lethargic_man: (computer geekery)
2019-03-16 10:23 pm


[X*L*C*R logo]

I received a pleasant surprise on Sunday,* when I got an email from my brother Darren telling me he was at the National Museum of Computing (at Bletchley Park), where, he told me:

There's a room full of Beebs... all fitted with a custom ROM of every single game ever released for the BBC...

Well Michael, I didn't realise you have been forever immortalised in this museum!

Congratulations :)

* British understatement, for my German readers: It made my day.

† The BBC Microcomputer, which was pretty much universal in schools, and also in many homes, our own included, throughout the 1980s.

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2019-02-09 11:39 pm

Reading rate revisited

I went back and revisited this graph from my previous post, so that it now shows counts of fiction (purple) and non-fiction (pink). I think there might be some non-fiction missing at the start, and certainly I have not included anything I read for academic purposes, but nonetheless one can see how during my Ph.D. (1996–2000) I felt non-fiction to be a chore, and avoided it; it was only afterwards that I started seriously reading non-fiction.

It's also clear how the proportion of non-fiction in my reading has got much higher in recent years (with the exception of the year before last, which I spent re-reading a whole load of books I'd been intending to reread for years, partly to justify having brought them all from the UK).

I did consider breaking the graph down further into, for example, non-fiction read for entertainment for edification, but the boundaries between them are difficult to determine, so I did not in the end.

View graph )
lethargic_man: (Default)
2019-01-30 09:14 pm

Reading rate

At the end of last year, I saw a couple of people posting online saying they had read 150 books during the course of the year. 150! I'd read... *tot*tot*tot* thirteen.

Well, I've always said I was a slow reader for a bibliophile; but it occurred to me that maybe last year wasn't representative; after all, having a child born was fairly disruptive to my established patterns. So I went back over my reading log to find out, and the result was a little surprising.

There are a few expected correlations, which I have marked on the graph; but there are other things I expected to see affect the graph which did not: the start of my first job, the start and end of my sole previous long-term relationship; and I had to struggle to work out the causes of some of the observed features, some of which still elude me. (Why did I read so few books in 2012? I moved to Berlin for two months, but that shouldn't have dented the yearly total so badly.)

View graph )
lethargic_man: The awful German language (Mark Twain's words, not mine) (Die schreckliche deutsche Sprache)
2019-01-22 12:32 pm

Revising German words

Maybe two years ago I went googling to see what the average person's vocabulary size was, and came up with a range of answers of which 15k was the lowest. My German vocab file then had around 3k entries, so I decided I need to get serious about enlargening it, and learn ten new words every day.

This approach lasted me until my vocab file was up to about 6.5k, at which point I realised I was learning new words faster than I could keep the old ones in my head, even with the help of my flash card program; and of the 6.5k words I had ever learned, I could only actually remember about half of those.

At this point, I reined my learning of new words severely in, and started going through my vocab file, with the aim of relearning every word I had forgotten (except for some I am likely very rarely to need, which I have purged from the file, the size of which has been rocking back and forth over the 7k boundary for months now). I started this process on the fifth of March last year, and have finally finished it today.

Of course, by now I have forgotten once again almost all of the words I relearned in the last year, but I am hoping that I might now have a few hundred more in my head than I did a year ago, and that continously relearning the words I have forgotten makes it easier to relearn them the next time.

I suppose the proof of that will be whether it takes me less than ten and a half months to go around the cycle again from now.

(FWIW, the 7k words I know are enough to cover over 90% of spoken German; it's the written language that pushes the lexicon size up.)
lethargic_man: (capel)
2019-01-20 10:32 am

Philippson's 1844 commentary on the Torah

Some time ago, when a friend WinoLJ/DW saw me reading my way through the Torah commentary of Rabbi Ludwig Philippson—the original edition of the chumash used in my shul, the modern edition of which on the bookshelves contains no commentary—she asked me what kind of commentary it was. Not having assembled any thoughts beforehand, all I could do was answer "er..." Since I never answered her properly, it occurs to me that I could do so here, to a wider, but hopefully also interested, audience.

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2018-10-20 09:49 pm
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Japan trip report #13: Mt Fuji and a few other places

Today I'm going to finish off my Japan blog posts with a few photos that either didn't fit into previous posts, or accidentally got left out of them. Read more... )

Well, that's it from Japan. Hope you enjoyed this series of blog posts.

[Japan blog posts] [personal profile] lethargic_man's Japan blog posts
lethargic_man: (Default)
2018-10-13 08:15 pm
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Japan trip report #12: Hiroshima

Our last day in Japan (but, due to my rearranging things a bit, not my last blog post), took us to Hiroshima, where the tourism, not surprisingly, centred around the city being the first one in history to get nuked.

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2018-10-05 01:20 pm
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As those who follow me on Facebook already know, [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m and I were expecting our first child in late November. Well, that was the theory; in practice the little scamp couldn't wait to meet his parents from the outside, and was born seven weeks and one day early, 49cm in length and 1.88kg in weight (that's 4lb 2oz in old money, which he's never going to get his head around).

So may we proudly present individual 2913 on my family tree:

View piccy )

Whilst it's traditional not to announce a name before the circumcision, since in this case that's not going to be for up to eight weeks, we're letting people know his secular name now, which is...

View piccy )

...Raphael (plus a middle name that we'll decide upon at some point before the registry office in the hospital reopens on Monday morning). This will not be his Hebrew name; you'll have to wait to learn this.

I should point out, too, that given that he's called Raphael and his living ancestors include Michael and Gabriela, that we have no intention of having another one and calling him Uriel. :o)

Mother and baby are both healthy; father has developed a rotten cold. ;^b

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2018-09-27 10:29 pm

Japan trip report #11: Miyajima

Today's blog post takes us to Itsukushima, an island a short distance west of Hiroshima (also known as Miyajima), famous for its torii gate standing in the water before the island's shrine: Read more... )
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2018-09-08 09:08 pm

Japan trip report #10: Rabbit island

Today's blog post takes us to what was for [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m undoubtedly the highlight of our time in Japan: the small island of Okunoshima in the Inland Sea, home to over eight hundred rabbits, all wild but sufficiently accustomed to visiting rabbit fans that they might as well be tame.

Prepare for an overdose of cute )
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2018-09-02 10:44 pm

Japan trip report #9: Nara

Today's blog post takes us, on a daytrip from Kyoto, to Nara, capital of Japan in the eighth century, and today famous for (amongst other things) the deer roaming Nara Park. Wikipedia tells me that "according to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, the god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō; since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country."

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2018-08-27 10:09 pm

Japan trip report #8: Kyoto

Today we're going to visit Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. Read more... )
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2018-08-11 10:54 pm

Japan trip report #7: Nikkō

Today we're going to go on a trip to Nikkō,* a town in the mountains quite some distance north of Tokyo. Nikkō is famous for its imperial shrine and temple complex, which is extremely sumptuous, and was for me the highlight (along with the fireflies I saw in Kyoto) of my holiday in Japan; many of these photos are worth clicking through to the high resolution versions.

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2018-08-05 05:55 pm

Japan trip report #6: Kamakura

On today's blog post, we're going to go on an excursion to Kamakura. We start with a (slightly watered-down) tea ceremony in an old teahouse attached to Jomyo-Ji temple:

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2018-07-29 09:23 pm

Japan trip report #5: Tokyo

Before we head off to Tokyo, one last photo from Atami, which I forgot to put into the first trip report. In the UK, all hotel rooms come with tea, coffee and the wherewithal to prepare them; in Germany, much to the horror of a stereotype-fulfilling Brit such as myself, they do not. In Japan, I was pleased to see, the situation is more like that in the UK, only, of course, the tea on offer is green, not black.

View piccy )

Which segues, tangentially, into something I noticed during my time in Japan. When I went to South Africa, I was, in much of the country, in a small minority having white skin. I felt a sense of insecurity as a result, which might be summed up as 'my good treatment in this country is entirely dependent upon the favourable attitude of the ethnic majority' (leaving alone the fact I'm not sure there is an ethnic majority in South Africa). I expected to feel something similar in Japan, where the native word for non-Japanese, gaijin, carries, as I understand it, the same pejorative overtones as goy or gadje. To my surprise, I didn't feel any such insecurity (and indeed never heard the word gaijin during my time there, or at least not knowingly). I'm at a slight loss to explain this. Maybe it's because in the city where I grew up there were plenty of people of oriental and Hindustani ethnic origin, but few blacks, leaving me conditioned not to feel the former as exotic.

Although Japan, as I said beforehand, adopted western culture wholesale in the wake of the Meiji revolution, there were a number of people in traditional costume visible on the streets. Some of them were tourists, others, as our tour guides pointed out, were simply not knowledgeable enough to be wearing appropriate combinations of clothing, but some were. In particular, anyone serving in a temple or shrine in a religious role would invariably be wearing traditional clothing, along with servers in teahouses traditional enough to have a tea ceremony, and in our ryokan (on which more when I get to it).

And so, on to Tokyo. Tokyo is, as I discovered to my surprise, the largest city in the world, numbering forty million people. (I expected this to be somewhere in the Third World.) Maybe due to this, it didn't really seem to have one centre, but many.

Here's a few view from halfway up the Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest building in the world, saving only the Burj Dubai:

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lethargic_man: (Default)
2018-07-15 02:21 pm

Japan trip report #4: Some general impressions

Some general impressions of Japan this time, before we move on to Tokyo. They drive on the left there; if you're not used to it, be careful to look both ways before crossing the road:

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Also for a country with lots of high technology, we saw a surprising number of people doing fairly menial jobs one would have expected to have been at least partially automated, for example acting as a tram conductor, or sweeping the street using not just a broom but indeed the old-fashioned kind consisting of a bundle of twigs, rather than street-sweeping vehicles.

We saw a lot of people doing their jobs in a public context, for example traffic police, wore white gloves. I suspect this owes something to nineteenth-century England, though how, I'm not quite sure.

There are lots of people in Japan wearing surgical masks; apparently something like one in four of the population suffer from hayfever.

There are a lot of USAn fast food chains to be found in Japan; I saw there chains, like Denny's or Wendy's, which I hadn't seen since my last time in the States in 1990.

And lastly, for today, the ecological niche which is filled in the UK by seagulls (black-backed gulls and herring gulls) is filled in central Japan (I didn't see this when we went further west), instead by black kites. It was quite something to see these great big birds of prey swooping low over beaches. Sadly, I didn't have a camera with me when I got to see them really close up; and when I did later have a camera, I didn't get to see any close enough up to get a decent photo of.

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2018-07-08 05:19 pm

Japan trip report #3: Atami Castle

This is Atami castle. (Again, all images are clickable through for mostly higher-resolution versions.)

View piccies )

It's twentieth-century, but built to resemble an Edo-period castle. (Japan has few old buildings, due to a combination of having built in flammable materials, non-earthquake-proof construction, and heavy bombing during the War (with the notable exception of Kyoto, the "city of ten thousand shrines", which was spared).)

The castle contains a number of small museums.Read more... )

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lethargic_man: (Default)
2018-07-01 08:37 pm

Love's Labour Lost at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

I'd like to see Love's Labour Lost at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse between the twelfth and seventeenth of September—this rather than a play at the Globe because I've never been to the former yet. I'd also like to pay £10 for a standing seat because I'm a cheapskate. ;^b

Anyone want to come with me?
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2018-07-01 01:42 pm

Japan trip report #2: Kinomiya shrine in Atami

Many of the tourist sites we saw in Japan were Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. Japan has the, to western sensibilities, odd situation in which most people adhere to two religions. People go to Shinto shrines for happy events, such as births and weddings, but Buddhist temples for sad ones such as funerals. This state of affairs seems to have come about because Shinto worship consists entirely of venerating local deities; there's no code of ethics around which to structure one's life, and Theraveda Buddhism appears to have moved in to fill that gap.

This state of affairs with regard to Shintoism also means the religion has no holy books, which made [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m question where the rituals that we saw came from, then. Presumably they were all transmitted through oral tradition.

Actually, most people in Japan today are fairly secular (this may be because some of the great Buddhist temple complexes supported revolts against the shogunal government a few centuries ago, and the shogun responded by breaking their power in the land). Quite a few, seeing western-style church weddings in films, decide they want one themselves, so join a church a few weeks before their wedding in order to be able to achieve this—leading to the crazy situation of their having three religions at once.

Shinto shrines are to be distinguished from Buddhist temples in two ways. One is that before making an invocation to the enshrined deity, one claps one's hands twice, presumably to get the deity's attention, then bows; the other is that the approach to every Shinto shrine is marked by the presence of at least one Torii gate, usually, though not always, of red-painted wood, marking this as holy ground.

At the start of our holiday, Andrea and I spent a few days recovering from the jet lag in the beach resort of Atami, less than fifty miles from Tokyo. There we encountered our first shrine, called Kinomiya Jinja.

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You'll be getting to see plenty more shrines and temples here in due course.

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