I chose not to renew my Internet Chess Club membership about a year ago, on the theory that lack of an on-line chess outlet would force me to start playing in live tournaments again. Actually, I hedged my bets, because I still have access to any number of free chess on-line outlets, but I also don't use them. I have not played in any live tournaments. Now, though, the ICC has written me one of those "we will delete your account and your files, which may drive me back to having an ICC membership again.
Yesterday I contemplated getting lessons from someone and trying to actually become good again. I'm interested to see if my strength could improve to the expert rating class. Because University of Texas--Dallas, in nearby Richardson, is a "chess powerhouse" (by the way, I wholeheartedly approve of schools which spend small sums of money becoming "chess powerhouses" instead of large sums trying to have major sports programs), it's easy to find strong players who might give lessons. I've never taken a chess lesson, relying instead on myriads of books and getting the heck beaten out of me for my formative learning experiences. That was much cheaper than lessons, if not as ego-satisfying. I think to myself that as hobbies go, chess was a reasonably kind one. Perspiration was sometimes rewarded with success, and in extreme cases with inspiration. Chess is a funny game, though--one does not improve based on how often one plays or how hard one studies--one improves based on how well one plays and studies. I find this to be the case in a lot of pursuits, though. The prize does not always go to raw effort, but only to effort in line with the goal.
I wrote a long portion of this post about my disquiet with both the Bush administration and with some of the protesters, and how odd it is to be "in the middle" of two positions I do not support. But I realized that my journal will not shed any new light on this today for anyone, and I already wrote my Congressman yesterday. So I deleted the passage.
Today I am going to buy bars of soap, and try to carve a chess set. It will not bring peace on earth, or good will toward men, but it might be fun.
It's very chilly here today, although most of the chill is "wind chill" not low temperatures. Dallas winter is calendar based--Monday through Friday, balmy and in the 60s and 70s. Saturday and Sunday? Cold and rainy!
I worked some yesterday, and then went to the "5 dollars and under" remaindered books store. I went haywire, buying some eight books. One is a huge biography of Mary Baker Eddy, which looks just grand. I find the new thought philosophers very intriguing. However, sometimes I see new thought ideas misplaced in our modern time. One local AM radio station had a program on yesterday in which someone was huckstering a device which will block not only cell phone radiation, but also the negative thoughts of others. The "radio host" was actually enthusiastic promoting this device, as if brain waves have been scientifically shown to be transmittable. It's a bit like the "holistic vet" in the paper who wrote recently about a recent NIH study that showed that gingko biloba did not have some of the positive attributes to which alternative medicine practitioners have ascribed it. The "holistic vet" said, correctly, that this NIH study's protocol tested only a limited number of things seeking limited data (he omitted that this is true of virtually all properly run study protocols). Then he said that "many holistic practitioners know" that gingko works. I find this type of argument frustrating. If "many holistic practitioners know" that gingko works, then perhaps "many holistic practitioners" should write a proper protocol, and get some of the massive, unregulated, unfortunate "dietary supplement" industry to fund them. Of course, a number of studies are in progress, and not all have been negative. But I hate to see "everybody knows" arguments about matters which are amenable to scientific research.
Sometimes I imagine a faith that took from the traditions of the past all that is good and essential, but then recognized the advances of the future. My God is not boxed in by the Genesis story, or the need to believe that "positive thinking always works", or the need to marginalize women, or deprecate the theory of evolution. Perhaps my faith can be justly criticized for lacking any boxes at all, but I'll live with the formlessness. Of course, I don't claim any special grace, or even clue, and the gurdonark Upanishad will not be written any time soon.
Today I will also complete my long-delayed nervousness project, set aside when I got a cold some weeks back.
I also want to find one of those tiny metal looms like we made potholders with when I was a kid, perhaps on ebay. I finished the novel about quilting circles, whch was a very good genre read, but decided that so much nurturing would probably be lethal in excessive doses, or at least that is my theory until the NIH speaks on this. So I am now thinking that instead of quilting, I should do something easy on a loom. I could do that when I was nine, so I probably still have the skills.
I also bought a translation of the Katha Upanishad, in which a fellow is sent to the boundaries of death where he has a dialogue with Yama, the god of Death, about whether there is life after death. I like that Yama initially discourages his question, saying that it it a very complex matter, and "even the gods are confused about this". I particularly like the passage that says:
"The path of grace does not reveal itself
to one who blunders through the world,
totally committed to it and its limitations.
It is a subtle, hidden path, never revealed
to one who thinks this world is all there is--
and who, so thinking, falls again and again
under [Death's] hand".