Robert (gurdonark) wrote,
Robert
gurdonark

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A season of hope



I spent yesterday afternoon doing the telephone calls one does when one is on the verge of settling a small case. The back and forth, the mild sense of poker being played, the waiting by the phone, and the sense that progress is being made all make the day move along smartly. Now if I can just break the newly-acquired habit of eating those little peanut-butter cups that appear in the office candy dish, I'll be making real progress. The problem with settling a case, of course, is that one does not get to try the case. I went to a local bar association meeting last week, in which the speaker said that during jury selection one should ask the question "what do y'all think about awarding damages for pain and suffering?", which seems a reasonable question to ask, but has a sort of non-sequitur feel about it I find delightful. But settled cases spawn no jury questions.

Yesterday I played the game, "unlikely LJ interests". The key to the game is not to pick the things that one knows will have answers, but to find things that one would not imagine would be listed, yet are listed as interests. Yesterday, my favorites were "eating tuna" and "roast chicken". This morning, my favorite is "snow crabs".

Meanwhile, the spam e mails from relatives of deposed and disgraced deceased African potentates wishing to split their ill-gotten gains with me seem to intensify. This particular fraud must work on someone, but it hard to imagine just who might surrender social security and bank account information upon the promise that ten million dollars will be wired in for easy splitting. I'm also intrigued by the e mails which promise me individual messages if I click to certain websites, but the address strip of the e mails shows that it was sent to dozens of other bccs, all with names quite similar to "gurdonark".

I made a few calls to city parks type folks in Allen about meeting spaces. The restored railroad depot they're calling the Heritage Center (which makes sense, because Allen's heritage is that it is a railroad stopover) has a really reasonable rental for a huge space, while the cute little clubhouse in the lake park has a slightly lower rental rate. I suppose I should break down and go back to the nice game room in Garland, which offered the most reasonable pricing of all. I worried that game rooms tend not to have eternal lives, and I would need to advertise two or three months ahead. But my concern may have been misplaced.

It really all comes to whether people will turn out for the tournament I've scheduled for January. I figure that 14 is my break-even point, but I have a real concern that turnout might only be a handful. I do not worry that much about taking a financial loss on the tournament, for a relatively simple reason. What got me back into wanting to run tournaments was the receipt of a postcard for this weekend's Dallas class championships. The entry fee was astronomical.
I said "this ain't right", and set out to do my own gig.

Chess ratings place one in different "rating classes", based on strength. For instance, I am 1733, which is between 1600 and 1800, and thus I am Class B. So a "class tournament" would pair me against other Class B players in pursuit of prizes. These are great fun, as one faces players against whom every game will usually be a close game. I saw this tournament was on a convenient weekend, and I was really pleased. But then I saw the entry fee--85 dollars!

Now I don't have any trouble with paying money for the things I want in life, but chess tournaments in my mind "should" cost 10 to 30 dollars to enter, not 85 dollars. 85 dollars is not a fortune, but it strikes me as "real hobby money". I realized that I could run a local tournament for not that much more than 85 dollars, so I set out to do so. It did cost a bit more than 85 in gross expenses. The actual cost to run the tournament, if nobody enters, will be closer to 200 dollars. But if anyone comes, then this tournament should net people with whom to run tournaments, which is the real goal.

The real risk, of course, is that in return for a 15 dollar entry fee, people forego any hope of real prizes. The prizes for this tournament are kazoos to winners of each section. Hence, the name "Plano Kazoo Quad". It's a "quad", which means I'll split the field into four player sections. The winner of each section wins a kazoo. Note to self--must order metal kazoos. I wonder if people will attend a 15 dollar a head tournament without the possibility of prizes. If the tournament succeeds, then I've already announced the net profits will go to charity. My mental image is chess without profit. What good is a game if one plays it only to win prizes? I love making money well enough, but everything becomes so mercantile.

In the long run, I suppose I should run tournaments at home in my "art room", which I'm slowly cleansing of its extraneous junk. I can acquire a couple of used oblong tables for not much money, and host up to eight players. That would drive the entry fees down from 15 dollars to 2 or 3. But before I have folks in my home, I like to know who they are, so I'll have to meet some similarly-minded local chessplayers in order to feel fully comfortable with this approach.

I do so much in life via e mail and other on-line communication. I assumed last Spring that, like other projects I've accomplished, I could send e mails to local chess clubs and players, and generate momentum that way. I was distinctly underwhelmed by the response. I think that e mailing a stranger, even a chess player, just makes one seem like one is generating spam, as if I were the widower of the deceased African Women's Chess Champion, sadly killed in a hypermodern opening, offering tournament winning riches in the Cote d'Ivoire, rather than another human being out there who wants people with whom to play rated chess without driving to the (admittedly nearby) next county.

I did get a few encouraging words. The prof (and Women's International Master) at "chess powerhouse" UT Dallas sent me a kind note, as did the fellow with Watauga's club (albeit he did question whether "serious" players would be interested in my notion of a club based on very fast time controls). The fellow with the Dallas Chess Club directed me to a local Barnes & Noble coffee place where a lot of blitz chess players hang out. Most of my e mails, though, drew no response, or a "our school no longer has a club" type response. I was particularly disappointed that when I offered to volunteer my time for free to run tournaments, school chess folks didn't respond. I suppose I must have been just one more bit of spam. The problem with going out on a limb, sometimes, is the darn thing breaks. Worse, sometimes one is just out on the limb, in the breeze, alone.

I spent some time yesterday reading up on the financial woes that plague the United States Chess Federation. It's really simple, to my mind. Eighty five percent of the players are rated under 1600. They are the people who pay the dues,
attend the tournaments, and make a national organization possible. All of them, like myself, really want the chess federation to provide a rating system, a magazine which has good grandmaster analysis and a listing of many available regional tournaments. Perhaps they want to know there is a US Open, a US Championship and a US Junior Championship. Perhaps they want a good source for books and equipment.
Aside from those things, though, they don't really want much from a chess federation. They just want lots of affordable local tournaments at which to find people to play.

The USCF charges adults something like 49 dollars a year in dues. It has 90,000 members, although most of the members are kids who pay less in dues. The adult membership perhaps runs near 40,000. I have to imagine that the 1.6 million dollars or so in dues generated would be enough to run a simple "ratings, a magazine, a few tournaments and giving advice as to local tournaments" function, but not enough for anything else. I had a vague fantasy of running for a USCF board position next time. I'd want to be a write-in candidate. My platform? Help the little guy, but use fiscal prudence. That would be my platform in most things, I suspect.

So I'll run my chess tournament, take the exam to achieve the next level of chess tournament director, and try to build a little group of folks over time who wish to play tournament chess. I'm hopeful that I can figure out ways to get people to come. I got my confirmation that the room is reserved, and a little form to promote it on the city website. Maybe it is the season, but I have this sense that if I just keep plugging at it long enough, I'm going to be able to have chess tournaments which people attend, and play more tournament chess without huge cash outlay. I feel that I may have to fail a few times to find the formula to succeed. I am ready to try, try again. But we'll see.

A friend very casually mentioned to me a time or two that the Democrats would like to run folks for judgeships in Collin County. Collin County is pretty much a straight-ticket Republican county, so running as a Democrat would be a novel experience. I think it would be worthwhile to be a judge, but I don't think I'll see if I could get nominated. But I can imagine myself as Citizen Gurdonark, trying to run for office. It's a fun image--I'd get a website, and a jingle.

I know it's fashionable to dislike Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I have every emphathy for folks who do not enjoy these holidays. But I love the holiday season. I have been lately reading up on east Texas, the piney woods country where every little town, it seems, has a little festival, complete with lights display. Christmas was such a big thing where I grew up--a happy time, when everything seemed to go right. I love the whole year, but the holiday season is really special to me. Last year, it never "seemed" like the holidays. This happens too often in recent years. This year I am determined to have a "real" holiday, with warmth and giving and reaching out. I also miss a lot of little, inessential things. I miss a time of inexpensive grocery store Scotch pines, sandlot sports with other folks home for the holidays, drinking hot chocolate from a huge thermos, and getting out of school for two weeks.

Lately I have this hankering to go fishing, and yet the feeling I get sometimes that hooks do not do fishes much good. I'll go again soon, or do some other really extensive outdoor activity. I need more than the short hikes and walks I take lately. I need a long burst of exercise. I must look up, though, whether it is deer hunting season. I don't have any burning desire to be mistaken for a ten point buck.

I'm plugging away at my Mandatory Continuing Legal Education. I hope to have it finally done this weekend. I invoke another annual plea--since I kinda enjoy it, but it's a burden to do it all at the last minute, so I say that I'll never again wait until the last minute to finish it. But I say this too many years. I need next year to do more earlier, and thus have to say less "never agains" later.

I think my holiday season goal is to hike the entire Trinity Trail. It's only 9 miles or so, round trip, so I can do this in a good Saturday. That's a worthy winter goal. I'll have to see if it's (a) dry and (b) not deer season. I also want to look into toys for tots type things. I will donate chess sets for Christmas presents. Not at all a bad idea.

Our business goes well. We seem, after three years, to have fully achieved our goals of having something that changed my partner and I from workaholics chasing a dollar into a more integrated, whole kind of existence. Sometimes I miss the high income of the "rat race" (what a great sixties expression), but usually I'm just glad to be running my own race now. I'm fortunate these days, in that the economic dislocation did not negatively affect us. Indeed, a sad fact of my form of practice it that it slightly positively affects my business. I must appreciate, and give back a bit more.

I have a fantasy of running a rural chess tournament, in a small county seat convention center. If my local tournament works, maybe that will be next.

I travel to Los Angeles tonight, for a series of hearings on Friday. I arrive too late in the evening to visit friends, which is my usual preferred way to spend "night before a hearing" times in Los Angeles. Instead, Priceline.com has assigned me the Airport Hilton. I'll get in tonight, take the little aiport bus to the hotel, perhaps get to see ER, and then get ready for my Friday morning hearings. Friday, after my hearings, I'll run to the airport, catch an early afternoon plane, and land in Dallas at eight p.m.

It's been months since I've been home to Arkansas, so I must find a weekend soon to go. We'll go see my wife's people in Kansas City over Thanksgiving. I'm very fortunate in that I get along very well with all my in-laws. If weather and time permits, I'll go to the Powell Gardens, and walk in brisk weather on open, grassy areas, ,and look at that rock wall with plants jutting from it. I may stop by Unity Village, for no real reason at all--I just kinda like it there.

I'd love to help set up a Collin County public garden.
I'll add that to my "what I would do if I won a lottery" list.
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