lethargic_man: (Default)
I was somewhat surprised to receive a wedding invitation a few years ago on Facebook and nowhere else (the groom assured me he had sent a print one, but it never arrived), but this takes the biscuit. In December 1905, my great-great-grandparents posted this in the Jewish Chronicle:
Mr. and Mrs. J. ANKER, 46, Holly-avenue, Jesmond, with Mr. and Mrs. E. GOLDSTON, "The Square", Stockton-on-Tees, will be pleased to see all relatives and friends at the Synagogue, Leazes Park-road, Newcastle-on-Tyne, on January 2nd, 1906, on the occasion of the marriage of their daughter Eva, to their son Joshua.  Ceremony at 2.30 p.m.  Reception at the "Minories" Assembly Rooms, Jesmond-road, 4 till 7 p.m.
Which is all well and good until you come to the last line, for which remember that they chose to publish this in a national newspaper—and indeed the births, marriages and deaths column was at that point on the front page:
Relatives and friends please accept this, the only invitation.

Unity Mews

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 06:14 pm
lethargic_man: (beardy)

[photo]

She does? Better give her some milk, then.
lethargic_man: (Default)
As those of you who follow me on Facebook may have seen recently, I'm gearing up to do something crazy in aid of charity, and have been trying to decide which. I'm leaning in favour of Magen David Adom, but feel it is important to alleviate the suffering of all those caught up in the tragedy, not just the Israelis'.

So, does anyone reading this know whether the Palestine Red Crescent Society is a trustworthy body to also donate to?
lethargic_man: (Default)
This is Sam Pogrund, my great-grandmother's second cousin, from Leeds.

[photo]

He's not the closest relative of mine to have fought, or died fighting in the Great War—that'd be my great-grandfather's brother Yossi Krantz—but he's the first named one that I've managed to get a picture of in uniform.

Googling the name brought up http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=14696369, which says he died on the last day of 1917 (previously I just knew the year), that he was a private, was in the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), and is buried at Chatby Memorial in Alexandria in Egypt. I wonder if, having died then and there, he was involved in the liberation of Jerusalem.

His brother Simon also died (fighting?) in the war.

Central Arcade

Friday, July 11th, 2014 12:09 pm
lethargic_man: (Default)
This is Central Arcade, in Newcastle.

Surprisingly beautiful, for a shopping arcade )

On the right is Windows of the Arcade, a general music shop (they sell instruments, stereos, CDs and possibly sheet music too), where I bought my stereo in 1986. Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered it was still there earlier this year, when I cycled around Newcastle taking photos of places like this...

Blood-red rainbow

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 09:53 pm
lethargic_man: (Default)
Of a Shabbos afternoon in Edinburgh in 1998, I was walking home towards sunset when I saw an arc of rainbow, thrust almost vertically into the air, faint and almost entirely red: a small amount of yellow permeated its inner edge and a faint hint of green, but no blue or violet whatsoever.

As I watched, and the setting sun reddened further, so did the rainbow, turning completely blood-red before fading away as the sun set. ([personal profile] liv and [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel may recall I worked this into a novel I was working on at the time.)

It was an amazing sight, but unfortunately, it was Shabbos and I couldn't photograph it (and even if it hadn't been, most people didn't walk around with camera all the time back then).

It's taken sixteen years for me to see that happen again. My first sight this time of a reddening rainbow was quite a while before sunset, and I foolishly went away and got on with other things, as a result of which when I came back to find this rainbow too entirely red, it was so faint my camera could barely capture it, and I've had to turn the contrast up in the resulting picture so you can see it.

[photo]       [photo]

Parachute jump

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 08:32 pm
lethargic_man: (Default)
I feel my life is a bit boring, so I'm considering throwing myself out of a 'plane.

Let me unpack that a bit. Well, not the boredom bit; I think that's self-evident. I was thinking more along the lines of how people like Stephen Sutton who die young sometimes pack an incredible amount into the little time they have remaining, yet many of us who have (please God) normal lifespans never achieve a fraction of the things they did.

I was also inspired by my friend Abigail Kay recently bungee-jumping for charity.

And I remembered how when I was an undergraduate, for a short while there was an organisation called DJS—Dangerous Jewish Society—and I signed up to do a parachute jump with them for charity, but, when me and society founder Michael Jaeger had got a lift down to London with a third meshuggine, who was to drive us all to the airfield early the following morning, the car-owner got cold feet (he was concerned the insurance would not pay enough in the event of his death) and pulled out, leaving the other two of us with no way to get to the airfield on time, so we never did it.

I've always felt a mixture of relief and regret that I wasn't able to go through with it, and when better to do something about it* than now.

* Now that the person who was the most opposed to it (my mother) is no longer around, but I do not (yet) have any dependents.

I will, of course, be doing this for charity, though not the same charities as my bike ride of last year: I want the other ones I regularly donate to to get a look-in as well! But first, according to the British Parachute Association webpage I had a look at this morning, I will need to get a doctor's certificate, as they assume anyone above the age of forty is at risk of decrepitude; and it's possible that my slightly dodgy knee may put paid to this whole enterprise.

Whilst I'm waiting, advice from anyone who's done this before would be welcome.
lethargic_man: (bike)
I am so hopeless with my hands. I spent ten minutes the other day trying to figure out how to close the special link on a chain I was putting on my bike; eventually I had to give up and call my father in.

The reason I was doing so was I'd been told at the end of last year that switching back and forth between two chains every six months prolongs the life of the gear cassette and range wheel, so you don't have to replace them (an expensive business!) every time you replace the chain. So I was told then; the other day a mechanic at the bike shop said that was only if you cleaned and oiled the moving parts every day. (I do so only from time to time.) I remember the narrator of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" arguing in favour of knowing how to service your bike, and knew that this was the right thing to do, but can I be bothered to clean and oil the thing every since day I take it out? Not bloody likely.

I intend to switch the chain back after six months and see if it improves the lifespan of the gear cassette regardless... but I've a sneaky suspicion I'm going to have difficulty getting the special link on the chain back open again.

Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance? Hah! For me, it's more like:

View piccy )

lethargic_man: (capel)
I'm over halfway through my period of reciting kaddish now, and have still only missed thirteen services in total, so far. So, you may be wondering, has all this davening with a minyan three times a day changed me?

That's what I wondered when I went to study for three weeks at the Conservative Yeshiva (and davening there twice a day) seven years ago. One hears of all these young people going off to Israel to study in yeshiva and coming back "Aished"; was I in danger of that happening to me too?

As it turned out, the answer was no. When I was young, I was much more credulous and uncritically respecting of authority than I am now. And so perhaps I would have been in danger of being brainwashed had I gone to an Orthodox yeshiva when I was eighteen, but that was not the case going to a Masorti/Conservative yeshiva in my mid thirties. Eventually I realised it wasn't that I might change due to studying at the yeshiva; rather I went to study at the yeshiva because I had already changed myself. (The idea of studying at a yeshiva would have been quite inimical to me just a few years beforehand.)

And so, davening with a minyan three times a day hasn't changed me at all. I didn't change before I started doing it, and I haven't changed since (aside from a mild exasperation at the length of services); and when my period of reciting kaddish ends, I will happily go back to pretty much never attending shul midweek, but doing a little davening daily בְּיִחוּד, as I had been doing beforehand, and indeed still do now on the odd occasion when I'm not able to daven at shul in the morning (mostly when I've got a 'plane to catch back from Berlin on a Monday morning).

piltdown root password

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 10:03 pm
lethargic_man: (computer geekery)
Discovered the other day I didn't know what the root password on piltdown (my home desktop) was. Most unusual, for me to change it to something I couldn't remember. I hope this doesn't mean my machine got taken over by a botnet. OTOH, if someone were to take over my machine, you'd expect them to run background processes under innocuous names, not loudly advertise the fact I'm locked out of administrator access on my own machine.

I've reset the password now (after taking a week to get around to backing up before performing a procedure I had not done before—fortunately I'd got sudoers set to allow me to continue software updates, including security ones, in the interim).
lethargic_man: (Default)
Got a mailshot from the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust: "How heroic is your neighbourhood?"
In the battle against blood cancer, we need heroes. And since you’re already on our bone marrow register, you’re halfway there.

But we urgently need to recruit more heroic donors to save the lives of those with blood cancer. And we can’t do it without you.

We’ve created a cool interactive map of the UK to show you how many people in your constituency are on the register.
So I click on the link, and blow me down if I'm not living in the constituency with the highest number of people in the country (2680) willing to donate stem cells.

Actually, I'm not all that surprised. This constituency is 25% Jewish, and there's a high awareness of the fact people with blood cancers are most likely to find a tissue match within their own ethnic group in the Jewish community, due to recruitment drives by people like the late Sue Harris, for whom all that recruiting was sadly not enough. (The high numbers of divers other ethnic minorities in this constituency may also play a role.)

But more people on the register is always a good thing. Sign up; you could save someone's life.

Lunchtime tourism

Monday, June 9th, 2014 12:41 pm
lethargic_man: (Default)
This lunchtime I:
  • Went to have a look a London Stone, which I'd been reading about. (It's not very much to look at, actually.) My advice, if you want to see if yourself, is to bring a bottle of water and some tissues, to wipe the grime off the protective glass, and also not go on a bright sunny day, on which you'll have difficulty seeing past the reflections on said glass.
  • Answered the question I'd been wondering about for a while, which is very difficult to answer from photos online, which is: does the Gherkin slope back inwards towards its base? To which the answer is: yes.
  • Saw my first Google Maps Street View car. (Previously Street View had imaged my home whilst I'd been in it (I know, because the window was open), but I'd not actually seen the car.) Now I'll have to keep my eyes out to see if I turn up, face no doubt blurred, on Street View!

Sleeper trains

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 12:53 pm
lethargic_man: (reflect)
As those who know me will know, I try to avoid flying without a good reason; it's the worst thing most westerners do to the environment. So, with the exception (see above under "good reason") of my regular visits to [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m, which, sadly, are too far and/or expensive to do overland on a continuing basis, every time bar two (plus South Africa, which was piggy-backed to being sent there by work) I've been abroad since 2007, I've travelled by train at least one of the directions, with destinations including Nice, Amsterdam, Dublin*, Paris, and Cologne via Brussels in addition to the below.

* You can get train fares between anywhere in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which include the ferry crossing. My ticket was from Dun Laoghaire to London Euston and cost just £30.50—for gornisht, as my father would say.

The problem with this is that train journeys eat up precious leave time. The solution is to do them at night, when you're not missing anything. So I have taken sleeper trains, over the last few years, to Madrid (en route to Gibraltar), Rome, Verona (en route to Venice) and Girona (en route to Barcelona).

† Ignoring the other problem, which is that train travel is disproportionately expensive. If I were in charge, governments would tax short-haul flights and use them to subsidise train journeys over the same route, to make the train journeys more attractive.

Which is why I'm a little upset to discover that "the Paris to Madrid sleeper service, which ran for over a century, was scrapped last year with little fanfare."

Oh well, the good news, I suppose, is that I managed to make use of it before it went away. And in the meantime, I can go back to waiting for an environmentally-friendly means of aviation to be decised. But I've a suspicion I might be in for a long wait.

Will-writing

Sunday, May 25th, 2014 09:50 am
lethargic_man: (reflect)
I don't have a will. In my twenties, this wasn't an issue, as I had little of value to my name. (As a result of taking a year off and doing three degrees, I didn't start earning until I was twenty-seven, and working for the BBC I wasn't exactly raking it in at first.) Some years later [personal profile] bluepork told me there's little point writing a will until such time as I have children, so I put off writing one further.

The other day, I got cold-called by a will-writing company who told me that without a will, there's no guarantee my assets would return to my family, and it's possible a neighbour could try and claim on them. Does anyone reading this know whether this is just scare tactics trying to get me to pay for their services, or whether there is anything to this? Also, is it worth writing a will when you don't (yet) have children, but do at least have a flat to your name?

Sans doute

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 10:01 pm
lethargic_man: (Default)
This, seen in the Louvre, amused me inordinately:

[piccy]

lethargic_man: (beardy)
I like the colour scheme on RATP train doors...

[piccy]

Tenth man

Monday, May 19th, 2014 01:11 pm
lethargic_man: (capel)
At shacharis in the Vercingétorix synagogue in Paris on Friday, I could only see nine people, including myself, when the chazzan reached the end of Pesukei deZimra, so was very surprised when the chazzan then lanched into ḥaṣi qaddish then בְּרָכוּ, as these cannot be said without a minyan. But when I looked closely around the room, and concentrated very hard, I found myself seeing the faint ghostly outline of a tenth tallith-wearing man.

No, I wasn't having a mystical experience. The faint ghostly outline appeared in the glass doors of the bookcase at the front, and the man whose reflection I was seeing was hidden from me by a pillar.

Rabban Bar Ṣauma

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 01:03 pm
lethargic_man: (Default)
I was reading the Travels of Marco Polo recently. Unfortunately, the Wordsworth Classics edition I read did not have any explanatory notes whatsoever, so afterwards I started reading, bit by bit, through the online edition of the Victorian translation by Sir Henry Yule. Sometimes things I read there led me in the direction of further research on Wikipedia; and at one point I was reading about characters with names like Rabban Bar Ṣauma.

With such an Aramaic name, it was obvious that this character must have been a Babylonian rabbi, of the era of the Gaonim, right?

Wrong. Actually, he was a Nestorian Christian monk, of Uyghur ethnicity, born in or near Beijing. Sometimes it's worth remembering we Jews didn't have a monopoly on the Aramaic language...

[personal profile] pseudomonas

Sunday, May 11th, 2014 09:16 am
lethargic_man: (beardy)
It's occurred to me that [personal profile] pseudomonas is misnamed. As a prokaryote able to read Aramaic, surely he would be better named [profile] pshittacoccus...
lethargic_man: (reflect)

A number of people protested that online petitions don't work to influence events, when I posted about them a while ago.

I'm not sure that's true; recently I've read about:

Of course, some of these relied upon campaigning techniques other than just online petitions, but the petitions were part and parcel of them, as the quote in the last one demonstrates.

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