Robert (gurdonark) wrote,
Robert
gurdonark

succumbing to fatigue



Yesterday I found myself deeply tired and rather cranky. My first challenge arose trying to fall asleep after returning from Phoenix. I'd not slept well either the night before my trip, nor the night in the hotel. The return was no better. I'm unable to sleep after any flight over two hours, so I stayed awake until 3 a.m. I arrived hungry, as the El Paso airport, my layover, abolished proper dinners in the evening time at the fine little food places there, instead forcing everyone onto a "late night menu" with nothing on it. I do not reward such marketing genius, so I declined to buy anything. The result, though, was that I was starving when I got home, and the couple of bananas I could find to eat did not fill me up. I spent some time on-line, playing chess at the Internet Chess Club. In my tired state, I lost game after game after game. Finally, I fell asleep, and slept until 8 or so.

I got up, but we were out of raisin bran. The supermarket sits a short drive from our home, but in my "failed to get enough sleep for three days" mood, I failed to think that clearly and just go get some. Instead, I fell asleep hungry. I live these days on a fairly reduced food intake, having switched back to what I refer to at least half-accurately as "healthy eating" at the end of January. I wish I could credit said return to healthy eating to my own fixity of purpose, but in fact an end of January doctor's appointment showed both high weight and higher than normal blood pressure. I went back on the raisin bran and off the between-meals cookies and candy bars. I stepped up the long walks. I've know I've lost weight, because my clothes fit better again, and two visits to the dentist yielded low/normal blood pressure reports. I go to the doctor in a week to see whether my progress will help me avoid water pills, that stereotypical middle-age man's "little helper" with high blood pressure. But the trade-off to this reasonably laudable progress is that I can't skip meals easily. When I skip meals, my rather Jekyllesque personality does something which is, if not quite Mr. Hyde, certainly Hydesque.

I awoke at 11 a.m., which goes against my grain. I love Saturdays, and hate to spend them sleeping. My hunger was gnawing, and my mood was bad. My first order of business involved deciding the day's plans. I'd been promising myself that I would play live chess instead of merely on-line chess, now that my interest in the game is so strongly revived. The Dallas Chess Club, a half an hour away, began registration for its Saturday three round tournment at noon. I could just grab a shower and a sandwich and roll in that direction. This posed for me a dilemma. The problem, of course, was whether to spend an entire day on this activity. The tournament was 3 rounds, first round at 12:30, and the time control was that each side got an hour to make his or her moves. That means that each game would be as long as 2 hours each, and that the 3 rounds, after allowing for the delay that attends pairings between rounds, might run as late as 7 or 7:30. This is precisely why I am getting started on my blitz chess club. I want my tournaments to last until 3 or 3:30, not 7:30.

Yesterday, I decided that lunch and rest were more important than chess. My wife and I decided to go eat Persian food and then go to the Heard Nature Center for a visit to the Native Plant Sale and then a hike. The Native Plant Sale, run each Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend in April, features all these great Texas natives that one doesn't really find in the garden stores. Last year, I'd reached the sale near its end on Sunday, when prices were marked way down to avoid folks having to cart the plants home, and gotten sages and mints and other herbs. They all thrived. This year, at my suggestion, my wife went to the "members only" sale on Friday afternoon, and got us two garden trees, a Mexican buckeye and an Eve's necklace. Both are nice, small ornamentals, little trees suited to a postage stamp yard.

Lunch at the Persian restaurant went well; the owner tells us his business is doing well. I'm so glad the place is making it, as it's a great relief to have something non-chain-ish but reasonably priced nearby; ethnic restaurants rank up there with the Angeles National Forest among things I miss the most about Los Angeles. I should say that while the lunch went well, my mood did not. On the drive to the restaurant, I complained about missing the chess tournament due to hunger and fatigue, when the real story is that if I had just made myself sleep on Friday night and gotten myself some cereal or a peanut butter sandwich on Friday morning, then I could have arisen in good time to attend. In hindsight, I needed the rest, and a day of concentration might not have worked out well. That's why I stopped playing much live chess years ago, when my work demands intervened just as my rating was "getting good". My wife did not react badly to my crankiness, though, and, in fact, was uniformly kind to me throughout the day. For my part, I was anything but kind and even-tempered. I got irritated when she spent a long time talking as we headed to our car for lunch, to the guy with the garden service who comes to pick all the invasive Bermuda grass from our garden beds once or twice a year. In my hunger, I just couldn't see the point of kibitzing about the lawn.

After we went to the restaurant, we drove to the Heard. The Native Plant Sale was still in full swing, and I browsed around the flowers and trees, all with names less than fully familiar to me. I was disappointed that they only had prickly pear cactus, as I'd hoped to pick up a small cactus for our indoor plant stand. The flowers they did have were gorgeous, though. We did not buy anything, and headed indoors, where we showed our membership card, and got free egress to the hiking trails.

The hike was fabulous, and totally lightened my mood. We saw two huge tiger swallowtail butterflies, a couple of lollygagging monarchs, and many sulphurs. The wildflowers were everywhere--susans, ragweed, bluebonnets, little violas, just a sea of flowers. We saw a little lizard, whom we thought was a snake, until we saw his little legs. We saw that gorgeous green beetle, and learned from an interpretive sign that it is called the "caterpillar hunter". If I were an insect, I'd want a name like "caterpillar hunter".

I'd like to report that the walk was like an inoculation againt my bad mood. During the walk, I was almost euphoric with that sense of nature-dappled-with-sunlight-through-the-trees. But after my wife spent a lengthy time period in the gift shop (I was relegated to the "horror" of sitting on a pleasant outdoor park bench, in a lovely garden), I began to feel my crankiness return. When she stopped one of the "plant experts" from the sale (the "experts" could be told by their yellow bandannas) and asked him about the trees we had researched and selected, he held forth that one of the species we picked was an understory plant and would be killed in our front yard conditions. I began to get irritated. We had researched this species, and had worked out that while it liked some shade, it could also work in sun. I became unreasonable. It is always my feeling that if one just keeps asking enough "experts", then one will learn that one can't do anything one wishes to do. The experts, it seems to me, always tell one that (a) the experts know more about anything than anyone else and (b) no matter what one does, nothing is worth doing. The experts have always told me things like "one can't have any fun with a camera unless one spends 200 dollars on the equipment" or "no bike worth riding costs less than 300 dollars" or "this career is tedious" or "if you can't have a home in this neighborhood, don't buy a home at all". My own view is that life is perfectly doable in many ways for which the experts don't reckon, and that while trusting professionals is fine, asking questions over and over to different people on any given decision is a distraction. I wonder sometimes if this is one of those (in my view) very rare gender differences, because I have noticed that many of the women in my life want to ask and discuss each point on any decision with all and sundry, including passersby and strangers, whereas I am much more inclined to speak to one expert or read a couple of books, and then make the decision, and then don't look back. But instead of thinking these thoughts but maintaining a pleasant exterior, I expressed my frustration at speaking to one more fellow, who then proceeded to rain on the parade. I was entirely unreasonable and cranky. My wife, to her immense credit, did not really take the bait for an argument, but instead pointed out kindly how unreasonably I was acting. We checked out the movie house, found nothing we wished to see, and then headed home.

I read a bit of a "Gandhi wisdom" book (Heaven knows I needed some Gandhi wisdom) and again fell asleep. This third sleep that day seemed to do some good, as I woke at 7:30 p.m., finally feeling rested. I seemed to have reverted from the werewolf to a more human person, and we had a wonderful meal of grilled pork loins. We chatted delightfully, sitting on our little patio, while the bugs flew about at the light. Later last night, I was reading a book and suddenly began to think about why my internet chess play is as a rule so much weaker than my usual over the board chess play. I seem to get into patterns of losing games against opponents I should beat. Then I realized it's because I need to watch the chessboard a little more carefully, and I had one of those "light bulb comes on" moments. I went to my computer, signed on to the Internet Chess Club, and entered a tournament for people whose rating was under 1500. In the first game, I threw away a rook in a won position, but after that, I did quite well. I scored 3.5 out of 5, finished 7th in a field of 30something, and felt good about my games.

My chess club marketing effort has moved forward, but I must work harder at reaching out for new players. I've gotten some polite responses from local clubs, although not as much enthusiasm as I'd hoped. I must persevere. The number of chess players far exceeds the number in "organized clubs", so I will have to use outreach to folks who are not already into organized chess. My next campaign is going to be a flyer or business card posted in coffee shops. My wife, who drinks those latte-like coffees (I don't really drink coffee), has agreed to undertake the heavy burden of having lattes at new places, so that she can post the announcement on the various shop bulletin boards. I also made a newsgroup post to the main chess newsgroup; we'll see if this generates any response.

I've been fervently ebaying off books this week. As always, the chess books pretty much sell, but for the first time, a couple of chess books with low auction minimums did not sell. I notice, too, that while some books generate bidding wars, in general, this recession era generates lower auction prices than the heady days of 1999, when books could be bid up near retail by fevered ebayers. Non-chess books always have mixed results. Maus II bid up nicely, and the Armisted Maupin books sold inexpensively. But a Helen Mirren Prime Suspect book did not sell, although it is truly a chamring thing. I am tempted to write "I would buy Helen Mirren anytime", but it just does not read as an appropriate thing to say.
Overall, my ebay auctions will help offset some chess expenses, although I will need to sell a good bit more stuff to pay all my oustanding expenditures. My plan is to sell some of the bulk order of chess clocks I have coming, to recoup some expense. As I learned when bidding, chess clocks are a hot commodity on ebay.

Yesterday's snail mail brought a wonderful package from reneesarah, for which I am deeply grateful. E mail brought a helpful reply to a question from another nice person I met through nanowrimo, although the e mail gently pointed out that I had failed to ask how she was doing. I hate when I am so caught up in a project that I would send someone a question without even routine civility in the e mail. I will be better in the future.

Today I feel as though my weekend begins. I may play a bit more chess at the ICC, but mostly I want to just luxuriate in a good mood, as well as eat raisin bran.
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