Film: Moana

Dec. 8th, 2016 08:41 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Reasons for watching it: It had sounded really intriguing from when it first started being talked about, and Ghoti in particular really wanted to see it.

Circumstances of watching it: Ghoti actually managed to find a time when everybody was free, so the whole quad and the younger kids and [livejournal.com profile] fivemack all went to the Light cinema together Sunday afternoon. It was a bit annoying because I had to rush away straight after the film ended to travel back to Keele, and couldn't discuss it with everybody, but still such a great treat!

Verdict: Moana is just delightful!

detailed review )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie; (c) Ann Leckie 2014; Pub Orbit 2014; ISBN 978-0-356-50241-0.

detailed review, with allusions to spoilers )

Currently reading: In a time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor, sort of, though really I haven't picked up anything new since I finished AS yesterday.

Up next: I so much want to spend time in Breq's viewpoint that I am tempted to break my usual rule and go straight on to Ancillary Mercy. (Side-note: I don't understand why books two and three are named this way round, since most of the plot of Ancillary Sword takes place on a Mercy. But hey.)

Climbing

Nov. 21st, 2016 10:16 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So my OSOs' middle kid is about to turn 8 and she very emphatically wanted to continue the nascent tradition from last year that I'd take her out for a treat rather than giving her a physical present. There's lots of evidence that people (above a minimum subsistence level) get more out of experiences and spending time with loved ones than physical objects, but I'm surprised to find a small child who can resist the short-term gratification of a gift enough to be clear on that! Plus extremely flattered that she considers my company enjoyable enough to constitute a birthday treat. It's true that as long as she's known me I've been kind of useless with children as such, and she knows I love her and mean well anyway, and we've gradually built up our own ways to interact.

When the new child friendly climbing centre opened a few months before her birthday, the choice of treat was obvious. experience )

Causes

Nov. 17th, 2016 05:52 pm
liv: Detail of quirky animals including a sheep, from an illuminated border (marriage)
My dear dear friend [personal profile] hatam_soferet is getting married today. In honour of this wonderful occasion, I have made a small donation to the American Civil Liberties Union.

more about charity giving )

I am not writing this post to show off what a great person I am; I am sure many of you give way more to charity than I do or contribute directly in ways other than financial. I'm thinking of doing the latter too but it's going to take some medium-term arranging my life to make happen. I'm writing to encourage discussion, to let people know about Thousand 4 £1000, and to offer a kind of minimal solidarity. I've definitely had thoughts about needing to hoard up all my spare money as an escape fund, but eventually decided that doesn't really make sense, I'm not eating into my savings to an extent that's going to make a difference to whether I can get out or not. And seeing other people talking about their giving as a response to bad political news has been comforting to me, so I wanted to pay it forward.

And most importantly, congratulations to [personal profile] hatam_soferet and about-to-be husband. I wish you many years of supportive partnership and domestic bliss, and I'm sending very, very much love along with the donation in your names.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Don't use that tone of voice with me, internet friends

This one is from ages ago, partly because I'm not ready to post election reaction linkspams yet (and I may never be, I'm watching this from a distance). And partly because it was posted on Imzy and Imzy has only recently launched publicly, making it possible to link to content there. (It's still horrible low contrast and otherwise unreadable; for this essay it's well worth a workround like copying the text into a text editor, if you can.) I'd previously encountered Sciatrix as an extremely brilliant commenter on the kinds of forums that have weighty, thinky comments, like MeFi. And the Imzy platform has finally tempted her to make her own blog, which is awesome. I was extremely pleased to discover that she sometimes lurks on this DW, too.

Anyway, Sciatrix talks about tone of voice in plain text and in contemporary internet subcultures, and segues nicely into the psychology of criticizing people without making them defensive, and the tone policing / callout-culture issues that are such a live wire right now... on reflection, this is perhaps not a totally unpolitical link.

Currently reading: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie. I'm a few chapters in and loving it just as much as I expected from Ancillary Justice.

Up next: If I'm feeling brave enough, I think I might try Umberto Eco's fictional history of antisemitism The Prague Cemetery, which has been on my to-read pile for some years and feels quite timely now.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
My wonderful girlfriend made a romantic dinner just for us, basically taking lots of food that I really like such as mushrooms, parsnip, chestnuts and making them into really exciting dishes. And she made me these amazing quilted coasters with teacups on them, having never done quilting before. So my anniversary present to celebrate two years together was something she made based on her major talent, and something she made based on learning a completely new skill. I feel so incredibly loved!

[livejournal.com profile] ghoti also posted one of those memes where you shuffle your entire music library and use it as a kind of mini-oracle. I had a go at it and got nothing very striking, but passing on memes is fun, so:

asking shuffle gets strange answers )
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So the Progressive Rabbinical training college runs a bunch of short courses for lay people, which they call Lehrhaus modelled after the Jewish educational institutions in Germany before WWII. This year they've decided to experiment with putting a couple of their courses online, and since I'm in a perpetual state of being starved of Jewish learning because I can't get to London regularly, I wanted to encourage this initiative. I signed up for four sessions on The origins of Jewish mysticism with Dr Damsma.

They asked that we don't share course materials on the internet, so I'm going to talk about it in fairly general terms. learning )

So, definitely learned something, definitely enjoyed getting my teeth into some study beyond just a one-off shiur. I feel I've mainly mapped out a few more areas of my ignorance, though.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Let's pretend it's just a normal Wednesday, shall we?

reading log )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: [personal profile] forestofglory is brilliant at recommending short SFF; via her post I found A good home by Karin Lowachee. I've had Lowachee on my radar for a while but haven't been able to find Warchild in a reasonable format, so I'm excited to read this short. It didn't perfectly work for me but I'm an easy sell on humans forming emotional bonds with androids (after all that Asimov and Star Trek in my childhood.)

Currently reading: Sisterhood by Penelope Friday. I am happy to enjoy the sex scenes, the miscommunication, and the external conflict that fit the genre, but with lesbian and wlw characters. I like that the miscommunication is realistic and doesn't rely on characters being gratuitously stupid, and that the conflict comes not from the fact that the relationships are between women, but that the heroine's gf is an abolitionist and her brother-in-law on whom she's financially dependent is involved in the slave trade.

Up next: I think I might ask to borrow back the copy of The secrets of enduring love by Meg-John Barker, which I gave to my partners collectively for Valentine's Day. Since today is two years since I got together with [personal profile] cjwatson and tomorrow will be two years with [livejournal.com profile] ghoti. I'm still head-over-heels in love and far too excited for two years in, but we are definitely starting to have more of the sort of conversations that people in long term relationships have. And I'm hoping this will be a long term relationship, so it feels the right time to read up on how to have strong long-lasting relationships from a guide that doesn't assume monogamous and heteronormative.

I've always said that my general happiness isn't about whether I have a partner or not, but these two years I've felt... I think the word is fulfilled, a sort of deeply contented that isn't exactly the emotion of happiness. I feel really rooted in this little network of relationships.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] rmc28's review inspired [personal profile] jack to ask me if I wanted to see In The Heights, the "other" Lin Manuel Miranda piece that's playing in the King's Cross Theatre currently. I said, in principle, sure, but when are we ever going to find time to go to the theatre? And then I remembered that we actually had a free evening this Saturday, so we were able to be much more spontaneous than we usually ever are, and booked tickets and turned up.

show )

We had a pretty quiet day most of yesterday, until OSOs joined us for tea and then a lovely group of our friends came over for a Halloween party. Andreas had lots of fun putting up Halloween decorations but ducked out of the actual socializing with lots of not very familiar adults part. And Judith persuaded several of us into a long game of Zendo, which she is getting very good at. It wasn't a huge party but it was a great mix of poly friends and geek friends, very congenial and with some really great Halloween costumes. I dressed up as Candela, the Pokémon Go Team Valor leader, to match the children's Pikachu and Dawn-from-the-animé costumes. And Jack was Aang from Avatar: the last Airbender, and Ghoti was, aaargh, Nanowrimo is about to start! Really good to be able to have a fairly low-key party on a Sunday evening.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
So my link to Ann Leckie's piece on liking things that are in some sense not "good" has lead to a really interesting discussion. I'd like to pull up some of my thoughts here, and separate the abstract underpinnings out from discussing the Hugo slates, which was one of the examples given.

amateur philosophy )

I slightly have the feeling that I'm rehashing Plato here, but there are worse things.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Very misc collection of essays and such
  • Via [personal profile] soon_lee: Ann Leckie on guilty pleasures. Leckie makes some fairly obvious points about how the concept of a "guilty" pleasure is often snobby and sexist, but expands on that with some interesting thoughts about criticizing tastes of those who don't belong to the group you want to identify with.

  • [personal profile] kalypso wrote Strange and Norrell fic. It's explicitly based on the TV series (which I've watched slightly under half of), not the book, and I think it really captures the atmosphere but not so much Susanna Clarke's distinctive voice. Massively spoilery for either the series or the books, though. And, uh, the fic is about gaslighting someone with memory loss, in case you don't know the books but want to read anyway.

  • Following links from something else, I found this Q&A with a sleep scientist, which makes a nice accessible summary of recent evidence. There's also quite a lot of discussion about SIDS (cot death) risk, which might make it hard reading for some; I really pricked my ears up at:
    But most people who want to ‘ban co-sleeping’ don’t think any of [the relevant evidence that the risk may be lower than thought] matters, because it isn’t an important or valued behaviour for them. It is valued by cultural minorities and breastfeeding mothers, not the people who (previously) made up the guidance.

  • History of the song L'homme armé, with a long and fascinating diversion about the Crusades and the fall of Constantinople.

  • [livejournal.com profile] siderea has a lovely piece Forward into light about the history of the US women's suffrage movement. Which reminds me, I am most grateful to all my American friends who are talking about voting, and especial kudos to people who've looked into ballot measures and elections for offices other than PotUSA where that's relevant in their locality. We don't do democracy quite like that but I'm alwyas impressed when people put serious effort into participating and citizenship.

Currently reading: Still In a time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor. He's in Austria atm and I have a weird second-hand nostalgia for 1930s Austria, since many people in the community I grew up with were refugees from there. It's a little too poignant to read Fermor looking back on the way of life that, writing in the 70s, he knew was about to be destroyed with the massive swing to the right and eventually the Anschluß.

Up next: I am not sure, I'm leaning towards Two serpents rise by Max Gladstone.

Mishaps

Oct. 25th, 2016 06:31 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
[personal profile] cjwatson is working in The Hague for a bit, and since it overlaps with half term Ghoti was able to take all their children to join him. And [livejournal.com profile] fivemack and I came out for just the weekend in the middle. In a trip lasting less than two days, I managed to trip over a kerb and fall flat on my face, bending my glasses out of shape and cutting my cheek. There was a probably expensive (unless it can be sorted out) muddle over paying for the hotel. I had a really bad coughing fit in the middle of the night which triggered me back to childhood when my asthma wasn't well medicated. The food court where we were eating caught on fire and we had to evacuate. Plus lots of the usual tribulations of travelling with a large group and trying to keep everybody fed and hydrated enough to be functional.

I had a totally wonderful time even so, and I'm extremely glad I went. what I did on the weekend )

Yesterday I left after a late and leisurely breakfast and had a very easy journey to get in in good time to run the Simchat Torah service at shul for a scant minyan, and nobody younger than my about to be bar mitzvah student. Even though travelling out on Shabbat and returning on the festival day is not how I want to be, it was really good for me to get a proper break after the intensity of the festival season. And a weekend away, even if it was a bit rushed, will help renewing my enthusiasm for work now we're a month into the term. But mostly it was wonderful to be able to join in with part of my loves' adventure.

Merfriends

Oct. 19th, 2016 01:30 pm
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
So the Captain Awkward community like to make up terms for stuff, which serves multiple purposes, one of which is of course helping the in-group to bond. Anyway, recently I came across a term that might fill a lexical gap in my life: The Awe Ritual says:
The Cap is my “mermaid.” On a face level, we’re ferociously compatible and mates for life and frequently go off to make brainbabies, but below the waist, we’re just different species and not equipped to handle each others’ affections
I think I need a term like that; I'm more inclined to make it gender neutral by saying merfriend, but yes, there are people that I not only love very much, but am committed to and prioritize in way people expect for partners while we are not even slightly romantically involved.

thoughts about relationships )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
In the little breathing space between Yom Kippur and Succot, I managed to squeeze in some time with my loves, and we used some of it to play games.

reviews )

So yay, happy gamer.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So I've made it to 5777, and successfully led the Rosh haShana services. Attendance was quite low; we had I think 8 people for the evening and just barely enough for a minyan on the day. Several of our regulars are away and we didn't get any visitors; I hope there's no particular reason for that like not letting people know about the service who needed to. Best compliment to receive as shlicha tzibbur (service leader): I can't believe it's half past one already, the time went really quickly and that didn't drag at all.

I learned from [twitter.com profile] GWillowWilson on Twitter that the thing of RH coinciding with the Islamic new year happens every 33 years, which explains why I don't remember it happening before. Also it's pretty cool to learn new religion facts from the author of Ms Marvel. Does anyone want to explain to me how we get from a 19-year lunisolar cycle to synching with the Muslims' solely lunar [sic] calendar every 33 years?

I'm moderately proud of this year's sermon, so I'll include it behind a cut. Basically I decided to talk about Ibn Gabirol's piyyut (religious poem) The crown of glory, because [livejournal.com profile] ghoti went to Malaga recently and sent me a postcard of a statue of him. And because I miss the poetry from the Reform liturgy I grew up with. (My community use the Birnbaum which I believe is a fairly standard American Orthodox Machzor, and it has a lot of Elazar haKallir's stuff, much of which I find obscure. I don't know how standard the selection of poetry is in the Orthodox liturgy.)

Ibn Gabirol on self-examination )

I haven't worked out yet what I'm going to talk about on Yom Kippur. I think maybe something about dealing with difficult texts and the possibility of arguing with God, when that's coming from a place of faith and not just rejection. Partly I'm thinking of it because last year several people asked me why we read Leviticus 18 (including the notorious abomination verse) on Yom Kippur, and I didn't have a very good answer.

Also for my own future reference and possible interest of people who are interested in this kind of thing, I read a couple of good articles about shofar in the run up to the festivals, so if I save them here I might have material for next year's RH sermon:

There was a thing going round on Twitter to the effect that maybe the Jews have the right idea, ending the year now, since 2016 / 5776 has been pretty tough in some ways. One thing I found helpful as I was looking back over the year and feeling discouraged was this sermon from R' Neil Janes, who's another youth movement contemporary of mine; he writes the kind of sermons I aspire to only he's much much better at it than me! I very much share R' Janes' view of what it was like to grow up in the optimistic time of the 90s and to feel that our world has become a worse place since then. And I like his advice: We must find a rejoinder to the pessimism of our global climate. We must hoist our flag in opposition to this and do it now.

Anyway. I was pretty shattered after the service; I had a fairly mediocre Italian meal since I wanted a treat but didn't have much energy to decide on anything more than the nearest and most convenient restaurant. And then I came home and was basically wiped out for the afternoon. Today, the second day of Rosh haShana, I was back at work and I'm enjoying the optimism of looking forward, my first session with the new first years right at the start of their medical training. And I'm wearing a lovely pendant that [livejournal.com profile] ghoti gave me so I would be able to make the blessing for new things today. Yes, I still have a lot of prep to do for YK but I feel as if I'm setting out and looking forward.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I aspire to be the kind of person who thinks for myself and most importantly changes my views when I learn new information. And that means I spend some amount of time worrying about whether I'm actually living up to that. where I'm coming from )

So those are the two extremes. I'm unpersuaded by an article espousing a view I think is not just wrong, but ridiculous, and more so because it's written in a style and associated with a group I disapprove of. I'm persuaded by a peer-reviewed meta-analysis to change a view I was only mildly committed to anyway to one which is more aligned with my social group. What I'd like from my readers, if you'd like to play along, is for you to persuade me of some new ideas. Please send me links to arguments you find persuasive on issues you expect me to disagree with. (I'm also quite interested to discover what you think I might find objectionable; I think I've been pretty open about my opinions here over the years, but of course everybody will have their own impressions and assumptions about me.)

I've turned off screening for anon comments, so if you think your views might be met with social opprobium please feel free to offer arguments without saying who you are.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Over the course of this weekend:
  • A young Russian Orthodox man told me I was a beautiful mother and he wished that I could be blessed with many children if I didn't have them already. At this point, all he knew about me was that I am female, and I had just led an impromptu ten minute discussion on the opening saying from Ch 2 of Pirke Avot, the section of the Mishnah on ancestral ethics.
  • An elderly Catholic man asked me to show him all the key parts of the synagogue's architecture and furnishings so that he could see what was similar to his church. I was a little reluctant since the reason we were in synagogue was for a memorial service and it didn't seem quite the moment for touristing, but he didn't actually ask in the middle of prayers and the regulars said it was ok to give him the tour.
  • A secular woman decided that since I know how to say all the "special words in Hebrew" I should also make the decision about whether it's ok to cut corners in making tea for large numbers.
  • A middle-aged Jewish widow gave me a huge bouquet of roses to thank me for leading the prayers for her late husband's stone-setting.
So, um, I definitely feel appreciated, even if some expressions of appreciation are more welcome than others...
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
I'm really enjoying the meme that's going round mostly short-form social media where people pick three fictional characters that represent them, or describe themselves using three fictional characters. who I'm not )

So in the end I went with the following:
  • Pippin from LotR, even though he's way more heroic than I am. I've always thought of him as like me, because he's curious and impulsive and loyal, and I do like that all the hobbits are basically ordinary grown-ups who fall into an adventure in order to support their friend Frodo, rather than the destined chosen heroes of many Tolkien imitators or the adolescents of a lot of pre-Tolkien quest stories.

  • Harriet Vane from the Dorothy L Sayers detective series. Perhaps too obvious or too wish fulfilment-y a pick, she's really such a great character and people like me always want to be her. Because she's intelligent and believably intelligent, and she's a middle-aged woman with a somewhat unconventional (for her society) love life. And she's intensely romantic but still retains her identity and independence when she falls in love.

  • Lynne de Lisle Christie from Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle. She's generally competent without being an amazing genius, and she gets into a position where she can use her intelligence through a mix of native ability, hard work and family connections. She's not quite a scientist but definitely intellectually curious. She is a bit naive and impulsive and loves easily and is deeply loyal to those she commits to.


And it's Bi Visibility day but I've basically given up on trying to find any bi characters to pick. Certainly not anyone who's poly in anything like the way I am. Christie is alllllmost bi in that she has a strong romantic friendship with an alien who is mostly female (though the aliens do gender differently from humans, that's a big plot point), and sexual-romantic relationships with men and male-ish aliens.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently read: Lots of good stuff! linkspam )
Currently reading: still A time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor and Sisterhood by Penelope Friday, but in practice I haven't been reading much this week, I've been spending time with [personal profile] doseybat and [livejournal.com profile] pyrokaren.

Up next: I've got to the stage where it's halfway through Elul and I haven't written any High Holy Days sermons or learned any Torah readings yet, so most probably material for that.

I'm considering picking up Hilary Mantel's contemporary Beyond Black as my book with a color in the title for my reading challenge, since it's been waiting on my shelves for ages.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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