"There is much about the way a rainforest works that we are just beginning to understand".--Francesca Lyman
Last night I alternated between watching the Sci Fi Channel and playing blitz chess at the Internet Chess Club. I am still not sure whether it is a function of age or a function of a dial-up connection (which slows response time to moves, an important factor in speed chess), but my on-line blitz rating is usually around 300 points lower than my over the board "real chess"rating. I fell asleep on the guest bed waiting in vain for a disk of pictures of cedar trees in a meadow to upload to picturetrail; perhaps I will need to switch to high speed access someday. I awoke, played chess on the internet against a fellow who insisted on rematch after rematch although he was bested each time. I think I excite this reaction sometimes in weaker players because I play very unorthodox opening moves. People assume that they can best me "instantly" because the books say the opening isn't any good. But I have read the books, and they do not define the universe, any more than the physicists do.
I toyed on the drive to work with writing a parody of a chess openings book. This has been on my mind for years, and I have even titled it--'The Small Center System', which is the name for the "wrong strategy" I play the most. This reminds me of the apocryphal story of the world champion who lost a game to a player playing "The St. George Opening", a spectacularly unorthodox strategy. When the champion later wrote his annotations of the game, he instead termed it the "Incorrect Opening". I love to play all variations of the "Incorrect Opening". My area is a college "chess powerhouse" (the other Great Chess Power, for those in that region is the University of Maryland--Baltimore County), so lessons are obtainable here. Perhaps it would be fun to try to learn how to push myself up to expert rating.
I elected to make some shopping stops on my way to work today. First I hit the local "under 5 dollars" remaindered book store. I love the way that every intellectual book is remaindered for a fraction of its issue price on the internet and in my local retail remainder store. There's something sad but instructive about the impermanence of the individual idea in that. Of course, some books I cannot imagine who the publisher imagined would ever buy the book, unless, indeed, they imagined me, in my "Tarpon" baseball cap, buying the book for 1 dollar and 99 cents. As an aside, when you wear a baseball cap bought cheap from a K Mart in Florida festooned with a tasteful tarpon, everyone assumes you are (a) a friendly, manly "hey, how are y'all" kind of guy, and (b) mentally negligible. I bought a number of books, and settled in to read "Nine Gates--Entering the Mind of Poetry", by Jane Hirshfield, over a lunch of half chicken bbq, no sauce. I've also been looking longingly at further remaindered titles at bookcloseouts. In addition, today's mail brought three lovely vintage engravure-filled paperback "pocket books", called "Gods and Goddesses in Art and Legend", "Greek Art", and "Old Masters", all three of which cost collectively less than the cost of a McDonald's Special Value Meal.
I felt a longing to stop in our last remaining closing K Mart store, near my work in Garland. I don't know why a retail store can inspire a sentimental reaction in me,
but K Mart's departure does. I miss it in the same way I miss Woolworth's, Gibson's and Morgan\Lindsey 5 & 10. The store had some nice merchandise, but not the cheap digital camera I was looking for. I did buy a tiny spincasting fishing reel and some really inexpensive child's bongo drums, as well as a "work" financial calculator, so that I do not always have to shuttle my home one to the office when I want to do present value and interest calculations. They had roller skates on really cheap, but none in my size. Then I headed next door to Dollar Tree, where everything costs exactly one dollar. They had kites at 2 kites for a dollar, and I could not resist. I bought four sets of 2, as well as some extra string. I also bought a little wall display box, in which I had the notion I'd display some semi-precious stones I bid three dollars for on ebay, but I didn't win. I like ebay because I only bid very low for anything most of the time, so I get the thrill of shopping without much thrill of buying. To my surprise, though, I did win a huge vintage patchwork hand-made quilt for something more expensive like 30 dollars, which I'll set aside as a gift for a sister in law. My gift to my "gift exchange cousin" last Christmas of a real Texas hand-made quilt was a big hit, so I thought I'd find more charming quilts before the holiday season and stockpile them while they are inexpensive. The problem with revealing that you have any taste in such matters is that soon everyone expects you to utilize it when you shop. I like that I never spend much money at a time, but too many purchases at 1 or 2 or 10 or 20 dollars a pop seems to be my story.
At the office, I was excited by how much I got done. I work so well when the phone is silent. I brought some more work home for tomorrow, but I plan to do something outdoors tomorrow morning, and watch Children of Dune tomorrow evening, so my work time will be circumscribed.
I stopped at Allen Station Park, where I had the park all but to myself to fly a kite, but the wind cross-currents proved too much for me. I did hike down by the old railroad dam which is Allen's only "historical" thing, if one discounts the portion of train track where Sam Bass became the first desperado to rob a train, and further discounts the unheralded birthplace of Barney the Dinosaur. On my way driving home, I noticed that folks were flying kites in our little neighborhood pocket park, Glendover Park. I stopped my vehicle, pulled out the kite again, and headed for the small kid soccer field.
The Dollar Tree fifty cent kite was not one of the plastic delta wing kites that are so easy to fly. Instead, the kites are old-fashioned "classic" two-sticker kites, much like the kites we flew in the 60s when I was six or so.
The kites we flew were paper and wood, not plastic and wood, and we used rags, not a strip from a plastic garbage bag for a tail (for fifty cents, one gets the pragmatic kite rather than the "spiffy-looking" one, although the stars and whirls on a blue field were pleasant enough). This kite, like those kites, was a jaunty but by no means easy fly. Other folks in the park had rather more impressive kites. One man expertly handled with two strong control lines a sled kite, while his young daughters struggled with a nice delta kite.
My kite took to the air, but flew fitfully at first, prompting a ten year old boy on a bicycle to assure me he was an expert, and proceed to instruct me on kite flying.
I realized that after 37 years of flying kites, I am still not an expert, so I managed not to reply to his largely mistaken advice. Later, I saw him struggling to get a delta wing with fringe sides into the air, as his mother looked on.
My kite, by the way, ultimately flew very well, and I passed a pleasant half an hour watching it bob in the strong wind.
The warm weather really enlivens me. I know we are not quite done with cold days, but I feel as though a deep fog is lifting. Actually, a fog would have been nicer than this winter proved to be, but it's almost over now.