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How to get people to talk to you at a chess tournament

(I wrote this on another site I blog on; I thought it was appropriate here):

Learning Perl bookEvan had a team practice tournament today and I usually bring something to do with me whiles I wait (usually my compostion book if I need to make some lesson plans or just jot some stuff down). Today, I brought my Learning Perl book with me...not to be pretentious, but mostly so I could reread Chapter 4 (Subroutines) so that I could get the stuff to sink into my brain.

See, I'm reading/studying the book not because I'm a programmer nor really because I plan on programming something. No, I'm studying this particular book because I like the writing and I like to understand what's happening in my computer.

Anyway, if you want instant conversation at a chess tournament, bring Learning Perl with you. Again, it's a great computer language book and I find myself tickled by the footnotes. But more than that, it is a great conversation starter. Here's what I mean:

Evan at Table 2This is Evan's 3rd year playing chess and I've noticed that there are some folk who "work" on their computers from the beginning of a tournament to the end (btw, all of the parents, for the most part, hang out in the cafeteria or wherever "homebase" is). Everyone finds something to do and goes to their respective areas. There's one guy who jumps on his MacBook and you don't see him walking around at all. But today, that was a different story.

I'm marking my place in Chapter 4 and I look up and there's the MacBook guy asking me "Perl, uh?" And from that point on, I knew I had a conversation. (He immediately became suspicious of anyone learning Perl when the joys of Ruby were around). And here's where it gets interesting: our talk felt like a technological "sizing up" until he was satisified that I knew what I was doing in learning Perl. I even suggested a good scripting book to him (Dave Taylor's Wicked Cool Shell Scripts) and the guy even wrote it down.

And I think that's how it is at chess tournaments and I suppose I shouldn't surprised at who the fathers are of these young chess players. It's a subculture with all of its idiocyncracies and mores and language. It makes for an interesting story, as author Kristen Laine told one of my classes in regard to her book American Band. If anything, I think I found out today that I am a part of the chess father subculture.

I looked away from my screen to reflect on that last line...just to make sure it was accurate and I chuckled to myself when I noticed the books to my right of my computer: A mixture of O'Reilly titles and chess books. Realization is uncanny, isn't it?


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