Today requires eight hours on the road to Kansas City. Cell phone business matters, watching for hawks atop telephone poles, and watching the Flint Hills in Kansas undulate off into the distance.
I really love my wife's family, which I understand from others' in-law experiences is not a universal thing. I called my own 11 year old nephew last night, as well as my brother, to wish them a happy holiday. Actually, I wished to tease my nephew, for ignoring an IM I sent him, and say happy Thanksgiving to my brother. As they were both involved in a computer game, our discussion did not last all that long. Family holiday wishes are family holiday wishes, well enough, but Everquest is, after all, Everquest.
I did get the news that my nephew won first place in the tournaments his chess teacher has been running. He's going to be better than I am now before he is 15. That's kind of cool. My own blitz rating on the Free Internet Chess Server has climbed forty points to 1440 or so, but I will not be happy until it ascends over 1600, and I really should aim for 1800. At least I know I have my "game" back, and I just need to reduce errors to find the first 150 points of rating increase or so. I signed up for a USCF corresopndence e mail match. I can never keep up with postal chess,but e mail postal chess works for me somehow. My rating in postal is only 1500something, in part because my very first chess tournament was by mail, when I knew nothing much about chess.
I remember when I was in college, a fellow named Al in New Orleans who beat me in a postal game wrote me great letters with tons of chess advice. He was middle-aged then, a high-up at some chemical company. That's been 25 years ago. I wonder where he is now, and if he's well. I used to love his letters, handwritten advice about chess openings and games he'd play. I'd send him back games of mine, and sometimes he'd analyze one for me. I am not much for mentors, because my experience in life is that other people have mentors, who in general help them get perquisites that I am denied. But Al was the best sort of mentor--a distant,friendly voice helping out a bit with my chess because he wished to do so and could.
But I remember one lesson I learned from myself, not my chess mentor. When did my chess improve?
When I relaxed, didn't worry about it, had fun and just played. I can apply this across the board. Which poems have I gotten published? The ones about which I didn't worry about whether they were good when I wrote them. When am I my most charming? When I am quietly confident of my own voice and my own way.
When am I most effective at work? When I simply focus on what I need to do, and do it.
The nice folks at Plano Centre (such a professionally-run meeting place) sent me a form to fill out for my January chess tournament, so that they may advertise it on the web. I filled it out, and they edited it down slightly, and now it's done. On paper, I do not use exclamation points outside of internet contexts,
but in fact, I used three for the ad. I'm so hopeful that people come to my tournament. I've got such a vision of what it would be to have easy little tournaments going with some frequency.
Chess goals are such a funny thing. I tell myself that what is important is that I find the game fun and enjoy playing games with people. But part of me wants my rating back over 1800 again. I guess I have the resources to take lessons and all that. I have not really "studied" much more than minor opening repertoire type stuff in years. But I want to have my style just develop, eliminate the errors, and improve my game.
This is one of my most trivial "what ifs". What if, instead of taking a hiatus from tournaments for six years right out of law school, I'd instead have really focused on my game. What if I'd worked to cross 2000, and achieve the "expert" rating? I do not live under the illusion that I have much native talent for the game, but I believe the expert rating is more about hard work than talent. I do not think pure talent is required unless one wishes to achieve master rating.
As my dad was a small town physician who spent the time from my age 5 to my age 15 working around the clock, I always felt determined to work as close to forty hours a week as possible, so I would have time for things like family and hobbies. Even in my less-hectic present practice, I fall far short of limiting work to forty hours. I still work pretty long and hard some days. Even to take a day off early for the holiday required an incredibly hectic Tuesday. I got so much done--an incredibly productive day. But I only think about the one task I did not get done--I'll have to work that one over on my cell phone today.
I wish to design a holiday card, and send it out widely. I did that one year, and it was great fun. Descanso Garden, the wonderful garden near us in California, has a grove of camellia trees which bloom in phases from December through February. I found camellia petals in a thick carpet on the ground, took a picture, and then used it as the basis for a color copy card. It looked so cool! I want to do something simpler this year, but very holiday and festive. I am a stick-eagle-quality artist, so maybe I can do a bird with jagged wings, or a Christmas tree.
I'm eager to drive to KC, and more eager still to take stock, and enjoy.