Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Economic Indicators

  On my vacation last week, I hadn’t driven at all until Black Friday when I drove 2 miles to Staples so my son Ben could get a 23” monitor for his computer. If you happened to go to the Marshalltown,Iowa Staples on Black Friday, you'd have to think the economy was awful since the place was mostly empty and the only way they could even simulate a crowd was to make everyone wait in line forever to get out of there.

Not much of a crowd at 6:15 am on Black Friday at the Marshalltown, Iowa Staples.
I got up early, but managed to catch up on my sleep waiting in the line.

  On Saturday I drove 55 miles to play chess at Zanzibar’s in Des Moines. On my way back from Des Moines last Saturday, I saw that gas at the Git ‘n Go in Bondurant was 2.98 a gallon. I was not prepared to see a price under $3 a gallon and sped past the station, but recovered my senses to make a left turn at the next light to fill up at Casey’s for the same $2.98 a gallon. Both gas stations in Bondurant always charge a penny less than gas in Des Moines and gas was $3.15 in Marshalltown so it seemed like a bargain.

  I think the economy must be pretty bad for gas to be less than $3 a gallon and even though the low gas prices will spur the economy, increased economic activity will cause more oil consumption, which will raise the price of gas, which will choke off economic recovery. A big part of the low gas prices is the economic problems in Europe where the governments of Greece, Italy, and Spain are having a hard time borrowing the money they need to pay for their deficit spending. This has made the dollar more valuable than the Euro and keeps the price of commodities that are controlled by third parties like gold and oil high low in dollars and high in euros.

Gasoline is $2.98 a gallon and milk $3.79.
Why doesn't anyone care how much a barrel of milk costs?
Are we running out of cows?

  Despite the low price of gas, the price of food continues to go up and up. After I filled up my car with $3 a gallon gas, I went into the Casey’s coffee refill. I paid 75 cents for 20 ounces of coffee which works out to 6 dollars a gallon. I also checked out the price of milk and it was $3.79 a gallon. Maybe instead of ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’, the republicans could chant ‘Moo, Baby, Moo’ or maybe even ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ if they can get the rights. It shouldn’t be too surprising to see the price of milk, hamburger, and meat so high when we are using the corn the cows would be eating as fuel.

  The stock market seems to be right in the middle of where it has been over the last year, making me think the economy is balanced like a see-saw that can’t decide which way to tip. Intel gained 30% between September and November to hit a multi-year high and just as quickly shed 10% in the last 2 weeks. The unemployment rate should be a good economic indicator, but it has become politicized so much as to be useless. When the unemployment rate goes down it is either good news because more people have jobs or it is bad news because people have given up on even trying to get a job and are not counted as unemployed. Likewise, when unemployment goes up it could be a bad sign because companies are laying off or really good news because the people who brought the rate down by stopping their job search are back looking for jobs. It reminds me of the George Orwell novel ‘1984’ where the chocolate ration is decreased from 30 to 20 grams a month and the ‘News Ministry’ busily changes all references to the 30 gram ration in order to praise Big Brother for increasing the ration to 20 grams.

  I’m trying to decide which way the economy is heading and since the standard indicators aren’t being very helpful, I’ve fallen back on the 3 best economic indicators I know of, all of which can be discerned with my eyes and ears. Here are my findings:

  My number one economic indicator is the LCI (Loose Change Index). This is the indicator my father taught me, which is how much loose change can be found lying around. 6 months ago, I found pennies laying on the ground during our walks with Daisy and Baxter on a regular basis, but over the last month finding loose change has been the exception rather than the rule. To me, this is a downward economic indicator since when times are good no one bothers to pick up any change that falls out of their pockets but when times are bad, not only do people have less change to spill, whatever coins do manage to hit the ground are quickly scooped up by the rest of us.

  My next indicator is the CI (Can Index), which has 2 separate measures. First is how many cans and bottles I see laying around on the street when we walk Daisy and Baxter and the second measure is how many people we see trolling for cans by surveying the streets and garbage cans on these walks. This indicator is giving me mixed signals. We’ve seen a normal amount of cans and bottles on the street waiting for their deposit to be claimed, but other than Shirley there hasn’t been anyone looking for the cans or bottles. I see Shirley picking through the garbage cans on Main Street almost every Sunday and haven’t seen her pull out a can in a month.

Loose change, cans, and bottles seem to be in short supply, but my crack researchers report that the supply of thrown away trash on the streets of Marshalltown is never ending. The rising Garbage Index indicates increasing disposable income to go along with the disposable merchandise.

  My third and last indicator is the GI (Garbage Index). This is how much garbage I see on the street when I’m walking the dogs. Since Daisy and Baxter find plenty of fast food wrappers, Chinese takeout trays, and chicken and rib bones on the street, this indicator leads me to believe the economy is picking up. This week they even found a Walgreen’s cup on the corner and a tube of toothpaste by the house a block away that has a garage sale every weekend. When the pigs of the world not only able to afford fast food wrappers to litter the landscape, but they can also throw away household supplies, that is a sure sign of plenty.

  My predictors are as mixed as the mainstream economic indicators with 1.5 up and 1.5 down, but I’m predicting an economic down turn based on a new store that has opened on Main Street called Valuables 4 Cash. It is ostensibly a coin shop, but will also be buying and selling gold and silver jewelry. The owner stated that he was drawn to the location by its close proximity to the ‘Purple Cherry’ yogurt shop. I can see all the little kids stealing grandma’s earrings, selling them at ‘Valuables 4 Cash’, and then getting a yogurt with M & M’s or Reese’s Pieces across the street.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vacation at Zanzibar’s

  I was home all week on vacation and as I wrote last week, I had 9 days off, some books I wanted to read, a website I wanted to write, some beagles I wanted to walk, and some chess I wanted to play.

  I spent about 3 hours a day for 5 days working on my website. I bought a domain on Monday, uploaded the site on Wednesday, debugged some issues on Thursday and Friday, and is a reality. It’ll be nice to have my own piece of the internet to publicize tournaments and post reports and articles. I’ve been using the IASCA website for this, but it seems hypocritical of me to use their site for publicity at the same time as not liking how they portray my efforts in their broadcast emails. I designed the site to be data driven, but with only a few focused pages I’ll be able to keep the site updated in a timely manner without spending too much time maintaining it. Of course, a project like this tends to take on a life of its own. In the future, I want to add a photo page instead of using and I have an idea to allow users to upload chess games that can only be viewed by people they designate, but these types of improvements can wait. Now that the site has been up for a bit and I’ve been able to look at it a little more critically, I’ve identified a few enhancements for the next time I have a few hours on my hands.

  I followed the final rounds of the Tal Memorial super tournament from Moscow on the Internet Chess Club, where the World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen and No. 3 Lev Aronian shared first place. The top US player Hikaru Nakamura had a disastrous tournament, finishing last and dropping out of the World top 10. I hope the poor result is just the result of Nakamura’s adjusting to his new coach, former world champion Garry Kasparov. If Nakamura fails to emerge as a serious contender for the world championship, will his millionaire benefactor Rex Sinquefield feel as if his support of US Chess is just good money after bad? Time will tell.

  We got Daisy and Baxter out for walks 4 or 5 times every day, walking at least 3 miles every day, and more on Friday when we took 3 separate walks for beef stick treats. When I wasn’t walking the dogs or working on the web site, I was reading my chess books. I started with the Yuri Averbakh memoir, “Center-Stage and Behind the Scenes”. Yuri Averbakh was a Soviet Grandmaster, trainer, and arbiter (umpire) from the 1940’s to the 2000’s. His career spanned the Stalin purges, World War II, the rise of Soviet chess to world dominance, the decline of Botvinnik and the loss of the world title to Bobby Fisher, the rise of Karpov and the defection of Kortchnoi, the Karpov-Kasparov battles, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the split between Kasparov and FIDE. There aren’t any games in the book, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t read anything else until I finished it on Wednesday. This isn’t a book for the non-chess player or a young chess player, but for someone like me who grew up reading about the great Soviet players (and is of Russian heritage, by the way), the book is a fascinating look at the chess world through the prism of the Soviet system where everything from being assigned to play in a foreign tournament, getting an a apartment bigger than 144 square feet for 4 people, and staying out of the purges of the 30’s and 40’s took political maneuvering and a lot of luck.

  As I expected, I didn’t get very far with "1001 Checkmate Combinations". It is a dense book, but it does look like a lot of fun and focuses on checkmates with a piece or a combination of specific pieces per chapter. I’m about a third of the way through "Lessons with a Grandmaster" by Boris Gulko, but I don’t think it’s doing me very much good. It is a collection of 24 of former US and USSR champion Gulko’s games as explained to ‘A’ player and psychologist Joel Sneed. The games themselves are interesting enough, but when Gulko explains a move with comments like ’29…Na4? Will be met by 30.Rd4 and Black loses his advantage’, it doesn’t help me too much because I’m not sure why one side even has the advantage, much less why said advantage is lost. I don’t think the problem is the book, I’m just not good enough of a player to understand it.

  I had been playing a chess game on against Ben Tessman. Ben is from the Des Moines area and I’ve met him at a couple of tournaments over the years. Ben is an improving player who also blogs on under his handle of ‘SirBenjamin’. Our game finished this week when Ben missed a tactic that lost a piece, which happens when someone who plays only one game at a time (me) plays someone like Ben who has at least a dozen games going on at once. I’ve played Ben 3 times on and I’ve seen considerable improvement every time. I was planning on heading to Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventures yesterday for some coffee and chess so I invited Ben to come on down. I also wrote to Zanzibar regulars Dan and Mike letting them know Ben and I would be heading over.

  After our 5am walk with Daisy and Baxter to get some coffee and beef stick treats, I left for Zanzibar’s at 7:30 and arrived at 8:30. No chess players were around, so I got a Tanzania Teaberry coffee, a bagel and cream cheese, and a newspaper and sat down to read and wait. Ben came over at 8:45 and got some sort of cappuccino drink. We talked about Ben’s chess student, our different techniques for teaching, and Ben (an IT professional) gave me the useful advice that to get my chess website up on the search rankings I need to get people to click on links pointing to the website (LIKE THIS ONE – PLEASE CLICK). Then we sat down to play a couple of games. We drew for colors and I was Black.
  The game took around 45 minutes. We went over the game and talked about some of the ways Ben could have developed his pieces and then it was time for another game.
  This game was a lot tougher and took about an hour. In games between players at our level, tactics most always decides. At that point it was time to go so we said our goodbyes and went on our separate ways. I felt bad that Ben missed meeting the Zanzibar regulars (any of whom he would be competitive with), but I was happy that he came down and we had a chance to talk and play. When I got home, I helped Kathy put up the Christmas Tree and started the thankless task of moving my data to my new computer (After 5 years, my trusty Dell has gotten very persnickety about booting up). I knew this day was coming and had a new HP laptop at the ready for over a year in preparation, but moving the data is still a labor-intensive process. Even so, I did find some time to play some 3 minute chess on the Internet Chess Club. I’ve been trying to get my 3-minute rating to its all-time high and making good progess. Here is one of my better efforts from this morning:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review - Every Day a Friday

  I got this book for my birthday, not because somebody thought to give it to me, but because I thought to ask Kathy for it. I’ve seen Joel Osteen’s grinning face on his books at the Marshalltown Wal-Mart and other book stores for years and never gave any thought to buying or even looking at one. Then one day while tuning into the USA Network early on a Sunday Morning years ago hoping to catch an episode of Law & Order : SVU I’d maybe seen only a couple of hundred times, there was Joel Osteen on my TV. I had no idea he was even on TV and I watched it and I liked it and now I look forward to it. Osteen’s weekly messages are very upbeat and positive, kind of like a 21st century Norman Vincent Peale (best known for ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’).

  Osteen’s shows and books focus on the premise that God created us, loves us, and wants what’s best for us. This doesn’t seem to be a far-fetched premise to me, so it is easy for me to accept the idea that I should accept that God is working in my favor and if I just take care of the things I can take care of, I can let God take care of the things I can’t handle and not worry about it. People I discuss this with tend to find this to be a very simplistic viewpoint, but that simplicity is what attracts me to this message. Since all these books end up being New York Times best sellers, I’m probably not alone in my attraction.

  The book title comes from noting that people are happier on Fridays because they are looking forward to the weekend, so why not choose to be happy as if every day was Friday? ‘Every Day a Friday’ is themed like Osteen’s other books (‘Be a Better You’, ’Your Best Life Now’, It’s Your Time’). There are 7 main parts, with each part broken into chapters. The parts are titled ‘Don’t Give Away Your Power’, ’Know What to Ignore’, ‘Live Without Crutches’, Travel Light’, ‘Laugh Often’, ‘Be a Dream Releaser’, and ‘Celebrate Yourself’.

  There are plenty of self-help books that could have these same chapters without the religious bent, but when an author is trying to drive home a point about being grateful for what you have or not letting negative people steal your happiness or seeing a setback as a stepping stone to greater accomplishments, I think these types of points come across clearer when approached from a more ‘Godly’ perspective. I especially like how Osteen can talk about being happy with what you have without getting into an ‘it could be worse’ type of mentality and that it’s OK to want even more than what you have as long as you go about getting it the right way.

  One of my favorite Osteen themes is how a setback is only a setback if you look at it that way. That theme always gets me thinking about how I worked at a company for 13 years and when my boss wanted to sell the company, I got lied to about my future with the company so I would outline all the functions of the software I spend a quarter of my life writing when they knew I was going to be out of a job since their programmers in Indianapolis could write it. There were a lot of bumps in the road, but now I can see that I needed to be forced out so I could learn new skills and now 4 years later, I have an even better job. Another theme is how what looks like a setback may be so you can be a blessing for someone else. I was very sad when my dogs both passed away last year, but because of that we were in the right place at the right time to get Baxter, who had a bad foot and needed a good home. Even when I’m having a chess tournament that looks like it’s going to have a thin crowd, I get to thinking about how my late friend Ed at the Salvation Army told me that he thought my chess activities is going to keep some kid away from the wrong place at the wrong time because they were playing chess. Books like ‘Every Day a Friday’ get me thinking about times where everything looked to be running against me but in retrospect couldn’t have been planned better FOR me and people who were trying to stick it to me ended up doing me favors by making me more self-reliant and inventive. Just like chess players forget about the times we are handed victories and focus on the times we did the ‘giving’, it is easy to lose perspective when in the heat of contentious situations and books like this help me to regain that sense of perspective.

  Of course, people who don’t believe in God or think of God as some collective power and not a single being or are still waiting to be convinced there is a God aren’t likely to enjoy this book, but I enjoyed it and think I got a lot out of it. Having read 4 of Osteen’s books, the illustrative anecdotes start to repeat themselves, but as a person who will watch the same episode of Law & Order over and over that’s not such a big issue to me. One thing I noticed in this book was that Osteen mentions in at least 2 places how his critics call him the ‘smiling preacher’ and a practitioner of ‘Christianity Lite’. He points out (and rightly so) that he is going along the path he feels drawn to follow and there are plenty of other preachers that go the fire and brimstone route. I don’t know Joel Osteen, but I’m sure he has as many flaws as anyone else, including all the people I get inspiration from daily. I need all the inspiration and encouragement I can get and I get a lot of inspiration from his TV show and books and I think a lot of people would also if they gave Joel Osteen a look or read.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Rocky Vacation

  After 8 months at my job, I’ve accumulated enough time off to take this week off. I took 2 days off in April to help with the Okoboji Open, another 2 days in July for my chess camp, and an hour here and there but I’m going to use 4 days of time off along with Thanksgiving for a vacation where I don’t go anywhere or do anything specific. And because it’s Thanksgiving week, I won’t even have a Thursday night chess tournament at the Salvation Army or Friday chess class at St. Francis This will give me 9 days to work on things I just haven’t had time for.

Notice how the driveway has magically curved away from my neighbor's styrofoam wall. It would take some real magic to curve it around my new giant rocks.

  Last Sunday, I got lucky and made some headway on a project I’d been dreaming about for a long time. I’ve written before how my neighbors had been running over the fence, gate, and bushes on my side of our shared driveway. I’d been on the lookout for some large rocks to put on my side of the driveway, but not only are rocks very expensive, I don’t have the kind of equipment needed to bring the rocks to my house. 2 weeks ago my friend Monica wrote to me saying her husband Eldon (who gave me the broken pawn you see at the top of my blog) had some rocks if I wanted them. They live on a farm but these rocks are from Eldon’s mom front yard. Her house is being sold and they don’t need the rocks. Eldon picked me up and drove me to his mom’s house in his pickup truck. We were able to pick up the rocks but couldn’t lift them all the way up to the truck bed so we had to go back to his farm to hitch up the truck to a horse wagon and get a hand truck. Using the hand truck, we got the rocks onto the low lying floor of the horse trailer, drove back to my house, and rolled the rocks onto the front yard. My next step is to get a surveyor in, find out the exact property line less the 4 feet access I’m required to give for the shared driveway, get the rocks right to the edge, and then get some more rocks.

  I got an early start on my vacation Friday night by watching the Iowa State Cyclones pull off a shocking upset of the undefeated #2 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Ever since I wrote on October 23rd how the Cyclones were getting worse and worse and a new coach was in order, the Cyclones have won 3 games in a row and secured a chance to go to a bowl game. I’m still not convinced the Cyclones are for real (both the Cyclones and Cowboys did everything they could to lose the game), but the biggest ever victory by a team I wrote off a month ago had me starting my vacation by serving up a public dish of humble pie.

  We take a family vacation to New Jersey shore every other summer. The shore is really relaxing, but there is a lot of driving, it’s kind of expensive, and the dogs have to get kenneled. In 2009, I took a week off work to accompany Matt to the national high school chess tournament in Indianapolis and play in the US Open. I played one chess game a day and it was a really nice and relaxing vacation. The only downside was missing the rest of the family. When I was a contractor at Fisher in 2008 and 2009, they had a plant shutdown between Christmas and New Years. Except for one drawback, it was the perfect vacation. I was home, the family was home, and since the company was shutdown there were absolutely no work concerns. BUT since I was a contractor, I didn’t accumulate vacation time or get paid for the shutdown so it was more like getting laid off for a week than having a vacation.

Vacation reading material...
and dog chewing material!
  I have a few other projects to work on during my vacation. I’d been meaning to make a chess website to publicize my tournaments for quite some time and this could be the week to finally make it a reality. I also have a couple of small matters to take care of for work, but that should be trifling and I’ll even get paid for it. I’ll also take the chance to order the trophies, medals, and inserts for my next set of youth chess tournaments in an unhurried manner and I’m looking forward to catching up on some reading. I’m 10 pages from the end of the Joel Osteen book I got for my birthday and am hoping to finish and review it for my next blog before Daisy and Baxter get finished with it. They have already chewed off the paper cover, half of the back cover and some of the pages. I also got 3 books from, 1000 Checkmate Combinations, Boris Gulko’s ‘Lessons with a Grandmaster’, and Yuri Averbakh’s chess memoir. I won’t be able to get through the whole checkmate book, but the reviews compare it to my favorite chess book of all time, ‘Tal’s Winning Chess Combinations’ and it looks to be just as good as advertised. The Gulko book is 24 of his games in a Socratic lesson format with a psychologist and the Averbakh book has no chess games, but covers his 70 year chess career from 1940’s to the present day and should be a fairly quick read.

  My vacation will include a lot of dog walks for coffee and beef sticks and even though I’m determined to get everything I want done this week, I’ll still be playing a little chess. I’ll be following the Tal Memorial super tournament from Russia this week and I’ve even found some time for 3 minute chess the past 2 days. I’ve been playing a little better than normal the last few days. Here's a couple of my better efforts against openings that normally give me trouble:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hey, Joe

  I’ll be the first to admit that I like watching college football on Saturdays, but I’ll also be the first to admit that I don’t get the pride people take in their favorite college teams. Take the Iowa Hawkeyes, for example. I see their logo on cars, apparel, notebooks, and even tattoos. State pride is wonderful, but if you look at their roster, you would see that over half of their players come from other states. It is the same with the Iowa State Cyclones football team. The basketball teams are in a similar situation with just 7 of 16 Hawkeyes and 2 of 15 Cyclones hailing from Iowa. I ask Hawkeye and Cyclone fans about this and they tell me that Iowa simply doesn’t produce enough big time college level athletes to compete with schools from Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, etc..... and must import players from other states to be competitive. I can accept this argument as long as we can agree that the premise of the Iowa and Iowa State athletic programs are not to provide athletic opportunities for Iowans, but rather to compete with other schools for victories, glory, bowl money, etc...

  This attitude of victory by import is also found at small time college athletics. The Iowa Community College Athletic Conference is group of Iowan 2 year colleges who compete in all different sports. Looking at the soccer rosters, you will get a major case of eye strain looking for players from Iowa. The Marshalltown Community College soccer team is much better than most in terms of Iowans on the roster but even they only have 2 players from Marshall County.
Most of these teams have a majority of players from outside the country, much less the state. It’s even worse in Men’s basketball. The Marshalltown Community College basketball team has exactly zero players from Marshalltown, Marshall County, or even Iowa on their team. Zero! That is the same number of Iowans as the Indian Hills team and 1 behind the Iowa Western team. The women’s basketball situation is much better with 2 Iowans in the roster (both from Waterloo) to go along with the 6 players from Wisconsin. Sports like cross country and volleyball are more representative of the local population, but I’m mystified at why community colleges have so many out of state and out of country participants in so many sports. Is it so important to be competitive even at the community college level? Where would an Iowa soccer player have to go to play at the community college level? Wyoming? Estonia? Western Estonia?

  It’s clear to me that the emphasis on college sports at all levels is on winning more than providing athletic opportunities for the local population and that made it hard for me to understand the firing last week of Joe Paterno
, the winningest coach in college football history. It’s been all over the news how Paterno’s longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky has been accused of 40 counts of child molestation. Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary found Sandusky in the Penn State shower assaulting a 10 young boy in 2002, reporting it to Paterno on the advice of his father. Paterno then reported it to the athletic director and school vice president after waiting a day. McQueary and Paterno defended their actions by claiming they were merely reporting the incident to the people they were supposed to report it to.

  Even if Sandusky is not convicted of any crimes, any man who takes showers with young boys and looks for situations to be alone with them or wrestle with them or lather them up needs help badly. I don’t know what McQueary saw or what he told Paterno, but it seems that both men followed their department policies. The fact that Paterno is not being charged with any crimes while the men he reported the incident to are charged with perjury seems to make it clear to me that Paterno did what he was supposed to do. Now, did Paterno do ALL HE COULD DO? Of course not! Have I always done everything I could do to help people in every situation I’ve ever been in? No, and I can’t imagine many have. I probably haven’t done everything I could do to help people in ANY situation I’ve ever been involved in. We’re talking about a man who worked for Paterno for 3 decades and played a large part in his considerable success. I can see where it would be hard for Paterno to believe the allegations even as I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t have known about Sandusky’s proclivities. I’m in the distinct minority, but I don’t think Paterno should have lost his job for not turning his longtime assistant in to the police unless he saw the incident. He did what he needed to do, which was turn the incident over to the proscribed authorities. I think letting him retire at the end of the season as he attempted to do would have been appropriate. I have no problem with the President of the University being fired since he is the ultimate authority of the incident and had the responsibility to have Sandusky removed from the campus.

  I think the Penn State University trustees threw Paterno under the bus in the cause of damage control. It looks very much like Sandusky is a child molester but he hasn’t been found guilty of anything and no money for confidentiality agreements have turned up like Herman Cain’s alleged abuse victims have been found to have signed. Paterno was judged guilty by association and fired, and now even his former players can only defend him at the peril of their own jobs, like when Franco Harris lost his spokesperson role as an ‘ambassador’ for a racetrack/casino.

  Paterno had 4 losing seasons in 5 years
from 2000-2004 when he was in his mid-70’s and he didn’t lose his job. Why didn’t the same goodwill that allowed him to keep his job then apply to this new situation even though his sin of omission occurred in the same time period? I think the big difference is that 10 years ago, the Penn State administration could look forward to Paterno setting his coaching records and bringing favorable publicity to Penn State and that he was also still actively coaching the team. Now he is a figurehead that sits in a press box during the games, mumbles half-incoherent platitudes during interviews, hasn’t recruited off campus in at least 4 years. He has already set all the records he is going to and his days of bringing favorable publicity to his university are now over. Paterno has learned the lesson that most working people have to learn at some point in their lives: Employees serve at the whim of their employer and when they have served their purpose can expect no more loyalty than a bug that gets splattered on the windshield while driving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Simple Things

Can anything be more fun than simply taking a nap or hanging outside with your beagles?

  Tuesday was Daisy and Baxter’s birthday and I want to thank them for writing my blog post last week. When I put down my 2 great dogs Queenie and Tuffy within 3 weeks of each other last year, I was sad and depressed for a long time afterward. The things I missed the most were just the simple little things like taking them for a morning walk, catching a glimpse of them doing something goofy, or just sitting on the couch reading or watching TV and having one of them amble up to me and fall asleep. Daisy and Baxter have very different personalities than Queenie and Tuffy and my relationship I have with them is different, but they have restored a lot of my joy in life. I love taking them for walks and when the light catches them at the right angle for a funny looking shadow or one of them snatches up a wrapper, lollipop, or a chicken bone off the ground I have a good laugh (after I wrestle the morsel away from them). I think I appreciate these simple things more after not having them for a few months last year.

      Baked Cheetos - top right!
  After months of planning, the company I worked for finally moved into our new offices on Friday. I’m a creature of habit, so I don’t especially like moving but so far I’d have to say the changes are mostly good. At the old building, there was a wireless internet so I could use my amazing iPod and the equally amazing Rhapsody and iHeart radio apps to listen to music and the Miller and Deace show while I was working. 3 weeks ago, the wireless internet was turned off and I could only listen to music I preloaded onto my iPod. The wireless Internet has been restored at the new building and now I can have my music dished up to me and be surprised by a new song or 2. I’m going to enjoy walking less than one block to my car instead of taking 2 blocks and an elevator, but I am also 2 blocks further away from a lunchtime ice cream treat. The restrooms are smaller with only room for 2 as opposed to the 4 occupant restroom in the old building and it’s further away so there will probably be more waiting time. While there is now a lunchroom complete with a TV and vending machines, I have to head downstairs to use them. The vending machine has a row of Baked Cheetos, but no Crunchy Cheetos or Cheetos Puffs. Baked Cheetos are OK so for now my boycott is still off. The major drawback is simple but weighty. The new cubicles are a foot shorter than at the old building. That may not seem like a big problem, but now whenever someone walks past my cube, I see them out of the corner of my eye. This is pretty distracting and while I may get used to it, I’ll be wearing my hat indoors for awhile until then. These things seem small, but when you spend 40 hours a week staring at the same computer screen in the corner of the same cubicle, simple distractions can become big because there is nothing else to focus on.

The king of simple living!

  I have 6 weeks between youth chess tournaments in Des Moines so I didn’t have to spend any time this weekend ordering prizes, printing medal inserts, sending emails, etc. Ben was at a Quiz Bowl competition and Matt spent the weekend at college. That left Kathy and I home alone. We walked the dogs 3 times (twice for beef sticks) and in the middle of the day, took a trip to the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores where Kathy looks for Christmas candles and I look for books and music. On the way back, we went to the HyVee Drug-Store. Kathy always gets a bag of popcorn from the Lions and a lottery ticket and we also look to see what food was on sale. I previously wrote about the time apple juice was on sale for 1.16 a half gallon. This day was a jackpot because a lot of our favorites were available. I got a 2 liter bottle of Canada Dry Ginger Ale for 99 cents. My favorite soft drink of all time is an ice-cold Ginger Ale with a half a lemon. I also got a 4-oz package of ham for 59 cents to have for lunch and a dollar Old Wisconsin Summer Sausage (Daisy and Baxter aren’t the only one who like beef stick treats!). Kathy got 2 Twix and 2 Snicker bars for a quarter apiece. There was also a wall of instant oatmeal boxes for a quarter apiece. I passed on that (I ate oatmeal every day for breakfast when I was a kid and I can’t stand the stuff), but I saw a guy rifling through the entire display and pulling out the boxes with the ‘Strawberries and Cream flavor’. He saw me looking and said. "You always have to look hard for the best flavors". He filled a cart with as many of the boxes as he could find and pulled it to the checkout. When we got to the checkout line, the guy was in front us and he had all these oatmeal boxes along with 4 or 5 12 packs of Milwaukee’s Best beer and 2 bags of pretzels. I can only think that this man was the king of simple living.

  There was also a deceptively simple advertisement for Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls at the Hy-Vee Drug Store. Everyone sells them at 2 for a dollar but for some reason the HyVee Drug store says I can save 2.78 by buying them there. That would mean these Salted Nut Rolls are really 1.89 each, which I don’t believe. I got one at the Bondurant Git’n’Go on my way home from work one day, lured by the yellow message in the corner telling me it was a good source of protein. I looked at the back of the wrapper and sure enough, I could get 16% of my daily protein needs from one bar for only 12% of my caloric intake. I also noticed that I could get 17% of my daily fat requirement from the same nut roll and the 20 grams of sugar provides 50% of the 40 gram maximum offered as a guide line by the US. I’d like to see the Pearson company change the wrapper to say ‘Good Source of Protein, Better Source of Fat, and a Great Source of Sugar, but it’s probably simpler to just mention the protein.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A year in the life

  After over 2 years of 'solo blogging', I am happy to introduce Broken Pawn's first guest bloggers. Today's blog was a collaboration written by Daisy and Baxter (Beagle) Anzis

  We were born on a farm. I don’t remember much about being a little baby except all 3 of us lived in a cramped carrier crate with our mommy and hardly ever saw our Daddy. Mommy was all brown and almost red and Daddy was a champion show dog with a big wide nose. Mommy chewed the toes on my back foot. I don’t know why but I only have one toe on that foot and I had a hard time walking on it.

  One day our crate got taken into the kitchen and when it got dark 3 people I never saw before came in the house. I got taken out of the crate and they started handling me and petting me. It looked like they were going to take me with them when the farmer lady showed them Baxter and said she couldn’t sell him so if they knew anyone that wanted him they could have him for free. They looked at me and the skinny one picked me up. I fit right in the palm of his hand. The next thing we knew, we were both in a strange car for a long trip. I think it was long but I don’t remember much because I went to sleep.

Here we are with Kathy. We love her.

  We got taken into a house and there was a little pen for us to stay in and another person in the house that came over and started petting us. They called me Baxter and my sister Daisy. We missed the farm and our mommy a little but it was warm in this house and there were a lot of new smells. They had 4 cats all living in the house and even a giant rabbit. I’d never seen a rabbit before. He looks smaller now. The older people (Hank and Kathy) took us upstairs, covered us with some blankets and we went right to sleep except Baxter started crying and woke everyone up. Did Not!! You’re the one who would cry and wake everyone up!! Well anyway, someone (Baxter) would wake up 3 or 4 times a night until Hank or Kathy would get out of bed and settle us down. Now we sleep almost all night except when we hear a noise and start barking like crazy.

  Every day, we got taken downstairs to the kitchen and Kathy would feed us. One time Kathy dropped me and I landed on my head and started crying because my head hurt. Kathy comforted me, but Hank started singing the song from the TV commercial “I have a structured settlement but I need cash now. Call JG Wentworth 877-Cash-NOW!!” Me and Kathy were mad at Hank at first, but I felt better after a little bit and we all laugh about it now. We would lay on Kathy, and then she would leave for a while and Hank would play with us until we fell asleep on his lap. Then Kathy would come home and Hank would leave until it got dark. Matt and Ben would come to play with us and they’d leave too but they’d get back before dark. We’d sleep a lot and when everyone came home, we’d play with them.

  We went out a few times but it was always so cold we had to go back in. But once it got warm Hank took us out after we ate in the morning, Kathy took us out during the day, and Hank and Kathy both take us out when Hank comes home. Every night we walk a few blocks and see if Mindi the Cairn Terrier can come out to play. I like to hang out with Mindi and we play with each other. I like when we visit Becky. She rubs my tummy! Becky is the lady who lets Mindi out of Bill and Marilyn’s house. They’re Becky’s parents and are 90 years old and they come out and pet us whenever they can.

  I can make Hank laugh just by looking at him and he hardly gets mad at us. What about the time we outsmarted him and ate his salad? Oh yeah, that time he got so mad, he locked us in the kitchen and wrote about us on his blog. Once we turned 6 months old, he started taking us for long morning walks when he doesn’t dress up and leave for the whole day. We go to a place called the Jiffy and he gets a coffee and we get beef sticks. We both love beef sticks and we find all kinds of stuff to eat on the street, sidewalk, and grass. Then Hank calls us scrounges. We have so much fun on our morning walks that Kathy gets up and walks with us for beef sticks and when it’s hot, we all go to the Kum and Go in the afternoon. Kathy and Hank get sodas and we get beef sticks. I love beef sticks. YUM!!!

  Kathy gets mad at Daisy when she barks on our walks and she was mad at me on Monday when I jumped on her and broke her computer, and she gets mad at both of use when we tear up the potty pads or try to eat out of the cat box or chew up the remote, but I just look at her with my cutest face and she can’t stay mad. I just pretend to go to sleep and she forgets how nasty and snarly I get when I bark at anything that moves. If she’s a little more upset than normal, I open my eyes, look at her, give a big yawn that says ‘I’m tired’, and go back to sleep. It works every time. She never minds if I bark when we run into Shirley, though.

Daisy's faster, but I'm not slow.

  When it was really warm, Matt and Ben would stay home all day and play outside with us, but now Matt has started staying away for a long time. Ben still plays with us a lot and when Matt comes home we give him extra attention because we miss him so much. He makes Hank and Kathy take us to a pond where there is a big field and lots of goose poop. YUM!!! Matt takes me for runs when we go to the pond. He can almost keep up with me, but Hank gets out of breath after a hundred yards. Sometimes Kathy leaves us alone in the house. She tries to lock us in the kitchen and bribes us with bones, but I climb over the cage and chew things up. I try to remember to bring Baxter something to chew up so I’m not the only one who gets in trouble. He can’t climb over the cage because of his foot.

Going to the pond is so much fun!

  Today is our birthday. We each got a pig’s ear, a new toy, and some canned dog food. I didn’t know what a birthday was before, but I sure like them now. I love living here and because my brother lives here too I'm never alone and always have someone to play with. I like birthdays too. I didn’t know before why I had to have a foot with only one toe on it, but now I understand that is was so I could live in a great home with my sister and people who love me and take good care of us.

Happy Birthday, Daisy!
Happy Birthday, Baxter!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

“Living well is the best revenge” – Lenny Blumenthal

The intense concentration of the chess players made a good impression on the visiting teachers and parents who were visiting the basketball tournament next door.

  It was a contentious week of time-wasting emails concerning my monthly youth chess tournament being scheduled in West Des Moines on the same day as the IASCA tournament 140 miles away in Cedar Rapids. The emails finally came to an end Thursday when I asked the 64 thousand dollar question: Would the IASCA prefer that children in the Des Moines metro area not play chess on Saturday at all unless they travelled to Cedar Rapids? The tone of the IASCA this past month would lead me to believe the answer to that question is an emphatic YES, but since a question like this cannot be answered that way, the emails have come to an end for now although I’m sure veiled threats of ‘backlashes’, accusations of ‘competition’, and being singled out for ‘special attention’ in broadcast emails will resurface as soon as another of my monthly tournaments is scheduled on the same date as an IASCA scholastic event. It is ironic to even have this sort of issue with the same people who had no problem running events (and even asked me to proofread their flyers on occasion) on the same dates as IASCA scholastic tournaments held under my stewardship. I don’t feel like I ‘won’ anything since I had a lot of my time wasted, but I limited my losses by not taking the bait and responding in kind to the email sent to all the chess parents trying to portray me and my tournament in a less than flattering light. It could be argued that writing about it in my blog is tantamount to the same thing and I would counter by saying that my efforts to energize youth chess in the Des Moines area has been a central theme of my blog for over a year, these sort of nonsensical incidents have interest to any youth chess organizer and give an inside view of the process to non-chess organizers, and even I can’t write about Cheetos ALL THE TIME!

  The IASCA and I used to get along better (I served on their board for 2 years and was the 2006 member of the year), but these days I don’t get them and they don’t get me. On Monday, I typed the quote from my old friend and co-worker from 20 years ago at the top of this article, sent it to myself as an email, and looked at it as often as possible this week. Dealing with nonsense of this sort takes away a lot of my enjoyment of chess and I needed to remind myself to not let anyone steal my happiness or put me in a sour mood with pointless emails and minutiae all because somebody got upset that 2 or 3 people might not travel 140 miles to Cedar Rapids to play chess because I was having a chess tournament in Des Moines.

Final round action at last Thursday's Marshalltown Blitz.

  I was looking forward to blitz on Thursday night and when Joe Meyer of Waterloo came down to play I was hoping to exact revenge for my loss of 2 weeks ago. We played 4 offhand games before the tournament and I got pasted in each one, only managing to win the last 2 when Joe had cases of temporary blindness going in for the kill. Dan Troxell from Des Moines and Matt Kriegel from Tama also travelled for the tournament to join local players Scott, Jon, Zach, Dalton, and me in the 8 player field. I had just started the tournament when Dave the barefoot chess player raced into the room. That left us with 9 players so I sat out, but the tournament was so much fun to watch and the games so interesting that I agreed to hang around for an extra hour to let the out of town guys get some extra games in before a long drive back. I even managed to get some video of the final round action. The Thursday Night tournament restored my good mood because a we had great mix of adults and kids and everyone got along great.

  I had another great chess experience on Friday morning at the St. Francis Chess club where I teach and coach. After 9 weeks the club has coalesced to the serious players competing in a ladder tournament on one side of the large meeting room and the casual players (about a dozen) giggling, socializing, and maybe playing a little chess on the other side. In addition to the ladder tournament, the players write down the game results each week and for the next meeting, I make up a printout showing the players’ won-loss records. When most of the serious players arrive at the club, the first thing they do is to check their position on the ladder and their won-loss record. The club now requires very little supervision even though we have over 50 players every week, so I have time to start teaching chess. There’s enough time for a classroom session but these kids will be sitting in a class all day and I want the club to be fun, not work, which led me to couch the lessons as a set of challenges. The first 2 challenges are to checkmate with a queen and king against a king and to learn how to play both sides of a king and pawn vs. king ending (either making the pawn a queen or keeping the opponent from doing the same). The players have to demonstrate their skill by playing out the positions against me or the other coaches (Chris and Eduardo). Once a player demonstrates their knowledge, they receive a button to reward their accomplishment. I don’t know how Chris and Eduardo are handing it, but when I accept the challenge, I talk through the position for the other players that are watching while waiting for their turn to challenge me. This way I can have a semi-classroom setting with the students that want to learn and the others can play chess without worrying about a lesson. I had run the king and queen vs. king challenge last year and was expecting the older players to easily checkmate me with the queen this year. I was amazed by how many of the players forgot how to do the checkmate, but I’m sure they’ll get it back after a while. It was great seeing 50 plus kids enjoying chess before school and getting to hang out with the other coaches and share our enthusiasm for the kids learning and enjoying chess put me in an even better mood.

  On Saturday, I was ready for the tournament. Because of a high school math meet, Chandler wasn’t available to help me set up so I took the trip to Des Moines at 6:30 by myself and listened to some music on the trip down. There was a basketball tournament in the adjoining gym and one of the kids whose dad was setting up concessions for the tournament asked me if he could help me set up the chess sets. I was happy for the help and we had the hall all set up by 8:15. I got to talk to his dad and invited them to come to the club on Fridays and offered to allow him to play in the unrated tournament, but they had to leave for basketball practice and I never saw them in the afternoon. A number of the basketball parents and the lady who assigned the rooms for the chess tournaments also came by and were very impressed with the level of concentration of the children playing chess.

  I had about a dozen players in the rated section in the morning and afternoon sessions and only a few of those were staying all day. Most had soccer or cub scouts or other errands taking up half the day and I had a lot of parents come up me to tell me how much they appreciated their children being able to combine chess with their other activities. The unrated section had a lot of repeat customers from last month’s free tournament and I had about 20 players in each session, with a number of the morning players having such a good time they decided to stick around for the afternoon. I had almost a dozen kids from St. Francis playing in the tournaments. Many of them had excellent performances. One player signed up for a USCF membership and played in his first rated tournament on Saturday. He won one of the 3 games, but in his 2 losses went toe to toe with some players stronger than any he had ever played before and had the second-seed on the ropes in the final round. I was really happy to see him play well and even happier to see that his dad got the fact that even though his son didn’t win the game he played fantastic and was proud of the effort instead of being mad at the result. 3 of the other St. Francis players got in the top 5 of the 2 unrated tournaments and their parents got to see some fruits of our work with them on Fridays. With so many beginners, I had to a spend a lot of my time monitoring those games, but I still had plenty of time to hang out with the parents and when the morning unrated tournament ended at 11 instead of 12, I went to my parlor trick of playing the kids with 1 minute on my clock and 5 minutes on theirs. I played for almost an hour and only lost one game when one of the St. Francis parents beat me when I ran out of time. He then told me that in his home country of England, he was a county champion. This new rivalry will be continued another day....

  Almost everything went perfectly, ALMOST. I had a problem with the unrated kids playing so quickly in the morning that the tournament was over in less than 2 hours. I’ll address that by allowing for an unlimited number of rounds as long as they are started an hour before the scheduled end of the tournament. Kind of like a little league baseball game when an inning can’t start before 7:00. I want to make sure the parents get their money’s worth and not travel 10 or 15 miles for 90 minutes of chess. Another problem I had was of my own making. I mistook a late arriving unrated player for a rated player I was expecting and put him in the rated tournament. By the time I realized my error, the game was over and I had to get the unrated player a temporary membership. Normally I am awesome at remembering names and faces, but middle age has started taking some of that ability away. Those few problems were trifling. The kids had a great time, the parents were very vocal in telling me how great they thought the monthly tournaments were for their kids, and I solved the problem I had with the kids scratching the facings of my custom medal inserts off by designing an equally custom plastic insert cover. I even made around $50 dollars which I will put toward getting some chess clocks so I can have the top boards start with clocks instead of rationing my few clocks for the slower moving games.

  I even managed to hold a parents tournament in the afternoon. Last month I had exactly one parent wanting to play and when Christine Denison signed up for yesterday’s parents section, I enlisted Dan Troxell to help me out and head over so Christine would be sure to have some competition. They played a match in the morning, but 4 other parents, including my fellow St. Francis coach Chris, joined in the afternoon for a real tournament. Christine swept the tournament and Chris was thrilled after winning his final round game. He told me it ended up just like the challenges we are giving the kids. He had a King and a Pawn against a King, made his pawn a queen like we are teaching the kids in the one challenge, and then checkmated his opponent with the queen and king like he is teaching the kids in the other challenge. I told him I will present him with his buttons on Friday!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Putting a stamp on a situation

The Post Office on the ground floor at the Capital Square building. The clerks offer fast, friendly service, but as this lunchtime picture shows, there just aren't enough customers to justify keeping it open.

  The post office on the ground floor in the Capital Square building where I work is scheduled to close this December. I had occasion to use this post office when I got my chess camp T-shirts well after the chess camp was completed due to a power failure in Marshalltown this past July. At 3 separate lunch times, I went to the first floor; got to the self-service counter, put the shirts in some envelopes, addressed the envelopes, and got to the counter. 2 times I had to wait behind a person or two, and two times another clerk came right up to help the next person in line. I was in and out all 3 times in less than 2 minutes at the counter, even though I was paying with a credit card and wanted delivery confirmation. What a difference between this post office station and the station at Urbandale, where I had to resort to trickery to get the line moving while the clerks were having a party in the back or the Post Office in Johnston where I got stuck in a 10 person line behind a person buying a single stamp while carrying on a 10 minute conversation with the clerk.

  I know the Post Office is losing money because people are sending email a lot more than letters, but a lot of their troubles are not of their own making. The US Postal Service is an independent agency of the government. This means that even though they don’t receive government money, they are regulated by the government and cannot raise prices without permission. It has to cost a lot more to send a letter or package from New Jersey to Alaska than it does from Marshalltown, Iowa to Des Moines, Iowa; but the Post Office is bound by law to charge the same amount for the shipment of any package.

  When you think about being able to send a letter anywhere in the country for less than 50 cents, it is pretty amazing and I can only remember 3 times where I mailed something that was never received and all 3 were checks to companies that probably misplaced or lost them. While I’ve had problems with some of the post office clerks I’ve encountered, I’ve never seen a lazy postal carrier and I’d like to offer some suggestions to help them keep their jobs.

  I have no problem with closing down as many postal stations as possible and just making them distribution centers. I know that in small towns many people use the post office as a meeting place as well as a post office, but most grocery stores already offer postal services and in smaller towns, somebody will be sure to start running a postal station out of their house if they can turn a buck so if the post office can cut costs by closing their offices, I’m all for it.

  Another way the Post Office is going around things the wrong way is by spending money sponsoring Tour de France teams and the like instead of being sponsored themselves. Instead of cutting Saturday deliveries, why not have ‘Saturday Mail Delivery presented by COKE’? Wouldn’t Pepsi then bid for Friday or Wednesday? Sponsors could pay premium for signage on the uniforms and trucks. If schools in Philadelphia can sell ad space, why can’t post office vehicles have TV’s mounted on them with paid advertisements.

A sampling of the collectible stamps for sale at the Post Office.
Does anyone under the age of 40 know any of the people on these stamps?
Selena (1971) is the only person depicted on any of these stamps born after 1930...
and she's been dead for 15 years!

  I used to collect stamps and even buy sets of stamps at the Post Office, but I never hear any of the kids at chess club talking about stamps. Because of video games and other distractions from the classic pastime of stamp collecting, stamps need to be freshened up for the modern age. I went to the Post Office to research this post and all the people on stamps were dead. No wonder kids aren’t excited by stamps. The Post Office recently co-opted one of my suggestions by allowing living people to be on stamps and anyone can already put themselves on a stamp for a surcharge (you can see here). But instead of slowly deliberating over which living person will be on the stamp, the Postal Service needs to streamline their printing operations to be able to act fast and jump on any available bandwagon as soon as the opportunity presents itself. For example, as soon as the last out of the World Series was recorded last Friday Night, not only did the winning Cardinals have caps and shirts proclaiming their championship, I was able to buy the same gear the champions were wearing as well as other celebratory merchandise by calling the toll free number that flashed on my TV screen at the first commercial break. How much could the Post Office have made by having a 2011 World Series Champion Cardinals $5 stamp available only for items mailed the next Monday and only in St. Louis. There would be people lining up to have the $5 stamp put on letters mailed to themselves as souvenirs. Combined sales from the World Series, Super Bowl, NCAA football championship, NCAA Final Four, and the Daytona 500 would be a windfall for the Post Office. I'm not sure if the Post Office can use anyones picture without permission, but if not Congress should immediately pass a law mandating that the all American citizens and corporations are fair game for use by the Post Office for postage stamps. I'd be first in line for a Cheetos Puffs stamp!

I don’t know who will be put on the first stamps, but I’d suggest printing a stamp a week honoring the latest media cause célèbre. For instance, this past week Nicole Leszczynski and her husband were arrested in Hawaii and their child placed in state custody for the night when the pregnant Nicole wolfed down 2 chicken salad sandwiches at a Safeway supermarket and left the store without paying for the sandwiches along with the $50 in groceries that she did pay for (here is the story in case you don't believe it). I’m sure it was an honest mistake and the Safeway certainly overreacted, but I also don’t know how many people at the Honolulu Safeway are gobbling down sandwiches and playing the ‘Oh, I forgot and I’ll pay for them now that you caught me’ card in the rare event of being confronted by store personnel. Just pay for the sandwich and then continue shopping, Nicole! But in any event, the Post Office can capitalize on her 15 minutes of fame by putting her on a stamp and maybe even donating a couple of pennies per stamp to her lawsuit fund. I’m sure many people would pay a premium for the sympathy stamp in protest against Safeway stores. Another good stamp topic for collectors would be to put the latest teen heartthrob like Justin Bieber (who's probably been old news for awhile if I've heard of him) on a stamp so all the teen age girls can mail each other letters or just save the stamps.

Having a quick turnaround of stamp design, printing and distribution will inevitably lead to more errors, but this can be turned to the Postal Services favor and be the biggest money-making idea yet. One of the most valuable stamps is the 1918 ‘Inverted Jenny’, which was an air mail stamp that had one sheet of a hundred stamps escape the printing presses with the airplane upside down. My dad showed me his copy of this stamp and told me that if it was only upside down, he’d be rich. I would suggest that more ‘errors’ be allowed to escape the printing process along with a new practice of having all stamps be sealed so no one knows whether the stamps inside the package contain errors. Imagine if this year’s Ronald Reagan centennial stamp had been discovered to have had a few dozen stamps erroneously depicting the 40th president with a pair of devil horns. Liberals would be buying stamps like wildfire in order to display them, while conservatives would also be trying to get their hands on the errors so they could destroy them and preserve the image of their favorite president. And Reagan's not even alive! Once the sales for his stamp start to die down, it would be time to repeat the process by making a Clinton stamp.