A quick escape from the tension of the first week of classes

School started earlier this week for both of us. M will not teach much more this semester, as she is taking medical leave for eight weeks starting on September 8. She will be having treatments starting then and ending some time in late October that will make her feel intermittently unwell. Therefore, what better day for a sudden winery tour in NJ than today!

We started around 10:15 and went first to Cream Ridge winery. Actually, we first got slightly lost by following some signs instead of Google Maps; the signs were not comprehensive. But this ended up being more fun than otherwise, because we stumbled upon an ice cream place that was open at 11 am!

M at TK Ice Cream in New Jersey

After that we did make our way to the Cream Ridge winery, where we had a tasting and a snack on their nice, shaded porch, on rocking chairs.

M at Cream Ridge winery

The next stop was at the Hopewell Valley Vineyards. There we had another tasting, and got a glass of wine each for lunch, which we had brought with us (already seen in the photo above). They have a nice deck in this winery, overlooking the vines, and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours having lunch, eating and drinking our glasses (I had Chambourcin, M had Chardonnay) and reading books we had brought along. Hey, we made sure to spend some time absorbing the wine so we would be safe drivers on the way back home.

M having lunch in Hopewell Valley Vineyards
Our lunch at Hopewell Valley Vineyards

 

Another view of M on the deck at Hopewell Valley Vineyards, having lunch

 

Wine grapes at Hopewell
M and some vines at Hopewell

 

Morning in San Diego

Yesterday was a long travel day. US Airways had a plane that could not come to Philadelphia from Florida due to weather; it would have been the one for us. They decided to assign another plane to our flight and this delayed departure. When we finally pushed off from the gate at about 6 pm EDT (the scheduled time was 3:45 pm EDT), we had to wait our turn for the runway, so we finally were airborne at 6:30 EDT. We did manage to land in San Diego at 9PDT. By the time we were at the hotel, we were pretty exhausted so I took one photo (to be posted here later) and then hit the pillow.

The day looks very promising today, weather wise. After a hearty breakfast, we are ready for some sightseeing, once M is back from the convention center, where she is registering for her conference.

Aargh, why a new theme?

I really liked the previous theme, but it was experimental and I found some glitches. So now I’m trying the one you see, Simple Chrome, by Beysim Ali.

And who am I, as in the personal pronoun in this and several other posts? Dimitrios. I often post as “admin” for uninteresting reasons, so the only thing to note regarding the “I” is that in the infrequent cases when Marianne posts, it will be clear it’s a post by her.

Today’s reading

Non-work reading, that is.

  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug, second edition, 2006. This is a very enjoyable book on how to design easy-to-use web sites. Got it as an e-book, and the clunky process of downloading Adob’e e-book reading software before I could download the book was ironically exactly contrary to the main message of the book.
  • WordPress 2.8 Theme Design by Tessa Blakeley Silver, 2009. This version of a book I already have in hard copy covers a more recent WordPress release than the one my hard copy book covers. Pleasingly, the publishers, Packt publishing, allow you to download an unrestricted PDF, as opposed to the publishers of Krug book, who does not deserve a link here. It’s OK, book publishers, like iTunes has shown (after too long a time), there is no reason to panic and only release DRMed digital copies. Most of your buyers are law-abiding. Seriously.

You only get one guess at what my main activity revolved around for the better part of today.

On “Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era” from McSweeney’s

This item from Robert Lanham in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is a hilarious parody of college syllabi except when it hits close to the bone and starts hurting, which it does right now, as I just finished today a totally revamped syllabus for my undergraduate mathematical economics course for the coming semester. Writing for Nonreaders. Really. Here is a quote from the “course description” to induce you to read the whole thing, which I enjoyed (humor and hurt together) immensely:

Instant messaging. Twittering. Facebook updates. These 21st-century literary genres are defining a new “Lost Generation” of minimalists who would much rather watch Lost on their iPhones than toil over long-winded articles and short stories. Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t! Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls.

Current reading – Dimitrios

I have tried goodreads.com and shelfari.com for tracking the books I read and would like to read, but I simply don’t visit these sites often enough and the sheer number of books I am currently (pretending to be? trying to be? hoping to be?) reading boggles my mind when I look at even the partial list I have on goodreads.com. From now on, I will try posting short snippets about my reading here and I will try to make these updates regular.

The book I am reading these days at bedtime is a paperback M got me for Christmas this year, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (1990, reading the Harper 2007 paperback edition). It’s quite unusual to find a book written jointly by two successful writers, let alone as inventive and funny writers as these two are! I am currently on page 68 and I have found that every night it beats the alternatives (and they are legion, just counting the two tall piles next to my side of the bed).

Some of these books in the legion, likely to be finished (but we’ll see… as always with me, no bets are safe on finishing books) are:

  • The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin, Tor Books 2009. Science fiction about a future with fantastic nanotechnology that revives the dead but also an economic arrangement that has people as corporations with the majority of any given young person owned by the state and various corporations that financed the person’s schooling. Currently on page 74. The writing is pedestrian but the idea of incorporated individuals is intriguing. I am not holding my breath about the romance between the 20th entury tycoon who is revived 300 years later after being frozen to avoid death by lymphoma and the young woman who handles his rehabilitation. Of course the romance will have a good end. However, predicting the outcome to this society of the entrance of this pre-incorporation man, who has no intention of playing by the society’s incorporation rules, is harder, so I will keep reading.
  • The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes, 2008 (reading the US Pantheon hardback edition). The Romantics discover science. Joseph Banks lands in Tahiti and writes in his diary what might be the first anthropological study. Humphry Davy does chemistry. Astronomical discoveries abound. This is a wonderful book, mellifluous and fascinating in its topic. I am savoring it, which is why I am only on page 12.
  • The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, Knopf 2009, translated from the Swedish by reg Keeland (original published in Sweden in 2006). The author was a journalist who worked too hard. He burned the candle from both ends so fast that he died at age 50 in 2004 shortly after giving the manuscript of this book and two others (it’s part of a trilogy). It’s too bad, and not only because it’s sad for anyone to die so young. The book is a fast-paced inventive thriller with a most unusual female hero. I was alerted to it by the Economist magazine, of all sources. Currently I am ready to start a new section on page 161, and waiting for a good chunk of time (waiting since the day after Thanksgiving, sadly) because once I start reading it goes really fast and demands my attention completely. Not great literature, I have to say, but a real page-turner.
  • Family Album by Penelope Lively, Viking 2009. An understated English novel with deep emotional undertones. It recounts a family gathering that shows every sign of becoming tumultuous. I have only read a few pages and will likely restart, but the book shows promise and will probably merit the very good words I read about it in the Economist when I am done with it.
  • The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000 by Chris Wickham, Viking 2009. I got this in the summer on the recommendation of Tyler Cowen in marginalrevolution.com. I cannot hope to match Cowen’s super-fast reading, but I can still benefit from his recommendations. I have managed to reach page 176 on two trips and I should manage to finish this book (and maybe one or two from the preceding ones) on our forthcoming quick trip to warmer climes in January, shortly before the semester starts. Wickham gives a perspective on the decline of the Roman empire and how what the Romans had established pervaded the succeeding societal structures that I had not encountered before. Just reading a few pages makes me feel I understand the development of what we now know as Europe much better than I did before.

I’d better end here. I could go on and on, and this long list of unfinished books is embarrassing enough as it is. My promise is to post here daily about my recreational reading. It’s this, or being so swamped with all the work and web-design projects I have scheduled for myself that I will not be able to read for fun and general illumination at all. So I promise: more on my non-work reading tomorrow. An the day after. And so on for the whole new year.