lethargic_man: (beardy)
2017-03-22 10:28 pm

Rabbit chuppah!

Thanks to the talented Sarah Behrnd, the rabbits are now more prepared to get married than we are! —Thanks, Sarah!

View piccy )

lethargic_man: (Default)
2017-03-08 08:39 pm

Ding dong

A little daily ritual in the [personal profile] lethargic_man/[livejournal.com profile] aviva_m household (featuring Ginger the rabbit, so-named because she arrived in the household at the same time as Fred the fish).

Link to video on Facebook.
lethargic_man: (Default)
2017-02-28 10:01 pm

Arnie plays Beethoven

[livejournal.com profile] aviva_m and I were in the Beethoven Museum in Bonn last weekend (in the house where Beethoven spent his first four years—it's the only house he lived that still exists)—and my parents-in-troth got us this beautiful little piano music box as a souvenir.

Arnie the rabbit seems to have really taken to it; I don't know where he learned to play so well!

See video (I don't think I can embed this).

...although possibly this explains something:View piccy )Right, that's enough excitement for one evening; time for bed:View piccy )
lethargic_man: (Default)
2017-02-26 11:11 am

Engaged!

For the benefit of the few people who are friends of mine here but not also on Facebook, [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m and I got engaged on Saturday a week ago.

[photo]

lethargic_man: (computer geekery)
2017-01-31 12:34 pm

Transferring music to an iPod from XFCE on Ubuntu Linux

Those who know me might be shocked to here that a little while ago I got an iPod (iPod Touch 4th generation), as a cast-off from [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m's parents. However, I'm having difficulty transferring music onto it. Simply copying it onto the iPod isn't enough; you've got to do something else to make the iPod aware of it.

The Net of a Million Lies says a program called gtkpod will do the job for me, on my desktop running XFCE on Ubuntu Linux. However, this seems to rely on the iPod's filesystem being mounted as a regular directory; and this is not (no longer?) the case in the current version of XFCE. It automatically mounts two sub-areas of the iPod filesystem, but not under /media; and in any case gtkpod seems to want the whole filesystem mounted. I've managed to get the filesystem mounted with a truly horrible hack, but gtkpod is still not playing ball.

Has anyone managed to transfer music to an iPod from recent versions of Ubuntu, and if so, how did you do it?
lethargic_man: (linguistics geekery)
2017-01-15 12:34 pm

Why "love" has an O, why "coney" dropped out of use, and why English has "earl", not "count"

Here's a cool thing I learned a few months ago: Have you ever wondered about the prevalence of words in English spelled with an O but pronounced as if it were U; words like "son", "money" (and "honey"), "love" (and "dove"), "wonder", "London", and I suspect once upon a time, also "coney"*? What they all share in common is that the O is next to an M, N, V or W; and the reason for this spelling is that when a U is juxtaposed to one of these letters in Carolingian miniscules, it becomes very difficult to tell which letter is which, as is famously shown by writing the word "minimum" in miniscules:

[image]

Consequently, the spelling of the English words was changed to use an O instead of a U, which made life easier for readers a thousand years ago, though more difficult for people trying to learn English spelling. It's amazing how much insight knowing this has given me on English spelling; I keep coming across more and more words the spelling of which this explains.

* "Coney" used to be in general use in English to mean "rabbit". (The German for "rabbit", Kaninchen, rendered piecewise into its English cognates, comes out as the cutesy "coneykin".) But when in the nineteenth century "cunny" arose as slang for "c*nt", which was the pronunciation at the time of "coney", the latter dropped out use, despite an attempt to rescue it by pronouncing it the way it was written, in favour of the term "rabbit", originally meaning a young rabbit.

On a similar subject, I recently discovered from the History of English podcast the reason why we have in England, counties and countesses but not counts. These terms were brought into English from Norman French after the Norman Conquest, displacing the older English terms, but "count" never quite managed to displace "earl" because its pronunciation was too much like "c*nt". I reckon at the time, the former would have had the vowel in "food" and the latter the vowel in "good", making them more similar than they are today.

I wonder if there are any other words that resemblance to taboo words forced out of the language...
lethargic_man: (Default)
2017-01-10 01:12 pm

The Lost Songs of St Kilda

Some of you may recall my posting here before about my (casual) interest in St Kilda, the most remote once-inhabited archipelago of the British Isles. I possibly first came across it when I first discovered and went exploring on Google Maps (an interesting post to reread, as it reminds us what online maps were like in the days before Google Maps). My interest piqued, I went off and read about it on Wikipedia; and so was intrigued enough to watch (and buy) and review Michael Powell's fictionalised film about the evacuation of St Kilda, The Edge of the World (which, strangely enough, didn't involve vampires).

After all this, you will not be surprised to hear that when, last year, an album of music came out called The Lost Songs of St Kilda, I was intrigued, and asked [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m to get it for me for Chanukah. The story is that a decade ago, an old man, Trevor Morisson, was discovered playing this music on a piano in an old age home in Scotland. He'd been evacuated to the isle of Bute during the War, and had there been taught by one of the St Kildans who left during the islands' final evacuation in 1930 how to play the melodies sung by the islanders as they climbed the cliffs looking for birds' eggs.

No one else had recorded this music, no one had written it down; to my surprise it seems that none of the St Kildans (the last of whom died just last year) had even taught it to their children. (The fact the St Kildan church frowned upon music may have had something to do with this, at a guess.) If it were not for Trevor Morisson, this subculture would have died out completely (rather than just partially—Morisson only knew eight songs, and did not know the words to them).

Yet now, after eighty-six years, a young man's recordings of Morisson (made on a laptop with a £3 microphone) have been released to the world, and inspired others to compose around them, or be inspired by them.

I find the music to be moving, but even without that, the story a moving one too.
lethargic_man: (beardy)
2017-01-01 01:44 pm

Rabbit menorah

Today is the last day of Chanukah; the rabbits have been lighting their menorah every day and uploading each photo to Facebook. Here at the end is the complete collection crossposted to DW and LJ: View piccies ) It's always sad to see Chanukah end, but at least I'm not going to have to do any more grubbing around on the rug looking for dropped ball bearings for the next year. (The rabbits response is similar to this one.)
lethargic_man: (capel)
2017-01-01 01:41 pm

Fame at last!

This is the new flier from Masorti Judaism in Germany—and look who they chose a photo of to illustrate the back page.

(This was taken on my first trip to Berlin, for a Marom Olami seminar in 2005; points to [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m for spotting this on Friday night.)

View piccy )

lethargic_man: (Default)
2017-01-01 01:36 pm

My views on the monarchy

Just because I'm knowledgeable about the Royal Family and interested in their history, [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m seems to think I'm pro-monarchist. Well, I don't think you have to be in favour of something which is important to express an interest in it.

It's true that I value tradition, and I appreciate the tourist dollars the Royal Family bring in to the UK, but still, those who know me will have heard me say many times "God save the Queen: she's the only thing keeping Prince Charles off the throne", and I have sympathy for Prince William's years of raging against the predestination of his life before he finally came to accept it.

If I got to refashion the British constitution, I think I'd actually keep the constitutional monarchy, but I'd revert to the pre-Norman system where the Witenagemot (or today, the electorate) chose the next monarch from among members of the Royal Family (or those who stood for the post). I'd also thoroughly purge the monarchy of any political power whatsoever: something that unfortunately the reaction of the establishment to the Black Spider Letters debacle shows isn't going to happen in the UK any time soon.

Anyhow, I didn't take part in any street parties during the Queen's Golden Jubilee or her Diamond Jubilee, and indeed laughed a bit at my parents for so doing. (My streets didn't hold parties anyway.) Afterwards, I regretted this a bit: unless the Queen is lucky enough to make it to her Platinum Jubilee at the age of 95, there aren't going to be any more jubilees until I'm an old man (and in any case, I've taken myself out of the running for any more such by removing myself to a different country, where I won't even get a Bank Holiday to celebrate them).

So I thought I'd post a picture here of myself at the one jubilee of the Queen where I really did join in the celebrations, and the street party, wholeheartedly. But then, I was a bit young for political thinking at the time of the Silver Jubilee.

View piccy )

lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
2016-12-29 07:51 pm

Bār’chu in the absence of a minyan

Following my previous post about blogging and translating the passages in Seder Rav Amrām to be said in place of Kaddish, Bār'chu and Kedushā in the absence of a minyan, here's the second one.

This one also features a quotation from the early mystical literature, along with a reference to the concept found in the Targum that Jacob's face is engraved on God's Throne of Glory.

I couldn't quite resolve all my issues with the Hebrew this time; corrections are welcome.

And again, feel free to share the link more widely.
lethargic_man: (capel)
2016-12-07 12:44 pm

Kaddish in the absence of a minyan

Jewish communal prayer is traditionally recited in the presence of a minyan, a quorum of ten adults. When a minyan is not available, certain prayers—Kaddish, Bār’chu and Kedusha (along with reading from the Torah with blessings)—cannot be recited. Today’s custom is not to say anything here when there is no minyan present, but I was fascinated to discover the first ever siddur, the ninth-century Seder Rav Amrām, gives versions of each of these (with no explanation) for the solo davener. And the first one, at least, is fascinating, with an extended quotation from the literature of Merkavah mysticism.

I thought it might be nice (having previously googled for a translation of the first of these texts, and only been able to find bits of it) to make these texts available for small prayer groups, where not having a minyan is a real possibility; so they can use them as a study resource to fill the slightly awkward gap not being able to recite Kaddish or Bār’chu can leave, or to recite them in part or entirety.

So here's the first one for you; watch this space for further contributions. And please do let me now if you have found any mistakes, or would like to collaborate on this project.
lethargic_man: (beardy)
2016-11-06 09:50 pm

Handbag

My brain is strange.

HAMLET: "I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handbag."
LADY BRACKNELL: "A handbag!?"
lethargic_man: (linguistics geekery)
2016-10-21 12:36 pm

"Lay on"

The German for to pick an argument with someone is sich anlegen. This is not the sense in which we use "lay on" in English today, but I wonder whether it once was: "Lay on, Macduff!"
lethargic_man: (Default)
2016-10-06 12:31 pm

Notes from a NNLS/ZF talk: Yitzhak Navon on the Story of Israel's Creation

Notes from the NNLS/ZF Israel 60th Anniversary celebrations

The Story of Israel's Creation

Yitzhak Navon (former president of the State of Israel)

Biography ) Talk transcript; contains reminiscing about Ben Gurion )
lethargic_man: (linguistics geekery)
2016-09-26 07:18 pm

Of oxen and fords

On the train across Germany the other day, I looked up and saw we were pulling into Herford, and for a moment almost thought I was back in the UK.

Speaking of which, did you know the Bosporus translates into English as "Oxford"? (They must have impressive cattle in Turkey, from what I know of it!)
lethargic_man: (Default)
2016-09-20 12:45 pm

How Litvak (and Yekkish and Poylish) I am

The other week, I was asked to lead bentshing in shul after lunch. We were using the shul's shiny new own bentshers, and I saw they lacked the four lines beginning תהילת ה׳ ידבר פי after the introductory psalm; but I launched into them cheerfully anyway. "It's not the German custom to say these," said the rabbi. "So sue me," I riposted; "I'm a Litvak!"

Well, I got the laugh I was after out of that, but afterwards it occurred to me I'd never sat down and worked out how much of my ancestry came from where; so I did, and here's the result, as far as I can trace my family back, with each concentric ring out from the centre representing one generation back in my ancestry from myself at the centre, and an alternation of males and females among my ancestors clockwise from the top.

(Some of the outermost rings are a bit tentative; and in places I've interpreted a vague "Russia" as probably meaning the Pale of Settlement—the part of historical Poland that came under Russian sovereignity following the eighteenth-century partition of Poland, and to which Catherine the Great, who had suddenly acquired a large Jewish population, and didn't want them dispersing into the rest of her empire, legally confined the Jews.)

View pie chart )
lethargic_man: (computer geekery)
2016-09-19 08:15 pm

Computer woes

My Windows laptop has managed to render itself almost completely useless, with very little help from me.* :-(

So now I've got the question of what I do about it. Either I can spend probably a long time googling for solutions, with no guarantee of success; or I can pay through the nose to get the thing fixed at a computer shop (which I've not done or had to do before—and I have no idea how much thigs would cost; how much have such repairs cost you?). Or, alternatively, I can write off the ability to use Windows programs like Word for good, erase Windows and install Xubuntu instead. (I'd still have access to Word, etc, on [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m's machine, on request.)

Atm, I'm leaning towards the third of these, because atm Linux is annoying me less than Windows (or MacOS, which seems as unstable for me on my work machine as Windows was fifteen year ago); but it would be annoying to lose ready access (meaning: at in my lunch break at work, or any time [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m is using her machine) to Windows. Also, I've yet to find a music player on Linux that can play tracks without a momentary silence between (the one advantage Windows Media Player has over VLC)—anyone recommend anything?

* What happened is that in February Windows updates stopped downloading (progress downloading would stick at 0%). The laptop has spent most of the intervening time offline anyway (I took it to work, to listen to music on, because work won't allow me to plug a foreign device into my work laptop, meaning I can't get my music onto it, and I (still) don't have an MP3 player; and it doesn't recognise the guest wifi at work). But recently I did a bit of googling to try and solve the prolem, which suggested that I should use MSConfig to turn off non-Microsoft services and reboot. Lo and behold, when I did that, the large batch of updates pending already in February (it hadn't yet retrieved the ones from since then) downloaded as far as 68%, and then it put up a message about an invalid certificate. Unfortunately, after I noticed and dealt with this, it refused to download any further; and nor did it when I cancelled the update and tried again. But when I tried rebooting the machine, the moment I touched a key or the trackpad when the user selection menu was displayed to logon, the screen went blank and stayed that way; and this has happened every time I've rebooted since, except when I reboot into Safe Mode. But (a) I can't play music in Safe Mode (or I could live with the problem), (b) reverting to a previous state is broken, and (c) reinstalling Windows doesn't work in Safe Mode. And I can't do a clean install from DVD because I don't have a Windows DVD; I got the laptop secondhand with Windows preinstalled on it.