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Comment: Re:Top chess players are douchebags (Score 1) 295

by rnj (#35643690) Attached to: Top French Chess Players Suspended For Cheating

Well Fischer was ... problematic going back to at least the early 60s (quitting the Reshevsky match, complaints about being cheated at the candidates, walking out [while leading] the Interzonal. And other incidents).

But as you say, that hardly covers everybody. The top players I've met are old names now. Walt Browne could be difficult to be around. Bill Lombardi was occasionally a poor loser. But any number of them were perfect gentleman. I saw Pal Benko lose to a player 2 classes below him with perfect grace as a for instance. Wasn't pleasant for Benko but he knew it was a big deal for the guy who beat him and he gave him a graceful post-mortem.

Paul Keres thanked me for giving him an interesting game (which he won easily enough) during an exhibition. Nothing remarkable about this -- Keres had been doing exhibitions for more than 30 years at that point -- but it sure made my day.

Comment: Re:idiotic male-female comparison (Score 1) 214

by rnj (#34702634) Attached to: Record Set For World's Youngest Chess Champion

It's true that there is simply a larger pool of male chess players.

How about bridge though. No shortage of female players at the casual level or the club level or the tournament level.

There are plenty of decent female professionals.

There are very few who would be ranked in the top 20 or so in their country. In the US, Helen Sobel would have been on the short list of best players in the US in her prime. And it was a lengthy prime. I don't think many would rank her above Shenken, but most would rank her above Charles Goren (her frequent partner).

Dorothy Hayden formed a very strong partnership with B. J. Becker (a superb player who formed very strong partnerships with a pretty fair number of partners) for a few years (Becker would represent the US with a different partner a few years later. Hayden started to play primarily in women's events). Since then the only woman to represent the US at a top level was paying 5 world class players to support her (not that she's alone in buying a world title. More than a few men have done the same thing)

Comment: Re:Powerpoint in the military (Score 1) 194

by rnj (#33425840) Attached to: PowerPoint Rant Costs Colonel His Job

The best presentation I've ever seen was from James Martin -- long before powerpoint

He used 3 projectors and two whiteboards and kept what he felt mattered to his current point up there

The white boards were invaluable in allowing him to add detail on the fly in response to questions from the audience

Comment: Re:Law? (Score 1) 275

by rnj (#33373250) Attached to: Nokia Siemens Sued For Providing Monitoring Equipment To Iran

The problem with option 3 is two-fold.

1. The war continues elsewhere. The quoted allied casualty figures I'd seen were 7,000 per week. Seems high to me, but there was some pretty nasty fighting going on in China, elsewhere in southeast Asia, plus kamikaze attacks on the US fleet.

You're condemning the Japanese to slow death by starvation. There's no reason to believe they even contemplated giving up. (Yes, a few senior people did, but they had no power to put their views into place and would almost certainly have been killed if they'd tried)

As to some form of negotiated settlement as opposed to the demand for unconditional surrender, you have to understand that there was a widely held belief that the root cause of World War II was the ambiguity in the end of WWI. Not going to happen again, the defeated side was going to have to accept that they were beaten. No "we were tricked" or "we were let down by the politicians"

Comment: Re:Apples and oranges? (Score 1) 133

by rnj (#33191712) Attached to: Chess Ratings — Move Over Elo

Probably too late but ...

Elo is predictive in terms of tournament standings (as long as we're talking established ratings. Any kind of provisional rating and ... well it's better than nothing, but Elo felt that provisional ratings were only accurate to within 20 or so points). My point though was that when you're talking specifically head to head they are much less so.

Styles make fights in boxing and the same seems to be largely true in chess

Comment: Re:Apples and oranges? (Score 1) 133

by rnj (#33151378) Attached to: Chess Ratings — Move Over Elo

I'm sure you're aware that "should" is not the same as "will". I've played in events where a grandmaster has lost to a mere expert. (And then there's the whole issue of draws as well as specifics of style match-ups. In team competitions it's not unusual to carry specialists. Guys who are good at getting wins with black against weaker opposition for instance)

The old USCF formula was ((Wins-Losses)/Games)*400. ELO is more complex, but this still gives a pretty good sense of the meaning of any ratings difference. It takes a fairly long time for a rating difference as small as 10 points to show up head to head.

The biggest problem with any rating system is with rapidly improving (usually young) players. The current relative rank may well be wildly off for the current player's actual ability level.

Comment: Re:Emphatic Agreement (Score 1) 91

by rnj (#33005934) Attached to: R In a Nutshell

Sean Forman (the guy who built baseball-reference.com) is by no means rich. But he was able to walk away from a tenured professorship (Math).

If you're talking the guys who compile the raw data, they're basically people who like to keep score while they watch the game. I know several people who are scorers for Stats (speaking of which, the guy who started that company made millions) or other data sources.

Then there are the people who are transcribing the historical data at retrosheet. These are all volunteers who love the fact that we now can get play by play results for the distant past (pretty much complete since the early 1970s, well over 90% complete going back to the early 50s and spotty before then. Though the 1920 are pretty much complete)

Comment: Re:Shaking in Ottawa (Score 1) 560

by rnj (#32683462) Attached to: 5.5 Earthquake Hits Canada; Felt in US Midwest, New England
Also in Ottawa. I noticed that some fairly senior people (some with some involvement in disaster response) were surprised by the difficulty in getting cell phone service. Wouldn't be at all surprised to find that there are some official plans being revised. There seemed to be an unstated assumption that cell phone communication would be available.

Comment: Re:Slaveowners' Rebellion (Score 1) 857

by rnj (#32294002) Attached to: California Moves To Block Texas' Textbook Changes

They're not traitors if they've got the right to secede, which they did.

This was a more or less permanent discussion point in the ACW newsgroups. Suffice it to say that many people didn't believe this to be true (Lincoln among them), and now there's a Supreme Court ruling that (almost certainly) makes it untrue. (Texas v White, which includes the following, "What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?")

Whether this makes the use of force to keep a state in the union against the will of its people is a separate point.

On the other hand, support for secession wasn't close to universal, and may not have even been the majority; it was primarily the rich slave-owning land-holders who were represented in government.

True enough in one sense, but aside from West Virginia and a few other spots I think there's pretty fair evidence of popular support. I can't think of a state that seceded that wouldn't have voted that way in a truly free and fair vote on the matter. And Lincoln went to some pretty extreme measures to prevent Maryland from voting on the matter.

Not that there was any prospect of seeing what we'd regard as a free and fair vote in much of the South at this time.

Comment: Re:"greedy airlines" (Score 1) 673

by rnj (#32019682) Attached to: Was Flight Ban Over Ash an Overreaction?

Since when is wanting to make a profit and stay in business greedy?

It is when the way to "stay in business" is to rely on taxpayer funded bailouts.

A good chunk of their loss (at least in Europe) is from government mandated payouts to the passengers who were grounded. I can certainly see a case for recovering that part. The opportunity cost is just tough luck.

This is the second major flight disruption in 10 years. Why don't airlines have their own insurance against this, if they are paragons of business sense? I don't owe the airlines a profit. If they get a bailout, they'll rely on bailouts always being available, i.e. they'll rely on *me* paying for their insurance.

What makes you think they can get insurance on this at something close to affordable rates? Or even get it in the first place. I know a lot of the secondary players (who you could pass some of the risk on to) have been driven out. I wouldn't be eager to be (potentially) facing this kind of payout.

Comment: Re:Customer of Size? (Score 1) 940

by rnj (#31147998) Attached to: Southwest Declares Kevin Smith Too Fat To Fly
They're just taking their cue from Tom Lehrer. From the intro to "It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier" I have only comparatively recently emerged from the United States army so that I am now of course in the radio-active reserve and, the usual jokes about the army aside, one of the many fine things one has to admit is the way that the army has carried the American democratic ideal to its logical conclusion in the sense that not only do they prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, and color, but also on the grounds of ability.

Comment: Re:Mental illness is no laughing matter (Score 1) 421

by rnj (#29605993) Attached to: Jack Thompson Sues Facebook For $40M

In the UK the courts can declare somebody a vexatious litigant which requires them to apply to the court for leave to make an application to the court. Is there something similar in the US? It's rare, but I remember reading of one guy so designated. Can't find confirmation of this story (iirc he was based some place in New England). I did however stumble across a case where Scientology was cited for abuse of the US legal system. Shocker.

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