Monday, August 27, 2012

1 Wrong Move vs 145 Right Ones

1 wrong move versus 145 right moves sounds like a good batting average for a chess tournament--especially considering my sewing right stitches vs. sewing wrong stitches average.

When it comes to sewing quilt blocks, I'm afraid I'm a total failure.  I seem to put in 1 good stitch for every 100 I take out--and in the end, my blocks are still mismatched and the wrong size!  Truth is, I've found what my calling in life isn't--I'm not cut out to be a seamstress! But that doesn't mean I'm going to quit trying...I pick up a new project every once in a while to remind myself how much I dislike sewing, and someday (who knows?) something might click.

In any case, trying to sew quilt blocks for one of my friends was what I did Friday to help prepare me to deal with any mistakes I should make at the tournament Saturday.  I worked off any frustration I had accumulated sewing by throwing and catching footballs with my sister and brother until it was so dark outside we could hardly see the ball.  Then I came inside to get the directions and realized just how much time I had spent throwing.  I could hardly hold a pen; my muscles were so worn that my hand was incredibly shakkkky.  I did manage to scrawl out the directions in the most terrible handwriting I've had in ages.

My handwriting after throwing footballs

My normal handwriting
The next morning, I got up shortly before 7:00.  We packed our bags with the normal tournament supplies: a few chess sets, a chess clock, pens, a few sandwiches, and lots of cookies.  Then Papa, my little sister, and I jumped into the van and left.  My brother wished us the best, but I did note his skepticism about where we'd end up (considering that I ended up at a mental health institute last time I tried to get  directions, I don't blame him [The mental health institute was 206 W Church St., I had intended to go to 206 E Church St. but got my directions mixed up]).We stopped at McDonald's for pancakes for my sister and sausage McMuffins for my dad and I, and we bought some delicious donuts from a convenience store; other than that, it was an uneventful drive.    Thank the Lord, we arrived safe and sound at Clarion Hotel where the tournament was being held in Iowa City .

We signed in at the registration desk with tournament directors Mark Capron and Jim Hodina, and checked out the tournament room.  The room the reserve section was in was called "The Mirror Room."  There were lots of mirrors on the walls which brightened the place up considerably considering there were few windows.  I talked my little sister, Frank Li, and Jake S. into playing a few games of bughouse while we waited for the first round.  Soon we had a crowd of onlookers and ready replacements for Frank when he was called downstairs for the first round of the Open section.  There were enough onlookers to start another bughouse match, so we moved our boards over and a couple more boards were set up beside us for more bughouse!

The first round came all too soon, and I found myself on board 2 (I was rated 1552 USCF) playing Stanley Felgar  (1200+). The game was pretty even coming out of the opening. But I was thinking of Tal's (not so kind) advice, "You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5 and the path leading out is only wide enough for one."  Of course I play nothing like Tal--I play much too safe--but I decided to make as many problems as possible for my opponent and hope he would give a wrong response. He gave the right answer for the first problem. Next, I decided to sac a bishop and knight for a pawn and rook. After I took the pawn, I realized it would do no harm to look for bigger game, so I took a shot at his queen by placing my knight at a square that threatened her (I think an idea from bughouse helped me here). Pretty soon the queen was dancing across squares looking for a place to hide, but there was none and I got a queen for a bishop. The rest of the game, my opponent gave a good fight, but nothing is easy a queen behind.


 Sarah Faith and Papa's games were still being played, so I pulled out my Kindle (which I definitely recommend--it is much better than paper books) and read a captivating book on money management.  When their games were finished, we bought some delicious slices of pizza and enjoyed a good lunch.

Tournament score-sheets--almost worse writing than post-football hand writing!

The second game, I played Kevin Hyde.  I came out of the opening even and towards the end of the mid-game, I had a significant advantage.  Then Mr. Hyde sacced his rook for a bishop.  I noticed that if I took the rook, my king would become exposed; but I didn't see mate.  If I had ignored the rook sacrifice and played on, I still would have had a material advantage, but greed came into play and I made my 1 bad move.  I took the rook and was shocked by a quick and efficient check mate in 2.  

While we waited for the next round, my sister, an elementary student, Richard Rector (I've had some great games with him in previous tournaments), and I had fun playing bughouse. Way too soon, pairings for round 3 were posted! ( I needed to remind myself, I was there for the tournament, not to play bughouse). I was "de-moted" to board 4 for my loss. My opponent was Mr. Higgins, and we had a pretty good game which I eventually won.

 While I waited for the next round, I read from my book a little more, had a few interesting conversations with chess players and chess parents, and (guess what?) played more bughouse! 

 The next round, I found myself back on board 2. My next game, against Robert Vance, was extremely challenging.  When we reached the endgame, I had a rook to his bishop and 1 more pawn, but he held me off in the endgame for a long time. It finally payed to have the extra pawn though, and I finished the tournament with 3 wins/1 loss.


While Papa's game was being finished, my sister and I got a bit of exercise taking walks up and down the halls and watching the games downstairs.  Downstairs in the Open section everyone was as quiet as church mice, but to my surprise there were some players wearing earplugs.  I guess they didn't want to take any chances of being distracted.

I finished in a tie for 3rd with 3 other people in the Reserve section.  Congratulations to the winners, Xin Lu Huang and Kevin Hyde, and many thanks to the tournament directors and all of the players and parents of players who made the tournament (and the in-between-rounds bughouse games) so fun!

Three final round games in the Reserve section

My good (decent) move to bad move ratio (145 to 1) at the chess tournament is much better than my good stitch/bad stitch ratio, but where oh where is perfection?   

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Power of the Spoken Word

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight,
 O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."  --Psalm 19:14

     When commencing a study on words, I believe it is important to note the power of the spoken word.  God formed the heavens by His Word, and they are kept in store--reserved unto fire--by the same Word.  Jesus said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life."  The word of God is living, active, and powerful--sharper than any two edged sword.  The Word was in the beginning with God, and the Word was God.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

We are made in God's image.  Is there power in our words?  "There is that speaketh like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the wise is health."  Yes, there is!  What you say reflects your personality, and has a profound effect, for evil or for good, upon those listening to you.  "By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."  On the Day of Judgment, you will give account for every idle word you speak.

Are your words like God's Word, full of grace and truth?  Before I got saved, words were truly a headache to me.  If I ever found myself in trouble for actions, my words would only get me into more.  If I ever said anything disrespectful to my parents, or if I ever argued with, said something unkind to, or yelled at my siblings, what was the culprit?  My tongue!  I was uncomfortable, dissatisfied, and impatient.  My words simply reflected my attitude.  When I dedicated my life to Jesus, He changed my attitude...but my tongue?!!  James says, the tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil.  If no man can tame his tongue, how much better would an eleven-year-old girl fare?  The answer is that I was absolutely incapable of taming my tongue.  Who could help me then?  Once again, Jesus is the answer; with God, all things are possible.

Each one of us today has a tongue.  We have the power through Jesus Christ to encourage someone, tell someone about His great love, and invite them to join us in our walk on higher ground.  We also, unfortunately, have the capability of discouraging, maligning, and hurting our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Finally, we have the opportunity, which I fear many young people take, of wasting our time talking about subjects of little or no importance and concentrating on the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches which choke the Word and make in unfruitful.

1 Peter 4:17 tells us:
The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear minded and self controlled so that you can pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality one to another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and power for ever and ever.  Amen.
We have a high calling as ambassadors for Christ in this world.  We are representing our King and Father, Jesus Christ.  May we each be filled with His grace and power, so that we may truly open our mouths with wisdom and speak the words of God.

Friday, August 17, 2012

John Birch: Missionary and Intelligence Officer



     Captain John Birch was a young man of principle, who lived for God and served his country as whole-heartedly as he could. Born to missionaries in India in 1918, Birch came to the United States at the age of two.  At seven he received Jesus as his Savior, and was baptized. When he was 16, John and his younger brother, Ellis, fixed up a house in an old mining town their parents purchased, and the family moved to Birchwood.   John was responsible for maintaining the farm. He also enrolled in Mercer University. He was a very good student; as one fellow student put it, “John was a brilliant fellow who made A’s almost automatically.” Sacrificing his own popularity and risking expulsion, John and a group of students, derisively known as the “Unholy Thirteen” fought for a return to Biblical fundamentals.  John Birch graduated from Mercer University in 1939 magna cum laude, and after attending a non-accredited Bible institute, sailed for China. There he served as a missionary in a war-wracked area, winning many souls to Christ.
John Birch
     After Pearl Harbor, John volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army as a chaplain, but was not accepted because the Bible institute he attended was not accredited.  John Birch was instrumental in rescuing Jimmy Doolittle and his crew, and Doolittle recommended Birch to General Chennault.  General Chennault gave him the task of assisting to safety or giving a decent burial to all of Doolittle’s Raiders, and after John had completed his assignment, he became Chennault’s intelligence agent.  He worked out liaisons between the 14th Air Force--the Flying Tigers--and the Chinese army, and saw incredible destruction and carnage.  He was invaluable to Chennault, who viewed him as a son.  John Birch did not compromise on fulfilling his mission to China, and preached almost every Sunday in Chinese churches.  He requested to be able to take tracts with him and preach to Chinese Christians while on his missions for the Army; the officers told him they didn’t care who he preached to so long as he got his job done. He preached and prayed, and he got the job done in spite of grave dangers.
     In 1944, he met and became engaged to a young British nurse. Although he wanted to marry her, he realized that God’s calling for him would take him to very dangerous territories preaching the gospel, and he called off the engagement.  Japan surrendered, and Communists raced to take Japanese territories ahead of the legitimate government, the Nationalists, who had fought so long and hard beside the Americans. Captain John Birch and Bill Miller were sent to the Japanese occupied town of Suchow to arrange for the Japanese surrender to the Americans. Miller and Birch chose different routes.  Miller was slowed down by Communists and expected Birch to beat him to Suchow.  But upon arrival in Suchow, he heard reports of an American captain who had been brutally murdered by Communists.  Birch had always been suspicious of Communists and knew they were a group trying to take advantage of the chaos of the war. Birch was waylaid by Communists, and refused to disarm. He told his Chinese aid that he wanted to see how their Communist “allies” would treat Americans, and told him that if the Communists did kill him, America would bomb and destroy them. The Communists gave him the run-around as he tried to locate their responsible man, and then he was shot and his body was mutilated.
     Instead of taking care of the Communist threat, and thereby saving millions of lives from the terrors of Mao’s regime, the American government that Birch had served so faithfully marked Birch’s file top secret, and told his family that he had been killed by stray bullets. Birch’s mother happened to glance at some papers an officer had when he came, reporting on John’s death. These papers led her to believe that John, 27 years old, had not been killed by stray bullets. She spent years investigating her son’s death. Birch’s file was finally declassified in 1972 by the Freedom of Information Act, and the book The Secret File on John Birch was published in 1981.
  John Birch’s challenges us to give our all, never compromise, and be faithful unto death so that Christ may give us a crown of life.
 John Birch left all for Jesus, will you?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Doolittle Raid


Within 24 hours of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippines, Wake Island, and Midway were also attacked.  The United States was not ready for war in the Pacific and immediate prospects were bleak.  Franklin D. Roosevelt mentioned the idea of a raid on Japan in a meeting of his Joint Chiefs of Staff on December 21st.  The main purpose of the raid was to lift American morale and to shake the confidence of the Japanese people whose leaders had told them their islands were invulnerable to attack.  The bombing mission was carried out by sixteen B-25 Mitchell medium bombers led by former stunt pilot and aeronautical engineer Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. 

B-25 Mitchell Bomber
(Photos thanks to Wikipedia)

Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle moved the 17th Bombing Group to Columbia, South Carolina and asked for volunteers for an “extremely hazardous” unspecified mission from which it was doubtful if they would return alive.  Because the raid was top secret, the men who volunteered were not told where they were going until after the aircraft carrier had left Alameda, California.  B-25 bombers had never been tested in combat before, but they were chosen as best for a carrier take-off.  The planes were given several modifications.  Three additional fuel tanks were installed; steel blast plates were mounted on the fuselage around the upper turret to protect the gunners.  The lower gun turret and the liaison radio set were removed to make the plane lighter.  Mock gun barrels were installed on the tail cone to scare off attacks from behind, and the Norden bombsights were replaced with Captain Ross Greening’s $0.20 makeshift bombsights because it was very likely some planes would fall into enemy hands.  The men received 3 weeks of intensive training at Eglin Field, Florida where they practiced short takeoffs.

USS Hornet

  On April 1, 1942, the 16 bombers with their 5 man crews and the Army maintenance men (a total of 71 officers and 130 enlisted men) were loaded onto the USS Hornet.  The Hornet and Task Force 18 left the port on April 2nd.  Soon after, they rendezvoused with the USS Enterprise and Task Force 16 which would protect the Hornet in case of enemy attack.  The Hornet’s fighter planes were below deck to make room for the B-25s which were tied onto the deck, and so the Hornet could not defend herself.  The two aircraft carriers and their combined task forces of three heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, eight destroyers, and two fleet oilers proceeded in radio silence until April 17th when the oilers refueled the fleet and withdrew.  The rest of the fleet continued toward Japan at top speed until they were spotted by the Japanese patrol boat No. 23 Nitto Maru, 1200 km from Japan.  The Nitto Maru radioed a warning to Japan before it was destroyed by the task force, but since the patrol boat did not send a confirmation message, Japanese authorities disregarded the warning.  Jimmy Doolittle and the Hornet’s skipper, Captain Mitscher, decided not to take any chances on the carriers’ safety.  The B-25s were launched 310 kilometers farther away from Japan than had been planned.  Doolittle piloted the first plane, and between 8:20 and 9:19 A.M. all 16 of the planes took off for Japan.  In spite of the fact that none of the pilots had ever taken off from a carrier before, there were no major mishaps during takeoff. 

Six hours later, the planes flew over Japan.  Each plane had a fuel payload of 1141 gallons and four 225 kg bombs, three of which were explosives and the other was a bundle of incendiaries.  The planes bombed 10 military and industrial targets in Tokyo, 2 in Yokohama, and 1 each in Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe, and Osaka; but the material damage was negligible.  Fifty Japanese died and four hundred were injured—including civilians.  Although some of the planes faced fighter resistance and others faced anti-aircraft, only one plane was slightly damaged by the anti-aircraft and none of the Americans were shot.  

Landing the aircraft proved to be much more difficult.  The United States had negotiated with the United Socialist Soviet Republics to land in Vladivostok, but since the USSR had signed a neutrality treaty with Japan, they refused to let the Americans land there.  Instead, the intended landing fields were further away, in mainland China.  Unfortunately, no message had reached the fields to turn on their lights, so the fields were impossible to find.   In fact, none of the planes would have reached China at all except for a tail wind that increased their ground speed by 25 knots for 7 hours.  Fifteen of the bombers either crashed landed in China or their crews bailed out, completing the longest B-25 combat mission ever flown--on average, 4,170 km.

Ski York's B-25 in the Soviet Union
(thanks to www.airforce.ru)

 The bomber piloted by “Ski” York had engine trouble, and so the engine used up too much fuel.  York decided it was impossible to make it to China, and so he landed at a field in the Soviet Union near Vladivostok.  The Soviets confiscated the bomber and interned the crew for 13 months.  In May 1943, York and his crew escaped with a smuggler into Persia. 

Doolittle and his crew

Doolittle parachuted into a rice paddy in a Japanese controlled area of China.  He soon found his crew, and they were helped to safety by Chinese guerillas and American missionary John Birch.* 

One man from the 3rd bomber’s crew (captained by Lieutenant Gray) died when his parachute malfunctioned.


Ted Lawson

Ted Lawson, pilot of the 7th plane, and his crew crash-landed and all except for one man were injured.  They were aided by Chinese locals (the Japanese killed 250,000 Chinese because the locals helped the raiders) and American missionaries.  Ted Lawson’s leg had to be amputated, and he barely escaped death.  One of his crew, McClure, remained hospitalized until 1943.  Ted Lawson’s story is documented in the movie Thirty Seconds over Tokyo

Most of the other crews also bailed out or crash landed and made it back to safety with only minor injuries.  One airman grabbed an arm load of canned foods as he left his plane—he didn’t want to go hungry—unfortunately, he had to let go of his bounty because it was impossible to pull the parachute’s rip cord with his arms full!  Some of these men were later killed on other battle fronts, and many of them became prisoners of war in Germany.  At least one of the men later helped dig tunnels out of the prison camp in Germany for “The Great Escape” from Stalag Luft 3.

The members of the 6th crew, piloted by Hallmark, were less fortunate.  The bombardier and engineer gunner both drowned when their plane crash-landed in the ocean off the coast of China.  The pilot (Hallmark), co-pilot (Meder), and navigator (Neilson) were all captured by the Japanese.  The entire crew of the 16th bomber was also captured by the Japanese.  Three of the men captured by the Japanese (pilots Hallmark and Farrow and gunner Spatz) were given a war crimes trial and executed by a firing squad.  Meder died on December 1, 1943 in a Japanese prison.  The other four men were tortured brutally, water boarded, and kept on a starvation diet for 40 months.  Jacob DeShazer, the bombadier for the 16th plane, reported that 36 of those months were spent in solitary confinement.  DeShazer became extremely bitter and was filled with hate for the Japanese.  Finally, after 2 years, a guard agreed to give him a Bible.  Jacob DeShazer was not a Christian, but then he read the Bible, realized it was God’s word, and knew God was real.  He said the Holy Spirit came to him in a wonderful way, and God started talking to him.  “When I was a prisoner,” he said, “I was afraid I was going to die and I told God, I don’t want to go up there with empty hands; I want to do something for Jesus.”  The hatred and bitterness left him, and he promised God that if he survived, he’d come back to Japan as a missionary. 
Jacob DeShazer

 One day, he read how Jesus said to love our enemies.  His Japanese guard was exceptionally cruel, and DeShazer thought, “God can’t mean for me to love people this bad!”  But since Jesus said to love enemies, DeSshazer decided to give it a try.  The next time he saw the guard, he greeted him with a hearty “Good morning!”  After 6 days of treating the guard with love, the guard became a totally different person and even brought Deshazer extra food!  DeShazer and the 3 other surviving prisoners were liberated by the Americans in 1945, and DeShazer returned to Japan as a missionary in 1948.  Japan was a great mission field at the time because the Emperor had just admitted to the people that he was not God—he was only another human—and the Japanese people were confused, wondering who God was.  Thousands were saved through DeShazer’s ministry, including Captain Fuchida, the commander of the planes that bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.  Captain Fuchida and DeShazer became close friends, and Fuchida also worked as a missionary.  DeShazer served in Japan for 30 years, and then returned to the United States.  He died in Portland, Oregon in 2008.

Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle expected to be court-marshaled for losing all 16 of his planes.  Instead, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to brigadier general.  All of the raiders were also decorated.  The mission had been accomplished successfully.  American morale was boosted, and the Japanese withdrew their aircraft carrier force from the Indian Ocean to defend the Japanese Home Islands.

--Note--
*John Birch has an incredibly fascinating story—he was a hard working farm boy who became a stellar university student; he moved to China to serve as a missionary.  World War 2 broke out and he worked as an intelligence officer for General Chennault’s “Flying Tigers”, until he was brutally murdered by Chinese Communist “allies.”  Subsequently, the United States government covered-up the story, told lies to the Birch family about their son’s death, and marked John Birch’s file top secret.  Birch’s mother worked for years to uncover the truth about her son, and finally his life and death story was published in the excellent book The Secret File on John Birch