dorchadas: (Not he who tells it)
Today was Yom Kippur, so I spent most of it not on the internet.

I didn’t get tickets to our synagogue--we’re not members since something happened with our payments that somehow never got straightened out--but that’s been our routine for a couple years now. Last night we watched Kol Nidre streamed by Nashuva. It's extremely Californian, with the rabbi going barefoot and, at one point, Spanish guitar, but I like it a lot. And it's free.

Today, I read the book of Jonah, a list of people's regrets they seek to atone for, went for a solitary walk in a nearby park, and said some of the prayers that don't require a minyan. Maybe next year I'll get tickets, or try to go to Mishkan's services, but I feel like it was a fulfilling holy day.

Now, I'm sitting with a pay data (from my birthday drinks) in one hand and watching let's plays with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. It's been a thoughtful day.
dorchadas: (Default)
Happy 5778!

Rosh Hashannah 2017


Tonight [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I are going to walk over to the lake for tashlich after work, and then we're going to eat food from a Jewish deli that [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega just discovered.

Just put in an order for two Sister-in-Law sandos and some latkes with apple sauce. A sweet year indeed.
dorchadas: (Not he who tells it)
Why do bad things happen to good people? What purpose does suffering serve? Is there some greater end, some trial through which G-d is putting us with the ultimate goal of tempering us, like steel hammered out on the forge? Or is it just a part of life that we have to learn to deal with, and maintain our own composure and avoid temptation while doing so? Does G-d understand the compromises that we have to make to exist in the imperfect world, or does He gaze sternly upon us and demand better?

And if you think there's a lot of questions in the preceeding paragraph, you should see some of the dialogue in this game.

The Shivah is the first commercial game by Dave Gilbert, of Wadjet Eye fame, though I wouldn't have guessed that just from playing it. That's partially because this is the "Kosher Edition," with voice acting and revamped graphics, but also because it's polished and very well designed without a lot of the pitfalls that adventure games usually fall into. I felt more like an investigator during the Shivah than I ever did during Gabriel Knight, and without any of the latter game's sleaziness. The Shivah is grounded, which is its greatest strength.

The Shivah detective rabbi
Adventure games.

Read more... )

It can happen here

2017-Aug-16, Wednesday 09:05
dorchadas: (Warcraft Face your Nightmares)
Posting today instead of tomorrow because there's no farmer's market dinner this week. Now that the school term is starting at [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's workplace, her summer break is over and she can't consistently make time to gather ingredients for dinner anymore. There may be sporadic farmer's market dinners before the market closes in October--those meals are really good--but it's no longer a routine thing.

Charlottesville affected me more than I thought it would. Some of it was reading accounts like this one from a local synagogue, about how the police refused to provide protection and they had to hire private security to protect from roving bands of Nazis. Or this account of weapons caches, similar to what happened in Rwanda, indicating that the Nazis were using Charlottesville as a training exercise for a para-military operation somewhere else. And then the President of the United Sates of America revealed that he's a Nazi sympathizer at a press conference, so the Nazis' goals were mostly achieved. Great. 2017. emoji head in hands

It reminds me of an old statement I read by a rabbi from centuries ago that history was divided into periods of persecution and periods of leniency. A lot of young Jews seemed to think that the cycle had been broken, at least in America, and that the concerns of their elders were overblown. I suspect they don't think that anymore.

At least the weather's nice. I'm not sure we've had a day over 30°C for the entire month of August and the weather report shows that it won't get higher than that for the next upcoming week either. Since my preferred clothing style includes pants at all times, I appreciate the deference the atmosphere is showing me.

I started playing Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (well, ゼルダの伝説:4つの剣+) and I'm filled with immense nostalgia for A Link to the Past. Four Swords Adventures reuses a lot of the sprites and music from ALttP, but also has a lot of toonification from Wind Waker. The bomb explosions are cel-shaded, a lot of the enemies are round and blobby, and the water effects are much more liquid-based than pixelized. The gameplay is all hack and slash, but I'm finding it surprisingly fun so far. We'll see if that's still true after I get past the second area.

תשעה באב

2017-Aug-01, Tuesday 14:30
dorchadas: (Blue Rose)
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst thereof
We hanged up our harps.
For there they that led us captive asked of us words of song,
And our tormentors asked of us mirth:
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’
How shall we sing the LORD’S song
In a foreign land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I remember thee not;
If I set not Jerusalem
Above my chiefest joy.
-Psalm 137:1-6
Today is Tisha b'Av, the commemoration of the destruction of both Temples and several other disasters which have befallen the Children of Israel over the millennia, as well as many disasters which almost certainly didn't happen on the Ninth of Av but which get folded into it because it's poetically satisfying. Traditionally, we do not eat or drink from sundown to sundown, do not shave or get haircuts, do not conduct business, do not shower or wash, do not wear leather shoes, and avoid activities that are joyous or hopeful like studying Torah or saying hello.

I'm posting this from work, so I'm only doing middling on following halakhah there. I did fast for much of the day, but I found a group of rabbinic opinions that I really like that suggest fasting until halakhic noon (chatzot, the exact midpoint between sunrise and sunset), and then breaking the fast, thus both mourning the Temples and the loss of their centrality in Jewish life while celebrating the rabbinic sages and the diversity and vivacity of the diaspora. This is a little unusual, as fasts are generally sunrise to sundown, or sundown to sundown for Tisha b'Av and Yom Kippur, but there is some precedent--some people fast on Erev Rosh Hashannah but only until halakhic noon.

Tonight, I'll come home from work and read Eicha together with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. But for now, I have to keep working.
dorchadas: (Chicago)
So recently, Chicago Dyke March had an incident where they threw out three Jewish women marching with rainbow flags that had Magen David on them. The march organizers claimed that they made people feel unsafe and that the women had been asked to leave for expressing Zionist opinions at an explicitly pro-Palestinian march, but the women say they were approached and confronted about their flags. And since the march organizers put up a fundraiser for a self-care retreat where they used the phrase "from the river to the sea," leapt immediately to a Nazi analogy when explaining their decision:
"But, we need to be in control of our space just like you wouldn't accept Nazis in your synagogue."

-Alexis Martinez
and then used the phrase "Zios" when celebrating how they got the journalist who covered the initial incident demoted--they claim they didn't know the term or its usage, but I believe that as much as I'd believe someone who claimed they just happened to shorten the word "Hispanic" and why are people so angry--I believe the three Jewish women who were exiled.

And just recently, the Chicago Slut Walk said they stand with the Dyke March and also plan to ban "Zionist displays." What are those?

Is it any Jew who is identifiably Jewish? Is it merely the Magen David, a symbol of the Jewish people for centuries which long predates the modern nation of Israel? The Slutwalk claims that they're not the same thing, but I do not trust them to make that distinction. Slutwalk seems to uncritically believe the Dyke March's version of events, where the marchers were changing chants and being openly "Zionist," whatever they think that means. Of course, the Dyke March was happy to leave up comments about how Zionism is an insidious cancer (sound familiar?) and one of the women they banned was an Iranian Jew, and they also describe Zionism as a "White supremacist ideology."

Tell that to a Nazi.

There's a good article on the New York Times about the incident titled I’m Glad the Dyke March Banned Jewish Stars that talks about how intersectionality so often fails to consider Jews:
One of the women who was asked to leave the Dyke March, Eleanor Shoshany Anderson, couldn’t understand why she was kicked out of an event that billed itself as intersectional. “The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional,” she said. “I don’t know why my identity is excluded from that. I felt that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here.”

She isn’t. Because though intersectionality cloaks itself in the garb of humanism, it takes a Manichaean view of life in which there can only be oppressors and oppressed. To be a Jewish dyke, let alone one who deigns to support Israel, is a categorical impossibility, oppressor and oppressed in the same person.

That’s why the march organizers and their sympathizers are now trying to smear Ms. Grauer as some sort of right-wing provocateur. Their evidence: She works at an organization called A Wider Bridge, which connects the L.G.B.T.Q. Jewish community in America with the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Israel. The organizers are also making the spurious claim that the Jewish star is necessarily a symbol of Zionist oppression — a breathtaking claim to anyone who has ever seen a picture of a Jew forced to wear a yellow one under the Nazis.
I saw claims that A Wider Bridge has an anti-LGBTQ stance, which is just blatant lying. But it serves the struggle, so I guess it's okay.

This is why I give money and don't directly participate in activism. Israel is a complicated issue, reducing it to indigenous Palestinian vs white settler colonialist Israelis is 1) insultingly stupid and 2) blatantly applying American political dynamics to the rest of the world, and I sure as hell don't want some leftist crusader subjecting me to an inquisition about Israel while they decide if I'm a good Jew or a bad Jew. I don't trust them to be able to understand my answers, and I don't trust Slutwalk to be able to able to distinguish between "Zionist" and "non-Zionist" uses of the Magen David. The Slutwalk already has the attitude that most pointing out antisemitism is spurious, so of course they're going to lean toward antisemitism. If you think a lot of it is fake--that's there's some kind of, say, world-wide conspiracy--in an environment where antisemitic incidents almost doubled in early 2017, then in practice, you're not going to end up much different from those people who immediately assume any black person shot by the police must have deserved it.

Shabbat Shalom.
dorchadas: (Not he who tells it)
I spent a big chunk of yesterday dealing with the ripples from the Jewish Pride flag ban incident, including one guy who, if he wasn't actually a Nazi, was happy to play one on the internet for the lels. After all that, coming home to a delicious local dinner was just what I needed.

Tasty food )

I originally asked [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd if we could have sauteed mushrooms on the side before she told me that they were already included in the meal. Maitake is about twice as expensive in America as it was in Japan, which is a problem when we developed a huge taste for it in Japan put it on everything (along with enoki, another mushroom that's too expensive for daily use here). Zucchini noodles is our go-to for "pasta" dishes now that we don't eat much pasta anymore. Tastes amazing with pesto and a good way to get more vegetables.

I'm almost done with Adventures of Lolo, and since [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has to attend a school function tonight, I'll almost certainly finish it and have a review up later tonight (Edit: here). While I love my dozens-of-hours JRPGs, there's something to be said for a game that can be finished in three hours. My lifespan is finite but World of Warcraft is eternal, which is part of the reason I no longer play it. Oh dear

Early May update

2017-May-10, Wednesday 09:37
dorchadas: (Link and Zelda sitting together)
So what am I doing in these, the last days of the American republic?

This Friday is another of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's and my Shabbat dinners. After the turning of the year, we decided that once a month we'd invite a handful of people over, eat dinner, and then discuss whatever that week's parshah is. This week it's Emor, Leviticus 21:1-24:23. We've tended to get really good discussion out of even the more "the lamps shall be made of beaten gold" parashot, and Emor has a lot of material in it. Some of it especially discussion-worthy, like the ban on people with disfiguring injuries from giving offerings to G-d. I don't find this to be as jarring as some people, because I don't have a universalist concept of G-d, but there's good commentary on it out there I've found that I'll try to bring up during he discussion.

I just went and found a bunch of Legend of Zelda icons and added them. Since I'm only using half my icon space, and since I'm on a quest to play through every Legend of Zelda game, I might as well. And maybe I need a Legend of Zelda tag, too... Hmm.

(done)

Speaking of which, I ordered a copy of the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time manga in Japanese! I've learned that the best way to get me to actually study is to make it an accompaniment to something I already want do--hence playing all these video games in Japanese--and when I idly posted about whether I should read it, [facebook.com profile] kelley.christensen1 mentioned that she had fond memories of reading it as a teenager. That's enough of a recommendation for something I already wanted to do anyway, and now it's in the to-read pile.

We bought tickets for [twitter.com profile] faylynne's wedding next month. Due to waiting so long because we needed to figure out [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's summer program schedule, they were more expensive than I was hoping. I was expecting $750 and it was closer to $900. Fortunately, my sister lives in Portland and has offered to put us up, so we don't need to also pay for a hotel. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd promised to cook for her to pay for our keep. Delicious!

We didn't do much of anything last weekend, or at least I didn't, and I'm looking forward to more of the same next weekend. Majora's Mask is longer than I thought, especially since I'm trying to get all the masks, so while I thought I would be finished already I won't be done until tomorrow at the absolute earliest. Probably more like Saturday.

I hope everyone else's weeks are going well!

Edit: It turns out that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has strep! The doctor said she's cleared for Friday, though, so she'll stay home from work tomorrow and then Shabbat dinner will continue as scheduled.

Chametzathon

2017-Apr-19, Wednesday 08:56
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Last night after Japanese class, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I stopped by the local watering hole for dinner, since we haven't spent much of our restaurant budget for this month and we both really wanted hamburgers. It's funny--I'll go weeks without eating any bread at all because I don't want any, and all it takes is one holiday saying I can't eat bread to make me want to dig into a nice sourdough with loads of butter.

I got a steak sandwich, the same food I got the first time I ever went there years ago. That time I made the mistake of ordering it rare, because it's steak, right? That's what you do. Well...sure, if you're eating it with a knife and fork. With a steak sandwich it meant I tore the bread to pieces trying to rip off chunks of steak with my teeth, and this time I learned and ordered it medium.


Though looking at it now, it makes me want a cheesesteak...

During Japanese class, I talked a bit with Aya-sensei about Pesach foods and she was pretty dismissive of matzah for not tasting like anything. And mostly she's right, though [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did manage to find a brand that was olive-oil-and-herb flavored that was pretty good on its own. But just yesterday, I learned that cracker matzah is an invention of the modern age due to transportation and storage concerns, and that previous matzah was all soft like chapatis or tortillas! The source I read is here, though there's also RealMatzah.com, which looks like an Angelfire page from the 90s but has plenty of rabbinical opinions on soft matzah.

Some googling found a bakery in New York that makes it and ships it overnight, but there's no products listed on the website so I'm not sure if it's still in business or not. Maybe we can try making it ourselves, now that Pesach is over and there's no halakhic concerns if we screw up the recipe.
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
Originally, I was just going to skip this week. Then I was going to use some candy that we had gotten in our Japanese candy shipment that didn't have any chametz in it, but did have mochi and strawberry and looked like it would be a pink explosion. And then, as we were walking by a display of Passover goods in Whole Foods, I saw these. Chocolate? Yes. Seasonably appropriate? Yes. Worth spending an entry on?

C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Chicago)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I just got back from a brunch at Elizabeth themed around Game of Thrones:


Brioche bread with salted butter. Right: "foie growl" and raspberry jam. Left: poached egg and asparagus with elderflowers.

It was really good! We went there back in October for another brunch, that time with friends and a drink pairing, but this time it was just the two of us. And the food was still very tasty, but other than the decor I'm not sure what was supposed to be Game of Thrones-themed?

There were house banners hung on the walls, fur covers on the seats, leather silverwear cases, and various Funkopop Game of Thrones characters around...but a lot of the food was the same as it was when we went a few months ago. That foie gras owl next to jam with bread was one of the courses, as was the stinging nettle pasta with cheese. And the yogurt starter, though a few months ago it had an olive reduction and this time it had candied ginger and strawberries.

I suspect part of it is because of our dietary restrictions. Elizabeth posts on their website that they can't accommodate dietary restrictions, but both times we went it wasn't a problem. We told them no pork or shellfish and they graciously complied, but I noticed that the table next to us, for their own version of the above dish, got dark rye bread with breakfast sausage. I bet their bread was fried in pork fat or something similar, so it's possible that the lack of Game of Thrones connection was due to our request.


Front: Lemon curd with bee pollen topping. Back: Whiskey-glazed donuts.

It was still delicious and I recommend it if you can get tickets. But Game of Thrones? I'm not seeing it. Cute shrug
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
"Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph."
-Exodus 1:8
How timely.
dorchadas: (Default)
As of an hour after sundown today, Yom Kippur ended for another year. Due to our local synagogue refusing to take our money for reasons we still haven't really been able to figure out, we didn't get tickets to services, so instead [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I watched a simulcasted Kol Nidre service put on by Nashuva last night. I took a few of my vacation days and took the rest of this week off, so I stayed home, and one of the things I did during Yom Kippur was read the book of Jonah, as is traditional.

As with most "why do you..." questions in Judaism, there are multiple answers as to why Jonah on Yom Kippur. The two I know are first that it shows that G-d is like the Terminator and will follow you to the ends of the earth such that there is no escaping his sight or knowledge, and second that it shows G-d's mercy because Ninevah was wicked but when Jonah delivered G-d's message, they sincerely repented and were spared, just as we hoped that sincerely repentance will ensure we are written into the Book of Life. I'm sure there are multi-page dissertations on the exact meaning of the withering tree at the end even though G-d spells out what he was trying to demonstrate exactly, but those I don't know.

One other thing I did, once the sun set, was play a game:


Spoiler: Not that great.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
Time to work through our backlog!

That's not the only reason we picked this chocolate, though. Tonight at sundown marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the Year. We had a party last night with a ton of food prepared by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, and among the choices she made for ingredients were pomegranate seeds. There's a lot of reasons for this, any or all of which might be true. One story is that pomegranates have 613 seeds, matching the 613 mitzvot, though that makes me wonder who counted all of those seeds to figure that out. Another story is that we're hoping that our fortunes in the new year will be as bountiful as the seeds of the pomegranate. Yet another is just that Israel was praised for its pomegranates in the Bible so it's just an association. You may choose one that fits your desire to eat pomegranate seeds.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Kirby Walk)
I don't really like being the center of attention at an event. I don't even like being the soft center, which is why I haven't had a party for myself in years--not since high school, I think. I thought about having a birthday party this year, but eventually decided against it. Maybe next year when I turn 35, since that's more of a milestone.

Which isn't to say that I'm one of those people who hates birthdays. I celebrate every year, just quietly, and this year was no different on that score. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd met me on Friday after work and we walked the two blocks from my office to Benny's Chop House for the first of two birthday dinners. It wasn't my birthday, but August 19th (until sundown) was Tu b'Av, an ancient festival that died with the Second Temple and was forgotten until the Israelis revived it as a kind of Jewish Valentine's Day. I only know about it because of the Jewish holidays calendar addon I have in my phone calendar, but it's as good a reason for a fancy dinner as any, even if half of Benny's menu is an abomination before Hashem.

The parts that are good are really good, though:


Filet mignon with a red wine reduction and black truffle on top.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me that my whole face changed when I took a bite. It was probably the best steak I've ever had in my life.

The next day, I woke up to a thunderstorm just like I had on Friday, which is probably the best weather I could have wanted on my birthday. My parents came into down and met my sister, who was already here meeting up with high school friends before her flight to Costa Rica today, and we went out to breakfast at a French-Vietnamese restaurant nearby. I got duck curry, because curry for breakfast sounds amazing to me at all times, and then we went back to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my apartment until they all left to avoid the traffic. Then we mostly stayed at home until dinner time, when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd made me even more duck:


Crispy duck with mango-cilantro salsa, roasted cauliflower, and asparagus.

Not visible there is the flourless chocolate cake she also made, this time with real vanilla extract. It's in the recipe, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd usually left it out because we don't use vanilla for that much and it would just sit around otherwise. But my parents gave me a bottle of it for my birthday along with a few other spices, so why not use it? And I think I could taste the difference, too.  photo getin.001.gif

I was feeling a bit off for most of my birthday, and I think it's because while I wanted to have a quiet weekend I still ended up with a lot of stuff to do--yesterday I woke up at 8:30 and it still seemed like it was dinnertime before I had even blinked. Today has gone a bit slower, though I still haven't gotten as much time as I'd liked. But we never have enough, do we?  photo darksouls.001.gif

I got to read more The Lord of the Rings to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd today and have a quiet breakfast inside with her, and even though it's taking place today instead of yesterday, it's one of the best birthday presents I could have asked for. I don't mind getting older as long as those are the opportunities that it will bring.
dorchadas: (Office Space)
Our Seder went really well! Everyone had a good time, and even now, almost a week later, we're still eating leftovers from it. It's also the longest Seder we've ever had--it started around 5:30 with the traditional (for our household) watching of Prince of Egypt and people left just before midnight. I don't think we got to dinner until 10:00, what with all the discussion and stories being shared in between portions from the Haggadah, I loved it.

Anyway, this week I was listening to the Talking in Shul podcast and they had a section on the Shefokh hamatkha, part of the Haggadah that comes near the end. It reads:
Pour out Your wrath upon those who do not know You and upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Your Name. For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitations. Pour out Your fury upon them; let the fierceness of Your anger overtake them. Pursue them in indignation and eradicate them from under Your heavens.
The last part of the podcast was devoted to the question of what place does this have in the Seder?

Some people deal with it by taking it out--our Haggadah actually doesn't have Shefokh hamatkha in it at all--and some of them by replacing it with another section. There's a forgery that supposedly dates from 1521 that starts "pour out your love"--you can see the full quote here, though they pass it off as genuine--as one widely-cited replacement.

I'm kind of wondering if we should add it in, though. The Seder is a welcoming experience, or at least it's supposed to be. Part of the Seder is the announcement "All who are hungry, come and eat" (though Talking in Shul does point out that you say this after everyone has already sat down and the door is closed!) and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I have always invited a lot of gentile friends to our Seders. But it's also supposed to commemorate the experience of our ancestors in Egypt, what with the maror and the salt water that represent the bitterness and pain of slavery.

But there's really no symbol of anger. In my Philosophy of Politics class at Penn, I read bits of Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, and while I don't remember any specific quotes, I remember the point that anger is important to oppressed peoples and that it's not a character flaw; often it can be a source of strength in the face of hardship. Expecting the oppressed to remain perfectly calm is another way of exerting authority over them. The Haggadah encourages its participants to imagine that they themselves had been enslaved and now are free, and to my mind, part of that is the anger that slaves would feel but be forbidden to display.

And, while we're mostly isolated from it here in America, there is the rising tide of anti-semitism elsewhere in the world to consider too. From the end of Yemen's 2500-year-old Jewish community in the face of threats to convert to Islam or leave to the problems with Labour in Britain, I imagine there are plenty of people out there who wish for G-d to pour out a little more of his wrath than usual.

This year, in addition to the wine cup of Eliyahu and the water cup of Miriam, we added a coffee cup of Zipporah, who was infamously mocked by Aharon and Miriam for her skin color, as a tribute to those who do not feel comfortable in Jewish spaces because of their skin color, or family background, or childhood experiences. Maybe next year, we should add back in the Shefokh hamatkha.
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
I was going to save this for later, after I had gotten a few more entries down, but the cycle of the year threw off my efforts. This week I bring you a special Passover edition, since while the chocolate I was going to use doesn't have flour, it does have yeast extract, and the other chocolates are artisanal small-batch fair trade chocolate without listed ingredients. In furtherance of the fence around the Torah, I figured this would be a good alternative. Plus it gives me a week to find something for next weekend, and if I can’t, I’ll skip a week and come back with a surprise the week after. Trust me, it’ll be worth the extra time.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Nyarlathotep)
I realized I haven't talked about Japanese tutoring in a while, so here's an update!

I had a rather long period in September when a variety of things, like my tutor being unexpectedly out of town, stomach trouble, and Yom Kippur kept me from meeting for a month, but since then I've gotten back into the groove. I mentioned to Aya-sensei in the first class that I could study up on grammar and vocab on my own time, and what I really needed was someone to actually practice all those words and bits I use, so class is mostly just us talking about whatever comes to mind. She's been giving me articles from NHK's Easy Japanese News section, and sometimes we stick to the topic, and sometimes we don't.

For example, last week's article was about a robot that supposedly can read people's moods and provide recommendations about restaurants and so on and we didn't say two words about it. Instead we ended up talking about Shabbat and what [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I do for it--ろうそくを点けて、ワインを飲んで、パンを食べて、祈ります--how long it takes, why Jews go out to Chinese food on Christmas, etc. And I actually really like that we get sent off on tangents so easily, because in a real conversation I'm not going to be able to refer to a script or prepared materials most of the time, I'm going to have to think on my feet, and talking about totally random topics definitely does that.

My stomach still ties up in knots on the way to class every week and I'd rather be hit by a meteor than go, but when I get there it's fine. I mean, that's pretty much the story of my mind, right? Everything is terrible until it happens and things turn out better than expected.
dorchadas: (Default)
I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs, a very endearing sight, I'm sure you'll agree. And even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged onto a half submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters, who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature's wonders, gentlemen. Mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that is when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.
Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals
As a pessimist and someone who's one step removed from dystheism, I have a bit of a hard time with Yom Kippur. Fortunately, it is written
For transgressions against G-d, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.
so despite my opening quote, this is going to be about the latter.

At the beginning of the month, I wrote about being an introvert and how that affects my interest in social events. And that post is true--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd can tell you that even doing things that I love, among people whom I love, if I don't have enough social battery I'll end up like a rat in a cage, constantly looking for an exit. But you know, a nicely-appointed cage filled with wonderful people.

Perhaps I could have picked a better metaphor.

That's about half of it, though. The other half is anxiety. I've had huge problems with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I taught English in Japan for years, including a year spent teaching in a private school, and I never got used to it. Every single lesson was as nerve-wracking as the very first lesson I taught. And actually, just writing about it now and remembering it made my stomach twist up for a moment.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif It's part of the reason I have my current job, where I listen to podcasts all day, don't talk to anyone, and can relax.

So where am I going with this on the Day of Atonement? Well, on a whim, I checked out my Facebook memories from a year ago, and there on the page was one that seems pretty topical:
"Maybe I am alone because I am not good."
-Screen quote, Mountain
One of the effects of my anxiety is that I'm always worried that no one actually likes me. Maybe they're just too polite to tell me, or maybe they're resigned to my presence, or maybe they like [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and are willing to put up with me to hang out with her (this one is particularly insidious, since [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is so fantastic). But in effect, this is assuming the worst of everyone else. For any of that to be true, my friends would have to uniformly be the kind of people that become the villains in young adult books, simultaneously capable of sociopathic emotional masks and extreme cruelty in their black hearts. And that's really not a very flattering thing to believe about one's friends.

So, I ask your forgiveness for thinking the worst of you, even inadvertently. For letting the Hedgehog's Dilemma twist around my thoughts so that I keep you at arms' length, to the point where people assume that I'm anti-contact and ask before giving me a hug (which is not a bad course of action to take! But I love hugs). For withdrawing into myself. For spending so much time worrying that I avoid you at social events or don't go entirely. For not saying anything in any non-structured group larger than maybe two or three. For joking about how I hate people as a cover for the truth, which is that I'm nervous around them.

.תיעתענו ,תעינו ,פשענו ,ניאצנו ,טפלנו שקר ,זדנו ,דברנו דופי ,אשמנו

If you got this far, thank you for reading.
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I haven't posted anything other than curry night in a bit. That's partially because it's the same old, and partially because I hit a low spot for most of the last week and didn't have enough motivation to do much other than play Dark Souls and post quotes on Facebook. It definitely made me appreciate how helpful to my mental well-being it is that I can go literally days at my job without having to talk to anyone. But enough has happened in the last couple of weeks that I can do a list post, so here we go!

  • Dark Souls: I heard a lot about how great it was and thought "Oh come on, no modern game can be that amazing" like some kind of area man who doesn't own a TV. Well, fortunately I never mentioned it anywhere because I don't like the taste of crow, and Dark Souls really is that great. 25 hours in the last week-and-a-half and loving nearly every minute of it with a few hiccups (capra demon...  photo emot-commissar.gif). I'll have more on this in my inevitable review, but it reminds me of a lot of the great parts of Nethack mixed with probably the most satisfying third-person melee combat I've ever seen. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to play Skyrim with its nerf-weapon flailing again.

  • Money: [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my diet costs a lot, since it's fat-heavy and we mostly buy organic and local, but it came up much higher than I was expecting so far this month even with hosting a Seder. We're fortunate enough that we don't have to track every penny we spend, and also fortunate in that any budget crunch we have is because of my insistence that we put a third of our income into savings and investments, but it hit me harder than normal because I was hoping this month that we'd finally be able to get ahead and put more into savings above that one-third floor I set. It seems like every single time I clear away some expense something else crops up. Linked to that is:

  • Cosplay: I was really looking forward to actually cosplaying again at ACEN. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was going to do Creeper-tan ... and I was going to do Ender-kun, but I cancelled my plans because I know that now I'd only be able to think about the money we were spending and I wouldn't enjoy it at all. That's another reason for my doldrums lately. Maybe next year...

  • Spring Cleaning: We stuck to a reasonable cleaning schedule in our old apartment, but maybe because we thought of our time there as temporary, we never really did a full-on spring cleaning session. This year, prompted by Pesach coming on and the fact that both [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had a week off at the same time, we tore the whole apartment apart and cleaned everything. Two-and-a-half hours later, everything was sparkling, dust-free, and chametz-less (though we hadn't had any chametz on our house for weeks, so that's not saying that much.

  • Work: It's the end of the dull period, which usually lasts from November to March and leaves me knocking around with little to do. But conversely, the busy period isn't that stressful, because I don't have any deadlines or quotas. I'm basically just fed an effectively unending stream of data and have to sort as much of it as I can, and if some of it slips away, they'll send an update again later in the year. Low stress, podcasts all day, no one talks to me...I really do love my job.

  • Star Wars: I haven't watched the trailer.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif

Still not all the way back to normal, and the weather isn't helping. I know the sun cheers most people up, but my eyes don't do well in bright light and I associate the sun mostly with headaches, and fatigue if I'm in it too long. Give me cloudy fall skies any day.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
In which I'm kind of a fuddy-duddy.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went to services tonight after having not been for a while. We weren't sure anyone would be there, and indeed, the rabbi and the cantrix (chazanit, if you prefer) were both gone, so the music director led the service. And perhaps because of that, it was totally different than I was used to. It was described as a Boomer service, and a lot of the familiar prayers were left out in favor of songs like Hallelujah or Turn, Turn, Turn or If I Had a Hammer or In My Life. I was...not a fan.

Urgh. It's difficult to criticize this kind of thing without it being read as "[X] suqs 'cause u suq," but that's not what I mean. I'm pretty sure I was the odd one out, since everyone else looked like they were having a great time, but there's a comforting rhythm to tradition that I found completely absent tonight. Part of it might just be that I didn't grow up listening to the radio and so I barely knew any of the songs, but I think there's value in tradition. In knowing you're doing something the same as generations past. As a friend put it, tradition shouldn't be the reason to do something, but it can be a reason, and it's one I put some weight on. I'd much rather be singing the Amidah than You've Got A Friend.

I'm aware that a lot of honored traditions are not actually that old, but as with a lot of human activities, what "really happened" in the past doesn't actually matter. It doesn't really matter that one of the Children of Israel probably wouldn't recognize anything if they were put in a modern synagogue, or that all the evidence shows that the Exodus never happened and the Children of Israel split off from indigenous Canaanites. What matters is how people relate to what's happening now, and the lessons they carry forward from their interpretation of the past. Mythically true does not have to be literally true.

(There's actually a rabbinic story about that, where G-d shows Rabbi Akiva teaching his students to Moses and Moses has no idea what's going on. And then G-d yells at him for asking about it.)

I suppose I am one of those core grognards that make it impossible to change anything to match the times. Or I'm a vanguard against the homogenizing tide of modernity. Choose as appropriate.

Tisha b'Av

2014-Aug-05, Tuesday 17:58
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
So I was going to write a somewhat rambling blog post about how I'm not sure about mourning the destruction of the Temple when its rebuilding, even assuming the myriad difficulties involved in that were resolved amicably and to everyone's satisfaction, wouldn't impact my life in any way, not to mention the destruction going on now in Gaza makes it kind of hollow...

...but then I found this post that says pretty much what I was going to say already anyway, so I'll leave that link there and quote part of it:
During the Nine Days preceding Tisha B’Av, the 25-hour fast commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, we reflect on baseless hatred (sinat chinam). The Talmud teaches us that it was the baseless hatred among the people Israel that partially brought about the destruction of the Second Temple. (Along with, you know, high-level political drama with Rome.) We learn in Tractate Yoma:
“But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, [observance of] precepts, and the practice of charity? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause.”
...and so it is incumbent upon us to reflect on the baseless hatred in our own lives – and in the world today – as we fast to commemorate its manifold victims.

If you ask me, we in the Jewish community have a lot of reflecting to do: baseless hatred is eating our community alive as the war in Gaza continues.
There's quite a bit more there, and I think it's worth reading.
dorchadas: (Not the Tale)
Yesterday was Tzom Tammuz, the beginning of the Three Weeks that lead up to Tisha b'Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples (and if you believe all the stories, basically everything bad that ever happened to the Jewish people as a whole). Since it's a fast day, I woke up at 5 a.m. to eat before sunrise...and then I went to work, which was probably my first mistake. It's hard for a fast to serve the purpose of focusing the mind if I'm just doing what I do normally anyway and always distracting myself with doctors' names.

I don't usually find it that onerous, and on Ta'anit Esther I don't recall having any problems at all, but then again, sunrise and sunset were four hours closer then, so I woke up at the normal time and just ate dinner a little later. And on Yom Kippur I was fine, but I also spent almost that entire evening and day in services, which does a lot to focus the mind. On Tzom Tammuz, I came home and I was fine for a bit, but near the end I mostly lay on the floor for a bit and thought...which i guess counts as focusing my mind? If the goal of fasting is to clear the mind, well, it worked, but it didn't really allow for anything to come in to fill it. I stared into space for a bit, helped by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd being at a conference in Washington D.C., then I was hit with roleplaying inspiration, got up and wrote for a bit, and then I realized it was after sunset and went off and ate dinner.

One thing I have noticed as I’ve gotten older is that I no longer dismiss tradition out of hand nor think that all ritual is ludicrous. There are plenty of traditions that are awful and I’m sure I don’t need to illuminate them here, but I don’t really think that the modern nihilism that throws out everything from the past is actually a superior approach. You could ask me what a good approach for determining what tradition is valuable and what isn’t is, and I’d probably say “I have no idea,” but maybe if we took the age of a custom into account as merely one of a number of factors, instead of just jumping to a binary “Older is better”/“Long practice is meaningless” approach, it would be better? This isn’t something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, admittedly, but it is part of the reason I do a lot of stuff that people at our synagogue might not even consider.

But I remain with the question of why I did it. I mean, I could say that it's obligated, but so is keeping kosher and I don't do that (other than free range, sustainably grown, organic, blah blah food--what I've seen some people call "hippie kosher"). I could come at it from a rationalist explanation that willpower needs to be exercised in order to maintain its strength, and I did set out some wine and bread and a glass of water on the table as soon as I got home even though I didn't eat or drink for a few hours after until sunset. But that wasn't the reason I set out with when I decided to wake up at 5 a.m. so I could eat before sunrise. I'm not sure I had a reason I could communicate with others.

Do I need one? One of the great quotes from the Torah, at least in my opinion, is נעשה ונשמע (na'aseh v'nishma, "We will do and we will hear") from Exodus 24:7, which is usually interpreted to mean that understanding comes from action. There's also usually a hierarchy, where doing without understanding is placed on a higher level than understanding without doing. I'm not usually much of one for gnostic understanding, but I can see how observing the fasts is part of a process, and "why did I do it?" isn't as important as waiting and developing an answer for "why do I do it?"

Life is a process, after all, and the search for enlightenment is valuable even if enlightenment is never attained.

Wow. Such busy

2014-Apr-20, Sunday 21:14
dorchadas: (Gendowned)


I've read plenty of articles lately about how being busy isn't really that great, and how people will complain about they have too much to do as a humblebrag to show how important they are and how much people like them and want to associate with them, and while I am slightly worried that this will come off that way, anyone who's interacted with me will know that being busy and having lots of stuff going on are pretty much complete anathema to me. I value free time really highly, but this week, for the first time in a long time, I ended up with something to do every night this week.

I'll provide them in handy list form.

  • Monday: First Seder. This one ran long, and I was sitting next to someone who...shall we say, tested my patience. I almost pulled a kirby and flipped the table, but we eventually escaped and went home, and then I had to go straight to bed in order to get up for work in the morning. So that set a bad tone for the week already.

  • Tuesday: Second Seder. It was much more subdued than First Seder and didn't fray my nerves nearly as much, but--in a tone that continues through this list--it was another full night taken up by an event. Still, after this one we got home and I had half an hour to rest before I had to go to bed, so that was nice.

  • Wednesday: Dinner at Sunshine Cafe with a friend who's leaving Chicago at the beginning of next month. This was nice and relaxing, but took up most of the night since [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I walked to the restaurant and walked back, which took a while. The weather's getting better, at least.

  • Thursday: My ORE Fallout game I'm running for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and a friend. They looted a hospital west of Wrigleyville and found a bunch of unspoiled drugs and stimpaks, which they're planning to haul back and use for bargaining material. If they can get them back with no complications... >_> That took up the whole night.

  • Friday: [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had a friend over for dinner. Again, in isolation it was great, but after every night previously being taken up by something happening it added fuel to the fire.

  • Saturday: Third Seder. Not an official event, but this was when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, some other friends we know from her grad school, and I all had a seder together. At least I got some time to rest earlier in the day before we went over for the Seder, though [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd didn't really because she had to spend a lot of time cooking. We also had to turn down another invitation from some other friends to a housewarming due to the conflict, and by the time the Seder was over, we were too full of dessert, wine, and brisket to make it out again.

  • Sunday: Easter brunch at another friend's house. It was a bit difficult to get to, and then i decided to walk home because I needed to get the steps in. I ended up super-tired after I got home, and almost fell asleep lying on the floor, which is really unusual for me. It's why we had to turn down an invitation from [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega to attend an Easter dinner and egg-painting at her house.

All of those were fine in isolation, but stacking them all together like that... I was wondering why I was so incredibly tired today, and it might be because I walked for an hour home from Easter brunch in the sunlight--sunlight tends to leave me drained if I spend too much time in it--but it might just because I didn't really have much time to myself this week.

Next week looks to be much better on that score, though. Date night with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd on Monday, and dinner with friends on Wednesday, and a VNV Nation concert on Saturday, but so far that's it. That's a bit more like what I'm used to.

Various thoughts

2014-Mar-09, Sunday 19:27
dorchadas: (For the Horde!)
I used to write a lot of blog entries that were just random snippets from my life. I've moved away from that and into more themed entries as time went on, but here's another info dump!

Last night I saw Knights of Badassdom, which is the first movie I've seen in almost two years unless I'm counting wrong, and it was...meh. I think part of the problem is that the "characters" in the movie had basically not character at all, and no reason for me to bother with feeling bad when they died. The movie just relied on casting people like Danny Pudi or Ryan Kwanten or Peter Dinklage and they saying "Hey! Hey! You know this person from [famous geek media source]! Isn't it cool that they're here!" And for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, who does watch [famous geek media source], it did have some effect, but it just fell flat for me.

Also, the ending shattered my suspension of disbelief over its knee. Not an auspicious return to movie-watching.

Oh, something interesting I noticed, I think based on an RPG.net thread. One of the big old debates people had in the OSR movement was the idea of player skill vs. character skill. This is often expressed through ranting about Spot Checks, but I can see the legitimate complaints, where skills are used to surpass immersion in the world. Like, what's the point of describing the room in great detail so that the PCs will look behind the statue to find the secret button if it's all going to mechanically be handled by a Spot Check? Just get the essentials out of the way and roll the check. The downside, which is something that I've fallen prey to myself, is the dungeon with stupid logic puzzles that the characters could easily solve but the players have to actually work out. The canonical example of this is the GM making the players work through the Towers of Hanoi to open a door or something, though I used the Eight Queens.

For CRPG players, though, it's the other way around. One of the big complaints I've seen about Oblivion from Morrowind fanatics is that Oblivion isn't a real RPG, it's an action RPG (whatever that means), because for a lot of things the character's skill doesn't matter. The most obvious example is the lockpicking minigame, where a skilled player can pick any lock without breaking lockpicks at all, so Lockpicking skill just acts as an artificial gateway for what locks the player can even attempt. On the other hand, I can see why they did this, because one of the biggest complaints about Morrowind is the combat. When you base everything on dice rolls against the character's skills, but you can see yourself swinging a sword through the enemy and it not hitting...well, that does a number on immersion. Also, it can be boring. I modded Oblivion to make lockpicking a straight skill roll and it involves me clicking over and over for 10 minutes to pick locks occasionally.

I suspect it has to do with the ability of CRPGs to portray the entire world graphically, whereas TTRPGs have to rely on the theatre of the mind, meaning that entirely different constraints apply and immersion means totally different things. One of my favorite computer games is Unreal World, but honestly, if it were a possibility, I'd rather play that in the Skyrim engine...or at least with Skyrim visuals. Part of the reason I put so much time into modded Fallout 3 is that I turned it into a post-apocalyptic survival simulator, which is a lot more engaging when you can peek through desks and behind beds and so on to find items rather than making Spot Checks or searching the square. Trying to replicate that experience in a TTRPG is one of holy grails, but I'm not really sure it can be done.

It's finally warming up in Chiberia. Enough that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and a friend and I were able to walk around for over an hour outside and not feel like we should have been fighting off wargs and yeti to get to our destinations. The sun is out too, and now I can tell I'm getting old, because for most of my life I reacted to the sun basically the same way that a vampire would, but now it's a welcome sight. Then again, it might just be that after a few years of soft, weak winters, I'm no longer conditioned to a true Chicago winter and the sun comes as a welcome sight. I guess I've lost my ability to call it the daystar.

Among all the complaining about daylight savings time, I'm actually kind of happy about it, because Ta'anit Esther is this Thursday and this means I don't actually have to get up much earlier than I usually do in order to keep the fast. I just have to wake up, eat, and then shower instead of doing it the other way around. I guess I am kind of the stereotype of the convert that becomes more observant than a lot of others...though somewhat oddly. I mean, if I always say the blessing before meals, but still eat bacon cheeseburgers, I'm not sure where that puts me. (^_^;)

That's about all I can think of for now!

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