The Book-dragon does not hoard gold, but rather books.

They're rare, because the egg has to be incubated for a period of years, but as soon as it hatches, the larva needs access to books. This means the egg basically needs to be in a display case in a library, or in a museum that also has a book collection. Preferably in one with a dome on top, for some reason.

In the larval stage, it resembles a cranky librarian.

Over time, it gets scalier and crustier, and it develops a long tail, in which it wraps itself whilst thinking about books.

There was one at the Bodleian, at the Radcliffe Camera, whose name was "Yiddish," and it would sit on the desk, wrap itself in its tail, flash all its teeth at people, and then give advice. That was quite a young specimen. They get larger as they grow older, and more territorial.

Copyright libraries are examples of successful book-dragon hoarding. Under the copyright library, in the long-term stacks, the mature of the species is to be found, among enormous quantities of books that will never be read. The portion of the holdings accessible to readers is the bit the dragon puts out for bait; a successful library is able to build extensive collections.

The Vatican Library has a particularly old-established dragon with the most varied and valuable hoard in the world. This may be the alpha dragon of the species.

Sometimes the dragons get vicious. The Library of Alexandria had to be burned because the dragon whose hoard it was had gone bad, and there was no other way to contain the damage. The library of the Jewish Theological Seminary is ostensibly being torn down and replaced because of Manhattan real estate, but it's actually because they suspect a feral dragon, and the damage is less if you catch them early.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( May. 6th, 2016 12:34 pm)
Went to put in a half-hour excavating the squirrel-shit fuggable mountain of horror that lives in our shed.

There's a shelf, about my eye level. There's some kind of cat litter spilled all over it, the organic sort that's made out of old sandwiches or something, I don't fucking know. I went to sweep it into a garbage bag.

Pulled a big leaky bag of the stuff down and stared at the layer that was left on the shelf.

Because it was MOVING. And RUSTLING. There was a pen lying on top of the cat litter, and the pen was jiggling up and down. Just slowly, but just enough. You ever watch cat litter and see it heave? You don't wanna.

You guys, that cat litter was full of the biggest fucking maggots you ever saw. Some of those bastards were more than an inch long. That's almost three centimetres, for those who need to think about huge maggots in metric.



Fortunately Uri David came out at that point to tell me it was time to stop for Shabbat, or I might have stood transfixed in horror until night, and then I would have been IN A DARK SHED WITH ENORMOUS MAGGOTS.

I don't think we'll have to move house over this; it may be sufficient just to burn the shed to the ground. After Shabbat. If the maggots don't rise up in a body and come and invade the house in protest at having their habitat disturbed.

OK I kind of want to do an education series on the evolution of writing.

First you do Ugaritic stuff in cuneiform in unbaked gingerbread (then you bake some of them, and let others air-dry).

Then you do lapidary scripts in pre-baked gingerbread, chipping letters into it with, I dunno, the pointy end of a teaspoon, if something sharper wasn't available. When it fractures from overenthusiasm, you can just eat the extra.

(Fondant icing would also work but gingerbread is cooler.)

Then you invent ink-making by burning olive oil and adding wine and gum arabic.

If you can find a potter who's got some kiln disasters, you could do writing on shards. Anyway, once you've invented ink, you've got cursive script.

If you've got the right sort of reeds, you could make papyrus. If you've got space, you could even make parchment, if you could find someone to supply you with a skin.

You could develop from tablets to scrolls to codices.

Then you could invent paper. You'd do writing, woodcuts (possibly with potatoes), and proceed to movable type.

That'd be a whole semester right there and it's doable on a pretty low budget.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Dec. 25th, 2015 10:42 pm)
Dog escaped AGAIN. A new route to Next Door North. She's not usually this escapey; I wonder if she's looking for UD.

In other news, you cannot cannot cannot bring 2 Maccabees as evidence of social conditions prevailing for Sefer haRazim and if you do I will mock you.

In *other* other news, the same author had a footnote "Not to mention a sixth-century text which mentions giving gifts on Jesus' birthday," and no reference, and just WHUT.
We moved into our very own house this summer, as you may know.

This morning I woke up to an email from our tenant, who lives upstairs. She had woken up to a leak in her bathroom ceiling, which had pooled in the paint and was dripping through the light socket, and she inquired if I could do something about it today please.


We have a flat roof, which before today I had never actually been up on. One may deduce the existence of a roof drain, of course. I had been sort of meaning to buy a ladder and go up there to clean it of leaves, but what with one thing and another had not got to it. Instead, I had been hoping that it would all be okay.

This was not the best plan, of course.

So anyway, when Tenant said the roof was leaking, it was not too difficult to figure out why that was likely to be.

First, a ladder. We have a six-foot stepladder, but it's ten feet up and over the parapet. So, need to borrow a ladder. Next Door South definitely own a ladder, they have everything. They'd let me borrow it, although NDS do seem to view us as overgrown children (their kids are our age) and so it would come with a lot of advice about clearing one's drains regularly. So I wasn't too upset that they weren't home, as I haven't enough French to say "No shit, Sherlock, I do KNOW that, please can we skip the lecture."

Try Next Door North. The only member of NDN at home was the one who barely speaks any French or English (mostly Polish and has family members translate), but we managed to reach a state where she understood that I was in need of a very long ladder. Which she had, and she took me out back, we got it from under her porch, and we put the ladder over the fence into my garden rather than drag it through her nice clean house, and I went back round through the houses to pick it up and take it up to the roof access.

Okay. Ladder lugged up to top balcony. Wellies, coat, two pairs of trousers because my work jeans have huge holes in the seat and require an underlayer so as not to flash one's knickers all down the street. Work gloves, because clearing leaves is easier with gloves.

Where are the work gloves? Are they in the shed? Investigate shed. Shed is full of sleepy squirrels, who skitter off out. You would not have thought one shed could hold SO MANY SQUIRRELS, good grief. No gloves, though. Gloves eventually located in cardboard box in dining room. Obvious place really.

UD enlisted to hold ladder steady. Happily it has temporarily quit raining. Stuff leaf bag into pocket, climb up ladder, tremble tremble, slither over parapet, attain roof.

So this is our roof, eh? Hullo, roof! And there is a beautiful shimmering LAKE all across it. The lake reaches heights that ought not to be underwater, no wonder there's a leak. Also, there's a good inch of ice on that lake. Stomp stomp break ice, kick ice out of way, advance a step or two, stomp more, break more ice, kick ice out of way, repeat towards drain. Lake reaches top of wellies. Lake is cold.

Heave ice floes aside. Plunge hand into lake to clear drain. The drain has a wire cowl thing on top of it, thank goodness, but this has become clogged with leaves and twigs and pine needles. As was inevitable, of course. Push away leaves. Drain clears. Water roars down drain. Lake empties.

Lake continues to empty.

Uncomfortable awareness that that drain was not built to take that much water all at once. Hope it is not going anywhere expensive.

Final depths of lake gurgle down drain with mighty sucking sound as of bathwater much amplified. Thick sheets of ice remain. Also layer of leaves and crud. Kneeling on ice sheets, scrape up leaves and crud into bag. Work gloves soaked and freezing. Briefly consider sliding around for funsies. Conclude that sliding on ice on a membrane roof with a low parapet is even more stupid than not cleaning the leaves out of the drain.

Okay. A large bag of leaves and leaf-mould and other roofy things has been harvested. Drop it off roof. Startle longsuffering ladder-holder. Climb down ladder. Put ladder back over fence. Fetch chair with which to climb over fence, rather than disturb neighbour again. Climb onto chair. Chairleg sinks into mud. Give up on that idea. Instead, get over fence via tree. (Fence is too rickety to climb on.) Put ladder back.

Back over fence, back inside, find tenant's key, go to investigate leak. The latex paint on the ceiling has made rather a good water balloon. Go fetch stick with which to burst balloon. Balloon drains neatly into sink. Wait a bit; no new water seems to be appearing. Go back home, email tenant. Verbs all conjugated correctly and the accords all done with the proper gender and everything despite being cold and wet; this is UTTER HEROISM. Duty done (both as regards French and as regards tenant). Put kettle on.

Trousers soaked and filthy; time for dry clothes.

Down to bedroom for dry clothes.

Discover just where all that water went.

By the time I got down there the floodwaters had mostly receded (heaven knows whither), leaving a black and stinking swamp all over the floor. A wicker basket had floated across the room, but no baby Moses or dual collection of all known species within.

The roof drain shares with the drains for the shower, the sink, and the lavatory, all of which had apparently fountained extravagantly not only the water from Le Lac du Toit but also many other things which are to be found in drains. Fortunately it's all tile down there, but there was a basket of clean laundry and a shelf of summer clothes which aren't looking too happy.

We've got an information packet from the hospital, which lists a great many things neutropenic people shouldn't do. "Paddling around in sewer effluvia" isn't listed, oddly, but perhaps they expect you to extrapolate. So this is going to be on me.

Fetch mop and bucket. Attempt to mop up swamp. Bucket slowly fills with ooze, oily black and oddly adhesive, like the East River on a bad day.

After some time, hurl mop aside, muttering "Fuck the environment, I'm going to use paper towels."

Fetch paper towels. Scoop worst of solids up with paper towels. Resolutely interpret horrid brown smears as disintegrating leaves. Observe that the grouting between the tiles is filling up with slime. Realise this is going to need a scrubbing brush and bleach.

We are out of bleach and the scrubbing brush has gone AWOL. Also, there is no more milk, and there will be a need for tea after this. Brief interlude to go to shops: paper towels, bleach, scrubbing brush, milk. Delicious.

On knees scrubbing poo swamp out of grout with bleach.

Text classmate: 'Not coming to class. Drain emergency. Am literally covered in shit. Plz convey apologies.'

Back to scrubbing.

Crumpled paper towels now fill almost a whole laundry basket (laundry is now in washing machine).

UD had a long round of old-school chemotherapy yesterday, so he's exhausted. He went to sleep in the spare room right after I discovered the swamp. He slept for three hours. Funnily enough, that was just about the exact amount of time it took me to scrub and bleach every part of the swamp. As I was rinsing the laundry basket, the mop, and the doormat in the bathtub, he emerged. Seeing that I was still working, he made straight for the kettle, because he is a Good Man and realised I would need tea.

(Actually, the doormat needed scrubbing, because the dog had been sick on it yesterday. So that's a bonus.)

Timecheck: about four hours, from getting the email to putting away the rubber gloves. Then another hour having a hot bath.

It would have been a GREAT DEAL FASTER to clean the leaves off the roof to begin with.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( May. 10th, 2015 06:41 pm)
Oh! I forgot to say. I was at the bank the other day and one of the service windows was closed, so it had a notice, "Guichet suivant svp." And the translation was "Next wicket please."

Which was weird, because I would never think of calling a service window a wicket.

But then I realised it's the exact parallel in French/English because of that whole Gu->W thing, and then I remembered wicket gate, and later I looked it up and it does basically mean a service window.

This made me very happy indeed.
Recanati, on Exodus 13:9

וטעם הנחת תפילין של יד קודם של ראש, ארמוז לך בו סוד גדול במשנה תורה בגזירת האל, כי העולה עולה מלמטה למעלה והיורד יורד מלמעלה למטה, על כןתפלה של יד ראוייה להיות קודמת בהנחה ומתאחרת בשעה שחולצן.

I've got a big secret for you man
secret of the UNIVERSE
you're stoned again aren't you
the one who ascends, right
he goes from low to high
and the one who descends
he goes from high to low
a profound statement indeed
and that's why you should put on the shel yad first and take it off last
of course, yes
fundamental truth of the universe man
you got any snacks?
I bet you've got snacks
I'm coming over
hatam_soferet: (esther)
( Feb. 20th, 2015 02:32 pm)

Some people expressed an interest in reading this paper. Here it is:

The Variegated Career of Exodus 13:16, being a summary of the antics real and perceived of a biblical verse from antiquity until the rabbinic period

Bear in mind that it’s a term paper, not a polished publication or anything, ok? But some of the content is pretty interesting, regardless.

Mirrored from

"The Hellenistic Jewish sermons On Jonah, another fragment bearing the same name, and On Samson would be a downright sensation, had the Greek originals survived. Now they are only preserved in a 6th cent. Armenian translation which groups them among the works of Philo. This translation is so slavishly literal that it cannot be understood by readers of Armenian either, except if they guess the underlying Greek."--Folker Siegert, Early Jewish Interpretation in a Hellenistic Style, in Saebo.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Dec. 21st, 2014 11:32 am)
Well. You know how plastic christmas trees, wreaths, cakes, etc, often have white spray-paint (or sugar, in the case of cakes) sneezed over them, to make it look like a dusting of snow?

It actually looks like that for reals here today. #winterincanada. It's very beautiful, and surprisingly difficult to photograph.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Dec. 3rd, 2014 11:36 am)
Click image to see bigger.

My piece for Torah Stitch by Stitch, the cross-stitch Torah, illuminated in good manuscript style.

Six hares, representing the six hundred thousand Jews, meander through the wilderness. They are frequently distracted, even destructive, but on the whole they progress towards the Promised Land. In their midst is the Law, represented by an elephant. Paradoxically, God protects God's people while threatening retribution; the flowing ribbon border which appears to protect and surround the text also forms into a ravenous beast, the consuming wrath promised in the text.

For the symbolisms of Jews as hares, the Law as elephant, and the dragon-serpent in Jewish tradition, see Marc Michael Epstein's book Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature.
AAARGGH new glasses

things are no longer fuzzy, which is good


things in glasses are closer than they appear to be

quite emphatically

such that my laptop screen is now disturbingly trapezoid

because the top edge is further away than the bottom edge, what with it being a laptop

and the new glasses rather magnify the effect

I put my old glasses back on and observed that with the old glasses it also appeared trapezoid, just less so, so this is probably Something Normal To Get Used To

but yipe

also the floor seems further away than normal

this must be what it's like being tall

it's very disorienting, especially doing stairs.
Throw a ball for the dog. Sentence in head: "Elle ratzah lakahat et ha'bal!"
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 4th, 2014 05:14 pm)
Reading Historical Perspectives : From the Hasmoneans to Bar Kokhba in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls - 1999 Goodblatt, David Pinnick, Avital Schwartz, et al.


Some of the dead sea scrolls were written on ibex!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jul. 30th, 2014 05:41 pm)
I am a big softy sometimes, and when people don't have money, I swap them lessons for labour. Of course, there isn't much scribal labour someone in Boston or rural New Zealand can do for a soferet in Montreal, but...

...but the graphic designer is editing and formatting a textbook for me; the student who sorely needs practice deciphering Rashi script is typing up a halakhic text as she learns her way through it; the student who wants to create quizzes to test herself is using the typed-up text (and will also share the quizzes with those who come after her)...this is starting to work the way I intended it to. This is great.

I’m not going to link to the latest one, it’s just embarrassing. But.

I am the only soferet in Canada at the moment, yes, as far as I know. But only because the other Canadian sofrot are expatriate or dead. I am not proud of being the only soferet in Canada, okay? And I told him that and asked him very explicitly to mention the other Canadian sofrot. Zip.

Also, re understanding the text, yes I do understand it, as well as most Jews do. I should have said something gnomic like “No-one can fully understand the holy Torah,” but I was trying to explain that while most of the language is fairly straightforward, there are some words whose meaning is notoriously obscure and I wouldn’t claim to understand those.

And the bit about Torah-writing not being a religiously intense experience, what I said was that you can’t sustain a spiritual high for an entire year. There’s a difference. It’s not like Torah-writing is on the same level as stuffing envelopes.

Finally, baby-faced? Thumb-sucking? Thanks. I’m chubby and sometimes I bite my thumb if I’m thinking hard, yes, but apparently I’m coming over as infantile. Good to know.

I quit doing TV interviews a while back. I think I’m going to quit doing print interviews as well now.

Mirrored from

hatam_soferet: (esther)
( Jul. 13th, 2014 06:27 pm)

Rachel 1 wants a soferet to do some repair on a Torah in Boston. So Rachel 1 asks her friend Rachel 2 to ask her soferet friend Rachel 3, in LA, whether she knows anyone in Boston. Rachel 3 asks me. I introduce Rachel 3 to Rachel 4, soferet in Boston. Rachel 4 writes to Rachels 1, 2, and 3, copying me in on the conversation. “Hi, Rachel, Rachel, and Rachel…”

I try to think of a way to bring Rachel 5, the Third Soferet Rachel, into the loop, but can’t quite swing it. And there is Rachel 6, the Fourth Soferet Rachel, but she is in Brazil, which is a long way from Boston.

This is officially Getting Silly. We have three Soferet Lindas, four Soferet Rachels…

Mirrored from

hatam_soferet: (Default)
( May. 16th, 2014 02:48 pm)
I`m trying to write in Hebrew, and all I can think of is French. Yarrrg.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 23rd, 2014 07:56 pm)
There is something quasi-orgasmic about working with real gold leaf. I may be launched on a New Plane of Deliciousness.
We feed the dog on raw chicken carcass and dog biscuits.

Raw chicken bones are ok, it's just cooked bones that splinter dangerously.

I can tell you this with some certainty because every ten days or so we go down to the fancy butcher's and buy a packet of CARCASSE DE POULET. They sell it for stock or something, I guess; it's a lucky-dip bag of the bits of chickens that are left over once they've put all the AILES and POITRINES and AUTRES BITS EDIBLES into nice tidy polystyrene trays. Since a RIBCAGE ET PELVIS DE POULET is a bit too much for one little dog to have all at once, I break the carcasse up into tidy meal-sized bits and freeze them. I do this by RIPPING IT APART WITH MY BARE HANDS, it's like being in the shtetl only you don't get cholera.

So I know exactly how chicken bones go when they break, and yes, they don't splinter when they're raw. So you can feed them to the dog. Costs about the same as tinned dog food, much more fun for the dog, and RIPPING UP CARCASSES WITH YOUR BARE HANDS, what's not to love?

Tangentially, we freeze the chunks by putting them on a baking tray in the freezer, so when the in-laws visited recently we had to pretend we're actually civilised, by putting them all into an old ice-cream box and making like we don't usually have chunks of raw meat just hanging out in the bottom of the freezer. Shalom bayit, yo.

Anyway, today I went to buy a packet of CARCASSE DE POULET like usual, and the tray is pretty large, so I think "Huh, that's a pretty well-endowed chicken" while I'm plomping down my deux dollars et demi.

Once dinner is cooking, it's time to chop up the chicken. Open the packet. Observe a half-inch of fat on what may once have been the shoulders. This is odd. Chickens don't usually have that much fat on them. But okay, it's a lucky-dip, evidently we have Mutant Fatty McFatso Chicken this week (speaking as the fattest girl at my gym); what else have we? Is it a neck week? A wing week?

No. There is a Thing the size of a plum in the bottom of the tray, under an anonymous mass of skin flaps and fat. Anatomically speaking, it looks like a heart ("characteristic fat deposits!" said the boyfriend, who once quit med school), but it's effing huge. There's also a horrible smooth flappy thing, ugh, must be liver, hate the texture of liver, and again, it's gigantic, this poor bastard chicken must have had GIANT ORGANS DISEASE or something because there isn't space in a normal chicken for organs this size.

Poke the organs with a knife a bit. Observe miscellaneous arteries, oozy bits, and wobbly bits. We have not had this much entertainment since we dissected pig's trotters in GSCE Biology!

Drop the heart and half the liver in the dog's bowl and turn to tackle the huge bony thing which is the rest of the packet.

Conclude with certainty that this is no chicken, unless it is Mutant Fatty McFatso Chicken with GIANT ORGANS DISEASE and also REALLY BIG BONES. Like, it's not just fat, it's got big bones. Huge bones, speaking as someone who breaks up a chicken ribcage with her bare hands approximately every other week. And unnaturally greasy flesh. It's probably a goose really. Some sort of large waterfowl.

Okay. The dog can't have a whole goose ribcage, sternum, and shoulders for one meal. Well, she could, there was that time she stole a whole package of six chicken thighs and suffered no ill-effects other than being bloated and grouchy for a day, but we generally prefer to feed the dog in moderation. So it's time to chop it up.

Decide that this much fat is probably not good for the dog. Slice it off. Contemplate rendering it into organic goose schmaltz, very shtetl, great for making fleishig sauces, schmaltz starts off a roux beautifully (shtetl, hipster-style). Set enormous heap of fat aside.

We don't have a cleaver, and cutting bones with the good knife makes your knife-proud boyfriend very cross, so what one normally does is cut the cartilage with a knife and then break the bones at appropriate points.

Turns out a goose sternum doesn't really wanna break. Can't seem to chop the ribs off either. Also, lacking good knowledge of bird anatomy, do not really know where to find the weak parts. Chickens are basically all weak parts.

Idea: a hammer! Break the sternum!

At this point common-sense intervenes: first, wrap the thing in plastic, so that bits of goose-flesh don't go flying all over the room when you hit it with the hammer and get stuck to the light bulbs. Brilliant. Yes.

Hammer it a few times. Goose apparently impervious to being hammered. Note to self: if in combat with a goose, a hammer to the sternum will not do much.

Boyfriend decides to espouse the "if it isn't working, hit it harder" school of home improvement. Hits the carcass to no effect.

Hits it more with rapidly-increasing enthusiasm.

Carcass skitters off towards the microwave.

Tell boyfriend to quit it lest the carcass decide to take refuge in the microwave and he bash the microwave in misplaced goose-bashing frenzy. Microwave belongs to landlord.

At this point the dog has finished licking the fat off the outside of the heart, and picks it up out of her bowl. She always does this with particularly large or toothsome morsels. Takes them out of her bowl and eats them in comfort on her mat. Except that today she takes the heart to the nice beige carpet. Experience visions of her sinking her teeth into the heart and it exploding like some kind of diabolical blood-filled water balloon.

(Yes, I know the heart is not full of blood at this point, but I am bashing a goose sternum with an IKEA hammer and the dog is taking a heart onto a beige carpet; I am not fully rational.)

Chase dog back to her own piece of carpet, brandishing goose-flecked hammer.

Contemplate taking goose carcass out to street and throwing it under a bus. Surely that will break it.

Abandon this idea since the bus only comes once every half an hour.

Stare at goose carcass. Contemplate not feeding dog for three days and then giving it to her as a three-days'-food-in-one bonanza. Abandon this idea since the dog is an expert scavenger and will undoubtedly find alternative sources of nutrition.

Experience primeval beserker desire to rend goose asunder.

Invent new technique. Find squishy bit; poke knife into squishy bit until resistance is encountered; wiggle knife. Withdraw knife. Grab onto both sides of squishy bit and channel primeval beserker rage into pilates-honed trapezius muscles. Ignore hideous cracking tearing noise. Feel mightier than a whole IKEA range of Norse gods and all their hammers and mythical hexagonal wrenches as bones part.

Repeat on other side. Primeval beserker desires now in full swing. LET US REND A WHOLE FLOCK OF GOOSE STERNUMS, BITCHES. I AM THE GOOSE RENDER. SEE ME REND.

Realise that mother-in-law has filled freezer to capacity. Intermission, during which a round of three-dimensional freezer tetris is played to great effect.

Arrange TORN BLOODIED PIECES OF CARCASS neatly on baking tray, very Martha Stewart Meets Zombie Apocalypse. Wonder about filming home episode of Game of Thrones. Abandon this idea since dinner is about ready and the dog is now taking the piece of liver over to the beige carpet. Duty calls.