New Friends Intro Meme

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Who are you?
- Jewish, American, veteran, Portlander by choice, age 53. Social liberal / libertarian, fiscal conservative / libertarian, pro-Zionist, anti-jihad, queer-friendly. Registered Republican. Co-parent to two wonderful kids, TNG and Bunny.

For those of you who have not run screaming from the room shrieking "Eeeeeek! A Republican!" - thank you for not doing that.

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Friday afternoon: One-day weekend, and new books.

I am fortunately now in a work situation where I'm not expected to work on Shabbat but can still pick up a few extra bucks by working overtime on Sunday. So I'll be heading back out Sunday morning, office key and badge in pocket, to put in a few hours.

Delivered this afternoon: 'The Iran Wars' by Jay Solomon, and 'Flex' by theferrett. One of the pleasures of LJ is that it attracts a literate crowd of both readers and writers.

Shabbat shalom and have a great weekend.

Friday morning: The value of boredom.

Soon to leave the house and head to my job where I will be tolerably bored for eight hours. That's really not a bad thing. My life has been pretty chaotic lately (you know, the past few decades or so) and I'm finding the routine comforting.

They say boredom has a positive side, too, in that it lets your mind get ready for new ideas. I think there's something to that.

Donna Wold

Born Donna Johnson, she went to school in Minneapolis. Two men proposed to her; Sparky would make her famous, but it was her fellow redhead Allan she married.

Allan and Donna, both redheads, attended the same middle school, where they hardly talked. After Allan returned from the Navy, he saw Donna singing in the choir at church. He decided he had to meet her.

Determined, Allan dialed hundreds of Johnsons living in the city. He found her, and landed a date.

“It went on from there,” he said. They married in 1950.

Instead of comics, their story is the stuff of fairy tales. ...

Thursday morning: Work and refreshment.

I'm nearing the end of my second week at the new job and it's going well. The work is simple and straightforward: scanning paper files into an electronic database (with the paper files then to be shredded). It's the type of work I've been doing, in one variation or another, for most of the 20+ years of my civilian work life, beginning with high-volume legal photocopying at a law firm in San Francisco in the 90s, using the now largely obsolete direct-to-paper copiers.

(Actually my very first job doing digital document scanning was with the Air Force - in the late 1980s! I worked in telecommunications in the pre-internet - or pre-DARPAnet - era, when messages were sent via a secure teletype system called AUTODIN. Towards the very end of my USAF hitch, around 1987 - '88, we went high-tech and moved from hand-typing messages to scanning them with an optical character reader. The typed message had to be put in a tray to be scanned with a red laser beam, and processed by a disk-drive computer that was literally the size of a refrigerator. Typing the messages required a special font, and all the admin offices on the base had to equip their IBM Selectrics with an OCR typing ball.)

Anyway, it's easy work; monotonous, but it's the kind of monotony I can tolerate fairly well. It keeps my eyes and hands busy but part of my brain is still free to wander and think about some book I've read or whatever. (Tasks like filing and sorting mail are a different matter; that's the kind of work I find grueling and tedious, and I avoid it whenever possible.)

Tonight I'm on for drinks with my friend Prof W.

Tuesday morning linkage

Billye Joyce's journey. 'I was born just 81 years after the ratification of the amendment to the US Constitution that abolished the slavery of Africans. I was given a good Southern name – Billye Joyce – although it was a harsh time to be African-American in the United States, especially in the South. We were still called colored or Negroes, and oftentimes the other n-word was used. I was born in Big Momma's (my grandmother's) house because colored doctors were not allowed to use the hospitals in Texas. ... People often ask me what my religion was before I went to the mikvah. No one displays much interest in the fact that I grew up as a “plain vanilla” Protestant Christian. But their interest perks up when I say I was once Wiccan. ...'

Millennials offended by stereotype of easily offended millennials. '“I’m a millennial myself. How are we so coddled, and what about our overly politically correct workplace bothers you?” they asked somewhat stroppily at the panel.'

Ten things you did not know about the Roman Legions. Well, meritahut probably did, but the rest of us, maybe not so much.

Origins of 31 science fiction terms. For some reason, waldo didn't make the list. Via philmophlegm.

Sunday evening: Home.

It's quiet except for the ticking of the mantelpiece clock that I inherited after Mom passed. The clock is older than I am, and it's the same ticking I heard at home the whole time I was growing up. Most of my memories of growing up are not that pleasant, but I like the sense of continuity.

The last of Stephanie's old notebooks arrived late last week. They appear to range from 1983 (the year after she graduated high school, and promptly traveled across the country to San Francisco) to 1992 (the last year of her life). I haven't read them carefully yet - I confess I am mostly dreading it. They are mostly reminiscences, either of our time growing up, or our parents, or (later) her increasingly drug-dependent life. The last entries, when she must have been 27 or 28, start to show deteriorating penmanship, but they are all printed in her neat, tidy block letters right up to the end.

We both needed to get away from home.

I have now lived almost twice as long as she lived. I've had a hand in parenting two wonderful kids. Sometimes I think I would like to raise another child, but at 53 it is pretty last in the game for that.

I sometimes think about getting married again, but I've been married twice and based on past experience perhaps I am just not marriage material. But I'm OK with living alone.

This place is quiet and comfortable, but it's really too big for one person, and I will probably downsize within the next year. I need space for myself, my books, and my boxes of old papers, but not for much more than that. I like the old-paper smell coming from the books and notebooks.

Last night I had a dream where I was back in the house where I grew up on Avery Street. It's fragmentary and I don't remember much.

Jonathan Spyer: Un-Facebooked

Jonathan Spyer: Un-facebooked. British-Israeli journalist and adventurer (and author of the excellent book The Transforming Fire) Jonathan Spyer provides unmatched coverage from the Middle East. But he found himself on the wrong side of mark zuckerberg and the wizards at facebook:

Recently my Facebook profile, on which I was connected to around 5000 people, was closed down by Facebook. This has had some impact on my ability to do my job as a researcher and journalist, tho I have since managed to repair much of the damage. However, the process by which the profile was destroyed is interesting and may be informative regarding the practices of Facebook with regard to the issue of freedom of expression on the site.

The last posting which I made on my profile related to recent events in Europe. I wrote that I considered the wave of terror attacks in Germany and France to indicate that a ‘low level Islamist insurgency’ was now taking place in those countries. A few hours after placing this posting, my account was ‘disabled.’ ...

Go to the link for the rest. Facebook's double standard and its history of enabling anti-Semitism are well documented.

Friday morning: Back to the work world!

Since August 1 I received three job offers for work in my main field. I have just accepted one, and I'm starting Monday.

I am pretty sure that any of these gigs would have been a good choice, but my overriding concern was to get back to work as quickly as possible, so I basically went with the first party that unequivocally told me, "You're hired, when can you start?"

This is going to be office work, not the computer technology or EMT jobs I've recently trained for, because that's where my strongest set of competencies lies. But I'm going to keep moving forward with the other two career paths - I spend some time every day working on computer-related and EMT-related stuff, and I'm scheduled to take the NREMT exam in one month.

So I'm feeling good about how things are going.

Reading update: 'Unwitting Zionists' - the Jews of Zakho and their background (pp 13 - 32)

Zakho is located in Kurdish country, in what is now Iraqi Kurdistan (northern Iraq), north of Dohuk and near the three-way border with Turkey and Syria. The Jewish community there trace their origins to Biblical times, and the exile of the Jews to Babylon after the destruction of the First Temple.

In the first part of Chapter 2, author Haya Gavish surveys previous written studies of the community, and then describes their position as "a minority within a minority" in Iraq (i.e., Jews living among Kurds in an Arab country). The city is geographically isolated as well, being situated on an island in a river.

Jewish-Muslim relations "were shaped by the delicate balance of power between the formal sovereign in Mesopotamia and local strongmen who ruled areas in Kurdistan." (p.27) Relations between Jews and Muslim Kurds remained generally friendly into the 20th century, although during Israel's 1948 War of Independence "some deterioration ... could be sensed". Overall, though, the relationship is described as "utterly unlike" that which existed in Arab Iraq.

Wednesday night: Job leads.

Had a very positive interview with a staffing agency this morning, for a document specialist position at a data migration. (Very similar to a gig I did a couple of years ago, which was one of my favorites.)

This afternoon I got a call from another agency that things are moving forward on a document scanning opportunity. (Similar to about a dozen positions I've held in the past.)

So I am optimistic that if things keep going well, I should be gainfully employed by the end of this month.

Tuesday evening linkage (current events).

Yehudah Kimani spoke in Danbury, Connecticut and numerous other places before returning to Kenya. I had the honor of hosting him here in Portland for about a week. He gave a spellbinding talk at our congregation and was an enjoyable guest. He's also a terrific cook.

They fled the Nazis on bicycles. And now a Japanese-born, 27-year-old film school graduate is telling their story:

Yamazaki: I grew up in Japan reading ‘George’ in Japanese, and … when I learned they were these German immigrants who had fled the Nazis on bicycles with the first Curious George book with them, it was enough for me to be interested. … And I assumed there was already a movie out there and when there wasn’t I was immediately in a car, headed to Cambridge to meet the lady who runs the estate. ...

With no other weapons, this German threw a beer bottle at the killer. But now he's facing charges for "insulting the dead."

The Munich resident who hurled insults at shooter Ali David Sonboly as he was carrying out an attack on a shopping mall has been accused of libel, the Munich prosecutor has announced.

Thomas Salbey became an internet sensation after footage of him hurling abuse at Sonboly, from the balcony of his fifth floor apartment was posted on Twitter.

But while many praised Mr. Salbey for standing up to the gunman – who aimed shots in his direction – Florian Weinzierl, a spokesman for the Munich prosecutor, has confirmed that Mr. Salbey is to be charged with libel for his comments. It is not known who reported Mr. Salbey to the authorities. ...

UK anti-Semitism on the rise. The Community Security Trust (CST) said 577 incidents targeting Jews were reported to the charity from January to June. This was up from 473 in the same period last year, a trend the charity’s chief executive, David Delew, said was “worrying”. ...

Iran gloats over 400 million dollar ransom for US hostages. Full story at the link, with video of Obama's response to questions over the deal.

Hillary Clinton gets a high-profile endorsement. Seddique Mateen, father of Orlando mass killer Omar Mateen, was spotted at a Clinton rally in Florida. He didn't have much to say to the press, but he did have some kind words for the former Secretary of State:

Mateen didn't want to answer any other questions, but just hours later, we ran into him by chance at a rest stop on the way back to West Palm Beach. He wanted to do an interview and show us a sign he made for Clinton.

"Hillary Clinton is good for United States versus Donald Trump, who has no solutions," he said.

Bed and Bookshelf

I've finally acquired a decent bed: inexpensive, sturdy, practical, firm (I like firm), the right height, and - very important - wide enough to pile books on and still leave room for me. In other words, perfect for reading in bed.

"Reading in bed" is a luxury I haven't indulged in for a while, and I mean to start correcting that. Sure, you can read sitting in a chair or lounging on a couch, but when you're lying comfortably in bed you've got no distractions. All the other sensory input is muted, and your eyes and brain can focus on the page.

So now I've finally got a suitable environment to properly read all those tons of books sitting on shelves and in boxes waiting to be read. Here are some of the ones I'm working on now:

Arthur Koestler. Koestler accounts for several of the books in the large collection I inherited from my mother. Among them is The Act of Creation, Koestler's exploration of the creative process. I'm now in the first section, dealing with the nature of humor. Koestler coins the term "bisociation" to describe an idea that joins together two habitually incompatible frames of reference - arousing that flash of insight that leads to laughter.

Three books about Jewish Iraq. I am re-reading When the Grey Beetles Took Over Baghdad, Mona Yahia's autobiographical novel of her escape from Ba'athist Iraq, along with Memories of Eden, Violette Shamash's memoir of Jewish life in Baghdad throughout the 20th Century; and Unwitting Zionists by Haya Gavish, a study of the Jewish community in Zakho, in what is now Iraqi Kurdistan.

Linear algebra. David C. Lay (4th edition) is the book I used in school, and I'm using it for review, along with David Poole (2nd ed.). I like Poole because he emphasizes graphical interpretations in R2 and R3, which makes the material more intuitive for me. My big struggle with Lin Alg was dealing with a lot of jargon and very abstract ideas, so anything that makes it more concrete helps.

Swahili. I'm hoping to master enough of the language to be able to use it the next time I visit East Africa, whenever that may be. (Swahili isn't widely spoken in Uganda, but it is in Kenya and elsewhere.) The Living Language Swahili course is a nice balance of theory and practice, presenting grammatical concepts (noun classes, verb tenses, etc.) in systematic fashion as they come up.

So that's what's on my "to read" shelf. I'm optimistic about the prospects of getting steady work in the near future, so I'll have a somewhat stable schedule and enough income that I can relax and read.