Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ice, problems, elephants, pregnancy

hello again.

How's everybody? Once you fall out of the habit of blogging it's hard to get going again. You feel awkward, guilty, hypercritical. So we'll start with someone else's fun: the Detroit Ice House project.

They are spraying an abandoned house with water and letting it freeze to make a frozen house. The idea is to draw attention to the 80,000 houses in the area that are abandoned and dangerous.

The kids are doing well. They won the NYC Elementary and Junior High Championships. Isaac Barayev tied for first (5-0) in the Elementary but lost the blitz playoff. James Black came third with 4.5/5. In the Junior High, Jehron and Nigel tied for first with 4.5/5, but got 3rd and 4th on tiebreaks. The following kids tied for 5th-10th with 4/5: Justus, Azeez, Alexis, James, Shawn, and Miguel.

This week I've been making all my students do tactics packets during class-- I got this amazing book Junior Chess Training: Improve Your Chess by Julian Simpole. I haven't read the text so much, but I was doing the problems lying in bed one night and they were fantastically methodical-- for example, there are maybe 12 examples of when ...Qa5+ picks up a white piece on e5, or how you can play ....e5, forking the Nd4 and the Bf4 and when white plays Bxe5, then ...Qa5+. Great, great stuff. I couldn't wait to get to the photocopier the next morning.

It turns out that making all your students work independantly on tactics during class time (while you circulate, helping kids who get stuck-- this is not slacking time) is a very relaxing way to spend your day, but creates immense amounts of paper-correcting to do at night.

Some more great books I've read recently: Revolutionize Your Chess by Victor Moskalenko, Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. For those of you wondering "What is Elizabeth Vicary's favorite book?" the answer is The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami.

Other things... it's going very well with the boyfriend: he asked me to move in with him and I think I will. I've paid my rent through March, but after that, if it's still going as great as now ... I've lived by myself for six years now and it's lonely. also, I really like him. also, he's healthier than I am, so I'm hoping to become healthier just by hanging around him.

I'm thinking about having a baby as well (!). I had kinda assumed I never would, since I'm 34 and (until recently) was single and incredibly busy and not terribly motherly. But Jonathan wants a family, and I feel like I can't defer the choice much longer. I have no idea what it would be like. On the one hand, I read somewhere that having children lowers your overall happiness. and I'm not sure I have the instinct for it. also, I'm worried about the time/energy factor-- I'm still so into the 318 project: seeing how long I can keep the program going at the level it is now, and I don't want to turn into a bored housewife or a half-assed, distracted teacher. Also, what if the kid is annoying? But pregnancy would be very interesting, and it's not like my current lifestyle makes me so happy. Any thoughts? or better, let's make a poll!

I haven't been playing any chess at all, but I miss it and am very excited about Amateur Team East. After that... I guess I should think about the new Philadelphia exFoxwoods tournament. I'm probably happy about the move, since I have a free place to stay in Philly and I neither gamble nor drive. The only downside is that it's right before junior high nationals, so I might be wanting to work.



Anonymous said...

Don't have kids. It's a mistake. Trust me. Few of your friends with kids will admit it or they would have to face the truth.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

do you have kids, anon 8:47?

Anonymous said...

It's good that you're in touch with feeling anxious about taking a big step like having kids. My hunch is that you're also pretty excited about the idea. It will probably be a wonderful experience, and there's no reason you shouldn't be able to continue at whatever level you want at 318. No need to give up the most important parts of your life. That wouldn't be good for your child anyway. You'd just have to organize your time differently. Congratulations on "trying on" some new additions to your life.

Paul McC

Anonymous said...

might as well have a kid... it's a big decision and who knows what will happen just hope for the best.

Anonymous said...


Having kids is, for most people, a life-changing positive decision. I wasn't sure if I wanted kids before I had them, wasn't even sure how much I liked them, although I got along fine with my brother's kids, for example. But it is really different when they're your own. They definitely teach you to be less 'selfish', for lack of a better term, and although you do lose some freedom, the pluses of parenthood far far outweigh the negatives.

I infer from the fact that you teach, that you enjoy kids (at least to some extent, some of the time!), so my guess is you will be a great Mom and you will, like me, realize that it really is the best thing you've ever done in your life, once it happens.

So my advice is, as long as the relationship is stable and good (and you can probably deduce that fairly quickly - probably within a few months, being an astute chess player and judge of character), go for it!

Tom Chivers said...

I have a ten month old son and thoroughly recommend parenthood, as does my partner.

Gurdonark said...

We chose not to have children, but I think that children are a wonderful thing. So many of the choices kids and relationships are so personal that it's hard to kibitz on what another person 'should' do.

I am glad your relationship is working so well. It seems to have all proceeded quite swiftly, but that may be a function of being a weblog reader rather than actually knowledgeable about a situation.

Thanks for the book recommendations.

Anonymous said...

I notice that you skipped over the marriage question.

You don't have to vote Republican to believe that kids are generally better off (happier, healthier, more secure, more successful) in families that contain two parents and that can be counted on to contain two parents indefinitely.

Sadly, around where I live -- which is very Republican -- this seemingly simple premise has been largely discarded, as evidenced by the fact that a majority of students have a different last name from at least one of their parents, and about a quarter have a different last name from at least one of their siblings. And also that women here seem to start popping out children as soon as they're legally allowed to call themselves "women" instead of "girls," sometimes sooner, and if they happen to be married already -- which many, but not all, of them are -- that's just a nice bonus.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

anijioshi- maybe the different last names are because the women didn't change their name when they married? I would probably get married before having a kid, but I wouldn't change my last name unless my husband's was a better name than mine.

Greg Shahade said...

you are too famous to change your name, also you didnt answer your phone just now.

Anonymous said...

Kids are an emotional, financial, and time-consuming drain on your life. If you can't enjoy your own company and feel empty, then by all means procreate. Otherwise, enjoy the life you have with someone you love, and take the money you would have wasted on diapers and kids clothing and travel the world.

Besides, the false economy supported by empty government promises (fiat money) is teetering on the edge. Do you really want to bring someone into the world when there is a good chance they'll experience the Greatest Depression?

Greg Shahade said...

I agree, don't have babies because the economy might tank.

Robert Pearson said...

Having children is not good for your rating.

Overall, I think it's great for everything else, like the rest of your life...

Marriage is a very personal choice, but there seems to be no doubt that a child usually does best with two parents around for 18 years or so.

My kid just turned five and while he can play chess, he insists on going 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5? like one of my wife's friends showed him when I wasn't around to put my foot down.

True story.

BTW, I think your fans are mainly rooting for you to be happy, regardless. Best to you.

ben daswani said...

i would say that creating a life without its explicit consent is a violation of its autonomy...... -_-;

Unknown said...

I wouldn't dream of offering you any advice on such a important and personal decision. My wife was in her mid-thirties when we married and she had a very high paying/high stressing job. She really struggled with this issue, and we talk about it from time to time right up to the present day.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

seriously, you won't offer me any advice? please? will you at least tell me which decision you guys made and how many regrets/doubts you and she each have?

Doug said...

To Jim Eade,

Just out of curiosity are you the same fellow who wrote "Remember the McCutcheon"?

Unknown said...

we just got a puppy, or I would hop the next flight and talk to you over a glass of wine.

Unknown said...

To Doug,

Yes, I did indeed write that book.

Anonymous said...

One day when my little boy was like 18 months old, I was feeding him grapes from my hand to his mouth. At one point he wouldn't open up, so I asked "all done?" He shook his head, grabbed a grape from his little plastic bowl, held it up to my face, and said "ahhh...", prompting me to open my jaw so that he could share his snack with me.

Okay, now what is your reaction to this story?

(1) Oh, what a sweet adorable little angel! I must have one!!

(2) a grape that's all covered in baby slime??

That test should help you make your decision, but I won't tell you which way.

Anonymous said...

Such a personal decision. For me, the best decision I ever made. My children make me laugh, cry, scream occasionally and pull my hair out but mostly laugh with wonder and joy. Maybe you can ask yourself how you will feel in ten years if you are still doing what you're doing and don't have any children. That's what I did when I was in my mid-30s and working insane hours. You've created an amazing chess program at IS 318, an accomplishment for which you should be proud. I don't think it is all or nothing but it will be different. Parenthood can be a pain in the ass and filled with uncertainty. Do I let them cry it out in the middle of the night or do I comfort them until they fall back asleep? Which one will land them on an analyst's couch when they are 40? Anyway, as others have noted, it is good to hear that you are in a relationship and talking about children.

Former chess mom

Anonymous said...

Wow, pretty personal bit of info - I don't mean the moving in but the having a kid, but it seems true to your past record of laying it all out there.

I work in a children's hospital and the saddest thing I see isn't the kids who are born with a congenital anomaly or who suffered some unfortunate accident. It is the situation where the kids are not wanted and cared for - the adults involved (regardless of whether they have a piece of paper) were not sure that they were really committed to caring for the child. It is really evident when the kids grow older and are about grade school age - they know they aren't really loved.

I wish you all success with your personal life! But please don't have a child unless you and/or him are committed to being there. Sorry to butt in but you asked.

Ron Young said...

If you change your name, you'll have a better chance to be in another jumble.

Anonymous said...

don't do it unless you're happy with the idea of having a kid without the man. because unless you're really, really lucky, that's what will end up happening. the guy seems really great... but they all do at the beginning, right? no offense J!

- the cynical sister

Anonymous said...

One more reason not to - at your age you have a higher chance for birth defects.

Doug said...

To Jim Eade (again),

Thank you.

That is one of my most treasured chess books.

Leon Akpalu said...

actual decision content aside, isn't a little soon for that question?

I mean, all we know about the guy, after all, is that he'll go to a Turkish bath but not pantsless on the subway, and that you can beat him blindfold (at chess -- must emphasize, at chess).

On the other hand, having an excuse to toy with such notions is one of the fun things about being in a relationship.

Anonymous said...

"maybe the different last names are because the women didn't change their name when they married?"

I might buy that explanation if the kids' last names weren't also different from their own siblings' last names half the time.

Anonymous said...

"Okay, now what is your reaction to this story?

(1) Oh, what a sweet adorable little angel! I must have one!!

(2) a grape that's all covered in baby slime??"

Take the test by all means, but know that "both" is a fully acceptable answer. As is wiping the grape before eating it.

"don't do it unless you're happy with the idea of having a kid without the man."

There's good sense behind this, but what I was going to advise is that you take some time to make sure that Jonathan is for real. Those bits of advice seem to contradict, but for some reason they don't.

I think it's because if you're assessing "having A KID without THE MAN," you're working with two abstractions, and when you're thinking that abstractly you can always create a nightmare scenario that causes you not to act.

By the way, once your kid is born, you won't regret having him no matter what. Not because your life will be filled with unicorns and rainbows and you'll have a big moony grin on your face all day every day, but because there's this person sitting there next to you, and they'll probably be at least a little like you, and, well, they're a fact.

I guess (speaking as a divorced parent here) if you're going to think about how "without the man" would work, the other question is thinking about what it would be like having Jonathan in your life for the next 20 years or so even if you break up. Because unless he completely disappears, he will be. (The mother of an ex-girlfriend of mine, who had been married four times, used to say "You never really know someone until you divorce them.") And if he does completely disappear, if you have enough friends and family around you it can still work.

Anne Lamott wrote a book called "Operating Instructions," about her first year as a single parent. I recommend it highly.

Sorry to use so much bandwidth thinking about this out loud; I don't know whether this helps at all. But - well, to use kid language, you started it. Keep us posted!

Rick Massimo

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I realized last night that the "cynical sister" who posted earlier actually is my sister. :)

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Mark Ginsburg said...

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