Sunday, March 15, 2009

Greg Shahade, lunch, inert funk

Dear blog readers,

I'm sorry I haven't been writing. I've been in an inert funk. That's the best way I can describe it. I force myself to work obsessively hard, mostly because my job is incredibly boring otherwise. Then I lie around all evening, reading mostly nonfiction. Occasionally, I have a social encounter, but they mostly seem pointless and unrewarding. I check my email compulsively.

Despite my funk, I have a story to tell you. I've been wanting to tell this story for a long time, but every time I start writing it, I start to have doubts, second thoughts, to feel like maybe it's not that funny or it's going to sound mean, or kind of weirdly Greg-obsessed, so I give up.

This is the story:

Greg often eats at Qdoba, which is a taco/burrito chain a lot like Chipolte. But every time before he goes there, he goes online to and generates three numbers between 1 and 29. He then matches those numbers against a page in his notebook that looks like this:

1-8 shredded beef hard taco
9-15 shredded beef soft taco
16-20 shredded pork hard taco
21-24 shredded pork soft taco
25-26 chicken hard taco
27 chicken soft taco
28 shredded chicken hard taco
29 shredded chicken soft taco

Then when he is at Qdoba, he orders the three indicated tacos and eats them in the same sequence in which the numbers were generated. He does this in order to maintain an optimal level of diversity in his diet, while still accomodating his personal tastes.

That's the end of the story I have been wanting to tell you.

After work on Saturday, I took the Chinese bus to Philly to visit Greg and we go to Qdoba for dinner. As we're walking there, Greg suddenly takes out his glasses, puts them on, and starts staring fixedly at something on or just across the street. It takes me a couple minutes to work out what he's doing. He's forgotten to generate his taco-numbers, so he's staring at the license plates of the passing cars to find them. He has to use moving cars, even though it's much harder to read them, because parked cars near Qdoba might be habitually parked there and thus oversampled.

I felt like this new twist kinda forced my hand, storytelling-wise.

In other news, nationals is coming up, April 3-5. I'm very exciting. We're bringing 59 kids total, I think, and playing in the k-8, k-6, k-9 under 1250, k-8 under 1000, and k-8 under 750. I'm cheerfully optimistic about how they will do-- a lot of them are significantly higher rating than the official March supplement ratings.
It looks like the top teams in the open sections are: (top four scores count)

hunter (2086, 1748, 1710, 1734, 1482, 1469, etc.)
texas canyon vista (2026, 1860, 1616, 1608, 1523)
318 (1892, 1876, 1788,1706, 1675, 1660, 1647, 1590, 1457, 1450, 1435, 1424, etc.)

hunter (1663, 1532, 1496, 1490, 1404, 1377, 1342, 1275, 1216)
VA f001 (1939, 1544, 1575, 1195, 1100)
CA msje (1864, 1814, 1737, 1541)
318 (1607, 1561, 1533, 1478, 1440, 1399, 1381, 1375, 1250)


dfan said...

If I didn't already know Greg made his money at online poker, this story would convince me.

Anonymous said...

that is an outrageously charming story. i like greg even more now.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... this may explain some of Greg's choices for USCL games of the week.


Anonymous said...

You know depression is an actual disease; there's tons of evidence that it is related to either too much of some neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain or too few of others (it's been about 25 years since I've made a study of this so the details are a little hazy). The point being it's not just 'you' or your personality; it's a physical condition and it can be treated. You don't have to be this unhappy. I suggest asking your doctor to refer you to a psychiatrist. Nothing to be ashamed of, especially for someone who is already going into great detail about her feelings of inadequacy in a very public diary.

Anonymous said...

When I'm in an inert funk, I visit your blog and usually feel better.

It worked for me today. Thanks for the story. Hope you feel better.

Anonymous said...

"You know depression is an actual disease..." Yes, and so is obsessive/compulsive disorder. Maybe Liz and Greg can go in for a two-fer.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Thanks everyone. I had forgotten how much more fun work is when I get comments throughout the day.

I appreciate the concerned advice (really), but I don't think I'm depressed or Greg is ocd. I think I'm a little sad about my last relationship and generally lonely, and I think Greg is just amusing himself.

But I have high hopes that spring will cure me. Or else this therapeutic blogging.

Anonymous said...

OK, here's the deal.

I use random numbers for a lot of my decision making. Like I have all these different colored chess sets: green, blue, purple, red, etc. And I like to mix them up in different combinations: green vs purple; red vs blue, and all know, when I play against Rybka. So that I don't favor any particular combination (because that would be wrong, terribly wrong!) I use the random number generator on my Casio calculator to make the choice for me. The method is particularly safe and satisfying.

Anyway, I hope you get defunked and that you start writing more, because your blog cheers me up big time!

Granny O'Doul said...

Better funked than defunct.

es_trick said...

I like the depth that your team for the K-8 Open section has.

I'd take your 2 Class A players and 5 Class B players over Hunter and TX CanVis teams any day. Even though those two teams each have an Expert, their depth charts appear to fall off much more precipitously than your team's.

And let me get this straight about your K-6 team. You've only had them since September, right? And already you've got 1 B, 4 Cs, and 4 Class D players!!

Frankly, that's very similar to the line up we had in my HS back in the 70's. Our top 4 won the State Title, the B Team finished 15th in the state, and the C Team just missed advancing from the Regionals to qualify for the Finals (top 24 teams).

So there we were, in was the peak of the Fischer inspired boom years. We had been playing for years, and many of us considered ourselves full blown 'chess junkies.' (Other kids in our school had less flattering terms for us.) And yet, we were no better than your sixth graders. Amazing!

I wish I could have seen a fraction of the kind of progress your kids exhibit, during my 20 years as an ESL teacher. Sadly, many of my students made little to no progress during the time I had with them, and a few would actually seem to get worse before my very eyes. (the "U Curve" in action) Even the best students made only incremental progress.

How can it be boring to see that kind of progress unfold before you?

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why he could not pick cars parked next to the restaurant - if he is concerned about randomness, there is no "oversampling" issue, unless he has used the license-plate method with parked cars in that area before.
Please explain this - I will be unable to eat tonight unless I get a reasonable answer.

ATH2044 said...

Don't worry about an occasional inert funk. Even Tigatron was able to recover rather quickly: "Sadly, Snowstalker became one of the war's casualties, putting Tigatron in a funk for a short while, until he realized that doing nothing only meant more innocents would die."
Perhaps you were just having a Daria Morgendorffer moment.
Greg Doesn't have OCD; it's just that most people never really use random number generators, so they tend to dismiss what they don't understand. Do you suppose he'd starve if there were no cars on a day when he didn't bring his random numbers?
I agree with es_trick about your teams' chances. Even without any relative over performance you have lots of depth.

ATH2044 said...

Oops, I meant:

Elizabeth Vicary said...

thanks again, everyone who comments, just for commenting, I appreciate that very much. I like the depth also, and they are awesome kids. The sixth graders did not all start from scratch, for example, the 1660, who is now 1776, was 1338 5 months ago. The 1440 was 572, the 1489 was 1284, the 1386 was 386, of course I'm not listing the ones who didnt improve as much, but everyone a couple hundred points at least.

On the other hand, they play an obscene amount of chess every day, so some improvement is inevitable.

I think it should be apparent that lunch is not the only thing Greg uses randomness for. Consequently, it follows that he is not a stranger to the, shall we say, "license plate method" and has some personal investment in its accuracy.

Anonymous said...

Good story. Everyone in NYC is a little depressed this winter between the weather and the economy. At least in DC, you might get sightings of Barack and Michelle (and her fabulous arms) on one of their date nights to pick you up. We just have Bernie Madoff going to jail. Nashville may be the pick-me-up you need and then by the time you get back, it may even feel like spring in NYC. All you need is one of those unseasonably warm April days when you can spend the whole day in the park, preferably with a really cute, nice and funny guy.

katar said...

Hope you are feeling better Liz. Thx for sharing the Greg story.

Anonymous said...

It's a fine line between inert funk and funky rient.

O the random number generator of the human heart!

You are cooking up a mess of good karma with those crazy chessplaying kids, and it's bound to splash back at you in the grooviest of ways.

Anonymous said...

Even if you don't meet a really nice, smart, funny, cute guy, just being able to wear flip flops to the corner store without your toes freezing gives an emotional boost after a dreary winter.

gurdonark said...

I liked the Qdoba story, because it reminded me of the Oblique Strategies "oracle" cards, with suitably random life instructions to follow. The whole thing inspires me to want to write random life instructions for chess, such as "when discouraged, castle long" and "love was never as joyous for you as the way you feel when seeing a smothered mate in 3" (which, by the way, are not intended as projected life lessons for you).

Almost everyone has inert moments in life, particularly when a treasured relationship ends. But not everybody gets to coach cool kids in a national tournament. The rankings mean that your kids get the thrill of being contenders but the advantage of being underdogs, which, I think, is just the right place to be.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I'm in funk I wash.

CRR said...

Great story! Hope you feel better soon. Just as a side note, have you published or tried to publish any of your writing? (Outside of Chess Life, I mean). The stuff you write for this blog is really good.

Bill Brock said...

Oblique Strategies is available as a freebie app for the iPhone (my 17 y-o Enoite downloaded it for me).

Elizabeth Vicary said...

thanks to everyone for commenting. I haven't really written anything else, Charles, but thanks a lot, it's v nice of you to say that.