Monday, November 05, 2007

Holiday Monday morning…

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, left, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) meet at midfield after the Patriots beat the Colts, 24-20
The weather was cold this morning. When I was out on the bike with Egor my hands hurt, a good sign that we were below freezing. I asked Egor what he thought the temperature was but he said it was above zero by at least ten degrees. I said he was crazy. There was ice in the puddles. How could it be above zero if your hands hurt and the puddles had frozen? He just shrugged; these things were not even really worthy of being spoken of. It wasn't important what the temperature was. The important thing was to finish the morning's exercise as quickly as possible and expend the least amount of energy possible while doing so. Obviously, I was just proving what a fool I am by asking such a stupid question.

Regardless of a lack of interest in trivial niceties, I give Egor a bit more credit than usual right now. Egor is a pretty decent chess player you know and yesterday, he made a very good showing in the town chess tournament. He actually played in two tournaments over the last few weeks, playing in both his own 14-and-under age group and in the 16-and-under. Though losing the first game in both, he ended up playing well enough to take home invitations to the regional tournament in both classes. Last week he finished in sixth place in the upper group and this last weekend he took fourth place but could have finished higher but lost to the number one guy, the great Roman Grib, in the final game. This is the second year he accomplished this feat of getting two invitations and last year went all the way to Minsk for the Republic tournament, eventually taking tenth place. Grib won both groups this year, winning the younger group outright and sharing first place with Alexander Kachaev, universally thought of as the one of the town's prodigies. Last year Grib finished eighth in the Republics, but won the whole thing two years ago. Kosti Ivanchuk, the third of Pinsk's "big three" is now back from a year in Canada and placed in the top three in both tournaments as well.

Hard to say what is the best thing to do to help Egor on his road. I know that in many ways how he is growing up is perfectly normal for the local culture, but my American eyes tell me that I need to see something more. I would like to see him work a little harder at what he does. This is not only in chess but also his school work. I understand that the boy has some real talent but like any other parent or interested adult, I know that there are many things in life that we do when we are young that only translate philosophically to our adult lives. A real example of this was from playing high school football. I remember a lesson taught to us by my high school football coach John Cox about keeping your head up and looking for the next person to hit; just because you have made your block does not mean that the play is over. That simple lesson is still in my ears years later and translates really well into dealing with any tasks that you have; just because you have finished putting out the garbage does not mean that the day is over- go and find he next thing to do. I wish I knew the answer about how to instill in him a little more of a practical work ethic or at least a greater attachment to or a love of learning. Chess of course has its own lessons and culture but unfortunately, when the game is over all that has happened is that you won, lost or tied. This builds in achievement and an ability to think through problems, but it doesn't do a damned thing for physical laziness. Relying on talent alone will only get you so far and I worry about what will be in store for him as he grows up.

As of the moment though we are very much enjoying the victory and the free ticket to Baranovichi. I ask him how it is for him, playing in tournaments and having to face down serious competition. Basically he always just says it is all just normal. If he has fear, which I am sure he does, it is all simply part of the game. I guess this is another thing chess is good for. Cheers, sinnok. Well done!


Speaking of football analogies, what an interesting night last night was! I like a lot of Americans got caught up in the hype over the Pats/Colts game. Yes, I know I live now in the beautiful and interesting Republic of Belarus and that this should probably mean that I be more in tune with the local hockey and soccer leagues (not to mention rhythmic gymnastics and biathlon- and of course chess). But how could I resist the only meeting of undefeated teams this late in the season ever in the history of the NFL? This is not to mention that I am a huge fan of San Mateo's own Tom Brady, myself growing up only two peninsula towns away- our high schools were in the same league. What drama! What pathos!

The problem was that I didn't know how to listen to the game on radio via the internet. I know about Game Channel and watching the game statistically, but I got it into my head that I really needed to hear the play by play for such a special game. I also wanted this during the baseball playoffs but had never actually figured out how to do it without playing a lot of money I don't have. You would think it would be fairly easy: Find the local radio station and just tap onto the stream. But this apparently has been either over my head or the complexities of broadcast rights for major league baseball simply disallow for Belarusian audio rebroadcast. In any case up untill now I have been sitting in silence.

But last night I finally figured out how to do it. In the end the problem was not actually such a big deal to set up. After downloading the Yahoo toolbar, which I hated by the way, and finding that it only had access to Shoutcast music, I found that by downloading the complete new (and free) Winamp package allowed for at least fifty sports channels via their Shoutcast affiliates. That first moment of listening to the Chargers take on the Vikings in what I hope is still named the MetroDome just rocked. Better was a moment a few seconds later when Tanya stuck in an earplug and got her first taste ever of American Broadcast Football English.

"I don't understand a word of this but for the word defense…"

"Yea, but its exciting though, isn't it?"

"If you say so; better to go to bed."

Unfortunately, having access wasn't the end of the problem because as always, there was of course the money to think about. The internet package we have is very good but it does have its limitations in that we pay by the amount of megabytes that come in and go out and not just a flat fee or for time. It amounts to 24 hour access but it only works as long as all I do is flip internet pages. If I start downloading music or watching U-tubes, this eats up too of my reserves and I have to pay more money.

Normally, this doesn't particularly bother me because making newspapers, writing e-mails and surfing Belarusian news doesn't require any sort of huge expenditure. I know I am not as in touch as I could be but really, if I cared that much about it, why would I have come here, right? But I wanted to listen to this game and so how many bytes streaming, audio media would use was a real question. If it ended up costing me $20 to hear the game, it simply was not going to happen.

The gauge for the amount of traffic is found by clicking the properties box for the internet connection. What I did was note the number of bytes so far sent, open the media stream for a few minutes, close it and recheck the number. A full football game is about three hours so you can just multiply your five minutes by 36 and you know how much it would cost. There was a bit of aggravation when I did this because it takes a few minutes to re-establish a working connection once you close the modem. During those first down moments I got a little nervous when I could not use my internet; fear of killing one's computer comes with the territory. But eventually I figured that the cost, though not without significance, would probably not exceed what I already pay for monthly internet service anyway so, all was a go and I could listen and would not have to regret having listened because of spendng too much babki.

However, now I had the problem of what to do while I was waiting for the game to start. I couldn't financially justify listening to both the Charger/Vikings game and the Pats/Colts game and I was pretty tired and sleepy after all of the fiddling with the internet connection. Probably this was not the right decision but I elected to lie down for a while. Of course you know what happened and by the time my eyes popped open at 4:00am, the game had been over for an hour and all I could do was to read about Brady's three TD's and the dramatic fourth quarter comeback. I also didn't even get to listen to how Adrian Peterson broke the all-time, single game rushing record over in Minneapolis. But like I said, I did choose to come to Belarus so if these sorts of things are not so readily available, well, I guess I just have to get used to it. But I'll tell you; ESPN does make it sound exciting.

"First and ten at the Colt's 13. That last pass to Stallworth covered 33 yards. Just over three minutes left in the game and the Patriots down by three. They're at the line. Brady makes the call…back to pass… rolls to his left… he's got Faulk open in the endzone... Touchdown Patriots! 3:15 left on the clock and the Patriots have come from 10 points behind to take the lead. Holy Toledo!"

More soon…


Anonymous John Q Law said...

Obviously congratulations for Egor but really, what I said still stands: I think it is really time to come back to the states.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Again John I really understand what you are getting at. But my point still is that I have a life here. Yes it is remarkably hard and yes, sometimes I think you are right that I might just have played it out as far as it could go. But n the other hand, why can't I do this if I want to. And what is more, there are some remarkably interesting things going on right now and whether or not you believe that Belarus is even an independent state any more, the country might just be in the middle of things in the very near future.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007  
Anonymous John Q Law said...

Great, so you are excited that you get to look at the ugliness and murder that will announce the start of world war three from right up close. Wow, I envy you. Your president is an anti-Semite, his best friends politically all are threatening the west with nuclear war, your economy is in the tank and you sit there worrying abut if you have the extra dollar to listen to a football game. Nice life. Maybe you are right and it is better there.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007  

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