lethargic_man: (Default)
Lilya WinoLJoDW used this as the event page art for the Friday night service and meal I'll be going to this Shabbos.

Wow, is all I can say. A quick google reveals the original is available for sale for a mere £4170*. Hey, it's my birthday coming up; anybody want to get it for me? (Don't ask where I'd find room to hang it.)

* Or ₤4170, as that page has it. Why are there Unicode glyphs for pounds signs with both one and two crossbars?

At last!

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 07:33 pm
lethargic_man: (Default)
Took me nineteen years, this did!

View piccy )

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
Read more... )

[Now you know all about it, I'll point out that Shakespeare's Globe in putting on The Merchant of Venice this summer. Can I interest anyone in seeing it with me as a groundling? (I'm not really interested in paying a minimum of three and a half times the price for an inferior experience seated.)]

Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: (Default)

I mentioned a little while ago that I was thinking of trying miracle berries, for the novelty of the experience. These contain a substance which binds at a molecular level to sour-tasting molecules but itself binds to sweet-flavour receptors on the tongue, thus converting sour flavours into sweet.

It turned out (perhaps not surprisingly) that you can't just go down to the greengrocers and pick some of these berries up: they're too delicate. If you want fresh berries, you can order them on the Internet, and they will be sent to you packed in dry ice. This costs quite a lot, and they don't last very long, so I didn't do that. Alternatively, you can get a powder made from the berries. This costs less, but still quite a lot, and lasts longer, but still not very long, so I didn't do that either.

Alternatively, you can buy pills made from the berry. These cost £13 for a pack of ten (the site I bought them from described the berry as the most expensive fruit in the world!), and last up to eighteen months. I wasn't very happy at the idea of buying dodgy pills off an Internet site, so I read around quite a bit before I went ahead with doing so. There are a number of sites selling miracle berry pills, and pretty much all of them have a FAQ featuring the question "Is it safe?"... and every site bar one said yes it is. That one exception (I can't now remember which it is, and have got better things to do than try and find it again) said something like, "No, it is not safe; we are selling you these pills as an example to show you what they look like"―obviously covering their own tracks in case they get sued. What made this ridiculous is that they even provided a recipe to use with miracle berries, but then told you in the "Is it safe?" FAQ not to use it!

Anyhow, in the end I ordered pills from mberry, and tried them out with [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m. One doesn't swallow the tablet; because it acts on one's tongue, instead you let it dissolve on your tongue until it's completely gone.

The Net of a Million Lies suggested some foods to try out with miracle berries: lemons, beer, grapefruit juice, dill pickles (and their brine), Tabasco sauce/chilli peppers, strawberries and vinegar. We tried out most of these, and indeed most of them did taste sweeter as a result. The food left a strange sweet taste in the mouth afterwards, [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m said it tasted artificial. I concur: it reminded me more of the taste of artificial sweeteners than pure sugar; but this aftertaste wasn't much present when food was actually in our mouths, and didn't detract from the food's taste.

I'd been wondering whether the miraculin would be enough to saturated the sour receptors on the tongue, i.e. would the sour taste be completely replaced with sweetness? The answer was no: you could still taste sourness, but it was outweighed by sweetness, in the same way that the sugar in lemon meringue pie or lemon and lime marmalade offsets the sourness of the lemon.

We didn't have lemons, since we had limes in the house to finish up, and we tried those first, and they were interesting. Then we tried grapefruit, and that was the big success for me. I don't like grapefruit, it's too sour for me, but the miracle berry suddenly turned it into something I really liked, and I chomped my way enthusiastically through most of the grapefruit. (I hadn't gone overboard on the limes, as the Web warned that though miracle berries make acidic fruit sweet, they don't make them any less acidic, and you can get indigestion if you go and guzzle several whole lemons.)

Beer was disappointing. Neither [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m nor I like beer, so we were hoping this would create a new sensation for us. In actuality, the Carlsberg (IIRC) I bought tasted completely unchanged. The same applied to cheese (except that I was the only one of the two of us not liking it).

Strawberries were also a little disappointing: People on the Web had written "this is how strawberries should always taste." For me, whilst they did taste a bit sweeter, strawberries are naturally sweet, and I don't feel they need additional sweetening. I wonder whether my reaction might be influenced by the fact that (not uncommonly, I believe) as I've grown older, I've found my taste widening to less and less sweet things. Indeed, I think I actually find strawberries sweeter than I used to, though it's possible that this is because (as with pineapple) there's a new, sweeter variety sold nowadays that didn't exist when I was growing up. At any rate, I was raised dipping strawberries in sugar when I ate them, and find such additional sweetening completely unnecessary nowadays.

Dill pickles I fluffed slightly, as I accidentally bought an already sweetened version. (Being in Germany at the time, the dill pickles sold in the supermarket didn't always quite match up, either by name or contents, with what I'm used to in the UK.) Tabasco sauce I also found not particularly enhanced; and vinegar I didn't get a chance to try: Malt vinegar is unknown in Germany (only the British and the Swedes consume it in Europe, apparently, and whilst you can get it in shops serving British ex-pats, they're not open late on a Saturday evening), and kosher wine vinegar is also not something I could buy from the local supermarket on a Saturday evening. So I'll try vinegar under the influence of miraculin at home some time when I'm having fish and chips. :o)

All in all, then, miracle berries were an interesting experiment to try, but not really something I'd rave over, except for what it did for grapefruit. If anyone wants to join me in trying the foodstuffs I haven't already tried out under their influence―or take some of the unused tablets off my hands―do please drop a comment here. Otherwise I'll probably finish off the rest of the tablets on grapefruit or grapefruit juice over the course of the year. :o)

More Linux woes

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 06:51 pm
lethargic_man: Yellow smiley face, only with a neutral expression instead of the smile (Have a [gap] day)
Having had some further problems with CentOS, and having also got home from work especially early this evening, I decided I would take the opportunity to install Fedora in place of CentOS. Well, I had some problems with it accepting the current partitioning, and thought maybe if I abandoned that it would sort things.

Only it didn't. It crashed, repeatably, at "Setting up installation environment" shortly after starting to reformat the entire hard disk. (I hope to hell the backup of my filespace I performed just beforehand worked!) Which means I have no working computer at all now. (The only reason I'm able to post this is because I took the precaution of bringing home my work laptop in case I needed to check things online during the early stages of the installation process.)

So it looks like my fourteen-year relationship with Red Hat is coming to an end (except professionally). What Linux distro would you recommend I switch to instead?

Grrr, CentOS!

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 06:11 pm
lethargic_man: Yellow smiley face, only with a neutral expression instead of the smile (Have a [gap] day)
I've been using Fedora Linux, and its RedHat ancestors for fourteen odd years now. People keep suggesting I should switch to a different distro, but I've resisted because I'm familiar with the way this one works. However, it has the disadvantage of a very fast release cycle: each release is only supported for thirteen months, and though I've got setting things back up so that I can do it in a single Sunday now, there will still normally bit little bits I'll be discovering for the following week or two that need tweaking.

Last week, I realised I'd overshot the end of the Fedora 19 support cycle when Firefox started refusing to play videos because the Flash plugin was out-of-date. I'd been recommended to switch to CentOS, which is another branch of the RedHat Linux family, but which has ten year support periods, so I thought I'd try that.

After installing, I discovered the repositories I needed were different, but after most of the day, I managed to get most of the software I use working, but there were exceptions. VLC and MPlayer's dependencies clash, so I can't get them both working at once. FFMPEG refuses to install. But most annoyingly, there's no package anywhere on the Net to install Hugin, the photo-stitching software I use a lot, for CentOS. All I can find on the Web is people posting for help, saying they couldn't manage it with CentOS 6 (I'm using CentOS 7), and being recommended to compile it themselves, but running into dependency hell.

I tried myself; when I realised I was running into difficulty building libpano13 so I could install libpano13-devel so I could compile Hugin itself, I knew I'd gone out of my depth. (And now my yum repository is screwed because I was installing non-CentOS 7 versions of other packages just to try and get Hugin to build.)

I'm furious. I don't want to doing this kind of stuff at home; I just want software to work either out of the box, or following a simple set of instructions on the Web. But now it looks like a piece of software I use all the time is completely uninstallable, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm half tempted to go back to the latest version of Fedora, but I really don't want to have to waste a second Sunday (I don't have time for the job any other day of the week, and sometimes not even on Sunday) doing that!

I don't suppose by any chance there's anyone reading this who's managed to get Hugin or an equivalent photo-stitching program running under CentOS, is there?
lethargic_man: (beardy)
Has Randall Munroe been in Camden recently?


lethargic_man: (bike)
Thanks to snow making the sidestreets impassable (or at any rate not safely passable) by bike, I finally got to see the Eagle pub of nursery rhyme fame today. I must have cycled past it many times before, but without noticing it, as I was concentrating on avoiding traffic on City Road, and popping weasels.
lethargic_man: (beardy)
I was slightly disappointed, when the UK's first female bishop was appointed yesterday, to see that she was wearing purple from the beginning of the ceremony. Really her garb should have flowed from black to purple at the laying on of hands.

*ahem* Too much Tron at a formative age, methinks.
lethargic_man: (capel)

This is the shtender in the shul room in Newcastle:

View piccy )

It comes with quite a history. It originally stood (along with a matching ark) in the synagogue in Kretinga, in Lithuania. During the pogroms of the 1880s and 1890s, the Kretinga community, like many others, upped and fled, but unlike most, they all went to the same place, and reestablished their community in Sunderland—and they took this shtender with them.

The shtender was reinstalled as the main lectern in the synagogue on Villiers Street there; later, it was moved to the shtiebl in the Mowbray Road synagogue.

When I was growing up, the Sunderland Jewish community, like all the provincial communities in the UK with the exception of Manchester, was dying. This became apparent when it merged its youth groups with Newcastle's. Then, some years later, there was a mass emigration of Jewish Mackems to Newcastle, and the Joel Intract old age home (of which my great-grandfather was amongst those who opened it, as recorded on a plaque there) moved to Newcastle too (under a new name). Finally, about a decade ago, the Sunderland synagogue closed, and a century and more of Jewish existence in Sunderland came to an end, with the exception of a few die-hards—not enough to get together a minyan—determined to stay even in the absence of a community.

But though the community may be gone (and indeed most of those who moved to Newcastle have since left for London or Israel, as Newcastle follows Sunderland along the road of gradual attrition), its legacy remains in the form of this shtender. Three times a day, the Orthodox community in Newcastle meets for prayer, and every time, except on sabbaths and festivals, the service leader stands before this shtender, embodying a living continuity with the bygone communities of Sunderland and Kretinga.

lethargic_man: (reflect)

This Shabbos will be the first yahrzeit for my mother; I shall be spending the day with my father in Newcastle.

To mark the event by remembering her here, here's a photo of my mother on her last outing, in July the year before last. This was taken a matter of days before her illness entered its terminal phase, but you'd never guess from looking at her. The photo was shot by my father (and posted here with his permission); it's taken on the Northumbrian coastline, with Bamburgh* Castle in the background.

* Pronounced like Edinburgh, not Pittsburgh.


(Click through for a larger image.)
lethargic_man: (Default)
In the run-up to my coming out of mourning, I was determined to go and do lots of the things I was unable to as a mourner. Well, I've made a start: aside from Limmud, I've been to my first ever ballet performance, and am going to a Taraf de Haïdouks concert, and a ceilidh next month. And I have just now signed up for the BBC's newsletter that tells me when tickets for their recordings become available; I have fond memories of the recording to "Just A Minute" I attended a few years ago.

But with the return to work, I find myself increasingly disinclined to get off my tochus and leave the house (or even just my chair) in the evening, and keep passing things by. For example, UK Jewish Film are screening The Dove Flyer at JW3 atm; the last two performances are this Thursday and Sunday, but I find myself saying to myself, oh, I can just watch that on a DVD at home some time in the future, for less money, and not having to shlep all the way to JW3. (Only I probably won't.) (Though if anybody wants to talk me into coming to see it with them on Sunday evening, I'm probably game.)

Similarly, Paul WinoLJoDW was recently trying to persuade me to go to the upcoming concert of Fanfare Ciocărlia* concert in Camden. I kept putting it off, on the grounds that it's a lot of money for a group I've never even heard of, but then decided that was more excuse-mongering, and bought a ticket anyway. So, does anyone want to go with me to that?

* Follow that link if you want to know what they sound like.
lethargic_man: (beardy)
Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] athgarvan, here's Jeremiah denouncing Jews putting up Christmas trees as חֻקַּת הַגּוֹיִם:
Jeremiah 10:2–4 ירמיהו י ב–ד
Thus says the Lord: Do not learn the way of the [sc. Gentile] nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are but empty air: One cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with an axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it does not move. כֹּה אָמַר ה׳ אֶל־דֶּרֶךְ הַגּוֹיִם אַל־תִּלְמָדוּ וּמֵאֹתוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם אַל־תֵּחָתּוּ כִּי־יֵחַתּוּ הַגּוֹיִם מֵהֵמָּה׃ כִּי־חֻקּוֹת הָעַמִּים הֶבֶל הוּא כִּי־עֵץ מִיַּעַר כְּרָתוֹ מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵי־חָרָשׁ בַּמַּעֲצָד׃ בְּכֶסֶף וּבְזָהָב יְיַפֵּהוּ בְּמַסְמְרוֹת וּבְמַקָּבוֹת יְחַזְּקוּם וְלוֹא יָפִיק׃
(Actually, Christmas trees are a mediaeval German custom (though a legend connects it with a much older English saint with a bonny face), and Jeremiah was writing about the manufacture of idols, but it still amuses me.)


lethargic_man: (Default)
Lethargic Man (anag.)

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