Winning at the Top……

HBO is running the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, multiple times; a movie I love on multiple levels. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. Aside from a great cast, it’s beautifully written and well-acted. It’s based on the book of the same name which is based on the true story of Josh Waitzkin who came to chess acclaim at age seven. Unlike many child prodigies, he came to the game inadvertently as no one in his family nor anyone he knew at the time played chess. I don’t want to get into details in case someone does decide to watch, but this post deals with different aspects of becoming top in a field and how to view winning.

Josh’s father is a sports writer and his mother a stay-at-home mom (if the movie is accurate). Joseph Montagena plays the father and Joan Allen the mother. Juxtaposed with Josh is the street-wise guy who initially teaches him (played by Lawrence Fishburn) and the highly rated man who takes over as the professional instructor (played by Ben Kingsley). As Josh progresses, does the ability to win become so important that “winning is the only thing”? Does everything else have to take a lesser priority? Does the competition have to “be the enemy”?  The mother grows increasingly worried that Josh will change too much in pursuit of what is clearly within his capability. The movie is interspersed with clips of Bobby Fischer and the impact winning had on him.

In one memorable scene between the mother and father, she questions the intensity of expectations. The father and Josh are huge baseball fans and in trying to get her point across, she asks the question, “How many players are afraid of losing their father’s love when they get up to bat?” “Everyone of them,” he counters before leaving the room.

I worked with a great guy who was cut from the Dallas Cowboys on the last day they could cut potential rookies. It was long enough ago for the Coach to have been Tom Landry and he provided a nice letter praising my friend’s spirit and talent. My friend said it was tough to get to that stage and not make it, but he also recognized how few players who have dreamed of the pros as children make it even that far.

Georgia Trip Finishing Up…..

The last part of the visit was the gathering at Hubby’s cousin’s and by the final count there were 18 of us; three generations worth. The third–generation kids enjoyed the pool of course and second generation heard some new and some old stories. Each of them are well established now with careers; a mix of families and “living single and loving it”. We hope perhaps in the fall to make a big loop and go up to Huntsville to see the dear friends who weren’t able to make the reunion, then swing back down for another Georgia visit. We’ll see if that happens.

The trip back was as smooth as could be with only a couple of short showers, no major accidents or construction delays. Even the anticipated slowdown with hitting Miami around 5:00 wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It was basically 11 hours that included necessary stops. We keep those as brief as possible and I have made notes in my phone of the best Turnpike/I-75 exits. “Best” in this case means easy access to a fast food place and gas station, Brand loyalty takes second priority to access, so Wendy’s won out this trip.

It’s a full week ahead and of course I worked some while we were gone, but that’s always the case when I travel.

Georgia Trip, Day 3……

I managed to get a morning walk in since I knew the afternoon would be tight. We returned to the town square to first go to the Olive Oil shop and pick up some small bottles to take to Hugh’s cousin. We were out of blood orange, they had a new mushroom and sage, and a new line of Greek organic we picked up to try. It isn’t that we are big on organic, but the product sounded intriguing.

We went on to Mystic Grill where even at 11:45, there was a bit of a wait. It is good although the real draw is whatever the connection is to the TV show Vampire Diaries and the tours they do. Neither of us have ever watched the show so we aren’t clear on that. The building is a draw too, as a wonderfully renovated old bank with lots of woodwork saved and this great staircase. They have a creative menu and had we not had burgers the night before (and they are on the cookout menu for tonight), we would have gone for them. I opted for the chicken salad sandwich instead, the type made with dried cranberries and some chopped walnuts. Hubby had the fried fish sandwich and no they don’t do catfish there. I thought he might go for the shrimp and grits which he has enjoyed in the past. Then we did our usual of splitting up for about forty-five minutes for him to wander and take more photos and I popped in and out of some shops. There are two art galleries. One is a non-profit where they exhibit different artists as well as have classes. I picked up a few lovely blank note cards which is something I almost always do when traveling. These had scenes of the town square. The second also does classes and one of the women (not sure if she is the owner) specializes in whimsical children’s art with mostly animals. There was more abstract in this place along with other pieces. I picked up a small piece that I have a plan for.

As I mentioned yesterday, sister-in-law and her husband were to pick us for the reunion and while there had been speculation about how many would attend, there were pushing the 200 expected. It was held in kind of an odd place as it was a conference center in an industrial park. It was a nice facility although the beautiful tin ceilings in the very large room with tiled floors and a band meant the noise level was tremendous. There was the usual “haven’t seen you in years” and so forth as I met quite a few people. Dinner was catered BBQ and with BYOB, we had an ice chest with a six pack and I threw in my small bottles of white wine just in case. We were among the 9:00 p.m. departure group though and the actual schedule was to end at 10:00.

The mini family-reunion is this afternoon.


Georgia Trip, Day 2…….

The Hampton Inn had biscuits and sausage gravy as part of the breakfast so Hubby was happy. Lunch later at his sister’s was perfect with a taco salad that included wonderfully fresh tomatoes from a local market. They did a great job remodeling the house and it fits nicely into the old, established neighborhood. The incorporated some of the original features like leaving one of the corner cabinets in the dining room, The other one went as that wall came down allow for a much-needed expansion of the kitchen. The old den is now a designated playroom for the stair-stepped three grandchildren as the oldest is now a young man. While there are a few things she said they would have done differently, it is a warm, welcoming place complete with a front porch and adult and two child-size rocking chairs.

We got caught up on everyone and they are going to the reunion tonight so will pick us up which makes it nice. I spent part of the afternoon working on an article for the paper as Hubby listened to a photography podcast (or something like that). We went into the town square for dinner which has indeed become incredibly crowded. There are multiple tours as “The Vampire Diaries” continues to be popular and there are also ghost tours. We were glad to see the former Irish pub was replaced by a Gastropub, The Social Goat. Apparently it recently changed hands and our waitress didn’t know where the name came from. I thought there might be an explanation on the menu, but no. It was a fairly short menu with a focus on gourmet burgers, a long list of taco options, a few entrees and nine rotating beers on tap in addition to the bottled beers, plus some intriguing sounding cocktails. We did the burgers; Hubby with The Social Goat version which included pimento cheese and bacon jam. I went traditional.

Georgia Trip, Day 1……

We had a slight delay in departure in one of those semi-amusing things. Since we were traveling on a weekday, traffic issues meant it would be better to wait until 8:30 to leave. Literally jut a Hubby was ready to load the truck, Mother Nature brought in a pop-up rain; all while it was partly sunny of course. These don’t usually last long so we were on the way not long after. The traffic hadn’t completely cleared although it was manageable. Once we passed Fort Lauderdale, we lucked out with no big accidents, not much construction, and only a few scattered showers. We made it into the Hampton Inn a little before 7:30. There is a Chilii’s in front of the motel and the Holiday Inn Express next door is finished and they are now building what looks to be an extended stay place next to the Chili’s. We got everything into the room and walked over for dinner. Having over-indulged a little at Wendy’s when we did a Turnpike stop for lunch I balanced out with a cup of chili and the southwestern grilled chicken salad. We frequently have pasta on Thursday so Hubby had a cup of chili and their Cajun pasta with shrimp.

We start our round of family visits today going to his sister’s for lunch – her husband has to work, but he’ll be at the gathering Sunday. We’ll ask about restaurants in town and hope the Mystic (whatever the actual name is) is still open. The Irish Pub had closed, but perhaps someone re-opened it or something replaced it. There is also a New Orleans type place just off the town square. The other is on the square and even though there are good places in other parts of town, the square is delightful. Of course, we may also go there tomorrow as is our habit.

Goats Added To The Mix…..

Another couple of days slipped by as multiple extra tasks were added in. As I mentioned when writing about the May trip, we went through Abita Springs on the way back to have a short visit with my brother and sister-in-law. We did not have time to go to their new place and will schedule that for perhaps next year. They are almost completely transitioned from the house in Mandeville to what is sort of a “family complex”. My sister-in-law’s mother made it to her 100th birthday and passed away several months ago. There had been the agreement she would stay in her home and while both sons were able to help and there were visiting nurses involved, a large part of the assistance came from my sister-in-law and brother. She left the house to them and there are some number of acres where the two brothers live nearby. (I;m not entirely clear on the proximity). Anyway, my brother and sister-in-law have always taken in strays of everything – and I mean lots over the years. If I recall correctly, at their peak there were like 6 or 7 cats, two dogs, and a neighbor’s pot-bellied pig that seemed to constantly come over. At some point I think there were guinea pigs, too. In all fairness, my sister-in-law did have a business for a while before they married doing children’s parties with a pony and maybe a few other animals. That was in addition to her extraordinary creativity as a fabric artist and a horticulturist.

Anyway, they have space at the new place to where a friend was going to give them a goat as a housewarming present and according to my sister-in-law, goats are social animals. They now have two goats and while they can be great fro helping keep brambles, weeds, etc, under control apparently there are other issues to be worked out with eating the wrong shrubbery and flowers. Ah well, I’m sure they will all come to agreement.

Might Not Have Mattered……

Another memory triggered of a very long time ago; a time when “you don’t know what you don’t know”, that might or might not have made a difference in my chosen career path. For reasons that are not clear, my older sister and younger brother were both excellent with math. I say “not clear” because neither of our parents nor any of our grandparents had an interest in math beyond the basics. I was fine up through then as well; straight A student in everything until algebra. Herein lies a significant point. We had junior high of 7-9th grades rather than middle school. There were two math teachers. The female teacher, and that was unusual in those days, and the male. My sister, who was two years ahead of me, had the female and she was of course glad to have a female student who embraced math. Now, even at that age, my sister knew she wanted to be a scientist and math was a building block/companion rather than an end to itself. By either coincidence or perhaps fate if one chooses to go at it from that angle, the science teacher at that time was also female. She very much took my sister on as a protege. As you have probably already surmised, I had the other math teacher who was one of those who didn’t expect students to like math. I was taken aback to suddenly have a subject I wasn’t good at and couldn’t seem to grasp. Turning to my sister was the natural thing and that was a situation where she couldn’t understand why I couldn’t understand and our “tutoring” did not go well. We come to the other part of, “it’s okay for girls not to do well in math and science”, and I  had straight A’s in everything else, was an avid reader, and already showing a desire to write. We knew nothing of different learning styles to realize that there can be more than  one approach to teaching a subject such as math. So, from 7th grade on, I followed the usual path of taking only minimum math through high school and college.

I liked the concept of engineering, but thought no more about it. On the other hand, while my brother easily did well in math, he briefly tried for electrical engineering to satisfy the parental urging for a “practical career”. His passion was theater and he dropped out, did a number of things for an extended time before he made it back to college; not in a math-focused way. So, when I see great engineering projects and feel a bit of a twinge, perhaps if I had help in conquering math, it might not have made a difference anyway.

Days Slipped By Again…..

I would ask how almost a week passed since my last post, but barring computer or internet issues, it’s the usual answer of extra tasks thrown in to get me off-schedule. Nothing bad although a couple of genuinely annoying things to deal with. They aren’t worth getting into. I had vague hopes of being able to dive this week and that isn’t happening.

Speaking of diving, a friend who has found and/or identified numerous shipwrecks has done it again. Michael Barnette (met him while working on Mystery of the Last Olympian) has done exploration in many places and apparently, a famous yacht sunk in 1931 is his most recent success. Here’s part of a Facebook post from earlier today. “The wreck of INGOMAR has eluded divers until just recently. A survey conducted by William Hoffman, Joseph Hoyt, and William Sassorossi documented the unidentified yacht in 2017. Imagery collected by John McCord revealed the graceful lines of an elegant yacht. Using their baseline data and looking through archival information, I suspected the wreck was INGOMAR. The dimensions, machinery, and position largely match the attributes of INGOMAR. The wreck rests on her starboard side in deep sand. While not a conclusive identification, the available evidence coupled with the lack of other suspect sites strongly suggest this shipwreck site is indeed the historic yacht INGOMAR.”

The process for officially identifying a wreck after it’s located can easily take years and when I wrote Idyllic Islands, I did a few chapters about how it works. ( That part of the book served two purposes. I needed to introduce a character who would become important much later and the reason I chose that way to do so is because it is such an intricate process. In this case, I made it fairly easy to better match the rhythm of the story.

Lessons From “The Gambler”…..

We support and attend an annual fundraiser each year for the Military Affairs Council that does different things for the military community. It’s a Casino Nite and I think I have explained before that neither Hubby nor I gamble. As I explained, I have nothing against it as it’s been going on for thousands of years and it’s as good a source for entertainment as any. While it can also bring tragedy through addiction, that’s a different issue. The corruption and crime are also other issues.

Anyway, the singer for the evening of course had to do “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers, another of his great songs. In the repeated words of, “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em; know when to walk away and know when to run” and “never count your money while sitting at the table; there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealings done.”, there are good points for life. However, it’s important to add in the other phrases such as, “The House always wins”, or in the best case, “The odds favor the House.” Whatever the gambling establishment, a certain number of people have to win; otherwise, only the addicts will come. Although there is definite skill involved with some games and even “techniques” for playing something as random as slot machines, chance is ever a factor. A friend from a long time ago said in his one time in Vegas, he was on a streak. He was up by $10,000 and in classic fashion, instead of walking away, he kept betting and lost most of it.  I don’t gamble because I’m no good at it and in Hubby’s case, he doesn’t want to devote the time it takes to become skilled.

A dear friend of mine loves going to Biloxi to whichever of the resorts it is she favors and she frequently takes a group. Her husband and mine grew up together and like my husband, he graduated from Georgia Tech. He, too, understands the math behind gambling and he’s fine with this as a source of entertainment for his wife. He indulgently shakes his head when she “wins” – which she absolutely does at times – because he knows when you add up the losses, the House will indeed come out ahead.


Chocolate Musings….

Watching part of “Brunch with Bobby Flay” the other morning started a discussion about chocolate as he was featuring it in multiple forms for this particular brunch. I do know people who don’t care for chocolate and there are those unfortunates who are allergic to it. My brother is one which is how we discovered white chocolate. Bobby was using it on his show and explained how it doesn’t contain cocoa powder, yet has the taste because it is derived from cocoa butter. I don’t recall who told us about white chocolate all those years ago; perhaps another individual who was allergic and was happy to pass on the information.

There is also the debate about dark versus milk chocolate and while I prefer milk chocolate, dark chocolate with different combinations is delicious – I mean there is a reason Girl Scout Thin Mints has been a best seller for decades. Where I differentiate is if I am going to eat a plain piece, I’ll always choose milk.chocolate. The restaurants’ infamous desserts of Death by Chocolate – and there are multiple variations – probably does it best with between four to seven types depending on the restaurant.

Going back to Bobby’s show, he was also using chocolate in the Mexican/Southwestern style of it as an ingredient for a savory dish. I have found that to be tricky and always follow a recipe the few times I’ve done it. The proportions have to be correct or it tends to end up with a bitter taste.

In an aside, toward the latter part of Desert Storm, we were getting Hershey’s Desert Bars, one they created to not melt until around 140 degrees. It was actually pretty good, but they didn’t produce a great many before the War ended and I’m not sure why it didn’t seem to catch on with the general public. (The M&Ms motto of, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”, is correct unless you are in a desert-type climate)