hatam_soferet: (tea)
( Jan. 23rd, 2011 05:56 pm)
Emphases mine:

Dec. 15, Sat., <1683> a great deal of snow fell; a child or two going to Wheatly starv'd to death at the bottome of Shotover. Frost followed; and continued extreem cold. Innocents day, Friday, Dec. 28, a very cold day. Wednesday night, 2 Jan., <1634> my bottle of ink frose at the fier side; Thursday night, the like; Friday night, Jan. 4, the like. Weather so cold, as not the like knowne by man. Sat., Sunday <Jan. 5, 6> extreame cold. Monday <Jan. 7> it gave a little. Thursday the 10 and Friday 11 it gave and thaw'd so that the spouts ran and the snow and some ice went away. Jan. 13 at night (Sunday) it frose againe and by degrees till the 22 day it was then as cold as in the former frost. Jan. 22 (T.) at night and 23 day (W.) extreame cold; Jan. 23 (W.) at night extreame cold; Jan. 24 (Th.) very cold, the quil would not run; and so continued till (M.) 4 Feb. and then in the evening it began to thaw which continued till 8 Feb. (F.) frost in the morning. So for severall mornings following little frosts. Did a great deal of mischief.

In addition to the ink freezing at the fireside and refusing to run in the quill, there's something emphatic about that extreame, don't you think?

From The life and times of Anthony Wood: antiquary, of Oxford, 1632-1695, described by himself.
According to the NY Times, today was the hottest day in New York since Aug. 9, 2001, when it reached 103 degrees. Today it got to 102 in Central Park.

ConEdison, electricity providers for the city, were today expecting enormous demand for electricity to run all the air-conditioners - their forecast was for 13,450 megawatts, a surge they said — fingers crossed — they were prepared for.

“We’re expecting a record today, but we’re not encouraging people to set it,” said Michael S. Clendenin, a spokesman for Con Ed.

Reflecting on the absurdity of a situation where we frantically burn fossil fuels to offset the effects of, er, burning too many fossil fuels.
New York woke me up in the middle of the night with some truly impressive rain. Really, it must take a lot of effort to drop that much water out of the sky.

I was going to try and take a picture for you, but by the time it was light and I'd showered (why did I bother doing that? I could have just sat on the fire escape for a bit) and stuff, the rain had slacked off.

When it started raining (in the middle of the night, of course) I got out of bed and closed the windows, because I have bits of a Torah on my various tables, all too close to the windows for irresponsible sleeping through rainstorms. Okay, they're all at least a metre away from the windows and it would take some REALLY determined rain to get that far in, but you try sleeping through a rainstorm with open windows and bits of a Torah on your tables, and I bet you wouldn't make much of it either.

Oh, re: tables - that'd be one writing-desk, and one dining-table, which is temporarily serving as a Torah Corrections Zone (that sounds a lot more borstalian than it actually is), so meals are eaten on the balcony fire escape during fine weather and on the couch otherwise. Lest you should think that la vie soferet involves sumptuous drawing-rooms, or something.

Anyway, I'm off to Hadar today. Cheerio.
There's quite the lightning storm going on out there. I'm at the airport, so I have an unusually large amount of horizon to look at, and the lightning's the kind that plays acriss the sky as far as you can see, back and forth, these gigantic parallel streaks filling the sky and flicking off again.

It's the strange kind of lightning storm that fills the sky but makes no sound. There's no rain, no thunder, just the sky lighting up, like headlights across a ceiling, but it's the biggest ceiling *ever* and the biggest headlights too. Every so often a bigger whopper than usual breaks through and you can see the bolt shaking itself into the ground.

There might be thunder, actually; I'm wearing earplugs because someone's talking about healthcare on the piped television and it makes me mad to listen to white dudes with health insurance pontificating about why the existing system is made of cookies. Cos from where I'm standing it's a question of "how many people have to be permanently crippled from inadequate care before you start feeling sorry enough for them that you want your health money to pay healthcare costs rather than insurance executives," which seems like something of a no-brainer to me; I'd much rather my friends got treatment than that we should pay for some twerps in an office to shuffle claim forms and misfile things. I mean per capita the US could spend what the UK spends, and everyone would have health care, and there'd still be bloody masses left over, and we could use it for unemployment benefits for those recently fired from insurance companies. Anyway, I'm wearing earplugs, so if there is thunder I can't hear it. But I don't think there is.

Talking of health insurance, as part of my divorce paperwork, I and he have to submit a form which says: I [NAME] fully understand that upon the entrance of this divorce agreement, I may no longer be allowed to receive health coverage under my former spouse's health insurance plan. I may be entitled to purchase health insurance on my own through a COBRA option, if available, otherwise I may be required to secure my own health insurance.

That is, before your divorce is admitted for the consideration of the court, you have to turn in a sworn statement to the effect that you understand just how much a divorce can bollocks up your healthcare. I know that benefits and pensions and stuff can play a part when deciding whether to get divorced or not, but healthcare - and sworn statements - sheesh.

For those not used to the US system: there's this magical thing called a pre-existing condition, you see; if you have ever been sick before you are a Bad Risk. If you actually have real chronic problems and need to get your own insurance after your divorce you'd better marry a doctor pronto, and if you once got sick ten years ago and got better and didn't think it worth mentioning you'd better pray you never need expensive treatment because then the insurance company digs that up and says "oo you had a pre-existing condition your insurance is invalidated now we don't have pay your bills NEH NEH NEH and btw you owe the hospital several hundred thousand dollars" and you're screwed again. So getting your own insurance isn't necessarily going to happen, even if you've got a job that offers it. Oh, your insurance premiums pay for the dirt-digging peons as well. It's in their interest to deny you care so they put a lot of effort into it. Ugh.

The downside of watching spectacular electrical storms from the airport is that...they close the airport. Planes are great big Faraday cages so people in planes are okay, but I suppose it's dangerous for the ground crews, and I spose it might fry the tyres as well.
It being vilely hot and sticky in New York at the moment, the fancy takes me to show y'all just how little of a sheet of Torah is actually visible while I'm writing it. Well-written, polished, intellectual blog posts with nicely-edited pictures and everything are kind of hard when almost your entire brain is screaming "MORE ICE CREAM NOW PLZ," and this is moderately educational, anyway.

Here's a picture of my tabletop last Thursday.

Soferet desktop

A and B: plasticised cardboard off old calendars (or cereal boxes, whatever's around). This is a general protection against mucky fingers, dust (not that the work is ever lying around long enough to collect dust, oh no), stray ink blots, and the like.

C and D: kitchen paper. On hot hot hot days, the function of the kitchen paper is primarily as a sweat-soaker. Resting my forearms on kitchen paper means that when I raise my arm to dip the pen in the ink or write along the line or other such activities calling for a certain degree of mobility in the limbs, there isn't a sticky timelag while my arm peels itself away from A and B.

You will notice the inkstains on D, though; that's because even on sensible days when one can wear sleeves to the wrist one still needs pen-wipers. Long sleeves present a peril all of their own, namely FLUFF, which is why A and B are present whenever I can manage it; there's nothing quite like finishing a day's work in a purple sweater and realising that now you have to fetch your erasing sponge and remove the delicate purple bloom from your parchment, except *not* realising it and having your client ask why their sefer is patchily purple. I would guess. Not that that has ever happened to me. No indeed.

A thru D are attached to the parchment with paperclips. E, though, actually moves (that is to say, it is mobile. I move it, like a manual carriage return). I call E a finger guard; goodness knows what anyone else calls it, but its function is to keep the fingers off the parchment, so "finger guard" seems like a good name to me.

Parchment is temperamental, especially on hot days; it likes to cockle itself nostalgically and ripple gently across the desk. This is not especially helpful when you are trying to write on the darn stuff, so your left hand has the constant task of holding flat the square inch you're writing on. Without the trusty finger guard, that means you're continually writing on nice fresh fingerprints, and that's not so spiffy.

F is my tikkun page, wot I am copying off of. I have it as near to the working line as possible, because it's much easier to flick one's eyes a short way than raise one's whole head. You aren't allowed to write sans tikkun, as I've mentioned before.

G is the usual amount of visible Torah, although recently the days have been so hot and sticky that the ink takes forever to dry, so there are perhaps ten lines visible instead of the more usual four.

H. I'm very proud of H. It's that non-slip stuff that yachtie tablemats are made out of, that will sit quite happily on a table inclined at thirty degrees and not go anywhere. Ideal for people who work on tables inclined at thirty degrees, if you see what I mean. H is being a place marker, so that I don't go writing line 29 instead of line 35 or some similar foolishness.

I uses the same stuff to keep the inkwell and other tools from sliding off the desk. On I you can see tile; scalpel; pen; inkwell; giant blots. The tile and scalpel are for pen-sharpening (the tile serves as a chopping board). The giant blots are the natural consequence of giving Soferet Jen bottles of ink in handy easy-to-knock-over locations (you might describe me as ham-fisted, but we're too kosher for that aren't we); at J you can see how the wall has suffered similarly in the past.

Ice cream is totally relevant to writing Torah, anyway. They both come from cows.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jul. 27th, 2009 05:48 pm)
Brooklyn Bridge swiped from wikipedia[community profile] livredor and I went touristing on Sunday, to the Brooklyn Bridge. First we had EXTREME PIZZA in the East Village, and then we went over into Brooklyn (via 14th St to see the moving platforms) so as to walk back over the bridge towards Manhattan.

Weather.com had told us that there would be Isolated T-Storms (I insist upon interpreting this as "isolated tea storms," because it pleases me), and standing in the sunshine at the Brooklyn end of the bridge, we could see an Isolated Tea Storm over Manhattan.

Liv observed that it's obvious why the Dutch liked Manhattan; the sky had that curious opaque grey with funny pearly-yellow clouds look to it that you see in Dutch paintings.

lightning hitting the empire state buildingWalking over the bridge towards the storm, we saw a huge streak of lightning fizzle out of the clouds and ground itself in the lightning conductor on the American International Building. That's the Empire State Building in the picture, so it was like that except a bit further south. Anyway, the American International Building is the tallest building in Lower Manhattan, so you would sort of expect lightning to ground there, but I've never actually seen actual lightning actually sparking into an actual lightning conductor before. It was very exciting.

Mostly it wasn't raining on us, either. We were on the bridge between Brooklyn which was doing just fine and Manhattan which now had proper lowering clouds absolutely filled with sheets of lightning periodically grounding itself in any tall building that happened to be handy, watching the storm (you can see a lot of sky, from the bridge), not getting wet, and having occasional bouts of engineering lust at how pretty the bridge is.

Umbrella of Utter HappinessI had the Umbrella of Utter Happiness with me so when it started actually raining we were okay. The Umbrella of Utter Happiness is concentric fuschia and marigold stripes with radial blend, and I love it to bits. (It is from the guy with a stall at 73rd and Broadway, if you're interested.) It wasn't much use against the Total Tropical Downpour, but happily we were basically in the subway by that time.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 20th, 2009 11:08 pm)
Bought sweater in spring sales (purple, fluffy). Set out for home. Heavens open. Rain, wind, brrr, freeze freeze not dressed for this it was nice when I left this morning brrrr. But lo! have just bought A SWEATER cheers cheers. Such circumstances make me happy.
Dammit! All year I've been saving the dried-up bits of my lulav, so as to have a lovely fire on which to burn chametz - because even if you toast the leftover bread it doesn't burn very well unless you have a good hot fire already, and bits of lulav make a nice fire once you get it going* - so I take my lulav and my dry bread and my metal bowl into the garden to make a fire, and what does it do? It snows. SNOWS. So I made some symbolic toast and came in.

Consider if you will that until quite recently, burning was a - perhaps "the" - significant method of waste disposal in the kitchen. People didn't have kitchen bins, they had fires. I forget who it is - it might have been Mrs Beeton - says that anyone ought to be able to dispose of anything they can't reuse or sell to the rag-and-bone merchant by burning (not in those exact words, obviously).

Burning is a lot more visceral than just dumping stuff into the rubbish chute, but if it's flippin' snowing out and your fire is being so smoky that you're scared the super will come out and yell at you, the rubbish chute accomplishes the same end.

* It's great - the little fragile bits you use to start it, and the long bits, you folded into sticks while they were still green and bendy, and bound them with chunks of the holderthing, so now they're quite significant sticks and they'll burn quite hot once they take hold.
* Anyone make chuppahs? Anyone know anyone who makes chuppahs? I mean the kind with lots of sewing, not the kind where you tie a tallis to poles. This is a practical question, as in, I've met someone who needs it done and I don't have any recommendations.

* You know when your neighbour is cleaning, because all their roaches come running into your apartment.

* I am so happy that I have a hand-held suckything that sucks up roaches, and then you slap a lid on them so they can't get out.

* Angela at Rumors Hair Salon in Riverdale is made of cookies.

* There was the most glorious rain on Friday; the whole surface of the road was swimming with the sort of flow you usually see in the gutter, but not running down the gutter, running down the camber. So much that the raindrops were throwing up lots of water on landing, as they would when falling onto a river. Very pretty to watch - at least if you were standing a sensible distance from the gutters, which were full enough that zooming cabs sent water six feet onto the pavement.

* Writing on Nice Klaf is so very different from writing on Nasty Klaf.

* Reading Etz Hayim on Tazria - on the bit about new mothers. Etz Hayim confidently asserts that the related impurities and required sacrifices are all theoretical, and that childbirth is not meant to be negative or any kind of punishment. One wonders if the author had read, oh, you know, the bit where God says that childbirth is going to suck because of Eve having screwed up? They possibly should have expressed their point with a little more care.

* Have never noticed before that Adam does not name Eve until *after* all the unfortunate business with the serpent. God says "I'm going to kick you out of the garden and you are going to have to work hard and it's going to suck and serve you right," and *then* Adam names the woman Eve, or Hava, which is a Life kind of word. Now perhaps that was because God invented childbirth on the spur of the moment and before that, calling her Lifey would have been silly, but still. He could have named her Holey or Faithless or Thanks A Lot, so calling her Lifey was quite a good deal really. And further, at that point Adam is actually still only generic, he is HaAdam and doesn't really have a name at all. This is sort of interesting.

* I probably ought to post that post about how I've started writing a new Torah :) You might have guessed from me talking about klaf and the early Genesis stories...
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 2nd, 2009 05:55 am)
In the four-plus years I've lived in this city, I've never actually had to ditch professional obligations because of snow, but this morning I have a commitment to read Torah at the shul's morning minyan, and there is a respectably large amount of snow out there. I've heard of these quasi-mythical beasts called Snow Days, but I've never had to find out, at 6am, whether it Is One, and I don't actually know how it works.

That is to say, I can see from the internet that schools are closed, but does that mean minyan is cancelled? It's minyan! Minyan is about struggling to shul under adverse conditions in order to assemble ten people for morning prayers! Granted "adverse conditions" tends to mean "ugh it's too early for this" rather than "that's quite a lot of snow," but to my sleep-befuddled 6am brain, they seem equally adverse, and if exertion for the one is expected in the normal way of things, why not exertion for the other?

From the mighty scrapings and rumblings out there, I deduce that the main road is probably more or less clear (I can't see it from my windows), but on reflection, given the demographic of our morning minyan, it seems unlikely that a minyan's worth of people will be out there clearing the ground between their cars and the main road, or between their front doors and the place their ride usually collects them.

Which, I think, means I can go back to bed.
We're having a bloody cold winter, you may have noticed, and every so often (or "rather too often," depending) you hear someone banging on about how that proves there is no global warming BECAUSE IT'S COLD NOW.


For instance.

THOUSANDS of Victorians [that's in Australia, yo] were still without power today as the state's unprecedented heatwave dragged on with little relief in sight...

Victorian Premier John Brumby defended the state's power systems, saying the blackout was the result of catastrophic events during a record heatwave, the likes of which only occurred every 100 or 200 years.

“These are unprecedented conditions, it's the hottest week since records began,” Mr Brumby said in the bushfire-affected Latrobe Valley.

And more here.

Global warming means extreme climate conditions.

Just sayin'.

ETA: On reflection, I'm closing comments on this, because I am not especially interested in providing a forum for wank.
hatam_soferet: (tea)
( Oct. 15th, 2008 09:46 pm)
And a note on global warming: this is New York City in the middle of October. A meal in a succah should feature warm clothes, scarves, and grumbling about how this is a festival designed to be celebrated in Israel. But these past two evenings - evenings! Long after dark! In October! - I've been comfortable in the succah in a t-shirt and shorts, and I only wore trousers and socks the second night because I didn't want more mosquito bites.

I find this extremely scary, honestly.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 9th, 2008 03:33 am)
Gosh. One of those rare days when perfect klaf, perfect ink, and a perfect pen all combine, and words just sort of pour onto the page until bedtime.

Although in this kind of weather (that is to say, HOT HOT HOT GLOBAL WARMING PLZ NO), the flat sheets I write on get nostalgic for the days when they used to be cows, and they try and go cow-shaped in a bid to renew the dear old days.

Come to think of it, good thing that's all they do. I mean, imagine if they mooed.

Oh, yes, and, images you've seen here feature in this slideshow, and also the Women of Reform Judaism calendar is out, featuring me, I can't remember if I've already said that :)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 25th, 2008 06:15 pm)
It's not yet Rosh Chodesh (Jewish new month), or even very near it, but I'll probably forget to post this next week when it'll be relevant. So:

Spotting the new moon is really difficult.

In mishnaic times, they established the new month by having witnesses come to the central court and testify that they'd seen the new moon. There are all sorts of leniencies, which I don't remember accurately offhand and it's nearly Shabbat, to enable witnesses to get to the court as quickly as possible. I do remember being awfully surprised that there should be leniencies, because surely there would be plenty of witnesses right there in Jerusalem.

So - click through to the big version of the picture - now I know why; seeing the new moon is hard.

Here's an article about why it's hard, apart from its being awfully little.

I'm inspired to go and learn about how Islam manages, because Islamic religious calendars often have a disclaimer that months are subject to the sighting of the new moon, and what do they do when you really can't see it? So I'm reading Moonsighting.com, which is very interesting, although I don't understand most of it. Any Muslim lurkers on this blog, now would be a good time to say hello...
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 23rd, 2007 06:01 pm)
Hey, what happened? It's glorious outside, I'm not complaining about that, but it's summer. It's HOT. My poor fingers are all sweaty; how can I write Torah like this, huh? I want the air-conditioning on, but that's insane, it's only April. If I could write outside, you bet I would remove down to the yard, but the risk of birds shitting on my work is too great.

The blossom round here just decided to make its appearance, though. Johnson St, Riverdale, the bit where the shops are, is a lovely avenue of white blossom. I like pretty blossom. There is also a magnolia outside the C shul, all pink and white and pretty. It was magnolia time in the UK in March as well, so I get to do magnolia time twice this year, heheh.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 17th, 2007 06:00 pm)
Rain's stopped, and so I am in a position to say: ain't nothing like a nice quill on nice parchment. Mmmmmmmmm :)

Sand tempering works pretty well for me these days. You heat up sand in the oven (I've got mine in an old tomato tin*), and when it's good and hot, park your quills** in it. The idea is for the heat to harden the feather, and then it stays sharp longer and is nicer to write with. The problem is that if you don't do it enough, nothing happens, but if you do it too much, you melt the quill. If you melt it, tiny air bubbles form and are trapped in it when it hardens so you can't cut it to a smooth edge, plus it's far too brittle to be useful.

One thing which works is stirring it around in the sand and hooking it out every ten seconds or so to see how it's doing. Another thing is using a spoon to pour sand over it and into it, as far up the barrel as possible, and then pouring it out and repeating. You know it's good just after it starts going opaque. I find that if you leave it until it's totally opaque, it's too brittle already, but it's hard to describe exactly, and it's one of the things you learn from experience.

* Sand isn't so common in New York City. I couldn't find any building sites that weren't sectioned off, and I don't know any small children with sandpits. I delayed learning this technique until the summer and its associated beach trip. Now I have a big jar of sand. Heh.
** which you have already divested of their various membranes and other extraneous bits
Damp weather makes quills go all bendy and silly; weather.com says it's 90% humidity out, which doesn't surprise me given that it's raining buckets, and my humidity meter says it's 68% in here. Ergo, the three quills I have for Torah writing are all misbehaving horribly, wobbling around feebly instead of being nice and firm and springy. I have a can of sand heating in the oven; perhaps that'll perk them up a bit, even if only temporarily. Still, I am officially Not In A Very Good Mood.

Second day of Pesach we stopped asking the Holy One for rain, and started asking for dew and blessings, cos we don't want rain in the summer. Come on - who forgot? Who hasn't changed their liturgical habits? All this rain is your fault!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Oct. 22nd, 2006 06:51 pm)
Torah: 24% done. We're in the story of Noah and the Flood now, and here follow some ramblings on the subject.

I was thinking about global warming. If we go and melt the ice caps, the water's jolly well going to cover rather a lot of the mountains.

If one was very sweetly naiive, one could deny this; didn't God promise never to flood the earth again? But God didn't promise to stop us doing it ourselves, and that's just what we're doing, oh dear.

Noah, upon being warned that a flood was going to drown everything that wasn't on the ark, spent his time getting on with building the ark. This is one reason we say that Noah was a righteous man in his generation - he was only the best of a bad bunch, he didn't spend time doing a massive humanitarian relief aid thing (= arguing with God) like Abraham did. (One imagines the ark as being rather like a floating Smithsonian Zoo, with little ecosystems all over the place.) Anyway, look at us, we're flooding the earth, and we're not building an ark, are we, oh no, but we're not really doing anything much about preventing it happening either. Arguing with God would probably be easier than arguing with the leaders of the power-hungry nations, really.

Which led me to think: when the sea levels rise, high ground is going to be at a premium (just look at New Orleans), and it's going to be the rich people with the guns who get the land. One wonders what Noah saw from the ark. Were the rich people with guns armies clustering together on the hilltops fighting for space? Did any of them swim out to the ark? Did Noah have to beat them off? (I suppose if he housed all the fierce things with big teeth on the deck, they'd do it for him)

Well, anyway, it should be interesting. You can use this flood simulator to see whether your house is going to be submerged. Enjoy!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 18th, 2006 10:34 pm)
The rest of the week didn't contain all that much. Some reading of halacha, some reading of articles. Mostly recovering from the several nights last week when it was necessary to stay up into the wee hours working. Tomorrow the plan is to go and write Hebrew names in Westchester for a few hours, and then come home and work on 's mezuzot.

In an interesting departure from the norm, I sneezed this morning and in so doing threw my back out of joint, so now sitting, bending etc are distinctly careful operations.

Oh, and you can tell it's spring now, because the haze over the city has turned that special spring-time shade of pale brown, and daffodils are two bunches for $5.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 27th, 2006 09:52 pm)
This morning was wicked cold, so much so that when someone dropped her coffee on the platform this morning, it had turned into a streak of iced coffee by the time her train had pulled out. In this kind of weather I read accounts of Antarctic explorations; those chaps went around without scarves in negative Farenheit and complained that it was too hot when the temperature approached freezing-point.* I survived the walk to Sinai Free by tying my coat collar up around my ears using my scarf (ahah!), and hung over the heater in the studio thawing before starting work. Fraid I'll never be a polar explorer.

Work: more lettering this poor flaky Torah. Exodus had several columns which were nothing but flakes (a healthy high-fibre way to start the day, no?), and they took about an hour apiece to fix. Only Genesis left to do, though, and it's not quite as bad as Exodus. The scroll didn't like the heater, it started to complain and curl up at the edges. Tough cookies, I was freezing without the heater, so I kept it flat by viciously rolling it up.

Thence to teaching: my grown-up student is coming along nicely. She mentioned that she would like to read at her son's bar mitzvah, but didn't think she could do a whole aliyah. She showed me the shortest aliyah, and insisted that it was beyond her, so I made her go through it, and she discovered that actually she probably could do it after all. I get rather a lot of pleasure when my students grow wings like that. Worth staying late for.

Home - to carpets! in all directions!

* South - Shackleton's abortive expedition to cross the Antarctic, which turned into a camping-trip on ice floes, pitching tents on the ice and going about in minimal amounts of clothing. Yet to come is the incredible bit where they all get home safely.