Thursday, May 31, 2007

2007 World Chess Championship Candidates

I haven't been blogging much lately. I have been busy watching chess games at These games are the Candidates matches for the 2007 World Chess Championship. I have my favorite player...Judit Polgar of Budapest, Hungary. She is the only woman playing in this championship cycle. The big deal is that this isn't for the Women's World Chess Championship. No, Judit doesn't want that title. She is a sure winner there, as she is the strongest female chess player on the planet. She has bigger fish to fry! She is after the men's title. Good for her!! Why break it down between man and woman? It is a mental,, science...isn't it? She feels it belittles women to compete in a lesser tournament. If women want to be treated as equals then they must take up the challenge and demonstrate that they are equal. This is a fair forum to do this and Judit Polgar has thrown down the gauntlet. I wish her the best of luck. Go Judit!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Swift Boat Commander

I arrived in the Republic of Panama during the Noriega years. The place was in turmoil and it was only a matter of time before the United States took some action. Usually, the Department of State has some plan in place for dealing with rouge leader's of other nations. Naturally, the Department of State has a sword for foreign policy and the U.S. military is its pointy end. Panama was a supposedly friendly nation. We had treaties in place of defense and trade. Everyone liked this peaceful coexistence, with a few exceptions. By the time I reported to my next command in August 1988, the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) had begun an adversarial relationship with the U.S. military in the Canal Zone (CZ). The day I took command of the Patrol Craft Fast number 9 (PCF-9) I was briefed that under no circumstances was I allow my craft to be boarded by the PDF. This lead to some very tense moments later on and with much weapons pointing by each side. The above photograph is the PCF-9. Most people call these "Swift Boats". Yes, the same type of boat that John F. Kerry commanded during Viet Nam. I was the Boat Captain and in charge of its maintenance, crew welfare, training, and fighting capability. She was a little hot rod of the river and coastal areas. She was officially a mark II which was an upgrade from the mark I's. This meant that she was a foot longer and 2 knots faster. The PCF-9 could reach 32 knots. She was well armed with a twin 50 caliber machine gun mount over the pilot house (which could spit a lot of death), a single 50 caliber machine gun over a 81mm mortar on the aft deck, two m-60 machine guns mounted port and starboard at just abaft of the deck house, plus two M-79 grenade launchers and some other small arms. She was dealing death and sowing destruction. It was my responsibility! The weight of command would be a heavy load, especially just before, during, and after "Operation Just Cause".

Friday, May 25, 2007

Upon The Road Of Anthracite

Friday. Today is the day that I visit my priest friend, Father Thorne, at the Price Chopper. As always, he asks me for the latest news about me. I was telling him about this blog and how I was telling its readers about the train Phoebe Snow. He thought for about a minute and said "I remember that brother and I would watch it pull into Hoboken". He was telling me how it was the Queen Mary of the train world. Very posh!

I included the image of Miss Phoebe Snow for all to enjoy. I don't know how much longer I will write about trains and my hometown? I have had such positive comments about it that I feel I must tell the stories. Let me know if you become bored!!

Since today is Friday, I am meant to be playing chess at The Chess Club. I usually try to catch the lesson and play a few off-hand games. Yes, nothing serious to spoil my night. I wonder if Ken has a job opening?

Today was busier than normal. First, I had the breakfast meeting I described above. After that it was off to the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center here in Leavenworth, Kansas. It has a big fancy name, like the Eisenhower Medical Center, but most just call it the VA MC. I had to update my VA identification card, so it includes the words: service connected. I then made an appointment to get a hearing aid and went to Human Resources to ask about a job. I don't need much money, but some more would make home improvements and auto repairs comfortable. Later, I had to take my pretty blue Mustang GT over to the Ford Dealer. I hate doing that. Just as soon as you get there the problem disappears and you can't make anyone believe that it ever existed. The good part about the this dealer is they have free Star bucks coffee. I really like good coffee!

It is almost amusement park time. Soon I will write about the Roller-Coasters in this area. I can hardly wait to get aboard the Mamba at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri. Oh, just as a preview...the first drop is 205 feet!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Fourth Ship...O'bannon

This is my fourth ship, the USS O'bannon (DD-987), and she was a graceful greyhound of the sea. Her long lines where pleasing to view. She was powerful and fast. Her armaments included two 5"/54 caliber naval rifles (one placed forward and the other aft), one 8 tubed Anti-Submarine Rocket launcher (ASROC for short) (placed forward) which could fire conventional anti-submarine torpedoes or nuclear depth charges, one 8 tubed NATO Sea sparrow anti-aircraft missile launcher (placed aft), two 4 tubed Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers (place amid-ship facing port and starboard), and various small arms. Her four gas turbine main engines and 2 variable pitch propellers could bring this ship above 36 knots with ease and in a true emergency flank 3 situation she could touch 40 knots. I reported aboard her in August 1986 as a new Quartermaster First Class (QM1) and I was the Assistant Navigator/Leading Petty Officer. I was the man in charge of the ship's navigation...of a Man-of-War. My navigation team members were very well trained. We went places and did things of lore...and we did them as safely as it could be done. Never once was the ship lost and endanger of running aground. I was informed the day I reported aboard that I had less than 30 days to prepare for a deployment to the Persian Gulf. This meant that I worked almost around the clock to obtain the needed nautical charts and publications, plan the voyage, Lay the plan of intended movement on each chart, and get the whole thing approved by the Navigator and Commanding Officer. All this for some 24 year old young man. What a load. I can tell you that there is more work to this than I outlined. For the next two years this ship was my home. I lived aboard, eat every meal there, and it is where I worked. It was to be a trying experience as well. One that would make me into one of the finest Quartermasters in the Atlantic Fleet. When I departed the ship in June 1988 I had served at sea aboard ships for 8 straight years. I was time to go kick some rump in Panama!

The O'bannon commencing a full power run. She has just past through 22 knots. A lovely lady!

5 inch/ 54 caliber naval rifle...Gun smoke!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Train called Phoebe Snow

I can hear the train coming up the main line of the Lackawanna Railroad, East bound, from Buffalo, New York. That's right, Dansville, New York, was a stop along the main line. The train that carried passenger from Buffalo to Hoboken, New Jersey, in 8 hours and 39 minutes was named the Phoebe Snow. She can be seen in the photograph wearing the Lackawanna banner. She was not only fast, but beautifully trimmed in bright colors and luxurious. She had an observation car, a gourmet dining car, a tavern car, and a sleeper car. People would put their lives on hold just to watch her flash past. On the engine was a painted portrait of Phoebe Snow, a character that the Lackawanna had invented to promote how clean their coal burned. Miss Phoebe is gloriously dress in all white and she is breathe taking. No wonder people just stopped and stared! All aboard!

I spent most of my day doing my appeal to the Veteran's Affairs folks. It is a lengthy process that requires me to find evidence to support how a disability is connected to my service. I was told that the VA had already considered my Service Medical Record and that I would not be allowed to use it again to support my claim. Well, it is the evidence and I need to use it because somebody missed a lot of entries that support my claim. I'll update you all once I see the VA man.

My Third Ship...Hunley

This is my third ship. She is the USS Hunley (AS-31) and I reported aboard her in August 1984. She was located at Site One, Holy Loch, Scotland. Site One is where the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN's) started their deterrence patrols from. This was during the bad old days of the cold war and the United States needed to keep the pressure on the Soviets. We did this by arming these submarines with nuclear tipped missiles...scaring the crap out of them because the boats (submarines) would disappear for 90 days and nobody knew where they actually were...not even the U.S. Navy. Now before you start calling on congressman...they were assigned patrol areas off the coast of Russia, but these area were large and the boat tiny, so nobody actually knew where they were. The Hunley was assigned as a tender to the submarines. This meant that she repaired, rearmed, replenished, outfitted, and supplied the boats. I was assigned to the Operations Department as a Quartermaster Second Class (QM2). I corrected the navigational charts and publications. I fixed and maintained navigational equipment. Mostly, I supplied the boats with charts and expertise. You see, I was a recognized leader in celestial navigation and the Quartermasters from the submarines wanted to learn how. It was a good job.

I also loved Scotland! The people were warm and friendly. I met a nice woman and had a son there. Although we never married I have remained in touch. My son, Christopher, lives in Dunoon with his mother, Angela. I like the whole atmosphere...the bagpipes, the public houses, the beer, the fish and chips, and the beauty of the place. I was sad the day I had to leave. I knew the day I was promoted to QM1 that I would be getting orders. In July 1986 I received them and I was to report as the Leading Quartermaster (the boss man) aboard the USS O'Bannon (DD-987).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Think About It

It is a lonely rainy day here in Leavenworth, Kansas. I would normally like such a day, as my ancestors came from Scotland and I believe the love for rain runs in my blood. However, today is such a day that melancholy strikes at my heart and a feeling of helplessness hangs over me. Why? Is it that silly chess game you're always writing about? No...this is much more serious. My feelings match the above photo. This photograph depicts a military prison, the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. How do you feel looking at the photo? Looks cold and lonely to me! I can imagine what it is like to be in there. Have you ever wonder what it would be like to be in such a place? For the moment let us forget that the inmates, prisoners, convicts, etc (the people) are there as a result of some savage act they may have committed. Let us just pretend that it is you. Hey Todd...I haven't committed a crime!!! That doesn't matter for the moment...just pretend. You had your day in court and you lost. At this point you probably will lose more than your liberty. Some lose everything! Their wife, children, parents, and Friends, not to mention pensions, homes, cars, bank accounts, good name, good credit, and their minds. You show up at the joint and even your dignity is lost. You are forced to wear chains like some dangerous animal and have 3 guards surrounding you, plus there are guards in the towers pointing guns at you...ready to shot if they perceive you as a treat. Once you get inside...and please remember that it is easier getting into prison than getting are degraded by other inmates. You're a fish and you have no standing with anyone; thus no rights to look at, speak to, or offer anything to anybody. What's more is that you can't read a book, watch television, play a game, and sometimes even eat. You have to be accepted....or worse sold!...before any of those things can be. Nobody cares about you and your story. Yeah, but I didn't do anything! That doesn't matter. Now imagine that the people who promised to write you, your connection to the outside, don't or stop. Who do you share the horrors with? Who can you tell that you had a visit from the Welcome Wagon and they were 8 deep and wanted to get to know you better!? Yes, best give your heart to Jesus because your ass belongs to....ouch!!!! You see frequent assaults, hear rapes, get your toilet paper ripped off, and god only knows what else. The walls close out the outside and your mind just closes. Days drag on forever and years past in seconds. It is a surreal experience and it makes you an older, wiser, but weaker person. That prison has not changed you for the good of society, but rather just change you for good. It has taken your humanity. Now imagine that you were innocent the whole time. How are you supposed to feel? How do you feel just thinking about it? Well, that doesn't happen to the good people in life, Todd. How can you be so sure?

My Second Ship...Samuel Eliot Morison

After I left the USS Forrestal (CV-59) I received orders to this little beauty. I want to stress little here. The Forrestal was 1,067 feet in length with a 252 feet beam (width) and displaced 81,000 tons. When I reported aboard in January 1983 the USS Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG-13) I found her to be 453 feet in length with a 45 feet beam and displaced 4,100 tons. She was tiny! I soon found she was also a vomit producing machine!!! I can't adequately describe that feeling, but for the ladies it is similar to morning sickness...or any motion sickness. I stood watch on the ship's bridge as helmsman and ship's navigation plotter/recorder. I had to tie a plastic trash bag to my belts for emergency use; and that is not all. It would get so bad that I actually had to lie on the deck between the times that I was required by duty to perform some action. Once, the Commanding Officer cussed at me for being lying down on the job. He had stepped on me as he was looking at the plot (the chart showing the ship's positions and future track) and firmly ordered me to brief him. However, the Captain soon change his mind when he witnessed the employment of the trash bag. I don't want you to think that is the only experience I took from this ship. I would have to say that she had some of the best chow I ever had (plus some of the worst...we ate chicken for nearly every meal for 30 days due to a budget problem. Have you ever had creamed chicken & toast?) and she had some of the nicest berthing spaces (think cruise ship room, but for 60 people). The Morison was quick as my Mustang is from 0-60 only in ship terms. She could accelerate so fast that you could feel g's. Her official top speed is listed as 29+ knots (knot = 1.15 mph). Well, she produced 41 knots at builders trials before they added the sonar dome. After that she could still push into 38 knots territory if the engineers over rode the shaft torque limiters in "Battle override" mode. She wasn't the first ship that I sailed into "harms way" with, but she was the first that I faced a enemy at close had. The was during "Operation Urgent Fury" off the Island of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea. Apparently the Cubans artillery could reach out and touch us and almost did! I departed the Morison in June 1984 (I was in the middle of the Persian Gulf cruise) after I received orders to the USS Hunley (AS-31).

I will post some photographs of the USS Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG-13) in company with the USS Saratoga (CV-60). We were on our way to the Middle-east during foul weather. I just wanted you to get the sense of the size difference. The Saratoga was the same size as the Forrestal.
We were refueling at sea during these photos. QMSN Langenberg and I were the Master Helmsmen that day. It was very difficult to keep a heading when a huge wave would pick the ship up and set it down 3 to 10 degrees off course...yet as Master Helmsmen we were required to keep the ship within 1/2 of a degree at all times. Yeah...right!
Let us see if any of the ship's Officers can do it!

Monday, May 21, 2007

My First Ship...Forrestal

This week I think I'll do a walk down memory lane. The above is my first ship. She is the USS Forrestal (CV-59). This is how she looked when I left her in December 1982. I remember many things about her, beside being the biggest ship I had ever served on in my naval career. She had a crew of just under 6,000 men. They were divided into ship's company (permanent party) which number around 2,550 men and the embarked air wing (visiting party) with the remainder. She could feed the crew in about 2 hours in 5 different messes and 3 separate ward rooms. Enlisted men eat in the mess and Officer dine in the ward room. The only exception is that Warrant Officers eat in a mess for some strange reason, as they are commissioned Officers...crazy system. The Forrestal was also fast for a big ship. She had 8 boilers which feed 600 lbs. steam into four main turbines producing 250,000 shaft horse power. That is enough to propel the ship over 36 knots. Her true speed is classified, but it is greater than 36 knots. I used to work on the ship's Bridge. It is those top row of windows on the island. I had to wash those by hand as a seaman. That was an adventure all it's own to climb over the railing knowing your about 60 feet above the deck. I visited many wonderful places while stationed on her. If you have questions just leave a comment.

This morning I had to visit the Doctor at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. Everything is about normal. I will soon own a hearing aid for my left ear. I hate it, but I need help hearing. He also wants me to visit the mental health people to discuss some issues pertaining to traumatic events the are service connected.

The Depot

The other day I was telling my faithful readers about my home town of Dansville, New York. I had mentioned the Lackawanna Railroad had a depot on the East Hill. Now some folks called it Lackawanna Hill because the railroad owned the wye that ran for miles along the hill. The depot was atop a road called...Depot Road of course. My Mother, Freda, was telling me all about the great trains of yesteryear. She says that the building was black, but it looks blue to me. Now I am not one to say much about the woman that gave me life, but..."Mother, you may be color blind and in need of glasses!" Actually, she sees fine. I understand these events took place over 50 years ago. So she tells me that the grade was steep up Dansville Hill (that is what the Railroad called the grade between Groveland Station and Perkinsville) and each East-bound train needed a helper Engine to pull the load up this 12.6 mile stretch. I wish I could have seen, heard, and remembered those behemoths chugging up the grade. Wow, what a sight to see. My Mother and my Aunt Colleen are a great source of information about things past. Enjoy the photo! If anyone is a rail buff let me know.

Today is bill paying day. The U.S. Government giveth and then taketh away. Since I get paid once a month I have to pay all the living expenses at the first of the month and have loads of fiscal discipline to make it to the next payday.

Yesterday I spent about 3 hours with my chess openings. My little data base of openings is improving and soon I will be training myself to be an expert at what I have prepared. This system is much better than the old school way I was doing it. Now I have the means of trimming those bad, inaccurate, and wasted moves from my repertoire. I was looking at adding the Stonewall Attack and with a few clicks of the mouse I now have it in my opening book and I am learning it. Next I will invest about $50 in a tactical trainer and I'll be on my way to a good showing in the club championship!

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Trip to Wadsworth

I like old things. My faithful readers know this by now. The older the better. The above photograph was taken in the late 1800's. I don't know if you can make much out, but it shows how the Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Leavenwoth, Kansas, looked back then. Back when it was know as The National Home for Volunteer Soldiers-Western Branch, Wadsworth, Kansas. It was a well designed place with a hospital, chapel, dining hall, ball room, theater, amusement hall which included the canteen, a fishing pond with gazebo, barracks that had bath tubs and hot and cold running water, plus flushing toilets. Please remember that this was back when most folks had outhouses and if you wanted hot water for a bath you had to boil it. This was considered a very nice place to live. I can see why.

I brought all that up to say that I visited this place late last night. I was having some health issues and I thought it best if the Veterans Affairs Hospital Staff recorded my symptoms and treatment. I came into the hospital and was promptly treated. The staff took an interest in my issue and for the most part polite and helpful. I was finished within 90 minutes from the time I walked into the emergency room until the time I walked out of the hospital to my car. This time also includes a visit to the pharmacy. Great! My only issue was this: the Doctor seemed to want to protect the Department of Veterans Affairs from an increase in my disability. I understand this on one level...they must see people who falsely claim an illness from time to time, just so that person can get over on the governments dime. I get that. My trouble is I used to play John Rambo and not report every little ache and pain. I didn't want to be a "Sick Bay Commando" so I sucked it up. Very manly and very stupid! I say it is stupid because you have to prove that you have a injury and that is chronic and that it was caused by your military service. The primary way they do this is scrutinizing your Service Medical Records. If it isn't recorded there then it didn't happen while you were in the service. That is why I need the hospital staff to record my I can get a veterans compensation and pension that is fair based on my real level of service connected disabilities. My complaint is that they make it hard to do that by employing a subtle from of harassment. How does that help the veteran?

A Veterans Compensation and Pension

I have a question? How many of my faithful readers has ever served in the United States Military? How many of you were told that U.S. Government appreciated your service and would ensure that you received compensation for injuries/disabilities upon completion of your service to the Country through the Department of Veteran's Affairs? I was told this many times. I was also told that this would be in addition to my life long medical care the military would provide me if I would retire after 20 of charge. I think it is time for military to tell the truth. The truth is that I do have military medical, provided at the military post closest to my home...for about $38 (the family rate) a month. Okay, the Navy did their part; so my next stop was the Veteran's Affairs people. I went into my application for compensation and pension not knowing what to expect. I went to all of the appointments. Those Veteran's Hospital Medical Staff worked my over. They asked very specific questions and I did my best to answer those questions truthfully. After that I waited about five months to hear about my entitlements. What did they say? The Department of Veteran's Affairs awarded me a 30% disabled rating and I will receive entitlements based upon 13 service connected disabilities. This award includes health care, educational opportunities, vocational job training with placement, counseling for mental anguish, and a tax free cash compensation for my disabilities. Many nice things! However, there is a problem. I have five other disabilities that the VA claims are not service connected. Having served our great nation of 26 years, 1 month, and 3 days I would think that just about any health problem I had, unless it was documented as a pre-existing condition before service, would be service connected. Apparently, not so. One of my denied disabilities is in the form of something called: Restrictive Airway Disease. Sounds nice, yes? Yeah, and the best part is that this is the result of asbestos exposure. I worked aboard one ship and was assigned to live in two buildings that are known to have asbestos dust problems. There have been lawsuits filed and claims granted to illnesses based on asbestos exposure in military service. Those suits mention the ship and the buildings. This is serious stuff. Many of those people that had been exposed are now dead. The United States Government knows, or should know this, as it is government property. So why does a government department deny my claim, which is based upon medical test results done at a government medical facility? Money would be my guess. Their official reason was that I can not establish a service connection. Where in hell have I been for the last quarter century? I was in U.S. Government care under the Department of Defense, serving in the United States Navy. My service began aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59). a ship that was known to have asbestos exposure problems. I served at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (Bldg. 475), Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, a building to have known asbestos exposure problems. Finally, I served aboard Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, and was assigned to live in a barracks that was condemned because it was known to have asbestos exposure problems. The truly sad part is that the officials at these places never told me that I was in danger. Why? My guess is money. So I sit here wondering what I would consider fair compensation from the VA. I would think that the government should grant me a service connection to the restrictive airway disease and rate my at 50% disabled. That is fair because I am 50% to blame for my exposure, i.e. I failed to protect myself. What do you think?

I have been preparing for the chess club championship. I downloaded the chess position trainer and I have been diligently working on my repertoire. So much fun. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Naval Hot Rod

I don't know about you, but I like the roar of a big radial engine. Those big piston powered monsters of yesteryear just get my blood pumping. Especially if it is on my favorite U.S. Navy fighter aircraft of all-time...the F-8F Bearcat! This is one of those aircraft that is a true hot rod. The engineers at Grumman put the biggest engine into the small aircraft and ended up with fantastic. The Bearcat was fast for a propeller driven airplane. This bird could push about 470 mph on full emergency power. That would outrun any P-51 Mustang, F4U-5 Corsair, or P-47 Thunderbolt around. The Bear was 20 percent lighter and had a 30 percent better climb rate. In fact, the Bearcat could take off in as little as 115 feet and climb to 10,000 feet in 92 seconds. That beats any modern jet fighter on take off run length and almost matches their rate of climb to 10,000 feet. Not half bad for something the was engineered in the 1940's. Long live the Bearcat!

Money Grows on Trees

I was born in a small town in up-state New York. If you went there today I suspect you wouldn't think much of it. Last time I visited it seemed just a shadow of what it had been during my youth. Maybe my view of it changed because I had during my service in the Navy. After all, I had been away for so many years. Had it really changed? Had the golden town of Dansville been just a figment of my imagination? Some sort of brainwashing that the community did unconsciously to make you think that your home town was paved in golden bricks and that money continuously grew on trees? growing on trees!

Dansville, New York 14437, was such a town where money grew on trees. Actually, on lots of trees. My great Grandpa, William Buck, started a family business of William Buck & Son, Tree Growers. Most people today might think of this as a garden center, but it was a nursery. Dansville was full of them. My Grandpa, Stanley Buck, knew more about tree growing, tree grafting, tree selling, and all things trees...more than anyone I have met in my life thus far. The whole town was like that and most worked for the "Nursery Men". My first paycheck came from William Buck & Son, earned at my Grandpa side as a bud tie-er, and the check was signed by my Uncle Charles Buck. So money did grow on the trees in Dansville!

Once upon a time Dansville had two railroad services. The first was the Dansville & Mt. Morris line. This line would run for over 100 years and made money for most of it. The second rail service was provided by the Lackawanna line (later Erie-Lackawanna). Steam locomotives (as pictured above) still chugged up the East Hill when I was born. Passengers would disembark at the depot near the Castle on the Hill, a resort hotel of some fame started in the 1800's by Dr. James Caleb Jackson. See the hotel brochure

Speaking of the Castle on the Hill ...I bet you can't tell me what one thing that was invented in Dansville that most Americans have in their kitchens? Would you believe breakfast cereal? Most Americans have at least one box of Kellogg's breakfast cereal in the cupboard at home. Here is the

Since we are on health and well being I might just as well state that Dansville, New York, is the home of the first American Red Cross. Its founder, Clara Barton, lived in Dansville for some time and her home became Chapter number one. See story here.

Yes, Dansville has lost some, if not all, of its former glory. The railroads, the castle, and the nurseries are gone. People here now work in service related jobs, with a few exceptions for the limit factory jobs available, and are near poverty. However, the town is quiet and peaceful resting amongst the hills of the Genessee Valley; same has it has been since 1790.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Mustang

Undoubtedly everyone has seen my automobile. I have a rather fetching photograph of it on My Page in My Personal Photos. Yeah, right next to my dog Esko. The story behind this car ? Well, it was purchased out of frustration and with anger. You see, I have another car...a nice Toyota Camry. However, I was stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, but the Camry was in Kansas. The Navy had me go on Temporary Additional Duty (TAD) to London, Kentucky. Transportation was provided to Kentucky, but somehow it wasn't provided for the return trip. I had 12 hours to get to Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, FL, and no way to get there! I felt that this was done on purpose. However, I had to do my duty and report on time. So I went to Interstate 75 with my sea bag over my shoulder and hitched a ride to Knoxville, Tennessee. At the Knoxville airport I rented a car (a nice Pontiac G6) and drove all the way to the Jacksonville airport. Then I caught the United Service Organization (USO) bus to NAS Jax. I reported with 2 minutes to spare! That was way to close for comfort. So I call my brother Paul (who lives in Jacksonville) and had him come get me after my duty. We went car shopping. I told him to pick a dealer and he want me to have an Acura TL, but due to road construction we detoured to a Ford dealer. I walked onto the lot and saw this pretty blue Mustang GT. I told Paul "This one...I want this one". I strutted into the show room and told them "Whoever can get me into that Mustang GT for $27,000...I will buy it tonight". Paul was aghast. After some tepid offers I finally got the price I wanted, but I would have to wait until they dealer prepped the vehicle for delivery. No, no...that won't do...TONIGHT!!! I got the price and at 11 p.m. I was tearing the factory plastic wrapping off the seats. Wow, what a nice smell. I love new cars. I tell everyone that the Mustang was a retirement gift and in a way it was. I wanted to own a Mustang GT for a long time (since childhood) and the new body style increased that longing. The car is a 2006 Ford Mustang GT Premium Coupe and was on the lot for $33,000 before tax, title, and tag. I got a good deal...$27,500 including tax, title, and tag. The runs great and is fast...super fast! I have personally gone from zero to sixty mph in just 5 seconds and have had it over...let us just say that Ford says the car will do 150 mph and that I believe that. I finally did get my dealer preparation completed 4 months after I drove away from that dealership late at night by the local Ford dealer here in Leavenworth. They love the car too.

Thanksgiving 2006

The above photo is of my son, Todd II, and me during our Thanksgiving celebration of 2006. We had many goodies on our humble table that sits in our minimized kitchen of our modest After all, how could any house that is situated along Pennsylvania Ave. be anything but a mansion? I digress. This was the first Thanksgiving that we had celebrated together in 10 years. What a shame. I was in the military all those years and had estranged my family with my absences. The last 12 years had been really rough. My son was seven years old when I was to go to work one day and not return for over 7 years. One can't imagine the sacrifice made in terms of missing those all to important bonding times, such as holidays, birthdays, and special occasions. Nobody can grasp the pain of separation that was forced upon us due to my service in the United States Navy. I'll never get those times back; and the loss is very much my own. So in a feeble attempt to at least give me son some pleasant memories to take into his adulthood, I prepared our Thanksgiving meal. We posed for this picture while my son was asking "Papa, when can we eat?" Oh, son...we have to say grace and thank God for all that we have. He was saying grace before I was ready. I wanted to stop him, but this was his day and he wanted to taste what the old man had cooked and baked. What did we have? The usual fare of: roasted turkey, whipped potatoes, sweet potato casserole, buttered green beans with ham, home made cranberry sauce, creamy turkey gravy, freshly baked buttermilk biscuits, plus beer for me and sparkling apple drink for him. Later we had the rest of the meal, which included: freshly brewed vanilla flavored coffee, pumpkin pie with vanilla bean ice cream topped with freshly whipped cream. Yes, a good meal indeed. We spent the day in grand style watching NFL Football (American style football) in front of our old television (1992 model-27 inch old school) on an even older davenport. Hell, we even went outside to the front yard to toss the pigskin during half-time. That is how Thanksgiving should be celebrated...together with ones family and enjoying the best that life can offer. Yes, even if for just one day each year. Alas, this special day won't make up for the lost time and opportunities. It doesn't make up for the pain, stress, depression, anxiety, and god knows what that my absence brought. Only time and a lot of counseling can do that...hopefully. What it did do is bring two strangers closer together. I love you Todd!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tomcat Boogie

I joined the United States Navy while I was in school. I departed for boot camp 3 days after I attended my high school graduation. What a shock! Just watch the movie "Full Metal Jacket" . This will give you a sense of what I went through. My Recruit Company Commander was a chap by the name of Pie...Petty Officer was his first name or MS1 to his friends. This guy could cuss! Every other word was profane and he would string the filthy words together in links of six to eight words. I, for one, was impressed. It is hard to admire some nasty mouth man with a horrible disposition, but I did. He did a good job and the reward for suffering through this was Quartermaster A school in Orlando, Florida. I would finally see Disney World!

Quartermaster A school lasted about 8 weeks. I was so proficient at reading charts and plotting positions that I graduated with honors. This meant that I would be given first choice of a ship from a list. I picked an aircraft carrier...mainly because my father always wanted to go aboard one and look around. Also, I thought about sea sickness a lot back then and this way I was sure I would avoid it's unpleasantness.

The USS Forrestal (CV-59) was America's first super-carrier. Built with an armored angled deck, she could launch and recover aircraft at the same time and the deck could withstand hits from hostile bombs and such. Her length was over 1,000 feet and her width was 252 feet. She carried over 80 aircraft. I was in awe of it all the day I came aboard and for weeks after. The above photo is of a F-14 Tomcat. This is how the aviators flew...on the edge. Honing their skills was a must during that era. Those days seem so distant now, but I can still go back in my mind and smell the jet exhaust and hear hear the roar of those big war birds.

The View

My view of Pennsylvania Ave. has changed. Most people would have you think the the President owns 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and can do as he pleases. Well, his power is restricted by the United States Constitution. The U. S. Congress and U.S. Supreme Court work as equal partners with the U.S. President to ensure that no one part of the United States Government becomes dominate and all powerful. This way our Representative Republic stay free from a King...or dictator. The People of the United States directly elect the members of Congress. However, We the People do not directly elect our President. It is a complicated system, but it was instituted to ensure fairness...that one state could not elect the President by itself base upon an advantage in population. However, this is not the reason my view has change...

As I look out my living room window over Pennsylvania Ave., I see a change in weather. It is cold and damp. The rain is starting again and the temperature is falling once more. So much for Global Warming! Some county in the State of Colorado reported 18 inches of snow yesterday; and we had snow just last week. My main concern is severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Kansas is know for them...just watch The wizard of Oz . I keep telling myself "It is only a movie, it's only a movie...".

Time to get my war face on and start practicing serious chess study. I have a lack of motivation to get into all those things that make the great chess players great. I am supposed to devote 20-30 minutes a day to tactical training. This means solving lots of chess problems. I am supposed to be sending 30 minutes a day for a week on an opening, which I will change each week until the Club Championship, to build a knowledgeable repertoire. This is done best by playing through several hundred games in the system I want to use. This is for each system! I should download the Chess Position Trainer . This free download promises to build, and then train you from, your choice of repertoire. Yeah, Fritz 10 was supposed to do the same thing lol. Next we are to spend about 30-45 minutes in endgame study and practice. This is best done with a position set-up on the board and working out the solution in ones head, writing it down (so you do cheat yourself), and then playing it out against the computer program Fritz 10. If you do this right the results should match your solution. If Fritz wins...back to the board for you. Finally, you have to play at least two games a day (one with each color) and analyze your results. You should do this with an eye to improving your play and improving upon the system (by finding novelties) in which you play. Yes, very hard work.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Looking Back to Last Week

If you were one of the many who wondered just how high did the water get last week have a quick look. That is the mighty Missouri river at full crest. This photo is of the River Side Park. Normally, the river is about 20 feet below lowest part of the walk way. Nice. This week the rain has stayed away and the river has gone down about 10-15 feet. My hope is that the river level stays a little high this year, but not flooded. I believe this puts an end to the drought conditions of last year.

I have a new tool in my chess arsenal. Its name is Chess Base Light and it is a free download. It come with a data base and you can upload some games systems of your own for study purposes. I like it because I can access Playchess right from it and not have to go to my notebook. Try's free!

Just to update you on my sick computer. It seems to be working once more. I have a few bugs to work out of it. There appears to be a problem because that nasty AOL wants to take over all the functions. I have denied it access to the other programs, but it works out of that somehow and it becomes the default everything. I am so angry about this. I have taken the drastic action of removing it as the dialer for Internet access. No worries! I have broadband and it if that goes down I can't get a dial -up connection because I have digital's all on the same line. One last thing. This morning I received this from Dell computers: "Greetings from Dell! Thank you for choosing Dell..." It should have read: "Greetings from Hell!.." That is all I have to say about that.

Just Beautiful

Today is one of those days. The great outdoors calls you with blue skies and moderate temperatures..."Come to me!" Yes, yes, just a minute. Why wait? That is easily answered by the above photo. As there is beauty in the natural world, there is beauty in the chess world, in a game of chess. The board is a thing of beauty (just look at it, nice) with its 64 squares, 32 light color and 32 dark color. Did you know that a chess board has 8 ranks (which cross horizontally), 8 files (which cross vertically), and 26 diagonals (of which 13 are light squares and 13 are dark squares)? All this is beauty. The chessmen are beautiful. True works of art. Did you know that there are 32 chessmen to a set? Opposing armies that consist of 16 men each for the light and dark colors. Each army has a King, Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, and 8 pawns. How about the minds that move the chessmen into pleasing patterns? They create such beauty that I sit inside my castle and watch...even as Mother Nature has given me a most beautiful of days.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Curacao 1962

In 1962, on the Island of Curacao, a legendary Candidates Tournament took place. All the big names of the chess world were present. Two of them are pictured above...Mikhail Tal and Bobby Fischer. Tal had already been World Champion (1960-1961) and Fischer was to be World Champion (1972-1975). Why are they playing in a hospital? That is easy. Tal's health had always been suspect since childhood and he suffered with a kidney disease as an adult. He became very ill during the tournament and had to be hospitalized before the start of round 22. This virtually ended his chance to challenge the current World Chess Champion this championship cycle. While in the hospital Tal didn't get many visitors. His Russian compatriots couldn't be bothered to go and cheer up poor Mikhail. However, Bobby Fischer, an American and sworn enemy of Russian chess, did! They played chess while Tal's amused doctor looked on and advised Mikhail that he should be resting and not exerting himself playing chess. Mikhail Tal died of kidney failure in 1992.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Greetings from Hell

I don't think I like computers. So much can go wrong and it usually does when you need the contraption the most. I have just such a problem. I think the world was a better place when we didn't subject ourselves to the computer related stresses. Who cared about computer crashes 100 years ago? Now I am in a tizzy because I have an appeal to the Veterans Affairs people due and it is in the computer that doesn't work. Great! I called Dell (Hell) to get answers and nothing. Zip. I get on my notebook (a very nice issues) and finally chat with a technical guy. After doing this all day and after 3 different chat sessions...nothing. Zip!

I wanted to write about the flooding and how the police harassed those who wish to just view the water, but it can't be. I would have liked to up-date you on my chess studies too. I wish to talk about trains and things...alas I can't. Not when the Dell (Hell) computer is in need of fixing!

The chopper chat

Late last night I received a call from a my good friend, Father Carroll Thorne. It seems that he wanted my company for breakfast. So early this morning I went to meet him at the Price Chopper (A local supermarket). He was glad I came and asked me question after question, "What would you like for breakfast?" I thinking of biscuits and scrambled eggs, Father. " meat? You realize Lent is over, don't you?" Yes, Father. The meat hurts my stomach. "You should get that checked a Doctor!" Yes, Father! So our friendship goes. He talks and I listen. He is an older gentleman who has seen his share of horrors in the Philippines (He was removed by General Marcos for telling the Dole Plantation workers to raise and stand up for there rights) and while serving with the United States Army in such places as Viet Nam and Iraq. Now he is the Roman Catholic Priest for the United States Disciplinary Barracks (Military Prison). I see he is tired and he explains that there had been some "business" at the prison. He talks and I listen. This is how it should be. The elders passing on their wisdom to the respectfully listening youths. I speak only when an answer is expected from me. He shares his knowledge without condescension and I learn without intervention. A mutually agreeable relationship! No power struggle at all. We both enjoy our station. I wish my son would understand this type of relationship between men.

It is Friday. Supposedly, I am going to The Chess Club in Kansas City, Missouri, to play tonight. I regularly do this so I can get lessons from our local Master, Life National Master Ron Luther. However, on Saturday there is a ratings only tournament. I would like to play in it for training, but I don't want to lose rating points by having to play against much stronger opposition. One can't imagine the agony of chess. You must play to get better, but your ego and emotions are tied into each game. One silly-stupid-wrong move during critical game with a higher rated opponent and it is game over!! You're left feeling naked and exposed, feelings raw, emotions running high and wild. This is the roller-coaster ride of chess. You start off safe and climb higher with each win. Very soon you climb as high as you can and now there is only place to go...down. Crashing down into a depression where your ego is crushed and your confidence trampled. Some people fail recover from this and will not play rated games again. That is why preparation is so important. Study + Practice = Results.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

30 feet high and rising!

Today it rained off and on. I was wondering who was going to stop it. I know in the end God will, but that may be after 40 days and 40 nights. I decided to go for a long walk, and this led me to downtown Leavenworth. Man, they have everything here! Such as: stores, bars, train depots (as in two of them), and a train that comes along several times each day. What more could a man ask for? Naturally, I had to see the train and the Wye is runs along the Missouri river. The easiest access is at the Leavenworth Landing (a waterfront park), which is co-located with the old Union Pacific depot (two birds with a single stone!). As I approached the Landing I notice something a wee bit odd: Hmmm...I don't seem to recall those sandbags ever being there? No they are something new. Also new was that the river has risen about 30 feet and has claimed or reclaimed some property. The above photo was taken in January at the Landing. If you look across the river to the far bank you find a barren area above the river with trees above that. Since I have resided here, that has always been the scene. Today? The water covers the barren area and is half way up the trees and is still rising. You can not stand where the photo was taken either. The police have made that a crime I guess it comes in handy when they need to tape off an area. The water is mere inches from spilling over and flooding the park and parts of downtown Leavenworth, Kansas. I watched the water rage by for quite awhile and heard over the police radio that Missouri Department of Transportation had closed Missouri 92 and Missouri 45. Those are the roads that take you to Kansas City, Missouri, and they are now flooded. As I stood there the rain started and the sandbagging became more urgent. I looked up at the heavens and silently, but sarcastically, asked God: What more could you do to make this day more perfect? My answer came almost Union Pacific train sounded its horn and rolled on by.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Retirement Home

I have a question for you. Have you ever wanted to retire to a nice home in the country? How about a manor on the lake with a view of rolling hills? Better still...snow covered mountains? Yep, I had the same dream! Feast your eyes on this beauty I found. Before you laugh, I want you to know that I worked hard for 26 years serving my great nation, and this is all my pension allows. It is where the magic happens. As you gaze into the windows (I don't recommend you really do that...perverts) of my 816 square foot mansion; you will find me busy at the computer doing something mightily important. What pray tell? Lots of stuff. Today, I was really at it paying the bills that my sumptuous life style produces. I am afraid that I will soon have to let the help go. Good thing that he turns 18 years old in about 16 months. Wouldn't like to put him on the street before that, but I would dare say that he is likely to eat better there. Also, I was at the chess thingy watching two players duke it out. You know things are pathetic when your entertainment is watching Chess...or Golf...or Bowling. However, I was hoping to learn something useful from the Grandmasters at work. You see, the game is really complicated. All this talk about Static features and Dynamic features and Imbalances of a chess game is enough to make your head swim. The Masters of the game, in particular, the Grandmasters, make it look easy. Way to easy. They would have you thinking "Yeah, I can play like that". Then some non-master comes along and starts with "Everyone knows...". Oh, uhm...I don't...are you sure? To make matters worse, once you learn something as a rule, one must realize that it is only a guide. There are exceptions...lots of them. Just as in life.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Freedom isn't Free

I need help. I need help financially. I need help financially and physically. I need help financially, physically, and mentally. I just need plain help! As a Naval Veteran of many military actions (Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Granada, El Salvador, Panama, and the Gulf War I) I have seen my share of horrors. If you add pulling dead bodies out of the sea, looking down the barrel of a weapon as it is discharged, putting a graves registration card on a dead Marine who had more holes in him than Swiss cheese, almost drowning in the line of duty, and countless other episodes that left emotional wonder I need help. I did retired from the U.S. Navy and I do draw a decent pension with benefits. What the Navy doesn't cover the Department of Veterans Affairs does...or is supposed to. That is where a service organization comes in. They fight to get you the help you need. I choose the Disabled American Veterans to represent me in my claims of disability to the VA. My services representative was helpful, efficient, knowledgeable, and most of all looking out for me. I am now rated at 30 percent disabled directly connected to my military service; and that is only round one. The DAV representative tells me it could and should be higher based on my 13 service connected disabilities. Yes, I need help! I need all the help and support and love y'all can give because I gave myself, the best years of my life, in the service of our nation. It's true...Freedom isn't Free!

Peace be with you

I like the scene. It reminds me of my peaceful days I lived on the shores of the Holy Loch while I was stationed in Scotland. The snow covered mountains, the crystal clear water, the refreshingly pure cold air, the people, and even the rain...gave me peace. Just as a Sunday morning Mass does. Peace be with you! Why do I bring this up? Well, a couple of things. I started the morning off with sweeping and swabbing the wooden deck (the floor) on the house. This was followed by doing the laundry, which included the sheets and pillowcase of my bed. Anyone who has done this knows that danger lurks behind every corner and today my feather pillow exploded. BOOM! Feathers all over my freshly done floor. Peace be with you! Next it was on to my chess studies. I cranked up my trusty laptop and connected to and found a willing partner in crime. That is what I will call this game. Criminal! Oh, it started out in a nice Scotch that has nothing to do with a bottle of whiskey or the photo. This opening is how I get an advantage with the white pieces when black meets my 1.e4 with 1...e5. So it start thus: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 and then black is supposed to play 2...Nc6 and I continue with 3.d4! In this game black decides on the Philidor's Defense and plays: 2...d6. Okay, I get it. My response is the same 3. d4! , but this opponent has to be a smarty pants and plays the weak 3...f6? and with 4.Bc4 I have better development and initiative, which gives me at least a pawn worth of advantage! So the game progressed until I lost some material...hung it actually. Now we are even again in material, but I maintain my three pawn advantage in positional considerations. How is any of this criminal? I finally missed a mate in 11 moves and then I missed a mate in 7 moves and then I capped it all off with a missed mate in 4 moves! How that happens is any ones guess? Yes, I won...a win is a win. I did dominated my opponent with 22 pawns worth of advantage by this time. However, it left me ill at ease. Peace be with you! So I am left here in my retirement wondering if I should continue to study my chess, read a book, go watch TV, cook supper, chat with friends on line, do some work in the garden (lawn), or forget everything and go to sleep. Decisions, decisions. I say this: "If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart". Peace be with you!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Kansas weather leads to home improvement

Today is one of those days. Late last night I went to my basement to get some clothes and bottled water before I retired for the evening. Everything was fine and secure and it remained thus until I went to bed. In fact, the only thing that was going on was this line of severe weather which was coming into Leavenworth from the South at 50 mph. This weather system was to remain in place for the next 8 hours, but small chance it was going to produce a tornado; so beddy bye I went. So guess what awaited me this morning? That is correct...a new indoor swimming pool! Hey, Little Todd! Yes, Papa? Come quick, we won a new pool!! New pool? What the hell? Pool? Surprise, surprise. My basement was flooded and the water was rising. At this rate the deep end would be about 6 feet in a couple of hours. Crap! I can't handle this at half-four in the morning (Sobbing). God, if you help me I promise to go to church (more sobbing). What I need is action. So I donned my Marine Corps Drill Sargent attitude: Look here sweet best un-eff yourself before I rip out your eyes and skull eff you! That got my son's attention. Private Toss off, bring your sorry ass down here...and start sweeping! It brought back fond memories of boot camp. In this manner, all hands commenced the de-watering evolution. It would be some hours later when it secured...long after the Private had to force march to school. Enjoy the photo.

I just want everyone to know that the harsh language in the story was for dramatic effect and a bit of military humor only. I can neither confirm, nor deny, that such language was used; and if I did have such knowledge, I would not be at liberty to discuss it with personnel without their having a need to know.

Kansas City Area Chess

This photograph was taken in The Chess Club in Riverside (Think Kansas City), Missouri. It depicts the scene and action of a tournament in progress. What is missing is the ticking of the chess clocks...tic, toc, tic, toc! It is maddening to listen to. What you can't see is the nervous-worried-anxiety filled faces, the fingers running obsessively through ones hair, and the various twitches of the body that is a result of concentration and frantic thought. This was very much the scene on Saturday during the April Rating Only tournament.

My tournament didn't go as planned. First I was late getting out of the house, as I couldn't leave with out my my chess books and things. Then the traffic was heavy for some reason. I arrived before the tournament started, but I wanted about an hour to look through my preparation. This was more like ten minutes. My first opponent was much stronger than I. To make it worse, I would have to play with the black pieces and hold on for dear life. It began at 10 a.m. with the call to start the clocks...tic, toc, tic, toc! Walker-Forbes: 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 Nc6 (better 3...d5!) 4. cxd4 Nf6 5. e5 Nd5 6. Bc4 e6 7. Nc3 Nxc3 (black can get a slight plus with 7...d6) 8. bxc3 Be7 9. Nf3 0-0 10. Bd3 d5 11. h4 a6?? ....Oh, that hurt! I was thinking about controlling the square b5 and about freeing my light square Bishop. What I should of been doing is creating threats with 11...Qa5. This would have kept the game even and even gave my chances to win if white misplays. Instead I allow a mating attack and would resign on move 20. This was to be my only loss and my only game as black.

After reviving myself with a Chinese buffet, 3 cups of coffee, and a brisk walk. I came to my next game with a clear head. I had the white pieces. This would be the pattern for the next two games and I would play almost the same way. My second game of the day started at 1 p.m. and was over in about 30 minutes. His name was Daniel and he was new to the chess scene. He started our game fine, but on move 7 he started moving pieces twice and soon I had an attack the Bobby Fischer would have approved of...sac, sac, mate! Daniel would go on to lose all three of his games this day. Sorry Dan!

My third and last game started at 4 p.m. and I faced a higher rated opponent. This too would be a Sicilian. My first game was in the Smith-Morra Gambit variation, my second game was in the Njadorf variation, and now....the feared Dragon variation! I played the Yugoslav Attack and missed a win on move 15. Instead of playing 15. Bxg5 I should have played 15. h6! and my attack would have been irresistible. We agreed on a draw after move 50. My score for the tournament: 1.5/3 +1 -1 =1. So I had a dead even day and felt okay with the results. I even got a small boost in my rating.

Those of you that are really curious as to my chess career can go to the site and click on schedules, then click on USCF tournaments, find the April RO and click on reports. This takes you to the USCF ratings site and again click on April RO and find my name and click on it. That gives my whole tournament history and rating. If you want to view one of my games? Instead of schedule, you click on games/reports. Find the Kansas City Open and click on it. This takes you to a viewer and if you will find my name on the left hand side and click on it will bring up one of my games.

Friday, May 4, 2007

All in a week's work

Okay, this is the type of thing I have to look at all day! Does anyone recognize this position? I can give a clue. This position was once in a James Bond movie! Helpful, isn't it? LOL. I am supposed to be studying for my chess club's championship, which will be played in June. Unfortunately, I can't seem to get it together this week. I am on line at Playchess, as I write, waiting to play a practice game. Then it is off to analyze the results and work on my short comings. Additionally, there is tactical training and endgame studies and more practice games. This is a never ending cycle. Oh, I haven't even started to mention all that goes into a tournament game of chess. That is why I decided to try writing about it. So I can vent a little and so people can read about my trials. I won't just write about chess. I am retired from the U.S. Navy with over 26 years of service...some of which was very interesting, educational, and very much a bunch of crap. Those of you who know me know what I am referring to. Just so nobody misunderstands, I served proudly and often recommend service in the Navy. It is the curse of any organization that I refer to: Political Back Stabbers. You know the type. Saving themselves by throwing someone else overboard. Also, I love going to amusement parks and riding the tallest and scary-est roller-coasters around, but I also like those drop rides as well. There is nothing like a free fall feeling from about 200 feet up!!!

I need a new place to call home

I am starting a blog here. In the next couple of days I will start to bring my blog over from another site that no longer meets my needs. Please come back and visit me from time to time and I am sure you will enjoy my story.