liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait and a bunch of other people are doing a 30 day music meme, and it's really interesting to see people's choices! In some ways music isn't a big part of my life, so I might struggle with this one, and anyway I'm not going to commit to posting every day for 30 consecutive days, but I thought I'd give it a go.

The first is A song you like with a colour in the title, so I went for White winter hymnal by Fleet Foxes. I don't always love the kind of very blurry musical style that Fleet Foxes go for, but I got really fond of this song a few years back and it's one that always raises a smile when it comes on shuffle.

People are generally linking to YouTube, and I'd never actually seen the accompanying video for this one before. It's kind of a cool claymation thing, so I'm glad I searched it up.

Embedded video )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: The hundred trillion stories in your head, a bio of Ramón y Cajal by Benjamin Ehrlich. (Contains some detail of Ramón y Cajal's rather grim childhood.)

Currently reading: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Partly because it's Hugo nominated, and partly because [personal profile] jack was excited to talk about it so I've borrowed his copy. I'm halfway through and enjoying it a lot; it's a bit like a somewhat grimmer version of Leckie's Ancillary books. It has too much gory detail of war and torture for my preferences but it's also a really engaging story.

Up next: Quite possibly Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, since I'd like to read at least the Hugo novels in time for Worldcon.

Jew-ish

May. 23rd, 2017 01:45 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
This weekend I went to another Jewish-Muslim interfaith event. I was not exactly the main target audience, which was mainly people whose actual job is religious education. I did get to meet some Somali Bravanese Muslims, an ethnic minority from Somalia via Kenya whom I hadn't encountered before.

Anyway we had some very interesting discussions, including around the use of language. Some of the Muslim participants said they didn't like what I had thought of as an otherwise neutral older spelling, Moslem. They said they associate that spelling and pronunciation with people like Donald Trump, and I can see that people who haven't bothered to update their language might well be assumed to be hostile. I don't particularly need to change my own language choices since I have been using the modern spelling anyway, but it's useful to note.

Then of course the conversation turned to the Jewish side, and the somewhat fraught issue of what we should be called. is 'Jew' a slur? )
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (_support)
I note in passing that it's 14 years to the day since I started this blog, 6 years on LJ and 8 years on DW. That's a lot of writing and a lot of conversations. I've made just over 2000 posts in 14 years, and I think the average length is only a little under a thousand words, so somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million words and that's not even counting comments. I was really not expecting either the site or my interest in blogging to last as long as 14 years, but I'm really glad you're all still here.

I still don't have a good way of making an offline archive of DW; the program LJArchive is timing out because, I think, my DW is just too huge, and it doesn't have a way of downloading one bit at a time. Does anyone have any recs?

It's also coming up to the end of my 7th year of working at Keele – I've finished teaching and only have exams to go through before this academic year is over. It's a pretty awesome job in lots of ways. Our senior people like to point out that there have been over a million consultations when patients have been treated by Keele-trained doctors in the ten year history of the medical school, and I've contributed to the education of quite a high proportion of those doctors.

And it's the 20th anniversary, give or take, of my leaving school. I have signed up to attend the reunion next month; I'm not entirely sure that was a good idea, but I am at least somewhat curious to see if I can pick up some gossip from anyone who isn't on Facebook. I don't think anyone is going to be surprised that I'm an academic, that's what everybody was predicting when I was going around convinced I was going into school teaching. But they might well be surprised that I'm married and poly.

Anyway, now I'm going to catch a train from the new exciting local to my house station.

Fun

May. 18th, 2017 09:51 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
Last weekend it was the slightly obscure Jewish festival of Lag b'Omer, mainly celebrated by going out into the woods and having picnics. I was really really pleased when my OSOs and their two younger children, and [livejournal.com profile] fivemack, came up for the weekend to join me!

we crammed a bunch of stuff into two days )

I only have one more day of teaching before the summer. May is always intense, so I'll hope to be a bit more present on DW from next week.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: The interior life by Katherine Blake. (c) 1990 Katherine Blake; Pub Baen Books 1990; ISBN: 0-671-72010-4

This was a present from [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel, and I picked it up while I was in the middle of a book I'm not really getting on with, and got hooked. It's an original fantasy, intertwined with a surprisingly fascinating totally mundane story.

detailed review )

Currently reading: Having lost A journey to the end of the millennium by AB Yehoshua, and found it again, I in theory ought to go back to it, but I'm quite uninspired so I might not.

Up next: I borrowed Ninefox gambit by Yoon Ha Lee from [personal profile] jack, so probably that.

Leaving LJ

May. 8th, 2017 10:16 pm
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (_support)
As most of you know, about a month ago LJ suddenly changed its terms of service, in a really nasty way, with no warning and forcing people to accept the new terms in order to interact with the site at all. I confess I was not too bothered at first.

thought process )

So having started out thinking, well, it's annoying but nothing much will change, I might as well carry on cross posting, the reality has been that there's basically nothing keeping me on LJ any more. I just unticked the box, and I've only now got round to making a post about it. I think I will not delete my old LJ because it's convenient to have an account for reading the last smattering of posts, and because I don't think my old stuff is particularly contributing to whatever evil Putin's government may be up to.

For people who want to stay (exclusively) on LJ, I certainly don't think badly of you. After all I very nearly stayed myself, and I know there are many reasons to continue with problematic sites. If you would like to follow my Dreamwidth, there is a feed at [livejournal.com profile] liv_dw, or you're entirely welcome to put that RSS into your feed reader of choice. You have to click through to comment; I won't see comments on the feed itself. You don't have to log in to comment, but please do write your name or handle, because I've had problems with an annoying anon guy so I want to know you're not him. I also very rarely lock posts, so you're not missing much.

Recently

May. 4th, 2017 12:28 pm
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
So most excellent Hamilfan [personal profile] rmc28 drew our attention to a local production, by a theatre school, of a Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, Bring it on. review )

Then last weekend I ran a Saturday morning service. Several of our regulars were ill, so we had just nine people, meaning we had to leave out big chunks of the service, including the formal public Torah reading. But it went really well anyway; I read the Torah portion from the Chumash, the printed book, and a really great, involved, thoughtful discussion just spontaneously happened. Which is all the more impressive considering the parshe in question was Tazria-Metzorah, the long section from Leviticus about purification from various forms of contamination / contagion. And when I said we didn't need a sermon since we'd already had such a great spontaneous shiur, people insisted I preach anyway, which is certainly flattering! I talked a bit about what happens when you have to do something which is awful for an individual for the greater good, whether it's a public health thing as implied in Leviticus or something like a child protection issue. The safeguards and transparency that need to be in place to prevent corruption, and the way that Leviticus sets out a moral system through what may seem like endless ritual detail.

Because it was a bank holiday, I managed to get home as well, and had a really lovely relaxing weekend playing the second half of our D&D game. I'm really enjoying playing Bela, a character I based off Bel from a proposed but not yet actually implemented Vorkosigan game. They (I decided I couldn't be dealing with it pronouns as in Bujold's original) are ridiculously charming (statted on charisma and strength, and really playing that up), flirt with everybody in sight, and also seem to have picked up the role of curtailing some of the endless discussions that can arise with an inexperienced D&D group. Plus the ship's cat, Sabre, turned out to be a PC played by 8yo Judith, and having a PC familiar is just glorious.

And then on Monday I had a little time with [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait, which consisted of a not entirely successful shopping trip when our attempts to find out where was open on BH Monday fell flat, but we acquired shiny purple wool for my next knitting project, and had exciting burgers in Ed's Diner, and got a chance to talk.

I came back from the Bank Holiday weekend and straight into the last three weeks of term, when I'm in charge of the first year teaching. So work is intense, but good. And I'm still struggling to keep up with DW whenever I'm busy, which I'm really enjoying, and I hope the fast flowing conversation keeps up.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: A burden shared by Jo Walton. A clever and very sad short story about an imaginary technology that makes it possible to transfer pain between people. I recommend against reading the comments, personally.

Currently reading: The interior life by Katherine Blake. This was a present from [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel a while back. It's a story about a housewife who imagines an elaborate high fantasy scenario. What I'm finding particularly impressive about the story is that it sticks with its frame. Sue, the housewife and narrator, has an almost exaggeratedly dull suburban life, but it's so vividly drawn that I'm never disappointed when the text switches back from her imagined story of magicians saving the world from Darkness to her mundane existence. TIL doesn't exactly break the fourth wall, but it plays with the boundary between stuff that Sue imagines and her within the book reality in really interesting ways. The fantasy element is not bad either, it avoids being too generic, and is often really atmospheric.

Up next: I have a bit of a to-read pile building up, especially presents which ideally I should get to more quickly than I have been in the habit of lately. I would also quite like to read the Hugo nominated novels at least, and should probably get going with that fairly rapidly if I'm going to get through them before Worldcon. I'm probably most intrigued by Too like the lightning by Ada Palmer, though last I looked it was hard to find in a sensible format in the UK. Or Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, which [personal profile] jack read recently and wants to talk about.

Liberation

Apr. 25th, 2017 08:50 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I made the classic mistake with Passover this year, of getting worked up and stressed about the practicalities of it instead of preparing spiritually. Actually it all went completely fine, but it wasn't until the last day of the festival, when all the organization was over, that I actually remembered to feel joy and celebration for being free.

contains religion )

Monday was just wonderful, though. That was when it really started to sink in that not only was I actually happy at being redeemed from slavery, but I am incredibly joyful and grateful to have such an excellent family. Both the ones I grew up with who are so great to celebrate Pesach with, and my family of choice who are incredibly supportive about joining in with my festivals and including me in theirs in a really respectful and non-pressurey way. We played D&D with [personal profile] jack GMing, something we've been meaning to do for ages and just not had time for, and it was really fun and relaxing.

Recorder

Apr. 24th, 2017 01:20 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So the wonderful amazing [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait gave me a proper alto recorder as an afikoman present. I am slightly awkward about it because an actual musical instrument is a bit bigger than the sorts of things my family generally expect as Passover presents – it's a gift-giving occasion, yes, but it's not anything like on the scale of Christmas. But I am also really really happy, it's the most absolutely perfect present.

babbling about me and music )

And I'm allowed to play the recorder. Just like I learned with piano all those years ago, I don't have to be a brilliant performing soloist, I can just play because I want to. And with work, with amazingly satisfying work, better than any video game, I can get to the point where my playing sounds at least pleasant. But I do in fact want to focus on more social sorts of playing, not learning a bunch of sonatas to a mediocre standard.

So does anyone have any recs of social sorts of music? Melodies of songs, perhaps, or even something aimed directly for people who want to play recorder to accompany singers? The readthrough people have a songbook, right, with dots in? Would it be possible to obtain a copy? I'm happy to pay for music but I'm spoilt for choice so I need some ideas first. And I am somewhat interested in online tutorials though I think I can mostly learn fine just by practising pieces, cos it turns out I know how do that. I like baroque music a lot, and there happens to be quite a lot available for recorder, but I am not wedded to only playing baroque, any style is fine, and I'm quite positively interested in recorder versions of pop music, if that exists. (And if it's set for descant, well, all that rusty music theory means that I do in fact know how to transpose.)
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
OK, this is UK party politics, please feel free to skip. In short, I am looking for Labour supporters to convince me to vote for your party.

what is the point of Labour? )

I will of course be researching all this stuff for myself, but I really want to be convinced, which is why I'm asking people who are pro Labour to guide me in where I should be looking. And to take the opportunity to counter the media bias against Corbyn. I do kind of like that he doesn't toady to Murdoch, but being willing to insult the Daily Mail isn't enough if he then goes and votes for terrible policies.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Seemingly DW exploded while I was away over Passover. Hi, everybody who suddenly showed up after many years' hiatus. I'd be delighted if this burst of activity lasts, even if the reason for it is a very sad one. Anyway, I'm just about caught up on reading, and have quite a backlog of posting which I'll try to get to in the next couple of weeks.

As for reading, though:

Recently acquired: My family have basically turned Passover into a massive book exchange. So let's see if I can reproduce it. lists of book presents ) Recently read: All the fishes come home to roost by Rachel Manija Brown ([personal profile] rachelmanija). (C) 2005 by Rachel Manija Brown, Pub 2006 Hodder & Stoughton Sceptre, ISBN 0-340-89881-X.

This was a birthday present from [personal profile] rmc28, and I got to it on Good Friday this week, when I was taking a breather from all the Passover stuff, and had a bit of a cold and wasn't feeling up to go out and look for more exciting activities than spending the Bank Holiday sitting at home reading.

All the fishes come home to roost is a memoir of a really horrendous childhood that manages to be uplifting rather than miserable.

detailed review )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who took the time to make supportive comments when I was feeling down. I am incredibly touched by so many people reaching out.

I have only a little gap before Passover chaos sets in, but I don't like leaving depressing stuff at the top of my journal, so have a general consumption update:

food, games, TV )

Exile

Apr. 6th, 2017 08:39 pm
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So my DW reading list is full of people who have been driven away from LJ by the extremely draconian new Terms of Service, and suddenly finding themselves subject to Russian law. People who have made LJ their online home for 15 years or more, who have stuck with the site through multiple iterations of users getting screwed over. I hope that you'll find some kind of shelter here on DW, but being forced to move is still really horrible.

My Facebook feed, meanwhile, has lots of my Swedish friends talking about a neo-Nazi group which has driven the tiny, extremely northerly Jewish community of Umeå out of their meeting centre. I never made it up to Umeå when I was being an itinerant preacher in Scandinavia, but we were in contact.

And my Twitter feed, which is my main source of actual real-world news these days, is discussing the latest atrocity in Syria, which is horrifying even against the background of the unimaginably terrible past few years over there. My parents and my brother have been working with refugees who have been driven out of their Syrian homes by the conflict, and in many senses the people I've come into contact with here in England are relatively speaking the "lucky" ones.

There's no connection between these three stories, certainly no comparison. But all three are making me sad and scared and I don't have the heart to work on preparing for next week's Passover seders, celebrations of freedom and homecoming. And most certainly not to write the post I was planning, the nice theoretical discussion of how to apply the principles of free speech to people who actively advocate dehumanization and genocide. Maybe another day.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
I took a couple of days off so I could have a four-day weekend, and didn't commit myself to excessively many social things, so I was able to spend lots of time gaming.

reviews )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently acquired:
  • Can neuroscience change our minds? by Hilary and Steven Rose. Steven Rose was a big influence on getting me into bioscience, so I'm excited to learn that he's written a new book about debunking neurobollocks, a subject close to my heart. And that he's written it in collaboration with his wife, a sociologist of science.

  • Three non-fiction books to give as belated bar mitzvah presents: I went with A history of God by Karen Armstrong, 1491 by Charles Mann, and The undercover economist by Tim Harford in the end. I reckon that gives a reasonable spread of perspectives, periods and cultures to get a curious teenager started.

  • A whole bunch of mostly novels for a not-very-sekrit plot.

Recently read:
  • This is a letter to my son by KJ Kabza, as recommended, and edited by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks. It's a near-future story about a trans girl, which has minimal overt transphobia but quite a lot of cis people being clueless, and also it's about parent death among other themes.

  • Why Lemonade is for Black women by Dominique Matti, via [personal profile] sonia. Very powerful essay about intersectionality between gender and race. I've not actually seen Lemonade yet, because everything I've read about it suggests it's a large, complex work of art which I need to set aside time to concentrate on, I can't just listen to the songs in the background. And I'm a bit intimidated by the medium of a "visual album".
Currently reading: A Journey to the end of the Millennium by AB Yehoshua. Not much progress.

Up next: I am thinking to pick up How to be both by Ali Smith, which has been on my to-read pile for a while. We'll see.

Full

Mar. 21st, 2017 09:48 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So this weekend I went to two synagogue services (in two different cities) and one church service, and I had a quiet going out for lunch and talking date with [personal profile] cjwatson and a bouncy metal gig date with Ghoti. And went to the cinema to see Beauty and the Beast and just about managed to squeeze in a little bit of time talking to [personal profile] jack. Um, it is hypothetically possible that I may have over-scheduled myself a bit.

I had fun, though )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
So my two former bar mitzvah students want to carry on with Hebrew now they've both completed their ceremonies. They've said they'd like to do a bit more conversational modern Hebrew as well as just practising prayerbook reading. Does anyone have any recommendations for textbooks?

The boys are 13 and 15, both reasonably academically able and reasonably committed. They can read fairly fluently, but have very little vocab or grammar at the moment. They're also extremely busy and probably won't have huge amounts of time for practice in between their fortnightly lessons. My options at the moment are:
The textbook recommended by the GCSE exam board. I'd generally like the boys to be thinking about GCSE sort of level, not that they hugely have to pass exams but as a streching, but attainable, target. The problem is that the book looks incredibly dated and dull and I don't feel inspired to teach from it!

Or Routledge Introductory Course in Modern Hebrew. I think this is basically aimed at beginners, but beginners who are university students or otherwise quite advanced in general language skills. It's really quite heavy on grammar, and might be overkill for a couple of years of informal lessons for teenagers.

I can't find anything I like better than these two options. I don't want a course that is primarily audio for self-learning, because I'm going to be there teaching and keeping up reading fluency is a big priority. And I don't want just a vocab list or beginners' dictionary. The younger boy suggested using a tourist phrasebook, which might work but ideally I'd like something more like a textbook and less like lists of phrases to rote learn.

Secondly, I still have not succeeded in giving the younger lad his bar mitzvah present, because everything I could think of is out of print and not for sale for reasonable money. I would like to give him a good work of popular non-fiction, something enjoyable to read but also informative. He's quite interested in politics and world affairs, which is a subject I know little about. And he's pretty bright but not especially precocious, I think he'd get more out of something accessible or even aimed at teenagers, than something hardcore academic.

I'm thinking something about the level of Jared Diamond's Guns, germs and steel, except not that because I'm now aware that Diamond not only plays fast and loose with scholarly accuracy, he conducted some rather unethical ethnographic research and published identifying stories about his subjects without their permission. And I have in mind that there used to be a journalist who did short programmes on Radio 4 about US politics and culture, and that he died a few years ago (?) and that prior to that he had written a book of anecdotes that this young man might enjoy, but that's not enough information to shake his name out of Google, does anyone have any clue whom I'm talking about?

So. Anyone who's taught conversational Hebrew, any recs? And in a less specialist query, what's the most interesting popular non-fiction book you've read lately?

Interfaith

Mar. 13th, 2017 09:30 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I think of myself very much as someone who does interfaith, but I haven't really had any opportunities for it for ages. And then two came along at once:

yay connections )

So basically I'm full of enthusiasm and really energized by getting a chance to do interfaith again. And I've been babbling at my partners about stuff that they're not very familiar with, so hopefully this post is a bit more coherent.

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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