Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Rocky Vacation

  After 8 months at my job, I’ve accumulated enough time off to take this week off. I took 2 days off in April to help with the Okoboji Open, another 2 days in July for my chess camp, and an hour here and there but I’m going to use 4 days of time off along with Thanksgiving for a vacation where I don’t go anywhere or do anything specific. And because it’s Thanksgiving week, I won’t even have a Thursday night chess tournament at the Salvation Army or Friday chess class at St. Francis This will give me 9 days to work on things I just haven’t had time for.

Notice how the driveway has magically curved away from my neighbor's styrofoam wall. It would take some real magic to curve it around my new giant rocks.

  Last Sunday, I got lucky and made some headway on a project I’d been dreaming about for a long time. I’ve written before how my neighbors had been running over the fence, gate, and bushes on my side of our shared driveway. I’d been on the lookout for some large rocks to put on my side of the driveway, but not only are rocks very expensive, I don’t have the kind of equipment needed to bring the rocks to my house. 2 weeks ago my friend Monica wrote to me saying her husband Eldon (who gave me the broken pawn you see at the top of my blog) had some rocks if I wanted them. They live on a farm but these rocks are from Eldon’s mom front yard. Her house is being sold and they don’t need the rocks. Eldon picked me up and drove me to his mom’s house in his pickup truck. We were able to pick up the rocks but couldn’t lift them all the way up to the truck bed so we had to go back to his farm to hitch up the truck to a horse wagon and get a hand truck. Using the hand truck, we got the rocks onto the low lying floor of the horse trailer, drove back to my house, and rolled the rocks onto the front yard. My next step is to get a surveyor in, find out the exact property line less the 4 feet access I’m required to give for the shared driveway, get the rocks right to the edge, and then get some more rocks.

  I got an early start on my vacation Friday night by watching the Iowa State Cyclones pull off a shocking upset of the undefeated #2 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Ever since I wrote on October 23rd how the Cyclones were getting worse and worse and a new coach was in order, the Cyclones have won 3 games in a row and secured a chance to go to a bowl game. I’m still not convinced the Cyclones are for real (both the Cyclones and Cowboys did everything they could to lose the game), but the biggest ever victory by a team I wrote off a month ago had me starting my vacation by serving up a public dish of humble pie.

  We take a family vacation to New Jersey shore every other summer. The shore is really relaxing, but there is a lot of driving, it’s kind of expensive, and the dogs have to get kenneled. In 2009, I took a week off work to accompany Matt to the national high school chess tournament in Indianapolis and play in the US Open. I played one chess game a day and it was a really nice and relaxing vacation. The only downside was missing the rest of the family. When I was a contractor at Fisher in 2008 and 2009, they had a plant shutdown between Christmas and New Years. Except for one drawback, it was the perfect vacation. I was home, the family was home, and since the company was shutdown there were absolutely no work concerns. BUT since I was a contractor, I didn’t accumulate vacation time or get paid for the shutdown so it was more like getting laid off for a week than having a vacation.

Vacation reading material...
and dog chewing material!
  I have a few other projects to work on during my vacation. I’d been meaning to make a chess website to publicize my tournaments for quite some time and this could be the week to finally make it a reality. I also have a couple of small matters to take care of for work, but that should be trifling and I’ll even get paid for it. I’ll also take the chance to order the trophies, medals, and inserts for my next set of youth chess tournaments in an unhurried manner and I’m looking forward to catching up on some reading. I’m 10 pages from the end of the Joel Osteen book I got for my birthday and am hoping to finish and review it for my next blog before Daisy and Baxter get finished with it. They have already chewed off the paper cover, half of the back cover and some of the pages. I also got 3 books from, 1000 Checkmate Combinations, Boris Gulko’s ‘Lessons with a Grandmaster’, and Yuri Averbakh’s chess memoir. I won’t be able to get through the whole checkmate book, but the reviews compare it to my favorite chess book of all time, ‘Tal’s Winning Chess Combinations’ and it looks to be just as good as advertised. The Gulko book is 24 of his games in a Socratic lesson format with a psychologist and the Averbakh book has no chess games, but covers his 70 year chess career from 1940’s to the present day and should be a fairly quick read.

  My vacation will include a lot of dog walks for coffee and beef sticks and even though I’m determined to get everything I want done this week, I’ll still be playing a little chess. I’ll be following the Tal Memorial super tournament from Russia this week and I’ve even found some time for 3 minute chess the past 2 days. I’ve been playing a little better than normal the last few days. Here's a couple of my better efforts against openings that normally give me trouble: