Love

Aug. 19th, 2016 01:08 pm
liv: bacterial conjugation (attached)
It's 15 Av today, which is a Jewish love festival with a rather tenuous Rabbinic origin. And here I am very happy and in love, so I shall talk about that a bit.

contains much soppy )

Imzy

Aug. 18th, 2016 07:53 pm
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
So Imzy is the new cool social network, apparently. It's in closed beta and you need an invite from an existing user to create an account. [personal profile] melannen kindly offered one, and I'm happy to pay it forward by inviting the first five people to comment.

impressions )
ETA: I created a community for DW peeps. Which magically increased my number of invitations from five to 200, so if anyone is possibly interested in an invite, you can request at the community link. And if anyone's already there, feel free to join it or not.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: A wild sheep chase by Haruki Murakami, trans Alfred Birnbaum. (c) Haruki Murakami 1982, pub Vintage 2003, ISBN 978-0-099-44877-8. This was a present from [livejournal.com profile] ghoti, since it's a book she likes and it contains cute ears and I have very little exposure to Japanese lit. I found the book very mind-expanding and different from most of what I normally read, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

detailed review )

Currently reading: A time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor, as recommended to me by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks. Basically it's an account of how the author got kicked out of school and decided to walk across Europe to Constantinople, in 1933. I don't normally read travelogues, but I agree with the intro by Jan Morris, that Fermor is just an outstandingly good writer, and his descriptions are evocative enough to be exciting even though nothing really happens except that he walks around and visits places. He has the kind of assumption typical of a certain class of white English young men, that everybody will basically like him and want to help him out. He's also genuinely interested in the people he meets working on this assumption. In some ways the narrative style is reminding me of my uncle who at a similar sort of age drove a van to Australia.

I've nearly finished the section where he crosses Germany, noting the presence of the newly ascendant Nazi party but not dwelling on that to the exclusion of talking about the history and culture of the country and telling anecdotes about the various German people he meets on the way. The moment where he describes crossing the border from the Netherlands and seeing swastikas everywhere is a brilliant piece of writing, a paragraph of description of some Dutch St Vincent de Paul nuns, and then:
The officials at the Dutch frontier handed back my passport, duly stamped, and soon I was crossing the last furlongs of No Man's Land, with the German frontier post growing nearer through the turning snow. Black, white and red were painted in spirals round the road barrier and soon I could make out the scarlet flag charged with its white disc and its black swastika.

Up next: Not sure. I'm still looking out for A book with a color in the title for my very old Bringing up Burns challenge, or I may well read Novik's Uprooted.
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti planned us a group trip to Budapest, all of us, her three children and four partners. Which to me sounds like a terrifying amount of organization, but basically she booked budget flights and rented us a huge, cheap, centrally located apartment that normally trades on stag and hen parties. And then she got everybody to the airport in plenty of time, with some notion of how to get across the city from the airport, and after that we basically just turned up and improvised.

In almost all respects that worked better than the sorts of holidays I'm used to with detailed itinerary planning, and long complicated negotiations about sharing space with people who aren't normally housemates. We didn't have the slightest ambition to see "everything", we just wanted to have a good time together in a new city, and that was incredibly successful. I mean, it's easy to say that it was low effort considering that my gf put in most of the effort and I just tagged along, but I wouldn't have contemplated organizing a trip of that size and complexity, I would have just assumed it was beyond me, but partly because planning I'd have considered essential is actually entirely disposable.

[livejournal.com profile] ghoti was also much better at writing up the trip than I am, she did so promptly and concisely; my version is likely to be rambly and boring. tourist report )

So basically, [livejournal.com profile] ghoti was an amazing genius at organizing a holiday that was fun and exciting and full of interesting new experiences without being exhausting. And at taking into account the wishes of such a large and mixed group and making sure that everybody had the best possible time.

Budapest is shadowed by genocide )
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
Because these are always fun, and because my quad keeps getting confused about the names of meals...

poll about eating habits and language )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Via [personal profile] sovay, an interesting if slightly odd article by one Amy Schwartz on Dorothy L Sayers' anti-semitism. I always knew Sayers was weird about Jews; I find it hard to articulate why I read her stuff anyway whereas I generally avoid other known anti-semitic writers like Chesterton. I did not know either that Sayers once had a Jewish boyfriend, or that she thought it appropriate to publish an article, in 1945, arguing that the reason people are so horrible to Jews is because we had rejected Jesus. I don't know anything about Schwartz, and I'm not sure I share her sympathy or justifications for her subject's prejudices, but it's an interesting piece anyway.

Currently reading: A wild sheep chase by Haruki Murakami. I didn't really get any holiday reading done, because it turned out that partners' children were very very excited about getting access to Liv for a whole week, so they didn't really want me to be spending even a few minutes reading rather than paying attention to them <3

Up next: Will probably still follow up on your recs for Hungary-related books, though so far the only one I've managed to get hold of is A time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (thanks, [personal profile] rushthatspeaks.)

Also, [personal profile] alexseanchai made a love meme. I normally shy away from such things, but right now, I felt like hearing some nice things would be really good for me. And maybe some other people would also enjoy such a thing?

Pokémon Go

Aug. 9th, 2016 01:36 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So Pokémon Go is basically a terrible game. It's opaque and annoying for beginners, and it ramps up the difficulty in a way that makes the game more annoying, not more challenging as you advance, presumably because it's somewhat clumsily balanced for monetization rather than fun. I liked Ingress better, and that's saying something, because I already found Ingress didn't have much actual gameplay beyond a cool concept.

But it doesn't need to be a good game, because it's an amazing phenomenon. It's just a perfect fit for the zeitgeist, unlike Ingress being launched at a time when smartphone coverage is extensive enough that people other than affluent tech-heads can play. It had a readymade userbase and fandom in the entire generation who loved Pokémon the first time round, which gives it enough of a network effect to make it appealing to old fogeys like me who weren't already fans. And it's the perfect gateway to augmented reality; you walk around in the real world and find cute things. It doesn't really matter what the scoring mechanism is, or that the most of the features and gameplay elements are promised rather than actual, or that that fighting side of the game is grindy and uninteresting. You walk around, you find cute things. Instant reward.

further detail )

So it's a terrible game, but it's giving me a lot of pleasure, and I hope its success will in fact encourage other developers to release better augmented reality games.
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
Next week I'm travelling to Hungary, a country I've never visited before. We (well, mostly [livejournal.com profile] ghoti) planned the essential bits, the travel and accommodation, months ago, but it's come up faster than I'd expected and I haven't had time to think about what we're actually going to do there. It doesn't really matter since we're a party of six adults and two children, so I'm sure other people will have ideas, but I thought I might ask for advice anyway.

I made you some ticky boxes )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: A couple of really great, thinky reviews:
I'm not always as enthusiastic about Laurie Penny as many people in my circle, but they hit it out of the park with Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless. It's a really nuanced and thoughtful piece about self-care and wellbeing, considering both the ways that these things are undervalued especially for women and marginalized people, and the ways that they are repackaged and exploited within the capitalist system. There's a bit of that irritating young lefty anxiety about whether one's life choices are sufficiently "radical", but still very well worth reading.

Currently reading: A wild sheep chase, by Haruki Murakami. This was a present from [livejournal.com profile] ghoti. It's very atmospheric, but the atmosphere it creates is somewhat bleak and miserable. It's sort of doing the litfic thing where the recently divorced narrator is sad because his comfortable but unexceptional life isn't as exciting as he might have hoped when he was younger, with the accompanying rather annoying attitude to women. But at about a third of the way through, this is looking like a frame for doing other things, a bit magic realist, a bit thriller, with the protag getting very politely kidnapped by the mafia boss. It's told in a somewhat non-linear way, so I'm not yet sure how all the different facets of the story fit together.

Up next: I'm travelling to Hungary next week, so I am not quite sure if I'll end up with loads of time for reading or very little. The next thing on my e-reader is Blindsight by Peter Watts. Unless someone wants to rec me a Hungarian book which is available in translation, in order to be thematically suitable?

Q&A

Jul. 25th, 2016 10:16 pm
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
Nice thinky meme from a locked post a few weeks back, cos I feel like answering questions about myself. These suggest an attitude to media that isn't quite mine, but I'm rather interested in thinking about why the questions don't exactly fit as well as answering them.

30 questions with long rambly answers ) OK, that was a very long meme, I maybe should've broken it up a bit more. But definitely interesting to think about!
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So my brother was in town at the weekend and Dad suggested we could go to the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival performance of The Tempest. fun weekend )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Hild by Nicola Griffith. (c) Nicola Griffith 2013, Pub Blackfriars 2013, ISBN 9780349134253. I bought this as a full priced ebook based on several really enthusiastic reviews, and I can certainly say it lives up to the hype.

detailed review )

Anyway, I was completely caught up in the book, kept finding excuses to read just one more page, and I was really quite disappointed not to be in Hild's head any more. I can absolutely see why this book is such a sensation, and I do strongly recommend it to readers of both speculative fiction and historical novels.

Up next: A wild sheep chase by Haruki Murakami.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
Some months ago, I asked for some advice about mobile phones. And then everything went to pieces and I didn't get round to telling you what I decided, so:

gadget wonkery )
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So last weekend I had the most brilliant time: two of my friends who live in the wrong continents were visiting, and in between I got to spend time with my parents and my partners, so it was just about perfect.

diary stuff )

So yay, that was just about the perfect long weekend for me. And it did me so much good to spend time with MK and [personal profile] hatam_soferet, in spite of the awful news I've been walking taller all week.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired I went on a bit of an ebook-buying spree because I was travelling and wasn't sure how much time I'd have with no internet, but also didn't want to take a big pile of heavy p-books with me. So:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik, as it's been getting a lot of buzz lately. And I like Novik's pacey, id-heavy writing, but I'm not massively fond of the Temeraire series.

  • Abaddon's gate by James SA Corey. The third in the Expanse space opera series of which I've enjoyed the first two.

  • Bring up the bodies by Hilary Mantel. I really enjoyed Wolf Hall when I was on holiday with more uninterrupted reading time than usual, so I was keen on the sequel.

  • I failed to buy Too like the lightning by Ada Palmer, the astonishingly brilliant blogger from Ex Urbe. Unfortunately it's region locked and I couldn't be bothered going through the palaver of pretending to be American and then breaking the DRM to be able to read the book, so. If the publishers are going to make it deliberately difficult for me to give them money, well, I'm not jumping through hoops, I'll spend the money on something else.


Recently read: Ghost spin, by Chris Moriarty. (c) Chris Moriarty 2013, Pub Ballantine Books Spectra 2013, ISBN 978-0-553-38494-9. detailed review, somewhat spoilery )

Currently reading: Hild by Nicola Griffith. I'd seen a lot of buzz about this as a historical novel for SF readers, and yes, yes it is. It's about the English Dark Ages, just at the start of Christianity reaching England, and it has absolutely masses of worldbuilding and exploration of the impact of technological changes on society, and just lets you pick it up from context. I know basically nothing about the seventh century, so I have absolutely no idea about historical accuracy, but the level of detail makes the setting seem extremely real and vivid. It's just amazingly weird compared to almost any made-up fantasy world; the characters seem like people, but their values and priorities are amazingly different from those of the modern reader.

In general I'm enjoying Hild really a lot. I love being immersed in the to me alien world, and I like and am invested in the characters, and care about all the political intrigue. I like the choice to tell the story from the point of view of Hild and her mostly female circle, so that warriors and kings and priests and so on are mentioned but always seen from the outside, in terms of their effects on female life. I'm just getting to the bit where people are starting to convert to Christianity, and knowing that Hild is in fact based on the historical St Hilda of Whitby, I can't not know that she is going to end up Christian. In some ways I'm a little disappointed by this, not because I mind reading about Christian characters, but because what will eventually become Mediaeval Christianity is so much more familiar to me than the pre-Christian cultures from between the Roman era and about the time of the book.

Up next: Don't know, I'm a bit less than halfway through Hild so it'll probably be a while before I pick up anything new. I've been hankering to read Ancillary Sword but I think in some ways the style is perhaps too similar to Hild for this to be the best choice to delve into next.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
To continue my write-ups after a bit of a gap:

potentially controversial )
So yes, that was partly informative but I felt like the XKCD citation needed guy quite a lot of the time. I'm not particularly interested in debating the ethics and legality of infant circumcision in the comments; I know a lot of people have strong views on the topic but I don't really care to rehash that debate. As it is I've made this way longer than I intended so I shall just post it and add the last couple of talks to another post.

Ireland!

Jul. 4th, 2016 11:46 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
I had a completely glorious time in Ireland last week. travelogue )

Basically, thank you so much to all of you for good advice, we did much better by listening to you than by trying to plan the trip off websites and guidebooks. And you were all collectively right about roads and driving. Also thank you to everybody who asked for a postcard, and to [livejournal.com profile] ghoti for recommending me the app. It turned out to really increase my enjoyment of the trip; [livejournal.com profile] darcydodo brought a real camera, but I just had my phone. It was really good for me to have the motivation to take the occasional snap of something I really wanted to send to one of you, but to spend most of my time looking at things with my eyes rather than being distracted by photography. I missed lots of you, [personal profile] hatam_soferet when we were looking at manuscripts, and [personal profile] forestofglory when we were learning about ecology, and [personal profile] kaberett when we were being amazed by geology, and [personal profile] lethargic_man when we were trying to figure out language stuff. And my musicians and historians and Christians pretty much all the time.

Limmud

Jun. 20th, 2016 11:17 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I nearly didn't go to the local day Limmud this year, as it's in a busy time and I wasn't sure if it would make sense to drag all my non-Jewish partners to the conference. But in fact [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and [personal profile] cjwatson and even their younger children were really really excited about the event, so that was a good reason for all of us to go. And in fact it was the best Limmud I've been to in years, I came out with that glorious buzzy, head-full, wanting to have enthusiastic discussions about everything feeling.

I'm going to follow [personal profile] lethargic_man's example and try to write it up here, because it might be interesting to some of you, and because it'll be an easier archive for me to refer to in future than paper notes, and because I'm really hoping some people will have opinions and ideas, as the weekend was over before I had a chance to explore all the cool new stuff properly through in person discussions. Unlike him I'll write biased summaries and talk about my own reactions as well as the speakers' words, rather than try to actually type up the lectures from my notes.

history, Talmud ) OK, I meant to do brief summaries but got carried away, I'll write up the other talks another day...
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
So someone on FB, who is an introvert, expressed a desire for extroverts to talk more about what it's like to be an extrovert, as this is something they don't understand. So I thought I'd give it a go, here rather than FB cos I don't like posting thinky things that just vanish into FB's ether.

living up to the stereotype by talking about myself )

Any other extroverts want to comment? I'm making this a public post and will link it from FB for the benefit of the person who wanted to learn about what it's like to be us.

Shavuot

Jun. 13th, 2016 09:26 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So my extremely wonderful girlfriend came up to spend Shavuot with me.

religion and soppiness are a recurring theme )

And next week we're all going to Limmud, and everybody is being really enthusiastic about the conference, including partners' children. I mean, they're right to be excited, Cambridge Limmud in particular has a great young people's programme. But in general I'm really happy that my people are coming to Limmud with me.

Also, this is probably a good time to ask: I really ought to have a paper English Bible; does anyone have any recommendations? It might as well be a Christian Bible since if I'm looking at Tanach I'll mostly just stick to Hebrew. I further realized that my trusty old Soncino Chumash is really quite hard to read; I didn't really start reading Chumash until my Hebrew was fluent enough not to be bothered by the fact that the text is squashed into too little space and the distinctions between ד ,ר and ה are not as clear as they might be. This is really a problem for teaching from it, whether it's bar mitzvah students or people like [livejournal.com profile] ghoti. So I think it's time I acquired a more modern Chumash; tell me what's out there with good translations, good typography and preferably commentary that won't make me want to claw my eyes out?

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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