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: 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?
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So something is sending vast quantities of spam from my email address. Does anyone have any advice?

details )
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: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Tangentially to this Captain Awkward letter, where the answer mentions that the writer's half-sister may have a different conflict style from hers, I started thinking about classifying conflict styles. It feels something like the Ask / Offer distinction in styles of communication (sometimes called Ask / Guess). It's useful to know that there is more than one way of doing it, and people whose style is different from yours are not necessarily terrible awful people who can't communicate respectfully.

The problem is I'm not sure there are two distinct approaches to conflict, or even what elements should be considered in defining conflict style. noodling about this )

So help me refine my ideas? What variations in conflict style have I not thought of? What approaches to conflict and argument do you find most productive? I mean, assuming that the arguers are already upset and you can't just magically all get along. Are there any ways of arguing that you think are just bad and should always be avoided?


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 )
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So if you had a week in Ireland, what would you prioritize doing? Where would you go?

further details )
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Lots of people don't believe in ethical capitalism, for various reasons. Maybe they think capitalism is inherently unethical as a system and if you participate in it at all you're tainted. Or they think that consumer choices don't really have important ethical consequences. Or they think it's unfair that the extra costs of ethical business practices should be borne by the consumer, meaning that buying ethically becomes a kind of luxury. Or they are Effective Altruists who hold that that the good that can be done by buying the cheapest possible goods and spending the difference on efficient charities that cure childhood illnesses in the developing world outweighs the harm done by increasing the profit of companies that exploit their workers. And all of those criticisms have some merit, but I'm still an idealistic capitalist at heart, so I still worry about these issues.

One place where it's particularly acute is electronics. I am not the kind of ascetic who could live without a smartphone, and I worry a lot about the resource and labour implications of buying the things frequently. But right now my trusty three-year-old Galaxy Note II is on its way to becoming unusable as its battery won't hold charge any more. I am reluctant to replace it with a new shiny phone, though it may come down to that because as mentioned I am not prepared to live without my mobile phone, and if I can only use it when plugged in then I basically don't have a mobile phone any more.

So, I would like some advice:
sorting through options )
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
So, practical advice sought:

A] Does anyone have any experience of making voice recordings? Podfics or reading poetry aloud to share digitally, that kind of thing? It doesn't need to be professional level or even close, but it needs to be good enough quality that the words can be heard relatively clearly. Ideally I don't want to buy a lot of equipment or spend hours doing audio processing, but I'm not sure what the minimum set-up is to achieve this. I mean, my computer has a reasonable basic mic which is good enough for things like voice calls. And I know a lot of my students use their smartphones to record tutorials and so on, and apparently that's good enough to be a revision aid. So I imagine this should be possible without major investment, but I don't know where to start.

Software recommendations especially appreciated! My desktop is Windows and my phone is Android, and my netbook is going to be Linux eventually but that's a topic for another day.

B] I'm in the process of buying a bike. I've talked to Colin at University Cycles, and he's super helpful and has offered to lend us a couple of bikes at the weekend so I can try them out. What should I be looking out for when I try the bikes? What questions should I be asking? Also, what equipment do I need? I'm thinking lights obviously, panniers, and a lock, presumably a D-lock. Anything else?

I don't expect to become a serious cyclist any time soon. I'm intending to use the bike just to potter about Cambridge, so if I can go slightly faster and with slightly less effort than walking, that's about all I'm after. One of the suggestions Colin made was a Dutch bike, which he said was solidly built and easy to maintain; definitely those features are more important to me than speed or being fantastically light or suitability for difficult off-road trails. I'm approximately convinced by the argument that cycle helmets aren't a good trade-off.

I'm not quite sure how best to judge the price point for a new bike. I would rather buy a second-hand, good quality bike than a cheap rubbish new one, but I'm not sure how much of a premium there actually is on new bikes; I suspect most people feel like me. And I'm certainly willing to pay a bit more upfront for a bike that is easy and pleasant for me to use. But equally, if it does happen that the bike becomes my major means of transport or I get excited about long distance rides, I can always sell my starter bike and buy something more specialist; I don't want to buy a very fancy vehicle off the bat though.

I'm probably not going to be a very self-sufficient sort of bike owner; I'll most likely take the bike to the shop for anything more complicated than a puncture. I do appreciate that there's no such thing as a magic, entropy-violating machine that keeps going forever with no effort, I just don't want to make bike maintenance my major hobby.

I know there was something else too, but it's gone out of my mind. Anyway, please express opinions!
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
So a good friend of mine is taking a very short (sorry, USians) maternity leave and we were talking about her bringing her family to visit from the other side of the country during the three months before she goes back to work. Her older kid is a bit under two, and then there's this newborn (well, maybe a young infant by the time we actually sort this visit).

Having no experience of hosting young children for an overnight stay, I appeal to the internet for advice! In particular, both the children still sleep in cots; what do you do if you have visitors who need cots to sleep in? Is there some kind of service where childfree people can hire cots for a short amount of time? Or do most people just have cots in the loft from their own childhood or now older offspring or something?

I will of course ask my friend as well, but is there anything else that it would be good for me to set up to make the visit go smoothly? Given that I have no equipment or toys or anything in my house relevant to under-twos, and I don't want my friends to have to carry masses of stuff across the country. (I appreciate that they'll probably have to carry a certain amount, it goes with the territory of travelling with two babies.)

(More substantial post to follow, I hope.)
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Someone in my circle asked me if I know of any material about Kabbalah by / for women. And I really really don't, but I bet I know people who do; any offers?

why I'm not much help )

People who have no idea what I'm babbling on about, or indeed people who happen to be knowledgeable about two widely contrasting areas: can anyone help bring me up to speed on My Little Pony : Friendship is Magic? I'm making friends with two small children who are hugely into the series and I could do with a primer, enough to be able to talk to them usefully or at least understand the stories they very earnestly tell me.

I may just have to sit and watch some episodes, but I'm not inclined to consume the whole thing; any eps you'd recommend to give me a good sense for how the 'verse works? I mean, these kids are better at abstract thought than my informants when I was trying to get a sense of Power Rangers fandom in the 90s (in order to include them in the script of the panto I was commissioned to write), but even they tend to get a little bogged down in detail when I ask for explanations. Apparently I'm a bit like Pinkie Pie, but that might just be the extrovert thing.

I do find it a little disturbing how the pastel coloured but still basically ponies of my childhood are a lot more like sexy young women in the reboot. The huge eyes, the very thin long-legged body types which seem to allude to conventionally attractive post-pubescent women. And the way they so often stand on hind legs and use their forelegs as hands, in many of the glimpses I've seen of the animation, kind of grosses me out a little. However being prudish about this kind of thing isn't going to help, I'd much rather be positive about getting a sense of other people's fandom.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
I feel like I'm turning into a terrible old fogey when it comes to music. I mean, not that I was ever at the cutting edge of fashion, but I used to at least recognize some current stuff. long-winded description of my problem )

Recommendations of actual music always welcome, of course. I really appreciate people who do share music on their journals, like [personal profile] oursin and [personal profile] seekingferret and [personal profile] ceb. But what I'm really looking for is recommendations of how to music in 2015. How to discover new music, how to do music in a modern social media context, recommendations of places to go to look for recommendations. And how to buy music once I've discovered it. Any suggestions appreciated!
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So I have managed to kill the keyboard on my netbook, an old-school Asus Eee from about 2008 ish. I suspect that the reason why this happened is that my use-case is that I sling the netbook in my backpack and take it with me on my regular 4-hour train journeys, most of which I spend writing several thousand word emails.

It looks to me as if the niche occupied by the Eee PCs doesn't really exist any more: what I want is a portable computer with a "real" keyboard, which is also cheap because it's low-end when it comes to spec. Now it seems like there's souped-up ultrabooks, which are light and powerful but also commensurately expensive, and there's tablets, with the possibility of perhaps getting a stand with a portable keyboard, maybe. I have heard rumours that there's a new model Eee but I've never actually seen it for sale!

Does anyone have any good suggestions, recs or anti-recs?

more details )

Any opinions regarding cannibalizing old equipment versus buying new? Tablets versus netbooks? Brand recommendations?
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I've promised my community I'll do a study session on minyan for Shavuot, particularly on why we need a minyan to say Kaddish. I know this stuff fairly well on a general level, and can probably put something together that will be informative and provoke discussion. But I don't have actual texts, and, well, I threw out all my Jewish learning notes when I downsized. Mainly because they were just in big disorganized piles taking up space and I wasn't that convinced I'd ever be able to find anything. When I say texts, I mean really basic stuff like the Mishnah.

Also, fellow Jewish educators, whether professional or informal, what's a sensible amount to charge for one-to-one BM tuition? The mother of the kid I'm working with is absolutely insisting on paying me in spite of my protests, and I want to give her a reasonable figure. Basically the lessons are half an hour to 45 minutes, with about the same amount of prep time. My best guess is somewhere around £20 per lesson, but I really don't know if that's way too low or way too high.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
So my brother is trying to set up his own mail server as an act of resistance against the NSA. I have some doubts as to whether this is actually a worthwhile trade-off of political effect compared to effort, but anyway. He says:
I don't think I need massive expertise. I have a plan to set up a server and host email for myself and a few others and store stuff. I figured if I could teach my computer to send and receive email through mutt or sendmail, I'd have the skill. but before I start destroying people's lives by fucking up their emails, I thought I ought to learn how to do it.

Does anyone have any advice or can point Screwy to some relevant resources? I believe his computer dual-boots in Debian and Windows, but I wouldn't swear to that.

This is only related in the sense that I'm asking for advice from people with a particular area of expertise, on behalf of someone else. I have a really awesome new neighbour, who invited me in for a cup of tea and we ended up chatting for hours. Turns out her previous post was in Sweden so we had plenty to talk about comparing experiences. (Living here is a bit like being on a college staircase, in that all the other residents are also members of staff at the same university, so there's a strong assumption we will have a lot in common. I never really got to know my neighbours in my old place.)

Anyway, this neighbour is a bit disillusioned with academia, and is thinking of moving to the Civil Service. I know a few of you have made that leap, [ profile] shreena and [personal profile] lavendersparkle come to mind, and there's probably a couple more I've forgotten. Can you offer any advice for my neighbour? Please email or PM me if you don't want to comment on a public post. She's particularly interested in whether the Fast Stream route makes sense or even applies if you're 30 rather than straight out of uni. She's a geologist and would be interested in energy policy related stuff, and also wants the chance to travel to or even work in Europe.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
I have a diverse and wise circle here, so let's see if you can help me fix small things in my life:

miscellaneous requests )

And finally, Tube-themed music for my sister's thirtieth. Details over at [community profile] mix_tape. This seems like a really good one to crowd source, especially clever puns on Tube station names.
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
So my brother (here known as Screwy) is a sessional teacher in a university. He decided, on the advice of a trans friend, that he would include asking for preferred pronouns during the intros in the first class of term. However, one fresher in his class, whom Screwy read as trans but who isn't out, was made visibly uncomfortable by this. This student later wrote in Screwy's teaching evaluation that this exercise could potentially out them, and respectfully requested that Screwy should not do that again.

As a result, Screwy feels really bad because his good intentions of making his class a safe space for people with diverse gender expressions backfired and actually made one of his students directly unsafe. He asked me to mobilize my right-on gender queer friends and seek advice for how he can do this right in future. I definitely share Screwy's aim of wanting my classes to be gender diverse safe spaces, but I have never dared ask for pronouns at the same time as asking for names, even though I can see the arguments for why it's good practice. So we would both like to know, what would be the most sensitive and helpful way to make both genderqueer people and gender normative, stealthed trans people feel safe?

I would prefer advice from people who have some personal experience or at least informed activist background with this stuff, rather than random speculation from cis people. I mean, I can come up with plenty of random speculation on my own. However, I fairly obviously don't want to out people or in any way force you to state your trans credentials to be able to comment. I think the best way round this is to encourage people to comment anonymously if you are willing to help but don't want to put the complexities of your identity in comments to a public post. I certainly welcome PMs if you have some advice that you don't want to put in the comments even anonymously.

And to give people as clueless as I am something to talk about, I also note that my uni LGBTsoc has declared November to be Trans* Awareness Month. They have Transgender Day of Remembrance shoehorned in there somewhere, but mostly it seems like they're showing a lot of films with trans themes, some of which seem to me to be quite, um, problematic, things like Priscilla queen of the desert and TransAmerica and Rocky Horror. They also sent round a survey to students and staff which basically assumed everybody answering the question would be cis, and had a lot of questions about whether people feel informed about trans* issues, the most egregious being Do you feel confident you could politely address a trans* person? which is making me very much side-eye. I can't figure out whether I should attend some of the events to show solidarity, or studiously ignore them because I don't want to pat myself on the back for supporting "diversity" by means of watching a bunch of chasery, cis gaze films. Maybe just go to the TDOR ceremony, but even that I've seen seriously criticized by activists. The vibe of the whole thing really does feel like it's aimed at making cis people feel good about themselves, but at least actively including trans* stuff within LGBT events is a small step in the right direction. And maybe I'm too cynical, maybe it will help actual trans* students as well?

Any ideas?
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
So I'm in the market for a new laptop yet again. My Toshiba is getting on for four years old, and it's getting a bit old and tired, but it pretty much does everything I want, so I'm happy to keep it in service. However, a couple of days ago it overheated spectacularly and died. After I propped it on its side and left it to cool for a couple of hours, it started up again without any visible problems, so this isn't an emergency yet. But when my previous computer started overheating when I tried to play games, it became more and more unreliable, dying due to overheating several times a day, then several times an hour, then pretty much all the time, and when I tried to get it repaired I was told the motherboard was fried and it would be cheaper to buy a new computer than replace it.

people sometimes have opinions on computer acquiring )

Annnnnd computer overheated again while I was composing this, though I had nothing more exotic running than a browser with three tabs open. That confirms I need a new machine sooner rather than later. I have decent backups, though I'm sure they could be better, and I don't have hugely redundant backups, so I'm mainly relying on my external hard drive not failing. If the computer actually irretrievably dies tomorrow, I won't lose anything irreplaceable. Any ideas how to export settings from Firefox, that's one of the things that always trips me up when I have to upgrade my computer?

Alternatively, any suggestions for what I can do about a three-year-old laptop that's overheating? I'm now working with the computer propped up so air can circulate under it, but I have no idea if that's more than just a placebo. Is there a component I can replace that in fact costs less than 80% of the price of a brand new computer? Is there anything I can do at the software level?
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So I have two problems, which I think are basically the same problem, and I even think I know what the solution is, except I can't quite get it to work for me. Basically what I want is for the future to be even more futuristic, and deliver me all the reading matter I need in a format convenient to me.

this should be easy, but )

So, any suggestions for an RSS reader? I need one that:
  • Works reliably
  • Shows me all the updates in chronological order
  • Lets me customize (at least to some extent) the appearance of the reading list
  • Shows me the posts themselves and at least the number of comments, not just the title
  • Deals with authentication and has reasonable privacy
I'd rather pay than deal with intrusive ads, but at this point I'll accept existing at all.

Assuming I do get this sorted, if you do have a presence not on LJ or DW, and you'd like me to follow you, please let me know where I can find your writing. If you're on Twitter I probably already know, because Twitter at least has an adequate mobile interface. Feel free to add me, u/n individeweal, if we're not already connected. But if you're on Tumblr or a "real" blog please tell me about it. If you are ok with me knowing but don't want the entire internet to see the connection between your DW handle and you blog, feel free to PM me instead of commenting.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
My community is wonderful in many ways, but the big problem we have is that there is no overlap between people who know the traditional tunes and people who have musical ability. Me, I have a pretty good knowledge of various different liturgical styles, but since I can't hold a tune*. I have no sensible way of giving anybody else access to the knowledge that's in my head. The community is kind of Orthodox-ish, at least in tradition, so they don't really want to use instrumental or recorded music during most services.

It's a bit depressing to go through the High Holy Days with no singing at all; having even a little bit of music can make a big difference to how emotionally effective the liturgy is. So I'm trying to find stuff online that the singers among the community can learn from. I would like to focus on a couple of piyyutim and big set pieces that people can sing effectively as "hymns", even though that's not the most traditional approach. Nusach would be lovely, but it's also not happening because we have a further lack of overlap between people who can read Hebrew and people who can sing.

My searches have found quite a lot of material, but none of it's exactly what I'm hoping for. So I'm asking if anyone happens to know of a resource better than what I can find by searching. Or even if anyone is better at doing very specific internet searches in Hebrew than I am, that might help as well. I'm looking for audio files that people can learn from even if they're not particularly skilled singers or particularly well versed in Jewish musical traditions. So for example, a lot of what I've come across is either chazzanut with lots of fancy ornamentation, or it's Carlebach-style almost polyphonic. I would like something with a single, clear melodic line. Preferably something that will not sound too weird to a European, Orthodox, Ashkenazi community (rather than Israeli music or American Reform stuff or Chassidic style), though I admit the chances of actually resurrecting the community's traditional tunes that people remember from childhood but can't sing any more are fairly remote.

Particular wish list:
  • The extended Kedusha as used on the festivals
  • יגדל (the festival tune)
  • אבינו מלכנו (we at least know the final line, but not the rest of it)
  • The piyyut כי הנה כחמר since this town was built around the pottery trade, so it ought to be our theme song.

    *No, seriously, I can't. And yes, I have tried to learn, over many years and with many different approaches, I just can't reliably sing in tune.
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    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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