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I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry

…when I read this comment by Ozzie on Hirhurim:

Once went to a housing fair in Israel. Went to a Chareidi booth and I was not wearing a hat or jacket, my wife was in a tichel and denim skirt. We were told immediately that the development was only for chareidim. I pointed out to him that I has studied in Chareidi Yeshivas for 7 years followed by a Chareidi Kollel for 4 years and was teaching at a Chareidi institution. I then went to a Religious Zionist booth. They saw my black velvet yarmulka and told me that the development was only for Dati Leumi. I pointed out that I had served (and was still in Miluim) in the IDF and my wife was in Hebrew University. Neither booth was moved by my “qualifications” but made their “psak” based on the absence of hat or the presence of black. In the immortal words of Martin Luther King (almost) I would say “I dream of a time when my six little children will not be judged by the color of their yarmulka but by the content of their character”.

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How to Hold a Lag Ba‘omer Bonfire

…or, “More things that Israelis do and nobody can explain the reasons for”

  1. Drive to a parking lot about 500 meters from your house. It will be full to overflowing, but you can always double park in the access road.
  2. Set up your bonfire 10 yards down-wind from somebody else’s. At intervals during the evening, go and complain to them that sparks from their bonfire are getting blown at you.
  3. Assuming you have about 25 people at your bonfire, prepare 100 baked potatos wrapped in tin foil. Put them on the edge of the bonfire where they won’t get cooked or deep inside where you will never be able to find them. If you’re lucky, about 10 will get eaten. Leave the other 90 in the ashes, still wrapped in tin foil.
  4. If people are still hungry after eating some scraps of scorched potato peel, impale marshmallows on spits and burn them to a crisp in the flames.
  5. Don’t bring any water to put out the fire. Either just go home and leave it burning, or the rest of this sentence has been censored. This is known as “כיבוי סופי” or “final extinguishing”, though I never understood what other kind there is.

    Update: Thanks to Danny’s comment, I now realize that I have been mishearing this phrase for years. It’s actually כיבוי צופים, “Scouts’ extinguishing”. מכל מלמדי השכלתי!‏

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Mazal Tovs in the blogosphere

It must be something in the air: the dust had hardly settled from everyone wishing Naomi Chana Mazal Tov on her engagement to D, and now Noa is engaged to B.

I hope they’ll all be very happy.

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Bar Mitzvah invitations II

In response to popular demand (well, one comment from Talmida), I’ve uploaded larger, non-animated images of the front, inside and back of the invitations.

The graphics are all taken from “carpet pages” from 14th century illuminated Biblical manuscripts. The quotation on the inside is from the Babylonian Talmud, Hhullin 89a:

Rabbi Meir said, “Why is Tekhelet different from all other colours? Because Tekhelet is like the sea, and the sea is like the sky, and the sky is like sapphire, and sapphire is like [God’s] Glorious Throne.”

More will be heard of this theme in my דבר תורה at the Bar Mitzvah.

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Bar Mitzvah invitations

No reason why I shouldn’t blow my own trumpet occasionally.

Here is the invitation we designed for Aviad’s Bar Mitzvah, using motifs from illuminated manuscripts, and I think it came out very well:

The invitation

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Water from the wells of salvation

I wasn’t going to blog about the US election, but this was just too interesting to pass by.

First of all, correlating county-by-county election returns with geographical data from the Tiger database is just so superbly geeky. Secondly, it struck me that there’s a very strong correlation between voting Democrat and living near large bodies of water. Look how the blue clusters along the Pacific coast and round the Great Lakes. Even in the Midwest, which is solidly red in a state-by-state map, the nearer a county is to the Mississippi the bluer it gets.

The Gulf of Mexico looks like an exception to the rule — if you look at Texas, the Rio Grande side has far more Democrats than the Gulf side, and the Atlantic coast of Florida is bluish where the Gulf coast is reddish (Note to self: you already used the “You don’t look bluish” line in a blog title. Don’t repeat yourself, especially since you stole it from Yellow Submarine in the first place). New Mexico is an exception in the other direction, and so are parts of South Dakota (or is that the line of the Missouri?)

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Quid “ille” significat

Thanks to Talmida for the pointer to Speculative Grammarian, which I think is the best online linguistics magazine ever. My favourite article so far: “The Original Language of Winnie-the-Pooh.

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Google takes a stand on gender politics

Google offers 'Patriarchal society' as correction for 'Matriarchal society'

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How many deaths will it take?

Every terrorist attack brings its own horrid variations on the same old tragedy.

On the news tonight we heard someone describe how he had been sitting next to the suicide bomber for part of the bus journey until he had given up his seat to a woman and moved to the back of the bus. With his voice shaking, he described how he had seen the same woman lying dead in the bus, and how hard it was to come to terms with the fact that if he hadn’t given her his seat she wouldn’t have been sitting right next to the explosion.

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Some like it hot

Update: some more details of the preparation added.

We aren’t an all-the-year-round Hamin eating family, but the period during the summer when we don’t eat Hamin (otherwise known as cholent) gets shorter every year, and this year it seems to be over already.

Like everybody else, I, and I alone, know the One True Way to prepare Hamin, and it’s like this:

  • 500g shoulder meat cut into chunks.
  • About a cup full of wheat grains.
  • 4-8 potatoes, depending on size, peeled and cut into largish pieces.
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, ditto.
  • 1 or 2 swedes, ditto (I think that’s the English for לפת).Update: it seems it’s a turnip, see comments
  • 1 head of garlic, whole but with the outer skin removed.
  • 1 hot green pepper, either whole or sliced.
  • 1 egg per person (raw, in the shell), and a few more in case of unexpected guests.
  • 1 kishke.

Fry the meat briefly to seal it (there is probably a technical term for this which I don’t know). It should have enough fat that you don’t need any added oil. Take off the heat and add some combination of salt, pepper, cummin, cinnamon, hot chilli powder, cloves, cardamons, ginger, coriander, paprika, turmeric or whatever else you feel like. Mix well. Add everything else. Cover with water. Bring to the boil and put on a hotplate until tomorrow. Serve with arak or single malt Scotch.

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Overheard in the street

Teen girl to teen boy: “I can’t stay later than 12: my parents told me to be home by 10.”

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Transit of Venus

A few pictures here.

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Unusability

Searching for tickets on Orbitz I get this error message:

“Flexible date” searching is available for destinations in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Please enter a new destination or change to “dates not flexible” search.

Firstly, why the hell didn’t they say that on the previous screen? Secondly, do they really think that I might say “Oh, there’s no flexible search option for flights to London? I’ll just have to go to Chicago instead.”

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Anatomy lessons urgently required.

Since Daniel frustrated me yet again by writing a blog entry in a strange Gallic language, and since my knowledge of the aforementioned Gallic language is good enough to read Asterix and Tintin, and good enough to see that the aforementioned blog entry was probably interesting to me; but nevertheless bad enough that I didn’t really know what it was saying, and bad enough that I make embarassing errors like offering to baiser respectable women on IRC goodnight, I decided to try Babelfish again and see how much it has improved since the last time I used it, rather than ploughing through the text with the dictionary. Also, there is something about Glazou’s tone which makes me suspect he is using words and idioms that I won’t find in the dictionary anyway.

Not that this last point works in favour of using Babelfish. Its dictionary seems to be even smaller than mine, and its grasp of idiom is so minimal that it makes the impression that it isn’t even trying. I don’t know what calottes chantantes are, for example, but I don’t somehow think that “singing caps” is the right English equivalent.

But the funniest thing in the translation was an idiom that Babelfish knew an English equivalent for. Ladies and gentleman, the English for vieux cons is “schmucks”.

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Internationalized site of the day

And the winner is: The Weather Underground. Try playing with your Accept-Language header and reloading.

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How do you say “Simon” in Japanese?

While debugging some issues with Japanese IMEs today, I experimented with entering my own name to see what would happen. The normal way to write it in Japanese would be in Katakana, シモン, but I tried converting it into Kanji to see how it came out. The result was:

諮問

I asked a coworker what this meant, and he told me, “a request for information from one’s peers”. Isn’t that cool?

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A terrorist by any other name

Syrian President Bashir Assad, rejecting criticism of Syria allowing Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to operate offices in Syria: “Of course we don’t have, in Syria, organisations supporting terrorism. We have press officers.”

A recent press release from the Jihad: four killed and three wounded during their Sabbath evening meal.

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All you need is credit

I have often thought it ironical that Paul McCartney and I happen to share our birthday. Everyone in the world is either a Lennonite or a McCartneyite, and I am a fanatical Lennonite. Recently Paul has sunk to new depths by crediting Lennon-McCartney songs to “Paul McCartney and John Lennon”. Somehow this reminds me of the story of the two Buddhist monks who are walking through the jungle when they encounter a young woman stranded on the banks of a river. The older monk picks her up, carries her across the river, and keeps on walking. After a few hours, the younger monk breaks the traditional silence and bursts out, “How could you do that? We’re not even allowed to look at women, and you picked that woman up and carried her across the river?!” “I put her down on the other side,” replied the older one. “I see you’re still carrying her.”

Paul, poor pitiful loser, is still carrying his resentment at John for being better than he could ever dream of being, some 40 years after they made the agreement which Paul has now broken.

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Remove the what?

Heh. Daniel is funny. For the record, you can get Chinese food in the Middle East, though you might have trouble ordering sweet and sour pork. I own a recipe book of “kosher Chinese cooking”, in which all the pork recipes have been changed to beef. It’s a rather sloppy job: the typeface is visibly different, and there are a few places which they missed, so you get things like:

Heat the oil and deep-fry the beef until golden brown. Remove the pork and drain on a paper towel.

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It bugs me

It’s interesting to read that Microsoft has hit upon the idea of “adding an option for customers to go to a Website where they can learn more about and even fix the errors they report.” Perhaps we should sell them a license for Bugzilla.

In the same article, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is quoted as saying, “About 20 per cent of the bugs cause 80 per cent of all errors, and &ndash this is stunning to me – one per cent of bugs cause half of all errors.” Personally I find that self-evident rather than stunning, but what do I know?

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