Monday, November 10, 2008

Updates! Books! Travel!

So, here's the latest:

Things I Am Reading:

Just finished up April, 1865, by Jay Winik. I am pretty sure there is no upper bound to the amount of books I can read about the Civil War or Abraham Lincoln's presidency. It seems that each book touches on something new, or captures something slightly different from other book. This book was certainly more focused on Southern leaders like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. As someone who grew up in Northern Virginia, driving on Jefferson Davis Hwy, playing against RE Lee and Jeb Stuart high schools, or the Rebels of Fairfax, then going to James Madison, where it would seem that everything was named after a confederate cavalry leader, it was interesting to finally get some of the backstories. Winik is a great writer who mixes just enough military strategy with the right amount of human interest to keep the story moving along at quite a nice clip.

I am almost done with Into The Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It's the basis of the recent movie of the same name. This kid graduates college, goes off the grid, travels to Alaska on an extreme nature soul-searching trip that would frighten any Eagle scout, and eventually dies because he wasn't well-prepared enough. By all accounts, this wasn't some knuckehead or aimless drifter, but someone who really went out of his way to seek his identity. I find this book pretty interesting - not just because I grew up in the same area as the main character, or because his travels were so interesting, and not because it's sad that he died. It's the just audacity of dropping out of society. I could never imagine it. First off, I am no Davy Crockett, so I'd last roughly 15 min in the wilds of Alaska. Second of all, there are just so many people in my life who I couldn't just leave. I think about moving and even the thought of leaving the area is somewhat distressing to me, much less just disappearing from everyone's life wholesale. What he did is impressive, but not admirable, because I can't really call living such an empty life that you can leave it an admirable trait. Either way, it's an interesting read, and Krakauer is just an enjoyable author.

Recently I started The Stuff of Thought, by Steven Pinker. This is an interesting book so far - all about language semantics. It's fascinating when you think about language. There are people out there who are COMPLETE idiots by any standard - people who you meet and think to yourself "wow, that guy is lucky he knows how to get out of bed and get dressed in the morning", but that person has likely achieved a level of mastery of the English language. When you read a sentence and realize that based on context, there can be as many as four meanings, it becomes pretty amazing that the human mind can wrap itself around language. So much nuance is captured in language, making it all the more fascinating that otherwise simple folks can speak it without too much trouble. The other reason I like this book is that there is an entire chapter on verbs. I think that's fascinating. My mom cites thinking like this as evidence that I am becoming more and more like my dad every day. I take that as a compliment.

In the queue:

The Professor and the Madman

Man I wish there was a way to just read professionally. Not critically, like an editor, but just to read and soak in knowledge and to live the stories. That would be a good job...not that writing software isn't fantastic and all =)

Places I am Going

It looks like we are officially heading to Indiana for Christmas. It's good because my grandparents love seeing family, and have actually been alone for a couple recent holidays. Also good because theoretically we'll finally have our wedding photos by then. They'll also get to see Jena, which is good, since the last couple trips out there, she couldn't make it, which really disappoints them. A LOT. My grandparents have caught the contagious disease that has been spreading through everyone in my life ever since Jena and I met - I call it "IlikeJenabetterthanKirkeventhoughIknewhimfirst-itis". Sigh.

In February we go to Aruba, which is awesome, especially since we have long since paid for both airline tickets and lodging. Seemingly free vacations are very good things, especially to places with awesome beaches and casinos. Yep.

Oh, and we just put in our ticket requests for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. We find out in December what tickets we get - it would be an AWESOME trip, so fingers are crossed...

Things that are Awesome

1) The battery on my new phone. It lasts for days. My old phone never really did that. And for the last year or so, it was more like hours. It was the 'plugin-hybrid' of cellphones.
2) Michigan's 29-6 victory over Minnesota this weekend - with a walk-on backup QB who had otherwise been terrible, and a bunch of underclassmen on offense, they put up 445 yards, while their beleaguered defense managed to hold the Gophers to 188 yards and two field goals, after getting freaking torched for the past few games...good times.
3) Married Life - people keep asking me "how's married life", and I can always answer without pause "awesome". That's a good thing.
4) Seasons. The trees are beautiful, and I love the smell of Fall.

Things that are less than Awesome

1) Antiquated offices with not-so-nimble heat/ac systems that can't keep up with rapidly changing DC-autumn weather. It was roughly 724 degrees in my office Friday.
2) Darkness at 4:45 PM. Bleh.
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