Sunday, July 27, 2008

Florida Holiday

So I'm back from Florida holiday and, for some reason, can't sleep. Maybe I didn't get enough sun today. I haven't done much in the last week besides reading and occasionally turning over, but I did well at both of those, finishing 3.5 books and not burning myself at all.


I read:

1. The 25th Hour (David Benioff), which was only ok. I found many of the characters annoying.

2. Indecision (Benjamin Kunkel) which was fantastic. Let's read a nice passage (don't be confused; it starts with a quote from a philosophy treatise this character is always reading):

" 'Procrastination is our substitute for immortality,' went the first half of the sentence I was rereading; 'we behave as if we have no shortage of time.' I read the book at maybe two pages an hour.

Yet I felt more slow than stupid, and suspected it had always been thus with me. Maybe my slow temporal metabolism wasn't equipped for the efficient digestion of modern--or postmodern life, as it apparently had alredy been for some time. Sometimes I felt like I'd never catch up with even the little that had happened to me. There had always been too many people and places, and the creaking stagecoach journey or straggling canoe ride by which one location might observe, in olden times, how it became the next (and one Dwight, the next, uncannily similiar Dwight) had been supplanted by the sleight of hand of subways and airplanes, always popping you out in unexpected places."

Rereading that, it seems not terribly stunning, but the book is quite good, except maybe at the end.

3. The Return: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery (Hakan Nesser)
I should tell you that I have an interest in the remarkably rich subgenre of Scandinavian crime fiction. There is just so much of it, and it's quite decent. The weird thing about this one, at least weird for me because of my socialist liberal dreamy view of Sweden, is that the inspector figures out who committed the three murders but can't prove it. So he pushes the guy out a window. Then the book ends. No one says "Hey, no vigilante justice; this is Sweden!" which is, I guess, what I expected.

4. Havana Nocturne
Yes, I bought this because Jon Stewart said he liked it. Also because Barnes and Nobles in Florida are awful. They only have one table of new paperback fiction (wtf?), and none of the books on it were recommended by the NY Times. OK, I'm a snob if you want, but there are so many great books out there, why should I read garbage? Anyway, Havana Nocturne is pretty good--I'm not terribly interested in Cuba or the Mob, but the bits about Castro are enlightening.

New Happiness Idea/Strategy

Oh, I have a new idea/ strategy for fighting depression. I know it's going to sound a little crazy to some of you, but hear me out, ok?

Exercise really really helps me, way more than anything else ever has, to be happy. There was a point in my life, in college, where I was running 3-5 miles every day, and I was constantly, deliriously joyful. But these days I have some (= a lot of) trouble motivating. I work all the time in the school year, plus my gym is crappy, and it's very very hot in New York in the summer. Also, I'm extremely lazy.

So this is my idea: I am going to make myself become obsessed with obtaining the perfect body. Convince myself I'm fat and stare at my belly all day. Google-image thin actresses and compare myself. Look up the calorie count of everything. Weigh myself daily. Develop (cultivate!) a neurosis. My plan is that my new compulsiveness will motivate me to exercise vigorously every day, and this exercise will engender an overwhelming and complete happiness so great that it trumps any minor anxiety that the imaginary body image problem causes. Also I will be really fit.

me: the before photo?


Anonymous said...

anorexia. we like you. don't go there... any further.

Glenn Wilson said...

Regular (sane) exercise will leave you feeling better both long-term and short-term and has many benefits including increased happiness. Or so I've been told.

Maybe the blogging community could help you out with the body image issue by google-bombing the phrase massively overweight?

Anonymous said...

really sick photos.

Have you ever checked whether your BMI is ok? I would say you weigh much to little.


Anonymous said...


Elizabeth, please don't pay any attention to the previous poster. What a loser. You're a total hottie!

Anonymous said...

She's definitely hot but also quite thin....

Elizabeth Vicary said...

"really sick." hahahha, that's not very nice. but I'm 130 lbs., so I think I'm ok.

thanks for the googlebomb link-- v funny!

see, I knew you guys might do the knee-jerk anorexia = bad, and it is, no doubt, but depression = bad. in fact, depression= much, much worse.

anyway, didn't mean to interrupt the discussion of whether i'm hot or sick. carry on. ;)

Anonymous said...

So would you call yourself anorexic Liz?

I don't think you are, but you are not exactly meaty:-)

All the Best

Elizabeth Vicary said...

no of course not.

Anonymous said...

Tiny "pupil", not cornea. What will your retinas think?

--Granny O'Doul

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I guess they'll have to overlook it?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Did you play Chess during vacation?

Anonymous said...

worst idea ever

- greg

Anonymous said...

I look at me: the before photo? and think; that's some true beauty right there. Au naturel. Yeah i think you could get a spark goin' if i would meet you in real life. Anyways, are you really depressed? What about? How come? If you ever want to get something of your chest and talk to a total stranger about it you can contact me trough my blog. I think i have some experience in the field of depression myself, so...

Anonymous said...

Btw, i thought 25th Hour the movie was pretty cool. You should watch it sometime. You might like it better then the book.

Anonymous said...

(1) "the chess player" is creepy.

(2) imagine that one of your students showed you the pictures you posted, and then told you about their great plan to starve themselves into happiness. what would you say to your student? probably that it wasn't a good idea, and that cultivating a 'neurosis' (read: anorexic behaviour) to make yourself happy was dangerous and rather troubling.

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures :-)
Florida Trip for the summer, I usually like visiting in the Winter. You look like you are in great shape but just like chess you can never improve too much.

katar said...

This is not a bad idea. vanity is underrated. Another idea is to get some sun regularly or even go tanning to boost your seratonin levels. Also drink a gallon of water a day and eat lots of fresh fruit esp blueberries.

Anonymous said...

anonymous: Really? What did i say that gave you that thought?

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth: Sorry if i come off sounding as creepy. That was not my intention. Forget about what i said except for the movie. If you like movies as much as you like books, you should give it a try.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

No chess was played. I brought two chess books but barely opened them.

The chess player-- I thought your comments were kind and not creepy. However, if I had to guess, I would say it might be the phrase "get a spark goin'" that triggered the negative reaction. I think we should just put this down to a difference in regional expression?

But more to the point, anon 6:01, sure, I would give that advice to one of my students, but that would be because I was taking on the role of middle school teacher (not a natural role for me in some ways) and I would be advising a child. I'm trying to ask you (pl)-- as a community of intelligent adults-- what value/role you see, specifically (in this one case) or perhaps also generally, in psychological tradeoffs/ trickery/ reward manipulation.

Is it ok to treat yourself to a bowl of ice cream as a reward for cleaning your apartment? To motivate yourself to run faster by tricking yourself into believing you are racing against the guy on the next treadmill? To spend significant amounts of time daydreaming about winning a game/tournament/the world championship in order to induce yourself to studying the Catalan? To pretend the audience is wearing only their underwear to calm your anxiety while giving a presentation?

I definitely see, Greg, that it *could* be the worst idea ever. I just suspect that it might be the easiest and most effective way to be happier.

Thanks, Katar.

Gurdonark said...

I think I'll abstain from trying to give health or well-being advice as to your life, on the basis of the "insight" about anyone that anyone gets that one obtains from reading a weblog. In my own life, I am pleased that exercise (particularly, for me, in outdoor settings), gives me pleasure and a way to relax.

I was amused by your tag about making sure books are on the review list. There's something to be said for the kind of gentle humor that a self-aware "admission" can be.

I've always liked the saw about how one can tell "everything one wishes to know" about another person by asking them to list the order of preference of the Beatles, Kinks, Who and Stones, although as time passes, the question becomes geriatric in a 23 skidoo sort of way.

Your post suggests a different "pulse of another person's personal planet".

It goes:

"You can tell a great deal about anyone by their answer to the question--'what do you read to determine what you might wish to read?'

Anonymous said...

about reward manipulation: seems like you're rewarding yourself with apples for work done in oranges. let me see if i can make this clearer.

the issue is depression or lack of happiness. your proposed solution is to punish yourself with excessive exercise or caloric restriction in order to achieve happiness. (note that so far as i can see, you're not unhappy with your own body image, but rather, you're feeling a general malaise.) so why are you sure that punishing yourself will somehow magically result in a general increase in happiness?

to this ear - and i don't know you, although i've seen you around the ny chess scene - it sounds like you're looking for some means of achieving control in your life as a way of manufacturing happiness. anorexia is sometimes one manifestation of this, and cutting is another. it is _not_ the same thing as fantasizing about winning the wch as a means to getting yourself to study the catalan. there's no self-loathing involved in dreaming about the wch.

you had a post a few posts ago where you eviscerated yourself in annotations. was that another manifestation of this same depression / malaise?

i'm not a professional clinician, but.. it sounds like you might want to talk to one.

Anonymous said...

You look so melancholy in those photos E. Hope you find your smile soon (It's one of my favorite in whole chess wide chess world;)

Davy Do

Elizabeth Vicary said...


Anon 10:05 I think you might be misunderstanding. I'm just trying to think of a way to get my lazy ass off the couch. I don't have an eating disorder and I don't cut myself. Final comment seems kinda harsh, doesn't it? I need professional help because I'm occasionally emotional? And admit it? (Possibly the latter is the real maladaptive behavior.) Your comment actually reminded me opf a Bree Sharp song, "Not Your Girl." Anybody know it? At the end it goes:
I want you to see somebody.
I want you to see somebody.
I want you to see somebody else.

gurdonark-- The funnier thing is that I wasn't gently poking fun at myself. Getting a good recommendation by the NY Times is definitely my first critera for book purchases. (Not being about intergenerational family conflict is my second.) I just find it's a surefire way of getting a book that is both enjoyable and not moronic.

Anonymous said...

hey, you get what you pay for. it's a blog comment. don't post things where you talk about anorexic behaviors being the path to salvation if you don't want dunning comments. (and for what it's worth, it seems to me that attention is at least part of the motivating factor behind this kind of post. not surprising, since it is a blog, etc., but even so...)

but don't kid yourself. in the original post, it wasn't about getting your lazy ass off the couch. that was the means to an end, and the end was increased happiness. i quote you:

"So this is my idea: I am going to make myself become obsessed with obtaining the perfect body. Convince myself I'm fat and stare at my belly all day. Google-image thin actresses and compare myself. Look up the calorie count of everything. Weigh myself daily. Develop (cultivate!) a neurosis. My plan is that my new compulsiveness will motivate me to exercise vigorously every day, and this exercise will engender an overwhelming and complete happiness so great that it trumps any minor anxiety that the imaginary body image problem causes. Also I will be really fit."

basically you say here that you think becoming anorexic will make you happy, and damn the torpedoes. the logic is clear. you think that punishing yourself will somehow lead to happiness. where does the self-loathing come from?

again, i ask you: what would you tell one of your students if they came to you with the same idea? or, better: what would you do if one of your students read this blog and then told you that they were going to follow your plan as outlined in the last quote? you'd tell them not to do it, that it was harmful, etc. you might refer them to professionals.

not trying to be mean - honestly, i don't know you, and i will probably never meet you, so who cares, right? but i've read your blog and your uscf writings, think they're pretty good, etc., and so, i sit here doing this instead of writing my dissertation. we've all got problems, sister. :)

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Sure, you can comment, although I think you misstate the argument a little. I'm not saying that anoxeria or self-punishment equals happiness, but that exercise does (for me). The talk about cutting also seems like you are stretching. I believe you that you aren't trying to be mean, but there is something a little bit powerful about anonymously and publicly telling someone they have control issues and need professional help. (And what does dunning mean?)

I guess sometimes it feels a little creepy (the situation, not you personally, whoever you are) that everyone knows who I am and I don't know who anyone is. Obviously, that's inherent in blogging, but perhaps it's intensified by the nature of the chess community?! I met one guy at the World Open (an acquiantance of acquiantances) who said he reads my blog and comments sometimes. Here's the weird bit: he wouldn't tell me his name when I introduced myself, even though he comments anonymously (presumably). Obviously he's an exception, but it's illustrative of the potential for (my) paranoia.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, may I offer the following observation:

While I agree with the sentiment expressed in your last post I do think the entire problem, if indeed you see it as a problem, could be easily avoided by simply not posting such overtly personal feelings in the blog. It really does have the same effect as if you were opening exposing your personal diary to an anonymous community. It just seems...exhibitionist. Now, if this doesn't bother you and/or if it helps you to work through some stuff you're going through then fine. But you can't control how people will react and there certainly are enough weirdos in the world, and while the chess community may have only slightly more than its fair share of the loonies it DOES have a vastly disproportionate MALE component, and so I would imagine your blog readership does as well. So, you're a single (I assume) young attractive female posting publicly about feelings of inadequacy to a mostly male audience. As long as you continue to do this I think you've got to expect these kinds of responses as the cost of doing business, as it were. My recommendation, for whatever it's worth, leave the personal confessions to your circle of close friends. I do enjoy your writing and have only recently discovered this blog but the creepy factor does seem to be getting out of control.

Anyway, best wishes,


Anonymous said...

Might I suggest a cure:

1) More opening sheets!

2) Visit the I.S. 318 chess camp. Meet the new sixth graders!

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Doug-- Thanks; it's good advice. I will immediately return to doing what I do best-- making fun of Jerry Hanken!

Galvin-- I did stop by today!

Anonymous said...

I'd say exercise to put on muscle, not to get thinner. That means eating high-protein meals along with working out.

Anonymous said...
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Bill Brock said...

But Doug, it's charmingly creepy!

es_trick said...

This just in: and rather timely, too.

The hormone ghrelin has antidepressant effect

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

without exercise i become depressed as hell too. no shame in doing what you got to do. though i would say that you don't look particularly out of shape to me so I don't really see how u r going to motivate yourself.

Anonymous said...

That IS the worst idea ever. I have a better idea: just start smoking crack! Now there's a good motivator!

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, if you like Swedish crime fiction, and haven't already read them, be sure to get your hands on the Martin Beck novels by husband-and-wife authors Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. And anything by Henning Mankell, of course.

Anonymous said...

Hey Elizabeth,

I lost 30 pounds about a year ago, and for what it's worth there was absolutely nothing that I could notice about the day I started losing weight that was in any way different from any of the other 20 or so times I thought "Geez, I gotta lose weight."

I'm not going to psychoanalyze you over the intertoobz; I just don't think "psychological tradeoffs/ trickery/ reward manipulation" is gonna work. It never did for me.

(And I know you're not actually doing this to lose weight but to get you off your duff to exercise and feel better, but I think the principle is the same. I think "psychological tradeoffs/ trickery/ reward manipulation," even if they "work," won't make you feel as good as thinking "I just plain told myself to do something and I did it.")

Again, this is just my experience. Good luck.

Rick Massimo

Anonymous said...

show the abs!

Anonymous said...

Ive personally had bad experiences with vacations in Florida. I remember taking 270 milograms of White Lightning in my hotel room listening to MGMT, I had their song Electric Feel on repeat with the phone off the hook. I had stocked up on vitamin C tablets, and set up all the food I was going to need for the hours. Things were great till I heard the voice of all my friends in my head, all telling me I had to go to Disney World. I thought I was fine and could function normally. I ended up stumbling over to their theme park and walked around till I discovered a ride or exhibit. First thing I found was the Country Bear Jamboree. There was a murky sound coming from the PA system while I was bombarded by animatronic grizzlies, I never feared for my life so much. These werent cuddly Teddy Ruxpins, they looked at me with salmon eyes. I ran out as fast as I could and slit Minnies throat, I used her oxygen deprivation mouse suit to hide, but ended up passing out and waking up in prison. Next time its Hawaii for me.

Ill never forgive you, Liver Lips McGrowl...

Anonymous said...

1. Kinks, Beatles, Who, Stones.

2. I reiterate my recommendation of Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns (Amazon-linked for your convenience!).

3. One hundred thirty pounds? Forgive my boorishness (blame it on the testosterone), but you must be awfully tall, then. Five-ten?

Anonymous said...

That was absolutely brilliant, 5:07AM Anon! You almost made me forget that Dr. Hunter S. Thomson is dead! (btw, he is one of two people I plan to co-dedicate my second chess book to).

Anonymous said...

Maybe lazy is good. You are obviously not habitually lazy.
Could you consider that you are 'recharging your batteries', and be happy about it ? Consider it cup half full.

likesforests said...

lol. Lizzy, you're in great shape, you help others, and you're an expert at chess. That should be more depressing for those of us who are not as accomplished than for you!

I totally agree that exercise puts people in a better mood. It's funny how hard it is to separate our butts from the couch, but when we do it we rarely regret it. :)

Anonymous said...

Would you consider a sport...say tennis...from which you could reap the benefits of the excercise and the learning, continuous improvement and possibly the fun of competition without the focus on the other you've suggested. While not chess, you might enjoy the strategy of a doubles match.