, died on a cross for our sins so that if we accepted His grace through His son, repented of all our sins, we could be reunited with God as our Father. Compare this to what AA does with their twelve steps. It is similar, but very different as it involves a specific knowledge of what God is offering – the sacrifice of his son for our sins so that we might join Jesus in heaven with His Father, our Father,” Dean said with a smile now covering his whole face.

Next Question
Roger was quiet and so was Dean. After the silence had continued on for some time, Dean said, “Let me ask you a question now. Would you like to accept Christ into your heart, confess your sins to God – not me – and begin to know your heavenly Father?”

End or New Beginning?

McGrath, A. (Ed.) (2007). The Christian Theology Reader. (3rd
ed.). Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK
Online Bible (n.d.), http://www.biblegateway.com/

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What To Do?

The year was 1983. I was working at PMEL, pronounced "'P' mel." The acronym stands for Precision Measurement Electronics Laboratory, a metrology laboratory and no, metrology is not misspelled.

At the lab I was the in house instructor for digital electronics and microprocessor controlled test equipment plus the basics of assembly language programming. We were leaving the era of tubes and discrete electronic components and moving headlong into test equipment loaded with solid state digital electronics and integrated circuits.

I was asked if I wanted the job because while serving in the Air Force I had been an instructor and a StanEval team member on ARIA aircraft for the antenna tracking system. But I really did not know digital electronics except for a correspondence course I had taken from the Cleveland Institute of Electronics (CIE). Thus, many a night was spent working on digital circuits until I fell asleep with my face in a maze of jumper wires connecting various integrated circuits. But it got me off the lab bench for a few hours three times a week and looked good for my annual review. Plus promotions were coming up.

About those promotions, there were three openings. I was the number one candidate with one other lab technician close by and then three or four right behind us. When the names came out, my name was not on the list. It was Friday. Boy oh boy, I am glad it was Friday. I was so angry, I was kicking doors all day Saturday, scaring my bride of 12 years and our two children.

Finally, I calmed down and then Sharon and I talked and talked. We may as well have been praying. The question came down to, "Will you quit the extra curricular work (teaching) and back off on how hard you work?" I had been asked the same question by a half dozen coworkers who wanted me to 'punish' management because I had not been promoted.

What to do? A decision from the recesses of my soul came out. I would not quit teaching and I would not quit performing on the job. That would be a lose/lose proposition with long range negative consequences. Instead I would work harder on the regular part of my job and also on the instruction portion. Part of me wanted to embarrass them by my positive performance after not being promoted. The decision had been made, I would not back off, I would perform.

Monday, I was back at work and instructing digital electronics. Many of my coworkers shook their heads in bewilderment. A few came by and shook my hand admiring the choice I had made.

Then nothing for about six weeks until my direct boss, the one who chose not to promote me offered me an opportunity to attend a ten week course on calibrating microwave test equipment. He had been instructed by his management to offer me the class. To his astonishment (I can still recall the surprise on his face) when I immediately accepted the offer. I was an honor graduate of the class.

Months later, I had decided to quit playing and studying so much chess. I was looking for a way to better invest my time for myself and my family ... there was no money in chess for a player like me who could (maybe, probably) become a National Master. In my casting about I found an Engineering Science University Program at our local community college. A college algebra class was available, but would require an extra 30 minutes for lunch to make it happen.

I asked my boss (yeah, that one) if I could have an extra 30 minutes three days a week for the quarter. His answer was not unexpected, "No." However, when he told me to go ask the front office (his management) to see what they would say, that was unexpected. He surely didn't think anything would come of it.

Thinking the worst that could happen is another "No" I went to the front office. What a surprise, they said yes. Plus they added, "You have done everything we asked you to do, even when you didn't get the promotion, we will be glad to help out with this." When I told my boss, he could not get to the front office fast enough. He did not believe it. He returned shaking his head and muttering to himself. Then he said, "Well, I guess you get to go."

Got the shock of my life when the first class was on imaginary numbers. I almost quit until I recalled the same thing in my CIE course with a different application. Stuck it out and made an "A" and then took another class and then another ... Before I knew it, I had an Associate's Degree in Engineering Science.

Two years later I had an Electrical Systems Engineering Bachelor of Science degree with a second major in applied mathematics. Then the job opportunities came. I maintained the same work habits, doing my job and then some. The job opportunities continued.

The only thing wrong with my diploma was that it had only one name on it - mine. But it was just as much my bride's ... I could not, would not, have completed the engineering program at Wright State University without her. The story behind that is whole other blog entry.

But back to what to do when you get passed over for a promotion and it is given to someone less deserving? My answer should be obvious by now - "Continue doing the best you can and then do some more." My sig line on my emails from work all end with "... and then some," meaning do what you are supposed to do and then some.

Leave the rest up to God. Honor Him with your work.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

DQ and Glass of Water

This week I had to answer a discussion question (DQ) for a systematic theology class. The question brought to mind a vignette my sister wrote about 5 years ago concerning our mother and father. That piece of writing is below.

The DQ of interest came in two parts, “Why is it so important to recognize that God did not create us originally as individuals but as part of the community (male and female)? What are the implications of this view?”

I didn’t like or agree with the question and answered as follows, The premise of the question is wrong because God DID create us originally as individuals and as part of the community - initially the community of marriage, of relationship with God, and of relationship with the world. What are the implications of this view? A marriage does not work with the two individuals involved - until/unless each is submitting something of themselves to the community of the marriage. The same is true of anyone's relationship with God - the individual must submit something of their self to make that relationship work (God has already submitted his Son). While God has relationships with marriages, families, and churches - it is always through the individuals involved. No one will ever stand for or with another in front of God on judement day - no one except Christ. Loving one's spouse, family, community, and church as God would have us love them requires first a submission to God. Through this an individual or a marriage or a church community can bring more people to see and have God in their lives. This can have enormous impact on others as indicated by the short story below.

Glass of Water (by Carolyn J. Abbey)

It was a Tuesday night and I stopped to see my aging parents. They were getting ready for supper and insisted that I stay. My husband had a meeting and my children were old enough to fend for themselves, so I agreed. I helped my momma to get the meal on the table and I smiled at how there was always enough for whoever stopped by.

As I set the table, I asked momma what she wanted to drink. “Ice water” she responded. Then I asked daddy what he wanted. He said, “I will share your mom’s glass of water.”

We sat down to eat and I looked at this couple who had been married almost 58 years. They always sat in the same seats next to each other. Their routines were well established and comfortable for them. Sometimes the table was silent, other times it was full of discussion. Always they seemed interested in what was going on in the lives of their children and grandchildren. They often had news from their siblings. World issues might be brought up in conversation. Political discussions could be heated, but they also gave room for differences of opinions, if only everyone would agree that daddy was right.

I watched as momma moved her glass of water between her and daddy so it was an easy reach for both of them. As we visited I found myself watching them and wondering “when did they start to share one glass?” I thought about all of the years they had built their lives together while they raised six children. I looked at my parents knowing they had survived many hardships as well as joys in their lives, and I marveled at the simplicity and comfort of their love.

Somehow that glass of water symbolized so much more than a drink divided between two people. It signified their love, their commitment, their oneness. I found myself in awe as I experienced the plan of God for a marriage in this simple glass of water shared between two. Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, but separate beings, so a married couple should be one yet separate. I was humbled as I saw the purity of love as I sat in their presence. Once again, without knowing it, my parents taught me a valuable life lesson by simply sharing a glass of water. When I left that night I knew I had seen God in this world.

(Note by Riley - our father died, October 2010, about 4 years later. His only concern in his last weeks was to have us promise to take care of Mom. We are keeping our promise and doing that.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Debate on a Falkbeer Countergambit Variation

The players
Yakov Borisovich Estrin born in Moscow, Russia 21 April 1923 (died 2 February 1987). Yakov Estrin was one of the few players to become an over the board Grandmaster and a correspondence Grandmaster. He was the Seventh International World Correspondence Chess Champion (1972-1976) and was a finalist 4 other times. The game in this lecture is from his book GAMBITS (Chess Enterprises, 1983).

Paul Keres was born in Narva, Estonia 7 January 1916 (died 5 June 1975). In 1938, at the age of 22, the arrangements for a World Championship match with current champion Alexander Alekhine were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Paul Keres was one of the strongest Grandmasters in the world, he missed making it to the World Chess Championship 5 (!) times in the post war years. GM Keres is considered to be the strongest player never to compete in a World Chess Championship. He wrote my favorite endgame book, Practical Chess Endings.

When the game below was played, Paul Keres was already an accomplished Grandmaster and considered a serious contender for the World Chess Championship as noted above. Yakov Estrin was about to graduate from our equivalent of high school.

Estrin writes in his book Gambits how he “spent considerable time analyzing one of the variations of the Falkbeer Countergambit” which somehow just happened to be a line Paul Keres played in the prewar (WWII) years.

It went like this
1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 d4 4.d3 Nf6 5.Nd2 Bf5 6.dxe4 Nxe4 7.Qe2

Here Estrin notes, “For a long time, theory held that the diagrammed position was in White’s favor. And in fact 7… Qxd5? Loses a piece to 8.g4!; while 7….Qe7 8.Ngf3 (snip) White clearly has the better of it.

But Estrin had a different idea he had analyzed and was determined to try it out. He did so against Grandmaster Paul Keres during a simultaneous exhibition in Moscow in the spring of 1941.

7…. Bb4!?! 8.c3 O-O 9.Nxe4 Re8 10.cxb4 Rxe4 11.Be3 Qe7 12.Kf2 Nd7

It is here Estrin pauses to note, “… it will not be easy for White to find a satisfactory defense.”

No kidding!

After 13.Re1 Nf6 14.h3 Re8 15.Qd2 Rxb4 16.Bd3 Bxd3 17.Qxd3 Rxb2+ we have the position on the right where the following occurred

18.Re2 Ne4+ 19.Kf3 Qh4 20.Bf2 Qxf2+
21.Rxf2 Rxf2+ 22.Kg4 Rxg2+ 23.Kh4 Rg6
24.Rh2 f5 25.Qf3 Rh6+ 26.Qh5 Rxh5+
27.Kxh5 Rd8 and White resigned.

You might think this would be the end of it, but it was not. A school boy had just defeated one of the world’s leading GM’s and did it in fine style.

Nine years later (nine years!) GM Keres did his best to throw doubt on the entire variation by suggesting an improvement to 8.c3 with 8.Qb5+ writing, “I see no way for Black to save all his hanging pieces here.”

He would have to eat those words after Estrin replied in print.

Estrin in 1951 ten years after the initial game gave the following refutation of Keres idea above: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 d4 4.d3 Nf6 5.Nd2 Bf5 6.dxe4 Nxe4 7.Qe2 Bb4!?! 8.Qb5+ Nc6 9.c3 and then 9…. a6!!

Now the main lines White may choose from on move 10 which all lead to advantage for Black.

1) 10.Qxb7 Nd6! 11.Qxc6+ Bd7 12.Qxa8 Qxa8 13.cb O-O and Black is preferred
2) 10.Qd3 Nxc3 11.Qxf5 Qe7+ 12.Be2 Nxe2 13.Nxe2 Qxe2+ 14.Kxe2 Nd4+ advantage Black.
3) 10.Qc4 b5! 11.Qb3 Qe7 12Be2 Nc5 13.Qd1 O-O-O with a strong attack
4) 10.Qa4 Qe7 11.Be2 Nc5 12.Qd1 O-O-O! with a strong attack again
5) 10.Qe2 Nd4! 11.cd O-O and Black has a tremendous attack

(All the analysis/notes above are Estrin’s)

Estrin’s line eventually ended the debate and put this line out of business for White.

From www.chessgames.com
- Honza Cervenka said, “Excellent attack of Yakov Estrin. 23...Nd6 threatening 24...Re4 with next 25...Nf5+ 26.Kh5 g6# was another possible finish.”
- bernardchinshin asks, “What happens if 20. Qe4. I cannot see a win for Black.”

Additional games: Found four (4) games have been played since the original on chessgames.com. Black won all four. The following two games are representative.

Moscow, Russia 1949
Yu Steinsapir vs Yakov Estrin
1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 e4 4. d3 Nf6 5. Nd2 Bf5 6. dxe4 Nxe4 7. Qe2 Bb4 8. c3 O-O
9. Nxe4 Re8 10. cxb4 Rxe4 11. Be3 Qe7 12. Kf2 Nd7 13. Qh5 g6 14. Qg5 Qxb4 15. Re1 Qxb2+ 16. Re2 Qc3 17. g4 Rae8 18. gxf5 Rxe3 19. fxg6 Nf6 20. Kg2 hxg6 21. f5
Rxe2+ 22. Nxe2 Qe5 23. Kg1 Ne4 24. Qf4 Qxd5 25. fxg6 fxg6 26. Bg2 Qc5+ 27. Kf1 Rf8 28. Bxe4 Rxf4+ 29. Nxf4 Qc4+ 30. Bd3 Qxf4+ 31. Ke2 c5 32. Bxg6 Qg4+ 33. Kf2 Qxg6 34. Rg1 Qxg1+ 35. Kxg1 Kg7 36. a4 b6 37. Kf2 a6 38. Ke3 b5 39. a5 Kf6 40. Ke4 c4 0-1

Nijmegen, Netherlands 1963
N Speyer vs V Soultainbeiff
1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 e4 4. d3 Nf6 5. Qe2 Bf5 6. Nd2 Bb4 7. c3 O-O 8. dxe4 Nxe4
9. cxb4 Re8 10. Nxe4 Rxe4 11. Be3 Qe7 12. Kf2 Nd7 13. Qf3 Re8 14. Bd2 Nf6 15. h3 Rd4 0-1


Saturday, June 26, 2010

When You Stop Calculating

I am a chess player or at least I used to be. Now I mostly organize and direct chess tournaments plus run the Dayton Chess Club (Dayton, OH) while working full time and taking online classes in a very different field - Christian Studies.

Nonetheless, I decided to pay to attend a lecture by Grandmaster (GM) Alexander Goldin this morning (Saturday, June 26, 2010) at the Dayton Chess Club at the prompting of my wife. Plus I was curious as I had attended GM lectures before and while I was always dazzled, I was also always disappointed. I was disappointed because they frequently talked over my head (and those of others in attendance) while seeking to impress us with their brilliance. That was unnecessary as we all understood what it takes to be a Grandmaster. The GM title does not come easy, the percentage of chess players with the title is a small part (very small part) of the top one percent of chess players worldwide.

That being said, this lecture was different, very different. GM Goldin stretched a 75 minute lecture into a 90 minute lecture while doing his best to communicate with those in attendance what they would need to do to improve their chess game. Like many or most GM's he stressed the study of the endgame. But it was with a twist. The purpose of studying endgames - beyond gaining the knowledge and techniques necessary to draw or win a given endgame - is developing one's ability to calculate. He asked the question, "Why?" Then he proceeded to provide the answer. Unlike estimation of positions which takes years of experience, one's ability to calculate can be improved in months or weeks or even days - depending on one's dedication to practice or in his words, regular exercise. Timed, purposeful exercises are the key. Almost any good endgame book will do, but he recommended starting with "Chess Endings" by GM Averbakh with a specific focus on king and pawn endgames to build up the calculating ability.

GM Goldin did not stop there. He went on to emphasize the necessity to calculate "move by move" throughout the changing position. He was emphatic, stating "The moment you stop calculating you lose your grip on the game." And again, "When you stop calculating and start 'thinking' you lose the game!" In case you are wondering, the exclamation mark is indicative of the emphasis he placed on this.

As an example he next gave a 'simple' endgame position (White: K-h7, p-d2; Black: K-f7, p-c4) with White to move asking how White might draw. We discovered rapidly that walking White's king down the h file towards the pawns did not work as it never really got closer to the pawns. It was a matter of calculation. Then most of us rejected the idea of moving the White king further away from the pawns to h8 as a bad idea (thinking). However, if you calculate it out this counter intuitive move works. Lesson learned. Thinking without calculation is indeed bad. We also saw here an application of Sherlock Holmes' famous dictum, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Or applying this deductive logic to chess, "When you have eliminated all the natural moves by calculation, then it is time to try - by calculation - the most unlikely moves no matter how counter intuitive or impossible looking."

With one more problem and two of his games - one as an IM and one as a GM - to demonstrate his practice of his personal dictum - "Calculate, always calculate!" There was much more, but if you want to find out what else was covered, come to one of his lectures or take an hour or more of his private lessons. He will be at the Dayton Chess Club every 1-2 months to play in the Game in 25 minutes on Friday night followed by lecture and lessons on Saturday and more lessons on Sunday.

Don't take my word for it, calculate it out yourself. Also take the time to compare GM Goldin's remarks about regular dedicated exercise with "deliberate practice" and what you find on the latter when you Google "deliberate practice."


Thursday, June 24, 2010

202 & ELDM

Have signs up all over my office with only "202" typed on them. Don't get so many questions now or odd looks. Every once in a while I get, "How's that "202" coming along. I usually reply not so bad.

In truth though it is not going so well. Those of you who are overweight will recognize it right away - a weight goal. From starting at 225 lbs. my interim goal is 202 lbs. I have made it down to 217 twice, but it's been a yo-yo so far. Right now I am at 226 lbs. Do I have to tell you I am sick of this.

I know the real secret to losing weight. It's caught in the acronym ELDM ... Eat Less, Do More. What could be easier? I don't know, but I am not doing it somehow. One thing discovered, a bit more sleep each night - 30 to 60 minutes - and my appetite goes down while my energy goes up - with less food. Maybe if I could sleep 23 hours per day. By the way I did not invent the ELDM.

Used to work with a LtCol (USAF) who was also an electronic warfare analyst and he was a butterball. Then one day (or so it seemed) I turned around and he was almost slim. Of course I wanted to know his secret. He said, "Okay, but you won't like it." But I didn't care and demanded to know his secret. He smiled and said, "Eat Less and Do More." Then he turned and walked away.

I didn't listen. I was too busy with work, with family, with chess, with stuff and I didn't want to modify give any of it up. And so it went until my weight stabilized at 240 lbs. It would go higher.

Job changes, more pressure to succeed. I was loving life. The kids were growing up well, things were great. And we were going to church for the first time in our married life. What a change there. Then tragedy hit. A terrible family situation and I went into a deep, very deep funk. In months my weight had ballooned to over 290 lbs. I quit weighing myself then. It was too frightening. My knees went bad. Had to have knee surgery on one. Better, but never the same.

Finally, my bride and I gave up the situation to God and started to get on with life. I started on the Atkins Diet. It worked, sorta. Weight dropped down to 220 lbs in about 4 months. It was amazing. But then it leveled off and life got very busy again. Too busy.

Then I found out about the diabetes. Whoops. So that was what was causing those emergency stops so I could go urinate somewhere - anywhere. I was no longer laughing at getting old in my late 50's. My 90 day blood sugar (HbA1c for you purists) was 10.4! I was a prime candidate for a heart attack or a stroke. Something had to be done. So I ate less, almost no carbs (back on the Atkins Diet), exercised and brought my numbers down to the normal range, 6.2 to 6.9 and sometimes over 7 or barely over 8. I was taking this serious, but not serious enough.

A few years go by. And then a cousin, wonderful guy, gets killed in Iraq. Decided to go there as well if they could use a 60 year old engineer. First time it didn't work. Blood sugar was over the limit, but not by much. Got it back into line, but it was too late, that job was gone. Then another opportunity arose. My blood sugar was 5.7 (great!) and my weight was down to 202 lbs (also great). So off I went to Iraq with two short trips home before returning after 14 months. One for our wedding anniversary and the other for my father's funeral.

My knees had gone from bad to worse while at Al Asad Air Base all those months. So, six months after my return got a brand new set of knees. Wow! And OWW! 13 months later now and I love them. No more pain. Able to stand up for extended periods without crying. WOW!

Now I just have to figure out how to use them for that "Do More" portion of ELDM and I will be back on the path to 202. But first I think I will take some time in prayer and once again put God in charge and see what happens. 202, here I come!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Walking the Walk

St. Francis of Assisi had some interesting ideas about preaching the word of God. The ones I like best can be summarized in two quotes from him - two of my favorites. “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching” and "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

Clearly this Roman Catholic Friar knew something about "Not talking the talk unless you are willing to walk the walk" way before such a saying would become cool (kewl?). After all he died one week after turning 45 on October 3, 1226. Yet his words resonate today.

I think he would understand how I look at the second commandment given by Jesus, "Love your neighbors as yourself."

You see when I meet a self proclaimed Christian brother or sister, one of the things I do is observe closely how they treat their closest neighbor/s. How the wife/husband treats their husband/wife and children will tell you much about their heart and how they will treat other neighbors. (BTW I use this also for self examination)

Imagine a man or woman who treats their spouse unkindly. Clearly he/she does not understand their spouse is their closest neighbor deserving of the same love they have for their own self and for more distant neighbors.

I mean we have the commandment - it cannot be clearer. And our spouses and family are like the talents provided in the parable of the talents. How well one cares for the talents entrusted to his/her care - his/her family and loved ones - will tell a great deal about how the same person will love his/her extended neighbors and if any proffered love is real or not.

Or as St. Francis of Assisi might have said, "It's no use loving your neighbor unless you are loving your closest neighbors - your family."

And just to be clear here, I acknowledge family members are often times those toughest to love, but they like everyone else are our neighbors, our closest neighbors.

In loving our families our closes neighbors, we begin "walking the walk" that can lead us to loving others - neighbors further and further removed.

Perhaps in loving our families as ourselves, maybe then we can love others who are distant relatives or neighbors, and finally maybe we can love our enemies. Or as St. Francis said, “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Monday, May 31, 2010

We Are Family

On May 6, 1981, an Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA) tail number 61-0328 departed from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on a training mission with two spouses (non-crew members) on board; it was to be 328's be the last flight. The aircraft crashed at Walkersville, Maryland with 21 on board.

Three and months earlier (January 21, 1981) I had separated from the Air Force. I was an antenna operator on tail number 329, but sometimes flew on 328. I loved the job as antenna operator and flying to points around the globe - I literally got to see the world. But I tired of watching our daughter and now son grow up via something like time lapse photography with my frequent travels. So I made the decision to separate with just under 10 years service and refused to test for promotion knowing a promotion with 12 years of service would make it even more difficult to separate.

On that fateful day in May of the 21 people who died, I knew at least 14 of them. Maybe more, but the memories have begun to fade over the past 29 years. Nonetheless, I remember many of them very clearly and not just my best friend at the time.

But it wasn't just my best friend, I knew and respected almost everyone I had the honor to serve with - we worked diligently to do our jobs in the best possible way. And it was always a team effort.

At unit gatherings, the favorite song was "We Are Family" by Donna Summers. We looked out for each other - in the air, downrange, on the flight line, and when we were home.

At the Air Force Museum now known National Air Museum, you will find a memorial to those who died that day - 21 trees planted and a plaque with all their names. Including the two wives on board that day to share in the experience of what ARIA's mission was like and to help lower the divorce rate with the frequent travels. After all, this was a simple training mission - what we, the crew members, called flying around the flag pole.

Today, Memorial Day, May 31st, I salute my former crew mates as I do every May 6th as well. May their souls rest with God the father and Jesus.

Note: More information on ARIA may be found at ARIAMemorial.com

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Empty, Very Empty

Everyone knows space is big, really big.

Most don't know though that space is empy, really really empty.

Almost everyone is unaware of just how empty space is. They are used to the elementary through high school displays of our solar system that makes it seem almost crowded - at least in our very on solar system.

However, there are a number of websites that help illustrate how empty the solar system is by building a solar system starting with something of size most of us are familiar with to replace the sun. Then the surprises come.

For instance if your build our solar system with the sun approximately 10 inches in diameter (roughly the size of a basketball), then the earth is approximately 9/100ths of an inch in diameter and 89 feet away. Again the earth is only 0.09 inches in diameter and one foot shy of being 30 yards away from the sun.

In between the earth and the sun (our basketball) are Mercury (0.03 inches in diameter and 11 yards and 1 foot from the sun (the basketball) while Venus - my favorite morning star - is 0.087 inches in diameter and just over 21 yard from the sun (our basketball).

So picture it this way: Set a basketball on the goal line of a football field then 11 yards out place the rollerball from a medium ink pen (0.7mm) follwed by 8.5 shot size pellet 21 yards out followed by 8.0 shot size pellet (our very own earth) at just under 30 yards out!

Of course you would have the largest planet, Jupiter, one inch (!) in diameter and 155 yards out. Then you have Pluto (almost the size of a BB here) on the outer edge of our solar system 1,280 football fields out from the original goal line.

So what inhabits our solar system that is 2,380 football fields in diameter measured to the furthest out planet?

The SUN - Basketball - size/10" - center

Then the planets
1 - Mercury - med ballpoint - size/0.035" - 34' to center
2 - Venus - 8.5 pellet shot - size/0.87" - 64' to center
3 - Earth - 8.0 pellet shot - size/0.92" - 89' to center
4 - Mars - med ballpoint - size/0.049" - 136' to center
5 - Jupiter - spinning quarter - size/1.00" - 465' to center
6 - Saturn - spinning U.S. nickel - size/0.84" - 854' to center
7 - Uranus - cooked green pea - size/0.034" - 1,718' to center
8 - Neptune - cooked green pea - size/0.033" - 2,694' to center.
9 - Pluto - BB pellet - size/0.016" - 3,540' to center

So if we think of our solar system not as the disc we usually consider, but as a sphere, we have a sphere 1.33 miles across with a basketball at the center, two medium size ballpoint pen balls, two peas, 3 pellets of different size, a spinning quarter, and a spinning nickel.

That's it. 1.33 miles in diameter and empty, almost completely entirely empty. The one thing that helps is the how our sun illuminates the entire solar system.

Bet you never look at those school displays of the solar system the same way again..

My Bride

It was an informal business dinner and there were six of us, two from out of state. My wife had not met the two from out of state, so I introduced her. “Chuck, Adrienne – this is my bride Sharon. Sharon,this is Chuck and Adrienne.” Everyone had a good meal and almost everyone told at least one good story and that was that, or so I thought.

A day later, I receive an email that said, “I like how you refer to Sharon as your bride. Where did that come from?”

Blank. Blank. Blank. Then blink … some of it started coming back.

As it is coming back, being an engineer and having a love for detail, I looked up the definition and synonyms for bride. The synonyms for bride are wife, spouse, partner, mate, helpmate, new married woman. Well all of those fit except the last one as we are approaching 39 years of marriage.

Then I ran the definition for bride and it was no help: a woman is about to be married or has recently been married. Okay, I think I will stick with the synonyms instead of the definition. As it is I simply like the feeling of affection behind the phrase, my bride, and it seems to add a sort of respect for our marriage and in some ways it remains new and fresh.

It helps to remember we eloped all those years ago, but it was only 14 years ago we got married in a church ceremony and dedicated our marriage to Christ. In that ceremony, bridal gown, tuxes and everything as if we were just getting married. It was the same as when a man first marries and sees his ‘bride’ as a gift. In this marriage ceremony, her father gave her away (and finally forgave us for eloping). He gave her to me! You have seen it on tv or in an actual ceremony where the pastor asks, “Who gives this bride/woman to this man?” Usually it’s a father, uncle or brother who gives the bride to the groom.

Oh, and one of my brothers, who couldn’t believe I had such a great catch and over the years would always ask me during a visit or phone call, “How is your bride doing?”

One additional thought that applies here. I had taken Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself to heart. Not so easy in practice, but in thinking about it, I asked myself who my closest neighbors were. Simple answer, my family. And the closest neighbor within my family – my wife, my bride. So If I was going to love my neighbor I was going to start with my closest possible neighbors and work my way outwards.

This had made a real difference not only with my bride, but with our children, our friends, our extended families. And in difficult times, I have only to remind myself, my bride is my closest neighbor and she is a gift from God to me for things to begin to get better.

Finally, it’s kind of simple, I just like it and so does she. So if we ever meet, don’t act too surprised when I introduce her saying, “This is my bride, Sharon.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review: Valley of the the Shadow

Have never read anything by this author before - Tom Pawlik, but the cover said "fans of Dean Koontz or Ted Dekker will appreciate Pawlik's debut novel, VANISH."

Well, I didn't have the debut novel, I had "Valley of the Shadow" and I used to really like Koontz's writing (especially liked his LIGHTNING and its treatment of time travel) and I am a big fan of Ted Dekker's writing when it comes to Christian fiction and a bit of Christian science fiction.

The title of this novel comes from Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" NIV. Odd that this verse is so familiar, but I never wondered or thought about 'the shadow' of death. In fact I had remembered it as "thought I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil" - I had dropped shadow off completely. Well, no more.

Pawlik had done an incredible job of providing a believable "valley of the shadow of death" and in doing so took me to book-world. For those not in the know, book-world is where you go when reading a book and the world around you dissolves and the world in the book becomes the real world - for at least a little while.

I recommend this book even though at times it jumps too often or suddenly from the "valley of the shadow" to one of two locations in the world we live in. I have to mention two powerful scenes, that stick with me still.

Number 1, the vision he presents of humans as they leave their bodily forms behind and "move" to join Jesus in heaven. Number 2, which makes number 1 possible, of one of the characters laying his hate, anger, and inability to forgiven at the foot of the cross. I wish I could say more about both, but I do not wish to give too much away.

Read it and enjoy your trip to book-world.


Married and then some

My bride's name is Sharon. This July 27th will mark 39 years of marriage. We got married before we knew God. Something difficult to imagine now. In fact we had only been dating about 8 weeks when I asked her, "Do you want to get married in one week or two weeks." It was two weeks!

Years later found out she thought I was going to ask her to go steady. Little did she know I had fallen in love with her over a year earlier when I first laid eyes on her. God had put her in my heart. But, she was dating my best friend. Finally they broke up and like a good friend - I waited 2 weeks to ask her out. After that I didn't waste any time.

We eloped on a Wednesday morning and got married in Marshall, TX. She was a military brat living on Barksdale AFB, LA and I was living in Bossier City, LA. And we got married in a fever not having the slightest idea on how to make it work.

But back to marriage.

Marriage gets better the longer it lasts ... if you make it past the first 10 years. Why do I say that? Sharon and a few other women were talking about marriage at church one Saturday afternoon. One of the ladies said, "I just can't figure my husband out and we have been married 8 years." Sharon and another lady started laughing, both said the first 10 years are the hardest. I didn't know that, although I can acknowledge their were some big rough spots in those years - and fewer in the years that followed.

Anyway, the point is, sometimes a marriage has to cook for 10 years or so before you know if it is going to last or not according to these women. There may be some truth to that. I would like to think so.

I know ours has been getting better each year for some time, at least on my end. Maybe that's because I see Sharon more and more as a gift from God in my life. I am grateful to God for the gift of Sharon and grateful to Sharon for sticking it out when I was way short of being a keeper.