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31 May, 2009

Upset by evolution

Filed under: Judaism,Religion,Society and culture by Joel @ 1:48 pm, 31 May 2009.

I did not attend a Shavuot dinner hosted by Young Adult Chabad with Emeritus Professor of Statistics Abraham Michael Hasofer speaking on the conflict between Science and Religion: Do they Conflict?. I have only heard one attendee’s summary of the argument, and in public rhetoric the audience’s response is perhaps more important than what was said itself.

The summary suggested that since science has not decoded the mechanics of genetic mutation on the scale required for functional evolution, humans were created by God and are not descended from apes.

Seeing as the person who attended and summarised the talk for me had no desire to be descended from an ape, this was preaching to the converted. I hope it was not what Hasofer said, as I would think it clear to a statistician that the lack of clear scientific evidence to fill in all the holes in a theory is no real support to a counter-argument. I still fail to see the exclusive disjunction between creation and evolution.

But I was just as shocked by the idea that someone I know would have real aversion to the idea of being cousin to a gorilla or chimpanzee. Is this person equally shocked that our food is grown in something as disgusting as manure? Do they forget that they are cousin to genocidal serial killers, murderous tyrants, and fraudulent businessman? Do they find no compassion for animals, be they apes, or our more distant relatives the dogs and the snails that they are so upset to call them “cousin”, “friend”, “granddad”? Surely, we humans are at least as disgusting, even if we claim to be so with greater sophistication.

18 May, 2009

Four letter words

Filed under: Language by Joel @ 10:41 pm, 18 May 2009.

As one does at birthday parties, some friends of mine attempted on Saturday night to find words which have newly appeared in English in the last 50 years or so and which have exactly four letters. (Of course looking up a list of neologisms online would be cheating!)

The only completely new word I’ve found is blog.

Other words since suggested include [to] text [someone], spam and perhaps [the] dole. All of these are new senses to words, rather than wholly new words.

Can you add to the list (without cheating)?

Edit: where possible, make sure that it is a recent addition to the language, perhaps with citation.

13 May, 2009

Too much to learn!

Filed under: General,Judaism by Joel @ 11:36 pm, 13 May 2009.

The Limmud-Oz 2009 programme is out. It’s the tiniest shard of what’s available at London’s Limmud, or other copycats in North America, Europe or Israel. It clearly lacks their masses of Jewish-learning celebrities, but does what it can considering our distance from the rest of the Jewish world and the fact that we have a habit of exporting our best.

Still, it is exciting to see a Sunday scheduled with 11 hours each generally packed with over 10 presentations. Warning! Keep away from me: I will be a black hole of indecision.

It’s the first time I’ll present, too. Unfortunately, one session, on finding the correct Hebrew accent has been stuck in the last slot. Another, on learning the Bible with secular and traditional texts is in the same evening hour of the previous day. I guess I’ll need to find a way to keep people awake… I’m also helping to bring the Limmud chavruta programme to Sydney together with Lior.

All very exciting. Hope to see you there!

10 May, 2009

Finally, a zemirot wiki

Filed under: Chazanut,Music,Siddur,Technology by Joel @ 4:07 pm, 10 May 2009.

Of sorts. One project I no longer need to do because someone else has. I don’t know how long zemirotdatabase.org has been around, but I’ve long intended to create a site where people can share Jewish tunes with each other. And break down a monopoly of tunes from the Virtual Cantor, who is being over-used now that taped chazanut is no longer as popular.

Of course (in my way of doing things), my idea was somewhat more ambitious. Which is why it never got done. I’d like to see:

  • More annotation of the origin of lyrics and tunes
  • Links between tunes which are applied to different prayers

Essentially this means that the tune and the words are separated, and each of them could be annotated with Hebrew, transcription, translation, authorship/variant notes… and somewhere in the intersection people would upload recordings. Maybe I can ask Mendy and Gabe to work on it. Or mabye it was just too much to ever make a site out of and they’ve got it right.

Either way, I’ll need to find some time to record some tunes. (Because most of their voices are terrible…)

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