Today MJ and I left for Philadelphia to prepare for our wedding on Sunday! We’ve spent months planning for it, I’m sure it’ll be awesome, I’m really excited.
On Tuesday we’re flying to the Yucatan Peninsula to spend 7 days on a beach, and then another 5 days exploring Mayan ruins all over the peninsula. It occured to us while planning for the honeymoon that over the past few years we’ve certainly been doing a lot of traveling, but actual vacations have been few and we both really needed some time away. Regardless of internet access, I’ll be keeping my activities far away from anything Ubuntu or OpenStack, as much as I may be tempted to check in and help out. I really need to take this step back and relax so I can come back refreshed and eager to continue to help taking over the world with my fellow open source colleauges. Must not feel guilty about my inbox getting out of control, it’s as it should be on vacation.
Along with my Nintendo 3DS and games and a pile of science+nature magazines, I brought some books with me Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan and Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts by Emily Anthes. It didn’t occur to me until buying Anthes’ book that this will mean quite the creature-filled reading list! I also picked up a couple fiction paperbacks to zone out to on the beach.
It occurred to me while looking for books to bring that I hadn’t written lately about books I’ve been reading. Prompted by my study into Judaism this past year, I’ve been making an effort to understand religion in general more. My approach historically has been to find the “truth” in a very logical manner, which breaks down quickly when the topic is religion so I just left it alone. “I don’t really do religion” has been my response lately when asked about it. But in these past few years I’ve come to love and respect several religious people so trying to understand how and why the believe and participate has been an interesting path of study. In addition to reading various Jewsish commentaries on God, I picked up Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain de Botton. It was a fascinating look into secular reasons why people build, sustain and maintain the traditions and beliefs in their communties. I did find that he touched upon pieces lacking in my own life, including having patterns of observance of special days and events throughtout the year which encourage reflection and thought on specific topics, something I’m really enjoying with my study into Judaism. I also read A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age by Steven Nadler after learning about Spinoza’s “natural world” approach to God in our Intro to Judaism class. I’m no philosopher or religious historian, so having the ideas from the treatise broken down and summarized in modern English to regular people like me was essential to the work being accessible to me. It was an interesting read, putting some of our modern secularism in historical perspective. A friend of mine also told me about The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion by Mordecai M. Kaplan, a co-founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, which I brought along with me on my trip for when I get into a more reflective, contemplative mood during our trip.
Beyond religion, while I was at the Southern California Linux Expo back in February someone mentioned the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. I was skeptical, and understand that his work is a simplification of success, fortune and luck, but it was quite a humbling read. It’s easy to take a lot for granted and be overly proud of the accomplishments we’ve made through what feels like only our own hard work and talent. There’s so much more than that when you start drilling down into the stories behind many of the great capitalist success stories in our society, you have to have the opportunities before you can seize them and often this is out of our control. The person who recommended this book is involved with educating disadvantaged youths in southern California so he certainly has had a first hand view of the advantages some have over others from a very young age.
To shift to the other side of the pen for a moment, I was recently interviewed by a woman doing a story of fear of birds. She emailed me out of the blue and you never know how these things will turn out, but her article did end up getting published: Help! Those Things With Wings Are After Me! It’s funny reading this now, I feel so silly, but I can’t deny any of it. Chickens and vultures are little dinosaurs, it totally makes sense (then again, I’d totally pet a tiger given the chance, natural selection fail).
Now it’s time to pack up my netbook and get settled in here at the Inn. Our next several days are pretty packed with errands, family, rehearsal, dinners and more!