liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
In the spirit of just posting rather than worrying about whether it's worthy, a brief update on the state of the Liv.

misc stuff in my life; mild medical )

Also, wow, 80 people had opinions about not seeing the wood for the trees. I also learned something new from my silly poll: in other Englishes and other languages, it's unambiguously a wooded area, not the material. I love you guys.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Not exactly a shitpost, but an entirely frivolous poll. While I have an influx of new readers!

Consider the expression They can't see the wood for the trees:

poll )
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I am completely overwhelmed by all the responses to my brainweasels posts! You people are just incredible. Partly the specific helpful and supportive things people said. But massively the sheer volume of comments from lurkers, from people I've been admiring from afar for ages, people I don't know at all. The fact that so many of you bothered to comment to tell me I should keep posting is incredibly heartening.

Among a range of thoughts sparked by the discussion, I've been thinking about the etiquette around posting Jewish-related stuff. noodling )

I have a rotten cold and I am not sure I'm making sense, but anyway, this is something that's been on my mind based on recent discussions.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
I mentioned that this present-giving season was less book-focused than usual for our families. Instead, we exchanged a lot of games and puzzles.

games )

Rediscovered: Other than that, we managed to get a family game of Mysterium in at the weekend. 10yo Judith has been watching Tabletop videos about it, and really got into playing as the ghost. And Andreas, at nearly 7, really got it and joined in effectively as well as enthusiastically, so we had an awesome time.
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (_support)
So a perfectly lovely person posted a request for cut-tags on long posts, and happened to give an unfortunate example of the kind of thing they scroll past. It's pretty clear they weren't actually aiming at me, because I do in fact cut almost all my posts, but I've got suddenly self-conscious.

grumping about social media etiquette )

I am not especially looking for reassurance here, but if you do want to reassure me, please don't tell me I'm not boring. I am boring at least some of the time, even the best writers are boring to people who don't share their interests or don't like their style. I think what I want to hear is that it's ok to be boring, that it's not better to just shut up and never bother other people.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
I try to avoid new year resolutions, but I've been having a January of getting round to stuff and learning new skills, and I'm hoping to continue with it. A big help was [personal profile] ceb who organized a usefulness party.

examples )
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So my lovely husband had a birthday, and we had a tasting menu at Navadhanya. I'm really pleased [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait discovered a restaurant which is so well suited to our tastes. We had a bottle of Indian white wine, and I should probably be less surprised that Indian wine exists, but it was merely pleasant rather than exciting. I think in future I will go back to drinking their extremely exciting passion-fruit and chilli lassi.

Then at the weekend we had a birthday party; we seem to be reliably hitting really good house parties these days. Lots of people from different bits of our social group, lots of really good interactions and conversations.

The third part of celebrating [personal profile] jack is that he asked for a spa treat for his birthday. Does anyone have any recommendations at least vaguely local to Cambridge?

I've never really found the idea of a spa appealing so I don't know anything about it. Ideally we want to avoid anything too far in the "woo" direction; we're looking for someone who is going to do nice things to muscles, not chakras or auras or chi or that sort of thing. I don't really want to join in with the massage because I have some mild but annoying trauma around massage, but if it's possible to pay for a couple of hours of hanging out in a nice relaxing environment then I could keep [personal profile] jack company.

The most plausible option I've found so far is The Glassworks. They don't seem to offer the option of just paying for spa time, though. I would be glad to hear if anyone's been there and can tell us personally if it's any good.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
2018 was the year of living stably in Cambridge and staying in a job where, and I keep coming back to this with amazement, there's a concrete set of expectations of me which I generally live up to. And spending lots of time with my husband and our OSOs and their children. And doing Jewish community stuff to a level that's fulfilling without having to carry a whole community single-handed. And I had a few really exciting trips, too.

Significant events:
  • I published articles! For the first time since 2009, and for the first time at all in education journals rather than science ones.
  • I went to Legoland.
  • [personal profile] hatam_soferet spent time in the same country as me and I met her baby daughter.
  • I returned to my community in Stockholm to help out with their siddur launch, and got to show [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait and the children a little bit of one of my places.
  • I turned 40 – my birthday is right at the end of the year and often feels like part of the following year, or gets drowned out by Christmas, but this year it was really special.
various lists )
Previous versions [2004] [2005] [2006] [2007] [2008] [2009] [2010] [2011] [2012] [2013] [2014] [2017]
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Usually Christmas involves everybody giving everybody else lots of books. But this year we mostly focused on non-book presents.

Recently acquired: From Benedict, my partners' eldest, Team-ups of the Brave and the Bold, by J Michael Straczynski, illustrated by Jesus Saiz. This is a DC comic book, which is a part of culture I don't know much about. So far, the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, but I've read two stories I hugely disagree with philosophically. One where the death of a bum and petty thief is celebrated because his life wasn't worth much anyway and at least he got the chance to be a hero, and one where a superhero time-travels back to WW2 and relaxes his principle against killing others because he's also a patriotic American with a duty to fight for his country. I need to read this more carefully, I think.

Recently given: Only one book Christmas present: The Book of Lights, by Chaim Potok, for [personal profile] cjwatson. One of my formative books as a teenager, and it is very Jewish, like all of Potok's stuff, but I hope there's enough in it that's interesting to a non-Jewish reader. It's about Kabalah and Jewish identity, yes, but it's also about the Korean war and the atom bomb.

Recently read: As promised, What Katy did next by Susan Coolidge. Originally published 1886, ebook obtained from the lovely Guenberg project. detailed review )

Some interesting DW posts, while I'm here:
  • Adapting a medieval recipe, by [personal profile] ursula, who's working through a really interesting January Journal based mostly on SCA-related themes.

  • So another Jack Lewis thing happened by [personal profile] legionseagle, with some real insight into the Problem of Susan in historical context. Great discussion in the comments, as well. Everybody has lots of opinions about Lewis.

  • [personal profile] slashmarks is coming out with a lot of really interesting posts lately, mostly book reviews. This discussion of Literacy in the Ottoman Empire is from a few weeks ago, and absolutely fascinating.

    Up next: Dunno. I'm poking at my tottering to-read pile and not pouncing on anything much. A skinful of shadows by Frances Hardinge is probably looking the most tempting.
  • Break

    Jan. 7th, 2019 08:17 pm
    liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
    I had such a delightful and relaxing gap between the last working day of 2018, which for me was the Friday before Christmas, until yesterday.

    happy things )


    Dec. 24th, 2018 03:09 pm
    liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
    I will post a review of the year at some point but it might be a bit into January. I'm also about to turn 40, so it seems a good time to look back over my 30s. It's quite nice that all of it is documented on DW (apart from the first few months of 2009 when I was still on LJ), but I'm not going to get too much sucked into re-reading old posts.

    reminiscences )

    It's a real luxury to have Christmas Eve completely free like this. My work and Jack's both didn't feel it was worth opening for half a day between the weekend and the holiday, so we are at home with no particular responsibilities.


    Dec. 19th, 2018 03:07 pm
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Reading: I just finished The masked city by Genevieve Cogman. (c) Genevieve Cogman 2015; Pub Tor 2015; ISBN 978-1-4472-5625-0.

    TMC is a romp, with a wonderful swashbuckling librarian-spy-magician as the protagonist. It's a bit middle-book in some ways, there's a lot of drama and jeopardy packaged up as a nice episode. The main antagonist is barely mentioned, and the book ends with the immediate crisis resolved but the characters in trouble. I love the portrayal of exactly how dealing with the Fae is so dangerous. Nobody much is straight, and there are a lot of platonic relationships as well as flirting and sexual yearning. Looking forward to where this series goes from here.

    Watching: Wreck-it Ralph 2: Ralph breaks the internet. I enjoyed the original, which I watched on a plane some time. And the sequel is everything I hoped for. Lots and lots of jokes, most of them just in the background scenery. Lovely exploration of the tension between Ralph wanting to be with his friend and keep her safe, and Vanellope wanting to have adventures. And the ensemble of Disney princesses is just brilliant (they reunited all the original actors except Snow White's). A very good film for a mixed age audience, which is how I saw it, with my OSOs and their children. There are two absolutely brilliant bonus scenes after the credits, so if you see it in the cinema, do stick around.

    Playing: Tabletop, a bit of Codenames which I continue to love, and which Judith is rediscovering with a bit more world-knowledge than a couple of years back when it first came out.

    And video games, a lot of Alphabear 2, the very worthy sequel to the best mobile word game ever. They've improved on the original by introducing rotating types of bears so that you don't keep playing the same top three all the time. I also like that levelling up the bears is more intentional and less random. I'm a bit annoyed by the story mode not letting you replay levels, but it's a pretty good story mode. The difficulty ramps up very nicely; I'm ludicrously good at word games and I was finding it challenging by level 4 or so. Its monetization model is a bit odd; it does have microtransactions, but not in a pay to win way and it genuinely doesn't degrade game play if you ignore them. I made a one-off payment to remove ads, because I've easily had £4 worth of fun out of it. But the ads are, admittedly, more intrusive than the ones in the free version of the original game.

    Also Stellaris on PC; I've started a co-op multiplayer game with [personal profile] jack, and we rarely have an evening free to get stuck in, but we're having fun. I was impressed with how multiplayer mode via Steam just works.
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Recently acquired: Did I mention that [personal profile] cjwatson found me the most extraordinary book for an anniversary present: a graphic novel version of The castle by Franz Kafka, translated by David Zane Mairowitz, illustrated by Jaromír 99. I've flicked through it a bit and the illustrations are the most gorgeous monochrome, almost wood-cut style, and very appropriate for Kafka.

    Currently reading: The masked city by Genevieve Cogman. It's the sequel to The invisible library which I enjoyed very much. I started it while I was ill as it's quite light, and I'm enjoying it, though I'm not hugely drawn into the story yet.

    Up next: Probably What Katy did next by Susan Coolidge, in preparation for spending Christmas in Nice like she did.

    And since I never manage Follow Friday, let me recommend a few people who regularly write thinky stuff likely to be interesting to people who don't know them personally.

  • I assume everybody is already reading [personal profile] siderea? But in case any new people don't know of her, you should definitely check out her journal. She's a genius of the DW medium specifically, which is related to being very good at general blogging or essay writing, but it's more than just that. Also incredible levels of insight into how humans behave in relationships and groups. Lots of super-interesting stuff lately about public health and the practice of medicine.

  • [personal profile] melannen is really riding the wave of the DW revival. She's good on meta-fandom and blogging about blogging, but also random interesting stuff like fisking bad psych papers and discussing the implications of Le Guin's fictional group marriage system.

  • [personal profile] silveradept is fantastic at exploring interesting ideas in a lot of detail and depth. They're doing writing advice for December Days, but I also strongly recommend their linkspams, and essays on other topics. I am getting a lot out of this post about Advent, for example.
  • liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
    The last bit of chanukah was generally much better than the first half!

    weekend doings ) Today I'm working on a major project report with a short deadline, so obviously I'm procrastinating by updating DW. But writing is happening even if slowly.
    liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
    I'll probably get round to making a post noodling about different social media platforms and gathering links about the Tumblr purge and so on. But lots of people have interesting views about that. For now, something to make my journal interesting to all my potential new readers where I have a specific contribution to make:

    Who has been following this real-life horror story where a scientist claims to have gene edited human babies? It's absolutely all over the technical press but I haven't seen much lay discussion. If any of this story is true, it's a massive first with extremely far ranging implications. Let me break this down: He Jiankui is claiming that he has edited the genes of human embryos and that twin girls were born a couple of weeks ago with their genes deliberately altered. That means every cell in their bodies will express the edited sequence. If they go on to have children of their own, their offspring and all future generations of their descendants will have this alteration. (The account is slightly confusing because the romanization of the scientist's name, He, is identical to the male singular pronoun. Sorry about that.)

    If it's real. If it's real it's as big as human cloning, and it's also a complete ethical disaster with bad science at every stage.

    this is not the SF future we were hoping for )

    Please feel free to ask any questions. I haven't done CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing myself but I have a 20-year career of doing that sort of experiment but with worse tools, and I'm happy to explain this stuff at whatever level is most helpful.
    liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
    While there's lots going on on DW, let me quickly post a current doings update:

    Chanukah so far has been, shall we say, eventful. all the things )

    So yeah, I'm completely behind on comments and other social things, but I'm here, I'm over the nasty lurgy, and I'm looking forward to the second weekend of the festival.
    liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
    [Continued from Part I, since several people found my previous post interesting]

    So having established the idea of midrash, I gave some examples. Most of what follows is referring to this source sheet. shiur summary )

    So yes, that was fun. It's not at all the standard way that people do Jewish text in interfaith settings, but I think it worked really well, by connecting the whistlestop tour of midrash to the Bible we'd just been reading.

    As an aside, [personal profile] andrewducker linked to Jo Walton's review of the Bible as if it were a generic work of fiction rather than a holy text, which is very clever; Walton is a brilliant reviewer. Happening to see that when I was preparing the Jewish texts session, I sort of wanted to jump in to the discussion and point out a couple of bits where she's speculating about how Jews read the Bible and missing key pieces of the picture. Like Why didn't they start a religion where there are necessarily four contradictory versions of everything? Why wasn't that a standard of truth? That would have been really neat. Well, that's exactly what Judaism is, we have explicit Talmudic authority to read everything with four different layers of interpretations, and it's meritorious to find 49 different explanations for every scrap of text. But particularly, when she wonders: The discussions on what to put in, what was canonical for the Jewish bible must have been epic. I only know about the Christian arguments, and they pretty much took these as accepted. I expect it's too early for there to be good records the way there are for Church councils. But I expect there was a lot of debate on this one. And I just happened to be working on Yadayim right then, the Jewish discussions on what is canonical totally are available, and yes we did argue about Ecclesiastes. She just assumes it's all lost in the mists of time!
    liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
    My Bible group have been reading Song of Songs this term. It's run mostly as an academic-style reading group, we look at the text, and sometimes the chaplain brings some scholarly commentary, mostly from Cheryl Exum, and we discuss what we think about it. We got to the end of the book (it's only eight quite short chapters) and I suggested we could use the last session to read SoS as a Jewish text, if the group were keen, which they were.

    So today I taught a bunch of midrashic material related to Song of Songs, to a group of people who don't have a very clear idea what midrash is, and haven't heard of the Talmud. I had a lot of fun preparing the quasi-shiur, and I think it went pretty well. So I'll put it up here in case anyone is interested.

    reading Song of Songs Jewishly )

    Right, it's bedtime so I'll break there. The rest of the session we discussed some examples of midrashic texts on Song of Songs. I'm generally quite proud of how well it worked, especially for a group with no prior knowledge at all of Jewish text study.
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    As a unicorn chaser for a post about depressing stuff.

    Having seen a couple of films that were more scary and violent than we were hoping for, [personal profile] jack and I picked one we were pretty sure wouldn't confront us with that sort of thing: last year's Pixar offering, Coco.

    review )

    Also my OSOs' children were excited to see the new Fantastic Beasts film, and I said I wasn't that keen on it and hadn't seen FB1 anyway. So [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait arranged for me to watch the DVD with them. I liked Fantastic beasts and where to find them much more than I was expecting to. Partly cos I watched it cuddled up on the sofa with the children who are massive HP fans, but partly because is really very sweet.

    review )
    liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
    As far as I can work out, International Men's Day started as a sarcastic joke because lots of people were whining about how it's not fair that there's an international day for women but not men. This year I was heartened to see a lot of sincere pro-men stuff on social media, including some corporate PR about inspirational male role-models. Admittedly they were inspirational because they do what the large majority of women in the workforce do: succeed in their jobs while taking an active parenting role, but still.

    I didn't get round to posting this on the day, but I saw several conversations talking about gendered violence. TW: sexual assault )

    I don't really have a conclusion here. I don't want to waste energy looking for ways to be sympathetic to people who use their privilege to hurt others. But I do want a world free of sexual assault for people of all genders, and I don't know how important this stuff is, or if it's even real rather than me piecing stuff together from glimpses of a gendered experience I don't understand.


    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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