Category Archives: Opinion

May every racist find an Alana Infantino


When I tell someone that I’ve been estranged since 1993 from both sides of my family, I often get asked, “Don’t you miss them?”

No, I don’t. Let me tell you why.

Kingsville, TexasBackground information: I was born in Kingsville, Texas, deep in the Deep South. Kingsville is a small farming and ranching community of about 25,000. Back in its heyday it was a major railroad town for Missouri Pacific Railroad, which is why my ancestors located there since they all worked for the railroad.

There was one black student in my high school class. I was one of his few friends, and I often got bullied for it.

Texas A&M UniversityI went off to college at Texas A&M University, pretty much an all-white institution of higher education. Students used to say that the only black people on campus played football or basketball.

Just 50 miles down the road was Prairie View A&M University, a sister institution of higher education but pretty much all-black.

This was in 1973.

The last time I was in Kingsville, Texas, was in 2001. At that time blacks and Hispanics were finally making inroads into politics.

I remember sitting in my uncle’s back yard one day. It was an impromptu family reunion because my brother and sister were in town, and they had not been in Kingsville in 25 years or so.

My wise old grandmotherAlso in the crowd were three cousins and their families, including children, and my wise old grandmother, 91 at the time. That was the last time I saw my wise old grandmother before she died in June 2003.

As the conversation turned to politics, I remembered something my wise old grandmother had told me many years previous: “There are three things you don’t talk about in polite company: religion, sex, and politics.” As soon as my uncle opened his mouth and started spouting racial epithets and ethnic slurs, I knew that my wise old grandmother was right. The conversation turned ugly, in my mind, very quickly, with everyone except me and MWOG jumping in with their own brand of ugliness. It kind of surprised me about my brother and sister because they had lived in New Orleans for 25 years. Hellooooooooooo.

I once was like them. After all, I had grown up with them.

It all started to change for me on April 15, 1993. After writing a check to the IRS to pay my taxes, I loaded my 1989 Mustang GT with 100 CDs, called a friend who lived 100 miles away and told him to come get the dogs, and disappeared. I was on my way to Canada to commit suicide.

Twelve days later I wound up in San Diego. I was out of the work force for 11 months while I worked on sexual orientation issues as I was coming out. Being gay was only part of the problem. As my coming out counselor told me at the time, “You have a lot of black and white videotapes. It’s time to colorize them.”

Eleven months later I put myself back in the work force as a temp because I only wanted to work on T-W-Th to make enough money to pay for food, shelter, and gas for the Mustang to go to the beach.

My first job as a temp was for a guy very much like my granddad. Every other word was a cuss word or a racial slur. I didn’t go back after lunch break. And now you know why I always talk about my wise old grandmother but not my granddad.

My second job started as an interview. I was to meet Alana Infantino, a lady with whom I’m still friends 21 years later. (Hi, Alana!) I didn’t know what kind of name Alana Infantino was, and I sure didn’t realize that the person was a woman. I had been raised to believe that women belong in the home, barefoot and pregnant as my uncle would say.

I liked Alana but had a problem with a woman being my boss. I remembered what my counselor had said, and I took the job, intent on colorizing my old videotapes.

Thirty days later and I was working as a full-time, permanent employee for the company Alana was with. The caveat was that I would be a consultant and would work wherever the company sent me, although San Diego would be my home base and I would get to come home every 2-4 weeks, at company expense.

The first place the company wanted to send me was Detroit. Alana, being the very smart and astute woman that she is, took me out to eat to discuss the opportunity in Detroit. By that time, she knew all about my past, my family, and why I was in San Diego. She told me that day, “Russel, there are females in the office in Detroit. There are black people in the office in Detroit. There are even black females in the office in Detroit. Are you sure you want to tackle those obstacles now.”

I was sure.

It was one of the best things I ever did for myself.

I hope the racists in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, at the University of Oklahoma, and throughout the nation—especially in the Midwest, Deep South, and rural areas where racism still seems to be so pervasive—find their Alana Infantino, and sooner rather than later. Life is so much more pleasant….

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Opinion—People like him are evil


I grew up in a family where mom and stepdad were alcoholics.

Although all seven of us kids were the subject of physical and verbal abuse, my oldest stepsister and I bore the brunt of that abuse. That was the main cause of me acting out and becoming one of Utah’s greatest (?) juvenile delinquents.

Once my wise old grandmother adopted me—I was just three months short of age 11—and gave me love & discipline, I recovered.

One thing that my wise old grandmother taught me during the eight years she had me was zero tolerance for abuse, whether that be verbal or physical abuse of people, even adults, or abuse of fauna, flora, or even property.

Early yesterday morning I drove about twenty miles south to visit—and get pictures of!—San Diego Historical Landmark #13. It was pretty cool! Blog post coming soon!

As I walked around SDHL #13, I saw a guy drop an animal over a ballpark fence. At first I thought it was a little fox. Looked like this:

Abandoned dog

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When I got over to the fence, I realized that it was a dog, a dog very happy to see me. I found a gap between the fence and a gate and got the dog out. Friendliest little thing, but obviously scared, and emaciated…. no collar.

As I was looking around trying to decide what to do, the guy looked back, saw me with the dog, and came back to us. As he got closer to us, the dog took off after him. I made the presumption that the dog belonged to him, but because of the dog’s emaciation—as well as my first thought of abandonment by the guy dropping the dog over the fence—I followed them for a little ways. All seemed to be well, but as I walked back to my car—a good 30 minute walk—I kept thinking about that emaciated dog.

Back at the parking lot, I found some firemen on break and talked to them about the dog. They gave me Animal Control’s number.

I drove my car back to the ballparks where I had seen the dog, parked, and walked to the ballparks. Sure enough, the dog was back in the ballpark, behind the chain link, trying desperately to get out. The guy was nowhere around, so I called Animal Control and reported an abandoned dog, and what had happened. It took them all of 17 minutes to get to the park. They rescued the dog, confirmed that it was in bad shape from lack of food, and took it away.

I am so sorry that I did not take a picture of the guy to give to Animal Control. People like him are evil, should be prosecuted, and then locked away for at least a little while….That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking with it.

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Opinion—I’m going with Monsanto on this one, for the moment


Many decades ago I wanted to be a researcher for a forestry company like Weyerhauser. I wanted to find new ways to use what trees provided, to make new products that might help us save some of those beautiful forests. Kind of a conflict of interest, I guess, to work for a forestry company that specialized in clearcutting whole forests but looking for ways to cut (pun intended) the amount of clearcutting….

Texas A&M UniversityWhile working towards a degree in forest management at Texas A&M University, a degree which I never have used (it looks pretty hanging on the wall, though!), I did gain an appreciation for how research is done, and I’m a big proponent of peer-reviewed research published in respectable (i.e., well-established) journals.

Conflict of interest…. Peer-reviewed research….

That brings me to Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO).

According to Wikipedia (and yes, I do like Wikipedia both because I am a volunteer editor there myself and because Wikipedia requires valid sources and citations rather than opinions):

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food. The term GMO is very close to the technical legal term, ‘living modified organism,’ defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates international trade in living GMOs (specifically, ‘any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology’).”

When I was working towards my Bachelor of Science, in 1975 the world population was a little over four billion. To put that into a time perspective:

AD 1 – 200 million
1000 – 265 million
1955 (when I was born) – 2.756 billion
1975 – 4.068 billion
2000 – 6.070 billion
2015 – 7.324 billion

Friday Flower Fiesta with Topaz GlowMy interest in biotechnology increased significantly in 1984 when Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), “Father of the Green Revolution,” agreed to teach and do his research at my alma mater, Texas A&M University. Dr. Borlaug had used biotechnology techniques to increase worldwide food production, particularly in Mexico, Pakistan, and India. For his contributions to increasing the world’s food supply, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He continued teaching and doing research at Texas A&M right up until his death in 2009 at the age of 95.

Friday Flower Fiesta 12-19-14 Russel Ray PhotosBorlaug’s work to increase crop yields was, in his view, a means to curb deforestation, a view with led to the “Borlaug Hypothesis,” that increasing the productivity of agriculture on the best farmland can help control deforestation by reducing the demand for new farmland.

From Wikipedia:

“Assuming that global food demand is on the rise, restricting crop usage to traditional low-yield methods would also require at least one of the following: the world population to decrease, either voluntarily or as a result of mass starvations; or the conversion of forest land into crop land. It is thus argued that high-yield techniques are ultimately saving ecosystems from destruction.”  (Angelsen, A., and D. Kaimowitz. 2001. “The Role of Agricultural Technologies in Tropical Deforestation.” Agricultural Technologies and Tropical Deforestation at the Wayback Machine (archived September 29, 2005). CABI Publishing, New York.

That’s all well and good, but Borlaug’s work has resulted in a big-time industry in genetically modified organisms, ultimately dumping much of the GMO criticism directly on Dr. Borlaug.

According to Wikipedia:

“Throughout his years of research, Borlaug’s programs often faced opposition by people who consider genetic crossbreeding to be unnatural or to have negative effects. Borlaug’s work has been criticized for bringing large-scale monoculture, input-intensive farming techniques to countries that had previously relied on subsistence farming. These farming techniques reap large profits for U.S. agribusiness and agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto Company and have been criticized for widening social inequality in the countries owing to uneven food distribution while forcing a capitalist agenda of U.S. corporations onto countries that had undergone land reform.

“Other concerns of his critics and critics of biotechnology in general include: that the construction of roads in populated third-world areas could lead to the destruction of wilderness; the crossing of genetic barriers; the inability of crops to fulfill all nutritional requirements; the decreased biodiversity from planting a small number of varieties; the environmental and economic effects of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides; the amount of herbicide sprayed on fields of herbicide-resistant crops.

“Borlaug dismissed most claims of critics, but did take certain concerns seriously. He stated that his work has been “a change in the right direction, but it has not transformed the world into a Utopia”. Of environmental lobbyists he stated, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.

IMG_8360 faa stampSo we are back to Monsanto. I’m not naïve enough to think that Monsanto doesn’t want money, and they think they have found a way to make significant amounts of it. I’m also not naïve enough to think that companies (and extraordinarily rich people) are going to do the right thing just because. Life doesn’t work that way, which is why governments need to step in to control things.

Unfortunately, governments throughout history have been shown to be corrupt. In the United States today, courtesy of the United States Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision, corporations are people and are free to buy as many politicians and governments as they can afford.

Framed flower orbI’m all for Monsanto making money off of its GMOs, and I’m all for those GMOs being used to solve world food, health, and housing problems. In order for me to have confidence in their work and their research, though, I need to continue to see that work and research published in peer-reviewed publications.

The main reason is that many corporations sponsor academic research, so the academic researcher might have a desire to make the research conform to the needs or wants of the corporation. That’s where the peer review comes in. Well-respected, peer-reviewed publications send research out to other people for review, and the researcher doesn’t have a choice as to which people the publication sends the research to. Sure, the researcher can advocate for specific people, but the publication editors may or may not choose those people.

Photographic Art by Russel Ray PhotosWhen I worked at Texas A&M University from 1983-1987, I worked for the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science, the University Press, and the TAMU NMR Newsletter, all under the tutelage of Dr. Bernard Shapiro, a foremost researcher in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance. Dr. Shapiro often got requests from various publications throughout the world (Science, Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Journal of Chemistry, Journal of Magnetic Resonance, et al.) to review research, and I had the pleasure of compiling his comments and sending them off to the publications.

In conclusion,

  • as long as human population growth increases out of control,
  • as long as men are not willing to put a condom on it,
  • as long as women are not willing to take a pill the day after,
  • as long as Republican politicians continue to try to control a woman’s right to choose,
  • as long as we have selfish people like the Duggars, and
  • as long as we have peer-reviewed research,

I’m going to go with Monsanto on this one so that at least no one has to starve to death.

I will continue to watch the situation, though, and continue to read peer-reviewed research in established publications rather than listen to sound bites or reading sound bite Internet memes.

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Keep calm and focus on doohickeys


As many people know, I’m trying to re-invent myself at the age of 59. They (and I don’t know who “they” are) say that it’s never too late…. you’re never too old….

It might never be too late, and you might never be too old, but I sure can say that it’s not easy….

I have been considering anything and everything but I pretty sure about two things:

  1. I want to do something constructive.
  2. Online marketing, network marketing, and MLM marketing (which is redundant; that should tell you something right there!) are not constructive.

For those who might not know, MLM is short for “multi-level marketing” which is why MLM marketing is redundant.

MLM was popular when I graduated from college back in 1977. I recognized it for the Ponzi scheme it was, and eventually it was declared illegal. However, MLM was only out of action for a year or so before they found a way around the law: offer something.

With the Internet, especially Facebook, MLM is back, but mostly it goes by the names “online marketing” and “network marketing,” and they offer doohickeys.

doohickeyIn other words, if you want to join my “network marketing team,” it will only cost you $4.99, and for that you get a doohickey. Once you’re a part of a network marketing team, you simply go find people to join YOUR network marketing team for just $4.99 so you can give them a doohickey, too!

So far I have not found a single physical doohickey–no keychains, rings, wristbands, tie clips, shoelaces…. Instead, the doohickey that everyone offers is a PDF file telling you how to develop your network marketing team and how great network marketing is.

Most network marketing teams want anywhere from $1.75—the lowest I found—to $200—which wasn’t the highest. One real estate network marketing team wanted over $14,000 to join their team. For that $14,000, instead of reading a PDF, it looked like you got to participate in an online class and listen to a couple of people tell you how to develop your real estate network marketing team.

The funniest part of all this online marketing, though, is when I run across a guy advertising himself as making over a million dollars a year, yet he’s wearing a torn college t-shirt from 30 years ago, sitting at a broken desk in a small room with makeshift shelves that are collapsing under the weight of a lot of binders.

I did find one guy, though, who participates in network marketing but tells it like it is. Basically:

You only make money on people you bring in
and the people they bring in, referred to as your down line.

In other words, if you don’t continue finding people to pay into the system, and if other people don’t do the same, the system will collapse because it can’t afford to pay out, to pay YOU!

In my view, if anyone wants me to pay them for the opportunity to work, I’m outta there. Even the companies that want me to pay $25 or $50 for credit checks and background checks. Nope. If you or your company can’t afford to spend $25-$50 on a prospective employee, you’re not the person or company I want to work for.

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Fight organized crime


Several decades ago I had a Professor Phil Gramm as my Economics 301 professor at Texas A&M University. Many might recognize the name. He quit a tenured (guaranteed for life) position at Texas A&M in order to enter politics. He served as a United States Congressman from 1979 to 1985 (Democrat from 1979 to 1983 and Republican from 1983 to 1985), and a United States Senator (Republican) from 1985 to 2002.

When Gramm retired from the Senate in 2002, papers throughout the nation noted that he was retiring with $64 million in his campaign war chest, some of it from me. Did he send me my money back? Nope. He just got to keep $64 million, all for himself.

That explained to me why wealthy people (think DuPont, Kennedy, Issa, etc.) enter politics. They don’t do it to serve the public. Far from it. Rather, they enter it for the power and money. Face it. One hundred Senators and 435 Congresspersons out of 319 million people are special, i.e., powerful.

A tenured position at Texas A&M back then was paying about $125,000, so if we presumed that Gramm never got a raise and worked 30 years at Texas A&M, he would have made a mere $3,750,000. That doesn’t begin to compare to $64 million (which DOES NOT include his annual salary as a Congressman and Senator!). Then you add in all the perks, like the greatest health insurance in the world, an annual lifetime salary of $100,000 or so after retiring, meals, overseas trips paid for by donors, etc.

Ever since 2002, I have been pretty pessimistic about politicians. I firmly believe that every politician lies. It’s in their job descriptions. In order to be successful (i.e., elected and re-elected), you must lie. What voters have to determine is who is telling the best (i.e., most truthful) lies, or at the least, the lies we like the best. At the moment, I’m pretty much a fan of the lies that the Democrats tell. They make more sense to me, seem to be more compassionate and fair.

I also am a fan of term limits, believing that if term limits are good enough for the President of the United States (two terms; that’s it!), they ought to be good enough for everyone else. So here’s what I would suggest everyone do when voting in next month’s elections:

Fight organized crime

Of course, few will listen to me. I predict that at least 85% of the incumbents will be re-elected……….. :(

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Should we not release our dogs and cats back into the wild?


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I freely admit that I support zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, and even SeaWorld to the max, 100%.

I even support circuses when it is done right, and I’ll define “done right” as using positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement.

To me, it’s pretty obvious when animals in our care have been trained with positive reinforcement.

It’s no different from you teaching a dog to roll over, sit, play dead, shake.

It’s done with treats, not whippings.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t like horse racing. I have been to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Races twice with a Photographer All Access pass. A total of twenty hours on two different occasions two years apart. I have yet to see anyone give a horse a treat. Rather, they prod them, poke them, whip them…….. Why are people not protesting that instead of SeaWorld? I don’t understand.

Do animals in our loving care remember those who care for them? I submit that they do:

Here’s another one:

Did zoos, aquariums, SeaWorld, and circuses abuse animals in the past? I believe they did. I believe taking animals out of the wild can, in many circumstances, be considered abuse.

However, I would rather have some of these animals in Zoos to save them than in the wild where they get slaughtered by poachers:

100,000 elephants killed by poachers in 3 years

I would also submit that in today’s world, if you were able to ask these animals if they would prefer to be in the wild struggling to find food each day, fighting for their lives each day…. or in a zoo or aquarium where they get love, attention, food, and medical care…. I believe I know the answer.

Without the leadership of the San Diego Zoo in getting other zoos and sanctuaries to sign on to its California Condor Conservation program, the California Condor would now be extinct. It actually was extinct in the wild as recently as 1987. Through the successful breeding programs of the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos, the California Condor was re-introduced to the wild beginning in 1991 in southern Utah, northern Arizona, central and southern California, and northern Baja California, Mexico. Here are a few of the California Condors at the San Diego Zoo:

Andean condor at the San Diego Zoo

California Condor at the San Diego Zoo

California Condor at the San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has a northern white rhino as a resident. Northern white rhinos are functionally extinct, which means that the seven rhinos that exist in zoos throughout the world are beyond breeding age and that none exist in the wild. When these seven remaining rhinos die, there will be no more unless we can figure out cloning.

Northern white rhinoceros at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Many times each year the Zoo and Safari Park announce the arrival of big babies: orangutans, elephants, giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, and gorillas. If not for the Zoo, I would never have had the opportunity to see orangutans, elephants, giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, and gorillas. And my annual membership supports the Zoo’s conservation and breeding programs, to ensure that the California Condor continues to exist in the wild.

The Zoo also re-introduces wildlife to other parts of the world when possible. Unfortunately, people in other countries don’t have the economy that we have in the United States, so they don’t mind slaughtering animals for food and other products.

I try to go once a week to SeaWorld, the Zoo, and Safari Park because one never knows what’s going on each week and which animals will be photogenic for me.

Without Zoos, many millions of people, including me, would never have had the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures:

Mom and baby gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Sumatran tiger at Tiger Trail at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Himalayan Monal at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Burmese Python at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Black mangabey at the San Diego Zoo

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Camel at the San Diego Zoo

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Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo

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Elephant at the San Diego Zoo

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Giant Panda at the San Diego Zoo May 2013

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Male lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Mama koala and her joey at the San Diego Zoo

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Forest buffalo at the San Diego Zoo

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Caracal at the San Diego Zoo

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Desert bighorn sheep at the San Diego Zoo

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Johnston's crocodiles at the San Diego Zoo

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Fishing cat at the San Diego Zoo

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Zebra at the San Diego Zoo

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Secretary Bird at the San Diego Zoo

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Cheetah at the San Diego Zoo

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Polar Bear at the San Diego Zoo

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Knobbed Hornbill at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Meerkat at the San Diego Zoo

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Red kangaroo at the San Diego Zoo

(Got the kangaroo in there for you, Laurie!)

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Flamingos at the San Diego Zoo

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Although I can cite no research to support me, I firmly believe that people who have visited a zoo, sanctuary, or aquarium are more likely to contribute to conservation efforts to save these beautiful creatures from extinction in the wild.

For those who want to release all of these creatures back into the wild, that cannot be done with many of them because they are injured and would not be able to survive. The two bald eagles at Safari Park come to mind, both injured in the wild and rescued, and both unable to fly.

Bald eagles

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If we take this to its logical conclusion, then all dogs and cats should be released back into the wild. After all, both species adapt quite quickly to life in the wild, so why are we keeping them penned up in our homes and teaching them tricks? For our entertainment, pleasure, and companionship….

Spoiled dog

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What is sportsmanship?

Out & About

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2014 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, CaliforniaLast weekend the 2014 National High School Chess Championships were held right here in San Diego. High school is a misnomer because this included anyone in grades kindergarten to twelfth grade. And I saw a couple of pretty good kindergarteners!

What is sportsmanship?

I went on Sunday to see Round 7, the final round, figuring that in Round 7 I’d be able to watch several of the top players go at each other.

Indeed, the pairings for the final round had #1 Seed, Darwin Yang, playing Cameron Wheeler. Darwin had six wins in six games. Cameron had five wins in six games.

Darwin is a Grandmaster-elect. That means he’s really, really good because Grandmaster is the highest international rating, and Darwin’s only in the eleventh grade.

Is sportsmanship letting the other person win?

2014 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, CaliforniaIn chess, a win is worth one point, a loss doesn’t earn a point, and a draw (a tie) earns each player half a point.

I don’t know what Cameron was seeded, but at the beginning of the final round, Cameron was tied with eight other players for second place, behind Darwin, lonely in first.

I took position by Board 1 to watch the game. Total disappointment. After three moves each, Darwin and Cameron agreed to a draw! Huh? Really?

Is sportsmanship not playing if you’re already assured of winning the whole enchilada?

They both got half a point, so the final standings show Darwin in first place with 6½ points out of a possible 7 points. Four players tied for second place, all four with wins in the final round. So if Darwin had lost to Cameron, there could have been a five-way tie for first place.

2014 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, CaliforniaThat makes one wonder, Who offered the draw after only three moves? And why would the other player accept it.

If Cameron offered the draw, he was assured of being the only player to put a dent in Darwin’s otherwise-perfect record. Why would Darwin accept the offer of a draw? It would assure him of being in first place all by himself…. but

Is that sportsmanship?

2014 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, CaliforniaWith the draw, Cameron wound up in a 15-way tie for third place. If he had lost to Darwin, he would have been in a 28-way tie for fourth place.

By my analysis, it looks like both players benefitted. So by agreeing to a draw after only three moves, both players apparently got to take a rest. I doubt they would have left early to go back home because the awards ceremony was at 7:00 p.m. I think I also saw Cameron doing a little shopping at Fashion Valley Mall, which was just feet away across the parking lot.

If sportsmanship is letting the other person (or team) win simply because you have already won the whole enchilada (or made the playoffs), imagine what would happen during the last half of the football, baseball, or basketball seasons when those teams already out of contention, or those so far ahead that a loss wouldn’t matter, decided not to give it their all. Hmmmmm. I’m not liking this kind of sportsmanship.

Here is my picture of Darwin (left) and Cameron at Board 1 just minutes before the final round started:

Darwin Yang and Cameron Wheeler

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