Over Sukkos, I read A Separate Peace by John Knowles. This was a book I'd been assigned to read back in ninth grade, but the homoerotic undercurrents of the story freaked me out so much at the time that I couldn't properly concentrate on it very well and so I faked my way through most of the schoolwork that was assigned with the novel. Of course, I was all the more freaked out because it seemed like I was the only one seeing that sort of theme, and so part of me assumed I was just being gutter-minded and reading stuff into the book that wasn't there. Now that I've been around the block a few more times, I'd since discovered that it wasn't just my wild imagination at work, and so I was happy to take a second, fresh look at this marvelously well-written book.
This section contains the following posts:
This past Shabbos was a quiet one, and I mostly just caught up on some reading. Most notably, I went back and read the end-notes for The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. I'd finished the main text earlier this week, but I wanted to collect all the end-notes to see if anything terribly interesting was hidden within. The book was quite enjoyable. As its subtitle suggests, it is about "Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory." This was particularly interesting to me since until reading this book I didn't know much about string theory other than that it is a cutting edge branch of physics that, though still in its infancy, promises to heal the pernicious rift that divides relativity theory and quantum mechanics and provide us with a unified view of the rules that govern the universe's most fundamental machinery.
Today I spent way too much time flirting with Typo. Typo is a blogging system based on Rails. Rails, in turn, is the Web application framework for Ruby that's been making Web developers so very excited lately (and with good reason). Ruby is the only programming language that's been able to tempt me away from Python ever since I first discovered Python's incredible sleekness in my senior-level algorithms course at university.
Last night, we surprised Seth with a birthday party at his apartment. Rachel invited a bunch of Seth's friends, and Becca and I made our own separate journeys from Tzfat. Rebecca and Avraham and Ashira simply drove in yesterday evening, and arrived early enough to help out with decorations while Rachel distracted Seth by taking him out to dinner. I took a less direct route to Jerusalem since travelling for three hours on Wednesday would conflict with my work schedule. So I left Tzfat on Tuesday night and arrived in Tel Aviv where I could crash with Itai and do all my Wednesday work shifts and still have time to get to Jerusalem in time for the party.
On Thursday night, Itai and I travelled to Tzfat. By the time we got to my house, it was past midnight and we were both ready to go straight to bed. Between working and shopping and cooking for Shabbos, Friday went by in the blink of an eye, even though I had gotten an early start on the day. The one thing that both Itai and I noticed about Friday was how much we had both missed just having a partner in the kitchen, turning together through the dance of making Shabbos, quietly chopping or frying vegetables in harmony.
Last night, I made a trip to Tel Aviv to spend today with Itai. I took the 6:35pm bus from Tzfat to Akko (a.k.a. "Acre" to you Anglophonic archeology academics), and took the train from Akko to Tel Aviv. This was my first time travelling by train in Israel, and I must say that it is a very pleasant change of pace from bus travel: smoother ride, more comfortable seats with a table in front of you, more space, and shorter transit time. My only complaints were that they had the air conditioning on so high that I had to wear my coat with the hood up and that they had the inside car lights on so bright that I couldn't see the scenery through the windows.
...but in a good way: Itai's latest journal entry articulates a lot of thoughts that I've had myself almost exactly. I've also given a lot of thought to the necessary criteria that my prospective mate must match, and I've also done the back-of-the-envelope calculations to realize how the slice of humanity that these criteria leave for me is vanishingly small. Now when I meet a person on my first try that successfully meets every important criterion, and who is also seeking the exact same improbable things in his mate, is it a merely some sort of analog to the anthropic principle at work, or is it a miracle?
Yesterday, I was too tired from my adventures out of town and my late-night return to do anything much of note, besides sleeping late, working all day to catch up, and posting a new version of MoosicApplet from good old Paramjit. (Please don't ask me how to pronounce his name.)
My second date with Itai was deliciously comfortable. So much so that the first date seems practically wooden in comparison. We met at 3pm at Yaffo Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. From there, I led the way to a little nook with flower-covered walls in the ruins on the way to the Kotel. On the way, I began a patchwork presentation of my life story. When we got to our destination, I continued talking while drawing a little picnic feastala from my backpack. We munched and chatted until the descending afternoon shadows caused the cold to creep up on us.
Friday went by fast, split equally between working and picking up groceries from the shuk. It was a pleasure to get reacquainted with the intense liveliness of the Machaneh Yehuda market. As always, it reminded me of a scene from an Indiana Jones film, with merchants of all kinds hawking their wares at the top of their lungs. Rachel did the cooking, since Seth and I were working for most of the day.
I was pretty nervous at first. Having run out of ways to prepare for the date, I had nothing better to do than to show up at the restaurant at 6:45pm, fifteen minutes early. Even though I kept scanning in all directions for him, Itai came up and practically tapped me on the shoulder before I saw him. I greeted him with a smile and presented him with a small bunch of purple flowers I'd bought earlier in the day. Rachel (my brother Seth's girlfriend) thought the flowers were awfully sweet, but I think that sort of gesture might be something that's more appreciated by women than men.
It's official. I've got my first date in a long while all lined up, and I'm bouncing with anticipation. His name is Itai, and we learned about each other through a web site for personal ads a little more than a week ago. We've been emailing each other since last Thursday, and he seems like just my type. We'll be meeting this coming Thursday at the Village Green, a vegetarian restaurant in Jerusalem. Wish me luck!
This morning I attended the first lesson in a four-part weekly course on Chi Gung, given by Michael Oxman, Tzfat's resident practitioner of Chinese medicine. A lot of the principles and material was familiar to me from when I took a course on Tai Chi Chu in the summer session that was my very last semester at university. On the way home after the lesson, my body was rushing with heat sensations and almost more energy than I could contain, so it looks like it got my chi flowing pretty well. Fun so far; we'll see how this develops in the next few weeks.
The past two days have been full of lots of random geekiness. Yesterday, I went to hang out with Ashira and Becca, but got commandeered into helping Becca with her web site and spent at least as much time teaching Becca how to use .htaccess to lock web pages with a password as I did stealing the precious little baby from her.