Bobby Fisher was a sensation when he was defeating defending champion Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship. The political overtones were delicious. The youthful Fisher was trying to become the first American to win the title and dethrone the Russians who had dominated for the previous 24 years. After losing the first game, Fisher dug the hole deeper by forfeiting the second game in a protest over playing conditions. Eventually he prevailed 12.5 to 8.5. Now 46 years later, another American is fighting for the same title. Fabiano Caruana seems to be getting scant attention. Perhaps he will be a bigger deal if he wins or stirs up trouble the way Fisher always did. Too bad he is playing against a Norwegian instead of a Russian. Especially since Donald Trump would certainly support a Russian over the son of an Italian woman (Carauna has dual citizenship although I am waiting for The Donald to authenticate his birth certificate). The first eight games have all been draws which also strangles excitement. The Grand Masters have reduced Chess to known outcomes just as my grandchildren and I can routinely play tic-tac-toe to a draw. I retired from Chess after I realized you had to be smart to play it and that you could not take back moves in tournaments. For awhile I just played myself but I always lost because I could never remember how the horses move.


Random Gravity Checks

I was in my early 60’s when I last strapped on skis. I was a poor skier so was elated when I managed to avoid falling all day by concentrating and avoiding black runs. I finally hit the gentle run out at the base of Crystal Mountain. I stood up on my skis with poles dangling and relaxed as I proudly coasted on the almost flat terrain. Until I lost my balance and fell over backward and hit my head so hard that I thought about wearing a helmet the next time. But I came to my senses and gave away my skis instead. I never learn, though. Recently in California, I made my way carefully down several stories of stairs from a rooftop hotel restaurant. I was concentrating because I have been nursing a left knee injury for a couple months. I felt victory when I finally made it to the last couple of steps. I promptly fell to the lobby floor. My attempt to protect my bad knee resulted in an injury to the other one. I attracted commotion from bystanders and the man at the front desk. They backed off when I growled that I was okay even though I had absolutely no idea if I was. I struggled up while mumbling, “my fault.” Apparently I was generously releasing the hotel from any liability despite the more pressing issues of pain and humiliation. Luckily my wife was in the restroom so I avoided an ambulance ride. Apparently I will never learn not to relax too early. But I definitely understand that pride comes before a fall.

Orderly Chaos

My youngest sister generously organized the pictures and memorabilia from our Mother’s estate and distributed it to the remaining siblings as Thanksgiving approached. Much of it was familiar but I was surprised by some items I did not recall at all. A homemade cardboard sign stated, “Please do not move anything or put anything on this desk. Thank you.” The “please” was underlined. I wondered why that sign had been saved and given to me until I flipped it over. In my handwriting was the following note: “Please feel free to move things on this desk and add whatever you would like to the general shambles. Thank you.” I had underlined several words. I wonder if the sign survived with the photos because my Mother was amused by my impertinence. Or if it was just flipped back over with a shrug of annoyance and was quickly buried under piles of paper that my Mom carefully cultivated under the pretense that some order existed on that desk. In a twist of poetic justice, I am now using the original sign on my den desk in a last desperate attempt to keep my wife, youngest son, and a couple of grandchildren from messing with my stuff.

Cleaning Karaoke

The second rule of cleaning is to sing happy or inspirational songs while working. I do not know who makes these rules. I sing the blues when I clean which is not that often because someone usually takes away my cleaning supplies to make me stop singing. My strategy would be brilliant if it caused said someone to finish the chores. But the only outcome is that my singing causes filth to build up. I do have just enough experience not to mess with the first rule of cleaning: Do not ever use the toilet brush as the microphone.

People Engineering

When I worked in Human Resources, I supported Aerospace Engineers for many years. I witnessed debates among the many factions, e.g., Structures, Wings, Propulsion, Guidance and Control, Aerodynamics, and Robotics. Each of those functions could lay claim to being the most important part of the incredible process of designing massive machines to fly people and baggage through the sky. By nature, engineers are good at making powerful analytical cases. Any one of them could prove their own primacy, even if it meant reducing logic to the absurd. This really serves as another reminder of how true greatness is attained by the success of others around us. A quarterback is only as good as his offensive line and a wide receiver is only as good as his quarterback. I was considered a water boy because I was a People Engineer. At least I unified all the other engineers in joint dissatisfaction over their wages, benefits, and working conditions. So maybe I was more like a cheerleader.

RuPaul Rules

RuPaul’s book GuRu contains many rules for living that I will never need like: “Always wear high heels, because flats are for quitters.” RuPaul’s recommendation to avoid dumb people may not be a suggestion for me but rather a strategy for dealing with people like me. Ru says trying to educate dumb people or prove your own superiority is not as good an idea as smiling and avoiding them. I did not realize how many people are listening to GuRu RuPaul until I noticed that everyone seems to be smiling and avoiding me. Eventually I found some of his advice that I could use: “If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.”

Chewing the Fat

The actress Katy Mixon recently informed People Magazine that her pet peeve was people who chew with their mouth open. She has obviously not given enough thought to her peeve. How am I supposed to talk while I am eating if I am not allowed to open my mouth? I have tried it and it just does not work.

Parental Fame

Julia Roberts was recently quoted in Harper’s Bazaar magazine explaining the reaction of her children when they began to realize she was a celebrity. Apparently their initial question was: “Are you more famous than Taylor Swift?” I would be interested in Julia’s answer. The moment is surely a sweet one for both the mother and her children. Even Taylor Swift gets to enjoy it. I was able to experience the opposite reaction when my children became aware that I was not very important to the outside world. My father (their grandfather) had a high profile job so comparisons were inevitable. Eventually I was required to confirm that my job was not considered a big deal to anyone else. Theoretically I had some time left to find fame but even infamy has been elusive. And I can no longer count on my Blog going viral!

Weasley Teasing

The November issue of Real Simple magazine has a headline, “Teasing can bring a family together.” Vanessa Zoltan, a Research Assistant at the Harvard Divinty School, cites the Weasley family in the Harry Potter books as a good example of parents and siblings using teasing as a way of saying, “I love you.” She claims teasing reveals the intimacy of knowing family weaknesses without pushing hard enough to hurt someone. I was going to send it to my sisters before that last caveat about not taking it too far. That opens up potential debate over incidents better left buried. But the article makes me feel better. My defense of sibling teasing used to be that I was left unsupervised but now I have a Harvard Divinity school thesis to rely on. I regret not being in the Weasley family where my “I love you” efforts would be applauded. My first mission as a Weasley would be to riff on our surname until I could secure enough family votes to change it.


Everybody knows that 1729 is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways (1 cubed plus 12 cubed or 9 cubed plus 10 cubed). The integer 1729 is even celebrated with it’s own fancy name derived from the surnames of the people who reported and discovered its famous property: the Hardy-Ramanujan number. But the second smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways (4104) languishes in nameless obscurity. We are all about winners and firsts. Who ever quotes what Pete Conrad said when he took his most important step? Who is Jim Edmonds? He is 32nd on the list of batters who have struck out the most in Major League Baseball games. He whiffed 1729 times.