Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Game of Kings (and old folks)

I learned to play chess somewhere in junior high or high school - I'm not sure exactly how. Maybe it was my somewhat intellectual (aka nerdy) group of friends, or a late 80s computer game on 5 1/4" floppy disk. I'd like to say I wasn't on the high school chess team because I wasn't that nerdy, but really my high school was too small and we didn't even have a chess team. I'm scared to think of what side of the fence I would have landed on if they did.

Even as a missionary, chess was a hobby. The night that transfer calls were made by our mission president each month, my companion and I would play chess through the night after returning home from proselytizing. It was a perfect way to pass the time and get our minds focused on something besides whether one of us was going to get transferred.

It had been a while since I've played chess, but that changed a few days before Christmas. A few couples from our church congregation got together and made a number of fleece blankets to deliver to residents at a local care center. As we walked into one of the rooms, my eyes were first drawn to the old school computer with a three color 2D chess game on the screen. I then noticed a custom-made velcro chess board, complete with a number/letter coordinate grid. I was intrigued. The resident (Marlo) could not speak very well and had limited motor skills. We talked to him for a while and gave him his blanket. As we got ready to head to the next room, Marlo asked if I wanted to play a game of chess. At first, I declined, knowing that there were other residents to visit. But my wife kindly suggested that I stick around and play while the rest of the group went to deliver the remaining blankets.

As I sat down to play, I had a few thoughts running through my mind: 1) Are we even going to have time to play a game before everyone returns? 2) How good can this guy be with his limited capacities? 3) He does have a computer game and chess board, with pretty much nothing else to do, so maybe he'll be alright. But when I saw a large book on chess strategy lying on his floor, I got an inkling that I might be in over my head.

It took us a while to get the game going, especially since I had to learn that Marlo did not move his own pieces. What he would do is name the coordinates (i.e. "A5 to C7") and I would move his piece for him. I finally caught on to this and moved his first piece to begin the game. Then followed my move. Then his. Then mine. Then his. Checkmate.

What? Really? I surveyed the board and looked at everything that had occurred in the short space of about 90 seconds and five moves. He was right. I had been put in checkmate in less time than it takes me to brush my teeth (if I brush for the full two minutes recommended on the Oral-B Sonicare - which I usually don't). All the thoughts I had had moments before had been answered definitively and Marlo just smiled the kind of smile that made me wish he could tell me exactly what was going on in his mind at that moment. We played again and I put up much more of a fight in another losing effort. But at least I felt better about that game.

As we left the care center, I couldn't help but smile at the defeat. I may return for a rematch with Marlo soon, but I really need to brush up on my chess skills first. I hope Marlo enjoyed our games - I know I did.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"All I Fear"

I guess I will follow suit with my own list of 20 things I would do if I had no fear:

1. Pursue a music career full-time
2. Dive into the pool head-first
3. Do a backflip on the trampoline (I guess my wife and I both have that fear)
4. Give plasma (I'm okay with giving blood though)
5. Buy a house
6. Actually invest time in school so I can get good enough grades to get into a top-tier PhD program (in case I decided to go that route)
7. Run for political office
8. Snowboard more often (I'm too comfortable on skis)
9. Invest in the stock market
10. Actually release my "Racing & Retracing" CD
11. Delve more into my scripture study
12. Quit my job
13. Take a dance class with my wife
14. Get in shape
15. Befriend our neighbors
16. Finish the children's book I once started writing
17. Ask my wife and/or father-in-law to teach me to weld
18. Race a motorcycle
19. Leave my door unlocked
20. Live without insurance

So there you have it, folks. My innermost fears exposed. Enjoy. Feel free to post your own list(s).

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The First Presidency Christmas Devotional

As Deidra mentioned in one of her prior posts, we had the opportunity of attending the First Presidency Christmas devotional. One of our friends sent us a few pictures from that night, so I thought I might as well post them here. We had a good, ol' fun time.


That was the amount offered for my online soul . . . and I turned it down. Thanks for your comments!